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Civil Resistance 101: Unearthing the Power of Civil Resistance for the Future


Civil resistance exists as a pivotal catalyst, effecting transformation within oppressive regimes and confronting unjust policies that impede civil liberties. Civil resistance’s impact has changed the course of cultural and historical identities throughout history. The study of civil resistance has shed light on the intricate power dynamics present in governance; moreover, it has illuminated a pathway of discourse that empowers nonviolent actions to pursue justice and equitable change. The narratives of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Nelson Mandela, among others, attest to the potential of civil resistance to dismantle the seemingly insurmountable walls of injustice. It is through these 101 series of civil resistance that the reader will unearth the subtle intricacies of power dynamics within governance structures. This series exposes how resolute people are. Civil resistance, in its essence, is a testament to the resilient human spirit, forging a pathway of discourse that transcends the realm of violence. This series focuses on the foundational principles of democracy, equity, and human rights. Moreover, civil resistance is a testament to the perseverance of humanity to shape its own destiny, fight oppression, and create a trajectory towards a more just and equitable world.

In the context of an international relations and history degree curriculum, this multifaceted study of civil resistance is vital for understanding philosophies, theories, and historical movements, enabling those to analyze, interpret, and actively pave the way for a humanistic, ethical, and peaceful future. This series of articles will embark on a journey through a comprehensive exploration of civil resistance. It will weave together threads of international relations theories, and conflict resolution approaches, and discuss historical movements to provide insightful and indispensable knowledge to the reader. The series aims to provide the reader with a thorough understanding of civil resistance’s impact on societies and how it has left an enduring mark on society today.

This series is divided into the following chapters:

7. Civil Resistance 101: Unearthing the Power of Civil Resistance for the Future

Civil Resistance 101: Unearthing the Power of Civil Resistance for the Future

Navigating Perspectives on Nonviolent Civil Resistance

Reflecting upon nonviolent civil resistance movements that spanned across the world over the last 200 years, the effectiveness of individual actions has played a pivotal role in shaping the world today. The dynamics of success in nonviolent civil resistance campaigns extend beyond the strategies employed; instead, they center on the individuals themselves—their determination, will, and the governments in power. From these, an imperative question arises: why did several nonviolent civil resistance movements prove to be successful?


Non-cooperation, exemplified through civil resistance, has proven to be remarkably successful in effecting change. Renowned nonviolence scholar, Gene Sharp (1985) argued that nonviolence stands as a more effective approach than resorting to violent actions. Sharp's (1979, 1985) works contain significant insights into the efficacy of nonviolent strategies in bringing about meaningful transformation. Sharp (1979) believes the power of non-cooperation as advocated by influential figures such as MLK and Gandhi challenges the traditional notion that forceful actions are inherently more impactful in driving social and political change. Sharp (1985) also wrote about the “dynamics of nonviolence.” He further solidified his belief in what constitutes the "dynamics of nonviolence" when he wrote about political jiu-jitsu (Sharp, 1985). This concept involves nonviolent campaigners gaining support by creating mobilization and greater publicity for their movement, even reaching out to their enemies (Onken et al., 2021, p. 1198).


Yet, regimes also play a role in the success of nonviolent civil resistance campaigns (Onken et al., 2021, p. 1193). Two notable nonviolence writers, Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, found that nonviolent campaigns against regimes were twice as likely to succeed compared to armed ones. Chenoweth and Stephan (2011) also challenged the common belief that violent approaches are always more effective, showing that nonviolent campaigns had equal success against both repressive and less repressive regimes (Onken et al., 2021, p. 1193). This challenges the prevailing idea that extreme violence always prevails over nonviolent resistance. Overall, Chenoweth and Stephan (2011) question the dominant narrative about the effectiveness of violence versus nonviolence in achieving political goals (Onken et al., 2021, p. 1193). Chenoweth and Stephan also did extensive research on nonviolent campaigns and asserted that “mass mobilization, backfire and loyalty shifts to undermine the state’s pillar of support” is vital to crumbling a government or regime; according to Chenoweth and Stephan (2011), it is the “cooperation and obedience of its people” that led regimes and governments to maintain power (Onken et al., 2021, p. 1193).

Figure 1: Famous author and scholar on nonviolence, Gene Sharp (Arrow, 2018). 

However, critiques of nonviolent civil resistance campaigns also exist and warrant careful analysis. Alexeis Aninsin is a prominent critic of nonviolent civil resistance; Aninsin (2020) asserts that civil resistance theories and practices require a more thorough examination beyond a focus solely on regimes and nonviolent campaigns (p. 2). Further, Aninsin's (2020) argument that civil resistance theory possesses both strengths and weaknesses that necessitate a distinct analytical approach (p.3). Aninsin's (2020) categorization of nonviolent campaigns into four types: nonviolent, unarmed violent, reactive violent, and fully violent (p. 1). Contrary to the prevailing belief in the efficacy of nonviolent campaigns, Aninsin (2020) asserts that unarmed or reactive violence tends to be more successful (p. 1). Aninsin's (2020) thought-provoking questions about the classification of campaigns, prompt considerations such as whether individuals choose to aim to overthrow a government or oust a dictator (p. 20).


On one hand, extensive and large nonviolent civil resistance movements tend to be more successful and employ a variety of tactics, which may include more successful nonviolent actions (Onken et al., 2021, p. 1195). The effectiveness of nonviolent action rests on three crucial components: nonviolent protests, noncooperation, and nonviolent intervention (Wirmark, 1974, p. 115). However, the linchpin of success lies in the aspect of discipline, a vital force driving nonviolent resistance movements forward (Wirmark, 1974, p. 116). This discipline becomes particularly impactful as governments and regimes, faced with individuals unwaveringly committed to nonviolence, may find their usual unsatisfactory means less effective in quelling the movement (Wirmark, 1974, p. 116). Additionally, the media often gravitates towards covering sizable movements and highlighting instances of violent tactics (Onken et al., 2021, p. 1195). Essentially, the media tends to focus on movements that are not only substantial but also involve elements of violence that may come from the government or regime in power. However, it's crucial to consider that the shared factor influencing both success and media coverage may be the size of the movement itself, rather than the specific use of violent tactics (Onken et al., 2021, p.1195).

Ultimately, the success of major movements and the attention they receive seem more connected to the size and reach of the movement. This notion is evident when considering the influential roles played by figures such as MLK, Mandela, and Gandhi. Their nonviolent civil resistance movements gained widespread attention and led to substantial societal transformations. Similarly, the fall of the Berlin Wall was a massive and nonviolent shift on a grand scale that focused on global dynamics through a vast media lens that the whole world saw. These examples emphasize that the magnitude and impact of a movement could be an indicator of shaping its influence on society and the broader world.


Ultimately, tracing the success of nonviolent campaigns demands a thorough examination; navigating through the intricate insights of figures like Erica Chenoweth (2011), Maria Stephan (2011), Gene Sharp (1979, 1985) and learning about Aninsin's (2020) categorization of nonviolent resistance is important when focusing on how nonviolent civil resistance movements play out in the world and the effects they have (Onken et al., 2021, pp. 1191-1195). Assessing success in this realm goes beyond a mere judgment of Sharp's (1979, 1985) perspective or solely adopting Aninsin's (2020) categories; it requires in-depth discussions and careful consideration of the efficacy of the movement at that time in history (Onken et al., 2021, pp. 1191-1195).

