The Applicability of Nonviolent Struggle in Armenia: Part 8.1

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As we have already noted in the previous publications, each part of the article series concerning the applicability of nonviolent struggle in Armenia will discuss in detail the applicability of possible options of political/civil disobedience in our country, as well as the reasons of failure of the means has been chosen by political forces so far.

The article series is based on the study of international practice, as well as the scientific literature available. For Part OneTwoThree,Four, Five, the first  and the second sections of the Sixth part, the first  and the second sections of the Seventh part  of the current article you can follow the shown links.

Previously, we have already thoroughly discussed the role and essence of nonviolent struggle in the framework of maintaining the sustainability of democracy, as well as the importance of developing strategy and tactics to achieve it, plus implementing all the subtleties of grand strategy in the context of applying separate strategic campaigns as well as a comprehensive strategy and action plans. This and the subsequent sections as well are the final parts of the article series. This section particularly discusses the implementation of nonviolent struggle as well as several key features ensuing that.   

As has already been mentioned in previous sections of this article-series, in some countries such as Armenia, the high level of oppression and conformity of societies gives the initiators of effective political/civic processes no other choice than putting forward feasible demands and goals while launching a process. The process of achieving all the set goals while planning an effective movement of nonviolent resistance should contain little risk and consequently the ensuing actions in their turn should instill trust in these societies.  In most cases, to form a highly resistant society there must be designed such a strategy which will not instill sense of tangible danger in the much quiescent mass of the society. Street struggle planners when designing their actions must target much quiescent mass of the society rather than a small mass of active part of the society with rich experience in nonviolent struggle. The main purpose of such action plan for a street struggle is to attract new people.        

As long as the toolkit of a street struggle in the framework of peaceful disobedience is rather poor in Armenia, there is a need to implement the options offered by peaceful disobedience brought forward in various sections of this article-series. Particularly, one may choose an unusual outfit to wear that can shape opposite public opinion as well as enable the society to be engaged in the planned actions. A relatively less important and not political issue either (such as hike in electricity tariffs, raising public transport fare or struggle against illegal construction) can draw attention to the organized and effective group action.

Most of the strategic campaigns for any long-term struggle should not be aimed at demanding immediate removal of the authorities from power but rather at acquiring specific and limited purposes. Naturally, in most cases, the main strategic objective of such movements is the accomplishment of a complete regime change. However, the grand strategy should be clearly differentiated from ongoing strategic campaigns. Within this context it is quite important to take into account the fact that there is need to design a number of separate strategic campaigns parallel to the implementation of grand strategy. Separate strategic campaign developers should take into account issue of how those campaigns are going to differ from one another at the beginning of a long-term struggle, in the course of it as well as at the end. In case of not complying with the above-mentioned key principles any well-designed process is doomed to failure. To justify what has been said, it is simply necessary to study the Armenian experience, when as a result of having no strategic plan quite successful civic movements failed to prevent the representatives of different political parties from breaking into the civic movement and bringing forward their own agenda introducing the issue of resignation of the current authorities, which in its turn resulted in a quickdisappearance of a seemingly successful civic movement. The latter example is fairly common in our reality. One of the main reasons for that is the lack of and even the absence of vocational knowledge of the individuals or groups initiating civic movements. Eventually, we need to fix the fact that putting forward a demand for a regime change is neither an act of heroism, nor a key to success. A similar demand has been made in our country since 1995 by incompetent opposition parties and the result of the latter is equal to zero.  

Selectively Targeted Resistance     

The presence of strategic campaigns having various selective targets at the initial stages of the struggle for the sake of democratic change is quite effective. Such selective strategic campaigns can alternate, sometimes even two and more can happen at the same time. While planning the strategy of such campaigns there must be paid special attention to revealing the most sensitive problems and complaints that bother the people. Revealing such problems and targeting them can be pretty effective in implementing campaigns to achieve some interim strategic objectives in the framework of the grand strategy. These interim strategic campaigns must comply with the present and projected capabilities of the democratic forces.    

If successfully settled such campaigns have a positive impact on participating people’s self-consciousness as well as sow the psychology of a winner in them. Thus, paying particular attention to the details of such selective resistance is a must. One must also bear in mind that while designing such resistance mainly social issues must be touched upon. The objectives proclaimed in the process of finding proper solutions to those problems must not be identical to the main strategic objectives of the movement. Selective resistance should be directed to the weaknesses of the opponent and the positive result of it must undermine its one or more vulnerabilities. In other words, it should forcefully make the opponent surrender.

Separate strategic campaign developers must design at least the first strategic campaign far before the start of the movement. If possible, it would be prudent to plan at least the general scheme of the second and the third strategic campaigns.      

Assessing the Potential of Movement

The first, more concrete actions of the campaign designed for a new process pursuing wide political objectives must be limited for the beginning. Those actions should mainly be of an assessing nature and should be planned so that it is possible to accurately check the population’s disposition as well as the mechanisms to have possible influence on it. Primary actions taken must bear symbolic nature and be able to measure the average level of preparedness of the population to implement a political/civic nonviolent disobedience. To put into practice the above mentioned issue one can choose quite symbolic actions. Particularly, if the number of those willing to carry out the action is rather small, then it can include the application of one of the forms of a well-known toolkit of civic peaceful disobedience in a symbolic place (for instance, demonstration using flowers, marches with symbolic uniforms, any public event of an informative nature). But if the number of those willing is pretty big, then one of the famous and effective forms of nonviolent struggle can be used. That is, noncooperation can be applied for only 5 to 10 minutes. Depending on the number of participants such actions can be carried out in a symbolic place in the form of a hunger strike, a short-term student strike or a sit-down strike.

While selecting the first proper campaigns to announce the launch of a new political process, there is a strong need to keep away from radical and aggressive actions, because such actions will contribute to a sharp escalation of situation. As a result the number of expected participants of the movement will decline sharply and the movement will be doomed to failure hasn’t yet started.   

In the context of the above mentioned, it is necessary to take into account the historical facts and always bear in mind that India’s liberation movement gave its start with a symbolic “Salt March”, the movement of Burma which achieved international recognition also began with a symbolic march, the symbolic student strike held in Tiananmen Square in 1989 (Beijing) marked the beginning of its world renown, the symbolic “Empty Pot March” marked the overthrow of Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, the Polish “Solidarity” movement also began with a symbolic march and a short-term strikes. Ultimately, the “Karabakh” movement of 1988 began with symbolic environmental pickets.

All that matters in civic movements launched for the sake of democratization is not cursing this or that politician or police officer with a great enthusiasm or demanding the resignation of the current authorities, but play a rather competent game of chess.     

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In the coming parts of the article-series we will discuss issue of maintaining productive relations between the democratic forces and the police as well as other law enforcement agencies in the framework of nonviolent resistance.

To be continued ….

Narek Samsonyan