Political Science Lecture Examines Nonviolent Resistance
|Maria J. Stephan
The Political Science Department sponsored a lecture entitled "Waging
Nonviolent Political Struggle: Civil Resistance in the Middle East and
Beyond," by Maria J. Stephan, director of the Educational Initiatives
at the International Nonviolent Center. Held in West Hall, the lecture
focused on the nonviolent resistance movements in the Palestinian territories
and in Lebanon.
Stephan began by defining nonviolent struggle as the "active prosecution
of conflict in non-military methods." The protest can take the form
of non-cooperation and non-violent intervention, such as vigils and sit-ins.
The functioning of nonviolent movements occurs through "a collective
denial of consent and cooperation, and removing the opponents' economic,
political, and social pillars of support." Examples of successful
nonviolent resistance, Stephan said, include the dismantling of the dictatorship
of Augusto Pinochet in Chile in 1983.
Stephan is currently conducting research on nonviolent resistance in the
Middle East, where she studied the Palestinian territories and the Intifada
(1987-90). Usually, she said, a trigger event helps launch a nonviolent
struggle. In the case of the Intifada, the event was the Israeli army's
killing of four Gaza citizens. The result was a collective defiance by
the people and a demand for self-governance; the members of the Intifada
were organized and came up with leaflets and follow-up groups to keep
the resistance movement momentum going. Despite its organization, however,
the movement eventually failed, because of increased division within the
groups and the consequent spread of factionalism.
The key principles for the success of any nonviolent resistance movement,
Stephan pointed out, include maintaining unity, thorough planning, and
remaining loyal to nonviolent disciplines. Furthermore, she stressed that
the movement should be able to sustain itself and set up a thorough plan
after its potential success, because in the aftermath the movement's mission
might be lost and threatened with failure.