Moral Jiu-Jitsu & its Impact on MLK, Mandela, and Gandhi

Moral jiu-jitsu, utilized by MLK, Mandela, and Gandhi, involves using nonviolent resistance strategically to turn injustice into a powerful catalyst for societal change (Gregg, 1960, pp. 43.46). It is important to delve into the concept of Moral Jiu-Jitsu and its relevance to nonviolent resistance. Morality, as a guiding force, profoundly influences conflict resolution, which has been particularly evident in protests amid civil unrest (Levy, 2023, p. 585). When protestors choose peaceful means over violence, something remarkable occurs: security forces, at times, respond with empathy towards these demonstrators (Levy, 2023, p. 585). There are instances where these enforcement officials refrain from causing harm to those who protest peacefully (Levy, 2023, p. 585). This phenomenon is observed with the term “Moral Jiu-Jitsu," where the adversary—the security forces—operates based on moral and social principles that surpass adherence to professional guidelines, prioritizing the protection of peaceful protestors (Levy, 2023, p. 585). To understand moral jiu-jitsu requires an extensive explanation. If someone attacks a person using violence and the victim responds with violence that is justifiable and predictable because of the “fear or anger” that is put upon the victim (Gregg, 1960, pp. 43-46). Yet, if a person attacks an individual and the individual remains “fearless, calm, steady” without any anger or fear, but responds in moralistic terms that would be described as moral jiu-jitsu (Gregg, 1960, pp. 43-46). Thus, instead of responding by violence, the victim would accept the suffering towards violence that was inflicted but would respond in ways of nonviolence; that is how one could perceive moral jiu-jitsu (Gregg, 1960, pp. 43-46).

Figure 2: Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela & Martin Luther King, Jr. (Busse, 2021). 

Therefore, nonviolent resistance is a component of moral jiu-jitsu. In terms of MLK, Mandela, and Gandhi, moral jiu-jitsu and the success of their nonviolent civil resistance campaign are heavily correlated (Gregg, 1960, pp. 47-48). Civil resistors appeal to the emotional aspect of Moral Jiu-Jitsu, compelling security forces to decide between upholding the government's interests or safeguarding the rights of the citizens/resistors (Levy, 2023, p. 585). The threats and violence that were done to these resistorstheir responses of what the public saw, one of “courage and fortitude,” make the attacker, or government, or regime one that is the violent and bad person; thusthis buttressed the success of their movements (Gregg, 1960, pp. 47-48). These individuals were able to change the discourse of resistance from one of noncooperation to one of love and openness (Gregg, 1960, p. 50). Rather than resorting to violence or cowardice, they exhibited courageous qualities to the oppressive and hurtful governments (Gregg, 1960, p. 50). Ultimately, their dealings with the government weakened its authority, portraying them as individuals of moral character without resorting to violence (Gregg, 1960, p. 50). The correlation between Sharp’s (1985) political jiu-jitsu and moral jiu-jitsu reveals significant parallels. Both approaches emphasize strategic mobilization, reaching out to adversaries through the ethics of love, and responding to aggression or enemies with unwavering moral fortitude. These methods played a pivotal role in transforming the discourse of nonviolent resistance, highlighting the efficacy of strategies rooted in love and strategic thinking rather than resorting to violence.


