A force more powerful  - study guide

A force more powerful - study guide

(Parte 1 de 4)

Production Credits Written, Produced and Directed by: Steve York Narrated by: Ben Kingsley Series Editor and Principal Content Advisor:

Peter Ackerman Managing Producer: Miriam A. Zimmerman

Editors: Joseph Wiedenmayer and David Ewing Executive Producer: Jack DuVall Senior Production Executives for WETA:

Richard Thomas, Polly Wells and Laurie Rackas Executive-in-Charge of Production: Dalton Delan

Outreach/Study Guide Writer: Jonathan Mogul Editor: Barbara de Boinville

Project Staff, WETA Senior Vice President, Strategic Projects:

Francine Zorn Trachtenberg

Project Manager, Educational Services

& Outreach: Karen Zill

Art Director: Cynthia Aldridge Administrative Coordinator: Susi Crespo Intern: Justine Nelson

Web Development, WETA Director, Interactive Media: Walter Rissmeyer Manager, Interactive Media: John R. Shortess Graphic Designer: Thanh Bui Project Assistant: Adam Csillag

Educational Outreach Partners American Political Science Association National Council for the Social Studies World Affairs Councils of America

Educational Outreach Advisors Dr. Kevin Clements, International Alert, London, England Martharose Laffey, former Executive Director, National

Council for the Social Studies, Washington, D.C.

Writers in Prison Committee, International PEN

Sheilah Mann, Director of Educational Affairs,

American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C.

Doug McAdam, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

Sidney Tarrow, Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Government, Cornell University

Educational materials for AForce More Powerful: ACentury of Nonviolent Conflictwere developed in association with Toby Levine Communications, Inc., Potomac, Maryland.

To order the companion book, AForce More Powerful: ACentury of Nonviolent Conflict, by Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall, call St. Martin’s Press at 1-800-221-7945, ext. 270. You will receive a 20% discount when you order with a major credit card.

Video Distribution To order videocassettes of the two 90-minute programs for home use, or the six 30-minute modules for educational/institutional use, please contact:

Films for the Humanities & Sciences P.O. Box 2053 Princeton, NJ 08543-2053

Toll free: 1-800-257-5126 Fax: 609-275-3767 web site: http://www.films.com

Major funding for this project was provided by Susan and Perry Lerner.

Additional funding was provided by The Albert Einstein Institution; Elizabeth and John H. van Merkensteijn, I; Abby and Alan Levy; and The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

© Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association, 2000.

a nail into your communist coffinYou’l come back to us on your knees.”1

One Friday night in December 1981, Lech Walesa and other leaders of Solidarity were arrested after a meeting in Gdansk. For sixteen months their free trade-union movement had shaken the foundation of the Communist Party’s hold on Poland through factory occupations and strikes. Now martial law had been imposed, and Solidarity was looking down the gun barrel of defeat. When he was taken away, Walesa challenged his captors. “At this moment, you lost,” he warned them. “We are arrested, but you have driven

If only violence is power and if repression has no answer, Walesa’s words were foolish. But he knew that

Solidarity, by depriving the regime of the Polish people’s support, had already defined the course of the conflict. When the state had run out of ways to coerce their compliance, it would have to come to terms. Seven years later Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the leader who had jailed Walesa, invited him and other Solidarity leaders to roundtable talks that led to a new government. In 1990 Walesa, a shipyard electrician only 10 years before, became president of Poland. He had never fired a shot, nor had anyone in Solidarity. But together they threw back the shroud of authoritarian power and gave freedom to every Pole.

AFORCE MORE POWERFULis about popular movements battling entrenched regimes or military forces with weapons very different from guns and bullets. Strikes, boycotts or other disruptive actions were used as sanctions, as aggressive measures to constrain or punish opponents and to win concessions. Petitions, parades, walkouts and demonstrations roused public support for the resisters. Forms of noncooperation (such as boycotts, resignations and civil disobedience) helped subvert the operations of government. And direct intervention in the form of sit-ins, nonviolent sabotage and blockades frustrated many rulers’ efforts to subjugate people.2

The historical results were massive: tyrants were toppled, governments were overthrown, occupying armies were impeded and political systems that withheld human rights were shattered. Entire societies were transformed, suddenly or gradually, by nonviolent resistance that destroyed opponents’ ability to control events. How this happened, and the ideas underlying nonviolent action, are the focus of this documentary television series and its companion book.

