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Submitted by howclark on Mon, 29 Dec 2008 - 18:29


Stephen Zunes was trying to get this comment onto the page, but didn't succeed -- so I've cut and pasted from his email message and am posting it on his behalf. And with thanks for his speedy and well-informed response.


Thanks for forwarding this to me. Unfortunately, I couldn't register my comments because I can't figure out how to log on. I couldn't find where/how one signs up.

The only part of the article with which I find at all misleading is the assertion "the main movements they use as an example for their model are the so-called 'colour revolutions' in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine." In reality, ICNC cites many successful nonviolent struggles, such as India, South Africa, Chile, Mali, the Philippines, and others, all of which have their limitations as well, but certainly included a wider array of progressive and anti-imperialist elements than the colour revolutions you cite. We also cite contemporary struggles for justice with which we've been involved, such as in Palestine, Western Sahara, the US immigrants rights movement, indigenous Guatemalan struggles, etc.

As someone who has been involved with training for ICNC and CANVAS as well as with WRL and other more radical groups, I'm certainly aware of the limitations of the ICNC/CANVAS models as you describe them.

At the same time, I believe ICNC and CANVAS have made a very positive contribution nevertheless:

1) they have the financial resources to go in to a lot of places where less well-endowed organizations and trainers cannot

2) in arenas where there is imminent or ongoing struggle and the level of conscientization is too low for many to accept the more radical analyses inherent in the nonviolence training offered by WRI and like-minded groups, leading activists may be more open to accepting the kinds of workshops in strategic nonviolent action offered in the ICNC/CANVAS framework and thereby will be more likely to embrace nonviolent methods as a result

3) liberal democracy (even the messy kind which often follows many years of corrupt authoritarian rule) may be a necessary if not sufficient step towards a just society, providing the political space for organizing radical nonviolent action and thereby eventually allowing for a genuinely revolutionary transformation which may not have been possible under the previous autocratic system

4) since nonviolent action usually does not succeed unless the movement has a strong moral appeal and has the support of the majority of the population, it is unlikely that reactionary groups like Pora will be able to do much with it (except as part of a much broader movement with a more progressive agenda, such as the Orange Revolution's demand for a non-rigged election)

5) ICNC and CANVAS trainings are evolving and they are increasingly distinct from one another; for example, ICNC has recently incorporated new modules influenced by me, Philippe Duhamel, George Lakey and other radical trainers

In other words, as both a WRI supporter who identifies politically with revolutionary nonviolence and as a consultant with ICNC and CANVAS as a scholar of strategic nonviolent action, I see the work as complementary, not contradictory. And, just as ICNC and CANVAS certainly has a lot to learn from WRI and like-minded groups in terms of looking at the bigger picture, I hope WRI and its networks can find some of the work ICNC and CANVAS has done on the strategic and tactical questions beneficial to your good work as well.

In Peace,


plus an afterthought sent later ...

Hi Javier,

In re-reading my note to you from early this week, I realize I should have clarified a few things:

1) ICNC and CANVAS do not work together as a matter of course, but ICNC has sometimes asked for CANVAS's assistance on specific workshops where it's clear that
their specific experience as nonviolent veterans and their anti-authoritarian model is what activists really want, though ICNC must review the curriculum for any workshop we fund which they do.

2) ICNC has increasingly come to doubt the value of formulaic workshops for novices, and are trying to find ways to project introductory learning about nonviolent action
(cases, concepts) via digital and distance-learning methodologies and via community and local-NGO discussion sessions, reserving workshops only for more advanced activists.

3) In case you aren't aware. there are two different Poras in Ukraine -- the movement split into two after the Orange Revolution. The hard-core faction has tended to grossly exaggerate and glorify their role in the Orange Revolution. And I should mention that ICNC has never had a single contact with anyone in either Pora (except perhaps incidentally at conferences.)



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