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Waging Nonviolent Struggle: A Book Review
an article by Tony Dominski

Some people think that only saints or true believers can practice nonviolent action. In his masterful new book, "Waging Nonviolent Struggle," Dr. Gene Sharp points out that many successful nonviolent campaigns have been conducted by those who believed in the legitimacy of violence.

Sharp’s goal is to apply the hard lessons learned from 20th Century struggles to forward the practice of the 21st. He predicts: "Expanded applications of nonviolent struggle in the future will not only contribute to the reduction of major violence but to the expansion of democratic practices, political freedom and social justice." Sharp, a Senior Fellow at the Einstein Institution, has spent a half a century of scholarship and activism to advance this goal.

Part One of Sharp’s book explores the roots of power, and how power can be challenged through nonviolent action. Part Two presents 23 fascinating case histories of the 20th Century, which illustrate the techniques and successes, as well as, the perils and failures of nonviolent action. These include less known campaigns such as the successful resistance of the Norwegian teachers to fascism in 1942, and the courageous, but so far unsuccessful, campaign against Burmese dictators in 1988-1990. I was haunted by the account of Argentinean mothers slowly marching counterclockwise in the Plaza De Mayo [1977-1982] to demand that the junta disclose the fate of their missing children.

The last sections of the book provide an extremely detailed and practical exposition of the tactics and strategy of nonviolent action, which should prove of immense help to activists. Included are potential applications to correct 21st Century ills such as genocide, ethnic, and religions oppression and economic injustice.

Conclusion: Dr. Sharp's book is insightful, practical and inspiring--a must read for those working for a culture of peace.

Details of the book: Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st century Potential, 2005, by Gene Sharp, 598 Pages, Porter Sargent Publishers, Boston.

DISCUSSION

Question(s) related to this article:


What are the most important books about the culture of peace?,

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Latest reader comment:

Johan Galtung is indeed the most perceptive peace researcher of our time.

Not only did he predict the fall of the Soviet Union quite precisely, but he has also predicted the fall of the American empire.  Here are excerpts from his 2004 article,
On the Coming Decline and Fall of the US Empire

The prediction of the decline and fall of the US Empire is based on the synergy of 14 contradictions, and the time span for the contradictions to work their way through decline to fall was estimated at 25 years in the year 2000. There are more contradictions because the US Empire is more complex, and the time span is longer also because it is more sophisticated. After the first months of President George W. Bush (selected) the time span was reduced to 20 years because of the way in which he sharpened so many of the contradictions posited the year before, and because his extreme singlemindedness made him blind to the negative, complex synergies. . . .

Here is the list of 14 contradictions posited in 2000:

I. Economic Contradictions(US led system WB/IMF/WTO NYSE Pentagon)

1. between growth and distribution: overproduction relative to demand, 1.4 billion below $ 1/day, 100.000 die/day, 1/4 of hunger

2. between productive and finance economy (currency, stocks,bonds) overvalued, hence crashes, unemployment, contract work

3. between production/distribution/consumption and nature: ecocrisis, depletion/pollution, global warming

II. Military Contradictions (US led system NATO/TIAP/USA-Japan)

4. between US state terrorism and terrorism: Blowback

5. between US and allies (except UK, D, Japan), saying enough

6. between US hegemony in Eurasia and the Russia India China triangle, with 40% of humanity

7. between US led NATO and EU army: The Tindemans follow-up

III. Political Contradictions (US exceptionalism under God)

8. between USA and the UN: The UN hitting back

9. between USA and the EU: vying for Orthodox/Muslim support

IV. Cultural Contradictions (US triumphant plebeian culture)

10. between US Judeo-Christianity and Islam (25% of humanity; UNSC nucleus has four Christian and none of the 56 Muslim countries).

11. between US and the oldest civilizations (Chinese, Indian, Mesopotamian, Aztec/Inca/Maya)

12. between US and European elite culture: France, Germany, etc.

V. Social Contradictions (US led world elites vs the rest: World Economic Forum, Davos vs World Social Forum, Porto Alegre)

13. between state corporate elites and working classes of unemployed and contract workers. The middle classes?

14. between older generation and youth: Seattle, Washington, Praha, Genova and ever younger youth. The middle generation?

15. To this could be added: between myth and reality.


This report was posted on February 22, 2006.