‘Readings in Nonviolence’ features extracts from our
favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence, or
reviews of important works in the field (suggestions welcome).
Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns
Introduced by Rob Fairmichael–
Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns,
War Resisters International, 2009, ISBN 978-0-903517-21-8
Editorial Committee; Howard Clark, Javier Gárate, Joanne Sheehan, Dorie Wilsnack
This looks a relatively slim book, it is numbered at 152 pages, but it has a huge amount packed into it and, furthermore, is available at an extremely modest price (see news section of NN166 for details or visit the WRI website at http://wri-irg.org ) I would strongly recommend people to get hold of a paper copy – it is on the web at http://www.wri-irg.org/node/3855 but, for ease of reference when you want to look something up when you’re not beside your computer, you can’t beat a paper copy (a so called ‘hard’ copy which is actually quite soft).
We could quote the entire publication here but that would be pointless when we have just given the web reference and information about getting paper copies. What it does seem useful to do is to refer to some of its contents, and just enough actual content to whet your appetite for it.
“This printed Handbook is a selection of a wider range of material available from War Resisters' International or on the internet. It combines texts introducing certain themes, experiences, and group exercises. This introductory section outlines what we mean by nonviolence; the importance of nonviolence training; issues for your group; and a few brief examples of historical nonviolence. Section Two looks at one specific instance of oppression within our movements: gender. Section Three outlines tasks and tools for organising and facilitating trainings. Section Four describes nonviolent campaigns and actions, including constructive programmes and the role of the media. Section Five offers specific tips for effective organising at all stages. Section Six provides stories and strategies from around the world.
Throughout the Handbook we describe some of the advantages of nonviolence in action and give examples of how it works…
Section Seven gives examples of exercises for working in nonviolence. These group exercises aim either to deepen a group's understanding of an issue and of each other or to help the group be more effective in carrying out nonviolent actions and campaigns. In general, the exercises need somebody to 'facilitate' them, that is to introduce them, explain what to do and why, and keep the process moving, encouraging timid people to speak up and extroverts to listen, especially in the 'debriefing' at the end…..
Section Ten is some selected resources. If you find something in this Handbook particularly interesting, you can also go to the WRI Website to find out more. You will find longer versions of some articles, additional articles and exercises, and plenty more resources. In WRI we try to share rather than provide resources, meaning that others would love to read what you have learnt in your experiences with nonviolent campaigns or training. So please contribute to the WRI Website. And if you do translate part of the Handbook, please send your translation to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can add it to the Website.” (pages 7-8)
What is nonviolence
“In this Handbook, our basic, working definition of nonviolence is based on a desire to end violence — be it physical violence or what's been called 'structural violence' (deprivation, social exclusion, and oppression)—without committing further violence. This is not a definitive description, as other, more eloquent, more philosophical, more time-specific (e.g., that meant a lot in a certain time and place), and personal, rather poetic, definitions exist.
Nonviolence can imply much more than this basic definition, including a desire to change power relations and social structures, an attitude of respect for all humanity or all life, or even a philosophy of life or theory of social action. We encourage you to explore these areas. Discovering the differences in emphasis and sharing insights into nonviolence can be a rich experience in the context of a group preparing to take nonviolent action together.
People have different reasons for adopting nonviolence. Some advocate it because they see it as an effective technique for bringing about desired social changes, others because they seek to practise nonviolence as a way of life. There is a spectrum here, with many somewhere in between. Such differences may surface during a campaign, but usually a statement of principles or guidelines specific to a particular campaign (see 'Principles of Nonviolent Action' and 'Nonviolent Guidelines') can accommodate people with attitudes across this spectrum” (page 9)
Principles of nonviolent action
“These Principles were developed through a collaborative process, involving nonviolence trainers in the United States and the editorial committee of this Handbook. We encourage you to use this, or another set of principles, to stimulate discussion within your group. Use the 'Spectrum or Barometer' Exercise to help your group understand where members stand in relation to nonviolence principles. If there are large differences, you will need to discuss how that will affect your nonviolent campaign. The use of Nonviolent Guidelines may be the best way to define your agreements as a group (at least for the purposes of your campaign).
We acknowledge the value of each person. This is fundamental: recognising the dignity and humanity of oneself and others. We refuse to mistreat our opponent as an enemy.
We recognise that we all have part of the truth; no one has all of it. No one is all 'right or all 'wrong'. Our campaign information gathering, educations, and actions should reflect this.
Our actions emphasise openness to promote communication and democratic processes. We work for processes that express 'power with' not 'power over' others. Empowering all involved in a campaign is important. We promote democratic structures (internally and externally) to maximise self-determination.
Our means (behaviours and actions) are consistent with our ends (of affirming life, opposing oppression and seeking justice, valuing every person). Our strategy must be based on this principle, we cannot justify a 'victory' obtained through violent or deceitful methods.
We are willing to undergo suffering rather than inflict it. Refusing to inflict suffering is based on the value of each person and is a strategy that draws attention to our commitment and our cause. We will not violently fight back if attacked. We recognise jail may be a consequence of our actions; filling the jails may be a strategy.
We commit to prepare ourselves for nonviolent action according to the guidelines agreed. If necessary, we will attempt to arrange orientation sessions or workshops in nonviolence to better understand and practice this commitment.” (page 31-32)
Included in the handbook is an excellent list of printed and web resources so whatever you’re looking for in the nonviolence training field you’re likely to find something of use here.
INNATE has copies of “A Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns” available at cost price (UK£5), plus postage if applicable.