In 1936 Mohandas Gandhi was visited by a well-known

formIt is the greatest and the most activist force in the
worldIt is a force which is more positive than electricity,

African-American minister and his wife. They asked him whether nonviolent resistance was “a form of direct action.” Gandhi replied vigorously, “It is not one form, it is the only and more powerful than even ether.” For Gandhi, nonviolent resistance was more than belief. He conceived of it, as if it were a kind of science, with laws to be applied, yielding power that was predictable.3

Few who relied on nonviolent sanctions in the twentieth century did so because of a principled attachment to nonviolence. For some, arms were unavailable as a way to fight. Others had seen a violent insurrection fail, at devastating cost to life and property. But they had no desire to be passive: they wanted passionately to overturn the rulers or the laws that subjected them. Therefore, they chose to fight with a different form of weapon.


Gandhi with Mrs. Sarojini Naidu on Dandi march, April 1930

© Dinodia Picture Agency


The leaders who opted for nonviolent weapons often learned from resistance movements of the past. Indian nationalist leader Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948) was inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1905. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other African-American leaders traveled to India to study Gandhi’s tactics. When Chileans organized against the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in the 1980s, and Filipinos organized against Ferdinand Marcos, the president of their country from 1965 to 1986, they were influenced by Richard Attenborough’s motion picture Gandhi. The experience of these and the other nonviolent resisters in our stories teach many lessons:

The use of nonviolent sanctions has been far more frequent than usually supposed and has not been limited by the type of regime being opposed or by place or time.

There is no correlation between the degree of violence faced by a nonviolent movement and the likelihood of its success. Some movements that faced the most violent opponents were the most successful.

Amovement’s ability to thrive degenerates when it uses violence, because once a regime is opposed by deadly force, repression intensifies.

Mobilizing and sustaining a popular movement geared to nonviolent action go hand in hand with forming a civil society and sustaining democracy.

News coverage of mass nonviolent action has left the impression that “people power” comes from the size or energy of crowds that agitate in city streets. The true rhythm of nonviolent action is less spontaneous than it is strategic. It has little to do with shouting slogans and putting flowers in gun barrels. It has everything to do with separating governments from their means of control.

The greatest misconception about conflict is that violence is the ultimate form of power, surpassingother methods of advancing a just cause or defeating injustice. But Indians, Danes, Poles, South Africans, Chileans, African Americans and many others have proved the efficacy of nonviolent action, which “is capable of wielding great power even against ruthless rulers and military regimes, because it attacks the most vulnerable characteristic of all hierarchical institutions and governments: dependence on the governed.”4

Sit-in at Walgreen’s lunch counter in Nashville, February 1960 y Ellis

, The T ennessean


In late 1959 the Rev. James Lawson, a young civil rights activist, starts training African-American college students in Nashville, Tennessee, in techniques of nonviolent action. Inspired by a trip to India to study Gandhi and by the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lawson decides to try his own hand at nonviolent struggle against racial segregation. To stifle the movement for equality, defenders of the old order in the South resort to violence and repression.

On February 13, 1960, after months of training, Lawson’s students take seats at whites-only lunch counters in several big department stores in Nashville. When they try to order food, they are ignored by the waitresses and left sitting there all day. They return several more times, and then on February 27 they are beaten and arrested. Outraged by the way innocent students have been treated, the black community in Nashville begins boycotting the stores. The disruption of the city’s life makes many whites uncomfortable, and business suffers badly from the loss of black and white customers downtown. Finally, after the bombing of a black lawyer’s home and a subsequent protest march, the mayor of Nashville tells black students that he believes segregation is wrong. Soon stores desegregate. Within weeks black people are eating at the counters formerly reserved for whites only.

Mohandas Gandhi was the twentieth century’s first major practitioner of nonviolent action who was

also a master strategist in waging conflict. His ideas, though rooted in Indian traditions and Hindu beliefs, have inspired people around the world.

Gandhi’s core ideas took shape not in India, but in South

Africa, where he went to make a living as a young lawyer in the 1890s. Indians, like other non-European people in South Africa, were subject to severe discrimination. White officials limited their voting rights and restricted where they could live and do business. Gandhi quickly became a leader among South Africa’s Indians. He initially opposed these restrictions using conventional political tools (lawsuits, petitions and newspaper editorials), none of which was much help in advancing the rights of his people.

