Erica Chenoweth found that from 1900 to 2006, nonviolent campaigns were twice as effective as violent ones in achieving their goals. And when nonviolent movements overthrow unjust regimes, they are far more likely to establish democracies and protect human rights, and less likely to lapse into civil war than violent movements.
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Nonviolent campaigns were effective against dictatorships; against highly repressive regimes that use violent and brutal repression; and also in places where people would expect a nonviolent campaign to be impossible to even emerge in the first place — such as very closed societies with no civil society organization to speak of.
“The reason why people believe that violence is more powerful than nonviolence is not accidental. That is the message that is taught to us by the 1 percent. In all societies in which people believe violence is more powerful than nonviolence, the 1 percent has messaged that, has drummed that into people’s consciousness.”
Dr. Lafayette brought into our midst the powerful legacy of the Freedom Movement that won seemingly impossible victories against unimaginable odds — victories won on the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma; during bus burnings and Freedom Rides in Mississippi and Alabama; and while organizing poor tenants in the tough slums of Chicago.
Martin Luther King had a new approach — massive civil disobedience and massive non-cooperation. The only reason a system of oppression can exist is with the cooperation of the oppressed. Once the oppressed refuse to cooperate, the system can’t continue to exist. Martin Luther King learned this new method from Mahatma Gandhi.
The message of Kingian Nonviolence can be traced in an historical line from the civil rights organizers of the Southern freedom movement in the 1950s, through the anti-Vietnam War struggles of the 1960s, on through the anti-nuclear and anti-apartheid movements of the 1980s, all the way to today’s young activists.
Our goal is to ensure that Dr. King’s legacy is alive with us, so that when that bullet was fired into his chest, they missed the target. King had a vision that this philosophy could be effective not just in the struggle against segregation, but also in the struggle against militarism and economic injustice.
The Freedom Movement left an enduring legacy by overcoming a brutal and seemingly all-powerful form of segregation that Vincent Harding calls a “terroristic system” of violent subjugation. Its legacy now extends far beyond America’s shores, for it has ignited the hopes of millions of people waging struggles for freedom overseas.
Martin was attuned to the Hebrew prophets, and that was their constant message: Don’t talk about loving God or being religious unless you stand with the outcasts and the weak. Jesus said the same thing. There’s no way to understand Martin’s urgency about standing with the poor without taking into consideration his deepest religious grounding.