Introduction to Non-Violence
by Theodore Paullin
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Charles Boss, Jr. Isidor B. Hoffman Henry J. Cadbury John Haynes Holmes Allan Knight Chalmers E. Stanley Jones Abraham Cronbach John Howland Lathrop Albert E. Day Frederick J. Libby Dorothy Day A. J. Muste Edward W. Evans Ray Newton Jane Evans Mildred Scott Olmsted F. Burt Farquharson Kirby Page Harry Emerson Fosdick Clarence E. Pickett Harrop A. Freeman Guy W. Solt Elmer A. Fridell Douglas V. Steere Richard Gregg Dan West Harold Hatch Norman Whitney E. Raymond Wilson


The Pacifist Research Bureau is financed entirely by the contributions of organizations and individuals who are interested in seeing this type of research carried on. We trust that you may desire to have a part in this positive pacifist endeavor to aid in the formulation of plans for the world order of the future. Please make contributions payable to The Pacifist Research Bureau, 1201 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia 7, Pennsylvania. Contributions are deductible for income tax purposes.


"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean different things."

* * * * *

In the writings of pacifists and non-pacifists concerning theories of and experiences with non-violence, there is a clear lack of uniformity in the use of words.

The present booklet, introducing the Bureau's new series on Non-Violent Action in Tension Areas, distinguished by green covers, critically examines pacifist terminology. But it does more, for it analyzes various types of non-violence, evaluates examples of non-violence referred to in previous literature, and points to new sources of case material.

Dr. Theodore Paullin, Assistant Director of the Bureau, is the author of this study. The manuscript has been submitted to and reviewed by Professor Charles A. Ellwood and Professor Hornell Hart, both of the Department of Sociology, Duke University; and by Richard B. Gregg, author of several works on the philosophy and practice of non-violence. Their criticisms and suggestions have proved most helpful, but for any errors of interpretation the author is responsible.

The Pacifist Research Bureau frankly bases its work upon the philosophy of pacifism: that man should exercise such respect for human personality that he will employ only love and sacrificial good will in opposing evil and that the purpose of all human endeavor should be the creation of a world brotherhood in which cooperative effort contributes to the good of all. A list of pamphlets published or in preparation appears on the back cover.

HARROP A. FREEMAN, Executive Director

Any organization ordering 500 or more copies of any pamphlet published by the Pacifist Research Bureau may have its imprint appear on the title page along with that of the Bureau. The prepublication price for such orders is $75.00 for each 500 copies.

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I. INTRODUCTION: ON TERMS 1 Definition of Terms 5

II. VIOLENCE WITHOUT HATE 9 Revolutionary Anarchism 10 Abraham Lincoln 11 The Church and War 11

III. NON-VIOLENCE BY NECESSITY 12 Non-Violent Resistance to Invaders 13 Chinese Boycotts Against Foreigners 15 Egyptian Opposition to Great Britain 16

IV. NON-VIOLENT COERCION 17 The Labor Strike 19 The Boycott 21 Non-Violent Coercion by the American Colonies 22 Irish Opposition to Great Britain After 1900 23 Strikes with Political Purposes 24 Non-Violence in International Affairs 24

V. SATYAGRAHA OR NON-VIOLENT DIRECT ACTION 25 The Origins of Satyagraha 26 The Process of Satyagraha 27 The Philosophy of Satyagraha 29 The Empirical Origins of Gandhi's Method 31 Non-Cooperation 32 Fasting 33 The American Abolition Movement 34

VI. NON-RESISTANCE 36 The Mennonites 37 The New England Non-Resistants 39 Tolstoy 41

VII. ACTIVE GOODWILL AND RECONCILIATION 43 Action in the Face of Persecution 44 Coercion or Persuasion? 46 Ministering to Groups in Conflict 47 The Power of Example 48 Work for Social Reform 49 Political Action and Compromise 50 The Third Alternative 51


* * * * *


The purpose of the present study is to analyze the various positions found within the pacifist movement itself in regard to the use of non-violent techniques of bringing about social change in group relationships. In its attempt to differentiate between them, it makes no pretense of determining which of the several pacifist positions is ethically most valid. Hence it is concerned with the application of non-violent principles in practice and their effectiveness in achieving group purposes, rather than with the philosophical and religious foundations of such principles. It is hoped that the study may help individuals to clarify their thinking within this field, but the author has no brief for one method as against the others. Each person must determine his own principles of action on the basis of his conception of the nature of the universe and his own scale of ethical values.

The examples chosen to illustrate the various positions have been taken largely from historical situations in this country and in Europe, because our traditional education has made us more familiar with the history of these areas than with that of other parts of the world. It also seemed that the possibilities of employing non-violent methods of social change would be more apparent if it was evident that they had been used in the West, and were not only applicable in Oriental societies. It is unfortunate that this deliberate choice has eliminated such valuable illustrative material as the work of Kagawa in Japan. The exception to this general rule in the case of "Satyagraha" has been made because of the wide-spread discussion of this movement in all parts of the world in our day.

I want to acknowledge with great appreciation the suggestions I have obtained from the preliminary work done for the Pacifist Research Bureau in this field by Russell Curtis and Haridas T. Muzumdar.


* * * * *


* * * * *


"In the storm we found each other." "In the storm we clung together." These words are found in the opening paragraphs of "Hey! Yellowbacks!" The War Diary of a Conscientious Objector. Ernest L Meyer uses them to describe the psychological process by which a handful of men—a few professors and a lone student—at the University of Wisconsin grew into unity because they opposed the First World War, when everyone around them was being carried away in the enthusiasm which marked the first days of American participation. If there had been no storm, they might not have discovered their affinity, but as it was, despite the disparity of their interests and backgrounds, they found themselves in agreement on the most fundamental of their values, when all the rest chose to go another way. By standing together they all gained strength for the ordeals through which each must go, and they were filled with the spirit of others before them and far removed from them, who had understood life in the same way.[1]

The incident may be taken as symbolic of the experience through which pacifists have gone in this Second World War, too. Men and women of many creeds, of diverse economic backgrounds, of greatly divergent philosophies, with wide variations in education, have come together in the desire to sustain one another and aid one another in making their protest against war. Each in his own way has refused to participate in the mass destruction of human life which war involves, and by that refusal has been united by the strongest bonds of sympathy with those of his fellows who have done likewise. But it is the storm that has brought unity. When the skies clear, there will be a memory of fellowship together, but there will also be a realization that in the half light we have seen only one aspect of each other's being, and that there are enormous differences between us. Our future hope of achieving the type of world we want will demand a continuation of our sense of unity, despite our diversities.

At present pacifism is no completely integrated philosophy of life. Most of us would be hard pressed to define the term "pacifist" itself. Despite the fact that according to the Latin origins of the word it means "peace maker," it is small wonder that our non-pacifist friends think of the pacifist as a negative obstructionist, because until the time came to make a negative protest against the evil of war we ourselves all too often forgot that we were pacifists. In other times, if we have been peace-makers at all, we have thought of ourselves merely as doing the duty of citizens, and, in attempting to overcome some of the causes of conflict both within our domestic society and in the relations between nations, we have willingly merged ourselves with other men of goodwill whose aims and practices were almost identical to ours.

Since the charge of negativism strikes home, many pacifists defend themselves by insisting that they stand primarily for a positive program, of which war-resistance is only a pre-requisite. They oppose war because it is evil in itself, but they oppose it also because the type of human brotherhood for which they stand can be realized only when war is eliminated from the world. Their real aim is the creation of the new society—long and imperfect though that process of creation may be. They share a vision, but they are still groping for the means of moving forward towards its achievement. They are generally convinced that some means are inappropriate to their ends, and that to use such means would automatically defeat them; but they are less certain about the means which will bring some measure of success.

One section of the pacifist movement believes that it has discovered a solution to the problem in what it calls "non-violent direct action." This group derives much of its inspiration from Gandhi and his non-violent movement for Indian independence. For instance, the Fellowship of Reconciliation has a committee on non-violent direct action which concerns itself with applying the techniques of the Gandhi movement to the solution of pressing social issues which are likely to cause conflict within our own society, especially discrimination against racial minorities. As a "textbook" this group has been using Krishnalal Shridharani's analysis of the Gandhi procedures, War Without Violence.[2] The advocates of "non-violent direct action" believe that their method can bring about the resolution of any conflict through the ultimate defeat of the forces of evil, and the triumph of justice and goodwill. In a widely discussed pamphlet, If We Should Be Invaded, issued just before the outbreak of the present war, Jessie Wallace Hughan, of the War Resisters League, maintained that non-violent resistance would be more effective even in meeting an armed invasion than would reliance upon military might.[3]

Many pacifists have accepted the general thesis of the advocates of non-violent direct action without analyzing its meaning and implications. Others have rejected it on the basis of judgments just as superficial. Much confusion has crept into the discussion of the principle and into its application because of the constant use of ill-defined terms and partially formulated ideas. It is the purpose of the present study to analyze the positions of both the friends and opponents of non-violent direct action within the pacifist movement in the hope of clarifying thought upon this vitally important question.

Before we can proceed with our discussion, we must make a clear distinction between non-violence as a principle, accepted as an end in itself, and non-violence as a means to some other desired end. Much of the present confusion in pacifist thought arises from a failure to make this distinction.

On the one hand, the absolute pacifist believes that all men are brothers. Therefore, he maintains that the supreme duty of every individual is to respect the personality of every other man, and to love him, no matter what evil he may commit, and no matter how greatly he may threaten his fellows or the values which the pacifist holds most dear. Under no circumstances can the pacifist harm or destroy the person who does evil; he can use only love and sacrificial goodwill to bring about conversion. This is his highest value and his supreme principle. Though the heavens should fall, or he himself and all else he cherishes be destroyed in the process, he can place no other value before it. To the pacifist who holds such a position, non-violence is imperative even if it does not work. By his very respect for the personality of the evil-doer, and his insistence upon maintaining the bond of human brotherhood, he has already achieved his highest purpose and has won his greatest victory.

But much of the present pacifist argument in favor of non-violence is based rather upon its expediency. Here, we are told, is a means of social action that works in achieving the social goals to which pacifists aspire. Non-violence provides a moral force which is more powerful than any physical force. Whether it be used by the individual or by the social group, it is, in the long run, the most effective way of overcoming evil and bringing about the triumph of good. The literature is full of stories of individuals who have overcome highwaymen, or refractory neighbors, by the power of love.[4] More recent treatments such as Richard Gregg's Power of Non-Violence[5] present story after story of the successful use of non-violent resistance by groups against political oppression. The history of the Gandhi movement in India has seemed to provide proof of its expediency. Even the argument in Aldous Huxley's Ends and Means, that we can achieve no desired goal by means which are inconsistent with it, still regards non-violent action as a means for achieving some other end, rather than an end in itself.[6]

So prevalent has such thinking become among pacifists, that it is not surprising that John Lewis, in his closely reasoned book, The Case Against Pacifism, bases his whole attack on the logic of the pacifist position upon the theory that pacifists must, as he does, hold other values above their respect for individual human personalities. Even in speaking of "absolute" pacifism he says, "The most fundamental objection to war is based on the conviction that violence and the taking of human life, being themselves wrong, cannot lead to anything but evil."[7] Thus he defines the absolute pacifist as one who accepts the ends and means argument of Huxley, which is really an argument based upon expediency, rather than defining him correctly as one who insists that violence and the taking of human life are the greatest evils, under any conditions, and therefore cannot be justified, even if they could be used for the achievement of highly desirable ends.

Maintaining as Lewis does that respect for every human personality is not their highest value, non-pacifists attack pacifism almost entirely on the ground that in the present state of world society it is not expedient—that it is "impractical." Probably much of the pacifist defense of the position is designed to meet these non-pacifist arguments, and to persuade non-pacifists of goodwill that they can really best serve their highest values by adopting the pacifist technique. Such reasoning is perfectly legitimate, even for the "absolutist," but he should recognize it for what it is—a mere afterthought to his acceptance of non-violence as a principle.

The whole absolutist argument is this: (1) Since violence to any human personality is the greatest evil, I can never commit it. (2) But, at the same time, it is fortunate that non-violent means of overcoming evil are more effective than violent means, so I can serve my highest value—respect for every human personality—and at the same time serve the other values I hold. Or to say the same thing in positive terms, I can achieve my other ends only by employing means which are consistent with those ends.

On the other hand, many pacifists do in fact hold the position that John Lewis is attacking, and base their acceptance of pacifism entirely on the fact that it is the best means of obtaining the sort of social or economic or political order that they desire. Others, in balancing the destruction of violent conflict against what they concede might be gained by it, say that the price of social achievement through violent means is too high—that so many of their values are destroyed in the process of violence that they must abandon it entirely as a means, and find another which is less destructive.

Different as are the positions of the absolute and the relative pacifists, in practice they find themselves united in their logical condemnation of violence as an effective means for bringing about social change. Hence there is no reason why they cannot join forces in many respects. Only a relatively small proportion, even of the absolutists, have no interest whatever in bringing about social change, and are thus unable to share in this aspect of pacifist thinking.


[1] Ernest L. Meyer, "Hey! Yellowbacks!" (New York: John Day, 1930), 3-6.

[2] Krishnalal Shridharani, War Without Violence (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1939); Selections from War Without Violence was published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, 2929 Broadway, New York, as a pamphlet, in 1941.

[3] Jessie Wallace Hughan, If We Should Be Invaded: Facing a Fantastic Hypothesis (War Resisters League, New York, 1939). A new edition with the title Pacifism and Invasion was issued in 1942.

[4] Many later writers have selected their examples from the large number presented by Adin Ballou, Christian Non-Resistance: In All Its Important Bearings (Philadelphia: Universal Peace Union, 1910); first published in 1846.

[5] Richard B. Gregg, The Power of Non-Violence (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1934). A new and revised edition of this book is to be published by Fellowship Publications, N. Y., 1944.

[6] Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means: An Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals and the Methods Employed for Their Realization (New York: Harpers, 1937).

[7] John Lewis, The Case Against Pacifism (London: Allen and Unwin, 1940), 23.

Definition of Terms

Both in pacifist thought and in the criticisms of pacifism, a great deal of confusion arises because of the inexact use of terms. We have already seen that pacifists of many shades of opinion are united in their refusal to participate in war. In this objection there is a negative quality. The very word "non-violence" used in the title of this study suggests this same negative attitude, and it was not long ago that pacifists were generally known as "non-resistants." Although some of those who oppose participation in war still insist upon calling themselves "non-resistants"[8] many of the modern pacifists disclaim the term because it is negative, and insist that the essence of pacifism is the element of active goodwill toward all men.[9] Yet when confronted with evil, even he who thinks of his pacifism as a positive attitude must decide not only what means he will use to oppose evil, but what means he will not use. At the moment when the society of which he is a part insists that every one of its members participate in an enterprise to employ these proscribed means, the pacifists of all shades of opinion become "conscientious objectors." To what is it exactly that they object?

Most answers to this question would say that they oppose "the use of force," "violence," "coercion," or in some cases, any "resistance" to evil whatever. But pacifists themselves have not been agreed upon the meanings and implications of these terms, and the opponents of pacifism have hastened to define them in such a way as to deny validity to the pacifist philosophy. Before we can proceed with our discussion we must define these terms for ourselves, as we shall use them in the present study.

Force we may define as physical or intangible power or influence to effect change in the material or immaterial world. Coercion is the use of either physical or intangible force to compel action contrary to the will or reasoned judgment of the individual or group subjected to such force. Violence is the willful application of force in such a way that it is physically or psychologically injurious to the person or group against whom it is applied. Resistance is any opposition either physical or psychological to the positive will or action of another. It is the negative or defensive counterpart of coercion.

The very diversity of terms used to describe the pacifist position shows that none of them satisfactorily expresses the essence of the pacifist philosophy. Among those commonly used are: (1) non-resistance, (2) passive resistance, (3) non-violent resistance, (4) super-resistance, (5) non-violent non-cooperation, (6) civil disobedience, (7) non-violent coercion, (8) non-violent direct action, (9) war without violence, and (10) Satyagraha or soul force.[10]

Of these terms only "non-resistance" implies acquiescence in the will of the evil-doer; all the rest suggest an approval of resistance. Every one of them, even "non-resistance" itself, contemplates the use of some intangible moral force to oppose evil and a refusal to take an active part in committing evil. At least the last five indicate the positive desire to change the active policy of the evil-doer, either by persuasion or by compulsion. As we shall see, in practice they tend to involve a coercive element. Only in their rejection of violence are all these terms in agreement. Perhaps we are justified in accepting opposition to violence as the heart of the pacifist philosophy. Under the definition of violence which has been suggested, this would amount to virtually the same thing as saying that the pacifist has such respect for every human personality that he cannot, under any circumstances whatsoever, intentionally inflict permanent injury upon any human being either physically or psychologically. This statement deserves further examination.

