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Non-violent resistance

Non-violent resistance is the practice of rejecting violence as a means toward socio-political change. It may be a moral decision or a recognition of relative military impotence.

As with any strategy for social change, there are various types and degrees of non-violent resistance. It may include information wars, protest art, lobbying, tax refusal, boycotts or sanctions, legal/diplomatic wrestling, material sabotage, underground railroads, principled refusal of awards/honours, picketing, vigiling, leafleting, or general strikes.

Gene Sharpe[?] has outlined tactics of non-violent resistance as a military stratgey, designed to defend countries in the face of attempted takeover:

Table of contents

Non-violent resistance in colonial India

to be written: see Mahatma Gandhi

Non-violent resistance in segregated US

to be written see also Martin Luther King Jr.

Non-violent resistance in segregated South Africa

to be written see also Nelson Mandela

Non-violent resistance in occupied Palestine

While Palestinian resistance is often associated with violent resistance, and suicide bombers in particular, there have also been efforts to use non-violent resistance to oppose the Israeli occupation. The International Solidarity Movement have used a variety of non-violent methods for over two years, including its activists acting as human shields. In March 2003, Rachel Corrie became the first ISM member to die in these actions.

Non-violent resistance in Denmark during World War II

When the Nazi army invaded Denmark in 1940, the Danes saw that military confrontation would change nothing except the number of Danes left to be occupied. The Danish government therefore adopted a policy of official co-operation (and unofficial obstruction) they called "negotiation under protest."

On the industrial front, Danish workers subtly slowed all production that would feed the German war machine, sometimes to a perfect standstill. On the cultural front, Danes engaged in the symbolic defiance of organizing mass celebrations of their own history and traditions.

On the legislative front, The Danish government insisted that since they were officially co-operating with Germany, they had an ally's right to negotiate with them, and then proceeded to create bureaucratic quagmires which stalled or blocked German orders without having to refuse them outright. The Danes also proved to be conveniently inept at controlling the underground Danish resistance press, which at one point reached numbers equivalent to the entire adult population.

The Danish government also gave room (and even secret assistance) to underground groups involved in sabotage of machines and railway lines needed to extract Danish resources or supply the German army. The classification of this kind of resistance as "non-violent" is debatable, but it was certainly less "violent" than engaging in or supporting terrorism directed at taking life or health from the occupiers.

Even when their government was dissolved entirely, the Danes managed to block German goals without resorting to bloodshed. Underground groups smuggled over 7000 of Denmark's 8000 Jews temporarily into Sweden, at great personal risk. Workers (and even entire cities like Copenhagen) went on mass strikes, refusing to work for an occupier's benefit, on an occupier's terms. The initial response was greatly increased repression, but eventually the war-distracted Germans abandoned strike-breaking efforts in exasperation.

The Danish resistance against the Nazis was highly effective, but it raises characteristic questions about the efficacy of non-violence. The Danes clearly lost very few lives, while annoying and draining their foreign occupiers. But people wonder if the Danish strategy might not have failed abysmally if Great Britain and other nations hadn't been simultaneously resisting Nazi violence with violence.

It almost certainly would have proved a more painful strategy for Denmark in such a circumstance (as in the case of the successful but agonizing non-violent resistance to apartheid in South Africa), but like the Gandhian solution of perfect global surrender to the Nazis followed by perfect global non-cooperation with them, many questions of efficacy remain in the realm of the hypothetical. And due to the decentralized and various nature of non-violent advocacy, questions about possible compatibility with violent resitance, or even about precise definitions of "non-violent tactics" have no categorical answers.

Non-violent resistance of Larzac's farmers (France)

to be written

Non-violent resistance against nuclear weapons

to be written see also Mutlangen[?]


See also: Civil disobedience, Mohandas Gandhi, Non-violence, Pacifism, Religious Society of Friends, Non-violent direct action[?]



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