Non-violent resistance and Gene Sharp

An anonymous commenter has drawn my attention to Gene Sharp and his writings on non-violent resistance. Many pacifist websites cite him favourably because of his commitment to non-violent struggle. There is even a scholarly article on an American military website dissecting his work.

His work may be quite relevant to the position of Catholics in Britain today. This blog has highlighted the clear and present danger from our Government to Catholics expressing their faith in the fields of morality, education, and charitable work. (David Cameron has given us no grounds to hope that things will be any different under a future Conservative Government.) Many bloggers and others have said that we are now at the beginning of a new era of subtle persecution and I agree with them. Nevertheless, we need to look at our response in an organised way.

The Wikipedia article on Gene Sharp gives a good introduction to his work and surprised me by listing the various campaigns in the former Soviet empire that were directly influenced by his thinking.

Serbia's Otpor who opposed Slobodan Milosevic were directly trained by the Albert Einstein Institute, Georgia's Kmara, Ukraine's Pora, Kyrgyzstan's KelKel and Belarus' Zubr also used his tactics. The Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian governments used his book Civilian Based Defense during their separation from the Soviet Union in 1991. There is also a suggestion that the Orange Alternative movement fighting communism in the People's Republic of Poland may have been influenced by his work.

An article in the Boston Globe a couple of years ago: War by Other Means gives some further information. To find out more, visit the Albert Einstein Institute which has some background and articles on the whole issue.

The situation in Britain is different from that in the former Soviet empire. One principle of Sharp is that
any power structure is based on the subjects' obedience to the orders of the ruler(s). Therefore, if subjects do not obey, leaders have no power.
To give one example, it seems to me that one of the holders of power over the hearts and minds of people in Britain is the BBC. By refusing to watch television and therefore also refusing to pay the licence fee, we are refusing obedience to this power structure and therefore reducing their power.

I find all this most interesting. I am sure that there are many other possibilities open to us. It is one thing to moan and wail about the beginning of persecution. Much more exciting is the idea that we could do something about it. Let's have a look at the 198 methods of non-violent action (pdf) and see which can be used or adapted in our own situation. Not all of them are appropriate - but some of them are. And I am sure we could develop new ones suited to our situation in Britain today.

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