A Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution

by George Lakey

Editor’s Preface: The Manifesto, originally published in 1976 as a complete issue of the War Resisters League magazine WIN, continues our series of important historical documents that have helped shape our current understanding of the meaning and uses of nonviolence and nonviolent civil resistance.  Along with Lakey’s “Strategizing for a Living Revolution”, which we previously posted, Manifesto has generated a lively debate, which still continues, as the planned series by WRL on the Manifesto demonstrates. Setting current trends in their historical context, and showing their influences, is an often neglected but essential grounding for a deeper understanding of the role, extent, and effectiveness of personal nonviolence, and nonviolent civil resistance. JG

Cover courtesy Peace News; peacenews.info

How can we live at home on planet Earth?

As individuals we often feel our lack of power to affect the course of events or even our own environment. We sense the untapped potential in ourselves, the dimensions that go unrealized. We struggle to find meaning in a world of tarnished symbols and impoverished cultures. We long to assert control over our lives, to resist the heavy intervention of state and corporation in our plans and dreams. We sometimes lack the confidence to celebrate life in the atmosphere of violence and pollution, which surrounds us. Giving up on altering our lives, some of us try at least to alter our consciousness, if through drugs. Turning ourselves and others into objects, we experiment with sensation. We are cynical early, and blame ourselves, and wonder that we cannot love with a full heart.

The human race groans under the oppressions of colonialism, war, racism, totalitarianism, and sexism. Corporate capitalism abuses the poor and exploits the workers, while expanding its power through the multinational corporations. The environment is choked. National states play power games, which defraud their citizens and prevent the emergence of world community.

What shall we do?

Rejecting the optimistic gradualism of reformists and the despair of tired radicals, we now declare ourselves for nonviolent revolution. We intend that someday all of humanity will live on Earth as brothers and sisters. We issue this manifesto as guidance in the next decades to ourselves and to others who choose not to escape, who want to recover their personhood by participating in loving communities, who realize that struggle is central to recovering our humanity, and who want that struggle to reflect in its very style a commitment to life.

The manifesto includes a vision of a new society, its economy and ecology, its forms of conflict, its global dimensions. The manifesto also proposes a framework for strategy of struggle and change, which is presented here.

Strategy for Revolution

A person may be clear in his or her analysis of the present order, may have a bold projection of a new society, but still be uncertain about what course to take in getting from here to there. Should I devote myself to building counter institutions, or to shooting practice, or to protest demonstrations? Should I organize among students, workers, the unemployed, or the “solid citizens?”

Decisions on what to do are often taken on impulse or because of movement fashions; a particular tactic like occupying buildings may be taken up because it meets the psychological mood of the moment. Serious long-run struggle cannot be waged on such a basis, however. Mood and fashion are too much at the mercy of repression. Rosa Luxemburg may have been exaggerating when she said that we shall lose every battle except the last, but the basic point is sound; the struggle will be long and hard and our actions cannot be evaluated only by short-run psychological satisfactions.

Further, struggle by impulse is undemocratic. Wide popular participation in decisions about struggle can only come through wide discussion, which requires time, and planning ahead. Leaving strategic decisions to the crisis point means delegating power to a central committee or to the demagogue who is most skilled at manipulation of mood and fashion.

Tactics (actions at particular moments) often must be improvised as best they can, and leaders have their role at such times. Strategy (a general plan which links the actions into a cumulative development of movement power, and which provides means for evaluating tactics) is too important to be left to the leaders.

Creating a Strategy

The most effective strategy is specific to the historic situation. The Chinese Communist Party, for example, began with a strategy borrowed from Europe and tried to organize the industrial proletariat. Only when Mao Tse-Tung devised a strategy for the Chinese situation, emphasizing peasants rather than workers and the countryside rather than the city, did the struggle have more chance for success.

In the Belgian socialists’ struggle for universal suffrage there was a period of flirtation with a violent strategy imported from the French revolutionary tradition. Only when the workers turned away from the romance of the barricades and, through wide discussion decided on a disciplined general strike, did the campaign achieve its goal.

Strategies gain in power as they gain in specific relation to the situation. Every situation, however dismal it may seem has some leverage points. (Even in Hitler’s concentration camps inmates organized resistance movements.) The hopeful, creative revolutionist will find those leverage points and develop a plan for struggle.

