Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Czech non-violent example

It was said that Gandhi succeeded with nonviolent tactics because he was dealing with the sophisticated and moral British Empire, but nonviolence would never work against a brute force such as the Soviet Union. Sadly this is a lie. A great example of nonviolence working is in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

In 1956, a dozen years prior to the crisis in Czech, in Hungary had attempted to violently revolt. The Soviets came down hard upon the smaller nation and beat it back into submission. Thus other members of the Warsaw Pact knew the result of violently resisting.

In 1968, a new leader came to power named Alexander Dubcek. Dubcek was the child of Marxists who had protested WWI in the US. After the war his parents had moved back to Czechoslovakia and had become active in the Czech Communist party. When Dubcek took over, he listened to the people. They wanted freedom of speech, a free press, and freedom to travel; he granted these requests. As the Czech government reformed, their change threatened the Soviets, who saw this as rebelling. Dubcek insisted that his country was not looking to leave the Warsaw Pact, but instead were only reforming their country.

Still, the Soviets did not appreciate the changes and just like 1956 they dispatched tanks to quell the “rebellion.” Learning from Hungary’s mistake, Dubcek demanded that the entire country resist the temptation to fight back. The tanks were not met with bullets or bombs, but with glares and silence. The rebellion was quelled and Czechoslovakia was brought back into control-but the USSR had lost.

My friend Brian noted that when a boss yells at an employee he is not yelling because he is in a position of power, instead he is yelling because he is trying to regain power. This is true for this situation: the Soviets were afraid that they were losing control over the Czechs and felt they needed to flex their muscles in order to re-establish the pecking order. Gandhi said, “No government cannot exist for a singly moment with out the cooperation of the people, willing or forced, and if the people withdraw their cooperation in every detail, the government will come to a standstill.

The Czechs realized this truth. They realized that the USSR, who was thought to be one of the strongest nations in the world, was really weak. It relied on brute-force to make people comply with their policies. This is not a powerful nation, but a bully. Once the people realized this, they stop participating with the abuses of the government. Mikhail Gorbachev, years later agreed that nothing was the same after that invasion.

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