Article Archives — CANVAS

“Nonviolence and Covid-19: a force already more powerful?”
by Roberto Baldoli and Claudio M. Radaelli

The regulatory responses to the pandemic caused by Covid-19 imply several, important restrictions to freedom of citizens. There are many dimensions of the crisis we do not deal with but are certainly important – such as the provision of evidence, how governments learn from science, and the capacity of national health systems to provide intensive care units. We zoom on one single dimension in this post: the restriction of individual freedom. These regulatory measures are a manifestation of biopolitics, that is the attempt to use political wisdom, knowledge, information, and power to govern the daily, bodily administration of life and provide order to local populations. The key question they raise is what is the space for collective practices that ensure, sustain, protect and multiply life without compromising individual rights? To address this question, we should start from a concept of politics that goes beyond the notion of ‘what the state does’: human biology and politics can be managed top-down by state power, but there is another way to govern this relationship – a relationship that becomes particularly problematic and critical under the conditions of a pandemic. Decisions binding on a community do not necessarily arise out of the Leviathan and its insatiable appetite for control. Politics is also self-governance. The other category we should consider in different terms is bios: there is unique power in any individual life, as shown by the power of one or ‘person power’. By ‘person power’ we mean the power to use one’s body for individual transformations that have changed political life, as shown by Rosa Parks’s decision to sit where she was not...

“Nonviolent Action in the Time of Coronavirus” by Jonathan Pinckney and Miranda Rivers

Popular movements are confronting the challenge of how to practice social distancing while still acting to advance their demands. Last year saw a wave of nonviolent action movements, mostly relying on tactics of large public protests and sit-ins as people took to the streets from Hong Kong to Chile to demand greater democracy, economic equality, and social justice. Some of these movements, like the revolution that successfully ousted Sudan’s longtime authoritarian ruler Omar al-Bashir, achieved many of their goals. Others, like the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, were still seeking major demands from the government when news of the rapid spread of a novel coronavirus began coming out of central China. As the coronavirus has grown into a global pandemic, many movements that have relied on street protests have struggled to know how to respond. The evidence of a global slowdown in public protests is striking. As news of the virus spread and public health authorities began recommending a stop to public gatherings with large numbers of people in early March, the number of public protests around the world dropped precipitously. The most recent month of protest activity recorded by the ACLED data project (February 21 through March 21) saw a 28 percent decline in public protests relative to the monthly average last year, and this number is likely to continue to fall. Activists in many movements are confronting the challenge of how to practice social distancing while still acting to advance their demands. The ”street agenda” that has been growing in Venezuela to demand a democratic opposition to President Nicolas Maduro has been impacted, and the country’s political future remains...

“Nonviolent Activist Srdja Popovic to Receive 2020 Brown Democracy Medal”

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Twenty years ago, Srdja Popovic was part of a revolution that ended the reign of Serbian leader Slobodan Miloševi?. Now, he runs CANVAS, an organization that helps others around the world fight back against authoritarian leaders using nonviolent tactics. Popovic’s work will earn him the McCourtney Institute for Democracy’s 2020 Brown Democracy Medal. He plans to visit University Park Oct. 15 to receive the medal and present a public lecture. He is executive director of CANVAS — the Center for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies — an organization he founded in 2003 with Slobodan Dinovic. The organization operates a network of international trainers and consultants with experience in successful democratic movements. It has worked with pro-democracy activists from more than 50 countries, including Iran, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Ukraine, Georgia, Palestine, Tunisia and Egypt. CANVAS also works on producing free online tools for organizing, mobilizing and fighting for democracy and human rights under oppressive and authoritarian conditions, . Popovic is also the author of “Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World,” and visited Penn State in February 2019 for a presentation on the book and his work on the tactics he describes as “laughtivism.” His application for the Brown Democracy Medal moves one step beyond “laughtivism” toward the concept of “dilemma action,” which offers a structured, strategic approach to protest movements. “Dilemma actions are an essential component of effective nonviolent struggle,” Popovic said. “They are designed to create a response dilemma or lose-lose situation for public authorities by forcing them...

“Finish What You Start” (Spanish) by Srdja Popovic and Robert Helvey

Terminen lo que comienzan Derrotar a un dictador es un gran logro. Pero es solo el inicio de una transición exitosa a la democracia. 2011 fue un mal año para los malos tipos. De hecho, si alguien hubiera predicho a fines del 2010 que, en los siguientes doce meses, Mubarak de Egipto y Ben Ali de Túnez se retirarían y serían procesados, que Gadafi, Kim Jong Il y Osama Bin Laden estarían muertos y que Ratko Mladic estaría en la cárcel, nadie lo habría creído. Se ha escrito mucho sobre las revoluciones no violentas impulsadas por los movimientos de los jóvenes del “poder de la gente” en Túnez y Egipto. Su unidad, planificación y disciplina no violenta inspiraron otra media docena de movimientos no violentos, plantearon el primer desafío serio en décadas a las dictaduras, y llevaron a los líderes en Marruecos, Jordania e incluso Birmania a prometer reformas, lanzar conversaciones con partidos de oposición prohibidos y reformar constituciones. Alentaron a decenas de miles de rusos a exigir elecciones libres y justas el invierno pasado en las protestas más grandes en todo el país desde la caída de la Unión Soviética. 2011 fue el año en el que la lucha no violenta masiva demostró su valor como herramienta para derrocar a dictaduras brutales y duraderas. Sin embargo, los movimientos activistas no han tenido tanto éxito cuando tiene que ver con instalar y mantener formas democráticas de gobierno. A fines del año pasado, más del 90 por ciento de los tunecinos registrados votaron en las primeras elecciones libres en casi 30 años. El mismo mes, sin embargo, las calles de...