Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to be successful as armed conflict, and only a minimum of 3.5% of the population participates, the change to which it aspires will be achieved.

The power of the people, then, can be profoundly undemocratic when it is based on protests, demonstrations and pressure: basically a minority can impose its criteria on a majority.

The power of minorities

According to a study that analyzes the period 1900-2006, carried out by Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard University political scientist, nonviolent movements achieve political change twice as often as violent ones (53% vs. 26%) and when they manage to involve 3.5% of the population they have never failed to achieve change.

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The study collected data from 323 violent and non-violent campaigns. And their results, which were published in his book Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.

This confirms that civil disobedience is not only a moral choice; it is also the most powerful way of shaping world politics. The African American abolitionist Sojourner Truth, suffragette activist Susan B. Anthony, Indian independence activist Mahatma Gandhi and the American civil rights activist Martin Luther King are good examples of this.

Chenoweth argues that nonviolent campaigns are more likely to be successful because can recruit many more participants from a much broader demographic, which can cause serious disorders that paralyze normal urban life and the functioning of society. During a peaceful street protest of millions of people, members of the security forces may also be more likely to fear that their family or friends are in the crowd, which means that they cannot crack down on the movement.

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The Popular Power campaign against the Marcos regime in the Philippines, for example, attracted two million participants at its peak, while the Brazilian uprising in 1984 and 1985 attracted one million, and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989 500,000 participants.

They seem very high figures, but in percentage terms they are low. Such a level of active participation probably means that many more people tacitly agree with the cause, but we don’t know that either. Maybe it is a very motivated group.

This has a good part and a bad part: if the fight defended by that small percentage of people is good and fair, then it seems positive. But they could also be wrong, or misinformed, or driven by hatred, ideological blindness, or any other bias. Fortunately, it must also be said, despite being twice as successful as violent conflict, peaceful resistance still failed 47% of the time. That is, it only succeeds half the time. Another thing is to find out if that half is good or bad.

Why are there people with extreme political views?

Podemos, Wallet and Spain

Lately we are seeing escraches to Pablo Iglesias or Juan Carlos Monedero. Democratic syrup, they called it … before they had to take it by force, of course. Those who now consider them righteous, previously considered them abominable, and vice versa. Because we all love protests, mass demonstrations, and even cutting streets or burning containers if … they vindicate the ideas that we like. Either they annoy the politician that we hate or consider the Evil incarnate.

I tell you a little more about the problem of using the computation of people who participate in a demonstration, as well as the noise they make, to direct the politics of a country (with all its basic rights guaranteed) in the next video.

Yes, I know that right now you are lighting the torches to come and join me at the door of Baker Café. But give me a little time, let’s have a coffee and chat: