nonviolent resistance

nonviolent resistance

nonviolent resistance: see passive resistence.
Nonviolent resistance (or nonviolent action) is the practice of achieving socio-political goals through symbolic protests, civil disobedience, economic or political noncooperation, and other methods, without using violence.

The term passive resistance is a form of non-cooperation that is sometimes used imprecisely as a synonym for nonviolent resistance. It means resistance by inertia or refusal to comply, as opposed to resistance by active means such as protest or risking arrest. Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi at Parihaka were early, modern, passive-resistance organisers whose story is well documented in New Zealand literature.

Satyagraha is a form of resistance developed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi—popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi—which emphasizes the search for truth and attempts to change the heart as well as the actions of the opponent.

Many movements which promote philosophies of nonviolence or pacifism have pragmatically adopted the methods of nonviolent action as an effective way to achieve social or political goals. They employ nonviolent resistance tactics such as: information warfare, picketing, vigiling, leafletting, protest art, protest music and poetry, community education and consciousness raising, lobbying, tax resistance, boycotts or sanctions, legal/diplomatic wrestling, sabotage of weapons, underground railroads, principled refusal of awards/honours, and general strikes.

Examples of nonviolent resistance

A list of current and recent nonviolent resistance organizations

History of nonviolent resistance

In Roman-occupied Judea

One of the earliest incidents of nonviolent resistance known to history is found in the works of Flavius Josephus, who relates in both The Wars of the Jews and Antiquities of the Jews (book 18, chapter 3) how Jews demonstrated in Caesarea to try to convince Pilate not to set up Roman standards, with images of the emperor and the eagle of Jupiter, in Jerusalem (both images would be considered idolatrous by religious Jews). Pilate surrounded the Jewish protesters with soldiers and threatened them with death. They replied that they were quite willing to die rather than see the laws of the Torah violated. This protest action was successful in its immediate goal.

In the first stage of the American Revolution

Before the War for Independence started with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the American Revolution was mostly nonviolent. There were a few instances of violence against persons (e.g. The Boston Massacre) and against property (e.g. The Boston Tea Party), but for the most part, revolutionary actions during the first ten years (1765 to early 1775) of the Revolution included:

  • Tax Resistance.
  • Boycotts of British imports.
  • Organization of Committees of Correspondence.
  • Petitions to the King and Parliament.
  • Publication of Pamphlets and Newspapers.

In nineteenth-century Trinidad

Trinidad, in the West Indies, was the site of successful nonviolent protest and resistance that accelerated the liberation of slaves there. The United Kingdom, then the colonial power in Trinidad, 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.

In the first Egyptian Revolution

The Egyptian Revolution of 1919 was a countrywide non-violent revolution against the British occupation of Egypt. It was carried out by Egyptians from different walks of life in the wake of the British-ordered exile of revolutionary leader Saad Zaghlul and other members of the Wafd Party in 1919. The event led to Egyptian independence in 1922 and the implementation of a new constitution in 1923.

The event is considered to be one of the earliest successful implementations of non-violent civil disobedience in the world.

In colonial India

The story of nonviolent resistance in colonial India is synonymous with the story of the Non-Cooperation Movement and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi). Besides bringing about Independence, Gandhi's nonviolence also helped to improve the status of Untouchables in Indian religion and society. In the conflicts that ensued from Independence and Partition, Gandhi is credited with keeping Calcutta and the whole eastern border of India peaceful.

The Khudai Khidmatgar, headed by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, led a parallel movement of nonviolent resistance against the British colonials in the North-West Frontier Province.

In communist Poland

see Waldemar Frydrych (Orange Alternative), Solidarity

In the United States

The theory of nonviolent resistance in America may have begun with Henry David Thoreau's essay Civil Disobedience. In 1845, Thoreau refused to pay his taxes as a protest against the Mexican-American War. This essay by Thoreau heavily influenced the hippie revolt in the 1960s.

The African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s primarily used the tactics of nonviolent resistance, such as bus boycotts, freedom rides, sit-ins and mass demonstrations, in order to abolish racial discrimination against African Americans. This movement had some amazing success in bringing about legislative changes during this time making separate seats and drinking fountains, and schools for African Americans illegal. The success is slowly achieved as the media moves away from the presentation that protesters are troublemakers and begins to portray them as civil-right activists.

