“What is Nonviolent Action?” by Thomas Weber and Robert J. Burrowes

Reference: Nonviolence International

Nonviolent action is a technique by which people who reject passivity and submission, and who see struggle as essential, can wage their conflict without violence. Nonviolent action is not an attempt to avoid or ignore conflict. It is one response to the problem of how to act effectively in politics, especially how to wield powers effectively.

(Gene Sharp, 1973, p. 64)

It consists of acts of protest and persuasion, noncooperation and nonviolent intervention designed to undermine the sources of power of the opponent in order to bring about change.

Nonviolent protest and persuasion is a class of methods which are ‘mainly symbolic acts of peaceful opposition or of attempted persuasion, extending beyond verbal expressions’. These methods include marches, vigils, pickets, the use of posters, street theatre, painting and protest meetings.

Noncooperation – the most common form of nonviolent action – involves the deliberate withdrawal of cooperation with the person, activity, institution or regime with which the activists have become engaged in conflict. These methods include the provision of sanctuary (social); strikes, boycotts and war tax resistance (economic) and boycotts of legislative bodies and elections (political). Political noncooperation also includes acts of civil disobedience – the ‘deliberate, open and peaceful violation of particular laws, decrees, regulations … and the like which are believed to be illegitimate for some reason’.

Nonviolent intervention is a class of methods involving the disruption or destruction of established behaviour patterns, policies, relationships or institutions which are considered objectionable, or the creation of new behaviour patterns, policies, relationships or institutions which are preferred. The disruption class of methods includes nonviolent occupations or blockades, fasting, seeking imprisonment and overloading facilities (such as courts and prisons). The creation class of methods includes establishing alternative political, economic and social institutions such as non-hierarchical cooperatives, markets, ethical investment groups, alternative schools, energy exchange cooperatives as well as parallel media, communications and transport networks. This last class of methods is what the Gandhian literature refers to as the constructive program. (Sharp, 1973, pp. 109-445).