There are a number of different ways to achieve peace and justice. We need to work to build a just world through sustainable development which involves ordinary people at the grassroots, we need to find creative ways of resolving conflict, and we need to build alternative structures and communities along sane and sustainable lines.
Some situations require us to engage in active nonviolence. For instance, where there is a disparity in power between two sides in a conflict so that the powerless side has to take action so that negotiations can start. The need may be as basic as to demand recognition from the powerful that they are fellow human beings, or to get them to see that there is a problem. Or the situation may be one of such structural injustice that it cannot be improved or reformed, but has to be transformed.
The aim of nonviolence is both dialogue and resistance - dialogue with the people to persuade them, and resistance to the structures to compel change. Faslane 365 also has these aims, and will through nonviolent civil resistance apply a critical public pressure for the disarmament of Britain's nuclear weapons.
The methods of active nonviolence
Dramatising actions, usually symbolic, can be used to reveal the truth of an issue and to draw attention to it. For example, homelessness campaigners in Washington claimed the body of a pauper who froze to death and carried it in a coffin to city hall, thus literally laying it at the door of those responsible. Faslane 365 will go a step further as we are actually shutting down the flow of traffic to the base and thus preventing workers from going in.
The 'creative disorder' of demonstrations, blockades, marches or peaceful invasions attract attention to an issue and can lead to change. Non-cooperation - strikes, boycotts, stay-aways, refusal to follow orders - and intervention - blockades, sit-ins, direct action - create a crisis and can compel necessary change when opponents can't be persuaded. (NB: One should never use a method which one would not want used against oneself!)
Characteristics of a nonviolent campaign:
- absolute respect for the opponent/everyone involved
- care for everyone involved
- refusal to harm, damage or degrade people
- if suffering is inevitable, willingness to take it on yourself rather than inflict it on others
- belief that everyone is capable of change
- appeal to the opponents' humanity
- recognition that no one has a monopoly of truth, so aims to bring together our 'truth' and the opponents' 'truth' understanding that the means are the ends in the making, so the means have to be consistent with the ends
- preparation and training, so that our behaviour is nonviolent.
Faslane 365 nonviolence guidelines
We are committed to always acting in a way that causes no harm to ourselves or others. We ask that everyone taking part in Faslane 365 respect and follow these guidelines:
- Our attitude will be one of sincerity and respect towards the people we encounter
- We will not engage in physical violence or verbal abuse toward any individual
- We will carry no weapons
- We will not bring or use alcohol or drugs other than for medical purposes
- We will clear the blockade to allow emergency vehicles in or out of the base and then resume the blockade afterwards.
Unarmed truth is the strongest power in the universe.
Martin Luther King
In all our direct action, trainings and workshops we emphasise that all our actions are totally non-violent. This paper explains briefly why this is so important.
- The state or the powerholders can always muster more force against protesters than we can. In the last resort, if violence is the tactic, they can always resort to greater violence and can always command more forces and resources.
- Violence used by protesters gives a negative image, and very often alienates the people we are trying to rally to our side. It plays into the hands of a negative press.
- Violence, while seeming to be effective in the short term, never produces long-term solutions. There is always a residue of hurt and pain that will erupt later.
- Bringing about peace by violent means is a real contradiction in terms. Peace can only come about by peaceful processes.
- Respect for others is at the heart of nonviolence. By our actions we are seeking to win our opponents over to our way of thinking, and this involves a change of heart, which cannot be achieved by force.
Most important of all: Nonviolence works.
Some examples where nonviolence has worked.
In all these examples nonviolence has been part of a long and often costly struggle. Sometimes it has only achieved partial success, and often there are still issues to be resolved or carried further. However the important thing is that nonviolent action has won results that have changed the course of history.
- By the eighteenth and nineteenth century, slavery was seemingly entrenched as a fundamental part of the economic structure, and yet within fifty years it was abolished and, although it still exists, the concept has become unacceptable. This was achieved by the tireless work of many politicians, philanthropists, and also active tactics, such as boycott and symbolic action.
