vol. 5, no. 1
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Ten days in Guatemala
US Catholic Bishops peace statement
South Africa Program at Wits
Nonviolent action/nonviolent philosophy
Ten Days in Guatemala
by Jean de Wandelaer
Guatemala, June 1993 was not a carbon copy of Moscow, August 1991, but many details were similar—a corrupt and brutal regime attempting to cling to power by staging a coup against itself; the people taking to the streets; parts of the regime turning against itself; and finally, in a short period of time, the old order losing all credibility.
During the weeks before the coup, there were many rumors that a state of emergency (estado de excepcion) would be declared in response to the numerous demonstrations and strikes. Students occupied the streets of the capital several times to protest the introduction of a student identity card, an increase in energy prices, and the government’s economic policy. On May 11, a student was injured during clashes with the police and died two days later. Four thousand people, students and members of grassroots organizations, rallied for the student’s funeral.
On May 20, army and police vehicles occupied the streets with an order to break up any demonstrations. The next day there was a large demonstration, calling for the resignation of president Jorge Serrano.
It is in this context that Serrano’s "auto-golpe" or self-coup took place on May 25. In Guatemala, such action by the president can only happen with the agreement of the army command, the real masters of the country. Defense Minister Domingo Samoya Garcia supported Serrano who said he wanted to fight corruption inside the Congress. Constitutional guarantees were suspended, as were the Congress itself, the offices of the Attorney General and of the Human Rights Court and Supreme Court.
The international press compared Serrano’s action to Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori’s 1991 auto-golpe. But whereas Fujimori had the backing of at least some of the Peruvian middle class and peasantry, Serrano had no support to speak of, either for his coup or for his economic and social policy. His party, the Solidarity Action Movement (Movimento de Accion Solidaria) had won the May 8 municipal elections only through a general mistrust of politicians which produced a 70 percent abstention rate.
The day after the coup, a wide array of people, institutions, and foreign governments issued statements condemning the auto-golpe. The U.S. and the European Community demanded the restoration of the Constitution and the recall of Congress.
The first public demonstrations followed soon after. Rigoberta Menchú, who had been in the country since May 17 to organize an international indigenous conference, took advantage of her recent Nobel Peace Prize to lead the civil opposition and ask for a return to the constitutional order.
The military appeared surprised by the clear and public opposition to its attempted seizure of power. Defense Minister Samoya began to change his mind and withdrew his support for Serrano, obliging him to leave the country June 3.
At this point, it appeared that the vice-president, Espina, would accede to the presidency, and the regime would remain in largely the same hands as before. But after some confusion and a frenzied round of talks among national leaders, this time including Rigoberta Menchú, the choice of a new president was handed over to Congress, which proceeded to elect the former human rights ombudsman, Ramiro de Leon Carpio.
De Leon Carpio is not the Guatemalan Boris Yeltsin, but, like Yeltsin, was recently part of the traditional ruling class. In 1985, he was the vice-presidential candidate of the center-right National Center Union (Union de Centro Nacional), and was appointed human rights ombudsman in early 1990.
As human rights ombudsman for the past three years, he has taken some courageous stands against the military. As early as July 1990, he noted that the security forces are the main institutions to be the subject of human rights accusations, and in November 1990 fingered the army with responsibility for the Santiago Atitlan massacre in which 80 people were injured and 13 killed.
As president, De Leon will be constrained in what he can do, and he has already indicated that there will be amnesties for army officers implicated in the past fifteen years of "dirty war" in Guatemala. Even so, there is a sense of a new beginning for Guatemala. [Peace News / War Resisters International]
—Distributed by the Peace Media Service
U.S. Catholic Bishops
Release Peace Statement
[Editor’s Note: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a statement to mark the tenth anniversary of the bishops’ pastoral letter "The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response." The bishops’ new statement, entitled "The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace," was approved on November 17 during their fall meeting in Washington, D.C. The bishops sought input for the statement from many individuals and organizations representing a wide variety of viewpoints including Gene Sharp and Roger Powers of the Albert Einstein Institution. Excerpts from the bishops’ statement concerning nonviolent action and international economic sanctions are printed here with permission from Origins: CNS Documentary Service, Vol. 23: No. 26 (December 9, 1993). For a single copy of the complete statement, send $5 to: Origins, 3211 4th Street, NE, Washington, DC 20017-1100.]
Nonviolence: new importance
As "The Challenge of Peace" observed, "The vision of Christian nonviolence is not passive about injustice and the defense of the rights of others." It ought not to be confused with popular notions of nonresisting pacifism. For it consists of a commitment to resist manifest injustice and public evil with means other than force. These include dialogue, negotiations, protests, strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience and civilian resistance. Although nonviolence has often been regarded as simply a personal option or vocation, recent history suggests that in some circumstances it can be an effective public undertaking as well. Dramatic political transitions in places as diverse as the Philippines and Eastern Europe demonstrate the power of nonviolent action even against dictatorial and totalitarian regimes. Writing about the events of 1989, Pope John Paul II said:
"It seemed that the European order resulting from the Second World War . . . could only be overturned by another war. Instead, it has been overcome by the nonviolent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth."
These nonviolent revolutions challenge us to find ways to take into full account the power of organized, active nonviolence. What is the real potential power of serious nonviolent strategies and tactics—and their limits? What are the ethical requirements when organized nonviolence fails to overcome evil and when totalitarian powers inflict massive injustice on an entire people? What are the responsibilities of and limits on the international community?
One might ask, in light of recent history, whether nonviolence should be restricted to personal commitments or whether it also should have a place in the public order with the tradition of justified and limited war. National leaders bear a moral obligation to see that non-violent alternatives are seriously considered for dealing with conflicts. New styles of preventative diplomacy and conflict resolution ought to be explored, tried, improved and supported. As a nation we should promote research, education and training in nonviolent means of resisting evil. Nonviolent strategies need greater attention in international affairs.
Such obligations do not detract from a state’s right and duty to defend against aggression as a last resort. They do, however, raise the threshold for the recourse to force by establishing institutions which promote nonviolent solutions of disputes and nurturing political commitment to such efforts. In some future conflicts, strikes and people power could be more effective than guns and bullets.
In the aftermath of the Cold War, comprehensive economic sanctions have become a more common form of international pressure. In the case of Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, our bishops’ conference has supported sanctions as a means of combating aggression short of military intervention; in the case of South Africa, we have supported less-onerous sanctions to encourage the dismantling of apartheid and adopted a policy of divestment to renounce complicity in this immoral regime and to stand in solidarity with those who were seeking to end it. In other cases, we have not been convinced that comprehensive sanctions were helpful, and in still others, we have not taken a position. In each case we have consulted closely with the church in the country affected and have been guided by its judgment.
Our record on sanctions reflects an inherent dilemma involved in this form of pressure. We hear the cries of innocent people in Serbia, Haiti, Iraq, Cuba and elsewhere who have lost their jobs, who can no longer afford what food is available, whose health is deteriorating and whose political leaders remain recalcitrant and as strong as ever. We take very seriously the charge that sanctions can be counterproductive and sometimes unjustifiably harm the innocent. Yet sanctions can offer a nonmilitary alternative to the terrible options of war or indifference when confronted with aggression or injustice.
While much more study, reflection and public debate over the moral dimension of comprehensive sanctions is needed, we offer the following tentative criteria as a contribution to this discussion.
First, concerns about the limited effectiveness of sanctions and the harms caused to civilian populations require that comprehensive sanctions be considered only in response to aggression or grave and ongoing injustice after less coercive measures have been tried and with clear and reasonable conditions set for their removal.
Second, the harm caused by sanctions should be proportionate to the good likely to be achieved; sanctions should avoid grave and irreversible harm to the civilian population. Therefore, sanctions should be targeted as much as possible against those directly responsible for the injustice, distinguishing between the government and the people. Selective sanctions which target offending individuals and institutions are usually preferable, therefore, to complete embargoes. Embargoes, when employed, must make provision for the fundamental human needs of the civilian population. The denial of basic needs may not be used as a weapon.
Third, the consent to sanctions by substantial portions of the affected population is morally relevant. While this consent may mitigate concerns about suffering caused by sanctions, however, it does not eliminate the need for humanitarian exemptions.
Finally, sanctions should always be part of a broader process of diplomacy aimed at finding an effective political solution to the injustice.
The troubling moral problems posed by the suffering caused by sanctions and the limits to their effectiveness counsel that this blunt instrument be used sparingly and with restraint. Economic sanctions may be acceptable, but only if less coercive means fail as an alternative to war and as a means of upholding fundamental international norms.
South Africa Program Officially Launched
at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg
by Barbara Harmel, Director, South Africa Program
The South Africa Program of the Albert Einstein Institution was officially launched at a dinner on August 18 at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Christopher Kruegler, president of the Albert Einstein Institution, and Barbara Harmel, director of the South Africa Program, welcomed over fifty guests to the occasion including University administration and faculty members, foundation officers, researchers from various organizations, and representatives of the South African trade union movement and civic organizations.
The dinner provided an opportunity to introduce formally the Einstein Institution’s South Africa Program and the three projects it has been conducting since January 1993. Each project is based at the University of the Witwatersrand and closely involves a number of the University’s faculty members.
One of the projects has awarded fellowships to three graduate students in the Sociology Department to study the role of the South African trade union movement in popular struggle during the 1980s. The department chair, Professor Eddie Webster, described the fellows’ chosen areas of research, each of which has been endorsed by local trade union branches.
Professor Tom Lodge spoke about the research currently underway in the Program’s second project (described more fully below) on black township organizations—or "civics" as they are popularly known—which is based in the Department of Political Studies.
The Program’s third project involves conducting interviews with political activists to create an oral history of the South African liberation movement throughout four decades of struggle against apartheid. Professor Philip Bonner of the History Department reported on progress in this project, the current focus of which is South Africa’s so-called classic period of nonviolent direct action during the 1950s, which culminated in a switch to armed guerrilla warfare in 1961.
The dinner also provided a first opportunity for all the associates and fellows of the Program to meet with one another and with the Einstein Institution’s president. It allowed too for friendly exchange between the researchers of each project and representatives of the organizations under study.
Following the launch of the South Africa Program, the civics project held its first seminar and workshop. This project is designed to examine the role of the civic organizations during the 1980s and to enhance their operations in the post-apartheid era. These black township organizations could prove to be powerful social forces in the creation of civil society and democracy in South Africa. Research is focusing on the strategies, tactics, structures, methods of mobilizing, accountability, and democratic practices employed by the civic organizations. The project is overseen by a committee, of which several members either are currently working in civic organizations or have previously been civics activists and are now engaged in research and writing. Among the former is Patrick Lephunya of the Soweto Civic Association; among the latter are Zohra Ebrahim and Kehla Shubane.
In January of this year, the committee commissioned research papers on a competitive basis. It awarded thirteen commissions to a total of sixteen individuals, some of whom are working in teams. Those commissioned include faculty members and graduate students from both the historically white and black universities in South Africa as well as independent researchers.
On August 19 and 20, the commissioned researchers met to review and discuss their preliminary findings in a two-day seminar. The project’s committee members and Christopher Kruegler also attended the seminar, as did several project applicants who showed particular promise. Kruegler outlined in an opening address the basic conceptual approach of nonviolent direct action research.
The papers covered a wide variety of topics ranging from individual case studies to thematic overviews of the civic organizations. They wedded an impressive array of rich historical and contemporary detail to issues related to the strategic use of nonviolent direct action and the evolution of democracy.
Organizations representing residents of South Africa’s racially segregated black townships began appearing as early as the second decade of the century. But it was not until 1979–80 that they became crucial strategic actors in the struggle against the apartheid government. Professor Colin Bundy of the University of the Western Cape, who was commissioned to analyze the development of township organizations, isolated four factors that prompted this shift: (1) intensified material pressures on the black majority population, (2) popular awareness of a change in the balance of power vis-à-vis the state, (3) specific political developments that created "the community" as a vector of resistance, and (4) the creation of black local councils which became a target for renewed political opposition.
Beginning in 1979, new civic organizations began mushrooming throughout South Africa. Subject to common apartheid restrictions, they all bore similarities. But differing regional histories, ethnic compositions, and political and ideological affiliations gave rise to important variations in tactics, degrees of organization, structures, leadership styles, and democratic practices among the civics.
In 1983, the African National Congress-allied United Democratic Front (UDF) was established as a powerful national political organization that helped to create unity, ANC hegemony, and networks among various civics. Focusing on the first of the new civic organizations in Port Elizabeth, researcher Janet Cherry argued that a long history of political organization in the area and the virtually unchallenged dominance of the ANC played a critical role in effective grassroots organization by the civic. But, as researchers Justine Lucas and Seamus Needham have detailed in case studies of Alexandra Township and Mbekweni, the UDF’s alliance with the African National Congress also provoked tensions. In the case of Mbekweni, hostilities grew from non-participation in campaigns organized by rival civics to fratricidal war.
How the establishment of the UDF as a national organization affected the development of strategies by civics is being considered by researcher Jeremy Seekings. How different interpretations of concepts of democracy influenced the internal dynamics of civics is being considered in case studies of civics in the Western Cape and in the larger Johannesburg area by researchers Bettina von Lieres and Johnny Steinberg respectively.
Several papers raised common questions about the future role and structuring of civics, recognizing that the demise of apartheid brings in its wake the decline of a unifying concern. Several papers also noted the "overrepresentation" of women in the rank and file of civic organizations and the striking absence of women among the leadership.
Related to this is a further important concern for the project: the impact on civic organizations of a new constitutional context. To what extent will civics have to revise their strategies and tactics? How are different civics responding to changes being wrought in the transitional period? What conditions and factors will nourish civic identity in the period following the April 1994 General Election?
While the work of the civics project is not guided by policy-making concerns, it is intended to serve the interests of civic organizations with regard to popular empowerment and democratization among social forces. To further this goal, a one-day workshop was held to stimulate meaningful exchange between civic activists and researchers. Activists from civic organizations in various parts of the country were invited to attend. Unfortunately, the workshop experienced a poor turn-out, a disappointment which has become common for numerous ventures in South Africa. Nevertheless, researchers were able to participate in a lively exchange, particularly with three women civic activists who joined the workshop from the Western Cape.
Among the topics discussed during the workshop was the delicate and often contentious issue of the relationship between researcher and subject. Civic activists have the view that researchers customarily collect data from communities without feeling any obligation to help those communities in return. After considerable exchange, a consensus was broadly reached that while researchers needed to be sensitive to individuals encountered in the field and to make clear their agendas, researchers ultimately bear the responsibility for their own findings and cannot be bound by the specific interests of the organization under study.
During the 1980s, civic organizations played a crucial role in forcing political change upon the apartheid government. Of equal importance, they established channels for millions of disenfranchised black South Africans to express and act upon their own needs and opinions. The South Africa Program’s project on civic organizations not only provides a unique resource for researching and documenting those processes, it has also created a forum that underscores the necessity for continued nurturing of such organizations. While the General Election scheduled for April 27, 1994 gives the first opportunity for all South Africans to vote for the government of their choice, civics have the potential for creating one of the strongest social forces in a new democratic and participatory South Africa.
The next seminar and workshop of the project will be held at the end of January 1994. Papers are now being commissioned for the second year of the project. Publication of the commissioned research is planned for early 1995.
Nonviolent Philosophy/Nonviolent Action:
An Appeal for Conceptual Precision
by Roger S. Powers, Development & Publications Coordinator
In the fall of 1990, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, a well-known peace educator and journalist was asked to speak to a group of college students about nonviolent alternatives for dealing with the conflict. He criticized the U.S. military buildup, saying he didn’t think that military intervention was the answer, and he criticized the media for being "cheerleaders" for the military and the Bush administration. Then he went into his stock speech encouraging students to take peace studies courses and to learn about the lives of people committed to nonviolence who could become role models for them. The students in the audience became impatient and began firing questions at the speaker about the announced topic. What possible relevance could nonviolence have in the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait? Saddam Hussein wouldn’t be moved by opponents who were trying to love their enemies, they said. The speaker was stumped and the students came away from the lecture viewing nonviolence as a pie-in-the-sky philosophy that isn’t practical in the real world.
This happens again and again when people talk about "nonviolence" without making any clear distinction between the philosophy of nonviolence and the methods of nonviolent action. The speaker mentioned above was talking primarily about the philosophy of nonviolence, though he never said so explicitly. He barely mentioned the myriad methods of nonviolent action. And he never mentioned the idea of civilian-based defense, a country’s population and institutions using nonviolent resistance as a means of national defense, which is beginning to be incorporated into some countries’ defense policies. He could have given examples of how nonviolent action was used successfully in some instances against Hitler, to whom Saddam Hussein was being compared at the time. He could have pointed out that Saddam Hussein’s power ultimately depended on the consent and cooperation of the Iraqi people. Had the speaker talked about the technique of nonviolent action as it has been used in the past against other dictatorships and invaders, he might have received a very different response from his audience.
