vol. 1, no. 4/vol. 2, no. 1
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Power and potential of nonviolent struggle
Six elements of strategic approach
Revolutions in Eastern Europe
Poland: Solidarity movement
US social movements
International social movements
Media and nonviolent struggle
Women and nonviolent struggle
Highlights from the National Conference
on Nonviolent Sanctions in Conflict and Defense
Sponsored by the Albert Einstein Institution
February 8–11, 1990, Cambridge, Massachusetts
by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
Einstein Institution Board of Directors
While Vietnam represented the prototypical conflict of the 1960s and 1970s with guerrilla warfare confronting military power, a different form of conflict is emerging in the late 1980s and one expects into the 1990s: that of civilian-based resistance and nonviolent action.
This phenomenon, which we have seen in the Philippines, which we saw for an historic six weeks in China, and which has shaken the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the past months, is not the dream of pacifists or the fruits of arms control. It is a separate phenomenon which we must take heed of and understand.
Why is the nonviolent sanction appearing with ever increasing regularity? What does it mean for Europe, which is now rearranging its military relationships, in part because of the nonviolent sanction? What does it mean for the Chinese who at least glimpsed what Polish Communists saw in the early 1980s? And what does it mean for South Africa on the eve of the release of Nelson Mandela? These are some of the questions we anticipate may at least be opened up during this conference. They are also some of the more significant questions relating to world security today. . . .
In the past few years, we’ve seen power change hands as a result of nonviolent struggle. And the dramatic turn of events over the past months have shown long-standing governments collapse, for the most part nonviolently, illustrating what no amount of theorizing can: that power ultimately is given by consent, and when that consent is withdrawn, the base of power crumbles.
Today if one speaks of nonviolent struggle, even the general public recalls not just the pioneering work of Gandhi, but the collective actions of citizens in the Philippines, in Chile, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, East Germany. Nonviolent sanctions are also being used or have been used recently in South Africa, Burma, the Middle East, Korea.
The purpose of the Albert Einstein Institution, founded in 1983, is to examine, through the funding of researchers and scholars, the nature of nonviolent struggle; to explore the policy potential of nonviolent sanctions in solving problems such as dictatorships, social oppression, war, and even genocide; and to develop educational resources about the nonviolent option in acute conflicts.
The Einstein Institution works closely with the Harvard Program on Nonviolent Sanctions and funds that program as well as scholars around the globe. It also sponsors and supports publication of literature in the field, hosts educational seminars such as this, and consults with practitioners of nonviolence in such areas as the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, the Soviet Union, and South Africa.
In a field that is at last coming into recognition, the Albert Einstein Institution finds itself in a unique position to bring together those working and studying in this area so that they might share information and advance the base of knowledge.
It is our hope that expanded knowledge of the effective uses of nonviolence will have practical ramifications and contribute to the reduction of the level of violence in conflict. Just as the study of military strategy yields a greater understanding of warfare, strategic study of nonviolent sanctions can perhaps give us a clearer understanding of their capacity and the requirements for their success. The photograph of the soldier abandoning his tank and weapon because he cannot shoot his own people may yet be the picture which will symbolize conflict in the next decade.
The Power and Potential of Nonviolent Struggle
by Gene Sharp, President
The Albert Einstein Institution
The momentous events of 1989 have begun to . . . force a recognition of the power of nonviolent struggle. . . .
There was a time when ideas of nonviolent struggle were dismissed as naivete, as utopianism, as moralizing. . . . Is shaking governments to the point that they disintegrate and nobody is left to surrender naivete and weakness? . . . There is nothing weak about a technique of struggle which can take the legitimacy away from a repressive government, which can produce a defiant population uncontrollable by the police and military forces sent to repress them. There is nothing weak about paralyzing an economic system, or immobilizing and causing to fall apart a political system, or inducing disaffection in an army such as the Chinese people bravely did, caused the whole army which was invading the capital of their country to stop and turn around and go back. There is nothing naive about making repression against nonviolent people rebound to weaken the power of those who gave the orders for the repression. . . .
I say nonviolent struggle is armed struggle. We have to take back that term from advocates of violence. . . . Only with this type of struggle one fights with psychological weapons, social weapons, economic weapons, and political weapons. This is ultimately more powerful against oppression, injustice, and tyranny than is violence.
This is a technique of combat. It is a substitute for war and other violence. It is not compromise. It is not conciliation. It is not negotiation. Those measures are all appropriate in various situations and stages of struggles on various types of issues. . . . But nonviolent struggle is reserved for the particular area of activity when people would otherwise feel they were required to use violence. A lot of our theories of just war are based upon an assumption that violence is the most effective thing you can do, even though you might find it bloody and immoral, . . . a means of last resort. But that is based on the assumption that violence is really the most powerful and that is a claim I deny.
People, governments, and liberation movements will not give up violence for nothing. They will adhere to violence because they want the things they believe violence can give them. Neither social revolutionaries nor national defense strategists nor ordinary people in your neighborhoods will advocate complete unilateral disarmament and abandon all violence and war with nothing to take its place. . . . It does no good to lament violence and war, or recount how violent our country or any people have been, if you do not have a substitute means of struggle which people can adopt for the goals that they want. . . .
Nonviolent struggle is not rooted in altruism. It is not rooted in ethical or religious nonviolence or higher moral development, nor does it require a charismatic leader. A charismatic leader may even be a disadvantage, I would argue, in nonviolent struggle. It does not require a change in human nature or some personal transformation . . . or some prior social revolution or religious conversion. Indeed the identification of nonviolent struggle with all of those things over decades has done a disservice to the practical growth and development and utilization of nonviolent struggle because people dismiss it, saying, "Well, I couldn’t be a Gandhi," or "I don’t believe in pacifism." This type of struggle has historically been used by ordinary people who were capable of extraordinary action. I agree with my military friends that there is more similarity between nonviolent struggle and military struggle than there is between nonviolent struggle and just a general attitude of being gentle and peaceful. . . .
