Having cleared up why we should use non-violent means, as opposed to political violence (political means) or non-political violence (violent revolution), I should explain basically how it works and dispel some myths about it.
Non-violence is the most effective method to use against a violent enemy. In a war, one side can be defeated by the other, either through outright killing or by capturing key targets, forcing capitulation. It is accepted as fair by public opinion and by both parties that people from both parties, people who intend to kill, should kill each other.
In a non-violent action, the situation is turned on its head. Your oppressors still want to stop you or kill you, but you don’t. This completely changes the dynamics, as two important things change:
* There is no obvious victory objective for the oppressor. It can kill a bunch of people, but the idea will always exist, and you can’t rule over dead people.
* Public opinion is now on the rebel side, because any violent action on the part of the oppressor exposes the violence inherent in its system of rule or control. The moral superiority of the rebel party is shown very eloquently, better than any collection of words.
Obviously, not all non-violent resistance actions end in bloodshed. Deconverting someone does not end in bloodshed, unless you do it terribly, terribly wrong. Most dissemination actions should not end in bloodshed. Getting the word out is not a risky activity: it’s what comes afterwards that becomes more risky.
Some myths about non-violent resistance:
1. Non-violence is for sissies.
Rather the opposite. Striking someone or killing someone does not take much fortitude. Any frustrated teenager with a rifle can do it. Standing up to a group of armed thugs, with no weapons, is quite another story. Standing up to a line of tanks takes real courage, not the kind of blind obedience and stupidity the Army brainwashes into you.
2. Non-violence is pacifism.
We must be careful with our terms here. Pacifism is a personal desire not to retaliate to violence in one’s personal life. Non-violent resistance is a strategy adopted by the people within a movement in order to sway public opinion and intimidate violent oppressors. A pacifist would never defend himself against an aggressor. A person involved in a non-violent movement may defend himself against an aggressor in his personal life, making him something other than a pacifist.
3. Non-violence doesn’t work, because you’ll just end up dead.
If that was true, then no non-violent movement should have ever succeeded. Gandhi and all his supporters should be dead. All abolitionists should have been assassinated. All 9/11 truthers should have been arrested by now. All civil rights protesters should have been massacred. And of course most people reading this blog should be dead also. This is a very silly objection.
4. Non-violence does not work in certain occasions.
Two conditions must obtain for non-violent actions to fail: one must face a completely amoral, ruthless enemy, and information about the oppression must not reach the general public or foreign ears. This is only possible in closed cultist political systems, such as Nazi Germany, the Soviets, or the Japanese Empire. There is little possibility of such a situation applying today.