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A very powerful book,
This review is from: Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present (Paperback)This book describes and critiques non-violent civil resistance movements from throughout the world including those that succeeded - such as the struggle for Indian independence and the U.S. civil rights movement - as well as those that did not such as in Northern Ireland from 1967 to 1972 or the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in the People's Republic of China. The authors of the essays identify some of the more typical non-violent tactics, strategies and concepts which I will overly simplify into three areas.
First there is non-violence as a deeply felt commitment, as good itself and something to strive for no matter what the outcome. Gandhi in British India and Martin Luther King in the United States are two of the most obvious examples. Both men understood that the power of the repressive state rests on the obedience of their citizens (or subjects) and that the active withdrawal of this consent will cause increasing instability in the regime. The "Saffron Revolution" led by Buddhist monks in Burma may be the purest example: Theravada Buddhism, followed by 90% of the Burmese population, permits only a non-violent approach to problem-solving. Monks are instructed that any word they speak and any action they take not only does no harm to others but also can bring about a positive change in reaction in even the most implacable enemies.
Secondly is non-violence as a tactic that had to be adopted due to a precarious military, economic or political situation. Lech Walesa in Poland understood that surrounded by Warsaw Pact troops and with the 1968 intervention into Czechoslovakia fresh in memories throughout eastern and central Europe that he and the strikers at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk had to walk a very fine line to keep the tanks on the other side of the Polish border. They succeeded although they had to endure the imposition of martial law by Polish general Wojciech Jaruzelski which resulted in the extra-judicial incarceration of many Solidarity leaders and cadres but which a majority of people in Poland still think was the only way to stop intervention by surrounding troops. Northern Ireland in the years prior to the 1969 decision to send the British Army into Derry and Belfast was a very different story. Inspired by the U.S. civil rights movement the non-IRA resistance in Northern Ireland tried marches, demonstration, sit-ins and strikes but the fierce opposition of the entrenched establishment to any change and that of the Provisional IRA to anything other than immediate and complete change meant they would fail. The numbers tell the story: in 1967 no one was killed in Ulster as a result of political violence; 497 people were killed in 1972 in the conflict.
The third reason for non-violent resistance to an oppressive regime is as part of establishing a moral basis for a new society. This takes an even longer view than the first two, projecting past the end of the oppressive government to its replacement with a more just society with guarantees of individual rights. Chile from 1983 to 1988 is a good example. Chile has been committed to the rule of law and a robust, independent civil society since independence in 1830 with elected civilian governments interrupted only twice--from 1927 to 1931 and then in 1973 when Pinochet overthrew the socialist government. The Communist Party and the Socialist Party put aside their differences in the face of the extreme repression and terror from the Pinochet military rulers when the economy shuddered to a halt in 1982. They mobilized their constituencies among workers, students and professionals while working with grassroots organizations created by the Catholic Church during the worst of the security crackdowns following the coup, creating a very broad base for elections which the government called and that, to its dismay, lost. The coalitions that were built during the underground and then open organizing were the basis of a policy of truth and justice for crimes committed during the Pinochet administration for the elected governments that came after the end of the dictatorship.
These three sets of concepts and strategies of non-violent resistance are not, of course, exhaustive or mutually exclusive but are methods and reasons for opposition to repression that were identified by the authors of the essays in "Civil Resistance and Power Politics". It is a book well worth owning for its breadth of coverage, hitting not only the most famous rebellions but others that we can learn from such as the Carnation Revolution in Portugal of 1975 that ended several decades of fascist rule or the unusual intersection of ethnic nationalism and peaceful protest in the Baltic nations during the breakup of the Soviet Union.