9.10 – Dealing with the Tyrant’s Repression

September 9th, 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.

Number One Enemy oF Civil Resistance is IMPATIENCE

The oft quoted phrase “Freedom is not free” is true. No outside force is coming to give oppressed people the freedom they so much want. People will have to learn how to take that freedom themselves. Easy it cannot be. We should expect to face repression.

Elements for Sucess

Bring about Global Campaign outcome such as: “We … call on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and America’s Western allies to publicly repudiate Ethiopia’s efforts to use terrorism laws to silence political dissent. We also urge the U.S. to ensure that our more than $600 million in aid to Ethiopia is not used to foster repression.” New York Review of Books

We can be sure that in our struggle for freedom we will face repression. The physical danger may not be as great as it would be in a violent struggle, but it is present nonetheless. We can expect to face confiscation of property and data; economic sanctions such as fines, blacklisting, and dismissal from jobs; legal harassment, including arrest and imprisonment; new repressive legislation; and direct physical violence.

Stubbornness and determination are essential elements for success in dealing with repression. Once we have chosen a course of action, we must simply refuse to give in. We must make it clear that the punishments meted out against us will not produce capitulation; for if repression is seen to weaken our movement, our opponents will conclude that they just need to apply more of it to make us submit.

Our resolve not to submit must be coupled with an equally firm resolve to maintain nonviolent discipline. We can be sure that the enemy will try to provoke us to violence, or falsely claim that we have engaged in violence, for that will give it free reign to engage in harsh and brutal measures against us without fear of the consequences.

Another essential element is social support. When acting alone, in isolation, our options for dealing with repression are limited. But when acting as part of a larger movement, not only can our actions be more effective, but the personal risk can be reduced and the impact of repressive measures can be blunted.

Now suppose that we have achieved a high level of rapport and solidarity in our movement. We have close personal ties with each other, and we take care of our own. Those who suffer prosecution and imprisonment would then not suffer alone; they would have the moral support and encouragement of their friends. They could count on financial and/or material aid for their families. These things would make their suffering far more bearable than facing it alone.

A final element of success is to know our own strength at each stage of the struggle, and to choose our battles accordingly. Biting off more than we can chew — exposing ourselves to a greater level of repression than we are prepared to withstand — will only destroy morale. Likewise, being excessively timid will allow opportunities to slip away.


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