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Submitted by Stephen Zunes on Wed, 14 Dec 2011 - 20:08


As someone who has worked with both WRI and ICNC and as someone who has been a resource person at both WRL conferences and the Fletcher Summer Institute, I see practical and principled approaches to nonviolence as being far more complementary than contradictory. We unfortunately cannot realistically convince a critical mass of oppressed people to embrace revolutionary nonviolence or radical pacifism in the short to medium term, but if capacity-building organizations without an ideological agenda like ICNC can convince people of the practical advantages of using nonviolent methods in their struggle for liberation, I see it as a positive step forward. Indeed, the primary reason that most people do not embrace radical pacifism or revolutionary nonviolence is the belief that violence and the projection of state power is often necessary, so individuals and organizations that can make the case to the contrary can only be a positive thing, particularly since they may be perceived as having more credibility than those of us who embrace principled nonviolence.
I don't think negating the very positive contributions that Gene Sharp, Peter Ackerman and other individuals and organizations influenced by their work because they don't overtly embrace WRI's radical vision moves things forward. While unarmed insurrections which have resulted in the downfall of dictators and the establishment of liberal democracy have not brought about the more radical social change which many of us would ideally like to see, they are definitely a step forward: they have demonstrated the power of nonviolent action (and thereby weakened the rationale for militarism) and they have created greater political space from which people can more easily organize for the more radical changes still needed.

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