All pacifists approve the use of "force," as we have defined it, and actually do use it, since it includes such things as "the force of love," "the force of example," or "the force of public opinion."[11] There are very few pacifists who would draw the line even at the use of physical force. Most of them would approve it in restraining children or the mentally ill from injuring themselves or others, or in the organized police force of a community under the proper safeguards of the courts and law.[12]

Many pacifists are also willing to accept coercion, provided it be non-violent. The strike, the boycott, or even the mass demonstration involve an element of coercion as we have defined that term. Shridharani assures us that despite Gandhi's insistence to the contrary, "In the light of events in India in the past twenty years as well as in the light of certain of Gandhi's own activities, ... it becomes apparent that Satyagraha does contain the element of coercion, if in a somewhat modified form."[13] Since to some people "coercion" implies revenge or punishment, Shridharani would, however, substitute the word "compulsion" for it. Gandhi himself and many of his followers would claim that the techniques of Satyagraha are only a marshalling of the forces of sympathy, public opinion, and the like, and that they are persuasive rather than coercive. At any rate a distinction, on the basis of the spirit in which they are undertaken, between types of action which are outwardly similar seems perfectly valid.

There are other pacifists who would even accept a certain element of violence, as we have defined it, provided it were not physical in nature. Some persons with boundless good will feel that even physical violence may be justified on occasion if it is not accompanied by hatred toward its object.[14] However, there would be few who consider themselves pacifists who would accept such a position.

We are again forced to the conclusion that it is violence as we have defined it to which the pacifist objects. At this point, the chief difference between the pacifist and the non-pacifist is that the latter defines violence as does Clarence Case, as "the unlawful or unregulated use of destructive physical force against persons or things."[15] Under such a definition, war itself, since it is sanctioned by law, would no longer involve violence. Thus for the non-pacifist it is ethically acceptable to use lawful violence against unlawful violence; for the pacifist, violence against any personality is never ethically justified.[16]

On the other hand, a very large group of pacifists insist upon discarding these negative definitions in favor of one that is wholly positive. Maurice L. Rowntree has said: "The Pacifist way of life is the way that brings into action all the sense and wisdom, all the passion of love and goodwill that can be brought to bear upon the situation."[17]

In this study, no attempt will be made to determine which of the many pacifist positions is most sound ethically. Before any person can make such a determination for himself, however, it is necessary that he understand the differences between the various approaches to the problem of influencing other people either to do something which he believes should be done, or to refrain from doing something which he feels ought not to be done.

It might be helpful for us in our thinking to construct a scale at one end of which we place violence coupled with hatred, and at the other, dependence only upon the application of positive love and goodwill. In the intermediate positions we might place (1) violence without hatred, (2) non-violence practiced by necessity rather than because of principle, (3) non-violent coercion, (4) Satyagraha and non-violent direct action, and (5) non-resistance.

We need, at the outset, to recognize that we are speaking primarily of the relationships between social groups rather than between individuals. As Reinhold Niebuhr has so ably pointed out, our ethical concepts in these two areas are greatly at variance with one another.[18] The pacifist principles are already widely accepted as ideals in the affairs of individuals. Every ethical religion teaches them in this area, and the person who rejects them is definitely the exception in our western society, until the violent man is regarded as subject to the discipline of society in general.

Our real concern in this study is with non-violent means of achieving group purposes, whether they be defensive and conservative in character, or whether they be changes in the existing institutions of the social order. The study is not so much concerned with the religious and ethical bases of these techniques as it is with a consideration of their application in practice, and their effectiveness in achieving the purposes which the group in question has in view. We shall begin at one end of our scale and proceed to discuss each type of action in turn.


[8] Guy F. Hershberger makes a definite distinction between non-resistance and pacifism. He says that the former term describes the faith and life of those "Who cannot have any part in warfare because they believe the Bible forbids it, and who renounce all coercion, even nonviolent coercion." He goes on to say, "Pacifism, on the other hand, is a term which covers many types of opposition to war. Some modern so-called pacifists are opposed to all wars, and some are not. Some who oppose all wars find their authority in the will of God, while others find it largely in human reason. There are many other differences among them." "Biblical Nonresistance and Modern Pacifism," The Mennonite Quarterly Review, XVII, (July, 1943), 116.

Hershberger is here defining pacifism broadly to include the European meaning of opposition to war, but not necessarily a refusal to take part in it. In the United States, and generally in Great Britain, the term is ordinarily applied only to those who actually refuse participation in war.

[9] See Devere Allen, The Fight for Peace (New York: Macmillan, 1930), 531-540.

[10] On the origins of these terms see Haridas T. Muzumdar, The United Nations of the World (New York: Universal, 1942), 201-203.

[11] John Haynes Holmes, using the older term rather than "pacifist," has said, "The true non-resistant is militant—but he lifts his militancy from the plane of physical, to the plane of moral and spiritual force." New Wars for Old (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1916), xiii.

[12] Cecil John Cadoux, Christian Pacifism Re-examined (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1940), 15-16; Leyton Richards, Realistic Pacifism (Chicago: Willett, Clark, 1935), 3.

[13] Shridharani, War Without Violence, 292.

[14] John Lewis says, "We must draw a sharp distinction between the use of violence to achieve an unjust end and its use as police action in defence of the rule of law." Case Against Pacifism, 85.

[15] Clarence Marsh Case, Non-Violent Coercion (New York: Century, 1923), 323. Italics mine.

[16] C. J. Cadoux has clearly stated his position in these words: "He [the pacifist] will confine himself to those methods of pressure which are either wholly non-coercive or are coercive in a strictly non-injurious way, foregoing altogether such injurious methods of coercion as torture, mutilation, or homicide: that is to say, he will refrain from war." Christian Pacifism, 65-66.

[17] Maurice L. Rowntree, Mankind Set Free (London: Cape, 1939), 80-81.


Occasions may arise in which a man who genuinely abhors violence confronts an almost insoluble dilemma. On the one hand he may be faced with the imminent triumph of some almost insufferable evil; on the other, he may feel that the only available means of opposing that evil is violence, which is in itself evil.[19]

In such a situation, the choice made by any individual depends upon his own subjective scale of values. The pacifist is convinced that for him to commit violence upon another is itself the greatest possible evil. The non-pacifist says that some other evils may be greater, and that the use of this lesser evil to oppose them is entirely justified. John Lewis bases his entire Case Against Pacifism upon this latter assumption, and says that in such a conflict of values, pacifists "continue to be pacifists either because there is no serious threat, or because they do not expect to lose anything, or perhaps even because they do not value what is threatened."[20] The latter charge is entirely unjustified. The pacifist maintains his opposition to violence in the face of such a threat, not because he does not value what is threatened, but because he values something else more.

Cadoux has phrased it, "Pacifism is applicable only in so far as there exist pacifists who are convinced of its wisdom. The subjective differences are of vital importance, yet are usually overlooked in arguments on the subject."[21] This means that our problem of considering the place of violence and non-violence in human life is not one of purely objective science, since the attitudes and beliefs of pacifists (and non-pacifists) themselves become a factor in the situation. If enough people accepted the pacifist scale of values, it would in fact become the true basis for social interaction.[22]

In our western society, the majority even of those who believe in the brotherhood of man, and have great respect for the dignity of every human personality, will on occasion use violence as a means to attempt the achievement of their goals. Since their attitude is different from that of the militarist who would place violence itself high in his scale of values, it would pay us to consider their position.


[18] Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society (New York: Scribner's, 1932). See especially his consideration of coercion and persuasion in the two realms of individual and social conduct, pages xxii-xxiii.

[19] As Cadoux puts it, "Broadly speaking, almost the whole human race believes that it is occasionally right and necessary to inflict injurious coercion on human beings, in order to prevent the perpetration by them of some intolerable evil." Christian Pacifism Re-examined, 97.

[20] Lewis, 62.

Revolutionary Anarchism

The revolutionary Anarchists belong essentially in this group. As Alexander Berkman has put it, "The teachings of Anarchism are those of peace and harmony, of non-invasion, of the sacredness of life and liberty;" or again, "It [Anarchism] means that men are brothers, and that they should live like brothers, in peace and harmony."[23] But to create this ideal society the Anarchist feels that violence may be necessary. Berkman himself, in his younger days, was able to justify his attack upon the life of Frick at the time of the Homestead Strike in 1893 in these words:

"But to the People belongs the earth—by right, if not in fact. To make it so in fact, all means are justifiable; nay advisable, even to the point of taking life.... Human life is, indeed, sacred and inviolate. But the killing of a tyrant, of an enemy of the People, is in no way to be considered as the taking of a life.... To remove a tyrant is an act of liberation, the giving of life and opportunity to an oppressed people."[24]

Later, Berkman insisted that a successful revolution must be non-violent in nature. It must be the result of thoroughgoing changes in the ideas and opinions of the people. When their ideas have become sufficiently changed and unified, the people can stage a general strike in which they overthrow the old order by their refusal to co-operate with it. He maintains that any attempt to carry on the revolution itself by military means would fail because "government and capital are too well organized in a military way for the workers to cope with them." But, says Berkman, when the success of the revolution becomes apparent, the opposition will use violent means to suppress it. At that moment the people are justified in using violence themselves to protect it. Berkman believes that there is no record of any group in power giving up its power without being subjected to the use of physical force, or at least the threat of it.[25] Thus in effect, Berkman would still use violence against some personalities in order to establish a system in which respect for every personality would be possible. Actually his desire for the new society is greater than his abhorrence of violence.


[21] Cadoux, Christian Pacifism Re-examined, 116-117.

[22] The way in which a whole social order can differ from that of the West, merely because it chooses to operate on the basis of different assumptions concerning such things as the aggressive nature of man is well brought out in the study of three New Guinea tribes living in very similar environments. Margaret Mead, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (London: Routledge, 1935).

[23] Alexander Berkman, What Is Communist Anarchism? (New York: Vanguard, 1929), x-xi, 176.

[24] Alexander Berkman, Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist (New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1912), 7.

[25] Berkman, Communist Anarchism, 217-229, 247-248, 290.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln represented the spirit of moderation in the use of violence. He led his nation in war reluctantly and prayerfully, with no touch of hatred toward those whom the armies of which he was Commander-in-Chief were destroying. He expressed his feeling in an inspiring way in the closing words of his Second Inaugural Address, when the war was rapidly drawing to a victorious close:

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness to do the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations."

The Church and War

The statements of British and American churchmen during the present war call to mind these words of Lincoln. At Malvern, in 1941, members of the Church of England declared: "God himself is the sovereign of all human life; all men are his children, and ought to be brothers of one another; through Christ the Redeemer they can become what they ought to be." In March, 1942, American Protestant leaders at Delaware, Ohio, asserted: "We believe it is the purpose of God to create a world-wide community in Jesus Christ, transcending nation, race and class."[26] Yet the majority of the men who drew up these two statements were supporting the war which their nations were waging against fellow members of the world community—against those whom they professed to call brothers. Like Lincoln they did so in the belief that when the military phases of the war were over, it would be possible to turn from violence and to practice the principles of Christian charity.[27]

There is little in human history to justify their hope. There is much to make us believe that the violent attitudes of war will lead to hatred and injustice toward enemies when the war is done. The inspiring words of Lincoln were followed by the orgy of radical reconstruction in the South. There is at least as grave a doubt that the spirit of the Christian Church will dominate the peace which is concluded at the end of the present war.

The question arises insistently whether violence without hate can long live up to its own professions.


[26] number of these religious statements are conveniently brought together in the appendix to Paul Hutchinson's From Victory to Peace (Chicago: Willett, Clark, 1943). For a statement of a point of view similar to the one we are discussing here, see also Charles Clayton Morrison, The Christian and the War (Chicago: Willett, Clark, 1942).

[27] Bernard Iddings Bell has expressed the attitude of such churchmen: "Evil may sometimes get such control of men and nations, they have realized, that armed resistance becomes a necessity. There are times when not to participate in violence is in itself violence to the welfare of the brethren. But no Christian moralist worth mentioning has ever regarded war per se as other than monstrous, or hoped that by the use of violence anything more could be accomplished than the frustration of a temporarily powerful malicious wickedness. War in itself gives birth to no righteousness. Only such a fire of love as leads to self-effacement can advance the welfare of mankind." "Will the Christian Church Survive?" Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 170, October, 1942, 109.


The use of non-violent resistance does not always denote devotion to pacifist principles. Groups who would gladly use arms against an enemy if they had them often use non-violent means simply because they have no others at their disposal at the moment. In contrast to the type of action described in the preceding section, such a procedure might be called "hate without violence." It would probably be better to call it "non-violence by necessity."

The group using non-violence under such circumstances might have in view one of three purposes. It might hope through its display of opposition and its own suffering to appeal to the sense of fair play of the group that was oppressing it. However, such a hope can exist only in cases where the two opposing parties have a large area of agreement upon values, or homogeneity, and would have no basis when the oppressing group looked upon the oppressed as completely beneath their consideration. It is unlikely that it would have much success in changing the policy of a nation which consciously chose to invade another country, although it might affect individual soldiers if their cultural background were similar to that of the invaded people.[28]

An invader usually desires to gain something from the invaded people. In order to succeed, he needs their cooperation. A second way of thwarting the will of the invader is to refuse that cooperation, and be willing to suffer the penalties of such refusal. Since the invaded territory would then have no value, the invader might leave of his own accord.

A third possibility is for the invaded people to employ sabotage and inflict damage upon the invader in the belief that his invasion can be made so costly that it will be impossible for him to remain in the conquered territory. Such sabotage easily merges into violence.

In the preceding paragraphs, the enemy of the group using non-violence has been referred to as the "invader," because our best examples of this type of non-violent opposition are to be found in the histories of conquered people opposing the will of occupying forces. A similar situation may exist between a colonial people and the home government of an imperial power, since in most cases their position is essentially that of a conquered people, except that their territory has been occupied for a longer period of time.


[28] Franklin H. Giddings said, "In a word, non-aggression and non-resistance are an outcome of homogeneity." "The Gospel of Non-Resistance," in Democracy and Empire (New York: Macmillan, 1900), 356. See also Case, Non-Violent Coercion, 248; Lewis, Case Against Pacifism, 185-186.

Non-Violent Resistance to Invaders

Stories of the use of this sort of non-violence occur in our press every day, as they find their way out of the occupied countries which are opposing the Nazi invaders with every means at their disposal. In these countries the vast majority of the people are agreed in their determination to rid themselves of Nazi control. Such common agreement is the first requisite for the success of this method of resistance. When the people of the territory refuse to inform the police about individuals who are committing unlawful acts against the invaders, it is virtually impossible for the latter to check the expansion of non-cooperation or sabotage. Similarly, if the whole population refuses to cooperate with the invader, it is impossible for him to punish them all, or if he did, he would be destroying the labor force whose cooperation he desires, and would have defeated himself in the very process of stamping out the opposition to his regime.

Hitler himself has discovered that there is a difference between military occupation and actual conquest. In his New Year's proclamation to the German people in 1944, he attempted to explain the Nazi reverses in North Africa and Italy in these words:

"The true cause of the difficulties in North Africa and the Balkans was in reality the persistent attempts at sabotage and paralyzation of these plutocratic enemies of the fascist people's State.

"Their continual sabotage not only succeeded in stopping supplies to Africa and, later on, to Italy, by ever-new methods of passive resistance, thus preventing our soldiers and the Italians standing at their side from receiving the material wherewithal for the conduct of the struggle, but also aggravated or confused the situation in the Balkans, which had been cleared according to plan by German actions."[29]

Opposition to the German invader has taken different forms in different countries. In Denmark, where there was no military resistance to the initial invasion, the subtle opposition of the people has made itself felt in innumerable ways. There are many stories such as that of the King's refusal to institute anti-Jewish laws in Denmark on the ground that there was no Jewish problem there since the Danes did not feel themselves to be inferior to the Jews. Such ideological opposition makes the Nazis angry, and it also makes them uncomfortable, since they do hold enough values in common with the Danes to understand perfectly the implications of the Danish jibes. Such psychological opposition merges into sabotage very easily. For instance when the Germans demanded ten torpedo boats from the Danish navy, the Danes prepared them for delivery by taking all their guns and equipment ashore, and then burning the warehouse in which these were stored. The Nazis even forbade the press to mention the incident, lest it become a signal for a nationwide demonstration of solidarity.[30]

Other occupied countries report the same type of non-violent resistance. There are strikes of parents against sending their children to Nazi-controlled schools, strikes of ministers against conforming to Nazi decrees, demonstrations, malingering, and interference with internal administration. Such events may appear less important than military resistance, but they make the life of an occupying force uneasy and unhappy.[31]

Calls for non-violent preparation for the day of delivery go out constantly in the underground press. While urging solidarity in illegal acts among the French population at home, one French appeal even gave instructions to Frenchmen who might go to work in Germany:

"If you respond to Laval's appeal, I know in what spirit you will do so. You will wish to slow down German production, establish contacts with all the Frenchmen in Germany, and create the strongest of Fifth Columns in the enemy country."[32]

Over a long period of time such action cannot help having an effect upon the success of the invader. Since the grievance of the peoples of the occupied countries is a continuous one, there is no prospect that their resistance will relax until they have freed themselves of their oppressors.


[29] New York Times, Jan. 1, 1944, page 4, columns 2-7.

[30] C. H. W. Hasselriis, "Nothing Rotten in Denmark," in The New Republic, June 7, 1943, Vol. 108: 760-761.

[31] The publications of the various governments in exile are filled with such stories. See such periodicals as News of Norway and News from Belgium, which can be obtained through the United Nations Information Service, 610 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

[32] Resistance, Feb. 17, 1943, reprinted in Free World, July, 1943, Vol. 6, 77.

Chinese Boycotts Against Foreigners

We can find many other examples of the use of these non-violent methods under similar circumstances. The Chinese made use of the boycott repeatedly to oppose foreign domination and interference in their internal affairs in the years before the outbreak of the present war against Japan. Clarence Case lists five significant Chinese boycotts between 1906 and 1919. The last one was directed against foreigners and the Chinese government to protest the action of the Peace Conference in giving Japan a predominant interest in Shantung. As a result the government of China was ousted, and the provisions of the treaty revised. Japan felt the effects of the boycott more than any other country. Case says of the Japanese reaction:

"As for the total loss to Japanese trade, various authorities have settled upon $50,000,000, which we may accept as a close approximation. At any rate the pressure was great enough to impel the Japanese merchants of Peking and Tientsin, with apparent ruin staring them in the face, to appeal to their home government for protection. They insisted that the boycott should be made a diplomatic question of the first order and that demands for its removal should be backed by threats of military intervention. To this the government at Tokio 'could only reply that it knew no way by which the Chinese merchants, much less the Chinese people, could be made to buy Japanese goods against their will.'"[33]

This incident calls to mind the experience of the American colonists in their non-violent resistance to Great Britain's imperial policy in the years following 1763, which we shall discuss more at length in the next section.

Egyptian Opposition to Great Britain

Another similar example is that of the Egyptian protest against British occupation of the country in 1919. People in all walks of life went on strike. Officials boycotted the British mission under Lord Milner, which came to work out a compromise. The mission was forced to return to London empty handed, but finally an agreement was reached there with Saad Zagloul Pasha, leader of the Egyptian movement, on the basis of independence for the country, with the British retaining only enough military control to safeguard their interest in the Suez Canal. After the acceptance of the settlement in 1922, friction between Egypt and Great Britain continued, but Egypt was not sufficiently united, nor were the grievances great enough to lead to the same type of successful non-cooperation practiced in 1919.[34]

It must be recognized that in most cases such as those we have been considering, violence would be used by the resisters if they had it at their disposal. However, the occasional success of non-violence even under such circumstances is proof of the possible expediency of this method. When it has failed, it has done so because the resisters were not sufficiently committed to their purpose to carry it out in the face of possible death. It appears from this experience that complete solidarity and commitment is required for the success of non-violent methods when used in this way, just as they are if such methods are used as a matter of principle. It must be recognized that the self-discipline necessary for the success of a non-violent movement must be even more rigorous than the imposed discipline of a military machine, and also that there is a chance that the non-violent resisters will fail in their endeavor, just as there is a virtual certainty that one side in a military conflict will be defeated.[35]


[33] Case, Non-Violent Coercion, 330-339. The last sentence is quoted from The Christian Science Monitor, April 7, 1920.

[34] A. Fenner Brockway, Non-Co-operation in Other Lands (Madras: Tagore and Co., 1921), 25-39; Charles E. Mullett, The British Empire (New York: Holt, 1938), 622-627.

Pacifist literature has also made much of the Hungarian independence movement in the 1860's under Francis Deak, which refused to pay taxes to the Austrian government, or to co-operate in other ways. However, it would appear that outside pressures were as important in the final settlement establishing the Dual Monarchy in 1867 as was the Hungarian movement of non-cooperation. The pacifist writers generally follow the account in Brockway, Non-Co-operation, 1-24. He in turn follows the book of Arthur Griffith, The Resurrection of Hungary, published in 1904 in order to induce the Irish to use non-co-operation in their struggle against the English. For some of the other factors involved see A. J. P. Taylor, The Hapsburg Monarchy 1815-1918 (London: Macmillan, 1941), 101-151.

[35] On the discipline required see Gregg, Power of Non-Violence, 266-294. Lewis, to prove the ineffectiveness of non-violence, quotes Joad: "There have been only too many occasions in history in which the meeting of violence by non-violence has led not to the taming of the violent, but to the extinction of the non-violent." The Case Against Pacifism, 184.


In the last section we were considering the non-violent resistance of groups which had no choice in their means of opposing the will of an invader, but who would have chosen violence if the weapons of violence had been available to them. In those cases there was no question but that the choice rested upon the expediency of the moment rather than upon principle. In the cases of non-violence by necessity the purposes of the resisting groups were defensive and negative, designed to induce the withdrawal of the invader rather than to induce him to follow actively a different policy.

In this section we are concerned with the action of groups designed to modify the conduct of others in order to promote their own ideals. We are concerned with people who presumably have a possible choice of methods to accomplish their purposes. They might rely upon persuasion and education of their opponents through emotional or intellectual appeals; but such action would have no coercive element in it, so we shall consider it in a later section. Or they might attempt to coerce their opponents, either by violent or non-violent means. For the present we are interested only in the latter through its usual manifestations: the strike, the boycott, or other organized movements of non-cooperation.[36]

At first sight such methods do not appear to be coercive in nature, since they involve merely an abstention from action on the part of the group offering the resistance. Actually they are coercive, however, because of the absolute necessity for inter-group cooperation in the maintenance of our modern social, economic, and political systems. Under modern conditions the group against whom the resistance is directed must have the cooperation of the resisting group in order to continue to survive. When that cooperation is denied, the old dominant group is forced to make concessions, even against its will, to the former subordinate group in order to regain the help that they have refused to render under the old conditions.[37]

The non-violent resisters themselves are also dependent upon inter-group cooperation. Hence the outcome of this type of struggle usually depends upon which of the two parties to the conflict can best or longest dispense with the services of the other. If the resisters are less able to hold out than the defenders, or if the costs of continued resistance become in their eyes greater than the advantages which might be gained by ultimate victory, they will lose their will to resist and their movement will end in failure.

In all such struggles, both sides are greatly influenced by the opinions of parties not directly concerned in the immediate conflict, but who might give support or opposition to one side or the other depending upon which could enlist their sympathies. Because of the deep-seated dislike of violence, even in our western society, the side that first employs it is apt to lose the sympathy of these third parties. As E. A. Ross has put it:

"Disobedience without violence wins, if it wins, not so much by touching the conscience of the masters as by exciting the sympathy of disinterested onlookers. The spectacle of men suffering for a principle and not hitting back is a moving one. It obliges the power holders to condescend to explain, to justify themselves. The weak get a change of venue from the will of the stronger to the court of public opinion, perhaps of world opinion."[38]

The stakes in such a struggle may be great or small. They range all the way from the demand of a labor union for an increase of five cents an hour in wages, to that of a whole people demanding political independence from an imperial master, or a revolutionary change in the economic or political power of the community.

The decision of the resisters to use non-violent means of opposition to gain their ends may be based either upon principle or upon expediency. In the former case they would say that the purposes they have in mind would not be worth attaining if their achievement were to involve physical violence toward other human beings; in the latter they would act on the basis of the conclusion that in view of all the factors involved their purposes could best be served by avoiding violence. These factors would include the likelihood of counter-violence, an estimate of the relative physical strength of the two parties to the conflict, and the attitude of the public toward the party that first used violence. In practice the action of those who avoid violence because they regard it as wrong is very little different from that of those who avoid it because they think that it will not serve their ends. But since there is a moral difference between them, we shall postpone the consideration of Satyagraha, or non-violent direct action on the basis of principle, until the next section. It would deserve such separate treatment in any case because of the great amount of attention which it commands in pacifist circles all over the world.

At the outset it is necessary to dispel the idea that non-violent resistance is something esoteric and oriental, and that it is seldom used in western society. This type of action is used constantly in our own communities, and the histories of western peoples present us with a large number of examples of the use of non-violent action in political and revolutionary conflicts. In the following discussion, the point of view is that of the West.


[36] Clarence Marsh Case, "Friends and Social Thinking" in S. B. Laughlin (Ed.), Beyond Dilemmas (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1937), 130-137; Cadoux, Christian Pacifism Re-Examined, 24-25, and the chart on page 45.

[37] Case, Non-Violent Coercion, 330. John Lewis says, "Non-violence can be as completely coercive as violence itself, in which case, while it has the advantage of not involving war, it cannot be defended on spiritual grounds." Case Against Pacifism, 110.