A Revolutionary Process

The need to develop a specific strategy does not prevent learning from others’ experience. The experience of struggle movements in many countries can be analyzed into a framework, which may guide us past mistakes and point us to opportunities.

One way to honor those who have suffered in the struggles for justice is to take their experience seriously. Our framework emphasizes the development of the movement itself, since we see the movement’s growth carrying some of the seeds of the new society in its very style of organization and action. Of course the major conditions for struggle are provided by vast social forces beyond intentional control: by economic conditions, by ecological tensions, by declining legitimacy of old institutions, by the rise of hope in new possibilities, and so on. The movement’s task is to make this struggle effective, by constantly increasing its ability to grow, to renew itself, to practice its values in its internal life, to plan the new society.

Our framework has five stages for development of a movement from a small band of agitators to a mass struggle movement making fundamental change: (1) conscientization (a term coined by Paolo Freire), (2) building organization, (3) confrontation, (4) mass non-cooperation, (5) parallel government.

Stage One: Conscientization

Why are things going wrong in my life? Why am I so powerless? Do those who decide have my best interests at heart? Why are so many of us in my situation?

More and more persons ask these sorts of questions as conditions deteriorate. People begin to see their problem with a critical awareness of the larger world. They develop a collective consciousness, for workers, women, blacks are not exploited as individuals but as a class. People must develop a sense of their personal destiny as interwoven with that of a collectivity before they will act together.

In this stage agitators should develop a political consciousness, which translates private troubles into public issues and connects individuals to others in a community of the oppressed. This requires an analysis, which makes the social structure transparent, and which helps people understand the dynamics of domination.

A negative movement can stop there. It can point out injustice, analyze inequality, and make a virtue out of everlasting protest. A positive movement goes on to create visions of a new society, identifying itself with aspiration as well as anger.

Having an analysis and a vision are still not enough, however, because the pervasive feeling of impotence which oppressed people have cannot be strongly countered without a strategy for change. When people realize the how as well as the why of revolution, they are most likely to move.

The tactics used in the stage of conscience formation are commonly pamphleteering, speeches, study groups, newspapers, conferences, and so on. The particular methods of education must, of course, be geared to the culture of the people.

Innovation is also necessary to methodology, especially where the existing methods encourage elitism in the movement. New methods of education are being invented, for example, by Paolo Freire who, as we mentioned, coined the term “conscientization” and emphasizes reflective action through indirect methods of developing group awareness over time. [Freire defines conscientization as the process of developing a critical awareness of one’s social reality through reflection and action.  Action is fundamental because it is the process of changing the reality.]

The nonviolent training movement is also developing methods for political education: strategy games, scenario writing, utopia-gallery, role-play, and case study are a few. By means of participatory methods of learning skills and knowledge, the agitators show by their very style that this is a democratic movement, rooted in the people’s understanding rather than in the oratory of the leaders.

In many countries the stage of politicization is already well advanced, but there is also a sense in which it is never finished. Movement agitators should work in ever-widening circles, realizing that long after the nucleus of the movement is at an advanced stage of revolutionary development, some sectors of the population have still only a vague idea of the sources of their discontent. By expanding the area of work agitators also learn more, since there is a reservoir of knowledge and awareness, which is held in many people who on a superficial level seem apolitical. Only the sectarians take a missionary view of their educational work: that they have all the truth and need only to proclaim it. Genuine education is interaction; a democratic movement wants all the insight it can get, even from those who might carelessly be labeled “enemies.”

Stage Two: Building Organization

An individual can agitate, but only the people can make a revolution. An individual can exemplify certain values, but only a group can begin to live the patterns of a new social order. Just as the wise farmer does not rest with sowing the seed, but returns to care for the young plants, so the wise agitator becomes an organizer, preparing healthy social environments for the growth of revolutionary spirit.

An individual can agitate, but only the people can make a revolution.

A basic tension exists in organizing for the new society. The organizational forms can reflect so literally the radical vision that they become the end instead of the means to social change; the revolutionists can isolate themselves into sects of the righteous. On the other hand, the organizational forms of the movement might fit so well into the prevailing culture that they reflect the racism, sexism, authoritarianism, and other patterns, which need to be eliminated. Such old wineskins can hardly hold the new wine of the radical vision; the contradiction between stated values and actual practices becomes too strong to contain.