Unveiling the Parallel Journeys of Gandhi, Mandela, and MLK

It can be surmised that “moral reasoning is dependent on the social context” (Morselli & Passini, 2010, p. 297). Therefore, it is essential to consider the social backgrounds and context of significant figures in civil disobedience and their impact on the subject: Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela (Morselli & Passini, 2010, p. 299). Several key factors contributed to their causes, including social responsibility, incarceration (all three served time in jail), and prosocial disobedience (Morselli & Passini, 2010, p. 300). Despite their diverse cultural backgrounds, they shared notable similarities (Morselli & Passini, 2010, p. 302). All three came from middle or upper-middle-class backgrounds, affording them access to higher education (Morselli & Passini, 2010, p. 303). However, despite their education levels, they faced discrimination due to their racial identities, limiting their societal influence significantly (Morselli & Passini, 2010, p. 303). While incarcerated, they each authored narratives aimed at exemplifying civil disobedience and advocating for nonviolent resistance (Morselli & Passini, 2010, p. 303). Moreover, despite enduring multiple imprisonments, none of the men harbored anger or resentment towards the governing authorities who detained them (Morselli & Passini, 2010, p. 308). Instead, they portrayed their time in jail as an opportunity to demonstrate their dedication to equality and their cause, using positive language to convey their sentiments (Morselli & Passini, 2010, p. 308). Additionally, all three emphasized the sense of community they experienced among fellow inmates, which bolstered their resolve (Morselli & Passini, 2010, pp. 309-310). They also recognized their responsibility to those who'd depended on them outside the prison walls, which heightened their awareness of their commitment to achieving equality and influence (Morselli & Passini, 2010, pp. 310-311). Reflecting on India’s 68th Independence Day, Dr. Bishnupriya Padhi (2014) highlights the similarities between Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela and their corresponding impacts on nonviolent resistance during their respective eras. While each of these men’s objectives were different from one another, there was still a similar sense of justice and equality that was observed in how their audiences reacted to the issues of their times (Padhi, 2014, p. 26). Thus, the people were impacted in similar ways despite each of these mens’ different means of achieving nonviolent and peaceful resistance (Padhi, 2014, p. 26). It would be difficult to say that Nelson Mandela did not follow some of Gandhi’s principles or to say that his spirit was entirely different than Gandhi’s own (Padhi, 2014, p. 26). Mandela would even state that Gandhi was his role model who, like himself, had helped people rally against oppressive governments that denied equality and justice (Padhi, 2014, p. 27). While they did not ever meet, their paths were intertwined in other ways as wellGandhi himself had spent time in the South African prison in 1906 just as Mandela would years later in 1962 (Padhi, 2014, p. 27). Additionally, Gandhi came down to South Africa in 1893 to fight the oppression of his Indian people observed in the region; until 1914, he would take part in civil resistance demonstrations in South Africa via organized protests (Padhi, 2014, p. 27). In his nonviolent efforts advocating for Indians against British colonialism in South Africa, the Satyagraha campaign would showcase this mission (Padhi, 2014, p. 27). The Satyagraha movement involved peaceful resistance against governmental policies through non-cooperation, organizing protests against unjust poll taxes and marriage laws, and Gandhi enduring lengthy periods of imprisonment for standing up against the authorities (Padhi, 2014, p. 27). Once he left South Africa, he returned to India in 1915 where he would further his nonviolent resistance movements against British colonialism (Padhi, 2014, p. 27).


Mahatma Gandhi: The Architect of Nonviolent Resistance

The most renowned civil resistance movement of the twentieth century against the British government was led by Gandhi (McCarty, 2012, p. 970). First, Gandhi worked in South Africa where the Transvaal government, led by the British, inflicted severe mistreatment upon Indians and Asians (Gregg, 1960, pp. 16-17). In this region, Mahatma Gandhi, acting as a lawyer, emerged as a central force in the battle against this oppression (Gregg, 1960, pp. 16-17). Despite encountering adversity, Gandhi, leveraging his legal acumen, wrote and distributed books, gave truthful and crucial information, and even was imprisoned in defiance of unjust laws he saw as hurtful to the Indians and Asians around him (Gregg, 1960, pp. 16-17). His dedication and acts transformed the discriminatory laws targeting the Indian and Asian communities (Gregg, 1960, pp. 16-17). Gandhi went so far as to organize strikes as a form of protest, and through these nonviolent demonstrations, the community achieved success in challenging and reshaping oppressive conditions (Gregg, 1960, pp. 16-17). Gandhi's steadfast commitment to nonviolence and civil resistance played a pivotal role in changing the social and political change in South Africa (Gregg, 1960, pp. 16-17). Gandhi was able to win the struggle for the oppressed through tactics of nonviolent resistance in South Africa (Gregg, 1960, p. 18). Gandhi continued his steadfast journey for love and equality in India; in 1914, he pursued nonviolent resistance means to change worker's rights and began to champion for people of his land that were being treated wrong by the British colonists in India (Gregg, 1960, pp. 18-19).

Figure 3: Screenshot from Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning biopic on Mahatma Gandhi (Desai, 2020).

Gandhi continued directing his efforts toward championing the rights of his people, particularly during the Vykom struggle, where his unwavering loyalty to the community remained evident (Gregg, 1960, pp. 19-20). When the police became involved in the conflict, Gandhi advocated a moralistic and ethical approach, urging the people not to confront them physically but to peacefully pray in their presence. Ultimately, Gandhi was able to change policies through peaceful means (Gregg, 1960, pp. 19-20)


Gandhi’s struggle for Indian independence began in the 1920s in India; this period was one of many strikes against unfair taxes, addressing issues in working mills, and creating a peaceful and moralistic perception of how Indian nationalism was vital in British India (Gregg, 1960, p. 24). This collective effort, known as the non-cooperation struggle, became a pivotal chapter in Gandhi's pursuit of freedom for his country, as he rallied against oppressive policies and sought to unite the Indian people in their quest for self-determination (Gregg, 1960, p. 24). From 1930-1931, Gandhi’s efforts were extensive; he was able to persuade and encourage individuals to deny paying the salt taxes imposed by the British (Ackerman & Rodal, 2008, p. 112). After twenty years, in 1947, Gandhi was able to successfully wage a nonviolent civil resistance struggle that was instrumental in securing India’s independence from British rule (Gregg, 1960, p. 28).


Martin Luther King Jr.: Champion of Civil Rights and Nonviolent Activism

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gathered fellow advocates of equality on a fifteen-year journey towards justice and the end of segregation (Ackerman & Rodal, 2008, p. 113). This journey stemmed from witnessing unfair laws and segregation in the southern part of the United States persisted and plagued the negro population (Gregg, 1960, p. 36). Although negroes helped serve in WWII with whites, they were still treated as “second-class citizens” when they returned from the war (Gregg, 1960, p. 36). In Montgomery, Alabama, there was a hotbed of segregation. Montgomery became known as the city of the “cradle of confederacy” (Gregg, 1960, p. 36). In 1954, blacks and whites in schools were no longer segregated in schools; this ignited the civil rights movement. Those who no longer could endure the harsh conditions and second-class citizenship of being treated as non-U.S. citizens began to employ nonviolent civil resistance techniques, namely the famous Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks (Gregg, 1960, p. 36).

Figure 4: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & Rosa Parks at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 1950s (Kim, 2020).

As they took a stand against the injustice of segregated buses, a powerful movement unfolded, marked by the creation of committees, mass gatherings, and a significant presence in churches where they committed their nonviolent campaign to one that was comprised of “ethics of love” to fight against the effects of racial segregation that were done by the citizens and government around them (Gregg, 1960, pp. 37-38). This became an effect of moral jiu-jitsu as well; by only paying attention to love and forgiveness, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to focus on his ethical role to achieve equality. By solely emphasizing, preaching, and responding via love and forgiveness, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to redirect the narrative away from hostility and resentment and create a discourse of fixing racial injustices in ethical and nonviolent ways.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. became the central figure of the movement. He guided those to protest and boycott the unfair laws in front of them; further, he worked closely with attorneys in the southern part of the USA so they could navigate through ethical means of legal avenues, peacefully creating a way to change their world (Gregg, 1960, pp. 39-40). Through a combination of protests, boycotts, peaceful hailings, and legal appeals, the movement successfully brought about significant changes to segregation (Gregg, 1960, pp. 39-40).


Nelson Mandela: A Legacy of Nonviolent Struggle for Equality and Freedom

Nelson Mandela spearheaded a nonviolent resistance movement centered on truth and reconciliation (McCarty, 2012, p. 977). This social movement holds particular significance in the context of South Africa, echoing the earlier efforts of Gandhi, who had previously worked to bring about change through nonviolent means. Both Mandela and Gandhi shared a commitment to reconciliation, unwavering determination, and strong moral principles, marking a transformative period in the nation's history (McCarty, 2012, p. 978).

