Autonomism and the Women’s March

Independent dharma scholar Shaun Bartone encourages us to “Listen to America Ferrera, a US-born daughter of immigrants from Honduras, and her declaration of the mission of the Women’s March and the direction of the movement.” Ferrera speaks to the importance of acting collectively to build coalitions that support a diverse set of causes. In the coming days, as Shaun Bartone notes in this piece that originally appeared in Engage!: Engaged Bhuddism Magazine,  the process by which we do our resistance  work as Bhodisattvas and EcoSattvas is critical to our success.

Critics of the Women’s March have said that it appears to have no unified goal or policy objective, that to be effective it must be ready to “seize power,” otherwise it is a failure.

Love, Mutual Care and Compassion

What they don’t see is that the most important achievement of this March is not forcing demands from the Trump Regime, or obtaining political power in government. Its most important goal is building a broad-based coalition movement that is based in love, mutual care, and compassion for all marginalized people, a horizontal movement that is least-hierarchical and most cooperative. As Marina Sitrin says in Everyday Revolutions, the success of the movement is not measured in the achievement of conventional power, but in its capacity to build and maintain horizontalist relationships in the course of realizing  its own goals. The success of an autonomist-horizonalist movement is in its power-sharing process rather than taking power over the rest of the nation.

From Power Over to Power With

In autonomist-horizonatlist politics, sustaining the process is more important than obtaining power, and love is more important than achievement, because it’s the egalitarian process and the loving-kindness that has been missing from many of our social justice movements of the past, and what is utterly vacant in our culture as a whole. What the Women’s March has achieved is far more profound than the ascent to power. It is the fundamental cultural shift from power over to power with. It is the fundamental cultural shift from rooting our society in competition, self-centredness, violence, and exclusion, to relationships of loving-kindness, mutual care, and compassion.

Shifting the culture from competition to compassion is the most profound and fundamental shift away from Capitalism to a cooperative society. It is this profound cultural shift that will sustain the relationships and the work that we need to do to finally end the inequities of racism, sexism, and class oppression. It is this profound cultural shift to a culture of love, mutual care and compassion that will empower us to save the biosphere of the planet from our own self-induced destruction. It is this profound cultural shift to a culture of love, mutual care and compassion that will empower us to establish life-giving and mutually-supportive relationships with all human beings, and loving interconnection with all living beings on this planet. It is the process of loving, compassionate, and mutually-sustaining relationships that matters most.


Shaun Bartone practices engaged Buddhism as a humanist spirituality. Shaun is an independent dharma scholar and dharmaecologist. Many teachers have shaped and inspired his passion for engaged Buddhism, including Joanna Macy, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar,  angel Kyodo williams, Sulak Sivaraksa, David Loy, Thich Nhat Hahn, and the 17th Karmapa.

One Comment on “Autonomism and the Women’s March

  1. Thank you for this description of competition to compassion. It is extremely challenging to stay both aware of what is happening from leadership so we know where/how/when best to act, and retain our composure. Understanding that where we focus grows, I am hosting several “Peace Generator” retreats in my community this year in order to keep my personal focus on Peace. In researching poetry on the topic of Peace, it became evident to me there are very few writings about Peace that are not actually about War. Some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings are among the few focused on Peace alone.

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