Although the particular organizing patterns may vary from place to place, we propose a basic principle: the means must be consistent with the goals. An authoritarian movement will not build an egalitarian society; the competition of rival leaders will not build a community of trust; tight bureaucracies will not uncover the self-reliant power of the people.

Consistency of means and ends does not mean the collapsing of ends into means; the utopian community as an end in itself is in many situations irrelevant to social change. The community as a base-camp for revolution, on the other hand, provides an important alternative to the narrow style of revolutionary parties. It provides a way of living the revolution as well as waging it. It provides a training ground where movement people can undergo those personal changes, which we need to become strong and clear-sighted.

Counter-institutions, or a constructive program, can provide another opportunity for innovation in organization. Can the new society be organized in egalitarian ways? Can consensus decision-making be widely applied? Which functions can be decentralized and which not? The movement can explore some of these questions so that, when it comes time for actual transfers of power from the old regime (See Stage Five below), there is a reservoir of movement experience available.

Counter-institutions can provide needed services, which are provided expensively or inadequately in most countries. They are a powerful form of propaganda because they demonstrate that movement activists are practical and respond to material needs, and that our style is fundamentally constructive even though we know we must struggle for change.

It is true that counter-institutions lend themselves easily to abuse as charities, substituting “service to the people” for “power to the people.” Charity cannot lead to fundamental change; it is part and parcel of the system of inequality. Charity does not mobilize people for change; it continues their dependence on do-gooders. The constructive program becomes mere charity unless it is linked (as it was for Gandhi) to a mass struggle movement for fundamental change.

The constructive program becomes mere charity unless it is linked
to a mass struggle movement for fundamental change.

Only a mass movement can bring about the new society, because only a mass movement has the power to do it. Further, mass participation is necessary because freedom cannot be given by a few to the many; freedom by its nature requires active seeking. On the other hand, human liberation involves a heightened sense of individual confidence and worth rather than a loss of identity through submergence in the crowd.

We propose that the basic building block of mass movements be the small affinity group. Small groups can support the individual, experiment with simplified and shared lifestyles work as a team within the larger movement. They can arise from already existing friendships or ties of workplace or religion. They can grow as cells grow, by division, and can proliferate rapidly when conditions are ripe. Unlike communes, they do not necessarily involve common living, yet they have a commitment to each other as persons and therefore provide a good movement context for individual growth.

Affinity groups as the fundamental units of the mass movement meet the dilemma of collectivism versus individualism. Unlike some of the old communist cells, their style is not secret or conspiratorial; therefore they cannot hold individuals to them rigidly with implicit threats. On the other hand, there is sufficient community to help the individual overcome his or her excessive attachment to self. The solidarity, which enables people to withstand the terror of repression, is even more likely in teams than in an unstructured mass facing water hoses or bullets. Studies of combatants in battlefield conditions have shown that the solidarity of the small unit is crucial in conquering fear and withstanding attack. Fear, of course, is the central weapon of repression. In a movement of small groups we may hold hands against repression and continue to struggle.

Under some circumstances it may be necessary to work within reformist organizations. Frequently, however, radical caucuses can be organized within those organizations to help them see the need for fundamental change. The masses of people will not turn to basic structural change if they feel that reforms will alleviate conditions sufficiently. If the analysis of this manifesto is correct, reforms will not be sufficient; fundamental change is necessary.

In a democratic movement our slogan is: “No radical change without radical consciousness”. We do not believe in revolution behind the backs of the people. Reformist organizations will rarely allow radical analysis and vision to be projected through their channels, and so it is necessary to create new organizations, which can respond radically to challenges of history. At this early stage, clarity is often more important than acceptability.

There are some reforms, which, if they can be achieved, involve such a shift in power relations that they can fairly be called “revolutionary reforms.” Analysis of the political economy suggests what these struggle points are, and gives important goals for the next stage of revolutionary development, confrontation.

Stage Three: Confrontation

Unfortunately, the pen is weaker than the sword. Time and again the truth about injustice has been known widely, with pamphlets and tracts easily available, yet most people remain passive. Mass mobilization for the new society will not develop from the first stage of politicization alone; the reality of evil must be dramatized.