In 1918, Nelson Mandela was born in South Africa; by 1940, he would become a figure representing political freedom after he and his university schoolmate Oliver Tambo were expelled for their political resistance (Padhi, 2014, p. 27). By 1951, he would develop the Youth League of the African National Congress and became its president (Padhi, 2014, p. 27). Then, in 1956, he and 155 fellow black political activists would be arrested by the South African government for their efforts to end apartheid law (Padhi, 2014, p. 27). They believed in love and forgiveness and changing the South African world they grew up in. They wanted to change it to one that embodied principles that were long gone to the black members of their society (Padhi, 2014, p. 27). After years of back and forth in the South African prison system, Mandela, along with 7 other African National Congress resistors, would be sent to prison for life in 1962 (Padhi, 2014, pp. 27-28). Until 1990, Mandela would remain in the prison known as Robben Island near the coast of Cape Town (Padhi, 2014, p. 28). Rather than respond by violence, Mandela and his counterparts employed moral jiu-jitsu and maintained a steadfast and peaceful demeaner while serving their unfair prison terms.

Figure 5: Nelson Mandela addressing a crowd of people in South Africa, 1990 (Perea, 2018).

By 1993, Gandhi’s influence on Mandela would become clearer (Padhi, 2014, p. 28). That same year, apartheid was banned with the formation of a new constitution (Padhi, 2014, p. 28). In 1994, Mandela would be elected South Africa’s first black president and would do so on the basis of reconciliations rather than punishments for those who put him and fellow activists in prison over the years (Padhi, 2014, p. 28). Mandela’s focus on reconciliation between the black and white populations of South Africa was what truly showcased his similarities to Gandhi (Padhi, 2014, p. 28). Ultimately, his focus on moral jiu-jitsu was what proved pivotal for ending apartheid.

Collective Forms of Nonviolent Resistance: Women's Suffrage & Berlin Wall

The historical narratives of the women's suffrage movement and the fall of the Berlin Wall emerge as compelling chapters, etched with the indomitable spirit of collective resilience. These two episodes in history reveal the profound impact of peaceful resistance on the pursuit of justice and equality. From the suffrage struggles that echoed through generations to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, these resistance efforts unveil the interconnected threads of peaceful resilience that shaped pivotal moments in the quest for justice and equality.


Tracing the Trailblazing Path of Women's Suffrage

In the late 1800s, the women’s suffrage movement would transition from one associated with labor movements to one fixated on the wealthy elites in society (Hill, 2005, p. 65). This shift was due in part to issues with the National Labor Union and failed alliances that tried to help working-class women (Hill, 2005, p. 65). Some notable figures of this time period and the changes made during this era were Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone (Hill, 2005, p. 65). Emphasizing the pivotal role of Lucy Stone in Eastern states, especially alongside her husband Henry Blackwell, becomes crucial in understanding the success of the women's suffrage movement (Miller, 2015, p. 470). The establishment of the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in the 1870s brought attention to contentious issues like divorce, love, and the church (Miller, 2015, p. 462). As a result, the main focus of the movement became to gain the right to vote rather than one focused on women’s pay or working conditions (Hill, 2005, p. 66). Alice Paul, a symbol of radicalism, played a significant and controversial role in advancing women's suffrage (Miller, 2015, p. 460). Paul's strategic opposition to the political party in power, akin to British suffrage leaders, marked a shift in the movement. Her leadership of The Woman’s Party included picketing the White House during Woodrow Wilson's Democratic presidency, highlighting the Democrats' resistance to a federal amendment for women's suffrage despite endorsing it in 1916 (Miller, 2015, p. 460, 459). Notably, Democrats were perceived as hostile towards suffragettes, while Republicans exhibited a more moderate stance (Miller, 2015, p. 459).

In the early 1900s, a notable suffragist, Jane Addams keenly observed the divide that came about from how the women's suffrage movement was progressing and being perceived (Hill, 2005, p. 66). Responding to this societal shift, she took a pioneering step by establishing the Hull House in Chicago—a beacon of support providing child services and education to immigrants (Hill, 2005, p. 66). This transformative initiative earned the moniker "settlement house" for its role in fostering community solidarity (Hill, 2005, p. 66). Emphasizing her commitment to social justice, Addams advocated for working-class women, asserting their rightful need for the ballot (Hill, 2005, p. 66).