[38] In his "Introduction" to Case, Non-Violent Coercion.

The Labor Strike

The most common type of non-violent conflict is the ordinary labor strike. In a strike, the workers withdraw their cooperation from the employer until he meets their demands. He suffers, because as long as they refuse to work for him it is impossible for him to produce the goods or services upon the sale of which his own living depends. Usually he is fighting for no principle during such a strike, so that he is apt to calculate his monetary loss from it against the advantages he would have to surrender in order to reach an agreement. When he concludes that it would be cheaper to give in, it is possible for the management and the strikers to arrive at a settlement. If the employer does feel that the principle of control of an enterprise by its owner is at stake, he may hold out longer, until he actually loses more by the strike than he would by conceding the demands of the strikers, but even then he balances psychological cost against monetary cost, and when the latter overweighs the former he becomes receptive to a settlement.

During the strike the workers are going through much the same process. A strike from their point of view is even more costly than it is to the employer. It is not to be entered upon lightly, since their very means of sustenance are at stake. They too have to balance the monetary costs of their continued refusal to cooperate against the gains that they might hope for by continued resistance, and when the cost becomes greater than the prospective gain they are receptive to suggestions for compromise. They too may be contending for the principle of the right of organization and control over their own economic destinies, so that they may be willing to suffer loss for a longer period than they would if they stood to gain only the immediate monetary advantages, but when immediate costs more than overweigh ultimate psychological advantages, they too will be willing to capitulate.

In the meantime the strikers have to see to it that the employer does not find someone else with whom he can cooperate in order to eliminate his dependence upon them. Hence they picket the plant, in an attempt to persuade others not to work there. If persuasion is not effective, they may resort to mass picketing, which amounts to a threat of violence against the persons who would attempt to take over their jobs. On occasion the threat to their jobs becomes so great that in order to defend them they will resort to violence against the strikebreaker. At this point, the public, which is apt to be somewhat sympathetic toward their demands for fair wages or better working conditions, turns against them and supports the employer, greatly adding to his moral standing and weakening that of the strikers, until the strikers, feeling that the forces against them are too great, are apt to give way. The employer will find the same negative reaction among the public if he tries to use violence in order to break the strike. Hence, if he does decide to use violence, he tries to make it appear that the strikers are responsible, or tries to induce them to use it first. It is to their advantage not to use it, even when it is used against them. Labor leaders in general understand this principle and try to avoid violence at all costs. They do so not on the basis of principle, but on the basis of expediency.[39]

In the great wave of enthusiastic organization of labor that swept over the United States in 1936 and 1937, American labor copied a variant of the strike, which had been used earlier in Hungary and in France.[40] Instead of leaving the property of the employer and trying to prevent others from entering it to take their places, workers remained on a "sit down strike" within the plants, so that the employer would have been forced to use violence to remove them in order to operate the factory. These strikes were based in part upon the theory that the worker had a property right to his job, just as the employer did to his capital equipment. Such strikes were for a time more successful than the older variety, because strike-breaking was virtually impossible. However, it was not long before public opinion forced the abandonment of the technique. It was revolutionary in character, since it threatened the old concept of private property. The fear of small property holders that their own possessions would be jeopardized by the success of such a movement, made them support the owners of the plants against the strikers, who were then forced to give way. In this case the public's fear of revolutionary change was greater than their dislike of violence, so they even supported the use of physical force by the employers and the police authorities to remove the strikers from the plants. The very effectiveness of the method which labor was employing brought about its defeat, because the public was not yet persuaded to accept the new concept of the property right of the laborer to his job.


[39] A. J. Muste, Non-Violence in an Aggressive World (New York: Harper, 1940), 70-72.

[40] Barthelemy de Ligt, The Conquest of Violence: An Essay on War and Revolution (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1938), 131-132.

The Boycott

The boycott is a more indirect type of non-cooperation than the strike, in most cases.[41] This word originated in Ireland in 1880 when a Captain Boycott, an agent for an Irish landlord, refused the demands of the tenants on the estate. In retaliation they threatened his life, forced his servants to leave him, tore down his fences, and cut off his food supplies. The Irish Land League, insisting that the land of Ireland should belong to its people, used this method of opposition in the years that followed. Its members refused to deal with peasants or tradesmen who sided with the government, but they used acts of violence and intimidation as well as economic pressure. The government employed 15,000 military police and 40,000 soldiers against the people, but they succeeded only in filling the jails. The struggle might well have won land for the Irish peasant, if Parnell, who had become leader of the Irish movement, had not agreed to accept the Gladstone Home Rule Bill of 1886 in exchange for calling off the opposition in Ireland. The Bill was defeated in Parliament and the Irish problem continued.[42]

In later usage, the word "boycott" has been applied almost exclusively to the refusal of economic cooperation. Organized labor in America used the boycott against the goods of manufacturers who refused to deal with unions, and it is still used in appeals to the public not to patronize stores or manufacturers who deal unfairly with labor.

The idea of economic sanctions, which played so large a part in the history of the League of Nations in its attempts to deal with those who disregarded decisions of the League, is essentially similar to the boycott. In fact much of the thinking of the pacifist movement between the two wars maintained that economic sanctions would provide a non-violent but coercive substitute for war, in settling international controversies.[43]


[41] "The boycott is a form of passive resistance in all cases where it does not descend to violence and intimidation. The fact that it is coercive does not place it beyond the moral pale, for coercion ... is a fact inseparable from life in society." Case, Non-Violent Coercion, 319.

[42] De Ligt, 114-117; Carleton J. H. Hayes, A Political and Cultural History of Modern Europe (New York: Macmillan, 1936), II, 496.

[43] De Ligt, 218-241.

Non-Violent Coercion by the American Colonies

The western world has repeatedly employed non-violent coercion as a political as well as an economic technique. Strangely enough, many Americans who are apt to scoff at the methods of the Indian independence movement today forget that the American colonists used much the same methods in the early stages of their own revolt against England. When England began to assert imperial control over the colonies after 1763, the colonists answered with protests and refusals to cooperate. Against both the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Duties of 1767, they adopted non-importation agreements whereby they refused to import British goods. To be sure, the more radical colonists did not eschew violence on the basis of principle, and the direct action by which they forced colonial merchants to respect the terms of the non-importation agreements was not always non-violent. The loss of trade induced British merchants to go to Parliament on both occasions and to insist successfully upon the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766 and the Townshend Duties in 1770. In the face of non-cooperation practiced by the vast majority of the colonists, the British government had been forced to give way in order to serve its own best interests.[44]

In 1774, when the Continental Congress established the Continental Association in order to use the same economic weapon again, the issues in the conflict were more clearly drawn. Many of the moderate colonists who had supported the earlier action, denounced this one as revolutionary, and went over to the loyalist side. The radicals themselves felt less secure in the use of their economic weapon, and began to gather arms for a violent rebellion. The attempt of the British to destroy these weapons led to Lexington and Concord.[45] What had been non-violent opposition to British policy had become armed revolt and civil war. It was a war which would probably have ended in the defeat of the colonists if they had not been able to fish in the troubled waters of international politics and win the active support of France, who sought thus to avenge the loss of her own colonies to Great Britain in 1763. We have here an example of the way in which non-violent resistance, when used merely on the basis of expediency, is apt to intensify and sharpen the conflict, until it finally leads to war itself.[46]


[44] Curtis Nettels says of the Stamp Act opposition, "The most telling weapons used by the colonists were the non-importation agreements, which struck the British merchants at a time when trade was bad." The Roots of American Civilization (New York: Crofts, 1938), 632. Later he says, "The colonial merchants again resorted to the non-importation agreements as the most effectual means of compelling Britain to repeal the Townshend Acts." Ibid., 635.

For a good account of this whole movement see also John C. Miller, Origins of the American Revolution (Boston: Little, Brown, 1943), 150-164, 235-281.

[45] Miller, 355-411.

[46] Case, Non-Violent Coercion, 308-309.

Irish Opposition to Great Britain After 1900

After centuries of violent opposition to British occupation, the Irish tried an experiment in non-violent non-cooperation after 1900. Arthur Griffith was inspired to use in Ireland the techniques employed in the Hungarian independence movement of 1866-1867. His Sinn Fein party, organized in 1906, determined to set up an independent government for Ireland outside the framework of the United Kingdom. When the Home Rule Act of 1914 was not put into operation because of the war, Sinn Fein gained ground. In the elections of 1918, three fourths of the successful Irish candidates were members of the party, so they met at Dublin as an Irish parliament rather than proceeding to Westminster. In 1921, after a new Home Rule Act had resulted only in additional opposition, the British government negotiated a settlement with the representatives of the "Irish Republic," which set up the "Irish Free State" as a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth. The Irish accepted the treaty, and the Irish problem was on its way to settlement, although later events were to prove that Ireland would not be satisfied until she had demonstrated that the new status made her in fact independent. Her neutrality in the present war should dispel all doubts.[47]


[47] Brockway, Non-Co-operation, 71-92; William I. Hull, The War Method and the Peace Method: An Historical Contrast (New York: Revell, 1929), 229-231; Hayes, Modern Europe, II, 498-501, 876-879, 952-953.

