In this guide, you will learn what nonviolent resistance is and how to organise a nonviolent action.
What is nonviolent resistance?
Nonviolent resistance (NVR), or nonviolent action, sometimes called civil resistance, is the practice of achieving goals such as social change through symbolic protests, civil disobedience, economic or political noncooperation, satyagraha, constructive program, or other methods, while refraining from violence and the threat of violence. This type of action highlights the desires of an individual or group that feels that something needs to change to improve the current condition of the resisting person or group.
Nonviolent resistance is often but wrongly taken as synonymous with civil disobedience. Each of these terms—nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience—has different connotations and commitments. Berel Lang argues against the conflation of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience on the grounds that the necessary conditions for an act instancing civil disobedience are: (1) that the act violates the law, (2) that the act is performed intentionally, and (3) that the actor anticipates and willingly accepts punitive measures made on the part of the state against him in retaliation for the act. Since acts of nonviolent political resistance need not satisfy any of these criteria, Lang argues that the two categories of action cannot be identified with one another. Furthermore, civil disobedience is a form of political action which necessarily aims at reform, rather than revolution. Its efforts are typically directed at the disputing of particular laws or groups of laws while conceding the authority of the government responsible for them. In contrast, political acts of nonviolent resistance can have revolutionary ends. According to Lang, civil disobedience need not be nonviolent, although the extent and intensity of the violence is limited by the non-revolutionary intentions of the persons engaging in civil disobedience. Lang argues the violent resistance by citizens being forcibly relocated to detentions, short of the use of lethal violence against representatives of the state, could plausibly count as civil disobedience but could not count as nonviolent resistance.
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The Case for NVDA
The success of nonviolent civil resistance: Erica Chenoweth at TEDxBoulder
Breaking bad laws is how good laws get made: Amanda Tattersall
Theory and Philosophy of NVDA
Book review of This is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century
Guides and Tips
The Path of Most Resistance: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planning Nonviolent Campaigns
How to start a direct action group to make Martin Luther King proud
Resources for NVDA Training
Community Activism in Victoria: The right to protest and other legal issues
Please make sure to check the legal situation in the place you are taking action. Legal information may date and is never a substitute for legal advice.
Safety and Resilience
Enabling Emergence: The Bentley Blockade and the Struggle for a Gasfield Free Northern Rivers
Environmental Blockading in Australia and Around the World – Timeline 1974-1997
How defeating Keystone XL built a bolder, savvier climate movement
Want a break from reading?
Watch these TED Talks.
Listen to Treesits, Lock-ons and Barricades: Environmental Blockading in the 1980s.
Listen to these ChangeMakers podcasts.
Listen and watch 40 years of Australian blockading songs.
Nonviolent resistance by Wikipedia
Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA) by Commons Library