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Buried Treasure: selections from the Peace News archives

40 years ago: Approaches to nonviolent revolution

Soon after PN first regularly added the subtitle 'for nonviolent revolution' to its masthead, Bob Overy (who'd worked on the paper not long before) wrote a two-part article analysing the many different takes on the subject. This is part of his setting the scene for the two pieces.

I've come to the conclusion that there are two basically different ways of looking at nonviolent revolution, and several different positions which might be accommodated to this label. This has not eased a sense I have that a great big rag-bag of a concept is being held out as a goal for pacifists, which will certainly be taken up because it sounds right and, as a slogan, has flair.

The danger, I fear, is that we'll begin to speak and act as if nonviolent revolution is the agreed pacifist goal, without being aware that we may be talking about different things, and with some of us still not convinced that nonviolent revolution is a practical objective....

Presumably [another writer quoted] feels emotionally and morally that there must be a revolution and believes it must be made without violence because violence is wrong and seems to betray its advocates. His would be a personal or subjective view of nonviolent revolution.

The other view, that there is a serious problem to be faced in formulating and implementing a nonviolent revolution, suggests that a nonviolent revolution may be a possible historical event if those who wish to see it will learn what are the conditions in which it could occur and then will act to make it happen. This view could have no built-in certainty, though it would probably be based in the faith that change can be made without violence. It is a more political view than the first, but could not be called an objective view of revolution until it could describe a politics of how the revolution will be made.

From the 20 October 1972 issue of Peace News

'Buried Treasure' is compiled by Albert Beale, author of Against All War: Fifty Years of Peace News.