Waging-Nonviolent-Struggle-20th-Century-Practice-and-21st-Century-Potential (2)

1st part https://freedomcn.org/waging-nonviolent-struggle1

Cases of nonviolent struggle

From the late eighteenth century through the twentieth cen- tury, the technique of nonviolent action was widely used in colo- nial rebellions, international political and economic conflicts, religious conflicts, and anti-slavery resistance.1 This technique has been aimed to secure workers’ right to organize, women’s rights, universal manhood suffrage, and woman suffrage. This type of struggle has been used to gain national independence, to generate economic gains, to resist genocide, to undermine dictatorships, to gain civil rights, to end segregation, and to resist foreign occupa- tions and coups d’état.

In the twentieth century, nonviolent action rose to unprecedented political significance throughout the world. People using this technique amassed major achievements, and, of course, ex- perienced failure at times. Higher wages and improved working conditions were won. Oppressive traditions and practices were abolished. Both men and women won the right to vote in several countries in part by using this technique. Government policies were changed, laws repealed, new legislation enacted, and gov- ernmental reforms instituted. Invaders were frustrated and armies defeated. An empire was paralyzed, coups d’état thwarted, and dictatorships disintegrated. Nonviolent struggle was used against extreme dictatorships, including both Nazi and Communist systems.

Cases of the use of this technique early in the twentieth century included major elements of the Russian 1905 Revolution. In vari- ous countries growing trade unions widely used the strike and the economic boycott. Chinese boycotts of Japanese products oc- curred in 1908, 1915, and 1919. Germans used nonviolent resis- tance against the Kapp Putsch in 1920 and against the French and Belgian occupation of the Ruhr in 1923. In the 1920s and 1930s, Indian nationalists used nonviolent action in their struggles against British rule, under the leadership of Mohandas K. Gan- dhi. Likewise, Muslim Pashtuns in what was the North-West Frontier Province of British India (now in Pakistan) also used nonviolent struggle against British rule under the leadership of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

From 1940 to 1945 people in various European countries, es- pecially in Norway, Denmark, and The Netherlands, used non- violent struggle to resist Nazi occupation and rule. Nonviolent action was used to save Jews from the Holocaust in Berlin, Bul- garia, Denmark, and elsewhere. The military dictators of El Sal- vador and Guatemala were ousted in brief nonviolent struggles in the spring of 1944. The American civil rights nonviolent struggles against racial segregation, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, changed laws and long-established policies in the U.S. South. In April 1961, noncooperation by French conscript soldiers in the French colony of Algeria, combined with popular demonstrations in France and defiance by the Debré-de Gaulle government, de- feated the military coup d’état in Algiers before a related coup in Paris could be launched.

In 1968 and 1969, following the Warsaw Pact invasion, Czechs and Slovaks held off full Soviet control for eight months with improvised nonviolent struggle and refusal of collaboration. From 1953 to 1991, dissidents in Communist-ruled countries in Eastern Europe, especially in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, repeatedly used nonviolent strug- gles for increased freedom. The Solidarity struggle in Poland be- gan in 1980 with strikes to support the demand of a legal free trade union, and concluded in 1989 with the end of the Polish Communist regime. Nonviolent protests and mass resistance were also highly important in undermining the apartheid policies and European domination in South Africa, especially between 1950 and 1990. The Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines was de- stroyed by a nonviolent uprising in 1986.

In July and August 1988, Burmese democrats protested against the military dictatorship with marches and defiance and brought down three governments, but this struggle finally succumbed to a new military coup d’état and mass slaughter. In 1989, Chinese students and others in over three hundred cities (including Tiananmen Square, Beijing) conducted symbolic protests against government corruption and oppression, but the protests finally ended following massive killings by the military.

Nonviolent struggle brought about the end of Communist dic- tatorships in Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1989 and in East Germany, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 1991. Noncooperation and defiance against the attempted “hard line” coup d’état by the KGB, the Communist Party, and the Soviet Army in 1991, blocked the attempted seizure of the Soviet State.

In Kosovo, the Albanian population between 1990 and 1999 conducted a widespread noncooperation campaign against re- pressive Serbian rule. When the de facto Kosovo government lacked a nonviolent strategy for gaining de jure independence, a guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army initiated violence. This was fol- lowed by extreme Serbian repression and massive slaughters by so-called ethnic cleansing, which led to NATO bombing and in- tervention.

