"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
What lessons does history hold for us regarding non-violent "revolution?"
Well, there are two good examples in the Polish Solidarity movement, and Ghandi’s Satyagraha Independence Movement.
A few common elements seem to emerge.
- It takes a long time and progress is not steady.
- Withholding labor – strikes – is practically the only leverage that people have.
- Oppressive incumbents will crack down, and non-violent resistors will be jailed, hurt, and killed.
- Resistors need to be prepared, through training and inspiration, for maximum hardship.
- Effective resistance requires a coalition, which will likely splinter once it gains power.
6. One selfless and inspiring leader must stand up.
7. If resistance is successful, the thugs do not go away. Eternal vigilance is required.
Are the citizens of the United States of America patient enough, inspired enough, cooperative enough, to depose the thugs that rule us? Can we sacrifice our incomes, our possessions, our lives for Safety and Happiness? Can we keep our republic?
Solidarity (Polish: Solidarność; full name: Independent Self-governing Trade Union "Solidarity" — Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy "Solidarność") is a Polish trade union federation founded in September 1980 at the Gdańsk Shipyards, and originally led by Lech Wałęsa. In the 1980s, it constituted a broad anti-communist social movement ranging from people associated with the Catholic Church to members of the anti-communist Left. Solidarity advocated nonviolence in its members' activities. The survival of Solidarity was an unprecedented event not only in Poland, a satellite state of the USSR ruled (in practice) by a one-party Communist regime, but the whole of the Eastern bloc. It meant a break in the hard-line stance of the communist Polish United Workers' Party, which had bloodily ended a 1970 protest with machine gun fire (killing dozens and injuring over 1,000), and the broader Soviet communist regime in the Eastern Bloc, which had quelled both the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and the 1968 Prague Spring with Soviet-led invasions.
12 years between the brutal intervention in 1968, and the founding of Solidarity. Coalition with the Church. Strikes.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948) was a major political and spiritual leader of India, and the Indian independence movement. He was the pioneer and perfector of Satyagraha — the resistance of tyranny through mass civil disobedience strongly founded upon ahimsa (total non-violence), which led India to independence, and has inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is commonly known and addressed in India and across the world as Mahatma Gandhi (from Sanskrit, Mahatma: Great Soul) and as Bapu (in many Indian languages, Father).
An English-educated lawyer, Gandhi first employed his ideas of peaceful civil disobedience in the Indian community's struggle for civil rights in South Africa. Upon his return to India, Gandhi organized poor farmers and labourers in India to protest oppressive taxation and extensive discrimination, and carried it forward on the national stage to protest oppressive laws made by the British Raj. Becoming the leader of the Indian National Congress, Gandhi led a nationwide campaign for the alleviation of the poor, for the liberation of Indian women, for brotherhood amongst communities of differing religions and ethnicity, for an end to untouchability and caste discrimination, and for the economic self-sufficiency of the nation, but above all for Swaraj — the independence of India from foreign domination.
A coalition of farmers, laborers, and women. The use of specific oppressive situations to motivate people, and to make a broader point. A leader willing to be martyred, which he was.
An issue that directly hurts people usually provides a flash point for organizing, and sometimes the spontaneous bravery of a single person is enough. Rosa Parks comes to mind. In the USA today, we are lacking that intersection of issue and courage for some reason. The story of Lt. Wataba's conscientious objection to the Iraq war has potential. But if the litany of crimes by the Bush Administration is not enough, what will it be? It seems every little spark that might be the flash point only smolders, and does not burst into righteous flame.
A coalition of anti-war groups is calling for a day of resistance and action March 20th. I wonder if all the elements needed to catalyze a movement are in place.
So I ask again: Can we sacrifice our incomes, our possessions, our lives for the safety and happiness of others, and future generations? Can we keep our republic?