Nonviolence Resources

Constructive Program

According to Gandhi, nonviolent social change requires building the new society in the shell of the old, which he termed constructive programme. “Nonviolence for Gandhi was more than just a technique of struggle or a strategy for resisting military aggression,” Robert Burrowes explains in his 1995 study, The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach. Rather, “it was intimately related to the wider struggle for social justice, economic self-reliance, and ecological harmony as well as the quest for self-realization.”

What is gender

Gender is a social construction of ideas that defines the roles, belief systems and attitudes, images, values and expectations of men and women. It contributes heavily to power relationships , not only between men and women, but also within each group, and this results in many social problems. Different cultures have different ideas about gender, about what is suitable for men and women to do and to be. Gender not only changes from culture to culture. It also may change over time, or it may change within a culture during a crisis situation.

Introduction to the gender section

It may seem simple and obvious that we want both men and women to be involved in our struggles against war and injustice. However, if we want to fully utilize people's talents, energy and insights, we need to apply gender awareness to how we organize ourselves, how we design our campaigns, and how we conduct our trainings for action.

US civil rights movement:Thumbnail

In 1942, radical pacifists formed the Nonviolent Action Committee of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which trained teams to provide leadership in antiracist and antimilitarist work. Out of that grew the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which in 1945 became the first organization to develop nonviolence trainings in preparation for involvement in the civil rights movement.

History of nonviolent movements

Look at the history of your country and you will find episodes of nonviolent action - demonstrations, strikes, boycotts or other forms of popular non-cooperation. They might not be referred to as "nonviolent action", and might not even be mentioned in school books, but they are there, a potential source of inspiration and evidence that nonviolent action in your context is not the invention of foreign agitators. The causes will vary - for the rights of workers and peasants, freedom for slaves, the right to vote for women or people without property, for racial equality, for gender equality, for freedom from occupation, against corruption, against price rises, against military corruption - in short encompassing a range of forms of injustice and domination. However, it was not until the twentieth century - and in particular the campaigns of Gandhi in South Africa and India - that movements discussed nonviolent action as a conscious strategy for social transformation.

Introduction - you and your group

This handbook is written for groups. Perhaps a group that has come together for a specific cause or with a specific theme, perhaps a group based on friendship or affinity in what you feel about the world, perhaps even a group formed for one occasion. Even an individual stand usually depends on having some group support. The campaigns section of the handbook tends to be groups who plan to stay together in the long term, while the section on preparing for action might also be just for those who happen to join up for a specific event.

Introduction to nonviolence training

Nonviolence training can help participants form a common understanding of the use of nonviolence in campaigns and actions. It is a participatory educational experience, where we can learn new skills and unlearn destructive and oppressive behaviours taught in society. Nonviolence training can strengthen a group, developing a community bond while people learn to work better together. Nonviolence training can help us understand and develop the power of nonviolence. It gives an opportunity to share concerns, fears and feelings, and discuss the role of oppression in our society and our groups. Individually, training helps build self-confidence and clarify our personal interactions as well as those of the group. The goal of nonviolence training is the empowerment of the participant and to be able to engage more effectively in collective action. The process includes the use of various exercises and training methods, some of which are included in this handbook.

Introduction to nonviolent action

This handbook has been produced by War Resisters' International (WRI) drawing on the experience of groups in many countries and different generations of activists. At the heart of every nonviolent campaign is the resourcefulness and commitment of the activists, the quality that they or their message has to reach people - to raise questions about how things are, to stir people out of their resignation about what is happening or might happen, to find allies, and to demand a say in decisions that affect their / our lives. That is why one of the notions central to nonviolent action is "empowerment" - a sense of how you can make things happen, especially if you join with others. At various points in this handbook we describe some of the advantages of nonviolent action and give examples of how it works. If there are some terms in the handbook unfamiliar to you, there is also a glossary explaining them.

Consensus decision making

Organising for nonviolent action is (often) based on affinity groups, autonomous groups of 5-15 persons where people trust each other and can rely on each other (see the article on affinity groups.

Consensus decision making differs greatly from majority decision making. While majority decision making often leads to a power struggle between two different solutions, consensus decision making aims to take everyone's concerns on board, often modifying a proposed solution several times in the process.

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