Nonviolent Community Struggles


The group that met over 4 days in Cape Town to discuss the various dimensionsof Nonviolent Community Struggles was a diverse group with participants not just from different countries but also various continents, with various individuals engaged in a range of struggles. The theme group merged with the group looking at Climate Change after 2 days. There were between 10 and 25 people over the 4 days.


The group's resource-base consisted of struggle against nuclear power, work with unemployed youth, victims of drug addiction, nonviolence training etc. That encompasses education / training, alternatives, to high voltage struggle.

One of the biggest challenges / difficulties is that the 'affected' people, those threatened with displacement and loss of livelihood resources are engaged in a daily struggle for survival. More often than not they also face the threat of violence. Therefore participation to 'save' livelihood amounts to 'loss' of livelihood'. How does one sustain a struggle under such circumstances? Responses might range from 'compensating' participants where they have to forgo wages, to affected people 'bearing the cost', making sacrifices 'now' keeping in mind the 'larger picture'. Unfortunately compensating participants to take part in a struggle is tantamount to 'sponsoring' a movement. It was appreciated that that can be self-defeating or counter-productive, and in the long run unsustainable.

Activists, people's organisations, NGOs, more often than not, have a major role to play in informing, creating awareness, mobilising, organising, training people and running the campaign. But one must be aware that the struggle must 'belong' to the people (affected people / victims) not activists, organisations or funders. Only then would it be empowering. Besides, there is the danger of some kind of vested interest developing, unrelated or antithetical to the interests of the struggling people. It is essential that movements are not NGO-ised. One way of ensuring that the struggle is owned by the affected people is to raise resources for the struggle from within or as close as possible to the 'theatre of action'.

Based on the collective experience of working with communities, our understanding of current trends and analysis of both, the local as well as global situation.......We were in agreement that the community itself has diverse skills and rosources, and if they do not have them quite often they must soon acquire / develop them. Women have an absolutely important and essential role in conflict resolution, especially physical violence is a threat.

Conclusions and Reflections

One striking take-away from the deliberations was that in spite of the geographical and cultural differences and the diversity in the local dynamics of each situation people's sufferings are the same everywhere, the basic character of the established power-structures people are up against is more or less the same everywhere, today's battles are often to resist the takeover of natural and livelihood resources such as land, water, forests, minerals by corporations or the State, indigenous communities face the threat of displacement, dispossession, dis-employment, dehumanisation...And tragically, usually there is a State-Corporate nexus that jointly unleashes violence against people. If some stark facts are to be enumerated:

  • mining has extremely destructive impacts across communities, countries, continents

  • apartheid is slowly coming back to South Africa

  • Fighting your own is more difficult

  • solution is more often than not worse than the problem – nuclear power as a substitute to coal power to avoid global warming and climate change

  • working with unemployed young people is challenging as they often are in the race to get a toehold in the existing unjust system

  • Governments role ranges from the sinister to criminal

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