Violence & nonviolence

Violence & nonviolence
1 December 2015Review

Green Print, 2013; 258pp; £10 (vol 1) / Green Print 2015; 258pp; £10

From the first recorded strike in human history (by Egyptian artisans in 1170 BCE) to a successful sex strike by Colombian women in 2011 (‘No more sex. We want our road’), civil resistance – ‘collective action for political or social ends without any systematic recourse to violence’ – has had a long and varied history.

It also looks set to have a long and varied future. Indeed, according to the authors of these books, there has been a greater tendency in recent decades for popular…

1 October 2015Feature

Nonviolence isn't just the absence of violence, argues Stellen Vinthagen

My perspective rests on the assumption that humans can create their surroundings based on pre-existing materials. A social construction of nonviolence requires a practical knowledge, both to be possible and to be effective. In this regard, it demands special knowledge. But instead of practical technical knowledge, it concerns the practical social knowledge required to carry out a specific kind of action, a nonviolent action in a particular context.

1 October 2015Review

Pluto Press, 2015, 211pp, £15

This analysis of Palestinian popular – civil – resistance to the creation and expansion of Israel and its nearly 50-year occupation of Palestinian territory, is essential reading for anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics of civil resistance in an occupied country, and the factors making for its success or failure.

“The First Intifada encompassed a range of nonviolent tactics with the strategic aim of regenerating the resistance, increasing the cost to Israel of…

1 August 2015Feature

Extracts from the new book, Popular Protest in Palestine, an important study of popular unarmed resistance to the Israeli occupation since the second intifada

As one member of a popular committee in Silwan [on the outskirts of Jerusalem] observed: ‘A major challenge is the coordination of nonviolent activities. Some focus on the [Israeli Separation] Wall, others on checkpoints and others on settlements. There is no coordination like there was in the first intifada.’

Underpinning the different challenges organisers identified as obstacles was what many observed to be a pervasive lack of trust in leadership at any level, including…

1 June 2015Review

Scribe Publications; 304pp; £9.99

At the first nonviolence training I ever attended, I was given a copy of Gene Sharp's famous list of the '198 methods of nonviolent action' (the 199th method, the trainers opined, was to flypost copies of the list itself). I subsequently purchased a second-hand copy of Sharp's famous three-volume work The Politics of Nonviolent Action but – like many others, I suspect – never did much more than dip into…

15 April 2015Blog entry

Musing on the manifesto....

Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, said yesterday: 'Austerity has failed and we need a peaceful political revolution to get rid of it.' Pippa Bartolotti, the leader of the Wales Green Party, said: 'We can have a peaceful revolution in the UK and still reduce…

31 March 2015Feature

Gabriel Carlyle outlines some of the downsides to armed self-defence

NB This piece accompanies this article.

Charles Sims, one of the best-known proponents of armed self-defence within the US civil rights movement, was asked in 1965 how activists could best advance the movement without nonviolence.

He responded: ‘I believe nonviolence is the only way.’


Robert F Williams - smeared here on an FBI
'wanted' flier…

31 March 2015Feature

An African-American activist-turned-academic looks back on the history of armed self-defence in the US civil rights movement

In his recent book on the US civil rights movement, This Nonviolence Stuff’ll Get You Killed, Charles Cobb argues that ‘although nonviolence was crucial to the gains made by the freedom struggle of the 1950s and ’60s, those gains could not have been achieved without the complementary – and underappreciated – practice of armed self-defence’. Indeed, the willingness to use deadly force, Cobb asserts, ‘ensured the survival not only of countless brave men and women but also of the…

1 February 2015Review

Center for Global Non-Killing, 2014; 274pp; £12

Co-founder of the Mouvement pour une Alternative Non-Violente, Jean-Marie Müller is one of the leading contemporary thinkers on nonviolence. Despite authoring over 20 books on a wide range of nonviolence-related subjects, he is little known in Britain: so the recent publication in English of The Principle of Non-Violence is particularly welcome.

Originally published in 1995, it represents Jean-Marie’s most comprehensive statement of his view of nonviolence as a…

28 September 2014News

International nonviolence initiative begins its first week of action.

As Peace News went to press, Campaign Nonviolence (CNV), a US nonviolence study/action initiative, was beginning its first week of action, which had been a year in the making. There were 227 marches, rallies, vigils, festivals, celebrations and other events planned across all 50 states of the continental USA, starting on 21 September.

The purpose of the week of action is to launch a long-term movement to build a culture of peace and nonviolence free from war, poverty,…

21 July 2014Feature

An ongoing Quaker initiative to trace the roots of activist nonviolence training in the UK

Where does nonviolence training for activists come from?

Turning the Tide (TTT), a 20-year-old Quaker programme dedicated to spreading the skills for and understanding of nonviolence for positive social change, draws on the long Quaker history of working for peace and justice as the basis for our approach.

Our approach is experiential. Nonviolence training is a learning experience of the mind and body, both an individual and a collective experience. It’s radically…

3 April 2014Feature

At the moment, PN staff are the only listed UK promoters of Campaign Nonviolence, the nonviolence study/action group initiative started by Pace e Bene in the US last year. Milan Rai, Emily Johns and Gabriel Carlyle are in a Campaign Nonviolence study/action group in Hastings (it’s called Burning Gold, after a line in a William Blake poem).

This March and April, Campaign Nonviolence has been running workshops across the US to ‘help build the campaign to mainstream active nonviolence…

3 April 2014Feature

This classic text from 1971 pushes nonviolent activists to respect and value rage and untangles our political and personal relationships to this emotion.  


Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Seven Deadly Sins
or the Seven Vices - Anger. Photo: via wikicommons

I have been asked to talk about the relation between war resistance and resistance to injustice.

There are many points to be made that I need hardly belabour. I don’t have to argue with any of you at this conference that if we resist war we must look to the causes of war; try to end them. And that one finds the causes of war in any society that encourages not fellowship but…

1 April 2014Feature

Working towards a viable future for Syria when fighting ends

‘Right now, people who are involved in nonviolent activism in Syria are mainly having to do two things: relief work, to deal with the catastrophic levels of humanitarian disaster and then underground civil resistance, like newspapers, news agencies, schools, hospitals and clinics,’ Mohja Kahf told Peace News in March.

Kahf, a member of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement (SNVM), was born in Syria but grew up in the United States, where she is now an associate professor of Comparative…

1 April 2014Feature

Civil resistance shredded the legitimacy of a repressive and corrupt government


Thousands protest in London on 16 March against the
Russian invasion of Crimea. Photo: Clare Dimyon

This comment was written on 3 March, before the Russian invasion of Crimea changed the dynamics of the Ukrainian crisis.

Dramatic words or violent acts were not how the Ukrainian people ousted an authoritarian leader and his cronies. Civil resistance shredded the legitimacy of a repressive and corrupt government. The nonviolent movement dissolved…