Nonviolent resistance to Hitler?

On this web log, I favorably reviewed two of Gene Sharp’s manuals for nonviolent resistant to despots.  A friend asked if I think nonviolent resistance would have worked against Hitler.

His ideas rest on the truth that the power of a tyrant is the power to command the obedience of the people he rules.  To the extent that they cease to obey, his power disappears.  Gene Sharp cited examples of successful nonviolent resistance to Hitler, including Norwegian school teachers who successfully resisted demands that they teach Nazi doctrines, and German women married to Jewish men whose protests caused the German government to rescind orders to deport their husbands to death camps.

But nonviolent resistance would not work for peoples marked for extermination or ethnic cleansing.  this would not work for the Jews, gypsies and others marked for extermination.  Hitler did not wish to rule the Jews, gypsies and others marked for extermination.   He wished to eliminate them.  Nonviolent resistance would not have been an obstacle to that goal.

I am not a pacifist.  I understand that war is sometimes the least bad option.  I do not think that the line between nonviolent and violent resistance is always clear.  Many campaigns of mass defiance involve both.   A nonviolent struggle has the merit of being inherently democratic, in the way that many seizures of power in the name of liberation did not.  M.K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. had power that rested on the voluntary compliance of their followers.  Unlike the leaders of many supposed liberation movements, they didn’t kill people to keep their followers in line.

Click on The realism of nonviolent action for my review of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action.

Click on Gene Sharp’s revolution handbook for my review of his From Dictatorship to Democracy.

Click on Gene Sharp: A dictator’s worst nightmare for a good profile by CNN.  [Added 6/27/12]

Tags: , , ,

2 Responses to “Nonviolent resistance to Hitler?”

  1. thismightbepropaganda Says:

    The idea of resisting or opposing Hitler (either violently or non violently) is rather like the idea of trying to avert a plane crash at 20,000ft after the wings have just dropped off because three days earlier a mechanic forgot to put the bolts back on after doing some maintenance. My point being (obviously), it’s way too late do do anything.

    Hitler’s rise to power was not the *beginning* of and era of tyranny for Germany, it was the consequence of a tyranny which had already taken hold of the German people several generations earlier … a tyranny inflicted on the minds of the children.

    Hitler was voted into power. Something had obviously been done to the German people to cause them to make such a bad decision. That ‘something’ was the Prussian system of Skule (school). This system of schooling was specifically designed to indoctrinated the children in such a way that, after several generations, they couldn’t help but put a man like Hitler into power. Skule turned the German people into tinder and Hitler only needed to provide the spark.

    The Prussian system of schooling was then avidly adopted by the rulers in the west and it has been working its ‘magic’ on us for quite some time now. And now, it would seem, it’s too late for us as well.

    Like

  2. Atticus Finch Says:

    I think you made a great point here:

    “But nonviolent resistance would not work for peoples marked for extermination or ethnic cleansing. this would not work for the Jews, gypsies and others marked for extermination. Hitler did not wish to rule the Jews, gypsies and others marked for extermination. He wished to eliminate them. Nonviolent resistance would not have been an obstacle to that goal.”

    It is difficult to non-violently resist when you are being exterminated. I suppose there were back-alley ways to be non-violent and resist such as encouraging people not to obey orders, but when you are being murdered in the moment sometimes you have to defend yourself. I’m not sure if there is a effect non-violent response.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: