What does the abolitionist movement need to succeed?
Before I can attempt answering this question, I need to define success for the abolitionist movement. Some abolitionists might think that it is enough simply to eliminate slavery from corporations’ supply chains. Or perhaps the movement can declare success if (with God’s help) every country adopts zero tolerance towards slavery. But Not For Sale’s definition of success is far grander and far more radical. It wants to end slavery within the next sixty years (“our lifetime”).
I think Not For Sale can forgive some people for scoffing at this goal. Imagine if someone told you that he wanted to end drunk driving or drug trafficking or murder or kidnapping or pornography or prostitution. We would have trouble taking him seriously.
The employees at Not For Sale think they have to be idealists in order to achieve their goals. The first step to changing the world, they think, is to believe that you can change the world. Maybe they are right. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. (along with other less-famous revolutionaries and the people who followed them) provide relatively recent examples of human beings who achieved the seemingly impossible. And they never could have done what they did if they were cynics.
Still, I cannot help but think that their fights were much easier than ours. They were trying to change governments. We are trying to change human nature. The ubiquitous existence of slavery across nations, classes, sexes, religions, and every other division of man indicates that it is an obvious and ready overflow of human evil. You cannot destroy it any more than you can destroy dishonesty, greed, murder, theft, kidnapping, etc. (Of course, I suppose Big Brother could destroy slavery—but only by creating a new form of it.)
The abolitionist movement needs devoted disciples. It needs people who will give their lives to change the world in intelligent and strategic ways. It needs their money, their time, and their minds. If the movement wins these precious gifts from its followers, it has succeeded. No, it will not eliminate slavery. But it will severely limit slavery. And it will make the world a damn better place.