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How far does a radical violent wing help or hinder a movement?. Outline: . South Africa Indian National Movement Intifada Iran Conclusion. South Africa. - Early stages of South African resistance to apartheid saw armed struggle becoming widely used

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South Africa

Indian National Movement




south africa

South Africa

- Early stages of South African resistance to apartheid saw armed struggle becoming widely used

- However by the 1980’s most leaders had denounced violence, such as Nelson Mandela

- General acceptance that violence would not and could not work against the heavily armed state

2 ways violence was counter productive
2 ways violence was counter-productive
  • - Also that violence was counter-productive in two ways –
    • It legitimated and provoked harsh government reaction to all forms of protests
      • -It allowed the government to portray to the white minority, the world and to an extent the black population that the resistance was all part of a violent plot
      • -The government also attempted to link the violence to a communist plot
      • - This was very useful for a long time in linking the Soviet Union to black militants and maintaining American support for the SA regime (evidence the militants used Soviet and Cuban rifles)
    • Secondly it alienated blacks from the resistance movement
      • Many blacks found the tactics of bombing abhorrent
      • Furthermore the polarising use of “with us” or “against us” language coupled with attacks on so called “co-laborator” blacks was very unpopular

However not all violence was unpopular, rioting was common and attacks against government officials may well have been popularly supported in many circumstances

  • It could be pointed out however that general violence persisted throughout the period and apartheid still fell
  • Furthermore the explicit threat of a violent civil war was clearly cited by the South African regime for one of the reasons for compromising
stephen zunes
Stephen Zunes
  • “Evidence suggests that the armed struggle may have actually harmed the anti-apartheid movement: the bombing campaign by the ANC\'s armed wing, Umkonto We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), in the early I 96os seriously weakened simultaneous non-violent campaigns, since the government was able to link them in the eyes of the public and justify their repression. Not only were most of those involved in the bombing campaign captured, but the turn to violence was used to justify the rounding up of many other suspected dissidents as well. Although the ANC explicitly directed their campaign towards property, a number of their trained attackers used their explosives on the homes of pro-government blacks, killing several people, including children. This not only invited further government repression, but resulted in a loss of support by some Africans as well. Given the tendency for those in authority to treat opposition movements by reference to their most violent components, the armed struggle in its early stages probably did more harm than good to the movement against apartheid.”
  • Overall, while the threat of violence perhaps figured in the regimes mind as partial cause for compromise the non-violent economic boycotts, strikes, sanctions and protest movement was far more powerful
  • Furthermore even if the movement had been entirely non-violent the government would have still have feared a violent outbreak
  • So the violence portrayed by fringe ANC members and other groups from the 1960’s to 80’s more hindered than helped the movement
indian national movement

Indian National Movement

Did violence compromise the movement and hinder its success?

examples of violence
Examples of Violence


  • Partition of Bengal (1905-11) – terrorism.
    • Terrorism in Bengal:
      • Bombings, political assassinations and derailment of trains.
  • RowlattSatyagraha - 1919
    • Gandhi’s arrest mob violence
    • “Himalayan Miscalculation” – India not prepared to wage civil disobedience.
  • 1920-1922 Non-cooperation Movement
    • Visit of the Prince of Wales to Bombay  riots.
    • Malabar rebellion - a reported 600 Hindus were slaughtered and 2,500 forced to convert by Muslims.
    • Chauri-Chaura massacre – mob burned down a police station, killing 22 policemen.
  • Quit India movement in 1942
    • Congress leaders arrested in August 1942 just before the movement was set to begin movement went ahead  Sabotage and violence (murders and bombings).


  • Subhas Chandra Bose
    • Knew and supported terrorists but never an active revolutionary.
    • Leader of the Indian National Army in 1943.
  • Bhargat Singh
    • Terrorist  hanged by the British for his participation in bombing the legislative assembly in 1929.
    • National hero.
  • Aurobindo Ghose
    • Contact with terrorists – level of involvement is hard to judge.
    • Advocated passive resistance but also violence .


  • Indian National Army
    • Fought with the Japanese against the British-led Indian troops on the border between Burma and India  failed.
  • Communists – advocated violence
  • Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – National Volunteers Organisation
      • Advocated violence and accused of assassinating Gandhi.
impact of violence help
Impact of Violence: Help
  • Made the nonviolent element of the movement more acceptable:
    • For example pace of constitutional change increased after the first terrorist attacks in Bengal over its partition reunited in 1911.
    • Gandhi knew that the British saw him as a lesser of evils and arguably used the threat of violence as an alternative to himself – as seen at Round Table Conference (1931)
  • Indian National Army:
    • Militarily rather insignificant.
    • Convinced British they could no longer rely on the loyalty of the armed services.
    • Attlee is said to have told a Bengali judge that it was Bose’s INA much more than Gandhi’s satyagraha that persuaded him that it was time for Britain to leave.
  • Peter Heesh emphasises the significance of violence to the movement:
    • 4 factors behind the movement’s successful outcome:
      • ‘legitimate’ pressure by public bodies
      • Nonviolent passive resistance
      • Global and economic changes
      • Violent resistance – we can see it putting pressure on the British; for example Quit India (1942)
impact of violence hindrance
Impact of Violence: Hindrance
  • Violent incidents often caused Gandhi to de-escalate the movement:
    • Chauri-Chaura : violence  Gandhi calls off proposed civil disobedience in Bardoli  Unravelling of the whole campaign shortly afterwards and anger from many in the Congress.
    • Rowlatt satyagraha also called off in 1919 due to violence.
  • Caused divisions within the Congress.
  • Caused repression from the British:
    • For example there was violence in the build up to the Amritsar massacre of 1919.
  • Gandhian thought: damaged morality of the movement:
    • for example means must match the end – Violence continued after independence. Avoided if movement was completely nonviolent?
  • Violence not necessary for a successful campaign:
    • For example Bardoli satyagraha and noncooperation movement and Salt Satyagraha in 1930s – both successful and very little violence.


Empowering – a moralizing force?

Coercion – threat of reprisals create solidarity, sustain nonviolent mov?

Damage key tactic of political jujitsu (repression rebounding against the opponent)

Justify repression

Alienate support – amongst Israelis, internationally

Lack of strategic direction, compromised by allowing violence

iran 1979
Iran 1979

Outline and background to the violent groups:


underground resistance since 1963







iran 19791
Iran 1979

How did violence help the movement?


Publicity and recognition

“given the atmosphere of repression, only such acts could indicate the vulnerability of the regime.”

Used by Khomeini to consolidate his power

iran 19792
Iran 1979

How did violence hinder the movement?

Justification for repressive force

International condemnation

Increased tendency for violence?

iran 19793
Iran 1979


Violence was in many ways useful

It was, however, small in scale so it is hard to measure its impact

black violence in the usa the hate that hate produced
Black violence in the USA: The Hate That Hate Produced
  • ‘If an oppressed people’s pent-up emotions are not nonviolently released, they will be violently released. So let the Negro march…For if his frustrations and despair are allowed to continue piling up, millions of Negroes will seek solace and security in Black nationalist ideologies.’

Martin Luther King Jr.

  • ‘Martin Luther King Jr. played up the threat of black revolutionary violence as the likely outcome if the state did not meet his reformist demands, and his organizers often capitalized on riots carried out by militant black activists to put the pacifist black leaders in a more favourable light.’

Peter Gelderloos

  • ‘There are a lot of reasons why I can’t get behind fomenting violent actions like riots, and none of ‘em are religious. It’s all pragmatic politics. But I’ll tell you what: I never let a riot slide by. I’m always the first one down at city hall and testifying before Congress, tellin’ ‘em, “See? If you guys’d been dealing with us all along, this never would have happened.” It gets results , man. Like nothin’ else, y’know? The thing is that Rap Brown and the Black Panthers are just about the best things that ever happened to the Civil Rights Movement. ‘

William Jackson

  • Without the scepter, real or perceived, of a violent black revolution at large in America during a time of war, King’s nonviolent strategy was basically impotent in concrete terms.

Ward Churchill

a matter of utmost urgency the first urban riot of the 1960s
A matter of utmost urgency: The first urban riot of the 1960s
  • Friday, May 10 , 1963 a truce is announced, the business community capitulates to the demands of the nonviolent protestors promising to desegregate stores and better employment opportunities for blacks whilst Robert Kennedy secures the bail-money required to free over 500 imprisoned children.
  • Saturday, May 11, 1963 three bombs are detonated in an attempt to intimidate King and his family.
  • News of the bombings immediately spreads through the city and brings a 2,500-strong crowd of angry blacks out onto the streets.
  • ‘The Negroes are mean and tough and have guns and have been worked up about this…If you have another incident….another bombing, for instance, or fire, or something like that and it attracted a large number of Negroes, then the situation might very well get out of hand.’

Robert Kennedy/ attorney general

  • Wednesday, May 15, the Senior Citizens Committee and the black leadership reaffirm the truce agreement.
  • At this time of crisis, the President should be guided not by what appears to be the common denominator of the Congress but by what the President knows the country needs and must have….Temporizing will only lose the confidence and support of the responsible Negro and give the extremists on both sides a chance to seize the initiative.’

G Mennen Williams/assistant secretary of state

the debate
The Debate
  • ‘Segregation yielded to force as much as it did to moral suasion’

Lance Hill

  • ‘it would be a gross error to underestimate the power of that contrast to mobilize national and world public opinion.’

Herbert Shapiro

  • The politics of liberation in America—’Not a handbook for the working organizer’.

Stokely Carmichael

  • How far was Black Power responsible for the declining levels of white support for black civil rights in the late 1960s and for the growing internal divisions within the Civil Rights Movement?
violence and nonviolence toward a unified strategy of resistance
Violence and Nonviolence: Toward a Unified Strategy of resistance
  • ‘Violence is the most serious contaminant to the success of Political Defiance (nonviolent struggle)…violence by the political Defiance organization may give the oppressor the public justification it needs to commit additional atrocities against the public…Political Defiance attempts to move the struggle away from the oppressor’s strong points to areas where he is weak. We should never seek to fight on his terms.’

Political Defiance Instructor’s Manual 1992

  • ‘Mix a little water with petrol, and the engine would run but performance could be compromised. Too much water and the engine would fail to function.’

Robert Helvey 1992

  • The Unified Strategy: 1- the Burmese people power, 2- the international community; and 3-the armed resistance forces.
  • Unified Strategy: A useful transition tool?


  • Positives:
    • Campaigns rarely consist exclusively in violent or non-violent tactics…Late anti-imperialist models = armed struggle and political violence sustained by nonviolent campaigns (central america, south africa)
    • Coercive role in enforcing compliance
    • Moralizing force, symbolic value
    • Threat of armed struggle important role in forcing compromise?
    • Disarm or disable the military strength of state
    • Violence therefore not detrimental as long as not a substitute for large scale political action?


  • Negatives:
    • Alienate support within own ranks, less likely to be a mass movement
    • Lack of strategic direction, and loosen control over movement, encourage disunity
    • Undermine ‘winning over opponent’ tactic
    • Undermine political jujitsu and therefore international/media sympathy
    • Justify harsh repression- tendency to treat opposition by reference to their most violent components