Just as there were two kinds of nonviolence, there were two kinds of nonviolent training. Some training was in classic Gandhian nonviolence, learning why (and to some degree, how) to peacefully face and defuse hatred and violence with courage and compassion. The main purpose of training in philosophical nonviolence was to shape the individual person's attitude and mental response to crises and violence. Most of the nonviolent training that is carried out today seems to be of this philosophical sort.
On the other hand, the main purpose of training in tactical nonniolence was to learn the practical techniques of participating in, organizing, and leading, nonviolent direct action demonstrations, and how to protect yourself from being maimed or killed while doing so.
These two kinds of training were not mutually exclusive, nor were they in opposition to each other, frequently they were combined. But a given training session usually emphasized one or the other. In the early years of the Freedom Movement, the late 50s and early 60s, philosophic training predominated, but by the time I became active in 1963 most of the training I was involved in was tactical rather than philosophical.
I used to teach tactical nonviolence at CORE, Non-Violent Action Committee (N-VAC), and SCLC training sessions. And there were good reasons why such training was necessary:
The notes from a training session I ran in late '63, listed the instances of violence that had been inflicted on local demonstrators in that area during the previous year:
Those abuses were endured civil rights demonstrators in Los Angeles, California in 1963, not in Georgia, Lousiana, Mississippi, or Alabama. In the deep South the violence was much worse.
And the fact is that even today there are more effective and less effective ways to organize, lead, and participate in protest; and that direct action has an element of craft to it that can and should be learned.
In terms of political and moral effectiveness, group singing is to group chanting, as an elephant is to a mouse. But songs have to be learned. Moreover, the kind of singing that (trained) protesters do as an act of solidarity in the face of hatred and danger is very different from performance singing done on stage or in school. And just as a choir has to practice, so too do demonstrators. One of the reasons that the singing on modern mass marches is so pathetic and demoralizing is that no one's been doing any training or practice.
Two Kinds of Nonviolent Resistance
Nonviolent Resistance & Political Power
Nonviolent Resistance, Reform, & Revolution
Notes from a Nonviolent Training Session
Copyright © 2004, Bruce Hartford