Question 14.  What is the rationale for incorporating “nonviolence” as part of IONA's methodology? Do you really want Muslims to turn the other cheek, till they are annihilated by the forces of evil?

“Nonviolence” is not passive surrender to tyranny.  It is, on the contrary, a politically sophisticated method of resistance and opposition; albeit one that does not mandate the use of violence as a coercive tool.  While most of the substantial revolutions in history have been bloody undertakings, IONA believes that the use of violence to change society or transform political authority has now become both obsolete and counterproductive. 

Let us look at the practical aspect of the issue.  It is not unusual for a popular movement demanding a fundamental social or political change to confront the resistance of an organized state or government. In pre-modern times, there was a definite possibility of success for a popular movement undertaking a violent rebellion against the government; one of the most well-known examples of this phenomenon is the French revolution.  With the consolidation of the nation-state during the last two hundred years, however, such a possibility no longer exists.  The modern nation-state exercises a monopoly over the means and use of legitimate violence, and all modern governments possess powerful resources to destroy, disperse, or otherwise neutralize a violent uprising, no matter how popular.  Particularly during the twentieth-century, the use of violence by non-state agents has become both futile and obsolete.

In addition to becoming largely ineffective, revolutionary violence has also become increasingly counter-productive.  The use of armed attacks on military targets is impossible for most such movements, which is why they resort to attacking innocent civilians.  But terrorism does not help these movements at all; instead, it legitimizes the effort of the state or government to brutally suppress the opposition and to reduce the level of popular support for the cause.  In today's world, to anticipate that a positive social or political change will result from the use of terrorism is to live in a fool's paradise.

In the twentieth-century, numerous movements for social or political change have succeeded without resorting to violent methods, and the trend is gaining world-wide acceptance.  Generally speaking, the modern nation-state tends to rely heavily for its own legitimation on the willing cooperation and consent of its citizens.  The pressure of democratic ideals is such that even the worst dictatorships are forced to make a show of popular support through token elections or referendums.  Consequently, peaceful withholding of cooperation and withdrawing of consent have now become immensely effective means for making successful popular demands. 

Nonviolent strategies include mass protests, civil disobedience, strikes, sit-ins, economic boycotts, nonviolent interventions, etc.  There is no hard and fast recipe of a successful protest movement; although creative and flexible strategizing in view of the available opportunities and constraints is a crucial factor that determines the success or failure of a given campaign.

Nonviolence enjoys numerous strategic advantages over violence.  Undeserved suffering of morally upright individuals espousing a just cause widens the zone of their sympathizers. Nonviolence allows a very large number of people to participate in the movement, including the children and the elderly. Long-term bitterness and hatred is precluded, and reconciliation remains a possibility in the future.  Gandhi’s Salt March and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the Civil Rights movement are just two of the most famous examples of successful nonviolent movements.  These have set the stage for other success stories like the Solidarity movement in Poland, the People Power movement in the Philippines, and anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.

Last modified on Saturday, 29 June 2013 17:42
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