The Power and Potential of Nonviolent Struggle


Paul's picture

It was interesting but somewhat frustrating to me, to listen to this. Interesting because he seems to be trying to separate non-violent struggle from pacifism, frustrating because there were a fair number of straw men in his comments. In fact I don't even like the term "non-violent struggle" because it implies its opposite is "violent struggle", and everybody has a knee-jerk reaction against violence. In fact he was implying its opposite was military action!

I prefer non-cooperation, which doesn't rule out defensive action. If a mob is coming to hang me from the nearest tree, my pulling out a gun to stop them (best case) or at least to take a few of them with me before I die (worst case) is neither "non-violent struggle" nor is it "military action". It is defense.

It may well be that "non-violent struggle" is more efficient in terms of lives not lost than military action, in the big picture. But the big picture is irrelevant when you, now, are about to be killed.

The other problem with this notion is that it discounts the utility of non-cooperation of armed individuals. Just because we are armed, doesn't mean we need to engage in military action. And an armed population may well escape the worst outrages, that a disarmed population would not, because the thugs will be killed off or deterred if they try it. Unfortunately, "non-violent struggle" almost needs the worst outrages to happen, in order to mobilize the great masses of people. People who individually resist with arms don't need the masses to be awakened.

Finally he was a bit too enamored with democracy. As he put it, in Czechoslovakia the people came out of the jails and became the government. But there was still a government! They were just kinder, gentler thugs.