Non-violence

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Generally refers to some or all of the following: a system of moral concepts that disavows violence; the mass movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in India in the first part of the twentieth century; the struggle for civil rights by African-Americans in the United States under the leadership of Martin Luther King; and the activities carried out by Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana. The activities of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov, S. Kovalev and other famous dissidents opposed to Soviet totalitarianism may be included as well. The idea of n-v. is expounded in the Bible and in the writings of other religions in the exhortation ”do not kill”. This idea has been developed by numerous thinkers and philosophers; Russian authors Leo Tolstoy and Feodor Dostoievsky expressed it in profound formulations. Tolstoy’s formula proclaiming the supremacy of love and the “non-use of violence against evil,” or better, the impossibility of fighting one evil with another, found worldwide resonance, inspiring a somewhat singular sect of “Tolstoyists.” Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) formulated the ethics of n-v. in his own way, basing it on the principle of ahimsa (the refusal to use any form of violence against the individual, nature, even insects or plants) and on the “law of suffering.” Gandhi was able to organize the Satyagraha, an anti-colonial non-violent movement uniting many millions of people. This was expressed in massive and sustained civil disobedience against and noncooperation with the British authorities, reaffirming Indian identity and freedom, but without recourse to violent methods. The people called Gandhi Mahatma (“Great Soul”) for his courage and unyielding adherence to the principle of n-v. This non-violent movement prepared the ground for Great Britain to renounce its supremacy in India, though Gandhi himself was killed by a paid assassin. Unfortunately, in time the principle of ahimsa was completely forgotten, and the subsequent political process in India and Pakistan was accompanied by great bloodshed and unrestrained violence. The struggle of Martin Luther King also ended without fully achieving its objectives, as he, too, was assassinated while speaking at a mass meeting. Nonetheless, the concept of n-v., including non-violent forms of protest, continues to be a vital, evolving force in the world. Daily mass actions by lower strata of workers, meetings and protest demonstrations, strikes, women and student movements, farm workers and peasant demonstrations, leaflets, neighborhood newspapers and periodicals, appearances on radio and TV, all these constitute the contemporary forms of the ethic and practice of n-v. N.H. strives to reduce violence to the greatest extent possible, to move completely beyond it in perspective, and to set in motion all methods and forms of bringing resolution to conflicts and opposing sides along the path of creative n-v. N-V. is frequently equated with pacifism (*), when in reality the latter is neither a method of action nor a style of life but rather a sustained protest against war and the arms race.