Non-violence Relative Economics And A New Social Order: Part.1

Published: 19.06.2015
Updated: 09.07.2015


Nonviolence is a philosophy, a principle, a way of life and a practice, which means broadly abstaining from the use of physical force to achieve an aim. As an ethical philosophy, it upholds the view that moral behaviour excludes the use of violence. Not only this, in some of the Philosophical systems it includes the violence at the level of thought, with the conviction that the violent thoughts lead to violence in action. As a political philosophy it maintains that violence is self-perpetuating and can never provide a means to a securely peaceful end. As a principle, it supports the pacifist position that war and killing are never justifiable. As a practice it has been used by pacifists and non-pacifists alike to achieve social change and express resistance to oppression.

Nonviolence as a philosophy or principle can inform anyone's actions, anywhere and at any time. Nonviolence as an effective way of dealing with conflict needs thought (including lateral thinking), resourcefulness, vision, planning, patience and commitment. The aim of nonviolence is both dialogue and resistance - dialogue with the people to persuade them, and resistance to the structures to compel change. In a world where the currently prevailing systems are caught in the armlock of violence, nonviolence can't offer instant remedies or results, but to a larger extent, it provides a sustainable solution and provides an opportunity to find a win-win situation. Nonviolence doesn't deny the existence of conflict - conflict of one kind or another will probably always be present in human society -but it does assert that no conflict need be dealt with using violence and armed force, ever. The aim of its supporters, therefore, is the dismantling of the power structures, military systems (including arms manufacture), and economic networks (including the arms trade) that make violence and war an option at all.

Nonviolence for social changes

Nonviolent action has played a key role in the struggle for social change all over the world. It has a long and proud history, a source of strength to the humanity, a philosophical basis of some eastern religions, especially the Jainism; but it is not only something from the past, it has lived on in many struggles for freedom, equality and justice. Strategically nonviolence has the potential to empower citizens, thwart coups, overthrow dictators and defend nations. Sometimes nonviolent direct action responding to oppression or abuse of power seems to spring up spontaneously in apparently unrelated times and places. One of the reasons that these discoveries amaze and inspire us is that official histories and media accounts don't generally record these events and many nonviolence activists remain as unsung heroes.

Tom Weber, a leading Gandhian scholar has pointed out that the collective end of the nonviolence spectrum - organised group actions, including nonviolence defence and social transformation has made it understand to the common people about the effectiveness of the concept, whereas the individual end that includes interpersonal conflict resolution and spiritual development of the individual are also equally important dimensions, which have invited people's attention. The doctrine of nonviolence focuses more on the political, economic and social context; more on psychological dimensions; more on usage of appropriate strategies; more on strengths and weaknesses within the nonviolence camp and finally more on long-term consequences, which exhibit the following characteristics:

· absolute respect for the opponent/everyone involved

· care for everyone involved

· refusal to harm, damage or degrade people

· if suffering is inevitable, willingness to take it on yourself rather than inflict it on others

· belief that everyone is capable of change

· appeal to the opponents' humanity

· recognition that no one has a monopoly of truth, so aims to bring together our 'truth' and the opponents' 'truth' understanding that the means are the ends in the making, so the means have to be consistent with the ends

· preparation and training, so that our behaviour is nonviolent.

Looking back the history for getting inspired

The fusion of organized mass struggle and nonviolence is relatively new. It originated largely with Mahatma Gandhi in 1906 at the onset of the South African campaign for Indian rights. Later, the Indian struggle for complete independence from the British Empire included a number of spectacular nonviolent campaigns. Perhaps the most notable was the yearlong Salt campaign in which 1,00,000 Indians were jailed for deliberately violating the Salt Laws.

The refusal to counter the violence of the repressive social system with more violence was a tactic of Gandhi that has also been used by other movements. The militant campaign for women's suffrage all over the world included a variety of nonviolent tactics such as boycotts, non-cooperation, limited property destruction, civil disobedience, mass marches and demonstrations, filling the jails, and disruption of public ceremonies.

The Salvadoran people have used nonviolence as one powerful and necessary element of their struggle. Particularly during the 1960s and 70s, Christian based communities, labor unions, campesino organizations, and student groups held occupations and sit-ins at universities, government offices, and places of work such as factories and haciendas.

Harriet Tubman's underground railroad during the civil war and Henry David Thoreau's refusal to pay war taxes in Britain have substantially added to the nonviolent moves. Nonviolent civil disobedience was a critical factor in gaining women the right to vote in the United States, as well.

The U.S. labor movement has also used nonviolence with striking effectiveness in a number of instances, such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) free speech confrontations, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) sit-down strikes from 1935-1937 in auto plants, and the UFW grape and lettuce boycotts.

