Nonviolent struggle is on the rise globally. Neither passive, nor inaction, this powerful way of working for change is proving Gandhi’s audacious claim that “nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind” to be correct. Here are ten things you should know about nonviolent struggle and how it works.
1. Nonviolent action is used around the world by people of all classes, races, genders, sexualities, faiths, and political beliefs to accomplish a wide range of goals including changing governmental regimes, ending occupations, expelling foreign invasions, overthrowing dictators, stopping destructive industries, protecting the environment, gaining civil rights, creating economic justice and much more.
2. Nonviolent action is twice as successful as violent means, works in a third of the amount of time, and incurs a fraction of the casualties as violent conflict.
3. While researchers don’t know how few people are necessary to successfully use nonviolent action to accomplish their goals, researchers do know that every movement they studied that successfully mobilized 3.5% of the populace always won.
4. There are over two hundred methods of nonviolent action, including marches, demonstrations, rallies, boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, blockades, noncooperation, civil disobedience, work stoppages and slowdowns, refusal to provide services and much more.
5. There are two hands of nonviolence: the hand that says no to injustice, and the hand that says yes to justice. Gandhian nonviolence might refer to these as obstructive and constructive programs. Others refer to the two-fold strategy as “oppose and propose”, or noncooperation with the destructive and cooperation with the beneficial. For example, a movement might work to ban factory farming while simultaneously encouraging the support of local, small farms.
6. Use acts of protest and persuasion such as speeches, fliers, and marches to spread knowledge of your issue or cause. Use constructive actions such as alternative institutions and parallel governments to build new systems rooted in justice. And, use acts of noncooperation and intervention such as boycotts, strikes, shut-downs, etc. to disrupt the injustice and remove cooperation and consent.
7. Movements use a series of nonviolent actions to build a campaign around a specific objective. A series of campaigns builds into a set of stepping-stones to accomplish the large goals of the movement.
8. Nonviolent movements for change seek to remove support from the injustice, and instead place support in systems of justice. These types of support may include material resources, money, human resources, skills and knowledge, authority, the sanction-power of police and military, communications, public opinion, and intangible factors such as obedience, fear, hope, loyalty, etc.
9. Unlike violent conflicts which dehumanize people in order to hurt or kill them, nonviolent movements benefit from humanizing everyone involved, including the movement, the opposition, and the bystanders.
10. Nonviolent struggle is used by ordinary, extraordinary people just like you and me. Find a movement, get involved, start a campaign, participate in an action, build an alternative system, and find ways to make change right where you are.
Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha, and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, and the cohost of Love (and Revolution) Radio. Rivera speaks, educates, and offers workshops on nonviolent struggle. Her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. www.riverasun.com