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Nonviolent revolution

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Title: Nonviolent revolution  
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Nonviolent revolution

A nonviolent revolution is a revolution using mostly campaigns of civil resistance, including various forms of nonviolent protest, to bring about the departure of governments seen as entrenched and authoritarian. While many campaigns of civil resistance are intended for much more limited goals than revolution, generally a nonviolent revolution is characterized by simultaneous advocacy of democracy, human rights and national independence in the country concerned. In some cases a campaign of civil resistance with a revolutionary purpose may be able to bring about the defeat of a dictatorial regime only if it obtains a degree of support from the armed forces, or at least their benevolent neutrality.

An effective campaign of civil resistance, and even the achievement of a nonviolent revolution, may be possible in a particular case despite the controlling government taking brutal measures against protesters; the commonly held belief that most revolutions which have happened in dictatorial regimes were bloody or violent uprisings is not borne out by historical analysis. Nonviolent revolutions in the 20th century became more successful and more common, especially in the 1980s as Cold War political alliances which supported status quo governance waned.

In the 1970s and 1980s, intellectuals in the Soviet Union and other Communist states, and in some other countries, began to focus on civil resistance as the most promising means of opposing entrenched authoritarian regimes. The use of various forms of unofficial exchange of information, including by samizdat, expanded. Two major revolutions during the 1980s strongly influenced political movements that followed. The first was the 1986 People Power Revolution, in the Philippines from which the term 'people power' came to be widely used, especially in Hispanic and Asian nations.[1] Three years later, the Revolutions of 1989 that ousted communist regimes in the Eastern Bloc reinforced the concept (with the notable exception of the notoriously bloody Romanian Revolution), beginning with the victory of Solidarity in that year's Polish legislative elections. The Revolutions of 1989 provided the template for the so-called color revolutions in mainly post-communist states, which tended to use a color or flower as a symbol, somewhat in the manner of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia.

In December 1989, inspired by the anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe, the against the communist regime. In 1990, dissidents in the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic started civil resistance against the government, but were initially crushed by Red Army in the Black January massacre.

Recent nonviolent revolutions include the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which was highlighted by a series of acts of civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes organized by the opposition movement.


  • Overview 1
  • Peaceful revolution 2
  • As it relates to democracy 3
  • List of nonviolent revolutions by era 4
    • Decolonization 4.1
    • Cold War 4.2
      • In nations of the Warsaw Pact 4.2.1
      • Outside of the Warsaw Pact 4.2.2
    • Post–Cold War period 4.3
      • Colour revolutions 4.3.1
      • Revolutions in the Middle East 4.3.2
      • Revolutions in Latin America and Asia 4.3.3
  • Organizers and supporters 5
    • The Soros Foundations 5.1
    • Other organizations 5.2
  • Current nonviolent resistance 6
    • Bahrain 6.1
    • Belarus 6.2
    • Georgia 6.3
    • Moldova 6.4
    • Mongolia 6.5
    • Occupy Together 6.6
    • Russia, Bashkortostan 6.7
    • Uzbekistan 6.8
  • Arab Spring revolutions 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The beginnings of the nonviolence movement lie in the satyagraha philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, who guided the people of India to independence from Britain. Despite the violence of the Partition of India following independence, and numerous revolutionary uprisings which were not under Gandhi's control, India's independence was achieved through legal processes after a period of national resistance rather than through a military revolution.

According to the socialist Fourth International, Karl Marx acknowledged a theoretical possibility of "peaceful" revolutions, but the Fourth International articles also say "The development and preservation of good relations with the military forces is one of the absolute priorities of preparatory revolutionary work". Some have argued that a nonviolent revolution would require fraternisation with military forces, like in the relatively nonviolent Portuguese Carnation Revolution.[2]

Peaceful revolution

A peaceful revolution or bloodless coup is a radical restructuring of society that occurs without violence. A peaceful revolution happens when there are two sides and one of them is not willing to use armed force. If the revolutionists refuse to use violence, it is known as a nonviolent revolution. If the revolutionists are willing to use force, but the loyalists (government) negotiate or surrender to divert armed conflict, it is called a bloodless war.

