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Nonviolence Training

Preparation for High-Risk Actions In Groups: Some Challenges (extended version)

An important challenge for any movement which wants to do effective nonviolent actions is how to actually prepare these actions. Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King emphasized “self-purification”, i.e. individual preparation through meditation, fasting or prayer. They believed in “nonviolence of the strong”. Since the 1970s, with the criticism of such spiritual and individualistic nonviolence together with the creative development of new organisational forms, especially within the US feminist movement, NVDA preparation has become more group-oriented. Even in big movements most work is done in (smaller) groups.

Group Process

A challenge for any movement which wants to do effective nonviolent actions is how to prepare these actions. Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King emphasized mass-meetings and “self-purification”, i.e. individual preparation through meditation, fasting or prayer. They believed in “nonviolence of the strong”. Since the 1970s – with the criticism of such spiritual and individualistic nonviolence together with the creative development of new organisational forms, especially within the US feminist movement – NVDA preparation has become more group-oriented. Even in big movements most work is done in (smaller) groups.

Groups for Action

This chapter covers several aspects on working in groups. It introduces the concept of affinity groups, looks at our group process, describes the theory and process of consensus decision making, and finally looks at different roles in an action.

Humour and nonviolent actions

We usually use nonviolent action about serious problems. Thinking about an action in humorous terms may therefore seem to be a strange way to deal with the issue, and not your first choice. However, humour and seriousness may be much more closely related than at first they appear. Almost all good humour thrives on contradictions and absurdity, and nonviolent action often tries to point out the contradiction between the world as it is, and the world as we want it to be. Humour is powerful because it is turning the world as we know it upside down and escapes the logic and reasoning that is an inevitable part of the rest of our lives.

The challenge of protesting

People protest for many reasons but often it is because we are confronted with a situation to which we must respond and take a stand. The reality we face - be that our own or that of others - pushes us to act/react/challenge/change what we are experiencing and seeing. We forget to take into serious consideration the possible consequences of any such choice. Positive consequences are often empowering. Negative consequences can be disempowering. We need to think about them in advance to be prepared for the next steps but also so we are not surprised by them and suffer even more stress.

List of forms of actions

Gene Sharp researched and catalogued 198 methods of nonviolent action published in The Politics of Nonviolent Action, 1973. These methods are broken into three broad classifications: Protest and Persuasion, Noncooperation, and Nonviolent Intervention. These are further grouped into sections. The full list is available on this wiki page or at http://www.aeinstein.org.

The Movement Action Plan

A tool for analysing the progress of your movement

Activists often feel disempowered, although their movement is doing well and on the road to success. Understanding the way a movement works and recognising its success therefore can empower movement activists and groups. The Movement Action Plan (MAP), developed in the 1980s by Bill Moyer, is a good tool for this, as it describes the eight stages of successful movements and the four roles activists have to play.

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.”

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