Violence — CANVAS



“Avoid even considering violent alternatives to nonviolent struggle, and do not write anything containing references to acts of violence. This is not a moral judgment on the use of violence. It is common sense.”

CANVAS Core Curriculum, pp. 164-165

Violence is the most serious contaminant to the success of nonviolent struggle. One single act of violence (or sometimes even just a threat of violence) committed by someone in the movement or a participant at an action may give your opponent the public justification it needs to commit atrocities against the people, and to discredit the movement as seeking unlawful change or even a revolutionary coup. This, in turn, could destroy the effects of months of confidence-building measures undertaken to prepare for a major nonviolent campaign.

Acts of violence will also result in the loss of support from members of the general public as well as groups and individuals capable of reinforcing the moral authority of your movement. Many people do not want to participate in violent change and will leave your movement if they believe that is what you stand for. Furthermore, efforts on your behalf by external groups and international organizations cannot succeed if your movement is perceived as a group of terrorists. Finally, violence tends to push your opponent’s supporters closer to your opponent and makes them more likely to obey orders, but your movements objective is to pull your opponent’s supporters away from your opponent and make them less likely to obey orders.