Starting in November 1996, Serbs conducted daily parades and protests in Belgrade and other cities against the autocratic gov- ernance of President Milosevic and secured correction of electoral fraud in mid-January 1997. At that time, however, Serb democ- rats lacked a strategy to press the struggle further and failed to launch a campaign to bring down the Milosevic dictatorship. In early October 2000, the Otpor (Resistance) movement and other democrats rose up again against Milosevic in a carefully planned nonviolent struggle and the dictatorship collapsed.

In early 2001, President Estrada, who had been accused of cor- ruption, was ousted by Filipinos in a “People Power Two” campaign.

There were many other important examples this past century, and the practice of nonviolent struggle continues.

The many methods of nonviolent struggle

A multitude of specific methods of nonviolent action, or non- violent weapons, exist. Nearly two hundred have been identified to date, and without doubt, scores more already exist and others will emerge in future conflicts. These methods are detailed in Chapter Four.

Methods of nonviolent action include protest marches, flying forbidden flags, massive rallies, vigils, leaflets, picketing, social boycotts, economic boycotts, labor strikes, rejection of legiti- macy, civil disobedience, boycott of government positions, boy- cott of rigged elections, strikes by civil servants, noncooperation by police, nonobedience without direct supervision, mutiny, sitins, hunger strikes, sit-downs on the streets, establishment of al- ternative institutions, occupation of offices, and creation of paral- lel governments.

These methods may be used to protest symbolically, to put an end to cooperation, or to disrupt the operation of the established system. As such, three broad classes of nonviolent methods exist: nonviolent protest and persuasion, noncooperation, and nonvio- lent intervention.

Symbolic protests, though in most situations quite mild, can make it clear that some of the population is opposed to the pre- sent regime and can help to undermine its legitimacy. Social, eco- nomic, and political noncooperation, when practiced strongly and long enough, can weaken the opponents’ control, wealth, domi- nation, and power, and potentially produce paralysis. The meth- ods of nonviolent intervention, which disrupt the established order by psychological, social, economic, physical, or political methods, can dramatically threaten the opponents’ control.

Individuals and groups may hold differing opinions about the general political usefulness and the ethical acceptability of the methods of nonviolent struggle. Yet everyone can benefit from more knowledge and understanding of their use and careful ex- amination of their potential relevance and effectiveness.

A pragmatic choice

Nonviolent struggle is identified by what people do, not by what they believe. In many cases, the people using these nonvio- lent methods have believed violence to be perfectly justified in moral or religious terms. However, for the specific conflict that they currently faced they chose, for pragmatic reasons, to use methods that did not include violence.

Only in rare historical instances did a group or a leader have a personal belief that rejected violence in principle. Nevertheless, even in these cases, a nonviolent struggle based on pragmatic concerns was often still viewed as morally superior.


However, belief that violence violates a moral or religious principle does not constitute nonviolent action.2 Nor does the simple absence of physical violence mean that nonviolent action is occurring. It is the type of activity that identifies the technique of nonviolent action, not the belief behind the activity.

The degree to which nonviolent struggle has been consciously chosen in place of violence differs widely among historical exam- ples. In many past cases, nonviolent action appears to have been initiated more or less spontaneously, with little deliberation. In other cases, the choice of a certain nonviolent method—such as a labor strike—was made on grounds specific to the particular situation only, without a comparative evaluation of the merits of nonviolent action over violent action. Many applications of non- violent action seem to have been imitations of actions elsewhere.

There has been much variation in the degree to which people in these conflicts have been aware of the existence of a general nonviolent technique of action and have had prior knowledge of its operation.

In most of these cases, nonviolent means appear to have been chosen because of considerations of anticipated effectiveness. In some cases, there appear to have been mixed motives, with prac- tical motives predominating but with a relative moral preference for nonviolent means.

3rd part https://freedomcn.org/waging-nonviolent-struggle3/

1 For bibliographic references to books in English on many of these cases, see Ronald M. McCarthy and Gene Sharp, with the assistance of Brad Bennett, Nonviolent Ac- tion: A Research Guide, New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1997.

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