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On non-violence vs pacifism

Summary

Maria J Stephan explains where the power of non-violent resistance comes from.

Summary

Maria J Stephan explains where the power of non-violent resistance comes from.

Transcript

The stereotype, or the connotation, is that non-violent action means pacifism, or it means just not responding in kind. But in fact, non-violent resistance is an active form of struggle that just involves different weapons.

But I think what needs to be understood is where the power of this method of struggle comes from. And the power of non-violent resistance is grounded in people – in the consent of people. So when large numbers of people refuse to obey, refuse to co-operate with evil systems or institutions that are unjust, this translates into significant social, political, economic pressure being applied against the opponent. So I would say it’s anything but passive, it’s anything but weak, and it’s anything but ineffective.

Interviewer: Is it also the right thing?

Right in the sense that the purpose of non-violent resistance is to be able to challenge unjust structures and systems, but to recognise the humanity in the opponent. Your goal is not to kill, harm, or humiliate the opponent; your goal is to win over the opponent to your side, which is very different, of course, from armed struggle or insurgency. So you recognise the humanity in the other and you want to bring them on board to fight what is an unjust system.