Activist Burnout and What Is To Be Done

Richard Rice

In the summer of 2020, we saw the largest civil rights protest in American history. The Black Lives Matter protest movement saw unprecedented support from all across the United States with 67% of polled Americans claiming to have supported them in June of 2020 according to a study conducted by Pew Research.

Since June, support for the BLM movement has been steadily dropping; by September of 2020 support for the movement had dropped to 55% of Americans.

Furthermore, since the election of Joe Biden, BLM activity has dropped even further, despite president-elect Biden being extremely clear he will not make concessions to the BLM movement.
What has brought upon this sudden surge of inactivity, a movement once filled with vigor, now a victim of sloth.

What Is Activist Burnout:
When discussing the decrease in civil rights activity, it’s extremely important to understand what activist burnout is.
According to, Activist Burnout is, in short: It’s a common phenomenon among political activists, that ends up causing the overwhelmed, frustrated, and hopeless feeling that comes after extensive activism, which demotivates their work.

This is what we have seen time and time again with political movements throughout our lifetimes. From the early Black Lives Matter movement of 2013 and far back as the Occupy movement (the protests that took place after the 2008 financial crisis). Activist burnout seems to have become one of the most predictable paths taken by socio-political movements.

What is to be Done:
The organization of any movement, no matter the flavor is determined by fervor and dedication to an end goal, if this same amount of motivation cannot be maintained, this will  lead to failure to groups that attempt any form of change. What do we do?

  1. Schedule activity
    The revolution may not be televised but that doesn’t call for spontaneous unorganized action. While you’re on strike, take some time to think about what can happen rather than what should happen in your world, actions that you can make time for and not feel guilty for not participating a time or two
  2. Participate in collective efforts
    Despite what you learned in kindergarten, nothing happens on any socially significant by getting up by their bootstraps and “hard work”

      As Karl Marx put it…

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as      they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.” The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

In short, the key component in all socio-economic progress lies in labor.

Besides the psychological jargon that comes with analyzing collective efforts, it’s genuinely empowering to surround yourself and work alongside those who share your goals and are willing to work together to provide a sense of scale and community that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

These recent events have sparked, shocked, and frightened many Americans, some even to the point of violence.