Nonviolent Resistance a global History 1830-2000

Week 13. Nonviolence in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s: theories, critiques, movements, and the Gandhi film

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Week 13. Nonviolence in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s: theories, critiques, movements, and the Gandhi film

The shift to a violent strategy by the African National Congress after 1960, and the eclipse of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA by Black Power after 1965 seems to have been symptomatic of a loss of faith in nonviolence at that time. The calls for violent revolution by Frantz Fanon in Algeria, Che Guevara in Cuba and Latin America, and the Vietcong in Vietnam appeared to accord with this mood. Gene Sharp produced his influential defence of nonviolence in the early 1970s at a time when the pendulum was starting to swing back in favour of nonviolence. Sharp was however working within a long tradition of American political theory on civil resistance, which went back to Thoreau (or earlier), and which was developed by Richard Gregg (who stayed with Gandhi in the 1920s) and other American political scientists. Richard Attenborough’s film on Gandhi (1982) then helped to deliver Gandhi’s message to a whole new global audience. During the 1980s there were a number of very important nonviolent movements, as in Poland (next week), Chile, and the Philippines.

The presenter this week will provide a critical analysis of these developments. In the second part of the seminar a DVD will be shown on the resistance to Pinochet in Chile.

Core reading:

  • K. Schock, Unarmed Insurrections: People Power Movements in Nondemocracies, pp. 36-46.

  • Richard Deats, ‘The Global Spread of Active Nonviolence’. Full text on:

Questions for discussion:

  • Why did so many activists and theorists condemn nonviolence with such virulence in the 1960s and 1970s?

  • Why were so many of the major theorists of nonviolence in the twentieth century Americans?

  • What – if anything – was innovative about the work of Gene Sharp’s, and did it provide a major advance for the theory of nonviolent resistance?

  • What message did Attenborough’s film on Gandhi convey?

Further reading:

Revolutionary violence

  • Hannah Arendt, On Violence, San Diego 1970. Argues that valorisation of violence by the New Left in the 1960s and 1970s was a departure from classic Marxism.

  • Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth. Provides a strong and highly influential endorsement of violence by the oppressed.

  • Steven Duncan Huxley, Constitutionalist Insurgency in Finland, pp. 54-56, for Marxist attitude towards passive resistance. This passage from Huxley is summarised in R.D. Laing and D.G. Cooper, Reason and Violence: A Decade of Sartre’s Philosophy, 1950-1960.

  • Michael Randle, Civil Resistance, pp.36-7. Available at

  • Rolling stones, ‘Street fighting man’ (celebration of late 1960s revolution-in-the-streets).

The 1960s

  • Robert V. Daniels, Year of the Heroic Guerrilla: World Revolution and Counterrevolution in 1968 (London 1996).

  • Carole Fink, Phillip Gassert, and Detlef Junker, 1968: The World Transformed (Cambridge 1998).

  • Lance Hill, ‘The Deacons for Defence: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement’ in John A. Kirk (ed.), Martin Luther King, Jr and the Civil Rights Movement.

  • Gerd-Rainer Horn, The Spirit of ’68: Rebellion in Western Europe and North America, 1956-1976 (Oxford 2007).

  • Marable, Manning, Black American Politics: From the Washington Marches to Jesse Jackson

  • Marable, Manning, Race, Reform and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990

  • Bill Sutherland and Matt Meyer, Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle and Liberation in Africa (Trenton, NJ, 2000). This brings out how the Gandhian-style anti-colonial resistance of 1950s Africa was replaced increasingly with a use of violence in the 1960s.

  • Tom Wells, ‘The Anti-Vietnam War Movement in the United States’, in peter lowe (ed.), The Vietnam War (Basingstoke 1998), pp. 115-33.

  • Kieran Williams, ‘Civil Resistance in Czechoslovakia: From Soviet Invasion to “Velvet Revolution”, 1968-89’, in Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (eds.), Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present (Oxford 2009), pp. 110-27.

American political theory on nonviolent resistance

  • Hannah Arendt, On Violence, San Diego 1970. JC 15 A7

  • Hugo Adam Bedau (ed.), Civil Disobedience: Theory and Practice, New York 1969. This contains a piece by John Rawls, ‘The Justification of Civil Disobedience.’

  • Joan Bondurant, Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict, Princeton 1958.

  • Joan Bondurant (ed.), Conflict: violence and nonviolence, Aldine Atherton, Chicago, 1971.

  • Richard Gregg, The Power of Nonviolence, 1935.

  • Joseph Kip Kosek, ‘Richard Gregg, Mohandas Gandhi, and the Strategy of Nonviolence’, The Journal of American History, Vol. 91, No. 4, March 2005.

  • Brian Martin, ‘Gene Sharp’s Theory of Power’, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 26, No. 2, 1989, pp. 213-22.

  • William Robert Miller, Nonviolence: A Christian Interpretation, Schoken, New York 1966.

  • Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society, 1932.

  • Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Porter Sargent, Boston 1973.

  • Krishnalal Shridharani, War without Violence: A Study of Gandhi’s Method and its Accomplishment, New York 1939.

  • Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society, Charles Scribner, New York 1960 (orig. 1932).

Gandhi film

  • Richard Attenborough, In Search of Gandhi


  • Ackerman and Duvall, A Force more Powerful, pp.291 and 375.


  • Judy Maloof (ed. And Trans.), Voices of Resistance: Testimonies of Cuban and Chilean Women, University of Kentucky Press, Lexington 1999.

  • Sharon Nepstad, Nonviolent Revolutions: Civil Resistance in the Late 20th Century (Oxford, USA 2011), Ch. 5

Philippines 1986

  • Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler, Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century, Praeger, Westport, Connecticut (CT), 1994, pp. 339-40.

  • Douglas J. Elwood, Philippine revolution 1986: model of nonviolent change, Quezon City : New Day, 1986, 60 pp. SOAS HB950 /550749

  • Sharon Nepstad, Nonviolent Revolutions: Civil Resistance in the Late 20th Century (Oxford, USA 2011), Ch. 7

  • Kurt Schock, Unarmed Insurrections: People Power Movements in Nondemocracies, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 2005. Chapter 3 for Philippines.

  • Tereresa S. Encarnacion Tadem and Noel M. Morada, Phillipinnes Pllitics and Governance, Quezon City 2006.

  • Stephen Zunes, ‘The Origins of People Power in the Philippines’, in Stephen Zunes, Sarah Beth Asher and Lester Kurtz (eds.), Non-violent Social Movements: A Geographical Perspective, Massachusetts 1999, pp. 130-57.

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