Hawaii has had both types of peaceful revolutions in 1893 and 1954. However, the recurrent claim that the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii was "bloodless" is erroneous. Queen Liliu'okalani's Queen's Book notes to the contrary that Lilu'okalani received "friends [who] expressed their sympathy in person; amongst these Mrs. J. S. Walker, who had lost her husband by the treatment he received from the hands of the revolutionists. He was one of many who from persecution had succumbed to death".

Other peaceful revolutions that have occurred are the Bloodless Revolution (also known as the Glorious Revolution) of 1688 in England, the People Power Revolution of 1986 in the Philippines, and the peaceful revolution of 1989 in Germany.

As it relates to democracy

One theory of democracy is that its main purpose is to allow peaceful revolutions. The idea is that majorities voting in elections approximate the result of a coup. In 1962, John F. Kennedy famously said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."[3]

George Lakey in his 1973 book[4] and in his 1976 "A Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution",[5] laid out a five-stage strategy for nonviolent revolution.[6]

Stage 1 - Cultural Preparation or "Conscientization": Education, training and consciousness raising of why there is a need for a nonviolent revolution and how to conduct a nonviolent revolution.

Stage 2 - Building Organizations: As training, education and consciousness raising continues, the need to form organizations. Affinity groups or nonviolent revolutionary groups are organized to provide support, maintain nonviolent discipline, organize and train other people into similar affinity groups and networks.

Stage 3 - Confrontation: Organized and sustained campaigns of picketing, strikes, sit-ins, marches, boycotts, die-ins, blockades to disrupt business as usual in institutions and government. By putting one's body on the line nonviolently the rising movement stops the normal gears of government and business.

Stage 4 - Mass Non Cooperation: Similar affinity groups and networks of affinity groups around the country and world, engage in similar actions to disrupt business as usual.

Stage 5 - Developing Parallel Institutions to take over functions and services of government and commerce. In order to create a new society without violence, oppression, environmental destruction, discrimination and one that is environmentally sustainable, nonviolent, democratic, equatable tolerant and fair, alternative organizations and structures including businesses must be created to provide the needed services and goods that citizens of a society need.

Gene Sharp, who influenced many in the Arab Spring revolutions, has documented and described over 198 different methods of nonviolent action that nonviolent revolutionaries might use in struggle. He argues that no government or institution can rule without the consent of the governed or oppressed as that is the source of nonviolent power. Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. argued this as well.[7]

List of nonviolent revolutions by era


Cold War

In nations of the Warsaw Pact

Outside of the Warsaw Pact

Post–Cold War period

Colour revolutions

These are revolutions in post-communist authoritarian Europe and other new countries that were part of the former Soviet Union or Warsaw Pact. Each of these had massive street protests and/or followed disputed elections and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian. Almost all of them used a particular colour or a flower to be their symbol of unity.

Revolutions in the Middle East

The media attention given to the color revolutions has inspired movements in the Middle East, and their supporters, to adopt similar symbology.

  • The Cedar Revolution in Lebanon followed the assassination of opposition leader Rafik Hariri in 2005. Chiefly, the movement demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, ending a de facto occupation. Unlike the revolutions in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, this movement did not seek to overturn disputed election results, but did cause the pro-Syrian government of Lebanon to fall. Due to similarities in motivation and organization strategies, it is widely considered a cousin of the color revolutions.

Revolutions in Latin America and Asia

Drawing inspiration from the People Power Revolution of 1986 in the Philippines, as well as other succeeding color revolution movements, several South American countries experienced what were effectively non-violent revolutions.

  • Dominican Republic- "The Butterflies" or "Las Mariposas". The Mirabal sisters fought to change their government, by underground movements. Also, by rejecting sexual advances from the president himself. Three sisters were ordered to be killed by the president at the time, Rafael Trujillo, and only one survived to tell the story. There is also a movie made about their ordeal.
  • Ecuador – The impeachment of President Lucio Gutierrez, by the Congress of that country after days of increasing demonstrations and protests by citizens led by the citizens of Quito, the capital. Thousands of demonstrators were present in the Plaza of Independence. Flags were waved in celebration shortly after Congress voted out Gutierrez 62-0. Airport runways were blocked by demonstrators to prevent Gutierrez from leaving the country. The former president was later given asylum by Brazil and was transported out of the country on April 24. Protesters also intended to depose the Congress after accusing the body of alleged corruption as well.
  • the SMS messaging.

Organizers and supporters

The Soros Foundations

The Open Society Institute, they are noted for their close relationships with several of the color revolutions, particularly in Ukraine.

Some opponents of the revolutionary movements, especially those on the extreme right or left wing, have accused Soros of staging coups d'état, deliberately using popular nonviolent movements as a front. The Soros Foundations also contribute to Freedom House and some other organizations charged as "front groups" for U.S. intervention.

However, the Soros Foundations have also supported similar "regime change" in U.S.-backed countries, and Soros heavily invested in defeating George W. Bush in 2004. The view that Soros is acting as a front for the Bush administration is not supported by mainstream opinion.

Other organizations

Students for Global Democracy (SGD), an organisation originated in the US, works with the ZUBR organization in Belarus, which is attempting to bring a color revolution to that nation. SGD has also worked with the new Azerbaijani YOX! (No) movement.

In some specific fields within social change movements, there is also interest in nonviolent revolution. For example, MindFreedom International, a nonprofit coalition, has a mission statement which calls for a "nonviolent revolution" in the mental health system. To help accomplish this, MindFreedom has created in reality the "International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment" that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called for in more than ten speeches and essays.

Current nonviolent resistance

Several countries are experiencing the rise of non-violent resistance movements with the intent of effecting a non-violent revolution.


Over 100,000 protesters took part in a pro-democracy march on 22 February 2011.

Inspired by the regional Arab Spring, protests started in Bahrain on 14 February.[8][9]:162–3 The government responded harshly, killing four protesters camping in Pearl Roundabout.[9]:73–4 Later, protesters were allowed to reoccupy the roundabout where they staged large marches amounting to 150,000 participants.[9]:88

On 14 March, Saudi-led GCC forces were requested by the government and entered the country,[9]:132 which the opposition called an "occupation".[10] The following day state of emergency was declared[8][9]:139 and protests paused[11] after a brutal crackdown was launched against protesters including doctors and bloggers.[12][13][14] More than 2,929 people have been arrested,[15][16] and at least five people died due to torture while in police custody.[9]:287–8

Protests resumed after lifting emergency law on 1 June,[17] several large rallies were staged by the opposition parties[18] including a march on 9 March 2012 attended by over 100,000.[19][20] Smaller-scale protests and clashes outside of the capital have continued to occur almost daily.[21][22] More than 80 people had died since the start of the uprising.[23]


There have been a number of protests against President Zubr. The most recent major protests were on March 25, 2005. This was a self-declared attempt to emulate the Kyrgyzstan revolution, and involved over a thousand citizens. However, it was severely suppressed by the police which arrested over 30 people.

Mikhail Marinich, a leader of the opposition, is currently in prison. The opposition uses as a symbol the white-red-white former flag of Belarus. The movement has had significant connections with that in neighboring Ukraine, and during the Orange Revolution some white-red-white flags were seen being waved in Kiev.

Lukashenko has said in the past: "In our country, there will be no pink or orange, or even banana revolution." More recently he's said "They [the West] think that Belarus is ready for some 'orange' or, what is a rather frightening option, 'blue' or 'cornflower blue' revolution. Such 'blue' revolutions are the last thing we need".[24] On 19 April 2005, he further commented: "All these coloured revolutions are pure and simple banditry."[25]


The Badri Patarkatsishvili.[28] Demonstrations were initially largely peaceful, but turned violent the next day when the police used heavy-handed tactics, including tear gas and water cannon.[29]


The opposition in Moldova, is reported to have hoped and urged for some kind of Orange revolution, similar to that in Ukraine, in the followup of the Moldovan parliamentary elections, 2005, while the Christian Democratic People's Party adopted orange for its color in a clear reference to the events of Ukraine.[30]

A name hypothesized for such an event was "grape revolution" because of the abundance of vineyards in the country; however, such a revolution failed to materialize after the governmental victory in the elections. Many reasons have been given for this, including a fractured opposition and that the government had already co-opted many of the political positions that might have united the opposition (such as a perceived pro-European and anti-Russian stance). Also, the elections themselves were declared fairer in the OSCE election monitoring reports than had been the case in other countries where similar revolutions occurred, even though the CIS monitoring mission strongly condemned them.


On March 25, 2005, activists wearing yellow scarves held protests in the capital city of Ulan Bator, disputing the results of the 2004 Mongolian parliamentary elections and calling for fresh elections. One of the chants heard in that protest was "Let's congratulate our Kyrgyz brothers for their revolutionary spirit. Let's free Mongolia of corruption."[31]

Occupy Together

The Occupy movement is an international protest movement which started in New York City on September 17, 2011 with Occupy Wall Street and uses the occupation of public spaces without government permission as a means of protesting numerous issues, including notably social and economic inequality. By October 9 Occupy protests had taken place or were ongoing in over 95 cities across 82 countries and over 600 communities in the U.S.[32][33][34][35][36] As of October 28 the Meetup page "Occupy Together" listed "Occupy" communities in 2,355 towns and cities worldwide.[37]

Initiated by the Canadian activist group [43] The protests, which have been described as a "democratic awakening," are difficult to distill to a few demands,[44][45] and have included protests against the Federal Reserve and clashes with local police over the right to camp out in public spaces.

Russia, Bashkortostan

The opposition in the Republic of Bashkortostan has held protests demanding that the federal authorities intervene to dismiss Murtaza Rakhimov from his position as President of the republic, accusing him of leading an "arbitrary, corrupt, and violent" regime. Airat Dilmukhametov, one of the opposition leaders, and leader of the Bashkir National Front, has said that the opposition movement has been inspired by the mass protests of Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.[46] Another opposition leader, Marat Khaiyirulin, said that if an Orange Revolution were to happen in Russia, it would begin in Bashkortostan.


There has been longstanding opposition to President Kmara or Pora.[47]

Arab Spring revolutions

Several violent or nonviolent protests in the early 21st century, especially the ones Tunisia and Egypt, have been termed "Social Media Revolutions", alluding to the role played by Web 2.0 communications technologies in massive mobilization.

Despite an initial ban on the use of the internet, once it was lifted social media was used quite extensively in coordinating the masses in marching to key government locations. On 11 February 2011, President Hosni Mubarak resigned as president of Egypt, leading people to label this as a peaceful and mostly non-violent people's revolution where, except in a limited number of incidents, loss of life was caused directly by acts of the government rather than protesters.

See also


  1. ^ Beech, Hannah (August 17, 2009). "Corazon Aquino 1933–2009: The Saint of Democracy". Time. Retrieved May 20, 2010. 
  2. ^ Dan Jakopovich: Revolution and the Party in Gramsci's Thought: A Modern Application.
  3. ^ JFK's "Address on the First Anniversary of the Alliance for Progress," White House reception for diplomatic corps of the Latin American republics, March 13, 1962. Public Papers of the Presidents – John F. Kennedy (1962), p. 223. Wikisource
  4. ^ Lakey, George.(1973) Strategy For A Living Revolution. Grossman: New York, NY.
  5. ^ Lakey, George. (1976) A Manifesto For Nonviolent Revolution. Training For Change: Philadelphia, PA (
  6. ^ Lakey, George. (2002) Strategizing For A Living Revolution. retrieved on 10/26/2011 from
  7. ^ Sharp, Gene. (1973) The Politics of Nonviolent Action. Porter-Sargent: Boston, MA.
  8. ^ a b "Bahrain declares state of emergency after unrest". Reuters. 15 March 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry". BICI. 
  10. ^ "Gulf States Send Force to Bahrain Following Protests". BBC News. 14 March 2011. Archived from the original on 20 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "Bahrain says seizes explosives, fines protest chief". Reuters. 28 June 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  12. ^ Law, Bill (6 April 2011). "Police Brutality Turns Bahrain Into 'Island of Fear'. Crossing Continents (via BBC News). Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  13. ^ Press release (30 March 2011). "USA Emphatic Support to Saudi Arabia". Zayd Alisa (via Scoop). Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  14. ^ Cockburn, Patrick (18 March 2011). "The Footage That Reveals the Brutal Truth About Bahrain's Crackdown – Seven Protest Leaders Arrested as Video Clip Highlights Regime's Ruthless Grip on Power". The Independent. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  15. ^ "Bahrain inquiry confirms rights abuses – Middle East". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  16. ^ "Applying pressure on Bahrain". The Washington Post. 10 May 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  17. ^ "Bahrain sees new clashes as martial law lifted". The Guardian. 1 June 2011. 
  18. ^ "Thousands rally for reform in Bahrain". Reuters. 11 June 2011. 
  19. ^ "Bahrain protesters join anti-government march in Manama". BBC. 9 March 2012. 
  20. ^ "Mass pro-democracy protest rocks Bahrain". Reuters. 9 March 2012. 
  21. ^ "Bahrain live blog 25 Jan 2012". Al Jazeera. 25 January 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  22. ^ "Heavy police presence blocks Bahrain protests". Al Jazeera. 15 February 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  23. ^ Gregg Carlstrom (23 April 2012). "Bahrain court delays ruling in activists case". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  24. ^ News . Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  25. ^ [2]
  26. ^ Thousands Rally in Capital Against Georgia President, The New York Times
  27. ^ "Tear gas used on Georgia protest". 2007-11-07. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  28. ^ Patarkatsishvili Pledges to Finance Protest Rallies. Civil Georgia. 2007-10-28.
  29. ^ Tear gas used on Georgia protest, BBC News, November 7, 2007
  30. ^ Features – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  31. ^ Asia-Pacific | Mongolians protest for new poll. BBC News (2005-03-29). Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  32. ^ Derek Thompson, Occupy the World: The '99 Percent' Movement Goes Global October 11, 2011. Retrieved October 15, 2011.
  33. ^ Shaila Dewan – "99 Percenters and 53 Percenters Face Off" – The New York Times – Business Day – Economix – October 11, 2011. Retrieved October 15, 2011.
  34. ^ Adam, K. (October 15, 2011) "Occupy Wall Street protests go global" Washington Post
  35. ^ Adam, K. (October 16, 2011) "Occupy Wall Street Protests Continue Worldwide" Washington Post
  36. ^ Joanna Walters in Seattle (October 8, 2011). "Occupy America: protests against Wall Street and inequality hit 70 cities | World news | The Observer". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  37. ^ "Occupy Together Meetups Everywhere". Meetup. 2010-05-23. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  38. ^ Fleming, Andrew (September 27, 2011). "Adbusters sparks Wall Street protest Vancouver-based activists behind street actions in the U.S". The Vancouver Courier. Retrieved September 30, 2011. 
  39. ^ About Accessed: October 3, 2011.
  40. ^ Saba, Michael (September 17, 2011). "Twitter #occupywallstreet movement aims to mimic Iran". CNN tech. Retrieved September 17, 2011. 
  41. ^ "Occupy Wall Street | September 17th". Retrieved October 6, 2011. 
  42. ^ Occupy America: protests against Wall Street and inequality hit 70 citiesThe Guardian. Accessed: October 14, 2011.
  43. ^ Ben Berkowitz, From a single hashtag, a protest circled the world. Brisbane Times. Published October 19, 2011, accessed October 19, 2011
  44. ^ "Cornel West on Occupy Wall Street: It's the Makings of a U.S. Autumn Responding to the Arab Spring".  
  45. ^ "Will Occupy Wall Street’s spark reshape our politics?". The Washington Post. February 24, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  46. ^ Bigg, Claire. (2005-04-08) Bashkortostan: Opposition Denounces ‘Dictatorship’ At Moscow Protest – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty © 2010. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  47. ^ Features – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.

External links

  • peace news – for nonviolent revolution
  • Right to Nonviolence
  • Nonviolent Social Change – the Bulletin of the Manchester College Peace Studies Institute- a journal on noviolent social change
  • Nonviolent Resistance, Reform, & Revolution ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans (U.S.)
  • 12 Lessons in Nonviolent Resistance from the 1989 student occupation of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square (2014-06-09), Chris Hedges, Truthdig
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