Nonviolent resistance

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(Redirected from Passive resistance)

Nonviolent resistance (or nonviolent action) comprises the practice of applying power to achieve socio-political goals through symbolic protests, economic or political noncooperation, civil disobedience and other methods, without the use of physical violence. It has the guiding principle of nonviolence.



Like other strategies for social change, nonviolent action can appear in various forms and degrees. It may include, for example, such varied forms as information wars, protest art, lobbying, tax refusal, boycotts or sanctions, legal/diplomatic wrestling, material sabotage, underground railroads, principled refusal of awards/honours, picketing, vigiling, leafletting, and/or general strikes.

Some scholars of nonviolence, arguing that many movements have pragmatically adopted the methods of nonviolent action as an effective way to achieve social or political goals, distinguish the methods of nonviolent action from the moral stance of nonviolence or non-harm towards others.

Gene Sharp has identified 198 methods of nonviolent action which practitioners may use to defend against invasions, undermine dictatorships, block coups d'état or challenge unjust social systems. They include:

Examples of nonviolent resistance

A list of current and recent nonviolent resistance organizations

Nonviolent resistance in 19th-century Trinidad

Trinidad in the West Indies demonstrated the successful use of non-violent protest and passive resistance almost a hundred years before Mahatma Gandhi's campaign in India.

Whitehall first announced in 1833 the impending total liberation of slaves by 1840. In the meantime the authorities expected slaves on plantations to remain in situ and work as "apprentices" for the next six years.

On 1 August 1834, at an address by the Governor at Government House about the new laws, an unarmed group of mainly elderly negroes began chanting: Pas de six ans. Point de six ans ("Not six years. No six years"), drowning out the voice of the Governor. Peaceful protests continued until the passing of a resolution to abolish apprenticeship and the achievement of de facto freedom. The authorities finally legally granted full emancipation for all - ahead of schedule - on 1 August 1838.

Nonviolent resistance in colonial India

to be written: see Mahatma Gandhi

Nonviolent resistance in communist Poland

to be written: see Waldemar Frydrych (Orange Alternative), Solidarity

Nonviolent resistance in the United States

to be written see also American Civil Rights Movement

Nonviolent resistance in segregated South Africa

The ANC and allied anti-apartheid groups initially carried out non-violent resistance against pro-segregation and apartheid governments in South Africa, see Defiance Campaign. However, events such as the Sharpeville Massacre (21 March 1960) led ANC activists like Nelson Mandela to believe in the necessity of violent (or armed) resistance. Mandela founded Umkhonto we Sizwe (the Spear of the Nation). It initially carried out acts of sabotage but later expanded to guerrilla warfare against the South African security forces, including the use of car bombs. The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and other groups carried out violent acts against the government. The South African Truth and Reconcilation Commission accused all anti-apartheid groups of killing civilians in violent acts. The PAC's armed wing faced accusations of deliberately killing white civilians and blacks who co-operated with the government. The apartheid government regarded all violent acts by anti-apartheid groups as acts of terrorism.

needs expanding see also Nelson Mandela

Nonviolent resistance in Israel

While Palestinian Arab resistance often carries connotations of terrorist attacks and of suicide bombers in particular, efforts have also occurred to use non-violent resistance to oppose Israeli control of the occupied Palestinian territories.

see also: Mubarak Awad

Protestors against Israel's unilateral disengagement plan of 2004 began using nonviolent resistance against the impending evacuation of Jews from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. On May 16, 2005, protesters blocked many traffic intersections at 5:00 PM, leading to massive traffic jams and delays throughout the country. Although the police had received advance notification of the action, they had much difficulty opening the intersections to vehicles, eventually arresting over 400 protesters, many of them juveniles. Organizers of the protests regard this deed only as an opening volley, with the large protests planned to begin when the Israeli authorities cut off entry into the Gaza Strip in preparation of the disengagement.

see also: Moshe Feiglin

Nonviolent resistance in Denmark during World War II

When the Wehrmacht invaded Denmark in 1940, the Danes soon saw that military confrontation would change little except the number of surviving Danes. The Danish government therefore adopted a policy of official co-operation (and unofficial obstruction) which they called "negotiation under protest."

On the industrial front, Danish workers subtly slowed all production that might feed the German war machine, sometimes to a perfect standstill. On the cultural front, Danes engaged in symbolic defiance by organizing mass celebrations of their own history and traditions.

On the legislative front, the Danish government insisted that since they officially co-operated with Germany, they had an ally's right to negotiate with Germany, and then proceeded to create bureaucratic quagmires which stalled or blocked German orders without having to refuse them outright. Danish authorities also proved conveniently inept at controlling the underground Danish resistance press, which at one point reached circulation numbers equivalent to the entire adult population.

The Danish government also gave room (and even secret assistance) to underground groups involved in sabotage of machinery and railway lines needed to extract Danish resources or to supply the Wehmacht. The classification of this kind of resistance as "nonviolent" remains debatable, but it certainly proved less "violent" than engaging in or supporting terrorism directed at taking life or health from the occupiers.

Even after the official dissolution of their government, the Danes managed to block German goals without resorting to bloodshed. Underground groups smuggled over 7000 of Denmark's 8000 Jews temporarily into Sweden, at great personal risk. Workers (and even entire cities like Copenhagen) went on mass strikes, refusing to work for the occupier's benefit on the occupier's terms. After an initial response of greatly increased repression, the war-distracted Germans abandoned strike-breaking efforts in exasperation.

The Danish resistance against the Nazis proved highly effective, but it raises characteristic questions about the efficacy of nonviolence. The Danes clearly lost very few lives, while annoying and draining their foreign occupiers. But some people wonder whether the Danish strategy might not have failed abysmally if applied in other countries occupied by Germany and which German forces ruled through naked terror.

It almost certainly would have proved a more painful strategy for Denmark in such a circumstance (as in the case of the successful but agonizing nonviolent resistance to apartheid in South Africa), but as in the case of the Gandhian solution of perfect global surrender to the Nazis followed by perfect global non-cooperation with them, many questions of efficacy remain in the realm of the hypothetical. And due to the decentralized and various nature of nonviolent advocacy, questions about possible compatibility with violent resistance, or even about precise definitions of "nonviolent tactics" have no categorical answers.

Nonviolent resistance of the farmers of Larzac (France)

In 1971, the French government announced their intention to extend the military camp on the Larzac plateau, an arid area in southern France where they claimed that "almost nobody lived". Local farmers strongly disagreed with this assessment and, inspired by the example of Lanza del Vasto (a philosopher and follower of Mahatma Gandhi who had gone on hunger strike for two weeks in their support), they embarked on a campaign of non-violent resistance.

In 1972 the farmers' struggle attracted world-wide media coverage when they brought 60 sheep to graze on the lawn under the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The issue became a famous cause among many groups, from ecologists to conscientious objectors, and in 1973 100,000 people attended a demonstration in Paris in support of the farmers of Larzac.

The fight lasted until 1981, when the newly-elected socialist French President François Mitterand abandoned the project.

Nonviolent resistance against nuclear weapons

to be written see also Mutlangen

Nonviolent resistance in the Pacific

See also


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