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In case of aggression more Poles will join nonviolent defense and civil resistance than armed struggle

18 Mar

Which type of collective resistance has greater chances of mobilizing more people in the face of a violent adversary? In other words, which resistance – violent or nonviolent – has more powerful participation driver?protest

According to a recent survey for the Polish commercial broadcaster TVN 27% of adult Poles expressed their desire to take up arms in case of foreign aggression. This would constitute 8,6 million of all adult Poles. However, this number increases by 10% or more than 2 million people, to the level of 11,9 million (37%) of those who are ready to “resist [foreign invasion], not by fighting with arms, but by engaging in other, non-military activities.” 11% or  2 million people, were undecided. But even this group would be more likely to participate in some selected and lower risk nonviolent resistance actions than to join or lead an armed campaign. Thus, the participation in nonviolent struggle in Poland could in theory reach the level of close to 50% of the adult population or 16 million people, almost twice as many as those who are now ready to join armed struggle.  The remaining 19% would immigrate from the country altogether.

In my recent piece on the conflict in Ukraine I have highlighted that nonviolent civilian-led defense and resistance have greater chances of mobilizing and engaging much greater number of people than the armed struggle. I wrote that by “opting for the military approach [to the conflict in Donbas] Ukraine had significantly limited human resources and civic mobilization capacities, especially in the light of recent reports on increase in draft dodging. Approximately 250,000 active duty Ukrainian military personnel, several thousands of paramilitary forces and civilian volunteers – at best, 300,000 people – might be engaged directly or indirectly in the armed struggle. This constitutes not even 1% of the Ukrainian adult population (15 years and older). Therefore, the first and foremost strategy for Ukraine must be to devise the type of resistance that asks and enable all 40 million people to take part in it, and do so on a daily basis.”

Indeed, according to my colleague, Erica Chenoweth, who studied 323 armed and unarmed conflicts over more than 100 years, nonviolent campaigns have historically been “11 times larger as proportion of population size than average violent campaigns.” This feature, among other elements described in the recent study on countering hybrid warfare with nonviolent civilian defense, makes civil resistance an attractive defense weapon against aggression by a more powerful neighbor.

Those who are responsible for planning national defense and security policies of their countries, specially when they face militarily superior adversary, would benefit from paying greater attention to a powerful participation driver that  nonviolent defense and civil resistance offer. Arguably, this type of resistance could turn whole nation into a disciplined and committed fighting society much easier and faster than armed resistance.