The Chicano Movement of the 1960s, also called the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, and El Movimiento, is an extension of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement which began in the 1940s with the stated goal of achieving "social liberation" and Mexican American empowerment. In the 1960s Cesar Chavez organized a campaign of nonviolence to protest the treatment of farms workers in California. These three leaders proved that people can bring about social change without using violence. As Chavez once explained, "Nonviolence is not inaction. It is not for the timid or the weak. It is hard work, It is the patience to win."

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 Reconciliation 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.

see also: Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko

In Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Palestinian groups have worked with Israelis and foreign citizens to organize civilian monitors of Israel military activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Peace camps and strategic non-violent resistance to Israeli construction of settlements and of the West Bank Barrier have also been consistently adopted as tactics by Palestinians. Citizens of the Palestinian village of Beit Sahour also engaged in a tax strike during the First Intifada. The first instances of non-violent resistance occurred in the British Mandate period
 There was this symbolic act of resistance when Palestinians tried to leave the port of Jaffa on a ship and were prevented by the British.    For the following decade, from 1919 to 1929, Palestinians at every level of society entered into the economic and political life of the British Mandate and tried to influence its policies in many ways and mostly non-violently.  However, the appointment of a  Zionist Jew (Samuel Herbert) to lead the mandate forces occupying Palestine also led to widespread resistance in many forms (mostly violent).
However, as indicated above, the failure of this peaceful movement led to the adoption of more violent tactics.

see also: Mubarak Awad

The Bil'in Movement

Bil'in is located 4 kilometers east of the Green Line, near the Israeli West Bank separation barrier. The barrier separates the village from 60 percent of its farming land. A new neighborhood of Modi'in Illit, an Israeli settlement inside the green line, is being constructed on part of this land. The settlements around Bil'in are said to be funded by Israeli businessmen Lev Leviev and Shaya Boymelgreen who are thereby promoting their political and economic interests. .

Since January 2005, the village has been organizing weekly protests against the construction of the barrier. The protests have attracted media attention and the participation of left-wing groups such as Gush Shalom, Anarchists Against the Wall, Ta'ayush and the International Solidarity Movement. The protests take the form of marches from the village to the site the barrier with the aim of halting construction and dismantling already constructed portions. The protests often end in stone-throwing and rioting in which both protesters and soldiers have been injured. In July 2005, activists entered a metal box placed on the route of the barrier, halting its construction for a short time.

Serious clashes between protesters and Israeli forces took place in September 2005 and March 2006. Solidarity conferences were held in the village in February 2006 and April 2007.

Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan, who won the prize in 1976 for her work in the Northern Ireland dispute, was hit in the leg by a rubber coated steel bullet and reportedly inhaled large quantities of teargas.

The "Barrier" that Israel is presently constructing within the Palestinian territory was held by the International court to be contrary to international law by the International Court of Justice on 9 July 2004. The International Court held that Israel is under an obligation to discontinue building the Wall and to dismantle it forthwith. In its Advisory Opinion, the Court dismissed a number of legal arguments raised by Israel relating to the applicability of humanitarian law and human rights law. In particular the International court held that Israeli settlements were unlawful. A week before the International Court of Justice gave its Advisory Opinion, the High Court of Israel gave a ruling on a 40-kilometre strip of the Wall in which it held that, while Israel as the Occupying Power had the right to construct the Wall to ensure security and that substantial sections of the Wall imposed undue hardships on Palestinians and had to be re-routed. From the "The Beit Sourik Case (HCJ 2056/04)" of 30 June 2004 the standards of proportionality between Israeli security and the injury to the Palestinian residents was set by the judgment of the Supreme Court of Israel. The Israeli Government then announced that it will not comply with the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. The Israeli Government has indicated that it will abide by the ruling of its own High Court in respect of sections of the Wall still to be built but not in respect of completed sections of the Wall. On September 4, 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the government to redraw the path of the wall because the current route was deemed "highly prejudicial" to the villagers of Bil'in. Chief Justice Dorit Beinish wrote in the ruling, "We were not convinced that it is necessary for security-military reasons to retain the current route that passes on Bilin’s lands." The case was filed two years ago by the local council leader of Bilin, Ahmed Issa Abdullah Yassin, who hired Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard to argue the case. The Israeli Defence Ministry says it will respect the ruling. On September 5, 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled to legalize the Israeli settlement of Mattiyahu East, built on a disputed portion of Bil'in's land to the west of the wall,. The village of Bil'in has vowed to continue its nonviolent resistance against the wall and settlements on its land, and offered support to other villages facing similar problems.

On June 6, 2008, European Parliament vice-president Luisa Morgantini was injured at a protest in Bil'in.