Strikes with Political Purposes

British workers themselves have made use of strikes with political significance. In 1920, transport workers refused to handle goods destined to be used in the war against the Bolshevik regime in Russia, and thus forced Britain to cease her intervention.[48] In 1926, the general strike in Britain had revolutionary implications which the Government and the public recognized only too well. Hence the widespread opposition to it. The leaders of the strike were even frightened themselves, and called it off suddenly, leaving the masses of the workers completely bewildered.[49]

In Germany, non-cooperation has also been used successfully. In 1920, a general strike defeated the attempt of the militarists to seize control of the state in the Kapp Putsch. In 1924, when the French Army invaded the Ruhr, the non-violent refusal of the German workers to mine coal for France had the support of the whole German nation. As the saying was at the time, "You can't mine coal with bayonets." Finally the French withdrew from their fruitless adventure.[50]


[48] Allen, Fight for Peace, 633-634; Huxley, Ends and Means, 169-170.

[49] Berkman, Communist Anarchism, 247-248.

[50] Oswald Garrison Villard's "Preface" to Shridharani, War Without Violence, xiv-xv.

Non-Violence in International Affairs

In the international field, we also have examples of the use of non-violent coercion. Thomas Jefferson, during the struggle for the recognition of American neutral rights by Britain and France, attempted to employ the economic weapons of pre-revolutionary days. His embargo upon American commerce and the later variants on that policy, designed to force the belligerents to recognize the American position, actually were more costly to American shippers than were the depredations of the French and the British, so they forced a reversal of American policy. The war against England that followed did not have the support of the shipping interests, whose trade it was supposedly trying to protect. It was more an adventure in American imperialism than it was an attempt to defend neutral rights, so it can hardly be said to have grown out of the issues which led to Jefferson's use of economic sanctions. The whole incident proves that the country which attempts to use this method in international affairs must expect to lose its own trade in the process. The cause must be great indeed before such undramatic losses become acceptable.[51]

The same principle is illustrated in the attempt to impose economic sanctions on Italy in 1935 and 1936. The nations who made a gesture toward using them actually did not want to hinder Italian expansion, or did not want to do so enough to surrender their trade with Italy. The inevitable result was that the sanctions failed.

The success of non-violent coercion is by no means assured in every case. It depends upon (1) the existence of a grievance great enough to justify the suffering that devolves upon the resisters, (2) the dependence of the opposition on the cooperation of the resisters, (3) solidarity among a large enough number of resisters, and (4) in most cases, the favorable reaction of the public not involved in the conflict. When all or most of these factors have been present, non-violent coercion has succeeded in our western society. On other occasions it has failed. But one who remembers the utter defeat of the Austrian socialists who employed arms against Chancellor Dolfuss in 1934 must admit that violent coercion also has its failures.[52]


[51] Louis Martin Sears, Jefferson and the Embargo (Durham, N. C.: Duke University, 1927); Julius W. Pratt, Expansionists of 1812 (New York: Macmillan, 1925).

[52] De Ligt, 131. For other statements concerning the virtual impossibility of violent revolution today see De Ligt, 81-82, 162-163; Horace G. Alexander, "Great Possessions" in Gerald Heard, et. al., The New Pacifism (London: Allenson, 1936), 89-91; Huxley, Ends and Means, 178-179; Lewis, Case Against Pacifism, 112-113.


There is a distinction between those who employ non-violent methods of opposition on the basis of expediency and those who refuse to use violence on the basis of principle. In the minds of many pacifists the movement for Indian independence under the leadership of Mohandas K. Gandhi stands out as the supreme example of a political revolt which has insisted on this principle, and hence as a model to be followed in any pacifist movement of social, economic, or political reform. Gandhi's Satyagraha, therefore, deserves careful analysis in the light of pacifist principles.

Western critics of Gandhi's methods are prone to insist that they may be applicable in the Orient, but that they can never be applied in the same way within our western culture. We have already seen that there have been many non-violent movements of reform within our western society, but those that we have examined have been based on expediency. Undoubtedly the widespread Hindu acceptance of the principle of ahimsa, or non-killing, even in the case of animals, prepared the way for Gandhi more completely than would have been the case in western society.

The Origins of Satyagraha

Shridharani has traced for us the origins of this distinctive Hindu philosophy of ahimsa. It arose from the idea of the sacrifice, which the Aryans brought to India with them at least 1500 years before Christ. From a gesture of propitiation of the gods, sacrifice gradually turned into a magic formula which would work automatically to procure desired ends and eliminate evil. In time the Hindus came to believe that the most effective type of sacrifice was self-sacrifice and suffering, accompanied by a refusal to injure others, or ahimsa.[53] Only the warrior caste of Kshatriyas was allowed to fight. In his autobiography, Gandhi brings out clearly the pious nature of his home environment, and the emphasis which was placed there upon not eating meat because of the sacred character of animal life.[54]

It is not surprising that a logical mind reared in such an environment should have espoused the principle of non-killing. In his western education Gandhi became acquainted with The Sermon on the Mount, and the writings of Tolstoy and Thoreau, but he tells us himself that he was attracted to these philosophies because they expressed ideas in which he already believed.[55]

In fact, the Hindese have long employed the non-violent methods of resistance which Gandhi has encouraged in our own day. In 1830, the population of the State of Mysore carried on a great movement of non-cooperation against the exploitation by the native despot, during which they refused to work or pay taxes, and retired into the forests. There was no disorder or use of arms. The official report of the British Government said:

"The natives understand very well the use of such measures to defend themselves against the abuse of authority. The method most in use, and that which gives the best results, is complete non-co-operation in all that concerns the Government, the administration and public life generally."[56]

In about 1900 there was a great movement of non-cooperation under the leadership of Aurobindo Ghose against the British Government in Bengal. Ghose wanted independence and freedom from foreign tribute. He called upon the people to demonstrate their fitness for self-government by establishing hygienic conditions, founding schools, building roads and developing agriculture. But Ghose had the experience Gandhi was to have later. The people became impatient and fell back on violence; and the British then employed counter-violence to crush the movement completely.[57]

The term "Satyagraha" itself was, however, a contribution of Gandhi. It was coined about 1906 in connection with the Indian movement of non-violent resistance in South Africa. Previously the English term "passive resistance" had been used, but Gandhi tells us that when he discovered that among Europeans, "it was supposed to be a weapon of the weak, that it could be characterized by hatred and that it could finally manifest itself as violence," he was forced to find a new word to carry his idea. The result was a combination of the Gujerati words Sat, meaning truth, and Agraha, meaning firmness—hence "truth force," or as it has been translated since, "soul force."[58]


[53] Shridharani, War Without Violence, 165-167.

[54] M. K. Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, translated by Mahadev Desai and Pyrelal Nair (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Press, 1927-1929), the earlier portions of Vol. I.

[55] Ibid., I, 322; Shridharani, 167.

[56] Quoted by De Ligt, Conquest of Violence, 89.

[57] Ibid., 89-90.

[58] Gandhi, Experiments with Truth, II, 153-154.

The Process of Satyagraha

Shridharani, who considers himself a follower of Gandhi, has given us a comprehensive analysis of Satyagraha as a mass movement. He begins his discussion with this statement of the conditions under which it is possible:

"Satyagraha, as an organized mass action, presupposes that the community concerned has a grievance which practically every member of that community feels. This grievance should be of such large proportions that it could be transformed, in its positive side, into a 'Cause' rightfully claiming sacrifice and suffering from the community on its behalf."[59]

This necessity for community solidarity is often overlooked by followers of Gandhi who advocate reforms by means of non-violent direct action in our western society. Given the grievance of British rule, Shridharani believes that the Hindese were willing to accept Satyagraha first because, unarmed under British law, no other means were available to them, and then because they were predisposed to the method because of the Hindu philosophy of non-violence and the mystic belief that truth will triumph eventually since it is a force greater than the physical.[60]

The first step in Satyagraha is negotiation and arbitration with the adversary. Under these terms Shridharani includes the use of legislative channels, direct negotiations, and arbitration by third parties.[61] In reading his discussion one gets the impression that under the American system of government the later stages of Satyagraha would never be necessary, since the Satyagrahi must first exhaust all the avenues of political expression and legislative action which are open to him. If any sizeable group in American society displayed on any issue the solidarity required for successful use of this method, their political influence would undoubtedly be great enough to effect a change in the law, imperfect though American democracy may be.

The second step in Satyagraha is agitation, the purpose of which is to educate the public on the issues at stake, to create the solidarity that is needed in the later stages of the movement, and to win acceptance, by members of the movement, of the methods to be employed.[62] According to Fenner Brockway, the failure of Satyagraha to achieve its objectives is an indication that the people of India had not really caught and accepted Gandhi's spirit and principles.[63] This means that on several occasions the later stages of Satyagraha have been put into action before earlier stages of creating solidarity on both purpose and method have been fully completed. Despite Gandhi's tremendous influence in India, the movement for Indian independence has not yet fully succeeded. In view of the fact that so many of the people who have worked for independence have failed to espouse Gandhi's principles whole-heartedly, if independence be achieved in the future it will be difficult to tell whether or not it was achieved because the Indian people fully accepted these principles. Many seem to have done so only in the spirit in which the American colonists of the eighteenth century employed similar methods during the earlier stages of their own independence movement.[64]

Only after negotiation and arbitration have failed does Satyagraha make use of the techniques which are usually associated with it in the popular mind. As Shridharani puts it, "Moral suasion having proved ineffective the Satyagrahis do not hesitate to shift their technique to compulsive force."[65] He is pointing out that in practice Satyagraha is coercive in character, and that all the later steps from mass demonstrations through strikes, boycotts, non-cooperation, and civil disobedience to parallel government which divorces itself completely from the old are designed to compel rather than to persuade the oppressors to change their policy. In this respect it is very similar to the movements of non-violent resistance based on expediency which were considered in the preceding section.


[59] Shridharani, 4. Italics mine.

[60] Ibid., 192-209.

[61] Ibid., 5-7.

[62] Ibid., 7-12.

[63] A. Fenner Brockway, "Does Noncooeperation Work?" in Devere Allen (Ed.), Pacifism in the Modern World (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1929), 126.

[64] Nehru in his autobiography expresses strong differences of opinion with Gandhi at many points. In one place he says: "What a problem and a puzzle he has been not only to the British Government but to his own people and his closest associates!... How came we to associate ourselves with Gandhiji politically, and to become, in many instances, his devoted followers?... He attracted people, but it was ultimately intellectual conviction that brought them to him and kept them there. They did not agree with his philosophy of life, or even with many of his ideals. Often they did not understand him. But the action that he proposed was something tangible which could be understood and appreciated intellectually. Any action would be welcome after the long tradition of inaction which our spineless politics had nurtured; brave and effective action with an ethical halo about it had an irresistible appeal, both to the intellect and the emotions. Step by step he convinced us of the rightness of the action, and we went with him, although we did not accept his philosophy. To divorce action from the thought underlying it was not perhaps a proper procedure and was bound to lead to mental conflict and trouble later. Vaguely we hoped that Gandhiji, being essentially a man of action and very sensitive to changing conditions, would advance along the line that seemed to us to be right. And in any event the road he was following was the right one thus far; and, if the future meant a parting, it would be folly to anticipate it." Jawaharlal Nehru, Toward Freedom (New York: John Day, 1942), 190-191.

[65] Shridharani, 12. He lists and discusses 13 steps in the development of a campaign of Satyagraha, pp. 5-43.

The Philosophy of Satyagraha

It seems clear that Satyagraha cannot be equated with Christian pacifism. As Shridharani has said, "In India, the people are not stopping with mere good will, as the pacifists usually do, but, on the contrary, are engaged in direct action of a non-violent variety which they are confident will either mend or end the powers that be," and, "Satyagraha seems to have more in common with war than with Western pacifism."[66]

Gandhi's campaign to recruit Indians for the British army during the First World War distinguishes him also from most western pacifists.[67] In an article entitled "The Doctrine of the Sword," written in 1920, Gandhi brought out clearly the fact that in his philosophy he places the ends above the means, so far as the mass of the people are concerned:

"Where the only choice is between cowardice and violence I advise violence. I cultivate the quiet courage of dying without killing. But to him who has not this courage I advise killing and being killed rather than shameful flight from danger. I would risk violence a thousand times rather than the emasculation of the race. I would rather have India resort to arms to defend her honour than that she should in a cowardly manner remain a helpless victim of her own dishonour."[68]

Both pacifists and their opponents have noted this inconsistency in Gandhi's philosophy. Lewis calls Gandhi "a strange mixture of Machiavellian astuteness and personal sanctity, profound humanitarianism and paralysing conservatism."[69] Bishop McConnell has said of his non-violent coercion, "This coercion is less harmful socially than coercion by direct force, but it is coercion nevertheless."[70] And C. J. Cadoux has declared:

"The well-known work of Mr. Gandhi, both in India today and earlier in Africa, exemplifies rather the power of non-co-operation than Christian love on the part of a group; but even so, it calls for mention ... as another manifestation of the efficacy of non-violent methods of restraint."[71]

Gandhi's own analysis of his movement places much emphasis on the mystical Hindu idea of self-inflicted suffering. In 1920, he said, "Progress is to be measured by the amount of suffering undergone by the sufferer."[72] This idea recurs many times in Gandhi's writings. The acceptance of such suffering is not easy; hence his emphasis upon the need of self-purification, preparation, and discipline. Because of the violence used by many of his followers during the first great campaign in India, Gandhi came to the conclusion that "before re-starting civil disobedience on a mass scale, it would be necessary to create a band of well-trained, pure-hearted volunteers who thoroughly understood the strict conditions of Satyagraha."[73]


[66] Ibid., xxvii, xxx.

[67] Speech at Gujarat political conference, Nov., 1917, quoted by Case, Non-violent Coercion, 374-375. See also Shridharani, 122, note.

[68] Quoted in Lewis, Case Against Pacifism, 107. A slightly different version is reprinted in Nehru, Towards Freedom, 81.

[69] Lewis, Case Against Pacifism, 99. He goes on to say, "He is anti-British more than he is anti-war. He adopts tactics of non-violence because that is the most effective way in which a disarmed and disorganized multitude can resist armed troops and police. He has never suggested that when India attains full independence it shall disband the Indian army. The Indian National Congress ... never for one moment contemplated abandoning violence as the necessary instrument of the State they hoped one day to command." Pp. 99-100.

[70] Francis J. McConnell, Christianity and Coercion (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1933), 46.

[71] Cadoux, Christian Pacifism, 109.

[72] Young India, June 16, 1920, quoted by Shridharani, 169.

[73] Gandhi, Experiments, II, 509-513.

The Empirical Origins of Gandhi's Method

Gandhi's autobiography brings out the origins of many of his ideas. We have already noted the importance of his Hindu training. He arrived empirically at many of his specific techniques. For instance, he describes in some detail a journey he made by coach in 1893 in South Africa, during which he was placed on the driver's seat, since Indians were not allowed to sit inside the coach. Later the coachman desired his seat and asked him to sit on the footboard. This Gandhi refused to do, whereupon the coachman began to box his ears. He describes the rest of the incident thus:

"He was strong and I was weak. Some of the passengers were moved to pity and they exclaimed: 'Man, let him alone. Don't beat him. He is not to blame. He is right. If he can't stay there, let him come and sit with us.' 'No fear,' cried the man, but he seemed somewhat crestfallen and stopped beating me. He let go my arm, swore at me a little more, and asking the Hottenot servant who was sitting on the other side of the coachbox to sit on the footboard, took the seat so vacated."[74]

He had a similar experience in 1896 when his refusal to prosecute the leaders of a mob which had beaten him aroused a favorable reaction on the part of the public.[75] Gradually the principle developed that the acceptance of suffering was an effective method of winning the sympathy and support of disinterested parties in a dispute, and that their moral influence might go far in determining its outcome.

On his return to India after his successful campaign for Indian rights in South Africa, Gandhi led a strike of mill workers in Ahmedabad. He established a set of rules, forbidding resort to violence, the molestation of "blacklegs," and the taking of alms, and requiring the strikers to remain firm no matter how long the strike took—rules not too different from those that would be used in a strike by an occidental labor union.[76] Speaking of a period during this strike when the laborers were growing restive and threatening violence, Gandhi says:

"One morning—it was at a mill-hands' meeting—while I was still groping and unable to see my way clearly, the light came to me. Unbidden and all by themselves the words came to my lips: 'Unless the strikers rally,' I declared to the meeting, 'and continue the strike till a settlement is reached, or till they leave the mills altogether, I will not touch any food.'"

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