Each month we bring you a nonviolence training workshop
based on the experience of the Nonviolent Action Training
project and INNATE.
here to view print version]
This is an analytical exercise for people who
want to explore in some detail the kinds of action possible
within 'nonviolence', and where they would like to be involved.
It includes exploration of being 'partisan' versus being 'neutral',
and being 'morally based' versus being 'pragmatic'.
It is best done with people who have experience
of community, voluntary or political action but can be done
with others if more time is allowed in preparation - otherwise
they may not have the knowledge to be able to reflect and
fill in the chart which is the tool of the exercise. An alternative
is to allow people to include actions and activities they
are aware of as opposed to only those they have personally
been involved in.
If needed, some introductory exercises or material
on nonviolence can be used (e.g. "Nonviolence - Background
definitions and associated terms", and/or Nonviolent
tactics workshop). The facilitator can judge how much
information or preparatory work is required for a particular
This exercise has some similarities to the 'Violence/Nonviolence
spectrum' exercise but is more geared to personal orientation
towards nonviolence and the reasons for it.
- - - - - - - - - -
0. Any necessary introductions.
1. Workshop overview; what
we're going to be doing and why.
2. If using introductory material
on nonviolence (e.g. as mentioned above), use it here possibly
using a handout. An alternative, extremely short, introduction
might include the following:
Nonviolence. A positive concept
represented by a negative use of words. But comparing it with
the term 'horseless carriage' for the early motor car is appropriate...our
terminolgy and concepts are still evolving. Different cultures
have different concepts of nonviolence; 'satyagraha' is a
Gandhian term ('truth force') but we can work on our own terms
and our own definitions. Nonviolence is not some static ideology,
It is neither simply method nor morality - but both can come
Nonviolence can be introduced in 10 minutes.
Equally it is something that can be dealt with in a 10-hour
or a 10-day workshop, or 10 years to 10 decades of discovery
and living. It's all there, waiting to be discovered; the
practical, the philosophical, the spiritual, the ways to grow;
nonviolence, truth-force, satyagraha, love-force - you name
it, you can develop your own concept of nonviolence and work
with others in its implementation.
2. Members of the group are each then given
a copy of the (blank) Nonviolence - Basis and forms of action
chart (following) which covers Partisan/Neutral/Moral/Tactical
positions (some notes follow which can be included with what
people are given or omitted). Working by themselves, they
are asked to think of actions and activities - at a community,
voluntary, political or other level - which they have been
involved in, and plot them on the chart. It needs to be pointed
out that they can be at different points on the diagram at
the one time, on different issues, and even on the one issue
it might be plotted in different positions (which can be shown
by a line or an area). The further out from the centre of
the two axes, Partisan/Neutral, and Moral/Tactical, the more
strongly 'partisan', 'neutral', 'moral' or 'tactical' is the
action. There is deliberately no 'right' or 'wrong' here -
it is a question of helping people explore actions and activities
they have been involved in.
It may assist the group to grasp what is to
be done if the facilitator gives one or two examples of activities
they have been involved in personally, and how this would
fit in the chart. Once people have begun working individually
the facilitator should check with each person that they have
grasped what is being done and are happy in trying to do it.
The group can be given 10 or more minutes to
think and fill in the form individually. The facilitator can
check out with the group how long is needed.
3. This can be followed by
a one-to-one sharing; people pair off, preferably with someone
they don't know so well. Each in turn is given five minutes
to explain to the other person where they stand on the chart,
and as much of 'why' and 'where I'd like to be' as they wish
to share; the role of the listener is to listen actively rather
than start a discussion. The facilitator calls 'time to change
over' once it has been checked that people are ready to change
from speaker to listener and vice versa.
4. Back in plenary session,
the group can be asked if anyone has any learning or questions
arising from the exercise. A discussion can be started, for
example, on particular actions or forms of action which people
wish to share as an example of a partisan/neutral/moral/tactical
stand, and why on one issue someone may take a 'neutral' stand
and be 'partisan' on another. As usual, people are asked to
share about themselves and not their partner in the one-to-one.
5. If it is an ongoing group,
the facilitator can check at the end (as well as for normal
feedback on the session) whether there are issues which people
want to take further. If there are further issues they can
be dealt with in future programme.
= Pragmatic; a) 'it works' / 'violence isn't necessary'
b) 'it's the only possibility'
Nonviolent direct action solidarity work etc
'Third party' interventions
inc. mediation monitoring, process & facilitation
Basis in a) respect for others/life
b) morality ('wrong to kill' etc.)
Please note; it is possible
to be at different points on this diagram at the same time,
perhaps even on the same issue! The further out from the centre,
the more strongly an action fits the label.
Nonviolence can be pragmatic or morally-based.
The pragmatic approach includes those who use it because they
feel violence is ineffective, unnecessary or simply impossible
(e.g. 'the government has all the guns') in a particular situation.
The 'moral' basis here includes both secular and spiritual
beliefs. Nonviolent Christians believe the message of Jesus
is a nonviolent one (most Christians disagree!). A good 'secular'
definition of nonviolence is simply 'complete respect for
human life'. In terms of forms of action, it can be partisan
- taking a particular side - or 'neutral'. By 'neutral' is
meant 'neutral between different sides' rather than 'taking
no position' - nonviolence always implies taking a position!
A key tension can be between believing in a
nonviolent process and in a mediation-type approach to disputes
(all sides being heard, all sides being involved in a settlement)
but also having partisan beliefs on an issue. Involvement
based on the latter can mean not being acceptable to other
people in the former ('neutral') category. But both partisan
action and a positive, collective process are necessary for
resolution; i.e. a group who feels an injustice or concern
and who is dedicated to do something about it, and a process
which enables voices to be heard and solutions to be hammered
Another tension is represented by the tactical/moral
axis in the diagram. It is possible -perhaps even desirable
- to believe in both the effectiveness of nonviolence and
its moral/spiritual necessity. There need not be a contradiction.
But you are asked to analyse your own actions as you see fit.
Despite the collapse of the cold war between
'east' and 'west' around 1989 (or possibly even more so because
of it), humankind has a tendency to think in military terms
about the problems which confront our globe - not just about
military intervention but more especially about who are our
'friends' and who are our 'enemies'.