In Israel, protesters against Israel's unilateral disengagement plan of 2004 used nonviolent resistance against the impending evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and some settlements in the West Bank. On May 16, 2005, protesters blocked many traffic intersections at 5:00pm, leading to massive traffic jams and delays throughout the country. Although the police had received advance notification of the action, they had much difficulty in opening the intersections to vehicles, eventually arresting over 400 protesters, many of them juveniles. Organizers of the protests regarded 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. In the event, large-scale civil disobedience did not occur in Israel proper, although some settlers and their supporters resisted the evacuation non-violently.

see also: Moshe Feiglin

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 Wehrmacht. Some may argue that the classification of this kind of resistance as "nonviolent" remains debatable, but there is a strong case also to be made for the theory that it is nonviolent to save life by destroying inanimate material that is itself about to be used to destroy human life.

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 where 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.

In Germany during World War II

Even in Berlin, capital of the Third Reich, Nonviolent Resistance was effectively used to save Jewish lives. In 1943, Frau Israel and other non-Jewish ("Aryan") women protested against the deportation of their Jewish husbands to Auschwitz. The women were in real danger of being massacred themselves. At one point, the SS set up machine guns on Rose Street where the protest was held. In the end, however, the deportations were halted, and some men came back from Auschwitz with their numbers tattooed on their arms. The Nazis planned to exterminate both the Jewish men and their non-Jewish wives after the end of the War, but this was prevented by the victory of the Allies.

The White Rose student group, including Sophie Scholl, distributed leaflets encouraging Germans to stop Hitler.

The Confessional Church (Bekennende Kirche) was a Christian resistance movement in Nazi Germany.

In Norway during World War II

Norway's teachers, in spite of great suffering, successfully prevented the Nazification of Norway's educational system and society attempted by collaborationist leader Vidkun Quisling.

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 worldwide 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 Mitterrand abandoned the project.

see also: José Bové

Against nuclear weapons

Among the most dedicated to nonviolent resistance against the U.S. arsenal of nuclear weapons has been the Plowshares Movement, consisting largely of Catholic priests, such as Dan Berrigan, and nuns. Since the first Plowshares action in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania during the autumn of 1980, more than 70 of these actions have taken place. A film was made about the first plowshares action. Many of these actions were in the U.S., but several took place in other nations. Typically they involve symbolically damaging weapons of mass destruction, thereby following the biblical mandate to "turn swords into plowshares."
see also Mutlangen, Committee for Non-Violent Action

In the Pacific

  • The Moriori were a branch of the New Zealand Māori that colonized the Chatham Islands. However the Chathams proved too unhospitable for the Māori technology and the Moriori became earth-bound hunter-gatherers. The lack of resources and the scarce population made any kind of war unsustainable. Disputes were resolved nonviolently or with ritual singular combats. When in the 19th century, New Zealand Māoris chartered a ship to invade the Chathams, the Moriori tried to apply their traditional means of resolution, but the Māori enslaved and cannibalized them.
  • In the 1870s and 1880s, the Māori village of Parihaka, in the North Island of New Zealand, became the centre of a campaign of passive resistance to the European occupation of confiscated land in the area. More than 400 followers of the prophet Te Whiti o Rongomai were arrested and jailed, most without trial, for as long as 16 months for the acts of ploughing land and erecting fences on their property. More than 2000 inhabitants remaining seated when 1600 armed soldiers raided and destroyed the village on November 5, 1881.
  • The Mau movement was the name given to the popular nonviolent movement for Samoan independence from colonial rule in the early 20th century. There was a less successful movement in American Samoa.

In the Middle-East

In India-occupied Kashmir

In China

The Mohist philosophical school disapproved war. However, since they lived in a time of warring polities, they cultivated the science of fortification.

During the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, an unknown man was famously photographed putting himself in the way of a column of tanks.

In Czechoslovakia

In the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Czechoslovakian citizens responded to the attack on their sovereignty with passive resistance. Russian troops were frustrated as street signs were painted over, their water supplies mysteriously shut off, and buildings decorated with flowers, flags, and slogans like, "An elephant cannot swallow a hedgehog."

In Ireland

, The Troubles''

During the Irish War of Independence, 1919-1921 and the recent Troubles in Northern Ireland, nationalists used many non-violent means to resist British rule. Amongst these was abstention from the British parliament, setting up a local government, tax boycotts, setting up a local court system and a local police force. However, the efficacy of these acts is unknown since they occurred in tandem with violent resistance.

In Singapore

See also



External links

Search another word or see nonviolent resistanceon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature