Growing List of Successful Nonviolent Actions Used Instead of Wars

Studies find nonviolence more likely to succeed, and those successes longer lasting.

We’re building (use the contact form to help us) a list of largely successful, overwhelmingly nonviolent, action campaigns used instead of war, meaning campaigns used in situations like invasions, coups, and occupations in which wars are often used, and campaigns that are not a real mix of nonviolent and violent actions (there is a lot to learn from those too), and not campaigns that failed. These can be large or small, but need to demonstrate the power of nonviolent action / unarmed civilian defense / unarmed protection. We’ll be adding to this list and linking to more details.

● When French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr in 1923, the German government called on its citizens to resist without physical violence. People nonviolently turned public opinion in Britain, the U.S., and even in Belgium and France, in favor of the occupied Germans. By international agreement, the French troops were withdrawn.

● In Lebanon, 30 years of Syrian domination was ended through a large-scale, nonviolent uprising in 2005.

● In Germany in 1920, a coup overthrew and exiled the government, but on its way out the government called for a general strike. The coup was undone in five days.

● In Algeria in 1961, four French generals staged a coup. Nonviolent resistance undid it in a few days.

● In the Soviet Union in 1991, Gorbachev was arrested, tanks sent to major cities, media shut down, and protests banned. But nonviolent protest ended the coup in a few days.

● In the first Palestinian intifada in the late 1980s to early 1990s, much of the subjugated population effectively became self-governing entities through nonviolent noncooperation. In Rashid Khalidi’s book The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine, he argues that this disorganized, spontaneous, grassroots, and largely nonviolent effort did more good than the PLO had done for decades, that it unified a resistance movement and shifted world opinion, despite co-option, opposition, and misdirection by a PLO oblivious to the need to influence world opinion and utterly naive about the need for applying pressure on Israel and the United States.

● Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia freed themselves from Soviet occupation through nonviolent resistance prior to the USSR’s collapse. See the film Singing Revolution.

● Nonviolent resistance in Western Sahara has forced Morocco to offer an autonomy proposal.

● In the final years of German occupation of Denmark and Norway during WWII, the Nazis effectively no longer controlled the population.

● Nonviolent movements have removed U.S. bases from Ecuador and the Philippines, and prevented the creation of a military training ground in Montenegro.

● Gandhi’s efforts were key to removing the British from India.

● When the Soviet military invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, there were demonstrations, a general strike, refusal to cooperate, removal of street signs, persuasion of troops. Despite clueless leaders conceding, the take-over was slowed, and the credibility of the Soviet Communist Party ruined.

● Nonviolence ended the occupations of towns in Donbass during the past 8 years.

● Nonviolence in Ukraine has blocked tanks, talked soldiers out of fighting, pushed soldiers out of areas. People are changing road signs, putting up billboards, standing in front of vehicles, getting bizarrely praised for it by a U.S. President in a State of the Union speech.

● Nonviolent Peaceforce has a long record of greater success than armed UN “peace keepers.”

● New Zealand Peacekeepers with guitars instead of guns succeeded where armed peacekeepers had repeatedly failed, in ending war in Bougainville, as shown in the film Soldiers without Guns.

● Example from Liberia: Film: Pray the Devil Back to Hell

● Tunisia overthrow in 2011.

● Overthrow of military regime in El Salvador in 1944, as recounted in A Force More Powerful.

Overthrow in Serbia in 1990s.

● In Colombia, a community has claimed its land and largely removed itself from war. See here, here, and here.

● In Mexico, a community has done the same. See here, here, and here.

● In Ecuador, a community has used strategic nonviolent action and communication to turn back an armed takeover of land by a mining company, as shown in the film Under Rich Earth.

● In Canada, indigenous people have used nonviolent action to prevent the armed installation of pipelines.

● In South Africa, nonviolent actions played the key role in ending Apartheid.

● Another example of successful nonviolent resistance to military occupation would be community efforts in Budrus to resist the construction of the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank through their lands. See the film Budrus.

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