In the past this dynamic has often been at work: the Russian Bloody Sunday in 1905, which sparked a massive insurrection against the tyranny of the Czar; the Amritsar Massacre in India in 1919, which spurred the first national civil disobedience against British imperialism; Alabama’s repression of Birmingham blacks in 1963, which mobilized radicals and liberals in America for legislation against racism.

The best form of confrontation for dramatizing injustice is a campaign over a period of time, rather than a one- or two-day witness. Usually a campaign will educate more people than a single event, and educate them more deeply.

The first step is to select a campaign goal which is consistent with radical analysis, such as a revolutionary reform. Second, reduce the problem and solution to picture form, so that no words are necessary in order to explain what the confrontation is about. The picture should show the gap between a widely held value and the particular injustice. Third, take group action which paints that picture in vivid colors. The campaign should build to a crisis, in which the authorities are put in a dilemma: if they allow the demonstration to go on, fine, because the action is dramatically pointing up the situation of injustice. If they repress the demonstration, all right, because their repression further reveals the violence on which the regime rests.

The “dilemma demonstration” is much different from mere provocation. In provocation, the immediate goal is to bring down repression on the heads of the demonstrators. In a dilemma demonstration the campaigners genuinely want to do their action: block an ammunition ship, wear a black sash, etc. The demonstrators are not disappointed if the authorities use unexpected good sense and allow the demonstration to continue. But repression is also acceptable, since voluntary suffering further dramatizes the situation and erodes the legitimacy of the unjust authority.

Violence by the government is an inevitable result of radical social change in most societies. It cannot be avoided, because injustice needs violence for its defense; when inequality is challenged, those on top resort again and again to violence.

The strategic question is how can that violence work against the government itself, rather than against us? The government’s own force can work against itself, as in jiu-jitsu, when it is met indirectly. Instead of pitting guns against repressive violence, meeting the opponent on his superior ground, the movement responds nonviolently. This has two effects: it begins the process of demoralization among the troops and police, which may accelerate in later stages, and it discredits the government in the eyes of the masses.

Voluntary suffering is dynamic when we can stand it without fleeing. For most people that will require the preparation of conscientization and of organization. By changing our ideas about ourselves and our social world, and by developing a strategy we have confidence in, and by training in direct action tactics, we can get ready for open struggle. By joining others in small struggle communities we develop the solidarity necessary to face government terror.

Picture, then, movement groups waging campaigns of a month to several years duration, engaging first in propaganda of the word, then in training and mobilization of allies, and finally in propaganda of the deed. Confrontations lead to achievement of immediate goals in some cases, repression in others. Counter-institutions provide support; radical caucuses agitate for support within the trade unions and the professions.

These political dramas pierce the myths and rationalizations, which cover up oppression and force the violence of the status quo out into the open.

In the meantime, some movement agitators are working in new circles on conscientization, widening the revolutionary process in the population. Gaining fresh impetus from the spotlight, which is trained on injustice by the campaigners, organizers are helping newly aware people find each other and the network of solidarity so necessary for struggle.

The tempo of the revolutionary process depends largely on history: economic conditions, ecological strains, political rigidities, and cultural development. In some societies it may happen very quickly, in some more slowly. Confrontation remains at the head of the movement until large numbers of people are ready for non-cooperation.

Stage Four: Mass Non-cooperation

By saying “no” when the regime depends on our saying “yes,” we unlearn the habits of submission on which every oppressive system rests. The all-out civilian insurrection touched off by government repression, as in the Russian rising of 1905, provides a heady moment in which people defy the regime, but it is not enough. More than a moment, or even a year, is required to change those deep-rooted habits of inferiority. There must be a succession of battles, a long march, a continuing exposure to the nature of power and authority, or else we will never learn to stand erect during the intervals between euphoria and rage.

Movements may therefore want to plan organized, long-term and selective forms of mass non-cooperation. All-out campaigns for total change at this point are unrealistic because they cannot be sustained, even after careful organizational and political preparation. Non-cooperation should usually be focused on clearly defined, limited goals, which if achieved would be revolutionary reforms. The specific demands help to rally the people (not everyone is moved by goals which seem vague and far away). When the immediate goals are achieved morale is heightened. Those who thought they were powerless find that they have achieved something. The skeptics who thought that struggle is useless may see their mistake.

The economy is often the part of the oppressive system most vulnerable to non-cooperation, and repression may be particularly severe in response to economic direct action. Therefore it is important that the organization and preparation to this point have been done well. Quite a variety of economic tactics exist to express non-cooperation, for example: the three-day general strike, boycotts, the declaration of holidays almost constantly, go-slows, rent refusal, full strikes in specific industries of great importance to the oppressive system.

For the population at large, political non-cooperation can involve mass civil disobedience, boycott of elections, draft resistance, student political strikes, tax refusal. Legislators can resign in protest, boycott the sessions, or attend the sessions and obstruct the proceedings. Workers in the state bureaucracy have many opportunities to non-cooperate and give useful information to the movement.

The tactics of intervention can come strongly into play at this point. In intervention people put their bodies in the place where the business of the old order goes on, in such a way as to disrupt it. Sit-ins, occupations, obstruction are major forms of intervention. In addition to their ability physically to dislocate the status quo, they can have strong symbolic overtones by “acting out the future in the present,” that is, by imagining how a facility can be used in the new society and then proceeding to use it in that way. Such a tactic leaves the burden on the authorities to try to return the situation to the previous condition; if they fail, a piece of the new society has been planted.

Machiavelli long ago noted the impossible position of a government which sees the people’s compliance dissolve; he said that the prince “who has the public as a whole for his enemy can never make himself secure; and the greater his cruelty, the weaker does his regime become.”

One tangible measure of weakness is the demoralization of police and soldiers. As Lenin discovered from the experience of the 1905 rising, soldiers are more likely to become ineffective and even desert if they are not shot at in a revolutionary situation. The guiding aim of the movement should be to win people over, not to win over people. When that basically open, friendly spirit is maintained even toward the agents of repression, a decisive break is made with the cycle of violence and counter-violence which so often in the past has distorted struggles for justice.

The counter-institutions and other forms of organization planted in the second stage need to grow rapidly in this period, both to generate concrete demands for which we launch non-cooperation campaigns, and to provide the, alternatives, which keep nay-sayers from becoming nihilists. The small affinity groups, the radical caucuses, and other forms of movement organization must by this stage develop strong coordinating links; sustained mass action requires unity.

In some societies four stages of revolutionary process may be sufficient to produce fundamental change. A series of revolutionary reforms forced by mass non-cooperation may decisively shift the distribution of power and the basis of the economy. The change of this depends very much on the global context.

In most societies, however, mass non-cooperation for specific goals will finally reach a wall of such resistance that an all-out struggle will occur, out of which a transfer of power may come. The non-cooperation will need to be generalized and intensified, with direct intervention such as occupation stepped up. In a number of historic cases the social dislocation resulting from all-out mass non-cooperation had led to the overthrow of ruthless dictators.

The next stage, parallel government, is the stage of final transfer of power.

Stage Five: Parallel Government

In this stage the ordinary functions of governmental authority are taken over by the revolutionary movement. The people pay taxes to the movement instead of the government. The movement organizes essential services such as traffic regulation, garbage collection, and the like.

The counter-institutions become part of the unfolding new order as people transfer allegiance from those institutions, which have discredited themselves by their failure to change. This stage is, therefore, linked directly to the second stage of organization-building which, of course, never stopped. We are clearly not proposing that a mass party, governed by a central committee, confronts the rulers in a final tussle for control of the apparatus of the state. Even less are we suggesting that a small, professional revolutionary elite stage a coup d’ etat. Our concept is that the old order is attacked and changed on many levels by many groups, that is, that the people themselves take control of the institutions, which shape their lives. The radical caucuses within trade unions and professions play a major role here, for they provide the expertise necessary to re-organize institutions for the new society.

In this populist model of transfer of power, coordination springs from association of the caucuses, affinity groups, neighborhood councils, and unions. Because outlining the features of the new society already began in stage one, with involvement by ever-widening circles of the people, the revolutionary program will have a great deal of consensus behind it.

The military state withers away in the very process of revolution, its legitimate functions taken over by people’s institutions. Redistribution of power is not postponed until after economic functions are reorganized; in stage five the workers occupy and begin to operate their own factories according to plans already widely discussed rather than wait for a directive from a party or state bureaucrat.

Repression would by this stage be very mixed. In a popular, nonviolent revolution there would be the full range of sympathetic response from the soldiers, from inefficiency to mutiny. Prior fraternization would also be producing disloyalty among the police. On the other hand, some of the police and army might remain loyal to the old regime and reactionary groups would certainly act on their own as they saw the government’s ability to maintain order crumbling. There might, therefore, be pockets of extreme brutality while large areas experienced a peaceful transfer of power.

Historians have remarked on how little violence has accompanied the actual transfer of power in a number of revolutions, the Russian, for example. Widespread violent repression is even less likely with the use of the framework we propose, because the people would be prepared to respond nonviolently to provocation and to hasten the desertion of the soldiers.

The dissolution of the power of the military state and giant corporations into democratic people’s institutions is a short-hand way of marking when the revolution has occurred, but there is a broader view of the sweep of radical change. We look at revolution as a continuing development, not completed when the people’s institutions take authority. We realize that authoritarianism, greed, ignorance, and fear will continue to shape institutions and will need to be attacked again and again.

The nonviolent revolutionary process arms the people against distorted institutions, however, through the widespread application of pacific militancy. The people learn in struggle how to use the power of truth. We have confidence in the future because of the consistency of our means: we can wage the revolution, and live it, and defend it, through nonviolence. We need not hope against experience that figs will grow from thistles, or that a life-centered society will grow from widespread killing. The same determination, freedom from fear, and ability to love, which liberates the individual, will bring humankind to higher levels of evolution.

Revolution and Human Growth

The revolutionary process we propose could be compared to an individual’s successful re-orientation of a destructive relationship with another person. First, awareness comes: unhappiness, an idea that things could be better, and a realization of the dynamics of the relationship. Second, the individual mobilizes him or herself: priorities shift, inner resources are called on, relations with other persons may be strengthened. Third, confrontation: communication becomes more honest through conflict; new patterns of relationship are suggested. Fourth, non-cooperation: the most oppressive of the old patterns are broken by refusal to participate; the destructive games stop because one person will no longer play. Fifth, new patterns are strongly asserted and accepted by the other person. (The new patterns may be a joint creation in some respects, developing from the dialogue and conflict of the two.)

Of course there is nothing inevitable about this ordering of things: sullen non-cooperation may precede open confrontation, for example. There is nothing at all inevitable about our strategic framework. But there is some logic in the framework of stages from the viewpoint of human liberation. This becomes clearer when we retrace the steps.

The new society is more likely to ensue from parallel government than from capture of the state apparatus because the parallel institutions are grown from the bottom up, through the course of the revolutionary struggle. These institutions have the resources of people who have been changing themselves (rather than the civil servants of the old state) and organizational innovation (rather than bureaucracy). This is not to say that civil servants and corporate managers have no use in the new society, but only that re-training and personal change will in many cases be necessary, and this should be led by those who have committed themselves to innovation rather than to maintaining the old order.

The revolutionary process can also undermine the mass society of industrialized nations. The movement’s internal organization is not one of mass politics, with a few leaders vying for control of the party apparatus while the movement rank and file serve as an audience, but instead is based on small action groups and communities. The movement itself becomes a liberated zone in which the values of the revolution are practiced.

Mass non-cooperation (the fourth stage) should come before parallel government because the habits of submission which maintain the old order must be unlearned, personal independence must be declared, before new, cooperative relationships of governance can be firmly rooted. Unless that growth point is reached, it is all too easy for the passive compliance of the old order to become passive compliance to the new society, which would be a contradiction in terms. The new society is participative in its nature; it cannot be built on the mere acquiescence of people still needing the towering authority of the state.

Mass non-cooperation is not likely, however, until the issues are clarified and dramatized. There will likely be a series of disasters (mass starvation, depressions, wars, and ecological breakdowns) in the next decades, which will erode the foundations of the present order, yet we should not wait for them to provide the revolutionary dynamic. We want people to work for change before the worst disasters occur in order to minimize the suffering. By creating crises through showing the contradiction between positive values and present injustice, we can raise the level of consciousness without disasters.

Further, disasters can be ambiguous: a war can strengthen the state, as well as weaken it; ecological breakdown can be blamed on the consumers instead of on the industrialists, and so on. We need to counter the official rationalizations with our own definitions of the situation, and do that dramatically and clearly. Confrontation can do that. When the masses of people see for themselves what the stakes are, they are ready to refuse cooperation. Therefore it is sensible for mass non-cooperation to follow the third stage, confrontation.

One major problem of the confrontation stage, however, is the violence, which is meted out to the movement. Repression is never easy to stand up against; solidarity, however, makes an enormous difference. Terror works best against people who feel alone. Logically, therefore, organization (the second stage) should come before confrontation. Another reason why organization building should begin early in the revolutionary process is because the development of skills, experimenting with new working styles, and making of milieus for personal change are all essential for later stages in the struggle.

Organization, however, is a hollow shell if it is not rooted in the changing perceptions of its members. Radical groups cannot be catalyzed without a new consciousness, at least not if they are to be democratic. Motivation for protracted struggle, although often beginning in vague feelings of impotence and alienation, needs growth and positive development to support revolutionary organization. And so the revolutionary process begins with conscientization.

Growth is not only for “the people”, it is most important for those who take the initiative in the revolutionary process. Such individuals should consider what growth means in terms of their functions: in the first stage, agitators; in the second, organizers; in the third, actionists; in the fourth, campaign developers; in the fifth, coordinators.

Since the revolutionary process begins again and again in ever-widening circles, agitators are needed in some sections of the population even while other sections are engaging in mass noncooperation. The gifted agitator might be tempted to “freeze” into his or her role, forever searching for new people to educate. An organizer might spurn action and continue to specialize in building organization. This tendency of specialization of roles may discourage personal growth on the part of leaders. It also casts a shadow over the development of the movement as a whole, because coordination is more difficult when people do not have a “feel” for the variety of tasks, which must be done. The leader who balks at personal change needs to realize the hollowness of her or his appeal for drastic change in the social patterns and life styles of others.

On Wars of Liberation

People are not free when they are subjected to violence. Therefore the struggle against violence must be seen in the context of a revolutionary effort to liberate humanity. We know that violence takes many forms, and that in addition to the direct violence of guns and bombs, there is the silent violence of disease, hunger, and the dehumanization of men and women caught up in exploitative systems.

With a reticence that comes from our knowledge that we do not have answers to many of the problems of revolution, we must say that men should not organize violence against one another, whether in revolution, in civil war, or in wars between nations. If it is argued that our position is utopian and that people can turn to nonviolence only after the revolution, we reply that unless we hold firmly to nonviolence now, the day will never come when all of us learn to live without violence. The roots of the future are here and now, in our lives and actions.

But our unwavering commitment to nonviolence does not mean that we are hostile to the revolutionary movements of our time, even though on certain fundamental issues we may disagree with some of them. It is impossible for us to be morally neutral, for example, in the struggle between the people of Vietnam and the American government, any more than we were able to be morally neutral 12 years ago in the struggle between the people of Hungary and the Soviet Union. We do not support the violent means used by the NLF and Hanoi, but we do support their objective in seeding the liberation of Vietnam from foreign domination.

We particularly emphasize our support for our friends in the Buddhist movement, who at great risk, and with little support from world opinion, have sought to achieve self-determination without using violence. It is particularly important for pacifists to maintain close contact with those elements in the revolutionary movements, which quietly hold to nonviolence.

We do not romanticize nonviolent action and know better than anyone else its setbacks. But we ask our friends who feel they have no choice but to use violent means for liberation not to overlook the problems they face. The violence of revolution destroys the innocent just as surely as does the violence of the oppressor. Nor is the use of violence a guarantee of victory for the revolution. Most guerrilla struggles have been defeated by the guardians of the status quo; Malaya, Greece, Bolivia, the Philippines, Guatemala are a few of the places where guerrillas have been defeated. In Spain there have been organized appeals for violent action against Franco for the past twenty years, and yet Franco still holds power.

A violent revolution creates a violent structure in which, having killed one’s enemies, it is all too easy to kill one’s friends for holding “wrong positions.” Having once taken up weapons it is difficult to lay them down. If it is argued that a nonviolent revolution is too slow a method, and that violence more swiftly brings justice and freedom, we point to Vietnam where a violent struggle has raged for 26 years and where millions of people have been killed, and the revolution has not yet been won.

Certainly we are not saying that there is a nonviolent revolutionary answer in every situation. There has never been a nonviolent revolution in history, in the sense we mean it in this manifesto. We acknowledge our own limitations: we have sometimes been guilty of inaction when struggle was necessary, of neglecting our homework when study was imperative, of narrowness when peace was utterly dependent on social change.

The challenge we make to our non-pacifist friends in the liberation movements is to develop the outline of a nonviolent strategy for revolution before rejecting it out of hand. If you see violence only as a last resort, then first put time and energy into the next-to-the-last resort. If you see yourselves as practical people choosing among alternative courses, then create a nonviolent strategy so your choice will have meaning. The framework in this manifesto will help, but only someone immersed in a situation can create a strategy, which can be concretely examined.

We remind all pacifists and all sections of the War Resisters International that the greatest single contribution we can make to the liberation movements is not by becoming entangled in the debate over whether or not such movements should use violence, but by actively working to bring an end to colonialism and imperialism by attacking its centers of power.

One of the basic reasons why we hold to nonviolence, even when it seems to have failed or when it cannot offer a ready answer is because the nonviolent revolution does not seek the liberation simply of a class or race or nation. It seeks the liberation of humankind. It is our experience that violence shifts the burden of suffering from one group to another, that it liberates one group but imprisons another, that it destroys one authoritarian structure but creates another.

We salute those people who are using nonviolent action in their struggle despite the current trends and pressures towards violence. We also salute our sisters and brothers in the various liberation movements. We will work with them when it is possible, but without yielding up our belief that the foundation of the future must be laid in the present, that a society without violence must begin with revolutionists who will not use violence.

Why the Movement Must Become Transnational

The basic problems facing people today transcend the nation in which they live. Poverty cannot be understood without seeing the economic empires, which create a worldwide division of labor, with worldwide misdistribution of benefits. War cannot be understood without seeing the arms races and the big power rivalries. Racism is not confined to national boundaries, nor is sexism. Pollution is a global problem, and the depletion of resources will leave us all bereft no matter what country we live in.

This means that radical social change cannot occur neighborhood-by-neighborhood, or even country by country. The critical points of decision are shifting to the international context and power must be challenged where it is. A revolutionary movement must be based at the grass roots or it is not a people’s movement, but if it remains at the local level only, it raises hopes only to disappoint them.

At the same time, this powerful dynamic pushing social affairs beyond the nation-state creates conditions in which it is finally possible to organize a transnational movement. We can ourselves go beyond the loose associations of national groups (internationals) to associations, which reflect the New World society of the future.

Not only does our analysis lead us to a transnational perspective, but also our vision of a new society. However much has been accomplished by the radical movements of China and Sweden, for example, they still show in some of their dealings with other countries a betrayal of their own socialist principles. No country can exist in a vacuum and no revolution can be made in one. If the global context is not changed drastically, it will limit the achievements of the national revolution.

The ecological challenge especially shows the declining viability of nation-states. Humankind must reorganize to deal with global problems. If the new society of the future is a global society, our movements should reflect that now.

Our strategy also requires a transnational perspective. We need each other across national lines to exert powerful leverage for change. Some trade unions are already discovering that workers in one country cannot alone confront the multinational corporations; the unions must combine across national lines to be able to tackle the giants of modern capitalism.

Activists in various countries have much to teach each other. Even though conditions vary widely, sharing hard-won experience and analysis will lead to a more mature movement. Our own nationalism will probably only be outgrown through encounter with others.

The War Resisters International intends to play its part in encouraging a transnational movement for nonviolent revolution. We are encouraged by the increase of direct action projects organized across national lines, by the growth of consciousness of pacific militancy and the development of nonviolent training, by the increasing solidarity of war resisters everywhere, by the celebration of life and love in the midst of hardship and distress, and by the recognition in our movement that “the struggle against war will never be effective until it forms an integral part in the struggle for a new society.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: George Lakey is director of Training for Change and editor of the invaluable website Global Nonviolent Action Database. He has taught peace studies at Swarthmore College, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania, and was co-founder of Jobs with Peace Campaign, director of the Quaker Action Group and founder of Men Against Patriarchy. He has been the recipient of the Ashley Montague Peace Award, and has published six influential books and countless articles. Among his works are: Strategy for a Living Revolution , Exploring Nonviolent Action, and Strategy for Non-Violent Revolution.  The website of Training for Change gives a more extensive biography and bibliography; article courtesy of Training for Change.

“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