Current democracy threat level?

“It is true that the President is actively working to overturn the 2020 election results. Trump’s actions on his call with Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger were an illegal attempt to defraud the citizens of Georgia and deprive them of their votes. Trump has stated his intention to overturn election results that were not in his favor since before the election and he continues to look for collaborators who will help him do so. For Republicans, the challenge over the past two months has been finding ways to appear as if they are moving toward overturning the election without ever actually reaching that point. To do so, they have relied on lawsuits, recounts, and audits that they knew would fail but which would put off the inevitable: having to tell Trump that he lost the November election.

Wednesday, Republicans will interrupt the ceremonial electoral vote count. Doing so will have as much effect on the transition to a Biden administration as interrupting his inauguration on January 20th would have: none. But the point of this exercise is not to stop the transition, it is to put off the day when Trump turns on the members of his own party.

But if Trump is attempting to overturn the election, why not call this a coup? This is not a semantic argument: Tactics that are appropriate for one situation are often counterproductive in another. A coup is a rapid seizure of power that builds momentum and requires an immediate and broad response to overturn it. A general strike and mass demonstrations have proven to be effective tactics when fighting a coup, which is why our friends at Choose Democracy spent weeks training thousands of people around the country in these methods. But because this is not a coup, employing these tactics could backfire. If Trump has signaled anything in the past few months, it is that he is itching for a fight. Large street battles between those supporting and opposing Trump might well be the one thing that would justify domestic use of the military. Unlike the theatrics being employed by Republicans in Congress, military action could interrupt the peaceful transition of power.

There are good reasons not to be distracted by the current circus. The true goals of the Republican leadership are the same as they were last year and the year before that: depriving citizens of their right to vote. The current maelstrom of misinformation created by Trump will be put to use by Republicans in the coming months to limit early and mail-in voting, purge voter rolls, and enact voter ID laws. These are the threats to democracy that we face, and we should not let the interruption of ceremonies distract us from them.”–Coup-O-Meter and Choose Democracy (4 Jan 21)

Nonviolence: What About Hitler?

12whiteroseIn any in-depth conversation about the effectiveness of nonviolence as a strategy, this question always comes up: Would these nonviolent strategies have worked against the Nazis? What about Hitler?

Even the great Mohandas Gandhi – progenitor of modern nonviolence – knew that nonviolence against Hitler would cost many lives.

“The doctrine of Satyagraha works on the principle that you make the so called enemy see and realize the injustice he is engaged in. It can work only when you believe in God and the goodness of the people to see that they are wrong. As a satyagrahi, I  do believe that non-violence is a potent weapon against all evils. I warn you however, that the victory will not come easy- just like it will not come easy with violent methods such as fighting with weaponry.”

(Also read Gandhi’s 1939 letter Is Non-Violence Ineffective? on the actions of Martin Niemoeller and the Confessing Church.)

Jørgen Johansen, a lecturer in conflict studies, has led nonviolence trainings in Israel, Mozambique, India, and Chechnya. He recently posted an essay called Hitler and the Challenge of Non-Violence that briefly takes on this issue.

“What effect could nonviolence have had against Hitler?” says Johansen. “This is one of the most frequent questions I get when I lecture on nonviolence. And it is a good one. To answer we need to look at different phases of the conflict and recognise the complexity of a world war.”

Below is an excerpt:

The German army was well prepared to meet armed resistance, but less able to cope with strikes, civil disobedience, boycotts and other forms of nonviolent action. A famous example is when the Norwegian teachers were told to join the Nazi party and teach Nazism in schools or face the consequences. When 12,000 teachers signed a declaration against the new law, 1000 were arrested and sent to prison camps. But the strike continued and after some months the order was cancelled and they were allowed to continue their work. In a speech, Quisling summarised: “You teachers have destroyed everything for me!”  We can just imagine what would have been the consequences if many professions had followed in the footsteps of these teachers. Or if they had prepared such actions well in advance and even had exercises prior to the invasion.

Independent news is crucial for any opposition movement. That is why censorship is enforced when a regime wants to control the masses. Despite threats of brutal punishment, illegal newspapers were published by many clandestine groups in occupied territories during WWII. In France the first leaflet was published as early as September 1940. In Munich, the “White Rose” students initiated a leaflet campaign from June 1942 to February the following year calling for active opposition to Hitler’s regime. The original group was arrested and executed but later their manifesto was distributed in Scandinavia and the UK and even dropped over Germany from Allied planes. What would have been the result of such actions if they had been well planned and executed in most cities suffering under German atrocities?

Despite massive propaganda and brutal punishment for those who refused to take part, many opposed this genocide. In Denmark almost all Jews survived because they were helped by the resistance movement to escape to Sweden and avoid the gas chambers.

In Bulgaria most of the country’s 48,000 Jews were saved when leaders of the Orthodox Church and farmers in the northern stretches of the country threatened to lie across railroad tracks to prevent Jews from being deported. This pressure encouraged the Bulgarian parliament to resist the Nazis, who eventually rescinded the deportation order, saving almost all of the country’s 48,000 Jews.

Even in Germany itself people opposed the arrests. In one famous example 6000 “Aryan” German women took part in a nonviolent protest in February and March 1943, outside the prison in Rosenstrasse in Berlin, to get their Jewish husbands and friends released. Thanks to these brave women 1700 prisoners were indeed released. These examples illustrate that some groups have more impact than others. It was difficult for the Nazis to attack German women.

Read Johansen’s whole article here.