This article makes a very simple argument: (1) that the philosophy of nonviolence and the technique of nonviolent action are two separate and distinct things; (2) that they are not mutually exclusive, but neither does one require the other (this is an empirical claim, not a theoretical or an ideological one; we know they are phenomenologically distinct, because we can find examples of each without the other); and (3) that making a clear distinction between the philosophy and the technique enables people to embrace one even if they reject the other, thereby widening the receptive audience for both.
I am arguing that in all discourse on this subject, a clear distinction should be made between the philosophy or ethic of nonviolence and the technique of nonviolent action.
The Technique of Nonviolent Action
What is the technique of nonviolent action? It is the use of various methods of direct action by a group in a conflict to achieve some objective without threatening or inflicting direct physical harm on human beings. It is a means of waging conflict. The technique of nonviolent action uses an arsenal of political, economic, social, and psychological weapons such as strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, fasts, mass noncooperation, and so on.
Examples of nonviolent action abound. In the past several years, "people power" has transformed the global political landscape in unprecedented ways:
- In 1986, in the Philippines, a "People Power" revolution brought down the brutal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
- In December 1987, the Intifada began. Palestinians, who once had been considered terrorists by the world community, began using nonviolent methods of resistance against Israeli occupation and turned world public opinion in their favor.
- In 1988, in Burma, Buddhist monks and students took to the streets in massive nonviolent demonstrations against twenty-six years of military dictatorship. They were successful in ousting three successive heads of state in as many months before being brutally repressed by the military.
- Also in 1988, the Polish Solidarity trade union led waves of strikes that forced the Communist government to institute democratic reforms. Within a year, Solidarity had been voted into Parliament, and Poland had become the first Eastern European country to oust its Communist leaders.
- 1989 saw thousands of Chinese students occupying Tiananmen Square, fasting, and defying Chinese Communist leaders. Their demonstrations ended tragically in the June 4 massacre. Still, the students had succeeded in undermining the legitimacy of the Chinese government.
- In November 1989, nonviolent demonstrations in East Germany and mass East German emigration led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the eventual reunification of Germany.
- A week later, mass demonstrations and strikes began in Czechoslovakia, starting what became known as the "Velvet Revolution." Vaclav Havel became president by the end of December 1989.
- In South Africa, in February 1990, the African National Congress and other anti-apartheid organizations were unbanned and Nelson Mandela was released from prison—the result of pressure put on the white minority government by the Mass Defiance Campaigns of the late 1980s and international economic sanctions.
- Later in 1990 and 1991, the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia fought with nonviolent methods to end Soviet occupation and regain independence.
- And in August 1991, in the Soviet Union, mass demonstrations, blockades, and noncooperation by the military were significant factors in the defeat of a coup d’état.
Of course, nonviolent action isn’t new. It’s been used for centuries. These are only the most dramatic examples of the last several years.
Most of us would probably agree with the ends for which nonviolent action was used in the previous examples: freedom, democracy, independence, human rights, an end to dictatorship and oppression. But that does not mean that nonviolent action can only be used for "good" or "just" ends, as it is sometimes argued. The technique of nonviolent action is a means of engaging in conflict. It is separate from the ends for which it is being used. This is most easily illustrated by pointing to those conflicts in which both sides used nonviolent action. Consider the U.S. civil rights movement. While civil rights activists used nonviolent action against racial segregation, segregationists used nonviolent action to resist desegregation—refusing to obey federal court orders, for example. Similarly, activists on both sides of the abortion debate have used nonviolent action. And Lithuania’s initial bid for independence, which was bolstered by nonviolent action, was countered by the Soviet Union’s imposition of economic sanctions on Lithuania. Clearly, nonviolent action can be used by both sides in a conflict. It can be used for "just" or "unjust" ends.
The phenomenon of nonviolent struggle, as manifested in conflicts around the world, is distinct from the philosophy or ethic of nonviolence.
Philosophy of Nonviolence
The philosophy or ethic of nonviolence might include some or all of the following:
- a belief in the sanctity of all life.
- a belief in the ultimate worth of every individual person.
- a belief that people are inherently good.
- a rejection of killing or harming living things under any circumstances.
- a commitment to the power of love and truth.
- a separation of the doer from the deed.
- a belief that there is inherent value in self-suffering.
- a belief that means and ends are one. (As A.J. Muste said: "There is no way to peace, peace is the way.")
