RESOURCES FOR NONVIOLENT CIVIL RESISTANCE

 David Hartsough, co-founder of the Nonviolent PeaceForce, and author of  Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist  (PM Press, 2014).

David Hartsough, co-founder of the Nonviolent PeaceForce, and author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist (PM Press, 2014).

We are explicit in conceptualizing civil resistance as a form of unconventional warfare, albeit one that employs different weapons and applies force differently.
— Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, in "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict."
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These are our favorite resources for people who want to learn (and practice) the principles of nonviolent civil resistance (NVCR). For people who feel compelled to work for social-and-environmental justice, practicing nonviolent discipline (as these resources will amply show) offers a way to reach one's goals without victimizing a society in the way that violent campaigns alienate and wound people. 

We are healthier, happier and more productive when we work peacefully for social justice.

Best overviews of NVCR:

  • Erica Chenoweth's 2011 TEDX Talk, The Success of Nonviolent Civil Resistance. The talk is a few years old, but just as relevant and powerful as the day she gave it. Chenoweth is a social scientist who, along with co-author Maria J. Stephan, wrote the most comprehensive study of nonviolent civil-resistance movements ever completed: Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.

    In this inspiring (and often funny) talk, Chenoweth describes how she began her research on 323 major violent and nonviolent resistance movements believing that "power flows from the barrel of a gun," and that nonviolence essentially had no hope of overthrowing a repressive regime governed by a competent and brutal dictator. What she found ("the results blew me away," she says) was that from 1900-2006 "nonviolent campaigns worldwide were twice as likely to succeed as violent insurgencies." 
     
  • Jamila Raquib's TedTalk, "The Secret to Effective Nonviolent Resistance." 
    Raquib is the executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution, founded by Gene Sharp, who CNN once called "a dictator's worst nightmare." 

    This is a very thorough overview of what nonviolent resistance is, and isn't. One thing it isn't is solely a group of people marching with signs to express dissatisfaction about an issue. "The idea that nonviolent struggle is equivalent to street protests," says Raquib, "is a real problem. Because although protests can be a great way to show that people want change, on their own they don't actually create change."
  Jamila Raquib,  Albert Einstein Institution, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

Jamila Raquib, Albert Einstein Institution, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

 
 
 
  • Brazilian filmmaker Julia Bacha's TedTalk, "Pay Attention to Nonviolence." Bacha's work as a documentarian focuses heavily on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, exploring the lives of people who are working to find peaceful resolutions to violent confrontation. 

    Bacha's talk has a surprising answer to the question of "Why aren't Palestinians using nonviolence?" The answer itself is a key part in overcoming lack of public knowledge about the tools and tactics of nonviolent resistance. 

    Bacha is the creative director of Just Vision, whose "overarching goal is to contribute to fostering peace and an end to the occupation by rendering Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders more visible, valued and influential in their efforts."
     

 
 Julia Bacha, filmmaker, creative director, Just Vision.

Julia Bacha, filmmaker, creative director, Just Vision.

 
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What are the applications of nonviolent action?

Nonviolent action can and has been used to:

• Dismantle dictatorships
• Block coups d’état
• Defend against foreign invasions
• Expel foreign occupation
• Provide an alternative to violence in extreme ethnic conflicts
• Challenge unjust social and economic systems
• Develop, preserve and extend democratic practices, human rights, civil liberties and freedom of religion
• Resist genocide
— Gene Sharp and Jamila Raquib, the Albert Einstein Institution
  How to Start a Revolution,  a documentary film about the work of political scientist Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution (also featuring Jamila Raquib and Robert L. Helvey). 

How to Start a Revolution, a documentary film about the work of political scientist Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution (also featuring Jamila Raquib and Robert L. Helvey). 


Academic/Institutional Resources

By far, the two most extensive and impactful resources anywhere are the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) in Washington, D.C., and the Albert Einstein Institution in Boston, Mass. 

The ICNC offers courses, publications, analyses, and an excellent news compilation for those who want to study the philosophy, tactic, strategy and outcomes of both violent and nonviolent civil resistance movements. The ICNC's resources are tools for activists, movement leaders, strategic planners, political scientists, social scientists and reformers who want serious, detailed analyses of resistance struggles (and who want to understand how they might adapt those materials to local movements). 

Some of our favorite ICNC resources are: 
  - The Nonviolent Conflict News, a compendium of current NVCR movements around the world, as reported (for the most part), in mainstream media. The website is searchable by "Ideas & Trends," or by geographic region. Some of the latest stories available are: Forced evictions in China's capital spark dissent, activists claim depopulation drive; U.S.: Protest in Mississippi as Trump visits Civil Rights Museum; Honduras: Thousands protest to demand new president, claim election fraud.
  - The ICNC Press & Publications page, which offers free downloads of all the agency's books and reports, and links to low-cost print copies of those resources. 
  - Minds of the Movement, a blog featuring analysis and commentary by activists, social scientists, political scientists and others. A few recent posts: Resisting War: Insights from a New Frontier in Civil Resistance Studies; Marketing Violence: A Closer Look at the “Diversity of Tactics” Slogan; Turning the Dissent of a Few into the Resistance of Many. 
  - ICNC Online Courses cover subjects such as NVCR basics, strategy, analyses and many other areas of emphasis. 

Albert Einstein Institution

The Albert Einstein Institution "works to advance the worldwide study and strategic use of nonviolent action." To that end, the agency offers an online library, links to videos, interviews and talks covering a variety of topics related to NVCR. 

For a grounding in the basic principles of NVCR, read the essay "What is nonviolent action?" 

To unburden yourself about some faulty perceptions about nonviolence and civil resistance, read Correcting Common Misconceptions. 

For a list of free, downloadable books and publications (available in as many as 40 languages), visit the resources library here. Among those free resources are Gene Sharp's book From Dictatorship to Democracy, his book How Nonviolent Struggle Works, and Robert L. Helvey's book On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: Thinking About the Fundamentals.

Gene Sharp's 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. We suspect you already knew about speeches, declarations, indictments and mass petitions, but have you considered ... delivering symbolic objects (#21), walk-outs (#51), excommunication (#58), lockouts (#83), blacklisting of traders (#93), non-obedience in the absence of direct supervision (#134) ...

Ruaridh Arrow, director of the documentary film How to Start a Revolution, based on Gene Sharp's civil-resistance work, has this to say about From Dictatorship to Democracy: "[The book] has been used against dictatorships from Serbia to Ukraine to Iran, climaxing in its use in the Egyptian revolution and the ongoing Syrian uprising. We see how the book's 198 strategic 'weapons' of non-violent direct action have brought dramatic results, and why it has become the standard manual for anyone wanting to start a revolution."