Training for Change. George Lakey, director; Daniel Hunter, program director.  Helping groups stand up for justice, peace, and the environment through strategic non-violence.

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Home arrow Publications arrow Articles arrow Nonviolent Action as the Sword that Heals

Nonviolent Action as the Sword that Heals   PDF  Print  E-mail 
Nonviolent Action as the Sword that Heals
Where can I agree?
Strategy for violent revolution?
Is pacifism axiomatic among progressives?
Were the Jews in the Holocaust nonviolent?
Does nonviolent action depend on threats of violence?
Can't governments crush nonviolent movements?
Isn't violence advisable for self-defense?
Is nonviolent action a white thing?
Is there a racist division between street actions and alternative building?
Doesn't a pragmatic activist want to be open?
Isn't nonviolent revolution a contradiction?
How can a pragmatic revolutionist decide?
How can we choose while strategies are getting created?
Page 6 of 15
Does the success of nonviolent action depend on violence threatened or used by others in the situation?

Ward argues that the successes for nonviolence in the Indian struggle against Britain and the U.S. civil rights movement were in reality dependent on violence. He believes that Britain had just exhausted itself militarily in World War II and couldn't maintain its dominance of India through arms, so it surrendered. The war made independence possible. The problem with this argument is that Britain went on to maintain other colonies well past Indian independence in 1948. One dramatic example is Britain's ruthless suppression of the Mao Mao rebellion in Kenya in the 1950s by bombing villages. Britain retained capacity for major military response to an armed struggle for independence, but couldn't continue domination against a nonviolent struggle for independence. It's not that the war made Indian independence possible: it's that the Indian people's own noncooperation made Indian independence possible.

In the case of the U.S. civil rights struggle, at the risk of over-simplification I'd identify the curve of effectiveness in achieving tangible, concrete goals like this: 1955-1965, the curve goes up and up. Some of the goals were: to integrate buses (Montgomery, Freedom rides); to integrate lunch counters and other public accommodations (sit-ins, stand-ins, swim-ins, etc. the Birmingham campaign and the 1964 Civil Rights Act); to enable blacks to vote in the deep South (Mississippi Summer, Selma March, the 1965 Voting Rights Act).

The curve starts downward from 1965 in terms of major beachheads taken by the mass movement, although for years afterward there was implementation of what was made possible by earlier gains, like getting black officials elected even in the deep South. Notably, from 1965 there were riots in northern cities like Newark, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Watts, and the rise of the Deacons of Defense and Black Panther Party. By 1968 even non-threatening legislation like a bill to fund rat control in inner cities was openly laughed at in the House of Representatives. The mass civil rights movement lost much of its power precisely at the time when it lost its consensus on nonviolent struggle as the basis for mass action.

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[Opening Space for Democracy]

training manual for third-party nonviolent intervention

By Daniel Hunter and George Lakey

Get TFC's first training manual: over 600-pages of theory, tools, and handouts on third-party nonviolent intervention. Also valuable for non-peace team trainers, as it includes tools on de-escalation, team-building, personal well-being, and more.

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Training for Change     1501 Cherry St. Philadelphia PA 19102-1477 USA     ph:215-241-7035     fax:215-241-7252