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Dr. Christine Schweitzer

Christine Schweitzer 2014
Nonviolent Resistance against oppression

• Oppression
• Nonviolence
• Nonviolent Action
• Resistance
• Resistance Studies

Christine Schweitzer 2014

Definition: Dictionary defines oppression as
“the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or
unjust manner“
What is considered oppression, probably varies through time
and space.

Types and cases we will work on during these two days.

Christine Schweitzer 2014

Nonviolence (or: non-violence)
In dictionnaries, variations of:
„abstention from the use of physical force to achieve goals“
In the movement:
Distinction between pragmatic and principled nonviolence:
Pragmatic: A general technique of conducting protest,
resistance, and intervention without physical violence.“

Principled nonviolence: explains nonviolence on religious,

spiritual, humanist or psychological grounds
Christine Schweitzer 2014
Pragmatic and principled nonviolence
have in common:
• Avoidance of physical violence independently of the
methods the opponent uses (maintaining nonviolence when
attacked violently)
• Distinction between role and person
• Legitimacy of breaking laws in the name of a higher good
(civil and revolutionary disobedience)

Christine Schweitzer 2014

Pragmatic and principled nonviolence
differ in regard to:
• Forcing the opponent - persuasion only
• Requires a spiritual basis or at least a conviction – is the most
efficient tool (under certain circumstances)
• Is an instrument – a lifestyle
• „political jiu jitsu” – convincing the opponent by being open,
accepting suffering for one’s actions and convictions

Christine Schweitzer 2014

Schools of thought
Pragmatists or „strategic nonviolence“:
Gene Sharp (Albert Einstein Institute, )
International Center for Nonviolent Conflict
( )

„Nonviolence is a civilian-based form of struggle that
employs social, economic, and political forms of power
without resorting to violence or the threat of violence“
(Nepstad 2011:xvii) Christine Schweitzer 2014
Schools of thought
Principled Nonviolence:
Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Abdul Ghaffar Khan,
Hildegard Goss-Mayr, …
Nonviolent action groups and some peace organisations
War Resisters‘ International
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Nonviolence as a positive force. It is a way to alter violent
situations and influence others by persuasion rather than
coercion, and a way to resolve differences so that all
parties grow in the process as human beings and become
more open to each other. (
Christine Schweitzer 2014
Nonviolent Action

Brian Martin, Why call it nonviolent action? (Webinar presentation for War Resisters’
International, 2013)
Christine Schweitzer 2014
Politics of Nonviolent Action (Gene Sharp)
Gene Sharp’s “The Politics of Nonviolent Action” from 1973 is
an essential mile stone. He distinguishes:
• Nonviolent Protest und Persuasion,
• Social Noncooperation und
• Nonviolent Intervention (disruption of established
mechanisms etc.,
not how the term is used commonly today)

(See handout of Sharp’s 198 methods)

Christine Schweitzer 2014

Escalation of Nonviolent Actions by Theodor Ebert
(Gewaltfreier Aufstand. Alternative zum Bürgerkrieg, Waldkirchen 1981)

1 Protest Functional demonstration

2 Legal Noncooperation Legal innovation of roles

3 Civil Disobedience Civil Usurpation

Christine Schweitzer 2014

Civil Resistance:
“Type of political activity that deliberately or necessarily circumvents
normal political channels and employs noninstitutional (and often illegal)
forms of action against an opponent.” (Chenoweth, Erica und Stephan, Maria J.
(2011): Why Civil Resistance Works. The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. New York: Colombia
University Press, p. 12)
Violent Resistance:
Ranging from violence in demonstrations, through armed occupation of
buildings and sabotage to war (guerrilla, liberation) and terrorism. Does
also operate outside normal political channels.
• Revolutions
• Coups d‘états
• Insurgencies
Tactics include bombings, shootings, kidnapping, sabotage, etc.
Debated: „Violence against things“ (sabotage, destroying materials);
Stone-throwing against tanks (Intifada)
Christine Schweitzer 2014
Types of Resistance
Resistance can be understood as a continuum between public
confrontations and hidden subversion.
Different categorizations are possible. We will here mainly deal with
• Unarmed insurrections, aiming at regime change.
Other types are:
• Resistance aiming at the reform of elements of a system without
questioning its rulers / type of government
• Everyday resistance
• Revolutions, changing fundamentally the political system (not only
those who rule) (However, Nepstad uses „nonviolent revolution“ for
what others call civil resistance or insurrections or uprisings)
• Civilian-based defence (social defence)
Christine Schweitzer 2014
Key questions
• What do we mean by power?
• Role of violence and nonviolence
• What do we know about factors that make success more or
less likely?
• What means of protection for activists are there?
• What role do third parties (the international community)

Christine Schweitzer 2014

Agenda Overview
28 November
09.15 - 10.30 Introductions, Basic Concepts: presentation
10.45 - 12.15 Different types of resistance (group exercise)
13.00 - 14.30 Film: Bringing down a dictator
14.45 – 16.15 Theory of power (presentation and discussion)

5 December
09.00 – 12.15 Civil resistance: presentation
Case studies (group work and presentation,
with break 10.30-10.45)
13.00 - 14.30 Factors leading to success or failure: Discussion with input
14.45 - 15.45 Techniques of protection: Presentation
15.45 – 16.15 Final questions, evaluation
Christine Schweitzer 2014