|Protests in Cuba in September 2017 following regime response to Hurricane Irma|
Last month on January 28th, the anniversary of Jose Marti's birth, non-violent resistance theoretician Gene Sharp passed away at the age of ninety. Professor Sharp in his book, Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential, recognized that political power is "the totality of influences and pressures available for use to implement, change, or oppose official policies for a society." This means that political power "may be wielded by the institutions of government, or in opposition to the government by dissident groups and organizations."
|A must read for activists.|
If we look at Cuba, the communist dictatorship there uses propaganda claims, both internally and internationally, to assert that the regime has achieved successes in education and health care. These are pillars of legitimacy and authority for the Castro regime. The dictatorship has also trained and staffed a massive intelligence apparatus to monitor and surveil the populace in Cuba.
Between 1959 and 2006 Fidel Castro had all power concentrated in his hands and due to a serious illness turned it over provisionally to his brother, General Raul Castro, who had previously been Minister of Defense. On February 24, 2008 the 597 members of the rubber stamp assembly unanimously elected a 31 member Council of State that in turn elected Raul Castro “president” at the Palace of Conventions in Havana, Cuba.
There is a large military that is heavily embedded in the Cuban economy, including tourism. In the area of skill and knowledge there is a dictatorship with 59 years of experience in ruling a country. First generation leaders are dying out, but many remain in key posts, including Raul Castro.
There have been and continue to be opportunities for dissident and resistance groups to shift political power away from this regime using nonviolent resistance. Gene Sharp described this active technique of struggle:
"Nonviolent action, or nonviolent struggle, is a technique of action by which the population can restrict and sever the sources of power of their rulers or other oppressors and mobilize their own power potential into effective power. This technique is based on the understanding of political power presented [above]. That understanding showed that the power of rulers and of hierarchical systems, no matter how dictatorial, depends directly on the obedience and cooperation of the population. Such obedience and cooperation, in turn, depend on the willingness of the population and a multitude of assistants to consent by their actions or inaction to support the rulers."Sharp's 2009 book available online: "Self-Liberation A Guide to Strategic Planning for Action to End a Dictatorship or Other Oppression" offers a clearer and more developed insight to his theoretical approach. Critics of nonviolent resistance view it as an unarmed struggle when contrasted with violent resistance. Gene Sharp in 1990 at the National Conference on Nonviolent Sanctions and Defense in Boston contested that mistaken view:
"I say nonviolent struggle is armed struggle. And we have to take back that term from those advocates of violence who seek to justify with pretty words that kind of combat. Only with this type of struggle one fights with psychological weapons, social weapons, economic weapons and political weapons. And that this is ultimately more powerful against oppression, injustice and tyranny then violence."University Academics Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth in their 2008 study "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic on Nonviolent Conflict" compared the outcomes of 323 nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006. They found that major nonviolent campaigns achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with just under half that at 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns.
History demonstrates that even the Nazis could be stopped in particular instances with nonviolence. In Denmark, under Nazi occupation, the Danes disobeyed under penalty of death and saved between 70% -90% of the Jewish population between 1940 and 1945 first hiding them and then smuggling approximately 7,500 Jews out of the country. In Germany in February and March of 1943 German (non-Jewish) wives married to Jewish men and their relatives organized mass demonstrations in Rosenstrasse Street in Berlin to protest their husband’s being sent to concentration camps and escalated the protests until their men were released and returned home which they were.
Conservative activist Morton Blackwell explained a profound truth often ignored by activists of all ideological stripes in a talk titled "The Real Nature of Politics," which is required reading and offers three conclusions.
"1. Being right in the sense of being correct is not sufficient to win. You don't win just because your heart is pure, even if you can prove logically that you are right.These conclusions work both in a political struggle within a democratic order, and in confronting a dictatorship that does not play by democratic rules. These three ideas need to be present when planning protests in Cuba. Protests can have two general goals: one is symbolic and the other strategic. Strategic protests are symbolic, but often times symbolic and improvised protests are not strategic.
2. The winner in a political contest over time is determined by the number and the effectiveness of the activists and leaders on the respective sides.
3. The number and effectiveness of the activists and leaders on a given side in a political contest is determined by the political technology used by that side."
Strategic protests require carrying out a strategic estimate (identifying the reality on the ground, the strengths and weaknesses of the regime and the opposition) then plotting out a strategy which can be broken down into a series of campaigns using a variety of tactics. However all of this should be in the service of restricting and severing the sources of power of the dictatorship. According to Sharp this means weakening the power of the rulers "to the degree that the population
- repudiates the moral right of the current rulers to rule;
- disobeys, non-cooperates, and refuses to assist the rulers;
- declines to supply the skills and knowledge required by the rulers;
- denies the rulers control over administration, property, natural resources, financial resources, the economic system, communications, and transportation."
THE METHODS OF NONVIOLENT PROTEST AND PERSUASION
By Gene Sharp
1. Public Speeches
2. Letters of opposition or support
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
4. Signed public statements
5. Declarations of indictment and intention
6. Group or mass petitions
Communications with a Wider Audience
7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
10. Newspapers and journals
11. Records, radio, and television
12. Skywriting and earthwriting
14. Mock awards
15. Group lobbying
17. Mock elections
Symbolic Public Acts
18. Displays of flags and symbolic colors
19. Wearing of symbols
20. Prayer and worship
21. Delivering symbolic objects
22. Protest disrobings
23. Destruction of own property
24. Symbolic lights
25. Displays of portraits
26. Paint as protest
27. New signs and names
28. Symbolic sounds
29. Symbolic reclamations
30. Rude gestures
Pressures on Individuals
31. “Haunting” officials
32. Taunting officials
34. Vigils Drama and Music
35. Humorous skits and pranks
36. Performances of plays and music
37. Singing Processions
40. Religious processions
42. Motorcades Honoring the Dead
43. Political mourning
44. Mock funerals
45. Demonstrative funerals
46. Homage at burial places
47. Assemblies of protest or support
48. Protest meetings
49. Camouflaged meetings of protest
Withdrawal and Renunciation
53. Renouncing honors
54. Turning one’s back
In the case of Cuba, following Hurricane Irma in 2017, and the regime prioritizing tourist destinations in the island as priorities for re-establishing electricity and clean water, while Cubans had to do without, mass protests spontaneously erupted around the island. This may indicate that this is a topic that can mobilize large numbers of Cubans to become disaffected with the regime. Effective protests that can reach a majority of the populace, and could lead to recruits for campaigns to change things for the better and reduce the number of activists and leaders on the other side through a process of demobilization.