New Internationalist

Paths To Liberation

Issue 136

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VIOLENCE [image, unknown] Liberation

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PATHS TO LIBERATION
People in the West can work in the open to change their societies. But organising for change in a developing country can be much more dangerous - and the temptation to resort to armed resistance much greater.

Imagine yourself in a village somewhere in the Third World. You are exploited by local landowners and ruled by an oppressive dictatorship. There is no way out of your poverty as long as the social order remains the same. How do you fight back? Try choosing here between violence and non-violence, the gun and the flower, and see if you can find a path to liberation.

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You talk with others in the same position and share your experiences and your ideas about how to fight back. From now on ‘you’ are collective.
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Losing your head, you attack the local landowner personally. He has you arrested and exploits you even more harshly on your release.
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You organise a demonstration. Nothing concrete is gained by this, but you have shown your strength and the march has helped rally others to your cause.
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Carried away by your first feelings of solidarity you seize the land from its owner. But he calls in the police and makes you and your family homeless.
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Deciding that non-violence is the best way forward, you introduce your supporters to non-violent methods and let them choose their tactics.
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DANGER: Look before you cross. No returns to non-violence past here.

Deciding that armed warfare is the only option, you take to the hills to train.

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You wait for the right time and then organise quickly, spreading the word and staging mass demonstrations and strikes. Government troops fire on demonstrators and arrest leaders. But your support is now so solid that the leaders become martyrs and the people rally to your cause all the more.
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DANGER: Are you crossing this bridge before you’re ready?
Your organisation is crushed before at can grow and many of you are imprisoned. You have made your move at the wrong moment and haven’t taken into account the power of the State arid the efficiency of its secret police.
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Training carefully, you build tip support within the local community. You use guerilla tactics and avoid full-scale battles until you judge the time is right.
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Insufficient force on your side makes it easy for the State to put down your rebellion. So people on both sides have been killed to no avail.
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The success of your revolt means you can form a government. But very soon it develops into dictatorship by an authoritarian elite - barely better than before.
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LIBERATION
The government gives way in the face of a surge of popular feeling and the dictator flees the country. Everyone is involved in creating the new society, just as they were all involved in throwing out the old.
LIBERATION
You gain power, using the minimum possible violence. You form a government 44 that resists the temptations of dictatorship and makes a genuine effort to change society for the benefit of the poor.
Illustration: Clive Offley

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