Using mass nonviolent action, the civil rights movement changed the face of the South. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) initiated modem nonviolent action for civil rights with sit-ins and a freedom ride in the 1940s. The successful Montgomery bus boycott electrified the nation. Then, the early 1960s exploded with nonviolent actions: sit-ins at lunch counters and other facilities, organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); Freedom Rides to the South organized by CORE; the nonviolent battles against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); and the 1963 March on Washington, which drew 250,000 participants.

Opponents of the Vietnam War employed the use of draft card burnings, draft file destruction, mass demonstrations (such as the 500,000 who turned out in 1969 in Washington, D.C.), sit-ins, blocking induction centers, draft and tax resistance, and the historic 1971 May Day traffic blocking in Washington, D.C. in which 13,000 people were arrested.

Since the mid-70s, increasing nonviolent activity against the nuclear arms race and nuclear power industry has underlined the necessity of the nonviolence doctrine. Nonviolent civil disobedience actions have taken place at dozens of nuclear weapons research installations, storage areas, missile silos, test sites, military bases, corporate and government offices and nuclear power plants. In the late 1970s mass civil disobedience actions took place at nuclear power plants from Seabrook, New Hampshire to the Diablo Canyon reactor in California and most states in between in this country and in other countries around the world. In 1982, 1750 people were arrested at the U.N. missions of the five major nuclear powers. Mass actions took place at the Livermore Laboratories in California and SAC bases in the Midwest. In the late 80s a series of actions took place at the Nevada test site. International disarmament actions changed world opinion about nuclear weapons.

In 1980 women who were concerned with the destruction of the Earth and who were interested in exploring the connections between feminism and nonviolence were coming together. In November of 1980 and 1981 the Women's Pentagon Actions, where hundreds of women came together to challenge patriarchy and militarism, took place. A movement grew that found ways to use direct action to put pressure on the military establishment and to show positive examples of life-affirming ways to live together. This movement spawned women's peace camps at military bases around the world from Greenham Common, England to Puget Sound Peace Camp in Washington State, with camps in Japan and Italy among others.

The anti-apartheid movement in the 80s has built upon the powerful and empowering use of civil disobedience by the civil rights movement in the 60s. In November of 1984, a campaign began that involved daily civil disobedience in front of the South African Embassy. People, including members of Congress, national labor and religious leaders, celebrities, students, community leaders, teachers, and others, risked arrest every weekday for over a year. In the end over 3,100 people were arrested protesting apartheid and U.S. corporate and government support. At the same time, support actions for this campaign were held in 26 major cities, resulting in an additional 5,000 arrests.

We also see civil disobedience being incorporated as a key tactic in the movement against intervention in Central America. Beginning in 1983, national actions at the White House and State Department as well as local actions began to spread. In November 1984, the Pledge of Resistance was formed. Since then, over 5,000 people have been arrested at military installations, congressional offices, federal buildings, and CIA offices. Many people have also broken the law by providing sanctuary for Central American refugees and through the Lenten Witness; major denomination representatives have participated in weekly nonviolent civil disobedience actions at the Capitol. Student activists have incorporated civil disobedience in both

their anti-apartheid and Central America work. Divestment became the campus slogan of the 80s. Students built shantytowns and staged sit-ins at Administrator's offices. Hundreds have been arrested resulting in the divestment of over 130 campuses and the subsequent withdrawal of over $4 billion from the South African economy. Central America student activists have carried out campaigns to protest CIA recruitment on campuses. Again, hundreds of students across the country have been arrested in this effort.

However the important thing is that nonviolent action has won results that have changed the course of history, which may also be seen in the following examples:

Fighting against Slavery

By the eighteenth and nineteenth century, slavery was seemingly entrenched as a fundamental part of the economic structure, and yet within fifty years it was abolished and, although it still exists, the concept has become unacceptable. This was achieved by the tireless work of many politicians, philanthropists, and also active tactics, such as boycott and symbolic action.

Supporting Women's suffrage

The campaign to win universal voting rights for women in Britain at the beginning of last century, employed many tactics of direct action well beyond parliamentary lobbying. Women chained themselves to railings, disrupted the proceedings of parliament, destroyed letterboxes, went on hunger strike, and even died on the racecourse in protest. This, combined with the higher profile of women in paid employment, led to a time when the vote could no longer be denied.

Strengthening the Trade Union Movement

The right to form trades unions to protect the rights of workers was only won through many years of costly campaigning in the face of powerful opposition from the vested interest of factory owners. Most memorable of the campaigns was the action of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who continued to unite, even although they were transported to the then colonies in Australia for many years.

