Nonviolence Now

By David Swanson

Change is in the air. How about a change away from violence?

The state of Georgia is preparing to execute a man widely known to almost certainly be innocent. Here is an Amnesty International report on the case of Troy Davis. And here are things you can do to try to prevent this murder, this state killing, this official lynching in the twenty-first century.

And if you don’t live in Georgia, don’t get too self-satisfied. All of us are currently engaged in killing innocent men, women, and children every day in Iraq. Our representatives kill them with bombs and guns, and with the destruction of their economy, denial of electricity and clean water. We have killed over a million people and driven over four million from their homes. Most of those four million would like to return but are afraid to do so. The first step in ending this massive violence and in shifting our resources to saving lives at home and around the world is withdrawing American troops and mercenaries from Iraq. We know this, and we are about to vote for it in the third consecutive U.S. election. We must insist on it.

The less belligerent of our two war-making political parties appears poised to win the White House and additional seats in Congress. And I have already argued that the election fraud the Republicans are known to be engaging in renders any claim to victory for McCain-Palin illegitimate, even should the polls swing dramatically their way in the next week and a half. I proposed in the same article that we stage a nonviolent protest in Washington, D.C., in the event of a fraudulent outcome. Other possible locations for nonviolent action around the country are expected to be organized and posted online. And already police around the country are predicting violent riots in the event of a McCain “victory.”

The only way we will successfully resist stolen elections, wars, Wall Street rip-offs, or the execution of innocents, the only way we will achieve nonviolence, is through nonviolence. If this election is stolen, that fact will be more obvious to more people than last time. Many will want to object, and some will be tempted to do so violently. People will need to be organized and focused by activists who understand the power and the techniques of nonviolence. That same discipline and courage may be needed just to resist police and Republican intimidation when attempting to vote.

The idea that our only options are acquiescence or violence ignores the Indian victory over British rule, the Polish victory over Soviet rule, the resistance to Nazism of the Danes, Dutch, and Norwegians, the popular overthrow of dictatorships in El Salvador and Guatemala, the restoration of rights in Argentina and Chile, the return of democracy to the Philippines, the reversal of a French coup in Algeria, the Czech and Slovak end to occupation, the workers’ victories in Namibia or on U.S. farms, the end of Apartheid and Jim Crow, the people’s struggles in Latvia, Russia, Thailand, and Serbia, the eight-hour day, the weekend, women’s suffrage, and on and on.

I don’t care what new weapons the U.S. military and “homeland security” possess. They are no more powerful to stop a people’s uprising than were fire hoses to stop the civil rights movement. But we must be so consistently nonviolent that provocateurs stand out and are disciplined by us. If we are nonviolent and fearless, and if we are strategic — applying our force where needed, and if we persevere in the face of repression, we cannot lose.

The title of this book has it right: “A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict,” by Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall (also available as a video), and this book is invaluable: “Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential” by Gene Sharp. And you can never read this one too often: “A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Let’s hope none of the lessons found in these books are needed on November 5th. Let’s realize that they will all be needed during the coming months regardless of election outcomes.

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