- Women's suffrage.
- The campaign to win universal voting rights for women in Britain at the beginning of last century, employed many tactics of direct action well beyond parliamentary lobbying. Women chained themselves to railings, disrupted the proceedings of parliament, destroyed letter boxes, went on hunger strike, and even died on the racecourse in protest. This, combined with the higher profile of women in paid employment, led to a time when the vote could no longer be denied.
- Trade Union Movement.
- The right to form trades unions to protect the rights of workers was only won through many years of costly campaigning in the face of powerful opposition from the vested interest of factory owners. Most memorable of the campaigns was the action of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who continued to unite, even although they were transported to the then colonies in Australia for many years.
- The Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.
- Perhaps the most famous of all nonviolent campaigns was the struggle to win voting rights for black Americans. Starting with Rosa Parks' refusal to sit at the back of a segregated bus, and moving to Martin Luther King's leadership of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, the Civil Rights movement inspired a whole generation with the example of nonviolence in action.
- Denmark against Hitler.
- People often say that nonviolence couldn't work against a dictator like Hitler. The people of Denmark were occupied by the Nazis, but had a very effective campaign of nonviolent resistance throughout the war. When Jews were ordered to wear a yellow star, the King wore one, and the order was dropped. Throughout the war no Jews were deported from Denmark. Norway also resisted effectively, and there was nonviolent resistance within Germany itself.
- Gandhi's struggle to free India from the British Empire has become a model of nonviolence that has inspired many other actions around the world. Not only did Gandhi's tactics of boycott, building up of local self-respect and trade, open defiance of laws and taxes, such as the salt tax, and ultimately hunger-strike, eventually win India's freedom, it also provided many of the philosophical ideals underlying nonviolence as a way of life.
- A less well-known contemporary and colleague of Gandhi was Badshah Khan, who transformed proud Pathan warriors into a nonviolent army 10,000 strong, who resisted the harshest of British imperialism to enable Pakistan also to be free from British domination.
- The Philippines.
- In the 1980's the people of the Philippines rose up against the repressive dictatorship of President Marcos. Images were screened around the world of huge crowds out in the streets, of nuns and priests in the forefront of the resistance, climbing aboard tanks, giving the soldiers flowers and garlands, and eventually winning the police and the army onto their side, to overthrow the dictator.
- In what has come to be known as the 'velvet revolution' the people of Czechoslovakia managed to break free from the might of Soviet domination in 1989. A previous uprising in 1953 had used violence and been crushed by the superior force of the Soviet military, but as a result of many many years of underground cultural and political resistance, people power took to the streets in Czechoslovakia, and became the starting point for many other former Soviet satellites to gain freedom, culminating in the breaking down of the Berlin Wall.
- More recently, we have seen the people of the Ukraine also taking to the streets in huge numbers to create the 'Orange Revolution' resisting Russian domination of their elections. These pictures of crowds of people standing out in the snow in Kiev day after day and refusing to disperse, was not the spontaneous action it appeared to be, but was the result of a year of intense organising.
- Greenham Common.
- In 1982 a women's peace camp was established at the U.S. air base at Greenham Common in opposition to the deployment of cruise missiles. Although missiles were deployed, records have shown that the U.S. were seriously restricted by the amount of public opposition, and ultimately the weapons were removed and the base returned to common land. This had a wide impact, not only on anti-nuclear campaigning, but also on the struggle for women's rights.
- Anti-Trident Campaigns.
- There have been countless nonviolent action campaigns ever since the Aldermaston marches of the 60's. Yet Trident is still here in spite of us all, so we could be said to have failed. However, our actions have influenced public opinion to a huge extent, we have the partial successes of the Test Ban Treaty and have actually created a general awareness and public opposition to nuclear weapons, that only needs the final push to get rid of them altogether. This is where we come in with Faslane 365. We will provide the essential direct action push that is needed to support the many other organisations that are lobbying and educating for change.
So let's get out there and give Trident the final push.