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Codes of conduct used in civil resistance struggles – selected examples

23 Oct
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Past pro-democracy movements and campaigns adopted various codes of conduct to sustain their resistance and maintain nonviolent discipline. Here is a sample of some of such codes.

The 2019 Pro-democracy Struggle in Algeria

The “18 Commandments” were passed out to demonstrators in the city of Algiers:

  1. I will march peacefully and calmly,
  2. I will behave as a dignified and civilized man,
  3. I will be equipped with water and vinegar [to clean faces in case tear gas is used],
  4. I will not respond to any provocation,
  5. I will isolate and send to the police any “baltaguias” [agents provocateurs],
  6. I will not throw a single stone,
  7. I will not break a single window,
  8. I will not speak a single word that is out of line,
  9. I will not touch people or things,
  10. I will smile at police and gendarmes,
  11. I will offer women roses, [presumably allegorical for treating women with respect],
  12. I will share water with those who are thirsty,
  13. I will watch over the elderly, women, and children,
  14. I will walk with determination,
  15. I will forge through wind and high water,
  16. The Novemberists will look down fondly upon me [the Algerian independence activists who launched the anti-colonial insurrection in November 1954],
  17. I will clean streets and plazas after each march,
  18. I will teach a lesson to and serve as a model for onlookers.

    [translated by Amber French]

The 2014 Umbrella Movement
Guidelines issued by the Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP), one of the organizations spearheading the movement.

  1. Insist on the use of non-violence means…, never hurt anyone physically or mentally, or damage any properties.
  2. … Do not use any masks to cover faces.
  3. Do not bring any weapons or anything that can be used as weapons.
  4. When facing arrest, form a human chain and lie down to show our non-cooperation…
  5. … Do not try to hit back. Move to a safe place and ask for the help from the picket or medical team
  6. Leaders of the operation could be arrested anytime. Be prepared for changes in leadership and try to maintain good order all along.

The 2011 Tahrir Revolution
A protest booklet distributed on the Tahrir square during the first days of the revolution

The 1968 Czechoslovaks’ resistance against the Warsaw Pact’s troops’ invasion and occupation
“Ten Commandments” of Czechs and Slovaks resistance against the Soviet troops were published in the newspaper Vecerni Prah on August 26, 1968 – 6 days after the Soviet invasion*:

When a Soviet soldier approaches you, YOU:
1. Don’t know
2. Don’t care
3. Don’t tell
4. Don’t have
5. Don’t know how to
6. Don’t give
7. Can’t do
8. Don’t sell
9. Don’t show
10. Do nothing

*Source Czech and Slovak Defiance of Invasion – 1968-1969 in Gene Sharp, Waging Nonviolent Struggle. 20th Century Practice and 21th Century Potential, Porter Sergent Publishers, Boston 2005, p. 200.

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National Nonviolent Defense Against Aggressor-States

2 Jan
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  • What would you do if foreign troops invaded & occupied your town, city, region, or country?
  • In your view, how effective can nonviolent resistance against a powerful aggressor-state be?
  • In your view, how effective can armed resistance against a powerful aggressor-state be?
  • What resistance action would you join if your town, city, region or country was occupied by a brutal foreign regime?

Listen to my webinar recording where I discuss these and other questions relevant to the civilian-led nonviolent defense against invader-states.

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

18 Mar
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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.

 

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