Major peace campaigns were more successful compared to violent resistance campaigns.
[Fotini Mastroianni | Oped Column Syndication]
“What is the current price of an honest man and patriot today? They are ambiguous and saddened, and they sometimes make appeals, but they do nothing decisive and effective. They are expecting, well-intentioned, that someone else will correct the evil so that there is no longer any sorrow for them. At best, they sacrifice only a cheap vote, and a tiny support and hope for good success, for the right as they see it,“ said Henry David Thoreau, an American essayist, poet, philosopher and historian.
Thoreau in his essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” supported being disobedient to an unfair state. His ideas were influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and also by the minister Martin Luther King Jr., who championed disobedience and resistance in a non-violent way. Strikes, symbolic protests, the boycott of products, refusal to pay (taxes, tolls, etc.) are peaceful methods of resistance and civil disobedience. Usually, the peaceful struggle is outside the existing political system and requires mass mobilization.
According to research, major peace campaigns were more successful compared to violent resistance campaigns.
Gandhi succeeded in mass mobilizing his people because he created the vision of independence of the Indians from the British colonialists. This vision, which has also been transposed through Gandhi’s continuous teachings, has succeeded in achieving social solidarity with the Indian people and reducing the gap among social classes in India.
Massive mobilization was also achieved by the minister Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963, with the March on Washington, where 250,000 protesters participated.
In this March, he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Martin Luther King was arrested and wrote from prison the famous “Letter from Birmingham” in which he called for civil disobedience against unjust laws. The Kennedy government understood the explosive situation that had been created, and the human rights law was passed in 1964.
It is important to note that, according to analysts, the problem was not created by the ones that were opposed to the rights of the black people. The problem was created by the moderate supporters calling for restraint — something that triggered the rise of the violent resistance of the blacks i.e. the Black Panthers (for further reading on the Black Panthers click here and here).
This point is very much in line with what Thoreau wrote: “Those who, while condemning the character and measures of a government, give it their submission and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and thus they are often the most serious obstacles to the reform.”
Resistance campaigns are successful only if they are large-scale, gain support from security forces and civil servants and, if possible, have ‘foreign support’ but from prestigious groups that will not harm the credibility of the campaign.
Support by mass media is also important, as it was the case with the Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s March on Washington, which was widely covered by the media. In the event that the media do not help with the provision of independent news and right technology, the ‘weight’ falls into the independent voices i.e. on the internet (including blogs, portals, alternative YouTube channels, social media, etc.).
Peace activists also emphasize the importance of distributing educational material (books, DVDs, brochures, etc.) that will inform the audience about the results of previous peaceful campaigns. Activists emphasize that this is particularly important for the mobilization, namely teaching and information (Gandhi’s example with continuous teachings confirms this fact).
We live in an era of economics where democracy is now going away for the benefit of the global financial sector. Autocratic regimes will try to stifle peaceful reactions through internet monitoring, as well as other means such as oppression through prohibitive laws and even intimidating citizens.
Will the modern citizen allow it or is s/he so alienated that s/he does not resist anymore? Why is there no longer a leadership that has a vision and can mobilize people? Is it maybe because leadership is equally alienated? Is it vain to hope for leadership when the social movements all around the world are massive and not led by someone?
The questions arising from the lack of peaceful mobilization and civil disobedience are many and it would be interesting to further search them to find an answer.
Fotini Mastroianni is an economist, MBA lecturer, writer, blogger from Athens, Greece. She had taught, among others, at the University of Wales & University of Glyndwr.