Nonviolent action has occurred in all parts of the world. It is a phenomenon that cuts across ethnic, cultural, religious, geographic, socioeconomic and other demographic lines.
Nonviolent struggles have been waged on behalf of a myriad of causes and groups (see the applications of nonviolent action section of our site), and even for objectives that many people reject. It has been used to prevent, as well as to promote, change.
Some nonviolent struggles have been major successes, while others have failed, and still others have had mixed results.
Some cases of the use of this technique in the last century are:
1. The labor and general strikes that paralyzed Russia in the 1905 Revolution
2. Chinese boycotts of Japanese products in 1908, 1915, and 1919
3. German noncooperation against the Kapp Putsch in 1920
4. German resistance against the French and Belgian occupation of the Ruhr in 1923
5. The Indian struggle for independence against British rule from the 1920s-1940s
6. The struggle among Pashtun Muslims in the British Northwest Frontier Province (now Pakistan) against British rule between 1930-1934.
7. Resistance to Nazi occupation and rule between 1940-1945 in various European countries, particularly in Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
8. Nonviolent action to save Jews from the Holocaust in Berlin, Bulgaria, Denmark, and elsewhere.
9. The ousting of the military dictatorships in El Salvador and Guatemala in the spring of 1944.
10. The U.S. civil rights movement against racial segregation, especially during the 1950s and 1960s.
11. Major aspects of the Hungarian revolution of 1956-57.
12. Noncooperation by French conscript soldiers in the French colony of Algeria, which, combined with popular demonstrations in France and defiance by the Debré-de Gaulle government, defeated the coup d’état in Algiers in April 1961 before a related coup in Paris could be launched.
13. The Czech and Slovak resistance against the Warsaw Pact invasion in 1968-1969. This resistance held off full Soviet control for eight months with improvised nonviolent struggle and refusal of collaboration.
14. The struggles for increased freedom by dissidents in Communist-ruled countries in Eastern Europe, especially in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic States, between 1953-1990.
15. The Solidarity struggle in Poland, which began in 1980 with strikes to support the demand of a legal free trade union, and concluded in 1989 with the end of the Polish Communist regime.
16. The nonviolent struggles to end the Communist dictatorships in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and in East Germany, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 1991.
17. The noncooperation and defiance that defeated the Soviet “hard-line” coup d'état in Moscow in 1991.
18. The nonviolent protests and mass resistance against the Apartheid policies in South Africa, especially between 1950 and 1990.
19. The nonviolent uprising that destroyed the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines in 1986.
20. The defiance, protests, and marches that brought down three Burmese governments in July and August of 1988. This struggle, however, succumbed to a new military coup in the end and resulted in mass slaughter.
21. The demonstrations and protests against government corruption and oppression by Chinese students and others in over three hundred cities (including in Tiananmen Square, Beijing) in 1989. However these protests finally ended following massive killings by the military.
22. The Albanian noncooperation campaign from 1990-1999 against repressive Serbian rule in Kosovo. However, when the de facto Kosovo government lacked a nonviolent strategy for gaining de jure independence, a guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army initiated violence. This was followed by extreme Serbian repression and massive slaughters by so-called “ethnic cleansing,” which led to NATO bombing and intervention.
23. The movement to oust Serbia dictator Slobodan Milosevic, which began in November 1996 with Serbs conducting daily parades and protests in Belgrade and other cities. At that time, however, Serb democrats lacked a strategy to press on the struggle and failed to launch a campaign to bring down the Milosovic dictatorship. In early October 2000, the Otpor (Resistance) movement and other democrats rose up again against Milosevic in a carefully planned nonviolent struggle and the dictatorship collapsed.
24. The “People Power Two” campaign, which ousted Filipino President Estrada in early 2001.
These cases are a sample of nonviolent struggles in the last century. Many more cases have occurred. These cases are also not intended to necessarily represent of the full variety of locations, circumstances, or objectives sought by groups in nonviolent struggles. However, they do illustrate that this is a technique of action used in many circumstances by many different people for varying objectives.