Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Advantage of Nonviolent Resistance in the Cuban Struggle for Freedom

In the debate over bringing change to Cuba there is a false dichotomy either you are for a violent blood filled conflagration that precipitates rapid political change or you favor slow and gradual change initiated by the dictatorship. It is a false dichotomy because Cubans on the island since 1976 have opted for a third option non-violent change from the bottom up through campaigns of civil disobedience with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common reference point. It has been a long and difficult struggle, and that should not be ignored nor the fact that these courageous activists have refused to remain passive before injustice but actively confront it. This approach is not unique to Cuba and is part of an international trend.  

The Mennonite Central Committee in Ontario Canada prepared the video below titled "The Last 100 years of nonviolence" which offers a quick over view around the world of successful nonviolent resistance campaigns that toppled repressive regimes and systems in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

It is important to underline the importance of strategic analysis and planning in order for a nonviolent movement to have a greater chance at a successful outcome. The Reverend James Lawson, a contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s who trained the Nashville Student movement in nonviolent direct action is still engaged in training activists in the present day and has a life time of experience to share. An important talk to listen to was  given by Reverend Lawson at the 2010 keynote address at the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict.


Reverend Lawson not only studied the theory but placed it into practice in confronting Jim Crow Segregation in the Deep South and dismantling a system that had been in place for nearly a century. A more academic and systematic study of  nonviolent resistance and its successful application has been provided by scholars such as Gene Sharp and Erica Chenoweth. Professor Chenoweth offers a quantitative analysis of nonviolent action over the past century compared to violent action in the video below comparing both successes and failures.

In extreme situations such as Syria nonviolence is able to frustrate even the most brutal and violent dictators. more so than violent resistance. The regime in Cuba is a brutal and murderous regime that not only sponsors international terrorism but also perpetrates acts of state terrorism against Cuban nationals. It is for that precise reason that the Cuban democratic opposition over a generation ago departed from centuries of violent Cuban political history and adopted nonviolent resistance. According to Professor Chenoweth the triumph of nonviolent resistance depends on strategic considerations, planning and interactions.

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