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Non-violence

Non-violence is one of the Green Party's Ten Key Values.

It is often restated as peace?, peacemaking?, de-escalation?.



Policies of non-violence


Green Party policies addressing non-violence include animal protection and violence against women.

Definitions of non-violence


We declare our commitment to nonviolence and strive for a culture of peace and cooperation between states, inside societies and between individuals, as the basis of global security.

We believe that security should not rest mainly on military strength but on cooperation, sound economic and social development, environmental safety, and respect for human rights.
(Global Greens Charter(external link))

Violence is a morally wrong and ultimately self-defeating way to resolve disputes. We must work to end war, and eliminate the root causes of crime.
(Green Party of Canada(external link) website)

Every act of violence delays our progress toward a just society. Anger closes the open mind. Fear hinders constructive change.
(GPC 2004 platform(external link))

It is essential that we develop effective alternatives to society’s current patterns of violence. We will work to demilitarize, and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, without being naive about the intentions of other governments. We recognize the need for self-defense and the defense of others who are in helpless situations. We promote non-violent methods to oppose practices and policies with which we disagree, and will guide our actions toward lasting personal, community and global peace.
(Green Party of the United States(external link))

Nonviolence (or non-violence) is a set of assumptions about morality, power and conflict that leads its proponents to reject the use of violence in efforts to attain social or political goals. While often used as a synonym for pacifism, since the mid 20th century the term nonviolence has come to embody a diversity of techniques for waging social conflict without the use of violence, as well as the underlying political and philosophical rationale for the use of these techniques.
Wikipedia(external link)

Non-violence is closely associates with ahimsa(external link):
a religious concept which advocates non-violence and a respect for all life. Ahimsa is Sanskrit for avoidance of himsa, or injury. It is interpreted most often as meaning peace and reverence toward all sentient beings. Ahimsa is the core of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Its first mention in Indian philosophy is found in the Hindu scriptures called the Upanishads, the oldest dating about 800 BCE. Those who practice Ahimsa are often vegetarians or vegans.

Ahimsa was introduced to the West by the Mahatma Gandhi ...


Problems with non-violence


Proponents of non-violence such as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi are often held up in contrast to people such as Malcolm X and Franz Fanon(external link), who refused to condemn violence as a tactic.

Their reasons for this were related to the violence that they were facing. Fanon, for example, argued (in The Wretched of the Earth) that colonialism is based in violence, and thus must be met with violence. Malcolm X said "How can you justify being nonviolent in Mississippi and Alabama, when your churches are being bombed, and your little girls are being murdered, and at the same time you are going to get violent with Hitler, and Tojo, and somebody else you don't even know?" (speech, 9th November, 1963(external link))

These examples may not be precisely relevant to the current Canadian context, but they vividly demonstrate why 'violence' as a tactic should not be ruled out in theory.

Defining Violence


"Violence" is impossible to quantify objectively, and what is considered violent often depends on the observer. For instance, which of these would be considered 'violent:'

  • allowing someone to remain in an unsafe situation
  • a man emotionally abusing his wife
  • being systematically prevented from speaking one's mind in a given context
  • institutionalizing psychiatric patients against their will

Arguments could be made either way for each of these points. When a single authority is permitted to define 'violence' (and, accordingly, non-violence), a whole set of behaviours is arbitrarily ruled to be on one side or the other of the 'acceptibility' line. This sort of ambiguity can quickly lead to people being silenced, if the only appropriate (or possible) response will be branded as 'violent' by those in authority.


The State

A political party cannot, in principle, both command police and military forces and collect taxes and be strictly nonviolent; this is a major issue of contention in all Green Parties that have achieved actual political power, and becoming more so.

The "state" was defined by Max Weber as "a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force(external link) within a given territory." If this definition is appropriate, then how can a ruling party (representing the State) be non-violent? If the definition is not appropriate, what is a better one?


Global Greens' experiences with non-violence


The Myth of Green Party non-violence(external link) :
Unfortunately, the best known Green Party, in Germany, abandoned its professed belief in nonviolence to further its quest for political power. As part of a coalition government, the German Greens supported military intervention in Kosovo. Among Greens in the United States, nonviolence is just an empty catchword ... No Green Party platform in the United States demonstrates a belief in nonviolence.




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