Average: 10 (1 vote)
Martin Byrne
Based on our current population of 4.9 million, using the 3.5% rule, it will take a movement of 171,000 people in Ireland committed to ongoing, sustained, peaceful resistance to injustice and state corruption to bring about a change to a more just society.

Dr Erica Chenoweth, is a professor of public policy at Harvard University. She has carried out the largest study to date on revolutions around the world going back to 1900. She won the American Political Science Association's Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award in 2012.

In December 2013, ‘Foreign Policy’ named Erica one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of the year "for proving Gandhi right," noting her work on providing evidence for the efficacy of nonviolent political movements.

In 2013, Erica also won the Karl Deutsch Award (International Relations) for being "judged to have made the most significant contribution to the study of International Relations and Peace Research by the means of publication."

She and her research team compared over 200 violent revolutions and over 100 nonviolent campaigns between 1900 and 2006.

The key findings are:

1. Overall, nonviolent campaigns were twice as likely to succeed as violent campaigns: they led to political change 53% of the time compared to 26% for the violent protests. In recent decades nonviolent resistance is increasing and is becoming increasingly successful while violent resistance is decreasing in frequency and becoming increasingly non-successful.

2. Peaceful resistance never fails if it engages 3.5% of the population in active and sustained resistance.
“There weren’t any campaigns that had failed after they had achieved 3.5% participation during a peak event,” says Chenoweth – a phenomenon she has called the “3.5% rule”.

3. By engaging broad support across the population, nonviolent campaigns are also more likely to win support among the police and the military – the very groups that the government should be leaning on to bring about order. She gives the example of the toppling of President Slobodon Milosevic in Serbia in 2000. An officer was questioned why he didn’t follow instructions to fire into the crowd. He said the reason why he didn’t follow the instruction was because he knew his child was in the crowd. 

During a peaceful street protest of millions of people, the members of the security forces may also be more likely to fear that their family members or friends are in the crowd, meaning that they fail to crack down on the movement.

4. Peaceful resistance movements are more inclusive and bring together people from all races, classes, ages and gender. Armed resistance is very exclusive.

5. Even in the most autocratic dictatorships people have the power to resist from their homes by coordinating action as simple as banging a dust lid at a certain time.

6. The data shows that if a government is overthrown using peaceful resistance the most likely outcome is the establishment of a democracy and a lesser chance of slipping back into a civil war whereas with violent resistance the outcome can lead to civil war, military rule or the establishment of a dictatorship.

7. When people rely on civil resistance their numbers grow and they find that there is safety in numbers.

In terms of the specific strategies that are used, general strikes “are probably one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, single method of nonviolent resistance”, Chenoweth says.

The YouTube link to her TED talk explaining what I’ve written is below.

Why do we celebrate people who use violence as a means to an end as we are doing today, Easter Sunday, rather than the people written out of history who used peaceful resistance to bring about huge change, for example Michael Davitt, whose Land League toppled the landlord system, Sir Horace Plunkett who rejuvenated rural Ireland when he established the co-op movement and Anita Lett who empowered women when she set up the United Irishwomen in 1908 that later became the ICA?

You have just read a post I did in April 2020. Let’s begin by visualising Ireland 2030. Write your description of the Ireland you want to see in the comment section below. Let’s start the conversation now.