Guest Comment | Nonviolence is effective in resisting occupation and war – Santa Cruz Sentinel

By Joe Williams

The Resource Center for Nonviolence expresses its solidarity and pain with the people of Ukraine and Russia who are suffering, fleeing and resisting Putin’s military occupation of Ukraine. In the face of the trauma of war, we are grateful for the support of humanitarian organizations for refugees and victims of war, and we strengthen the courage and power of unarmed resistance. We draw attention to people invisible in the news, marginalized people of color in Ukraine, including refugees from the Middle East and Africa, students from African countries and Muslim Tatars.

We oppose Russian imperialism, as we have long opposed American and Western imperialism. We support international non-lethal solutions. We are grateful to be part of the worldwide network of nonviolent organizations that speak out, educate and train in nonviolent resistance, and present stories of people’s creative actions.

Listening to the national media, one would think that the debate is all about sending more military weapons to the conflict, or whether the United States should impose a “no-fly zone”. Nonviolent responses are not discussed and rarely reported.

Contrary to popular belief, nonviolent resistance has great potential to defend the Ukrainian people. In fact, the Ukrainian people successfully waged a nonviolent “Orange Revolution” in 2004 and a largely nonviolent rebellion in 2014.

The political study of resistance to occupation and tyranny in Why Civil Resistance Works by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, as well as other studies, have shown that nonviolent resistance has succeeded more often than violent resistance in 100 liberation movements since 1900. When unarmed people resisted Nazi occupation in Denmark in the 1940s and Soviet occupation in Czechoslovakia in 1968, they saved thousands of lives and achieved democratic results.

Nonviolent resistance has won more democratic victories, faster liberation, and longer durations of peace after war than most violent resistance, report Chenoweth and Stephan.

Non-violent methods are based on the primary connection of people across borders and nationalities, and on human creativity accessible to all. Nonviolent movements include resistance to military service, spontaneous and organized acts of non-cooperation with military occupation, rendering society ungovernable by occupying forces, organizing constructive programs such as mutual aid, and mobilizing support popular for negotiations, ceasefire and disarmament. By their very method of organizing the participation of the popular masses, nonviolent movements build democratic results.

In Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, US and Russian military methods have sown social destruction, civilian death and trauma that will take generations to overcome. Adding more weapons to Europe will not save Europe. When are we going to learn? When we watch the war in Ukraine, many Americans ask, what can we do? We can advocate for nonviolent actions that will save lives and build democracy.

The Resource Center for Nonviolence calls on all who value the lives and dignity of Ukrainians and Russians to: Support an immediate ceasefire and international negotiations to end the war.

Support and publicize unarmed civilian resistance to occupation and war.

Support and publicize conscientious objection and resistance to conscription in Russia and Ukraine.

Support organizations providing humanitarian aid to refugees such as Médecins Sans Frontières link here. Welcome to all refugees from all wars and violence.

To oppose the deployment of American armaments in the conflict.

To oppose the engagement of American military forces in the war.

Oppose the glorification of people and parties that take human life.

Oppose sanctions that result in the lack of basic human needs, such as medicine and food.
Insist that the United States never use nuclear weapons, even if Russia does.

Oppose NATO expansion and encourage nonviolent civil defense.

Oppose the increase in the US military budget and work to prevent arms dealers and arms manufacturers from profiting from the conflict.

Oppose increased oil and gas production.

Increase US food aid to millions of people in many countries affected by the destruction of Ukrainian grain production.

Promoting the dignity of all life and supporting nonviolent resistance around the world.

Tell our elected nationals to wage non-violence, not war. Contact the Resource Center for Nonviolence for resources, library, education, training, speakers and see for more information.

Joe Williams is Chairman of the Board and Staff of the Nonviolence Resource Center.

Michael A. Bynum