MDS organizer, Bob Meola, represented War Resisters League, one of the collaborating organizations in the MDS workshop at the USSF in Detroit on June 25th. Bob is also a WRL National Committee member. Following is what Bob had to say regarding nonviolence and MDS:

“Founded in 1923, WRL is the oldest secular pacifist organization in the United States. ‘The War Resisters League affirms that all war is a crime against humanity. We, therefore, are determined not to support any kind of war, international or civil, and to strive nonviolently for the removal of the causes of war, including racism, sexism, and all forms of exploitation.’[WRL “pledge”/statement of purpose.]

“We are a section of WRI, War Resisters International, which exists to connect and support war resisters around the world and to promote nonviolent actions, especially against the causes of war. WRI is a network with more than eighty affiliates in more than forty countries, plus an office in London.

“It is my personal fantasy that WRL members would join MDS and that MDS or certain MDS chapters might become an affiliate of WRL, which is not the same as being a local chapter of WRL. [This is a longer discussion. Requirements for becoming a WRL affiliate are not the same as requirements for becoming a WRL member or local chapter, as affiliates do not necessarily subscribe to the WRL “pledge” noted above.]

“What WRL would like to bring to MDS is an ongoing, working conversation, regarding nonviolence, to strengthen the effectiveness of our movement for social change and our campaigns within our movements.
“Gandhi wrote about his experiments with truth. But whether one chooses to make nonviolence an everyday personal lifestyle or whether one sees nonviolence as a practical strategy and a beneficial tactic, it is clear that it can be experimented with in many creative ways, some of which have been tried and tested and others which have yet to be thought of and tried.

“Most of us could list the wars of history , by name, quicker than we could cite a list of examples of nonviolent resistance to wars and injustices.

“Nonviolence strengthens a campaign in three ways.
1. It fosters trust and solidarity, among its participants, by putting them in touch with the sources of their own power to act in a situation. Many people realize how creative they can be when they have the support of others to try something new.
2. Nonviolence aims either to inhibit the violence of an adversary or to ensure that violent repression will ‘backfire’ politically against them. Rather than treating employees of our opponents as inanimate tools, nonviolence tries to create possibilities for them to rethink their allegiances to the pillars of power like the military and the corporations.
3. In relation to others, not yet involved, nonviolence changes the quality of communication with bystanders or ‘outsiders.’—people not yet concerned about an issue or not yet active about it, who can be potential allies.
“Gene Sharp, the pioneer of nonviolent scholarship, suggested four mechanisms of change in those opposing a nonviolent struggle: [This information is taken from page 12 of Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns, published by War Resisters International]
a) Conversion, where occasionally a campaign will persuade them to its point of view.
b) Coercion—sometimes a campaign can coerce adversaries to back down without convincing them of the activists’ views of right and wrong.
c) Accommodation—when an adversary looks for some way to ‘accommodate’ a campaign, to make a concession without granting everything a campaign demands and without relinquishing power.
d) Disintegration: a mechanism Sharp added after 1989 when Soviet-aligned regimes had lost so much legitimacy and had so little capacity to review themselves that, in the face of a ‘people power’ challenge, they disintegrated.
“Our movements for justice, for civil rights, for peace, labor, the anti-nuclear movement, have all used many nonviolent tools from education and protest, to active resistance. We have engaged in both legal and illegal activities. We use protest and persuasion, non-cooperation, and intervention. Principles of Nonviolent Action have been developed. Nonviolent guidelines have been implemented. And there has been discussion about the spectrum of nonviolence and how one sees property damage on that spectrum.
“There is a large discussion to be had about the relationship of gender, socialization, and nonviolence.
“According to Gandhi, nonviolent social change requires building a new society, in the shell of the old. He called that ‘constructive programme.’ There are many alternative institutions and programs that fit here.
“I’ll stop for now. I just want to urge us to consider participating in a series of educational trainings around nonviolence and to utilize nonviolence trainings in our work. We need to create and utilize revolutionary nonviolence for nonviolent revolution.”

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