"In a contest of violence against violence," the philosopher Hannah Arendt
observed, "the superiority of the government has always been absolute." When confronted with nonviolent resistance on the part of the downtrodden, however, governments have often crumbled--witness the fall of South Africa's apartheid regime and the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia.
The worldwide spread of democracy in the 20th century, documentary writers Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall maintain, "would not have come to pass without the power of ordinary people who defied oppressive rulers not by force of arms, but by nonviolent action." By way of example, they cite the collapse of the Argentine military regime following peaceful protests by the mothers of men and women who had been murdered by the secret police; the eventual undermining of the Polish Communist regime by the nonviolent Solidarity labor movement; the refusal of the Danish people to comply with the laws of their Nazi occupiers during World War II; and the exemplary work done in India (and, earlier, South Africa) by Mohandas Gandhi, who took pains to emphasize that nonviolence does not imply passivity.
Ackerman and DuVall's book, the companion volume to a PBS television series, will be of much interest to political activists of all stripes, as well as to students of contemporary history. --Gregory McNamee
A Force More Powerful is the companion volume to an eponymous PBS series on which the authors collaborated. Like the videos, the book explores the use of nonviolent action to achieve social change in the twentieth century. The first part, "Movement to Power," covers pre-Revolutionary Russia, colonial India, and the Solidarity movement in Poland. Part 2, "Resistance to Terror," describes German opposition to the 1923 Ruhrkampf
and Danish resistance to the Nazi invasion, as well as Latin American resistance efforts in El Salvador, Argentina, and Chile. Part 3, "Campaigns for Rights," addresses the civil rights movement in the U.S and the campaign against apartheid in South Africa, restoration of democracy in the Philippines, the Palestinian intifada, and a range of actions in China, Eastern Europe, and Mongolia. Finally, "Violence and Power" considers the theoretical questions that nonviolence raises and briefly discusses recent or current conflicts in such places as Sri Lanka, the Basques, Northern Ireland, Burma, Serbia, and Kosovo. A solid overview of a fascinating subject. Mary CarrollCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved