Is Non-Violent Revolution Possible in Today’s World?

Ellie ZarrabianNews & Events

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This topic is by no means new; however given the daily chaos in and around us, it seems that these kinds of ideas are losing popular ground to more violent approaches. So, here are some reminders for us all from world renowned individuals.

There has been the notion of many persons that non-violent actions never work or that they take too long to achieve. However these notions should be rejected on the basis of history. One classic example is in regard to the 1963 overthrow of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. An almost anti-climactic military coup followed a half year of intensive public actions led by Buddhist monks in a campaign that destroyed Diem’s base of support. The fact is, even in revolutions that are primarily violent, the successful ones usually include non-violent civilian actions not so different from the ones Gandhi used. And nearly every time, you will find these actions curiously downplayed or ignored by most journalists and historians. The most recent occurrence in the United States is the North Dakota Access Pipeline ordeal and the non-violent resistance of the Native Americans of the region.

Gandhi positively rejected the idea that a class war was incompatible with nonviolence: “The idea of class war does not appeal to me. In India a class war is not inevitable, but it is avoidable if we have understood the message of nonviolence. Those who talk about class war as being inevitable have not understood the implications of nonviolence or have understood them only skin-deep.”

Many people today still regard Gandhi’s ideas of nonviolence to mean passivity. He even commented that “One must never be passive in the face of evil; that violence was better than cowardice.” It is very common to see and hear world leaders talk about the rhetoric of the “struggle”. If a person were to read most literature available on the internet or in print they would find words such as “defend”, “fight” and “attack” splattered throughout each article. This kind of language can only draw people who like the idea of a fight in order to end their “struggle.” The key question is what kind of leader would be the result of such a party or group?

Commonly, the revolutionary leaders of the past have all advocated that a revolution can only be achieved with the tool of violence. These kinds of methods have so far only contributed to undemocratic systems of government. Other factors have played a part too, such as isolation by capitalist powers and the fact that the socialist states were underdeveloped. However, the leaders’ thoughts should not be dismissed and much evidence could be given to indicate that many current world leaders are not of a peaceful mind. New strategies must be employed in order to bring in leaders motivated by peace. In a non-violent revolution there would be no enemies. The struggle is against ideas and institutions but not individual persons. As Gandhi said, “Hate the sin and not the sinner”.

Electing leaders motivated by peace, leaves open the question of how do we as a people stand up for our values and beliefs by means of a non-violent revolution? Gandhi stressed many times that it requires great training and discipline to be equipped with the tools needed to win via non-violent methods. A key component in learning non-violence is of course to learn from history, past success and mistakes. This however is currently not the case; instead a greater emphasis is put on the violent option. By putting greater emphasis on non-violent actions we can come together as diverse groups of individuals from all walks of life open to new ideas that generate more sustainable solutions in the long run. Martin Luther king spelled out the five principles on non-violent action:

“First, it must be emphasized that non-violent resistance is not a method for cowards; it does resist. If one uses this method because he is afraid or merely because he lacks the instruments of violence, he is not truly non-violent.”

“A second basic fact that characterizes nonviolence is that it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The non-violent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that these are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent … The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.”

“A third characteristic of this method is that resistance is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing the evil.”

“A fourth point that characterizes non-violent resistance is a willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from the opponent without striking back. Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood.”  Gandhi said to his countrymen. “The non-violent resister … does not seek to dodge jail. If going to jail is necessary, he enters it ‘as a bridegroom enters the bride’s chamber’…”

“A fifth point concerning non-violent resistance is that it avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The non-violent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the centre of nonviolence stands the principle of love.”

If individuals want to be associated more with peace, then it becomes imperative that such principles need to be followed. Too much emphasis on the “struggle” can only serve two purposes:

1) The alienation of the vast majority of peaceful working people

2) The promotion of violence that perpetuates a culture of violence.

By using these principles and by raising the consciousness of the masses, non-violent change is not only possible but inevitable.