Supporting the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.

Perhaps the most famous of all nonviolent campaigns was the struggle to win voting rights for black Americans. Starting with Rosa Parks' refusal to sit at the back of a segregated bus, and moving to Martin Luther King's leadership of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, the Civil Rights movement inspired a whole generation with the example of nonviolence in action.

Denmark against Hitler

People often say that nonviolence couldn't work against a dictator like Hitler. The people of Denmark were occupied by the Nazis, but had a very effective campaign of nonviolent resistance throughout the war. When Jews were ordered to wear a yellow star, the King wore one, and the order was dropped. Throughout the war no Jews were deported from Denmark. Norway also resisted effectively, and there was nonviolent resistance within Germany itself.

India's independence

Gandhi's struggle to free India from the British Empire has become a model of nonviolence that has inspired many other actions around the world. Not only did Gandhi's tactics of boycott, building up of local self-respect and trade, open defiance of laws and taxes, such as the salt tax, and ultimately hunger-strike, eventually win India's freedom, it also provided many of the philosophical ideals underlying nonviolence as a way of life.

The Philippines independence

In the 1980s the people of the Philippines rose up against the repressive dictatorship of President Marcos. Images were screened around the world of huge crowds out in the streets, of nuns and priests in the forefront of the resistance, climbing aboard tanks, giving the soldiers flowers and garlands, and eventually winning the police and the army onto their side, to overthrow the dictator.

Freedom movement in Czechoslovakia

In what has come to be known as the 'velvet revolution' the people of Czechoslovakia managed to break free from the might of Soviet domination in 1989. A previous uprising in 1953 had used violence and been crushed by the superior force of the Soviet military, but as a result of many many years of underground cultural and political resistance, people power took to the streets in Czechoslovakia, and became the starting point for many other former Soviet satellites to gain freedom, culminating in the breaking down of the Berlin Wall.

Movement to get freedom in Ukraine

More recently, we have seen the people of the Ukraine also taking to the streets in huge numbers to create the 'Orange Revolution' resisting Russian domination of their elections. These pictures of crowds of people standing out in the snow in Kiev day after day and refusing to disperse, was not the spontaneous action it appeared to be, but was the result of a year of intense organising.

Nuclear Disarmament

In 1982 a women's peace camp was established at the U.S. air base at Greenham Common in opposition to the deployment of cruise missiles. Although missiles were deployed, records have shown that the U.S. were seriously restricted by the amount of public opposition, and ultimately the weapons were removed and the base returned to common land. This had a wide impact, not only on anti-nuclear campaigning, but also on the struggle for women's rights.

Leading Anti-Trident Campaigns

There have been countless nonviolent action campaigns ever since the Aldermaston marches of the 60's. Yet Trident is still here in spite of us all, so we could be said to have failed. However, our actions have influenced public opinion to a huge extent, we have the partial successes of the Test Ban Treaty and have actually created a general awareness and public opposition to nuclear weapons, that only needs the final push to get rid of them altogether.

Various shades of ideological development

Nonviolence, in its long march has seen various shades of developments; some important dimensions of development at the conceptual level may be seen as under:

· Principled nonviolence: Gandhi, Gregg, Burrowes

· Pragmatic nonviolence: King-Hall, Sharp, Schmid

· Historical case studies: Gregg, Sharp, Schmid

· Systematic framework of analysis: Gregg, Sharp, Schmid, Burrowes

· Link between theory and activism: Gandhi, Burrowes

· Policy relevance: King-Hall, Sharp, Schmid

· Social defence: King-Hall, Schmid, Burrowes

· Critical assessment of nonviolence: Schmid

· Nonviolent revolution: Gandhi, Burrowes

The concept in action: some very significant success stories

The Nashville experiment

In 1960, young black college students faced a dilemma. While their schools taught the constitutional right of equality under the law, their off-campus surroundings in the heavily segregated city of Nashville starkly refuted that premise. State-sponsored Jim Crow Laws governed many aspects of life, and Nashville's black and white communities were kept apart.

James Lawson, a young black minister from Ohio who understood Gandhi's nonviolent legacy gave the students the organization, discipline, and strategies they sorely needed for initiating a nonviolent fight against the government. After spending several years in India studying with Gandhi's disciples, Lawson returned to the United States in 1956, determined to share Gandhi's methods with African Americans.

Echoing Gandhi's attack on the salt tax as an emotional rallying point, Lawson turned his attention to Nashville's segregated lunch counters, typically situated in department stores and five-and-dimes that sold goods to black patrons, but drew the line at serving them a cup of coffee. After months of rigorous training to help students withstand the taunts, slurs and blows of the city's staunchest segregationists, Lawson's students descended on the lunch counters, prompting white businesspeople to shut down rather than serve them.

