POWER AND STRUGGLE

 Martin King
The Politics of Nonviolent Action by Gene Sharp was published in 1973.

Power and Struggle, the first of three volumes, focuses on the nature of power.

 Gandhi

 

THE NATURE OF POWER

 
Sharp's view of power is based on an simple but important fact:
     
 
Rulers derive their power from those over whom they rule.
 
   
The technique of strategic nonviolence is based on this insight.


     

WHY PEOPLE OBEY

     
Domination and submission are psychological states of mind.
Withdrawing support, even symbolically, calls into question the props and illusions that hold Power up.

 


   

VIOLENT SANCTIONS

   
             
   
Most rulers have massive amounts of force at their disposal.
   
But violence is not always effective against nonviolent groups that are united, determined, dedicated to their cause and willing to act strategically:
Sanctions must be carried out by the ruler's agents (police or military personnel) who may or may not obey (or may drag their feet and only make a show of obeying).
A ruler's agents may become reluctant when ordered to commit especially brutal acts against people who are clearly presenting no physical threat.
Agents may begin to sympathize with the opposition's cause.
Also, too much brutality can create martyrs and increase support for the opposition group among groups that were previously neutral in the struggle.
             
 
It is impossible to physically force a person to obey.
   
 
As Sharp puts it: "It is not the sanctions themselves which produce obedience, but the fear of them."
 

 

VICTORY

 
         
Sharp cites three ways that nonviolent actionists can prevail:
 
Conversion
 
Accommodation
 
Nonviolent coercion
Even when a nonviolent campaign is unable to change its adversary's way of thinking, it can still influence its adversary's actions.
 


   

THE FUTURE

   
           
Since The Politics of Nonviolent Action was published public awareness of nonviolence as a legitimate and effective form of struggle has blossomed.
The technique has been used successfully in numerous high visibility conflicts such as the ousting of Marcos in the Philippines (1986) and the prevention of a military coup in Russia (1991).
 
Perhaps we are finally realizing that using violent methods against those in power—who are violence specialists—is not always the best strategy.
   

COMPLETE TEXT OF "POWER AND STRUGGLE"