Nonviolence can be best explained by examples, rather than theory or definitions. According to the author, Gandhi’s famous march is the best example to be mentioned first. US civil rights movement in 1950s and 1960s is another good example for nonviolent resistance. Thirdly, nonviolent action has been extensively used in worldwide peace movement. One recent example of nonviolence is the environmental movement.
Analyzing the situation, preparing for action, nonviolent action training, mobilizing support and coordinating the action are the key factors behind effective actions above.Nonviolent action has also been used in cases of military coups. Furthermore, it has been successful against repressive governments.
When it comes to social revolution, Iranian revolution is a proof that nonviolent action can result in a drastic change, attracting the majority of society. However, there are also cases, where nonviolent action failed: pro-democracy movement in China in 1989 and the Islamic regime after the revolution in Iran. The reason for why they failed is that they all lacked planning.The author uses Sharp’s definition: “nonviolent action is a generic term covering dozens of specific methods of protest, noncooperation and intervention, in all of which the actionists conduct the conflict by doing -or refusing to do- certain things without using physical violence”. There are lots of nonviolence methods.
Sharp mentions in his book 198, and then he also discovered hundreds more. In short, nonviolent action is “action rather than nonaction, and it avoids physical violence”. However, it should be noted that nonviolent action does not contain violence, but it might be harmful in some respects.On the one hand, it is self-consistent, allows maximum participation from different social backgrounds, works better than violence, leads to more lasting change and to fewer casualties. On the other hand, it is hard to sustain, sometimes it may be difficult to obtain support the action, it has an image problem, as it seems, and thus, is regarded as weak, it may not lead to lasting change, if it is used as a pragmatic method for reform. Unlike the argument that nonviolence cannot work against severe repression, it can be successful. Iranian revolution and resistance against Nazis in several countries are examples for that.
In addition, under the military regimes in Argentina and Chile, people continued their resistance. Introduced by Gene Sharp, the theory of consent of power is as follows: people in society can be divided into rulers and subjects; the power of rulers comes from the consent of subjects. Nonviolent action offers the withdrawal of consent. Because, “without the consent of the subjects, the ruler would have little power and little basis for rule”. However, the ruler-subject model is unlikely to work against capitalism, as power relations in a capitalist society are quite complex.
It is hard to exactly determine the ruler and the subjects. “Many workers both exercise power over subordinates and are subject to superiors”. Developing a nonviolence strategy against capitalism depends on analyzing capitalism thoroughly. Capitalism is “a system in which a small number of large corporations dominate in most sectors of the economy”. But it is not homogeneous. Therefore, the term “capitalism” does not indicate a single and unique system.
Problems with capitalism: – It fosters the social inequality. The rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer. – Work is unsatisfying.- Workers are alienated from what they produce. – Those who are not employed are subject to poverty and boredom. – A consumer society is created.
– It generates antisocial and dangerous practices, like bribery. – It encourages selfishness and discourages the cooperation. – Men tend to maintain male domination. – Military and the police may be used for war and repression. – The profit motive encourages excessive production and leads to environmental exploitation. But despite its weaknesses, capitalism has demonstrated its strength in promoting increases in productive capacities of societies.
The huge disparities between North and South Korea and between East and West Germany can be attributed to the success of capitalism. Nonviolence alternative to capitalism offers: – cooperation rather than competition should be established, – people with the greatest needs should have the priority, when the whole product is distributed, – everyone who wants a job should be able to have a satisfying job, – the system should be run by people, not by authorities or experts, – nonviolence should be the basis for system. Capitalism is hard to be tackled for some reasons.First, the cooperation between capitalism and state power makes the struggle against it difficult. Secondly, although capitalism is supported by state power, in daily life no coercion is required, because of the common beliefs among people, the beliefs that justify capitalism. And lastly, capitalism has destroyed its alternatives and remained the single solution for people. There are a number of conventional strategies used against capitalism: one approach was to try to persuade with power and wealth to leave what they have for common good of society.
However, that strategy has repeatedly failed, due to the temptation of power. Socialist tradition has offered two solutions: Leninism and electoral socialism. Since both were based on usage of power, they eventually failed. Leninism caused massive deaths and poverty. Social democracy neared capitalism. It “manages capitalism, not changing its central dynamic”.
The common problems with the conventional strategies are; – all rely on violence, – all rely on party elites, not on the collective power of people, – all are built on productivist and managerial assumptions, – all provide a key role for intellectuals.