“Let no one say that he is a follower of Gandhi . . . You are no followers but fellow students, fellow pilgrims, fellow seekers, fellow workers.”
M. K. Gandhi


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Nonviolence after Gandhi: The Death of Martin Luther King Jr.

by Bayard Rustin

Rustin poster courtesy American Friends Service Committee; afsc.org

Editor’s Preface: Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) was one of the leading proponents of nonviolence in the U. S. civil rights era. He wrote this article just weeks after the assassination of Dr. King on 4 April 1968. For acknowledgments and further information about Rustin please consult the editor’s note at the end. JG

The murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has thrust a lance into the soul of America. The pain is most shattering to the Negro people. We have lost a valiant son, a symbol of hope and an eloquent spirit that inspired masses of people. Such a man does not appear often in the history of social struggle. When his presence signifies that greatness can inhabit a black skin, those who must deny this possibility stop at nothing to remove it. Dr. King now joins a long list of victims of desperate hate in the service of insupportable lies, myths, and stereotypes.

For me, the death of Dr. King brings deep personal grief. I had known and worked with him since the early days of the Montgomery bus protest in 1955, through the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Prayer Pilgrimage in 1957, the youth marches for integrated schools in 1958 and 1959 and the massive March on Washington in 1963.

Though his senior by 20 years, I came to admire the depth of his faith in nonviolence, in the ultimate vindication of the democratic process and in the redeeming efficacy of social commitment and action. And underlying this faith was a quiet courage grounded in the belief that the triumph of justice, however long delayed, was inevitable. Like so many others, I watched his spirit take hold in the country, arousing long-slumbering consciences and giving shape to a new social movement. With that movement came new hopes, aspirations, and expectations. The stakes grew higher. At such a time, so great a loss can barely be sustained by the Negro people. But the tragedy and shame of April fourth darkens the entire nation as it teeters on the brink of crisis. And let no one mistake the signs: our country is in deadly serious trouble. This needs to be said because one of the ironies of life in an advanced industrialized society is that many people can go about their daily business without being directly affected by the ominous rumblings at the bottom of the system.

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Gandhi’s Constructive Programme: The Other Side of Civil Resistance

by Andrew Rigby

Dustjacket art courtesy mkgandhi.org

Gandhi was a special figure in the history of movements for social transformation, and as such has been the subject of countless studies — most recently by activist-scholars and students of civil resistance seeking to identify the key lessons that can be applied to more contemporary nonviolent movements for peace and justice. As such they have tended to focus on the large-scale satyagraha campaigns initiated by Gandhi in the Indian freedom struggle, such as the Salt March of 1930 that inaugurated a mass civil disobedience campaign and the 1942 ‘Quit India’ campaign. Less attention has been paid to exploring the significance and contemporary relevance of the other major dimension of Gandhi’s approach to transformation – constructive action to lay the foundations of new ways of living (what has been called by more recent generations of activists as pre-figurative politics).

Gandhi believed there should be two integral dimensions of any campaign to transform systems of oppression and injustice. There was the front-stage satyagraha, or active nonviolent resistance, but there was also the constructive work to create alternatives to the systems and practices that were in need of change. Indeed, for Gandhi the constructive work was far more important than the active ‘political satyagraha’ in the struggle for emancipation and independence (Swaraj). As he advised his co-workers in 1944, through the constructive programme ‘you can make the villages feel self-reliant, self-sufficient and free so that they can stand up for their own rights. If you make a real success of the constructive programme, you will win Swaraj for India without civil disobedience.’ (1)

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Nonviolence and Media Studies

by Vamsee Juluri

“Peace Dove with Book” courtesy Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Wayne State University; www.clas.wayne.edu/CPCS/

Abstract: This article proposes a meeting of media studies and the philosophy of nonviolence in order to better critique the tendency, in popular media discourses about war and international conflict, to naturalize violence as an eternal and essential human trait. Nonviolence exposes certain foundational myths about violence in the media; namely, the myths that violence is cultural (as implied in the “clash of civilizations” thesis), historical, or natural. However, this exposure is possible only if nonviolence is retrieved from its present marginalization as a mere technique for political activism or personal behavior and understood more accurately as a coherent, universal, practical worldview that can inform a critical engagement with media discourses of violence. Using Gandhi’s writings on nonviolence, this essay aims to initiate just such an understanding, particularly in connection with existing critical approaches to media violence, such as cultivation research and cultural studies, and concludes by proposing a set of concrete questions for media research based on nonviolence.

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Gandhi in Olive Country: Palestinians Revel in the Nonviolent Struggle

by Aimee Ginsburg

Palestinian children’s art courtesy patheos.com

Editor’s Preface: We have posted a series of articles on the Palestinian nonviolent movement, and especially about the struggle in the village of Bil’in. These can be accessed via our Islamic Nonviolence category in the right sidebar. Please also see the editor’s note at the end for information about the author, links, and acknowledgments. JG

I’m sitting with Robert Hirschfield at the corner ice cream shop, tall windows facing the street, steaming mint tea in our glass mugs. Outside, a large group of angry young Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) supporters are waving their fists and their kaffiyas (headdresses), shouting slogans against the Hamas massacre of fourteen PLO members in Gaza.

We are in Ramallah [March 2008], the interim capital of Palestine, two American Jewish writers, and I am thinking we are crazy. Hirschfield, 68, is comfortable. He has been traveling through Palestine for a month now, researching his book on Palestinian nonviolence. He likes it here. “There is an aliveness, an open and present friendliness, a warmth,” he says. Outside, the shouting gets louder. Sorry to say, I think of the Israeli journalist, Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in Pakistan; while Hirschfield thinks of Mahatma Gandhi.

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The Politics of Nonviolence

by John Dear

Book cover art courtesy Pace e Bene Press; paceebene.org

Editor’s Preface: This essay continues our series of responses to the Trump Era. Please see that category in the right sidebar. Please also consult the note at the end for further information and acknowledgments. JG

What a summer (2016)! Like everyone else, I’m trying to make some sense of it, and figure out a thoughtful response. We’ve suffered through the mainstream media’s non-stop broadcast of the dirty politics of hatred, scapegoating, and warmongering, particularly by Mr. Trump. We’ve undergone shootings by white police officers of unarmed African Americans, and even shootings of police, as well as massacres in Orlando and Nice, not to mention the daily U.S. massacres in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. We’ve endured the long hot days of catastrophic climate change with its wind and rain and heat and fire breathing down our necks. We seem to hit a new rock bottom of despair every week, only to sink to new lows the following week.

For many, there’s not much hope to be had. Sure, you can vote, but don’t expect anything more than the same ol’ same ol’ politics of violence, which means the politics of perpetual war, the politics of unparalleled corporate greed, the politics of death as a social methodology for the world. Democracy is fading. Fascism is growing. Behold, violence for the sheer sake of violence, the death of anonymous innocents around the globe, and millions of us who simply do not care.

“The worst time of my life,” my cousin Mary Anne said on the phone the other day. That was the sentiment of my friend and teacher, Father Daniel Berrigan, just before his death on April 30, 2016. The country and the world seem to sink beyond our worst imaginings. What should we do? We can give in, give up, back down, lie down and surrender; or we can vote, as some do every four years, for the lesser of two evils (and so make our peace with evil); and/or we can dig in for the long haul, and mobilize against the politics of violence on behalf of a new politics of nonviolence.

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Dorothy Day Biography Raises Universal Questions

by Dana Greene

Dustwrapper art courtesy Scribner; simonandschusterpublishing.com/scribner

Who was Dorothy Day? In his address to Congress, Pope Francis named her an American icon of the stature of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., and New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan is among those moving her case forward for canonization. There are abundant materials documenting Day’s life and contributions — her autobiographies, letters, diaries, hundreds of her Catholic Worker columns, and a spate of biographies by Robert Coles, Jim Forest, William Miller and others.

One might ask whether another biographical venture, this one written by Day’s youngest granddaughter, might be redundant or sentimental? It is neither. Kate Hennessy’s biography, Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty; An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother (New York: Scribner, 2017) offers valuable insights into understanding this “complex,” “restless,” “bullheaded,” “judgmental” and “contradictory” woman who in her life railed against being referred to as a saint. It is a clear-eyed, tough but tender telling of Day’s life that goes far in saving her from the hagiographic “embalming” that so often accompanies saint-making.

Hennessy’s “insider” story is unique, a family biography linking Day with her daughter, Tamar, and Day’s nine grandchildren, most prominently Hennessy herself. It opens with the story of Day’s early life, her sense of not belonging, and then the Bohemian years of this “Northern Communist whore” in the 1920s and 30s.