At first, the townspeople dismissed the sit-ins as a passing fad. When it became apparent that the students were in for the long haul, they began to incur the wrath of racist vigilantes: Outraged by the city's heavy-handed treatment and incarceration of peaceful, well-dressed young men and women, Nashville's rank-and-file black citizenry boycotted the city's white-owned businesses, delivering a profound economic blow. White customers, repulsed by the atmosphere generated by segregation extremists, also stayed away, adding to the mounting losses.

Coming to grips with the futility of mass arrests, a deluge of negative national publicity, and a shocking attempt on the life of a prominent black attorney, Nashville Mayor Ben West relented, and asked the city's department stores to desegregate the lunch counters immediately.

The Salt movement of Gandhi

Gandhi's famous Salt March of 1930, during which he enjoined Indians to protest the British salt monopoly - a turning point in the movement that paved the way for India's independence from Britain, steered a shrewdly strategic, ever-escalating course of "non-cooperation" that included mass demonstrations, strikes, and the boycott of British goods.

With a campaign to win rights for Indians in South Africa behind him, Gandhi returned to his native India in 1915 to find a country growing increasingly restless under the century-long colonial British rule called the "Raj." While the British did not resort to the brutality used by most occupying forces, they limited basic liberties wherever the power of the raj was threatened. And, although Britain had granted self-rule to Canada and Australia, it dragged its heels on self-rule for India. British viceroy Lord Irwin ignored most of the demands of the Indian National Congress.

By 1930, Gandhi decided that the time was right for civil disobedience directed at the heart of British interests. By processing their own salt, millions of Indians could readily flout British rule. Recognizing the need for a unifying issue that speaks to all Indians, he found one in the colony's Salt Act, which did forbid citizens from collecting or selling the vital mineral. The colonizers, he argued were stealing a dietary staple from the people and then making them pay to get it back.

In a shrewd preemptive move, Gandhi sent a public letter to Lord Irwin announcing his intent to break the British salt monopoly at the conclusion of a long people's march to the sea where ordinary citizens will collect salt. At the mean time, he implored Indian local officials to resign their posts, to drive a wedge between the Raj and one of its key supports. He further advocated a boycott of imported British cloth in favor of homespun cotton - a strategy that as of added significance for Indians who had been thrown out of work by Britain's machine-manufactured textile industry.

These actions invited brutal reprisals. A mass of demonstrators approaching a salt depot in Dharasana were viciously beaten; thousands were arrested, the number of participants swelled, and resistance stiffened. Overcrowding the country's jails was part of Gandhi's strategy to put a strain on British civil services, and the barbarism at Dharasana elicited worldwide support for the Indian cause. With India's infrastructure under strain, and world opinion turning against the Crown, Lord Irwin agreed to one-on-one negotiations with Gandhi in February 1931. While the social and legal concessions that he granted (i.e., withdrawal of repressive laws and promises not to prosecute resisters) were more symbolic than concrete, the great Indian resistance of 1930-31 mobilized the nation as never before to pursue independence, which it finally achieved in 1947.

The Consumer boycott campaign against apartheid

The consumer boycott campaign against apartheid in the black townships of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa in the mid 1980s, led by the young activist Mkhuseli Jack is an important milestone in the history of nonviolent movements. Radicalized at the age of 18 by laws that kept him from enrolling in school, Jack founded the influential Port Elizabeth Youth Congress and became a key leader of strikes, boycotts, and other grassroots efforts, which reverberated throughout the country and were instrumental in defeating apartheid and freeing Nelson Mandela.

In 1985, a wave of unrest against apartheid began to sweep across the black townships in South Africa. Security forces tried to control the unrest via a provocative containment policy that incites dangerous confrontations. Impatient youths and others initiated sporadic violence. Black leaders were routinely harassed and imprisoned.

In the city of Port Elizabeth, Mikhuseli Jack, a charismatic 27-year-old youth leader, understood that violence had no match for the state's awesome arsenal. Jack stressed the primacy of cohesion and coordination, forming street committees and recruiting neighborhood leaders to represent their interests and settle disputes. Nationally, a fledgling umbrella party, the United Democratic Front (UDF), asserted itself through a series of low-key acts of defiance, such as rent boycotts, labor strikes, and school stayaways.

Advocating nonviolent action appealed to black parents who were tired of chaos in their neighborhoods. The blacks of Port Elizabeth agreed to launch an economic boycott of the city's white-owned businesses. Extending the struggle to the white community was a calculated maneuver designed to sensitize white citizens to the blacks' suffering. Beneath their appeal to conscience, the blacks' underlying message was that businesses cannot operate against a backdrop of societal chaos and instability.

