By Brian Martin
Strikes, boycotts, sit-ins, fasts, mass rallies — these are familiar to many people. They are commonly called methods of nonviolent action. But what exactly does the expression “nonviolent action” refer to? Are there other expressions that would be better? And how well does nonviolent action work?
There are no definitive answers to these questions. A lot of people have opinions, but there are important differences and uncertainties, including among peace activists. Here, my aim is to provide a few perspectives to provide a basis for discussion. First I’ll look at how nonviolent action is defined, then at arguments for using it and at what makes it effective, and finally at different expressions. Through this, I’ll use “nonviolent action” as the provisional expression, acknowledging that others might prefer something different.