Sunday, May 31, 2015

Peace is More Powerful

Imagine a successful protest in Berlin 1943 against the Holocaust.  Between February 27 and March 6, about 200 German women stood outside a detainment center, demanding the release of their Jewish husbands.  Between March 1 and March 12, although 25 were sent to Auschwitz, about 2,000 prisoners were let go. Soon, they were picked up again, but sent to work in labor camps in Berlin and other cities where they lived out the war. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here.

Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict
Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan (Columbia University Press, 2011, ppb 2012) grew out of a challenge. As a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, she believed “back then [2006] power flows from the barrel of a gun.” What changed her mind was a challenge from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict to prove her point.
Non-violent campaigns succeed more often.
They win compromise more often.
They fail completely less often.
(Chenoweth ICNC Webinar)

Chenoweth worked with Maria J. Stephan to gather data from every anti-government action since 1900 for reform or independence, whether violent or non-violent.  They published a paper, with only three exemplary cases, but dense with the mathematics of sociology parodied so well by Tom Lehrer (YouTube here). Nonetheless, they proved their point.  From that paper came several lectures and a book of narratives.
This new work by Chenoweth and Stephan validates earlier examinations, such as "A Force More Powerful" about peaceful resistance to modern dictatorships. 

DENMARK - LIVING WITH THE ENEMY:  By the summer of 1943, in the midst of World War II, Denmark had been occupied by German forces for more than three years. Resistance to the invaders was sporadic, mainly limited to displays of Danish cultural identity or scattered acts of sabotage. But then, provoked by German brutality, the Danes acted more boldly to resist the Nazi war machine. Mass nonviolent direct action began first with labor strikes. Then, when SS troops arrived to round up Danish Jews for deportation to the death camps, the Danes rescued their fellow citizens, ferrying most to safety in Sweden. The effort galvanized many Danes, and soon general strikes challenged German control. The Danish underground emphasized nonviolent operations. Although Denmark was not liberated until the end of the war, nonviolent resistance stymied German plans for extracting value from the occupation.  ("A Force More Powerful" from PBS here).
"Researchers used to say that no government could survive if just 5 percent of the population rose up against it," Chenoweth says. "Our data shows the number may be lower than that. No single campaign in that period failed after they'd achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population." She adds, "But get this: every single campaign that exceeded that 3.5 percent point was a nonviolent one. The nonviolent campaigns were on average four times larger than the average violent campaigns." – from Chenoweth’s TEDx Talk reported by Max Fisher, Washington Post, November 5, 2013 here. 
Non-violent campaigns (right) are more likely
to draw defections from the government
security forces.
Chenoweth ICNC Webinar.
The empirical results from Chenoweth and Stephan only validate many other narratives of successful peaceful resistance.  The American Civil Rights campaign took its lead from the independence movement in India led by Mohandas Gandhi.  That and many other stories – Chile, the Ukraine, Serbia – are told in A Force More Powerful, the premier product in a series of videos about social change through peace, produced by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

Confronting the Truth is another ICNC video explaining “truth and reconciliation campaigns.”  Perhaps the best known grew out of the genocide in Rwanda.  Rather than seeking punitive retribution, the commission's motive was to let the perpetrators admit their guilt and express their sorrow to the survivors.  Other commissions have worked in Peru, South Africa, East Timor, and Morocco. 


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