7.12 – VIOLENCE within Civil Disobedience Movement

July 12th, 2012

This is Ethiopian Review Policy Research Center’s series on From Dictatorship to Democracy extracted/quoted from books and articles published by Albert Einstein Institution and similar sources.

Civil Resistance is an outward rejection (Disobedience) of social practices that one sees as wrong

1. You maintain respect for the rule of law even while disobeying the specific law that you perceive as unjust.“Non-violent activists do not seek to undermine the rule of law, but only the repeal of unjust laws. Laws that discriminated and disenfranchised must be abolished.”
Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

2. You should plead guilty to any violation of the law.
“I am here to . . . submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen.”

Mohandas K Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

3.You should attempt to convert your opponent by demonstrating the justice of your cause.
Active nonviolence does not seek, to defeat or humiliate your opponents, but to win their friendship and understanding. “There is within human nature something that can respond to goodness.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 -1968)

Action without Nonviolent DISCIPLINE Leads to Chaos and Vandalism.

Strategy is only effective if it is executed in a disciplined way. The largest risk for a failure of discipline in a nonviolent movement is that some members may become violent. Therefore, nonviolent discipline—the ability of people to remain nonviolent, even in the face of provocations—is often continually instilled in participants training.

There are practical reasons for this. It is not just a moral or ethical issue, but it is a strategic issue.

1. Violent incidents by members of a movement can dramatically reduce its legitimacy while giving the dictatorship an excuse to use repression.
2. Once the violent tactics will be responded to by the tyrant that has a monopoly or predominance of armed power, and once that response comes, it’s highly likely that the wide majority of the population that you worked so hard to get involved will go indoors, because not everybody’s willing to take the same risks for a civil resistance movement. They are the group that’s most likely to take the least risk.

3. Civil resistance can’t succeed unless you induce loyalty shifts and multiple defections from the other side, that basically weakens the other side’s power base.
While you’re specifically trying to create loyalty shifts amongst the opposition, it’s very hard to create those loyalty shifts when you’re threatening to have them in harms way i.e. get them killed or maimed. Those two don’t go together.

4. A movement that is consistently nonviolent has a far greater chance of appealing to a broad range of potential allies—including even an adversary’s supporters—through the course of its struggle.

5. It ensures that the media focus on the issue at hand rather than some tangential act of violence and it is the surest way of achieving public sympathy.