Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present Paperback – Oct 5 2011
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"Highly informative compilation of different quests for political, economic, and social change over the past half-century. The great value of Civil Resistance and Power Politics is to provide relatively succinct accounts of these diverse events in such a way as to underline both their differences and their similarities."--New York Review of Books
"Roberts and Garton Ash succeed in their task magnificently. Seldom has a collective work displayed such coordinated research; seldom has the selection of authors been so successful...and seldom have the introductory and concluding essays in an edited work been so effective...indispensable book"--Survival
"This book is a timely reminder that realpolitik is by no means always the best way to consolidate power. And this may prompt a rethink as to the very nature of power itself."--International Affairs
"A book full of thought-provoking stories and arresting statistics...a valuable contribution to our understanding of a phenomenon that history has too often ignored--and a political tactic that looks set to become even more potent in the years ahead." --Sunday Business Post
About the Author
Professor Sir Adam Roberts is Senior Research Fellow, Department of Politics and International Relations, Oxford University, and Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. His main academic interests are in the fields of international security, international organizations, and international law (including the laws of war). He has also worked extensively on the role of civil resistance against dictatorial regimes and foreign rule, and on the history of thought about international relations. In 1968-81 he was Lecturer in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). In 1981-6 he was Alastair Buchan Reader in International Relations and Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford. In 1986-2007 he was Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at Oxford University and Fellow of Balliol College. Professor Timothy Garton Ash is the author of eight books of political writing or 'history of the present' which have charted the transformation of Europe over the last quarter-century. He is Professor of European Studies in the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His essays appear regularly in the New York Review of Books and he writes a weekly column in the Guardian which is widely syndicated in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Throughout the nineteen eighties, he reported and analysed the emancipation of Central Europe from communism in contributions to the New York Review of Books, the Independent, the Times, and the Spectator.
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First there is non-violence as a deeply felt commitment, as good itself and something to strive for no matter what the outcome. Gandhi in British India and Martin Luther King in the United States are two of the most obvious examples. Both men understood that the power of the repressive state rests on the obedience of their citizens (or subjects) and that the active withdrawal of this consent will cause increasing instability in the regime. The "Saffron Revolution" led by Buddhist monks in Burma may be the purest example: Theravada Buddhism, followed by 90% of the Burmese population, permits only a non-violent approach to problem-solving. Monks are instructed that any word they speak and any action they take not only does no harm to others but also can bring about a positive change in reaction in even the most implacable enemies.
Secondly is non-violence as a tactic that had to be adopted due to a precarious military, economic or political situation. Lech Walesa in Poland understood that surrounded by Warsaw Pact troops and with the 1968 intervention into Czechoslovakia fresh in memories throughout eastern and central Europe that he and the strikers at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk had to walk a very fine line to keep the tanks on the other side of the Polish border. They succeeded although they had to endure the imposition of martial law by Polish general Wojciech Jaruzelski which resulted in the extra-judicial incarceration of many Solidarity leaders and cadres but which a majority of people in Poland still think was the only way to stop intervention by surrounding troops. Northern Ireland in the years prior to the 1969 decision to send the British Army into Derry and Belfast was a very different story. Inspired by the U.S. civil rights movement the non-IRA resistance in Northern Ireland tried marches, demonstration, sit-ins and strikes but the fierce opposition of the entrenched establishment to any change and that of the Provisional IRA to anything other than immediate and complete change meant they would fail. The numbers tell the story: in 1967 no one was killed in Ulster as a result of political violence; 497 people were killed in 1972 in the conflict.
The third reason for non-violent resistance to an oppressive regime is as part of establishing a moral basis for a new society. This takes an even longer view than the first two, projecting past the end of the oppressive government to its replacement with a more just society with guarantees of individual rights. Chile from 1983 to 1988 is a good example. Chile has been committed to the rule of law and a robust, independent civil society since independence in 1830 with elected civilian governments interrupted only twice--from 1927 to 1931 and then in 1973 when Pinochet overthrew the socialist government. The Communist Party and the Socialist Party put aside their differences in the face of the extreme repression and terror from the Pinochet military rulers when the economy shuddered to a halt in 1982. They mobilized their constituencies among workers, students and professionals while working with grassroots organizations created by the Catholic Church during the worst of the security crackdowns following the coup, creating a very broad base for elections which the government called and that, to its dismay, lost. The coalitions that were built during the underground and then open organizing were the basis of a policy of truth and justice for crimes committed during the Pinochet administration for the elected governments that came after the end of the dictatorship.
These three sets of concepts and strategies of non-violent resistance are not, of course, exhaustive or mutually exclusive but are methods and reasons for opposition to repression that were identified by the authors of the essays in "Civil Resistance and Power Politics". It is a book well worth owning for its breadth of coverage, hitting not only the most famous rebellions but others that we can learn from such as the Carnation Revolution in Portugal of 1975 that ended several decades of fascist rule or the unusual intersection of ethnic nationalism and peaceful protest in the Baltic nations during the breakup of the Soviet Union.
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