This is a technique which can at times change hearts and minds, and when that happens it is beautiful and powerful and lasting. But it is also a technique which can be used to alter social and political reality, to force negotiations, to force settlements, to coerce opponents, and even to disintegrate dictatorships. More has been done by nonviolent struggle to liberate people from Communist dictatorships and other kinds of dictatorships than anything the Pentagon has done with all of its billions and billions of dollars for 40 years. And yet we can’t even get a 5 or 10 million dollar budget to do some research in this field. Nonviolent struggle . . . has a cost effectiveness that is quite extraordinary as compared to military struggle. . . .
A few months ago, even before the Eastern European developments, I was at the newsstand buying a newspaper. And the man there, who doesn’t know what I do, said, "You know this guy was in here the other day talking to me and he said, ‘There’s something screwy going on in the world. The people without guns are winning.’" Now, when that awareness, that people without guns have the power to win, gets down to that level in our society, something fundamental is changing in our world. . . .
We can shift—for purposes of liberation, for purposes of achieving social justice and defending our societies from internal tyrants or foreign aggressors—to nonviolent forms of struggle. But this requires us to do much more than say, "Gee, wouldn’t that be great." It means that we have to do a variety of things, not all of which are dramatic, but all of which are important. We have to take this technique of nonviolent struggle, in spite of its accomplishments historically and particularly this past year, and regard it essentially as a crude and primitive technique and learn how to refine and develop it to make it more effective than it has been in the past. . . .
How do you develop new weapons? How do you organize people into effective fighting forces? What are the principles of strategy and tactics which you must use or not use, and in which situations? How do you choose? How do you learn from past defeats as well as from past successes? . . . This requires things that are boring to some people, like research, basic research to find out more about this type of struggle. What makes it work? What contributes to its failing? What are its requirements? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the possible opponents that we might need to confront with this type of struggle? . . . How can it be made more effective? How can a movement continue to grow towards victory in spite of massacres and brutal repression? How can people best persist in struggle while maintaining nonviolent discipline? How could this be responsibly applied in conflicts where the other choices are violence or passive submission? How could it best be organized for toppling dictators? How can the transition to new institutions be made after there is successful nonviolent struggle? . . . How can nonviolent struggle be effectively utilized as a component in a defense policy of a country that believes for various reasons that it still requires its military forces? What should that role be? . . . How can nonviolent struggle advance social justice? How can it achieve land reforms? We need a new generation of young scholars who will prepare themselves to be rigorous academics and policy analysts to study these questions.
There is a hunger for knowledge about nonviolent struggle all over the world today. . . . We need a massive program of education about the nature and potential of nonviolent struggle using . . . formal classes, informal courses, study groups, cassettes, television. . . . translations, popularizations of scholarly books. . . . We need something I’m calling intensive educational efforts for groups that are in conflict situations. Through such efforts, one could work intensively with a relatively small number of people who might become the leaders or the thinkers behind a movement for greater freedom, when otherwise they would live for decades under dictatorship, or they would continue their self-defeating efforts to use violence. . . .
There is potential lasting significance of nonviolent struggle. Whether there are tendencies to shift back to violence or not is not clear, but with all of these events the genie is out of the bottle. There is now an increasing worldwide recognition that the power of people under some circumstances can do amazing things; can disintegrate dictatorships; can enable people to liberate themselves—and this will have long-term and very significant consequences.
Six Essential Elements of a Comprehensive
Strategic Approach to Nonviolent Struggle
by Christopher Kruegler, Director,
Program on Nonviolent Sanctions
Clarifying the Objective
All competent strategy derives from well-defined objectives. . . . A good objective . . . ought to have three characteristics. It ought to be outcome-specific. It ought to be winnable. And it ought to be shared.
"Freedom," as such, is not an outcome-specific objective. On the other hand, the legalization of independent trade unions, as in Poland in August 1980, is a model of the kind of precision required here. The purpose of articulating specific outcome objectives is not only to help strategists figure out how they can be achieved, but also to help the struggling masses figure out when they’ve been attained and when they haven’t, and so to guard against their being hoodwinked into accepting less than what they’ve paid for. . . .
Accounting for Unity of Command
Presuming that a movement begins with outcome-specific, winnable, and widely shared objectives, what should its leaders concern themselves with next? We think that they must next account for (what the military has traditionally termed) "unity of command." The basic principle here is that decisions in a nonviolent struggle must be rendered effective by their being authoritatively disseminated to all levels and constituents of the struggle. What this means in practical terms are the following: the movement needs to have a decision-making mechanism . . . (this can be a designated field general, such as Gandhi in the 1930–1931 campaign, or a body such as the Inter-enterprise Strike Committee (MKS) of Solidarity); it must then have reliable links to all individuals, groups, communities, institutions, and allies that are the building blocks of the struggle. Decisions must be made to stick with all these actors, or they aren’t, in fact, strategic decisions at all. . . .
Making an Operational Plan
Prior to engaging an opponent in an exchange of sanctions, a plan should be developed that specifies the following things: it will identify which particular sanctions (strikes, boycotts, mass defiance, parallel institutions, etc.) will be used and why they "fit" for the resisting population; it will clearly distinguish between policy, strategy, and tactics as levels of operation; it will envision the precise steps necessary to arrive at the stated objective, and the mechanisms by which these will or might be accomplished. In other words, the operational plan lays out, in concrete terms, how success is expected to occur.
Developing a Capacity for Maneuver
In an ideal situation, the concepts of the objective, unity of command, and an operational plan would all come into play before the opponent is engaged. Once the struggle is joined, in the sense that sanctions are actually being exchanged, the situation becomes more interesting. It is crucial to have a capability for maneuver beyond this point, such that the nonviolent protagonists can adjust themselves at will to the violent opponents’ counteractions.
The concept of maneuver is perfectly well understood in military terms, but it is rarely applied with skill or precision in relatively nonviolent operations. Generals know better than to waste their strength by pitting it en masse against the strength of their opponents. Instead, they are trained to concentrate their resources against key points where the opponent is weak, and to disperse their forces in the face of overwhelming power.
Performing with Consistency
Consistency, in this connection, does not mean being consistently nonviolent. . . . What we mean by consistency here is consistency of strategic performance. Good strategists will always manage to deliver a punishing sanction in response to each negative initiative of the opponents. Only when the opponents come to expect such negative reinforcement will they begin to stumble, to second-guess themselves, and to lapse into a state of paralysis, with all their choices looking like bad ones.
Consolidating and Protecting Gains
Finally, the concept of consolidation merely suggests that nothing is permanent, and that a comprehensive strategic approach must make provision for opening a second or third stage struggle, if necessary, to protect what it has won from new internal as well as external threats. Failure to anticipate this need can result in a liberation struggle’s being hijacked by a small violent faction in the end-game, or simply losing its objectives to a renewed offensive from the original opponent.
The Peaceful Revolutions of Eastern Europe
by Johan Jørgen Holst, Director
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
Former Defense Minister, Norway
The perceived price of occupation has risen as a result of the popular revolutions in Eastern Europe. With the partial exception of Romania they were peaceful revolutions, citizens applying nonviolent means to bring down antiquated and oppressive regimes. The very way in which the regimes were brought down constitutes insurance and deterrence against military intervention and occupation. The events of 1989 were not isolated events. They formed a pattern. 1989 became the most revolutionary year in the history of Europe since 1789. The so-called "people’s republics" of Eastern Europe were reclaimed by the people, because they were the people. . . .
The prologue to revolution took place in Poland through the ten years of struggle by the free trade union movement Solidarity, from the shipyard in Gdansk to the round table in Warsaw. In the wake of that struggle, the Communist Party slowly disintegrated to the point that when the first free elections to the senate took place, Solidarity captured 99 out of the 100 seats. On August 24th Tadeusz Mazowiecki was sworn in as prime minister. Moscow remained quiet. Obviously the "geopolitical realities," which had been invoked in the past, had been supplanted by the popular realities. The "Brezhnev doctrine" had been replaced by the "Sinatra doctrine;" from now on the East Europeans would do it their way. The message was not lost.
The first act took place in Hungary where the process unfolded without strong expressions of popular pressure. Imre Pozsgay, the long-time heretic of the Communist regime, capitalized on the mood and arranged for a rendezvous with history. Imre Nagy and the popular revolt of 1956 were reinscribed in the annals of history. Hungarians could start to live in truth. On October 23rd Hungary was declared a free republic.
In Czechoslovakia the world witnessed mass demonstrations in Wenceslas Square in Prague, where the people congregated with jangling keys and tinkling bells signalling in the words of a Czech fairy tale that "the bells are ringing. And the story is over." Indeed, the story was over for the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. December 7-10th saw the dissolution of the Husak regime. Eventually Vaclav Havel moved to the Castle and Alexander Dubcek became the speaker in Parliament. The truth about 1968 permitted the brave people of Czechoslovakia to face their future with confidence and self-respect. They staged a "velvet revolution."
In Bulgaria the environmental destruction caused by blind policies produced "eco-glasnost," which mustered the popular pressures leading to the fall of Zhivkov on November 10th and the subsequent abolition of the monopoly position of the Communist Party. The slogans in Sofia heralded that "communism cannot be reformed, it can only be dismantled."
German Democratic Republic
In the German Democratic Republic the New Forum and the churches provided the leadership and direction for a remarkably peaceful revolutionary cadenza as the wall in Berlin came tumbling down on November 9th. It seems that one month earlier it was touch and go in Leipzig as Erich Honnecker gave orders to execute a European Tiananmen Square. Moderate forces combined with the Russians to preempt it.
Instead, the European version of the Tiananmen Square tragedy was staged in the western Romanian city of Timisoara. However, the violence served only to prove with grim certainty that change had become inevitable. The army had to enter the battle, but it fought alongside and together with the brave, unarmed students and workers of Romania. The last oriental despots in Europe met their ugly fate in front of the firing squad.
In the course of a few months the strategic map of Europe had changed. It was not the result of military intervention, roll-back, or liberation by outside powers. Nor was it the result of an armed uprising. It was a chain reaction of popular revolt by peaceful means; the result of the will of the people, of moral suasion. The power of the revolution did not grow out of the barrels of guns, but from the spontaneous determination of the citizens. Once it became clear that the Red Army would not use its guns to crush the demonstrations, that 1989 was not 1956 or 1968, the swell of optimism and sense of invincibility broke the dams of entrenched oppression. Forty years of history were discarded on what Nikita Khrushchev used to call the dust-heaps of history, to the shame of the oppressors and their apologists in the West.
Solidarity: Nonviolent Struggle in Poland
(Penn State University)
Clearly what’s happened in Eastern Europe is very interesting to those who are interested in nonviolent social change. However, I would caution people about making too strong conclusions about what’s happening in Eastern Europe. One might be tempted to think that a mass upsurge of nonviolent consciousness caused what’s happened in Eastern Europe. I will argue that this is not the case, that what we’ve witnessed in Eastern Europe was produced by some peculiar circumstances. . . . What we’ve seen there is basically a collapse of the authority of the Communist Party. . . .
I would argue that what has happened is the glue to the system came apart. The glue was the Soviet threat to intervene if the ruling party was threatened. In the last year or year and a half there have been good reasons to believe that the Soviets no longer were willing to intervene in order to save party states at least in Eastern Europe. Certain things which we’ve seen such as the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan indicated this. Secondly, people in Eastern Europe began to ask themselves the question: Can a Soviet regime that supports glasnost and perestroika at home not allow the same thing in Eastern Europe? Would they intervene to stop glasnost and perestroika in Eastern Europe when they’re pushing something like that at home? This brought the whole issue of Soviet intervention into question as well. And third, there was also an overt change in Soviet policy under Gorbachev. The Brezhnev doctrine became a dead letter.
What is the church influence? . . .What really happened was on two very different levels. One was the spiritual level, which was very strongly developed by some liberal Catholic leaders in Poland. The most important outcome of that was a book written during the Solidarity period called The Ethics of Solidarity by an extremely famous teacher, a professor of theology. It was a kind of encyclopedia of nonviolent action and a moral explanation of the religious basis for nonviolent morality in politics. That was one level, the spiritual level. But I would say . . . that even more important was the level of administration. When Solidarity first started in August 1980, people had places to go: organizations, space, rooms, buildings, offices, telephones, and so on. All of that was provided by the Church. It made the transition much smoother. All of the people who were in the opposition had . . . a regular organization that was by its nature nonviolent and provided them with material ways of organizing the revolution. . . . This became even more important in 1981 when martial law was introduced.
(The New York Times)
Now came the question of tactics. What do we do? One of the first things was that a press was created. And one of the first books that was published on the press, one of the most popular books, was called The Small Conspirator. It was a little tiny book. A back part of it told you what to do when you got caught. How to act in a police station. How to undergo interrogation. Just basic good sense: Don’t tell them anything. The first part of this book said, "Hey, do what you want." And, in this sense, much of the Solidarity tactics of resistance reminded me very often of yippie programs of the 1960s. In a sense, it said if the State is saying it has a right to intervene in personal and private lives, ignore that. So some people started putting up radio stations, and other people started having private theaters, and it proliferated. Yes, the Church provided sanctuary, but also I ought to point out what The Small Conspirator said: "Be careful when you are in churches, because yes it is an open house, but if it is an open house for us, it’s also an open house for them," meaning that there were provocateurs, people hanging around. And so it spread beyond the churches. . . .
It ended up involving a lot of very small things. I think one of the brilliant things about Gandhiism, from the little I know of it is that you don’t ask people to do big things, because it’s hard to ask people to do big things. But it’s sort of easy to ask a lot of people to do little things, or not to do little things.
So if demonstrating is very hard because the police will come out and beat you, you begin typing in your home, typing other people’s works and passing them around. There began in Poland a rather bizarre revolution by mimeograph, typewriter, printing. . . . It removed the monopoly of the State on printing and culture.
The Intifada: Nonviolent Struggle in the Middle East
(University of Jordan)
There are several key elements that characterize this intifada. . . .
The first characteristic of the intifada is organization. The roots of the organization of the Palestinian community in the intifada were laid in the early 1970s when the grassroots committees began emerging in the territories. These committees mobilized the Palestinian population, tried to provide them with services, . . . and tried to . . . create greater Palestinian self-reliance and less dependence on the institutions of the occupation regime. . . . Palestinians began to realize that . . . they would have to take matters into their own hands to establish the structures that would sustain the population through the period of occupation and to form the basis of a future independent state. . . .
Another one is Palestinian unity during the intifada. Earlier in the occupation there had been a lot of conflict and splits of interests between the different factions and organizations. . . . But since the last Palestinian National Council meeting before the intifada in April 1987 there was a trend towards bridging the gaps and dissension and towards greater unity. . . .
The third characteristic of the intifada is the growing fearlessness. . . . A fourth element . . . is solidarity. . . . A fifth characteristic has been the determination of the Palestinians. Although in the past there have been a series of minor uprisings, . . . it seems that this time Palestinians are determined to resist to the end, to continue the intifada until the occupation is terminated and an independent Palestinian state has achieved sovereignty on its national soil. . . .
A sixth characteristic of the intifada is nonviolent discipline. It’s undeniable that as a result of the intifada the image of Palestinians abroad, particularly here in the United States, has changed. We’re no longer seen as a violent, terrorist people who are bent on armed struggle and destroying Israel, but rather we’re perceived more as a people with a legitimate national cause engaged in unequal struggle against an occupation regime.
(Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence)
When people occupy other people you have to make occupation very expensive. When those who occupy you know that they are paying a lot of money to occupy you then they start thinking. And they will think hard. . . . We have to make it very hard politically for anybody to occupy anybody. We have to make it hard economically, psychologically, and also ethically. And we choose, in the Palestinian struggle, to use these four things in many ways, in many actions, to prove that we are able to sustain the intifada, putting pressure on the Israelis. . . .
The intifada brought . . . the destruction of something that is more powerful than anything else—fear. When Palestinians stopped being afraid, they started to confront the Israelis with their bodies. . . . And when people get rid of fear, the governments then have to be afraid. . . .
I’m saying there is not a single good law in the Israeli occupation for us. So we have to completely dissociate ourselves from every Israeli law. . . .
We have to have a parallel government. And it’s not necessary that Israel has to accept the parallel government, or the United States has to accept us as a State, or even the Arab world has to accept us. We have to have our own ways of dealing with each other. . . . We have to have our own birth certificates, our own currency, our own educational institutions. . . . This is what I would call the second stage of the intifada.
(Chair, Harvard Middle East Seminar)
The essence of the intifada has been nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience. It has, however, from the beginning, had a violent component which has not been trivial. This element of violence has contributed in some ways to the effectiveness of the intifada. It has also, however, had damaging side effects from the point of view of achieving the goals of the intifada. My own assessment is that the cost of escalating the violence, by introducing firearms, for example, would be horrendous. . . . But even if the present level of violence is maintained, in my assessment the costs outweigh the benefits, particularly if you assume, as I do, that the major strength of the intifada is its role in transforming the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis on a long-term basis.
I will try, to a certain extent, to play the devil’s advocate. First of all, my impression, and I’m quite sure about it, is that the vast majority of Israelis don’t see the intifada as nonviolent. The media shows us only or mainly the violent angle of the intifada.
But I have to admit, to most of us, it doesn’t make any difference whether the intifada is nonviolent or violent. For most of the Israelis . . . as I see it, the problem is the goal of the Palestinians and not the means. . . .
The intifada has become a state of mind, a way of life, for the Palestinian people. . . . It has become routine. . . . And I think it’s quite a possibility that it will last for many, many years.
(Israeli Institute for Military Studies)
The other set of data that I want to show you has to do with attitudes of Israeli youth. . . . On the one hand their faith in Israel and in the Israeli military is very high. . . . On the other hand, the Israelis, the young generations specifically, feel concerned and threatened by the intifada. And indeed with fear comes hatred and their hatred has increased. Perhaps, ladies and gentlemen, this is the saddest aspect of the intifada, that instead of bringing the two parties closer it seems like it has increased the hatred, increased the suspicion, and increased the fear. At least from my point of view, personally and as an Israeli, this is what I would consider a failure of the intifada. Because if the goal, if the wish, the hope, the desire is to work out a win-win solution, not a win-lose solution, then you have to work towards bridging the gap rather than increasing it.
The Nonviolent Pro-Democracy
Movement in Burma
(Far Eastern Economic Review)
In my view, Burma presents an extremely interesting case study in nonviolent action, in genuine people power. And perhaps more importantly, in Burma you can see how a nonviolent movement has developed and matured and learned from its initial mistakes. . . .
There were millions of people demonstrating against the regime during August 1988. The ruling military responded to this with unprecedented brutality. Soldiers fired automatic rifles into the crowds. . . . Armored cars equipped with machine guns just mowed down one group of demonstrators after another. There was a scope of massacre that I don’t think has happened anywhere in Asia in modern history. Romania would be the closest equivalent. I don’t think even China would come even close to the brutality, the murder, the cruelty which happened in Burma in 1988. But even so, this did not cow the people into submission. It made them much more organized. As a direct result of this massacre in August, the first steps were taken towards organizing a parallel governmental structure.
It began immediately after the massacre in August when Rangoon General Hospital was filled with hundreds of people. The hospital under normal circumstances is short of everything—medicines, anasthetics, even bandages are not available. So what people in various neighborhoods in Rangoon did was donate one blanket and one pillow each to the hospital so that at least the victims didn’t have to freeze in the night. From these spontaneous efforts, the whole thing escalated. The next step was that Burma’s black marketeers, who normally supply the Burmese public with, I would say, 80–90% of all the medicines they buy, showed up at Rangoon General Hospital with big boxes of medicines which had been smuggled in from Thailand and from China. These medicines were meant to be sold on the black market. But the black marketeers donated them free of charge to Rangoon General Hospital. It was an expression of solidarity which I think was unprecedented and which also took many observers including myself by surprise. . . .
Parallel to this development another thing happened which was very puzzling at the time. . . . After the initial massacre in August, Ne Win withdrew his military and the police from Rangoon and said, "OK, the city is yours." He left it to the people. And people thought, "Great, we have won," but this was a tactical mistake on the part of the pro-democracy movement. . . .
In the absence of any of the ordinary machinery, the people themselves, the townships, the various neighborhoods in Rangoon set up their own citizens committees. . . . These committees took care of almost everything from rubbish collection to directing traffic to distributing drinking water, everything which the civil authorities in any country would do under ordinary circumstances. . . . Buddhist monks acted as traffic policemen. . . . Some of the monks also acted as judges. They had small trials to try thieves and other sorts of offenders. . . .
The whole thing escalated and became even bigger than that. You mentioned here that Burma has only one daily newspaper, The Working People’s Daily, in English and Burmese. During this period Rangoon alone had 30 to 40 daily newspapers. . . .
Many people often say that the Burmese are not disciplined . . . but during this time they showed a tremendous amount of discipline and organization.
U Tin Maung Win
(Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in Burma)
For those of us who advocate nonviolent struggle, our task has been made more difficult by several events in the past few years. . . .
First, the Burmese government has killed, imprisoned, or forced into exile many leaders of the nonviolent movement.
A second major problem confronting us and diverting us from our strategic plan for nonviolent actions has been the unceasing bombardment and the ground assault against the refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border by the Burma army. . . . Our intention was to provide instruction on nonviolent actions and techniques to the several thousand Burmese students taking refuge in the Karin, Kachin, and Mon areas. . . . Graduates were to be sent back into Burma to serve as cadres of nonviolent leaders to the community. Only a small percentage of these students have completed any significant training and been sent back into Burma. . . . Even more critical is the absence of any trained nonviolent strategists to assist us in getting the movement back on track and to develop the capability to function more effectively under existing conditions.
The third problem, that of political fragmentation, has been a Burmese characteristic throughout its history. Our inability to cooperate, coordinate, and keep our eyes on the prize—that is, the restoration of democracy in Burma—cost our people dearly in 1988 when thousands were slaughtered in the streets of cities and towns all over Burma. I believe most of us learned our lesson. Since then over twenty-one separate groups have joined together in the Democratic Alliance of Burma. The principal exile group pro-moting nonviolent struggle—the Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in Burma—has as its priority mission the development of a worldwide solidarity of purpose through extensive coordination and consensus building.
In spite of these setbacks, we have served to strengthen our resolve. We have continued to pursue nonviolent sanctions as our primary means of political struggle until we can reinforce the internal movement with a trained nonviolent cadre. We are waging a strategic campaign where Saw Maung has major weaknesses. We are keeping world public and political leaders aware of the tragedy taking place in Burma. . . . We are seeking humanitarian aid for victims of the struggle. . . . We are attempting to bring public and diplomatic pressure to bear on those government organizations assisting the Saw Maung regime with financial and military support. . . .
My assessment is that the murder, torture, and imprisonment of Burmese political leaders has rendered the entire Burmese population pro-democratic. Regrettably for Saw Maung and his henchmen, they have repeatedly rejected offers to negotiate a political settlement to accommodate democratic reforms. They have left us with no alternative but to intensify the nonviolent struggle to remove all pillars of support and bring about the total isolation and destruction of the government of Burma. I can assure you that planning for this offensive is under way in coordination with the groups inside Burma.
(U.S. Defense Intelligence College)
I think it is to the credit of the Democratic Alliance for Burma (DAB) that they recognize their weaknesses, because knowing your vulnerabilities is a good first step in designing your future plans and operations. This is true not only in the military, but in nonviolent action as well. From this vulnerability analysis, for lack of a better term, the DAB has wisely avoided, where possible, operations which would expose their weaknesses to the Rangoon regime. For example, since the threshold of violence is so low now in Rangoon and elsewhere, . . . no major demonstrations have been occurring. There are small demonstrations occurring almost daily, large enough and frequent enough to remind the . . . regime that it will never have the support of the people, yet small enough so as to not give the regime an excuse to indiscriminately open fire on the demonstrators.
I also believe the DAB has identified its areas of strength and in varying degrees has exploited them successfully. Its major strength of course is that its cause is just. It is on the moral high ground. One of the member organizations, the Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in Burma (CRDB), has identified their objectives quite clearly. And I think this ties in with what Chris Kruegler was saying this morning. You have to have an objective. It has to be clear. It has to be understandable. And you have to know when you’ve gotten there. And this sort of measures the effectiveness of your strategy and your campaign. The CRDB objectives are to restore democracy to Burma, to return peace and harmony to a land too long at war with itself, . . . and to rebuild Burma, both the economic and the political infrastructure. . . .
I think a second strength, which I believe has been exploited, is the nonviolent movement’s international character. They have been able to expand their battlefield so that they can avoid the strong points of the Burma army and attack the Burmese regime where it is weakest, and that’s in the international arena. There’s been a variety of pro-democratic exile organizations scattered throughout the globe, and I think they’ve been quite effective in sensitizing democratic governments to the oppressive conditions in Burma. . . .
The third strength . . . was the creation of the Democratic Alliance for Burma and particularly the CRDB participation in it. For the first time it brought together in a common cause every segment of Burmese society. . . . I must hasten to add, however, that having an organization does not necessarily equate to being well-organized. And I believe there’s been a critical flaw in the DAB organization and its relationship with other fellow travelers who support this cause for democracy. In my view, since its creation, the DAB has remained in a reactive mode. It has been fighting part of a delaying action, unable to either identify the regime’s weak points, from their perspective out on the Thai-Burma border, or be able to exploit those.
They don’t have a strategic planning cell. They don’t have somebody who sits off to the side of either the Presidium or one of the committees of the DAB, who is preparing the think pieces, who can see a larger world out there to develop strategies for consideration by the DAB. Saw Maung certainly does have strategic vulnerabilities, but we’ve lost the momentum. . . .
Prior to September 1988 the nonviolent strategy had properly identified the Burma army as being the main pillar of support for the Rangoon regime. The CRDB has repeatedly addressed the Burma army in its publications, its cassettes, and its videos. These were smuggled into Burma, not just onto the university campuses, . . . but throughout Burma. And I believe those measures were successful, because when the demonstrations occurred, when the mass uprising occurred in September, we saw elements of the Air Force and the Navy participating with the demonstrators. Another measure of that support is the regime has made extraordinary efforts to overcome the effectiveness of the CRDB’s efforts to weaken the Burma armed forces.
Human rights have probably been violated more in Burma than in any other country. I think that people don’t realize that more people were killed on September 18  and the day afterwards than were murdered at Tiananmen Square. The failure of the ability of news cameras and journalists to be there, reporting it in the same way as Tiananmen, and the ability of the military to smother the whole thing very quickly, essentially put it out of mind and therefore out of print. However human rights violations have continued to the present.
Nonviolent Struggle in China
There are two different periods of time. . . . The first period is from April 15 until May 19 , until martial law. . . . The second period of time is from May 19 until June 4. The first period of time I call the student movement. The second period of time, after martial law, I call the people’s democratic movement.
In the first period . . . the students were the majority and the leading power of the whole movement. In that period I think the students were very successful. . . . They made the people aware of the situation in China. They made the people aware of the nature of the Chinese government. They gave the people real courage and made people aware of their own power, the people’s power. They helped people to understand that the basis of the government is everyone’s support of it. . . .
In the second period the government had already gone to the opposite of the whole people’s will and had become publicly the enemy of the whole people, not just the students, by using martial law, by using arms, to crack down on the movement. However, the government crackdown was not a success immediately. And at that time every class in China was already totally involved in this movement. All the daily life had stopped. . . . There was no bus, no subway. They had all stopped. Everyone was at home. Everyone’s interest was to be involved very deeply in the movement. . . . So they did a lot of things. They had different little groups and organizations. I think when we study the lessons of this movement we should study this period of time. . . .
We did not succeed in making the transition from students’ movement to people’s movement. We did not have formed a very strong headquarters of the whole movement. . . . We didn’t succeed in uniting all classes: workers, peasants, officials. So we didn’t have a very strong position to use nonviolence against the violence. The government still had some ways to use arms to crack down on the movement.
If we had really succeeded in uniting everyone, including the soldiers, definitely we would have won and we would still have used nonviolent struggle.
(TIME Beijing Bureau Chief)
I’d like to just give a few impressions of what I think happened and why the students failed to achieve some of their goals, and in so doing challenge the somewhat unrealistic expectations of victory on the part of many of the movement’s supporters who assume that China will soon go the way of Eastern Europe despite the fact that Eastern Europe was farther along on the path to political change than China by the year 1989 and despite the fact that China lacks a Gorbachev, a Pope John, an organized political opposition, a church, or a failed economy. . . .
What struck me in both covering the fall of Marcos in 1986 and the challenge to the regime of Deng Xiaoping is something that people at this conference take for granted and that is the power of a nonviolent movement and that when it suddenly erupts in a repressive environment neither side really seems to be prepared . . . for the results.
Now the movement’s most serious flaw in China I think was also the source of its greatest appeal and that was its spontaneity. Its appeal was its spontaneity, but the fault was that it failed to effectively strike at the central sources of support for the regime which were essentially two. One was the vast mass of the Chinese people in the countryside—some 800 million peasants who suffer one of the highest rates of illiteracy on earth and thus are pretty far removed from this 1% of the high school age population that goes to college. And not incidentally those peasants are the ones who’ve enjoyed the biggest prosperity from the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. Although, as Li Lu has said, the protest spread to 89 cities, the countryside still remained relatively calm, although definitely not oblivious to what was going on in Beijing and the other cities.
The other pillar of the regime’s support of course was the People’s Liberation Army—some three million men—which by last June still enjoyed the popularity and some of the aura of having been the liberator of the country 40 years before. But it remains the guardian of the Communist Party whose motto, without any embarrassment, remains "power grows out of the barrel of a gun." And it seemed to many of us who were watching the students and admiring their courage that they had not perhaps properly paid due respect to what the military and the party were prepared to do to hold on to their power.
I think it’s also important to understand that the democracy movement went virtually unopposed for nearly seven weeks. Now I don’t agree with Kissinger’s suggestion that that had to do with some high threshold of tolerance on the part of the government. I think it was largely because of terrible internal divisions at the very top of the party between the hard-line veterans of the revolution . . . and the more reform-minded supporters of Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party Secretary General.
The failure on the part of the regime to get tough at the start — or at least the week after Hu Yaobang’s funeral when the students were no longer shielded by the pretext of mourning . . . gave the students and all the rest of us a wrong impression at first that the regime was weak. . . .
The atmosphere was very misleading. It was easy to think that either the regime was changing or it was disabled. I do believe it gave all of us, and most of all the students, an exalted impression of the strength of the movement which turned out not to be true as we know, as things came out later.
(University of North Carolina)
Let me mention some things about tactics. The first thing I’d like to stress is the diffuseness of organization and leadership in the movement. Indeed, there were a number of important individual leaders of various kinds, but there was also a very diffuse leadership. Many people were important in mobilizing students at each university and in coming up with various ideas. There was a kind of a democracy of leadership in which almost anyone could put up a large-character poster and others could either ignore it or be inspired by it. They could copy it; they could spread the word or not. Ideas could flow in diverse ways. The opportunities for innovation came from many non-centralized directions.
The hunger strike was not simply, in my view at least, . . . a centralized decision of an established leadership, but an idea that came in part to the leadership and which, to some extent, some of the leaders had to follow as it gained power, as a group of students said "Well, we’re going to do it whether you do it or not." The leadership as a whole, in a sense, had its hand forced on them. It proved to be a brilliant tactic, by the way, but particularly brilliant because the symbolism of food, the idea of students depriving themselves of sustenance, was very powerful in convincing the Chinese people that they were not just a selfish elite but were genuinely concerned for the whole country.
The Statue of Liberty or Goddess of Democracy statue also was not a calculated move by a centralized leadership, as far as I see it, but rather something that came from within the larger body of the movement. Over and over again there were various possibilities for innovation from the larger body of the movement. And we shouldn’t forget that.
This also made, though, for crises—like the difficulty in withdrawing from Tiananmen Square after May 19, or at various points after that when many members of the leadership thought it was important to withdraw but had difficulty and had their hand forced by groups of students who indicated that they would not withdraw at that point.
My impression from being there [in January 1989] . . . is that there is a lot of informal, non-public kinds of resistance that are going on. One is resistance to the rewriting of history, the construction of reality that the government is trying to present. . . .
There is a competition for domination over the interpretation of the event. Well, there’s in a sense no competition. The people in Beijing, in China, as far as I understand, don’t believe for a minute what the government is saying.
(Federation for a Democratic China)
There are approximately 40 million Chinese living overseas, not including the 25 million in Hong Kong and Taiwan. By November  approximately 3,000 organizations had sprung up around the world to support the democratic movement in China. Unfortunately about half of these groups will probably disappear by the end of the year. We know from Chinese government information that 84 cities were actively involved in the pro-democracy uprising last spring. Up to 10 million people demonstrated at its height in Beijing alone. Roughly 250,000 students from all over the country went to Beijing, and at any one time there were about 500,000 people on Tiananmen Square. To support that many people . . . the logistic complexity boggles the mind. To support them for as long as three weeks you have to have enormous material support. That is something the government has systematically tried to prevent. . . .
There are three major tasks facing us in correcting the situation. One is compilation of information. We need to have accurate information concerning what is going on in China, what has happened before, and what will happen now. Second, we need to disseminate such information to all government bodies and international bodies. Third, we need to educate the population at large and educate the people who would take over the government in the event of the collapse of the totalitarian regime.
The Anti-Apartheid Struggle in South Africa
(Harvard Program on Nonviolent Sanctions)
You are all aware of the historically tumultuous events that are taking place in our country today. The liberation movement right now is achieving unprecedented victories after decades and decades of struggle against the most pernicious political and economic system of racial domination. Daily the news bulletins announce a new gain for the movement. Last week we had the unbanning of political organizations including the oldest and by far the largest, the African National Congress. Today we have the news that Nelson Mandela will be released at eight o’clock our time tomorrow morning. We have also been told that the state of emergency will be lifted in its entirety in the next few weeks and that prisoners and exiles will also be able to go home shortly. . . . These are outstanding gains for the people who have struggled in South Africa and abroad. And yet few would argue that before the system of apartheid is finally consigned to the trashcan of past atrocities there is a very long road ahead for the people of South Africa. It is a road on which there lies a challenge both to defend these gains as well as to increase them. . . .