Confronted by this and other resistance in the country, the government declared a state of emergency, the intent of which was to splinter black leadership through arbitrary arrests and curfews. Jack and his compatriots, however, received an entirely different message: the country was fast becoming ungovernable. Apartheid had been cracked.

Undaunted by government reprisals, the UDF continued to press its demands, particularly for the removal of security forces and the release of jailed African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela. White retailers, whose business districts had become moribund, demanded an end to the stalemate. The movement also succeeded in turning world opinion against apartheid, and more sanctions were imposed on South Africa as foreign corporations began to pull out many investments. In June 1986, the South African government declared a second state of emergency to repress the mass action that had paralyzed the regime.

By 1989, the stand-off between the black majority and the government impelled the new prime minister, F.W. de Klerk, to lift the ban on illegal political organizations and free Mandela. In 1994, South Africa's first truly democratic national election elected Mandela to the nation's presidency.

The Denmark's non-cooperation movement

The courage and endurance of Denmark's citizens during the five -year Nazi occupation of World War II was well exhibited in their non-cooperation, which undermined the Germans' attempt to exploit Denmark for food and war materiel. In addition to committing sabotage and staging general strikes, the Danes' underground resistance rescued all but a few hundred of Denmark's seven thousand Jews from the Holocaust

In 1940, during the earliest stages of World War II, Adolf Hitler's army of darkness tightened its grip over most of continental Europe, including Germany's northern neighbor, Denmark. The Nazis, who sought to exploit other countries' agriculture and industry for the broader war effort, occupied Denmark in a swift and surgical operation. Peter Munch, the minister of foreign affairs, had handed an ultimatum: cooperate with the Third Reich or else. He did.

Under a unified government, Munch initiated a "negotiation under protest" strategy with the Germans that was designed to protect Danish lives and salvage cultural identity. Munch was convinced with the reason that because Denmark had not fought Germany, it could not therefore be classified as a "conquered" nation. Operating under the assumption that the war will be short, the Dane's goal was to buy time with the Germans while projecting the appearance of cooperation.

The challenge lied in creating inventive ways to undermine German objectives without provoking direct confrontation. Subtle tactics such as work slowdowns, for example, hindered the German effort to extract resources. To contest German dominion over Danish life, the country engaged in a sudden renaissance of Danish culture and a swelling of national pride, manifesting itself in public songfests and a festival commemorating King Christian's birthday.

Not all the resistance were exclusively nonviolent. Sabotage by an aggressive Danish underground invited harsh reprisals from the Germans. In the spring of 1943, however, Danish workers strike for higher wages, and in August, strikes against German untermeasures took place in 33 Danish cities and towns. This form of resistance outstretched Germany's ability to control the country.

When the Danish government refused direct orders to prohibit public meetings or impose curfews or press censorship on its own people, Germany put it out of business and quickly placed troops at railroad stations, power plants, factories, and other key facilities.

In September, word leaked out that the Nazis were about to round up Danish Jews for exportation. This galvanized Danish citizens into active and potentially life-threatening resistance. To evade their pursuers, most Jews were funneled to" neutral Sweden by Danish resisters. In a testament to human determination, only 472 out of roughly 8,000 Danish Jews were lost to Hitler's "final solution."

In 1944, a watershed year for the resistance, more than 11 million copies of underground newspapers were published. That June, following a declared state of emergency, the entire city of Copenhagen went on strike. Infuriated, Germany flooded the city with troops, cuts off water and electricity, and established a blockade. By July 2, 23 Danes had been killed and more than 203 were wounded. But the dauntless Danes persevered. Exasperated, the Germans abandoned these punitive measures by July.

Later that fall, when the Germans tried to deport Danish police officials whom they believe were turning a blind eye to sabotage and disorder, Copenhagen gone on strike again, joined this time by 58 other cities and towns. Un-intimidated by Gestapo arrests, civilians flocked to the resistance movement; enrollment exceeded 45,000 at its highest point. In May 1945, war-ravaged Berlin succumbed to advancing Allied forces, prompting Germany to abandon Denmark altogether. Thanks to civic unity and non-cooperation, the Danes had denied the Germans much of the value of occupation and emerged largely unscathed from the war.


Title: Non-violence Relative Economics And A New Social Order
Publisher: Jain Vishwa Bharati University, Ladnun, India
Editors: Prof. B.R. Dugar, Dr. Samani Satya Prajna, Dr. Samani Ritu Prajna
Edition: First Edition, 2008

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