Nonviolence is effective to resist occupation and war

Guest Commentary

By Joe Williams

The Resource Center for Nonviolence expresses solidarity and sorrow with the people of Ukraine and Russia who are suffering, fleeing and resisting Putin’s military occupation of Ukraine. In face of the trauma of war, we are grateful for humanitarian organizations’ support for refugees and casualties of war, and we lift up the courage and power of unarmed resistance. We call attention to those invisible in the news, marginalized people of color in Ukraine, including refugees from the Middle East and Africa, students from African countries, and Muslim Tatar people.

We object to Russian imperialism, as we have long objected to U.S. and Western imperialism. We support international, non-lethal solutions. We are grateful to be part of the global network of nonviolence organizations that speak out, educate and train in nonviolent resistance, and present stories of people’s creative action.

Listening to national media, one would think the debate is only about sending more military arms to the conflict, or whether the US should enforce a “no fly zone.” Nonviolent responses are not discussed and rarely reported.

Contrary to popular views, nonviolent resistance has strong potential to defend the Ukrainian people. In fact, Ukrainian people successfully waged a nonviolent “Orange Revolution” in 2004 and a largely nonviolent rebellion in 2014.

Political study of resistance to occupation and tyranny in Why Civil Resistance Works by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, and other studies, have shown that nonviolent resistance succeeded more often than violent resistance in 100 liberation movements since 1900. When unarmed people resisted Nazi occupation in Denmark in the 1940s, and Soviet occupation in Czechoslovakia in 1968, they saved thousands of lives. Nonviolent resistance has won more democratic victories, quicker liberation, and longer durations of peace post-war than most violent resistance, report Chenoweth and Stephan.

Nonviolent methods are founded in the primary connection of people across borders and nationalities, and in human creativity available to everybody. Nonviolent movements include resistance to serving in militaries, spontaneous and organized acts of noncooperation with military occupation, making society ungovernable by occupying forces, organizing constructive programs such as mutual aid, and mobilizing popular support for negotiations, cease fires, and disarmament. By their very method of organizing participation of masses of people, nonviolent movements build democratic outcomes.

In Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, U.S. and Russian military methods have waged social destruction, civilian death and trauma that will take generations to overcome. Adding more weapons to Europe will not save Europe. When will we ever learn? When we watch the Ukraine war, many Americans ask, what can we do? We can speak up for nonviolent actions that will save lives and build democracy.

The Resource Center for Nonviolence calls on all people who value the lives and dignity of Ukrainian and Russian people to: Support an immediate cease fire and international negotiations to end the war.

Support and publicize unarmed civilian resistance to the occupation and war.

Support and publicize conscientious objection and resistance to conscription in Russia and Ukraine.

Support organizations providing humanitarian aid to refugees such as Doctors Without Borders link here. Welcome all refugees of all wars and violence.

Oppose deployment of US armaments to the conflict.

Oppose engagement of US military forces in the war.

Oppose glorifying people and parties who take human life.

Oppose sanctions that result in the lack of basic human needs, like medicines and food.

Insist the United States will never use nuclear weapons, even if Russia does.

Oppose expansion of NATO, and encourage nonviolent civilian based defense.

Oppose increases in the US military budget and work to prohibit arms dealers and weapon manufacturers from profiting from conflict.

Oppose increased production of oil and gas.

Increase U.S. food aid to millions of people in many countries impacted by destruction of Ukrainian grain production.

Promote the dignity of all lives and support nonviolent resistance around the world.

Tell our national elected officials to wage nonviolence, not war. Contact the Resource Center for Nonviolence for resources, library, education, training, speakers, and see for more information.

Joe Williams is President For the Board and Staff of the Resource Center for Nonviolence.

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