Figure 6: Women protesting outside of the White House, 20th century (Wallach, 2020).

By 1910, small-scale campaigns across western states would help move the women’s suffrage movement along (Hill, 2005, p. 67). The main strategies utilized during this period involved polite, uncontroversial, and superficial meetings between women and male policymakers (Hill, 2005, pp. 67-68). In the state of Washington, “the first suffrage battle” occurred whereby women would be granted the right to vote for a four-year test period (Hill, 2005, p. 67). Thus, Washington became the first state to allow women the right to vote in the 1900s (Hill, 2005, p. 67). By the close of the 1910s, fifteen states allowed women to vote (Hill, 2005, p. 68). The initial triumphs of women’s suffrage were more prominent in the Western U.S. before 1916, with 11 successful movements occurring "west of the Mississippi" (Miller, 2015, p. 470). This success, reflected in the "Pioneers at the Polls" movement, can be attributed to the perception that Western states were less conservative than their Eastern counterparts regarding women's rights issues (Miller, 2015, p. 470). This regional distinction played a crucial role in the varying degrees of success observed in the suffrage movement during this period.

Changes would not be made to the movement’s “polite” strategies until Alice Paul would take a more aggressive stance (Hill, 2005, p. 68). By using what would become known as “disruptive demonstrations,” more notoriety would ensue and women’s suffrage would become more significant (Hill, 2005, pp. 68-70). Ultimately, the women's suffrage movement focused on the collective action, the resilience, adaptability, and strategic evolution of nonviolent civil resistance among women.


Nonviolent Resistance in the Shadow of the Berlin Wall

On August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed to prohibit people from fleeing to the West (Somerstein, 2017, pp. 702-703). Over 2.7 million had already escaped before it was created. By 1989, the wall had features including a "signal wire" and guard towers with patrols standing as a barrier day and night (Somerstein, 2017, pp. 702-703). West German television broadcasted events in East Germany during the 1980s, highlighting the stark contrast of the lifestyle that communism had on the civilians living there (Somerstein, 2017, pp. 702-703). However, on November 9, 1989, a gathering of 20,000 people signaled a turning point, as they sought to cross the Berlin Wall in an act of nonviolent civil resistance, ultimately marking its fall and the reunification of a divided city and country (Somerstein, 2017, pp. 702-703).

For 28 years, the Berlin Wall functioned as the dichotomy between communism and democracy (Schlör, 2006, p. 87). Yet, as the late 1980s unfolded, winds of change began to sweep through Eastern Europe. The decade witnessed a shift in discourse, with discussions on "Western liberalism and anti-communist dissent" that gained attention and openness in East Germany and other Iron Curtain nations (Cerami, 2022, p. 36).


Collective resistance movements within East Germany gained momentum, with groups like the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights and the New Form advocating for democratic reforms and an end to GDR rule (Opp et al., 1995, p. 12).  These resistance movements culminated in the falling of the Berlin Wall. It became the day when democracy was a “triumph” (Cerami, 2022, p. 39).

Figure 7: The day the Berlin Wall fell, November 9, 1989 (Delta, 2017).

Within the Iron Curtain, transformative movements forged a shared identity, uniting people in their fervent call for nonaggression against oppressive regimes (Cerami, 2022, pp. 34-35). The Solidarność movement in Poland, a crucial player in the 1989 revolutions, notably contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall (Cerami, 2022, pp. 34-35). Simultaneously, amid Nelson Mandela's incarceration and apartheid's grip, the Solidarity and Berlin Wall movements focused on orchestrating nonviolent resistance campaigns (Ackerman & Rodal, 2008, p. 114). The aftermath of the collapse of the Berlin Wall witnessed a cascade of communist regimes crumbling, a testament to the efficacy of nonviolent resistance (Ackerman & Rodal, 2008, p. 114). Students in East Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia voiced their defiance, chanting "we have no weapons…the world is watching" (Ackerman & Rodal, 2008, p. 114). Citizens across the Iron Curtain collectively demanded nonaggression, igniting public protests and civil resistance in Prague, Poland, Bucharest, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary (Cerami, 2022, pp. 34-35). Undoubtedly, the fall of the Berlin Wall emerged as the most monumental revolution of 1989, marking the demise of communism and the culmination of the Cold War (Cerami, 2022, pp. 34-35). Simultaneously, media and television played a crucial role, both in East and West Germany, in increasing the visibility and support for these opposition movements movements (Opp et al., 1995, p. 13).  Ultimately, in West Germany, media coverage helped raise awareness and garner support for the cause (Opp et al., 1995, p. 13). 


In essence, the fall of the Berlin Wall was a collective effort fueled by resistance movements within East Germany, amplified by media attention, influenced by Iron Curtain nations, and supported by changing Western dynamics. It unfolded as a clear power of what nonviolent civil resistance could do, where the Berlin Wall's fall became the voice of collective efforts instigating a triumph of peaceful resilience over oppressive division (Opp et al., 1995, p. 12).


Reflections on Nonviolent Civil Resistance

Civil resistance has been successful by icons like Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, MLK, and movements such as women's suffrage and the fall of the Berlin Wall. What shines through is the incredible power of nonviolent actions to challenge oppressive systems and break down barriers of injustice. Throughout these articles, we've explored the intricate dynamics of power within governments, revealing the incredible resilience of the human spirit in forging a path of dialogue that rejects violence. Democracy, equity, and human rights form the backbone of civil resistance, showing how humanity persists in shaping its destiny, battling oppression, and striving for a world that's fair and just.

From this 101 series, one grasps that success in nonviolent civil resistance movements is molded by various components. Ranging from mass mobilization and strategic thinking to the art of moral jiu-jitsu and the collective efforts of the people, these movements have concentrated on the quest for justice, equality, and societal transformation. By examining figures like Gandhi, Mandela, and Susan B. Anthony, it becomes apparent how discourses of injustice have transformed into narratives of equality. As we reflect on the nonviolent civil resistance movements from this 101 series, we are reminded that the narratives of oppression can evolve into inspiring stories of resilience, offering hope for a future where nonviolent civil resistance continues to be a powerful and successful force in creating a better world.

Bibliographical References

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Aninsin, A. (2020). Debunking the Myths Behind Nonviolent Civil Resistance. Critical Sociology 46(2), 1-38. DOI:10.1177/0896920520913982

Cerami, C. (2022). Civil Resistance from the End of the Cold War to the 21st Century: A Historical Perspective.Nuovi Autoritarismi e Democrazie: Diritto, Istituzioni, Società , 4(2), 28-52.

Chenoweth, E and Stephan M.J. (2011). Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. New York: Columbia University Press.


Gregg, R.B. (1960). The Power of Nonviolence. Greenleaf Books.


 Hill, J. (2005). Women’s Suffrage: Defining Moments. Omnigraphics.


Irwin, W. (2019). How Civil Resistance Works (And Why it Matters to SOF). JSOU Report, 19(4), vii-79.

Levy, A. (2023).Promoting defections through non-violent resistance tactics - the case of the Syrian uprising. Critical Military Studies, 9(4), 582-600. DOI: 10.1080/23337486.2023.2170528

McCarty III, J.W. (2012). Nonviolent Law? Linking Nonviolent Social Change and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. West Virginia Law Review, 114(3), 969-1005.

Miller, J.C. (2015). Never A Fight of Woman Against Man: What Textbooks Don't Say about Women's Suffrage. The History Teacher, 48(3), 437-482.


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1 Comment

han gu
han gu
Jun 07

对于追求优异学业的留学生而言,优质的作业成绩至关重要。优秀的代写作品往往蕴含深入的研究和精湛的写作技巧,可以为留学生提供高质量的作业,帮助他们取得更好的学术表现。特别是对于那些非英语母语的留学生来说,作业代写 更是一种有效的学业帮助,让他们在语言障碍的情况下仍能展现学术才华。

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