- an emphasis on faithfulness over effectiveness.
While I have been referring to the philosophy of nonviolence, I don’t mean to imply that there is only one. There are probably as many philosophies of nonviolence as there are people who subscribe to them. But they all will include some mix of the beliefs just listed.
Three Approaches to Nonviolence
Making the distinction between the philosophy of nonviolence and the technique of nonviolent action offers individuals three different ways to approach the general notion of "nonviolence," thereby opening it up to the many people who may be turned off by one approach but turned on by another.
1) Some people personally commit themselves to a philosophy of nonviolence but do not engage in nonviolent action. Thomas Merton is a good example of this. He was personally committed to a nonviolent ethic and wrote a great deal about Christian nonviolence and nonviolent action. Indeed, he may have inspired others (the Berrigan brothers, for example) to engage in nonviolent direct action against the Vietnam War and the nuclear arms race. But as a Trappist monk, Merton himself did not engage in nonviolent action. He chose to lead a contemplative life in a monastery.
2) Other people use the technique of nonviolent action without committing themselves to a philosophy of nonviolence. Here, Henry David Thoreau is a good example. He engaged in tax resistance in 1846 to protest the U.S. war with Mexico, and he wrote the classic essay on civil disobedience, but he was hardly a pacifist. Thoreau believed that slaves were justified in taking up arms to liberate themselves, and he supported John Brown’s raid on the Harper’s Ferry munitions factory for the purpose of arming a slave rebellion. Thoreau was not committed to a philosophy of nonviolence, yet he engaged in nonviolent action.
3) A third group of people embrace both. They use the technique of nonviolent action and commit themselves to a philosophy of nonviolence, as have some of its best known proponents such as Gandhi, King, and Dorothy Day. The philosophy and technique are certainly not incompatible. Indeed, they can complement each other and are integrated well in organizations such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
The technique and the philosophy are by no means mutually exclusive. But neither does one require the other, as some people have claimed. The methods of nonviolent action—strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, mass noncooperation, and so on—can be employed by anyone regardless of their religion or philosophy. Their motivation for using nonviolent action instead of violence is a variable that can be studied.
If you look at all the conflicts in the world in which people use nonviolent action, you’ll find that the vast majority choose nonviolent action for pragmatic reasons rather than moral or ethical reasons. The Chinese students in Tiananmen Square, the African National Congress in South Africa, the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, the Russians who resisted the coup in Moscow—none of these groups were religious pacifists. They chose nonviolent struggle because they didn’t have guns, or if they did, they realized that using them would be futile against a heavily armed opponent.
Some people argue that, while it is possible to engage in nonviolent action without committing oneself to a nonviolent ethic, it is preferable to integrate the two. They believe that nonviolent action will be more effective when it is used by people who are committed to a philosophy of nonviolence than when it is used for strictly pragmatic reasons. Others may argue the opposite point of view, that nonviolent action is more effective when used by people who are motivated by pragmatic considerations rather than moral or ethical imperatives. The jury is still out on this question. But it is a question that can be honestly investigated: How do the various motivations of groups who choose to use nonviolent action in conflicts affect the outcomes of those conflicts? The research has yet to be done.
George Lakey once wrote that "most pacifists do not practice nonviolent resistance, and most people who do practice nonviolent resistance are not pacifists." That’s true. And that’s why I believe it’s so important to maintain the distinction between the philosophy of nonviolence and the technique of nonviolent action in teaching and discussing this subject.
People who are attracted to the technique of nonviolent action as an alternative means of waging conflict, but who have no interest in committing themselves to a pacifist philosophy, can go ahead and use the technique. Similarly, people who are attracted to the philosophy of nonviolence, but who have no interest in engaging in nonviolent action, can go ahead and embrace the philosophy. Those who wish to integrate the two, may of course do so.
It is only when the term "nonviolence" is used alone, blurring any distinction between philosophy and technique, that problems arise. If people come to equate the philosophy of nonviolence with the technique of nonviolent action, or come to believe that one must be a pacifist to engage in nonviolent action, or conversely, that one must engage in nonviolent action to be a pacifist, most will reject both nonviolent action and pacifism as all of a piece. This need not be so.
By maintaining a clear distinction between the philosophy of nonviolence and the technique of nonviolent action, we will contribute to greater conceptual clarity and broaden the audience receptive to these ideas as well.
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