The Revolutionary Means: Radical Nonviolence

A basic assumption of a pacifist radical philosophy is that violence and warfare are not limited to the actions of established militaries and their enemies. Violence and warfare are pervasive in our world, from our workplaces to our living rooms to our houses of worship. Every systemic injustice in our world is an injustice in significant measure because every injustice is also a form of violence.

The exploitation of capitalism is a form of violence. The power of political domination relies on threatened violence. Male domination has its only justification in the perceived superior physical ability of men to commit violence. Overcoming systemic domination, oppression, repression, and exploitation within our world relies on overcoming the violence that is a fundamental aspect of these systems.

Pacifist radicalism goes beyond nonviolence as a personal ethic, though it is not opposed to such an ethic. Pacifist radicalism is a strategic philosophy of nonviolent revolution. A nonviolent revolution promises the most complete success of any alternative form of revolution, in that it does not rely on the inherently violent bases of the systemic injustices against which we are all struggling.

In contrast to an armed revolution, the nonviolent revolution does not require the wealth to acquire weaponry, as each person already possesses the necessary tools. Armed revolutions require extraordinary skillsets in constructing, deploying, and engaging the conflict. A nonviolent revolutionary strategy does require a cooperative, educational, and disciplined movement to succeed. Such requirements are in fact themselves the basis of the very justice, freedom, equality, and wholeness that is sought by the revolution.

The nonviolent revolution builds into its very fabric the institutional seeds of the new order. By rejecting any method that relies on domination, exploitation, and violence, a new social reality is already embryonically present within the revolutionary nonviolent organization. The ends being sought on a global scale are already present in the means adopted by the movement.

It has been objected that pacifist radicalism assumes saintliness. It is argued that people are naturally aggressive, or that our already violent society makes nonviolence unrealistic. Dr. King and Gandhi were quite explicit that the power of nonviolence did not rely on eliminating every vestige of aggression. In fact, nonviolent tactics give one a new and constructive focus for one’s aggressive tendencies.

Dr. King stated that the choice that faces us is not violence vs. nonviolence, but rather nonviolence or nonexistence. In a world of weapons of mass destruction, only a mass movement of constructive opposition to injustice can begin the difficult task of overcoming the self-destructive course of humanity. We are not merely struggling to end warfare in a narrow sense, but to realize a global reality of peace and justice.

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2 thoughts on “The Revolutionary Means: Radical Nonviolence

  1. Povdety is the greatest form of violence said M.K. Gandhi once and if you see the continued violence of poverty in such places as Uganda,, India, and even here in the United States, it is understandable why Gandhi, Narayan Desai and J.P. Narayan placed so much emphasis on building a constructive program as part of satyagraha. In another mind set, anarchist such as Peter Kropotkin, the Catholic Worker movement (most especially Peter Maurin and Ammon Hennacy) placed emphasis on building the mutual aid movement. In India it was called sarvodaya, or the uplifting of all to equality, and in the Christian tradition it is called the works of mercy.

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