Waging-Nonviolent-Struggle-20th-Century-Practice-and-21st-Century-Potential (8)

Success has requirements

Nonviolent struggle does not work through magic. Although nonviolent resisters have succeeded many times, they have not done so every time, and certainly not without cost. The simple choice to conduct a conflict by nonviolent action does not guar- antee success.
Many past struggles were only partially successful. Sometimes a victory was short-lived because people did not use it well to consolidate their gains, nor did they effectively resist new threats to their liberties. In other cases, victory in a single campaign won concessions, but new struggles were still required to gain the full objectives. Nevertheless, in some cases, major victories were achieved that many people would have expected to be impossible through nonviolent resistance.
However, some of the past cases of nonviolent struggles failed to accomplish their objectives. Such failure has occurred for a va- riety of reasons. If the resisters are weak, if the specific methods used are poorly chosen, or if the resisters become frightened and intimidated into submission, then they are unlikely to win. If the resisters lack a strategy by which to wage the struggle with maximum effectiveness, their chances of succeeding are greatly diminished. There is no substitute for genuine strength and wise action in the conduct of nonviolent struggle.
Participating in a nonviolent struggle does not make an indi- vidual immune from imprisonment, injury, suffering, or death. As in violent conflicts, the participants often suffer harsh penalties for their defiance and noncooperation. Yet, victories by nonvio- lent struggle with few casualties, and even none, also have oc- curred, and commonly the casualties in nonviolent struggles are significantly fewer than those in comparable violent struggles for similar objectives.

Much greater consideration of this technique will assist us in assessing its potential relevance and potential effectiveness. Let us, therefore, survey the operation of nonviolent struggle.
Uses and effects of nonviolent struggle
Nonviolent struggle can be employed as a substitute for vio- lence against other groups in one’s society, against groups in an- other society, against one’s own government, or against another government.
Many times, only the methods of nonviolent protest and per- suasion may be used in attempts to influence opinions of the op- ponents and others. Such actions may affect the moral authority or legitimacy of the opponents. However, these methods are the weaker ones.
Many of the methods of noncooperation are much more pow- erful because they can potentially reduce or sever the supply of the opponents’ sources of power. These methods require signifi- cant numbers of participants and usually the participation of groups and institutions in the refusal of cooperation.
The methods of nonviolent intervention may be applied by groups of various sizes. Some of the methods—as a sit-in in an of- fice—require fewer numbers of participants to make a major im- pact than do methods of noncooperation. In the short run at least, these methods are generally more disruptive of the status quo than noncooperation. However, some of these methods may often be met with extreme repression. In order to make their im- pact, the resisters must be prepared to withstand this, while per- sisting in their nonviolent defiance. Unless the numbers of participants are extremely large—as in massive sit-downs on cen- tral city streets—it may not be possible to maintain the applica- tion of these methods for long periods of time. Casualties may be severe.
It is very important that those who plan to engage in a nonvio- lent struggle choose the methods they will use with extreme care. The methods chosen should strike at the opponents’ vulnerabili- ties, utilize the resisters’ strengths, and be used in combination with other methods in ways that are mutually supportive. To be most effective, the methods will also need to be chosen and im- plemented in accordance with a grand strategy for the overall struggle. The grand strategy needs to be developed before the spe- cific methods are selected. The development of grand strategies and strategies for limited campaigns will be discussed in Part Four.
The effects of the use of the diverse methods of nonviolent ac- tion vary widely. Such effects depend on the nature of the system within which they are applied, the type of the opponents’ regime, the extent of their application, the normal roles in the operation of the system of the persons and groups applying them, the skill of the groups in using nonviolent action, the presence or absence of the use of wise strategies in the conflict, and, finally, the rela- tive ability of the nonviolent resisters to withstand repression from the opponents and to persist in their noncooperation and defiance without falling into violence.
Repression and mechanisms of change
Since these methods of nonviolent action, especially those of noncooperation, often directly disturb or disrupt the supply of the needed sources of power and “normal” operations, the opponents are likely to respond strongly, usually with repression. This re- pression can include beatings, arrests, imprisonments, executions, and mass slaughters. Despite repression, the resisters have at times persisted in fighting with only their chosen nonviolent weapons.
Past struggles have only rarely been well planned and prepared and have usually lacked a strategic plan. Resistance was often poorly focused, and the resisters often did not know what they should or should not do. Consequently, it is not surprising that, in the face of serious repression, nonviolent struggles have at times produced only limited positive results or have even resulted in clear defeats and disasters. Yet, amazingly, many improvised nonviolent struggles have triumphed. There is now reason to be- lieve that the effectiveness of this technique can be greatly in- creased with improved understanding of the requirements of this technique, and with development of strategic planning.
When nonviolent struggles succeed in achieving their declared objectives, the result is produced by the operation of one of four mechanisms—conversion, accommodation, nonviolent coercion, or disintegration—or a combination of two or three of them.

Rarely, the opponents have a change of view; that is, a conversion takes place. In this case, as a result of the nonviolent persistence and the willingness of the people to continue despite suffering, harsh conditions, and brutalities perpetrated on them, the oppo- nents decide that it is right to accept the claims of the nonviolent group. Although religious pacifists frequently stress this possibil- ity, it does not occur often.
A much more common mechanism is called accommodation. This essentially means that both sides compromise on issues and receive, and give up, a part of their original objectives. This can operate only in respect to issues on which each side can compro- mise without seeing themselves to be violating their fundamental beliefs or political principles. Accommodation occurs in almost all labor strike settlements. The final agreed working conditions and wages are usually somewhere between the originally stated objectives of the two sides. One must remember that these settle- ments are highly influenced by how much power each side can wield in waging the conflict.
In other conflicts, the numbers of resisters have become so large, and the parts of the social and political order they influence or control are so essential, that the noncooperation and defiance have taken control of the conflict situation. The opponents are still in their former positions, but they are unable any longer to control the system without the resumption of cooperation and submission by the resisters. Not even repression is effective, either because of the massiveness of the noncooperation or because the opponents’ troops and police no longer reliably obey orders. The change is made against the opponents’ will, because the supply of their needed sources of power has been seriously weakened or severed. The opponents can no longer wield power contrary to the wishes of the nonviolent struggle group. This is nonviolent coercion.
This is what occurred, for example, in the Russian 1905 Revo- lution. As a result of the Great October Strike, Tsar Nicholas II issued the constitutional manifesto of October 17, 1905, which granted a Duma or legislature, thereby abandoning his claim to be sole autocrat.
In more extreme situations, the noncooperation and defiance are so vast and strong that the previous regime simply falls apart. There is no one left with sufficient power even to surrender.

In Russia in February 1917, the numbers of strikers were mas- sive; all social classes had turned against the tsarist regime; huge peaceful street demonstrations were undermining the loyalty of the soldiers; and troop reinforcements dissolved into the protest- ing crowds. Finally, Tsar Nicholas II, facing this reality, quietly abdicated, and the tsarist government was “dissolved and swept away.” This is disintegration.
In Serbia in October 2000, the Otpor-initiated defiance and noncooperation campaign met almost all the characteristics of the disintegration campaign, with one notable exception. Milosevic had clearly lost his power capacity and faced nonviolent coercion. However, he retained enough power to go on television to capitu- late. He had suddenly discovered that, contrary to earlier claims, his electoral rival Vojislav Kostunica had actually won the elec- tion and Milosevic had not. He had only enough remaining power to claim television time to surrender. This was almost dis- integration. This mechanism, however, remains a rare ending of nonviolent struggles.
Additional elements of nonviolent struggle
While noncooperation to undermine compliance and to weaken and sever the sources of the opponents’ power are the main forces in nonviolent struggle, one other process sometimes operates. This is “political ju-jitsu.” In this process, brutal repres- sion against disciplined nonviolent resisters does not strengthen the opponents and weaken the resisters, but does the opposite.
Widespread revulsion against the opponents for their brutality operates in some cases to shift power to the resisters. More peo- ple may join the resistance. Third parties may change their opin- ions and activities to favor the resisters and act against the opponents. Even members of the opponents’ usual supporters, administrators, and troops and police may become unreliable and may even mutiny. The use of the opponents’ supposedly coercive violence has then been turned to undermine their own power ca- pacity. Political ju-jitsu does not operate in all situations, how- ever, and instead heavy reliance must therefore be placed on the impact of large scale, carefully focussed noncooperation.

The importance of strategy
Effective nonviolent struggle is not the product of simple appli- cation of the methods of this technique. A struggle conducted by nonviolent means will, generally, be more effective if the partici- pants first understand what the factors are that contribute to greater success or to likely failure, then act accordingly.
Another important variable in nonviolent struggles is whether they are or are not conducted on the basis of a wisely prepared grand strategy and strategies for individual campaigns. The pres- ence or absence of strategic calculations and planning, and, if pre- sent, their wisdom, will have a major impact on the course of the struggle and on determining its final outcome. At this point in the historical practice of nonviolent struggle we can project that a very significant factor in its future practice and effectiveness will be its increasing application on the basis of strategic planning.
Competent strategic planning requires not only an understand- ing of the conflict situation itself, but also an in-depth under- standing of why this technique can wield great power, the major characteristics of nonviolent struggle, the many methods that may be applied, and the dynamics and mechanisms at work in actual struggles of this technique when applied against repressive re- gimes.
The topics and themes of this chapter are all presented more extensively and in greater depth in the remaining chapters of this book.
We will examine the multitude of individual methods encom- passed by this technique in the next chapter.

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