Politics Thursday: The final chapter

Submitted by Daniel on Thu, 08/10/2006 - 04:31

After my big "I'm going out on my own" speech, I realized that last Thursday I promised a sequel about the effectiveness of nonviolence.

So, here it is:

Continuing our nonviolent journey through The Powers that be: Theology for a new millennium (1998) by Walter Wink. I want to share Mr. Wink's documentation that nonviolence was used successfully even against the regime of Nazi Germany. If nonviolence can work against Nazis, it can work against anybody, Godwin notwithstanding. All that it takes is the will to use it.

In these quotes, any emphasis is mine:


The brutalities of the Nazis stand for many people as the ultimate refutation of nonviolence. Surely, they reason, only violence could have stopped Hitler. The facts indicate just the opposite. Nonviolence did work whenever it was tried against the Nazis. Bulgaria's Orthodox Biship Kiril told Nazi authorities that if they attempted to deport Bulgarian Jews to concentration camps, he himself would lead a campaign of civil disobedience, lying down on the railroad tracks in front of the trains. Thousands of Bulgarian Jews and non-Jews resisted all collaboration with Nazi decrees. They marched in mass street demonstrations and sent a flood of letters and telegrams to authorities protesting all anti-Jewish measures. Bulgarian clergy and laity hid Jews. Christian ministers accepted large numbers of Jewish "converts", making it clear that this was a trick to evade arrest and that they would not consider the vows binding. Ron Sider and Richard K. Talor comment, "Because of these and other nonmilitary measures, all of Bulgaria's Jewish citizens were saved from the Nazi death camps."

Finland saved all but six of its Jewish citizens from death camps through nonmilitary means. Of 7,000 Danish Jews, 6,500 escaped to Sweden, aided by virtually the entire population and tips from within the German occupation force itself. Almost all the rest were hidden safely for the balance of the war. Denmark's resistance was so effective that Adolf Eichmann had to admit that the action against the Jews of Denmark had been a failure.

The Norwegian underground helped spirit 900 Jews to safety in Sweden, but another 756 were killed, all but 20 in Nazi death camps. German wives of Jews demonstrated in Berlin on behalf of their husbands in the midst of war, and secured their release for its duration. In Italy, a large percentage of Jews survived because officials and citizens sabotaged efforts to them over to the Germans.

During the Nazi occupation of Holland, a general strike by all rail workers practically paralyzed traffic from November 1944 until liberation in May 1945--this despite extreme privation to the people, who held out all winter without heat and with dwindling food supplies. Similar resistance in Norway prevented Vidkun Quisling, Hitler's representative, from imposing a fascist "corporative state" on the country.

The tragedy is that even though nonviolence did work when used against the Nazis, it was used too seldom. The Jews themselves did not use it, but continued to rely in the main on the passive nonresistance that had carried them trhough so many pogroms in the past. And the churches as a whole were too docile or anti-Semitic, and too ignorant of the nonviolent message of the gospel, to act effectively to resist the Nazis.

Of course, nonviolence is not without cost. The path of nonviolence is not the path of passivity and cowardice, but, like violence, takes courage and sacrifice. Perhaps more so. As Mr. Wink says on page 118 of Powers That Be:

A caution, however: if we are to make nonviolence effective, we will have to be as willing to suffer and be killed as soldiers in battle. Nonviolence is not a way of avoiding personal sacrifice. Indeed, it requires that we take that sacrifice on ourselves rather than inflicting it on others.

Why bother with taking suffering on ourselves instead of inflicting it on others where it belongs? Because nonviolence in many situations has the potential for win-win instead of violence's inevitable win-lose or increasingly in today's world, simply lose-lose. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela understood this truth. Maybe more of us should try it today.

There you have it, the last Politics Thursday on LISNews. I'd like to thank all the people, named and otherwise who have debated, annoyed and often informed me here. I hope some of you (you know who you are) will follow me to my new blog.

Politics might occur any day of the week, but shouldn't be the main focus of Alaskan Librarian.

Like I said before, I'm not leaving LISNews. You'll see me in comments and I'll stil be reading other journals.

So I hope to be dialoging with you in different venues.