I financially support and post pieces on independent media, because I believe mainstream media is part of how militarism remains entrenched in our society. So when I learned from a recent presentation by Kevin Martin, President of Peace Action National, that The Washington Post published January 18, 2016 an article by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan entitled, “How the world is proving Martin Luther King right about nonviolence”, I was pleasantly surprised.
Their book published in 2011 found that when unarmed people used a coordinated set of strikes, protests, boycotts or other actions to confront an opponent, they were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts when seeking to remove incumbent national leaders or gain territorial independence. The authors determined that nonviolence campaigns succeeded by developing mass participation which in turn caused major power shifts within the opponent regime through empowering reformers and cutting off hard-liner support.
In The Washington Post article Chenoweth and Stephan combined data going back to 1900 with data from 2011-2015 to derive more current conclusions, some of which follow –
1. Nonviolent campaigns have succeeded 51 percent of the time, while violent campaigns succeeded 27 percent of the time.
2. In the present decade there has been a sharp decline in the success rates of both nonviolent and violent resistance – nonviolent succeeded 30 %, violent succeeded 12% of the time.
3. Violent aspects are usually counterproductive when part of nonviolent mass movements.
Their research indicates that when peaceful uprisings include creative ways that defy expectations, possess collective vision with clear internal rules and have patience; nonviolent actions are more effective than violent ones, even under increased repression. The research also indicates that opponents to democratic empowerment are adapting to challenges from below. My takeaway is that our hope, love and solidarity need to remain steadfast. History is on our side.