The true launching of mass nonviolent struggle in South Africa is always marked at the beginning of the 1950s and even particularly with the 1952 Defiance Campaign which was led by volunteer-in-chief Nelson Mandela. Certainly the 50s became known as the high point of political struggle in South Africa. But in fact nonviolent struggle in South Africa began much earlier in the century following military struggles by the majority population in South Africa against white encroachment over the past 300 years. The 1940s in particular saw a great surge in mass demonstrations in South Africa around very specific issues, organized basically by communities themselves rather than the ANC, which at that time was still very much focused on parliamentary struggle and had a rather elitist view of how political struggle should be conducted in South Africa. The South African Communist Party too was involved in the struggles of the 40s. Predominantly, though, I think these were spontaneous community-organized struggles in the 40s, focused around immediate specific issues, such as bus boycotts, strikes by trade union movements. . . .
None of the immediate goals of that period were achieved. Rather the decade closed with massive defeats for the liberation movement and intense frustration with nonviolent methods. Not until the late 1970s and the 1980s when new heights, both qualitative and quantitative, were reached was there the beginnings of a new embrace of nonviolent methods.
(United Democratic Front)
Most times when we look at the struggle, we assume it is more of a spontaneous kind of thing, that it doesn’t need the type of discipline and training that, in a sense, military strategists would emphasize. But actually that is a mistaken impression. Our own experiences show that nonviolent forms of action need a tremendous amount of discipline.
In the Defiance Campaign of 1952 in South Africa, volunteers . . . were strictly warned by Mandela and others that even if they were hit they should not hit back. It was crucial, for the campaign to make an impact, that they live up to that.
In ’83 when we set up the United Democratic Front, we had to overcome the shock trauma of what had happened to our people, . . . for instance, when young children were mowed down in the streets of Soweto in 1976. The shock tremors of that kind of thing were very much with our people. They cut very deep scars. And so it became very important that we begin the campaign at the level at which their psychological capacity would allow them to be willing to risk something. We had to calculate carefully that every campaign that we were going to take on not be too heavy on them. It had to be equal to their psychological preparedness. And we had to make sure that each campaign, each step that was taken would yield some kind of positive result, because each positive result in fact reinforces the little preparedness we had at the beginning. . . . With every campaign we have been increasing the amount of responsibility that our activists are prepared to take. It’s been building step by step. And even those who were frozen by the shocks . . . have begun now to thaw, and they have begun to come out into the open and join the struggle and move forward. . . .
The initial formations were the civics, the Soweto Civic Association, for instance, which would pick up the issue that there is no water, or that there is not sufficient electricity. The word "politics" had to stay out of it. So the word that became very popular in our circles around this time became the word "issue," or . . . "day to day issues." People can afford to say "the government must give us more water," and feel that they are not talking politics. They are prepared to say "the rents are too high and that we think the rents should not go so high," and they don’t feel that it is politics that they are talking. And in any event the risks involved are not so vast. We needed to start from there so we set up civics. . . . The braver ones set up the Release Mandela Committee and said that the government must release Mandela and the other leaders and talk to him. . . .
We actually did have a long-term objective, but that long-term objective, like a book which is being written, had to be broken into small chapters. People read a book better when they know that they read this chapter after that one. But if you were to write it without chapters and they must read it straight through from start to finish, it gets discouraging. People like to read a little bit at a time, and they know that they can start here and end there. Then they feel a sense of achievement; they’ve finished a chapter.
One of the principles of nonviolent action is that you wear down your opponent. Therefore, it is important that in the actions we take we have stamina. And if we are going to have stamina and last the distance the pace which we set for ourselves must not be so heavy as to break those who begin the campaign. It must be spread out. Our strength must be spread out long enough to be able to outlast the resistance of our opponent. . . .
When President de Klerk made the announcement last week that he was unbanning the United Democratic Front, the ANC in fact, people rushed to him and said, "Oh, de Klerk’s a good man," and everybody said what an achievement this is and so on. But this is a mistaken understanding. . . . The actual people who deserve to be patted on the shoulders are the masses of people who have been carrying on the campaigns nonviolently, willing to go into jail, willing to be killed and shot by the police, to take those risks, and say, "No. Apartheid is unacceptable." Those are the people that I think the world ought to be patting on the shoulders.
Nonviolent Struggle in the Soviet Union
(Lithuanian Academy of Sciences)
In June 1940 Soviet troops invaded Lithuania. Lithuania . . . lost its independence and still is a part of the Soviet Union.
Perestroika in the Soviet union, declared by Mr. Gorbachev, . . . opened new opportunities to Lithuania. But for some time, after Mr. Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, there were no changes in Lithuania, because of the very conservative Lithuanian government and party leadership.
Things changed beginning June 3, 1988 when the Lithuanian Popular Front emerged. . . . It emerged in the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences and we are very proud of it. . . . You know that the Academy of Sciences in the Soviet Union . . . always played an important role in the State policy and was probably the most independent institution. . . . It’s understandable that the Lithuanian government which was in power at that time was not very happy with the emergence of the Popular Front. But because . . . its nucleus was formed by . . . scholars, scientists, writers, composers, architects, the intelligentsia, the Lithuanian government didn’t know what to do and finally decided there’s no way out. . . .
Changes . . . were achieved in Lithuania without a drop of blood and without any violence, mainly in an institutional way, using pressure on the government and the Supreme Soviet, and at first using hunger strikes. But the hunger strikes were mostly related to the releasing of political prisoners. . . . Now we don’t have political prisoners any more. All of them have been released. Many of them live in Lithuania. Some of them left to the West. And there is no need for any violent sanctions, procedures, and so on.
(Harvard Russian Research Center)
It’s the environmental groups that in many ways led the process. They existed before Gorbachev in an ad hoc way. (There could be no formal groups in the Soviet Union unless they were a part of the State until Gorbachev came along.) And so the only people who had a certain amount of credibility, who were not in exile, really were the environmentalists, the people who were worried about Lake Baikal, the people who were worried about pollution in the Baltic states, whether it be a nuclear energy plant in Lithuania or open pit drilling for shale in Estonia or dumping waste in Latvia. . . . When the rule came, or it became perce
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