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Teaching Nonviolence

by Helen Fox

Teaching Peace illustration courtesy johnworldpeace.com

Abstract: In-depth interviews with undergraduates at a high-ranking, politically liberal U.S. university suggest that young adults who are most likely to occupy future positions of influence are skeptical of the idea that a world without war is possible. Despite their aversion to war in general and the Iraq War (also called The Second Gulf War: 2003-2011) in particular, these students nearly always said they believe that war is an integral part of human nature and that peaceful international relations will always be subverted by individuals and/or groups that insist on taking advantage of others. When students defended the need for war, they did not cite international terrorism or self defense as just causes, but rather the responsibility to protect defenseless others such as villagers in Darfur or Jews in Hitler’s Germany. However, students knew little about the prevalence and efficacy of nonviolent movements or the range of diplomatic and political tactics that have been employed to deter violence. The author shares the content and methods of her seminar on nonviolence, and concludes that more courses in secondary schools and universities need to fill the gaps in students’ knowledge by teaching historical, social, political, and psychological information about both war and peaceful solutions to conflict.

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Nonviolent Defence: Robert Burrowes’ Approach

by Brian Martin

Dustwrapper art courtesy sunypress.edu

Military establishments spend a vast amount of effort preparing to resist or wage aggression. They have operational plans, for example to launch attacks on enemy troops or facilities. They make preparations to provide supplies of all sorts to their forces. They ensure that industry has the capacity to produce military and related goods. And they invest in powerful weapons systems to provide a technological edge. All this contributes to military strategy, commonly called “defence strategy.”

But defence can also be based on nonviolent means. Compared to military preparations and investments, the amount of effort devoted to nonviolent defence is almost nonexistent. There have been numerous nonviolent actions, to be sure, some of them quite spectacular, such as the Czechoslovak resistance to the 1968 Soviet invasion, the toppling of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines in 1986, the First Palestinian Intifada from 1987-1993 and the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989. But these uses of nonviolence were largely spontaneous. Unlike military operations, most nonviolent action so far has involved relatively little planning of operations, logistics, social infrastructure and technology.

Perhaps this is only to be expected, given that the idea of nonviolent defence is fairly new. The first full-fledged expositions date from the late 1950s, and since then a small number of researchers have dealt with the topic. (1) But just as the practice of nonviolence receives little funding or support compared to the military, there have been few incentives for research into nonviolence, which has continued at a fairly low level.

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Kasturba Gandhi and Women Satyagrahi in South Africa

by E. S. Reddy

Portraits of Mohandas and Kasturba Gandhi at the time of the South African campaign; courtesy en.wikipedia.org

Editor’s Preface: We have posted several articles on significant figures in the Satyagraha movement, other than Mahatma Gandhi. We have also featured articles on women nonviolence leaders such as Vandana Shiva and Dorothy Day. This article concentrates on the role Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba Gandhi (1869–1944), played in the South African satyagraha campaign. Please also see the note at the end for biographical information about the author, and acknowledgments. JG

Kasturba Gandhi by her “silent suffering” as a prisoner sentenced in 1913 to three months rigorous imprisonment, made a crucial contribution to the success of the nonviolence civil resistance campaign (satyagraha) in South Africa, but this is little known.

In early 1913, when satyagraha in the Transvaal had been suspended, Justice Malcolm Searle of the Cape Supreme Court ruled that marriages performed according to a religion which allowed polygamy – that is, all Muslim and Hindu marriages – would not be recognised in South Africa. If this ruling had prevailed, almost all married Indian women would have been reduced legally to the status of concubines and their children treated as illegitimate. The women and children would have lost the right of inheritance and the right to enter South Africa. The government ignored repeated appeals from the community for legislation to remedy the situation.

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Why Nonviolent Campaigns, Not Protests, Succeed

by George Lakey

Banner art courtesy Peace & Justice Center; pjcvt.org

How do we figure out how to amplify our power and maximize the chance of winning victories? We can start by freeing up the energy devoted to one-off protests, rallies, and demonstrations. When I look back on the one-off protests I’ve joined over the years, I don’t remember a single one that changed anything. The really spectacular failure was the biggest protest in history, in February 2003. I joined millions of people around the world on the eve of George W. Bush’s war on Iraq. We did get a huge front-page headline in the New York Times, but Bush only needed to wait until we went home.

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hrule
“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi