Persistent willful ignorance of necessary knowledge can be deadly. This is true of denial of climate collapse. It is also true of denial of the tools and power of nonviolent action. As evidence and knowledge pile up in each case, denial of the facts looks more and more intentional, reckless, and malevolent, or intentionally, recklessly, and malevolently manufactured by propagandists.
"We need to burn more oil or suffer horribly" is slowly being recognized as a vicious deception, as more and more people come to understand that we need to burn less oil or suffer horribly. "We need to dump more money into war preparations or suffer horribly" is the same type of statement. The notion that a population must be prepared to fight off an invasion and occupation violently or do nothing may someday be understood as on a par with "We need to eat the roasted flesh of livestock or eat nothing." Some of us grasp that there are other things to eat. Refusing to grasp that there are other ways to resist a military is daily becoming a more irrational act.
The authors of Social Defence define social defense as "nonviolent community resistance to repression and aggression, as an alternative to military forces." They mean using rallies, strikes, boycotts, and all the thousands of nonviolent tools. Other names for social defense include nonviolent defense, civilian-based defense, and defense by civil resistance. This book provides the case against military defense, and a guide to training for and engaging in social defense. It also provides case studies of times when social defense has been used, and used with some success even without proper training and organization.
Needless to say, roughly half the world's military spending is by a single country that is under no threat of being occupied but has, on the contrary, attacked and occupied numerous other countries. Yet, ironically, it is a U.S. audience that may most need to gain nonviolent enlightenment, since the propaganda of military defense supports the military spending which generates the distant wars of aggression. For these reasons, it's important to study how military spending and preparations actually make countries into targets rather than protecting them, and how military propaganda about enemies distracts from the use of armed force to defend anti-democratic rulers from their own people. Not only is the U.S. arming three-quarters of the world's dictatorships, but it has armed itself heavily against popular grievances at home.
Johansen and Martin address popular fears of mass slaughter by a foreign invader, by pointing out that most wars never involve any intention of genocide, and that genocides almost always happen within a country and with the support of military forces. Social defense both removes the need for a military and provides people with a means of resisting an attack. While two dozen small nations have abolished their militaries, no nation has replaced its military with, or even created alongside its military, a department of social defense. Nonetheless, people have spontaneously and haphazardly used social defense successfully, demonstrating its enormous potential. Studies of numerous campaigns resisting oppressive governments have shown nonviolence to be more effective than violence, to be the stronger tool to which one must "resort." But most such studies do not focus on foreign occupations and coups. Johansen and Martin do.
Social Defence examines German resistance to French occupation in 1923, and Czechoslovakian resistance to Soviet occupation in 1968, making the case that these partial successes could have been more successful with advanced preparation.
When French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr in 1923, "The German government called on its citizens to resist the occupation by what was called, at the time, 'passive resistance,' namely resistance without physical violence. The key resistance tactic was to refuse to obey orders from the French occupiers. This was costly: thousands who ignored orders were arrested and tried by military tribunals, which handed out heavy fines and prison sentences. There were also protests, boycotts and strikes. The resistance had many facets. The French demanded that owners of coal mines provide them coal and coke. When negotiations broke down, the German negotiators were arrested and court martialled. . . . Civil servants resisted. The German government said they should refuse to obey instructions from the occupiers. Some civil servants were tried for insubordination and given long prison sentences. Others were expelled from the Ruhr; over the course of 1923 nearly 50,000 civil servants were expelled. Transport workers resisted. The French-Belgian occupiers tried to run the railways. Only 400 Germans agreed to work for the new administration, compared to 170,000 who worked in the railways prior to the occupation."
When the Soviet military invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, "There were huge demonstrations. There was a one-hour general strike on 22 August. Graffiti, posters and leaflets were used to publicise the resistance. A few individuals sat down in front of tanks. Farmers and shopkeepers refused to provide supplies to the invading troops. Staff at Prague airport cut off central services. The Czechoslovak radio network allowed synchronous broadcasting from many locations across the country. . . The Soviets brought in radio-jamming equipment by train. When this information was broadcast, workers held up the train at a station. Next it was stopped on the main line due to an electricity failure. Finally it was shunted onto a branch line where it was blocked by locomotives at both ends. . . . Announcers told how to avoid detection, harm and arrest, including details of when particular individuals were being hunted. To make the KGB's job more difficult, citizens removed house numbers and took down or covered over street signs. . . . An effective part of the resistance involved local people talking to the invading soldiers, engaging them in conversation, explaining why they were protesting. Some soldiers had falsely been told there was a capitalist takeover in Czechoslovakia; some of them thought they were in Ukraine or East Germany. . . . For the invading troops, the combination of being met with strong arguments while being refused food and normal social relationships was upsetting, possibly leading some troops to be deliberately inefficient."
What were the outcomes of these campaigns of social defense avant la lettre?
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, through the Dawes Commission, 95 years ago this week, the French troops were withdrawn.
Czechoslovakia's Prague Spring lasted a week. "Dubcek, Svoboda, and other Czechoslovak political leaders were arrested and held in Moscow. Under severe pressure and without communication with the resistance back in Czechoslovakia, they made unwise concessions. They didn't realise how widespread and resolute the resistance was. The leaders' concessions deflated the resistance, so its active phase lasted only a week. However, it took another eight months before a puppet government could be installed in Czechoslovakia. The resistance thus failed in its immediate aims. However, it was immensely powerful in its impacts. The use of force against peaceful citizens undermined the credibility of the Soviet Communist Party. At this time, most countries around the world had communist parties, some of them quite strong and most looking to the Soviet party for leadership. The Prague spring changed all this. Many foreign communist parties splintered, with some members quitting or the parties splitting into old guard supporters of the Soviet line and supporters of the reform approach."
In both cases, nations heavily armed and committed to intervening, and the League of Nations in one case and the United Nations in the other, did nothing thank goodness!
Social Defence also looks at the use of social defense against coups in Germany 1920, France-Algeria 1961, and the Soviet Union 1991. The lessons learned are widely applicable, including in countries whose governments refuse to impeach or remove lawless leaders, and in countries whose buffoonish leaders suspend democratic government.
In Germany in 1920, a coup, led by Wolfgang Kapp, overthrew and exiled the government, but on its way out the government called for a general strike. "Workers shut down everything: electricity, water, restaurants, transport, garbage collection, deliveries. . . . Civilians shunned Kapp's troops and officials, who could not get anything done. For example, Kapp issued orders, but printers refused to print them. Kapp went to a bank to obtain funds to pay the troops, but bank officials refused to sign cheques. . . . In less than five days, Kapp gave up and fled from the country."
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