The United States has a rich history with effective uses of nonviolent resistance. Now’s the time to become familiar with it.
By Erica Chenoweth
The Guardian (2/1/17)
Many people across the United States are despondent about the new president – and the threat to democracy his rise could represent. But they shouldn’t be. At no time in recorded history have people been more equipped to effectively resist injustice using civil resistance.
Today, those seeking knowledge about the theory and practice of civil resistance can find a wealth of information at their fingertips. In virtually any language, one can find training manuals, strategy-building tools, facilitation guides and documentation about successes and mistakes of past nonviolent campaigns.
Material is available in many formats, including graphic novels, e-classes, films and documentaries, scholarly books, novels, websites, research monographs, research inventories, and children’s books. And of course, the world is full of experienced activists with wisdom to share.
The United States has its own rich history – past and present – of effective uses of nonviolent resistance. The technique established alternative institutions like economic cooperatives, alternative courts and an underground constitutional convention in the American colonies resulting in the declaration of independence. In 20th century, strategic nonviolent resistance has won voting rights for women and for African Americans living in the Jim Crow south.
Nonviolent resistance has empowered the labor movement, closed down or cancelled dozens of nuclear plants, protected farm workers from abuse in California, motivated the recognition of Aids patients as worthy of access to life-saving treatment, protected free speech, put climate reform on the agenda, given reprieve to Dreamers, raised awareness about economic inequality, changed the conversation about systemic racism and black lives and stalled construction of an oil pipeline on indigenous lands in Standing Rock.
In fact, it is hard to identify a progressive cause in the United States that has advanced without a civil resistance movement behind it.
This does not mean nonviolent resistance always works. Of course it does not, and short-term setbacks are common too. But long-term change never comes with submission, resignation, or despair about the inevitability and intractability of the status quo. …
(Erica Chenoweth is the co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.)