In 1906 Gandhi joined a large group of Indians at a theater in Johannesburg to protest a new law requiring all “Asiatics” to have registration cards. After taking an oath not to cooperate with the new regulations, Indians picketed registration offices and burned their registration cards. Over the next several years, thousands of nonviolent protesters went to jail, including Gandhi himself — three times. By 1914 their protests and refusal to cooperate with the authorities had mounted to such a pitch that the government withdrew the registration act.

Gandhi’s actions reflected a strategy of political action that he put to use when he returned to India to lead a movement against British rule. He carefully considered how he and other Indians, without resorting to violence, could force the British to accept their demands. He called this method of action satyagraha(meaning, roughly, holding firmly to the truth). The key to satyagrahawas to identify an unjust law (such as the registration requirement), refuse to obey it and accept the consequences — a fine, a jail term, a beating or worse. This, Gandhi believed, would touch the conscience and change the minds of the oppressors and make it possible to remedy the injustice.

But the British showed few signs of bending, and Gandhi turned to more aggressive forms of nonviolent action. He knew the British were vulnerable: they depended on those they ruled. Governments cannot govern if ordinary


December 1955 — Bus boycott begins in Montgomery, Alabama.

September 1959 — James Lawson begins nonviolent action training workshops in Nashville.

February 13, 1960— Nashville students hold first sit-in.

February 27, 1960— Students at lunch counters are assaulted, then arrested.

March 1960 — Boycott of department stores in Nashville begins.

April 19, 1960— The home of a black lawyer, Z. Alexander Looby, is bombed; protesters march on city hall; the mayor calls for desegregation of lunch counters.

May 10, 1960— Lunch counters begin to serve African-Americans.

On April 19, 1960 thousands of people marched to Nashville’s courthouse to protest the bombing of the home of Z. Alexander Looby, a black lawyer. At the base of the courthouse steps, a young white man named Guy Carawan took out his guitar and began playing a song, “I’l Overcome Some Day,” which had come out of black churches and later been adopted as a protest song by strikers in South Carolina. By the time Carawan started singing it that day in Nashville, the words had changed somewhat. As Carawan began singing “We Shall Overcome,” a few of the students in Lawson’s group joined in. The words were easy to pick up, and soon the whole crowd was singing. The civil rights revolution had its anthem, which was later sung by protest movements all over the world.

Demonstrators march in Delhi against importation of foreign cloth, 1922

© CORBIS/Hulton-Deutsch Co


4A FORCE MORE POWERFUL people do not pay taxes, obey laws or serve in the police and armed forces; wealthy property owners depend on people from the lower classes to pay them rent or work in their enterprises. When people suspend this kind of cooperation, when they deny their consent to the ruling system, they are using power they intrinsically possess and coercing the government to deal with their demands. “They won’t let us leave them alone,” one British official lamented.

Violent repression was used against each of the nonviolent movements described in these television programs. The British in India, the Nazis in

Denmark, the Communists in Poland, the apartheid government in South Africa, the Pinochetdictatorship in Chile and the segregationists in Nashville all resorted, at one time or another, to beatings or shootings as a means of control or retaliation.

The possibility of violence poses a dilemma for nonviolent movements.

If such movements wilt when faced with a show of force, they can hope to accomplish little against any regime that uses fear to stay in power. If there is a violent showdown, a massive setback can occur, as happened in China with the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. Sometimes, however, the use of repression backfires. This happened at Dharasana in India, in Nashville when police beat students and in Poland when the communists imposed martial law. If a movement is unprepared for repression, it can be a mortal blow. But if a movement is prepared for repression, it can also be an opportunity.

James Lawson, the Methodist minister who built a movement among black college students in Nashville, understood this dilemma. Wherever African-Americans had acted against segregation in the U.S. South, they had drawn violent, sometimes lethal, reprisals from white vigilantes, who often worked hand-in-glove with police. Lawson made certain that his students would be prepared. In 1959 he began holding workshops for student volunteers. In addition to teaching them Gandhian ideas, he gave them practical training in how to protect themselves from violence while staying calm and restraining their impulse to strike back.

(Parte 1 de 4)