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Understanding the Methods of Nonviolent Action

Joshua Kirshbaum (2018)

Table of Contents


198 Methods of Nonviolent Action


People have been using nonviolent action for thousands of years. Let’s start by talking about one of my favorite videos.

It involves Jamila Raqib. For a living, she promotes nonviolent resistance to people living under tyranny, and she shares with us the importance of nonviolent action in today’s society.

She explains:

“The greatest hope for humanity is in not condemning violence but making violence obsolete.”

She uses examples from all over the world explaining the overwhelming effectiveness of nonviolent action as well as the misconceptions of these terms.

“A general wouldn’t march his troops into battle unless he had a plan to win the war…”

The secret to effective nonviolent resistance | Jamila Raqib

When developing a campaign for nonviolent action, it’s all about understanding the situation that you are in and designing a list of either disruptive or memorable actions that effectively brings the target out of its safe zone without one’s self resorting to violence.

Below is a clip from the Gandhi movie, where he explains:

“I for one, have never advocated for passive anything… Our resistance must be active and provocative… I want to embarrass all those who wish to treat us as slaves… ”

He needed to make a statement in which the people all around the world could see that you CAN STAND UP to those who have seemly endless power.

So that’s what he did. He built a campaign of actions that rippled across the country his actions would impact generations to come and create the largest democracy in the world to date.

How can you do that today?

This is one of the most powerful and influential times to live in; a single video can span the globe in a matter of days. A message can be seen by billions in a matter of minutes. In a movement, it can be shared across the world allowing people around the globe to participate in a global movement, not powered by the wealthy, merely by logging into your computer and taking part. Sometimes we are overwhelmed and start drowning in the elements of how the internet works, with the constant violations of privacy and the filtering of information but the fact is simple if you do it right… and if you have a plan, you can impact millions with a simple upload.

Here are the steps I use when designing campaigns.

  1. Identify the ultimate goal: This is the ultimate goal in which if reached you have finished the campaign. Make it measurable and quantifiable. Understand exactly what you want to happen, and there be no debate in which the goal has been met.

  2. Generate a list of steps needed to achieve the Ultimate goal: Break it down into headliners, as if you were reading about your movement in the newspaper. What would those newspaper headlines say? Then identify why those stages are so important.

  3. Divide these steps into smaller stages: These stages have to be both easily attainable and have to be clear to the target audience, and you need to identify the outcome of each of these actions.

  4. Create a timeline: Now that you know all the different steps in the campaign, now it is time to space it out onto a timeline. You now have a full list and set of deadlines in which you produce the work. Making sure that every movement you make is measurable and you can clearly see if your moving forward or backwards.

  5. Now… ACT: Now that you have laid out the plan, act on it. Make sure that everything meets your margins and keep moving forward.

But what kind of actions need to be taken to make a major impact?

Gene Sharp was the founder of the Albert Einstein Institution put together 198 methods of nonviolent action. These are the pieces with which you fill your campaigns. Make sure you identify the needs and goals of both your Target Audience and your Opponent. But use lists like the one below to inspire your efforts.

Let’s make a world of in which everybody counts.

Take a look and let me know what you are doing to make this world a better place.

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action

Practitioners of nonviolent struggle have an entire arsenal of “nonviolent weapons” at their disposal. Listed below are 198 of them, classified into three broad categories: (1) nonviolent protest and persuasion, (2) noncooperation (social, economic, and political), and (3) nonviolent intervention. A description and historical examples of each can be found in volume two of The Politics of Nonviolent Action, by Gene Sharp.


Formal Statements

1. Public Speeches

2. Letters of opposition or support

3. Declarations by organizations and institutions

4. Signed public statements

5. Declarations of indictment and intention

6. Group or mass petitions

Communications with a Wider Audience

7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols

8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications

9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books

10. Newspapers and journals

11. Records, radio, and television

12. Skywriting and earth writing

Group Representations

13. Deputations

14. Mock awards

15. Group lobbying

16. Picketing

17. Mock elections

Symbolic Public Acts

18. Displays of flags and symbolic colors

19. Wearing of symbols

20. Prayer and worship

21. Delivering symbolic objects

22. Protest disrobings

23. Destruction of own property

24. Symbolic lights

25. Displays of portraits

26. Paint as protest

27. New signs and names

28. Symbolic sounds

29. Symbolic reclamations

30. Rude gestures

Pressures on Individuals 31. “Haunting” officials 32. Taunting officials 33. Fraternization 34. Vigils

Drama and Music 35. Humorous skits and pranks 36. Performances of plays and music 37. Singing


38. Marches

39. Parades

40. Religious processions

41. Pilgrimages

42. Motorcades

Honoring the Dead

43. Political mourning

44. Mock funerals

45. Demonstrative funerals

46. Homage at burial places

Public Assemblies 47. Assemblies of protest or support 48. Protest meetings 49. Camouflaged meetings of protest 50. Teach-ins Withdrawal and Renunciation 51. Walk-outs 52. Silence 53. Renouncing honors 54. Turning one’s back

THE METHODS OF SOCIAL NONCOOPERATION Ostracism of Persons 55. Social boycott 56. Selective social boycott 57. Lysistratic nonaction 58. Excommunication 59. Interdict Noncooperation with Social Events, Customs, and Institutions 60. Suspension of social and sports activities 61. Boycott of social affairs 62. Student strike 63. Social disobedience 64. Withdrawal from social institutions Withdrawal from the Social System 65. Stay-at-home 66. Total personal noncooperation 67. “Flight” of workers 68. Sanctuary 69. Collective disappearance 70. Protest emigration (hijrat)


Actions by Consumers 71. Consumers’ boycott 72. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods 73. Policy of austerity 74. Rent withholding 75. Refusal to rent 76. National consumers’ boycott 77. International consumers’ boycott Action by Workers and Producers 78. Workmen’s boycott 79. Producers’ boycott Action by Middlemen 80. Suppliers’ and handlers’ boycott Action by Owners and Management 81. Traders’ boycott 82. Refusal to let or sell property 83. Lockout 84. Refusal of industrial assistance 85. Merchants’ “general strike” Action by Holders of Financial Resources 86. Withdrawal of bank deposits 87. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments 88. Refusal to pay debts or interest 89. Severance of funds and credit 90. Revenue refusal 91. Refusal of a government’s money Action by Governments 92. Domestic embargo 93. Blacklisting of traders 94. International sellers’ embargo 95. International buyers’ embargo 96. International trade embargo


Symbolic Strikes 97. Protest strike 98. Quickie walkout (lightning strike) Agricultural Strikes 99. Peasant strike 100. Farm Workers’ strike Strikes by Special Groups 101. Refusal of impressed labor 102. Prisoners’ strike 103. Craft strike 104. Professional strike Ordinary Industrial Strikes 105. Establishment strike 106. Industry strike 107. Sympathetic strike Restricted Strikes 108. Detailed strike 109. Bumper strike 110. Slowdown strike 111. Working-to-rule strike 112. Reporting “sick” (sick-in) 113. Strike by resignation 114. Limited strike 115. Selective strike Multi-Industry Strikes 116. Generalized strike 117. General strike Combination of Strikes and Economic Closures 118. Hartal 119. Economic shutdown


Rejection of Authority 120. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance 121. Refusal of public support 122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance

Citizens’ Noncooperation with Government 123. Boycott of legislative bodies 124. Boycott of elections 125. Boycott of government employment and positions 126. Boycott of government depts., agencies, and other bodies 127. Withdrawal from government educational institutions 128. Boycott of government-supported organizations 129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents 130. Removal of own signs and placemarks 131. Refusal to accept appointed officials 132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions

Citizens’ Alternatives to Obedience 133. Reluctant and slow compliance 134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision 135. Popular nonobedience 136. Disguised disobedience 137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse 138. Sitdown 139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation 140. Hiding, escape, and false identities 141. Civil disobedience of “illegitimate” laws

Action by Government Personnel 142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides 143. Blocking of lines of command and information 144. Stalling and obstruction 145. General administrative noncooperation 146. Judicial noncooperation 147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents 148. Mutiny

Domestic Governmental Action 149. Quasi-legal evasions and delays 150. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units

International Governmental Action 151. Changes in diplomatic and other representations 152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events 153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition 154. Severance of diplomatic relations 155. Withdrawal from international organizations 156. Refusal of membership in international bodies 157. Expulsion from international organizations


Psychological Intervention 158. Self-exposure to the elements 159. The fast a) Fast of moral pressure b) Hunger strike c) Satyagrahic fast 160. Reverse trial 161. Nonviolent harassment

Physical Intervention 162. Sit-in 163. Stand-in 164. Ride-in 165. Wade-in 166. Mill-in 167. Pray-in 168. Nonviolent raids 169. Nonviolent air raids 170. Nonviolent invasion 171. Nonviolent interjection 172. Nonviolent obstruction 173. Nonviolent occupation

Social Intervention 174. Establishing new social patterns 175. Overloading of facilities 176. Stall-in 177. Speak-in 178. Guerrilla theater 179. Alternative social institutions 180. Alternative communication system

Economic Intervention 181. Reverse strike 182. Stay-in strike 183. Nonviolent land seizure 184. Defiance of blockades 185. Politically motivated counterfeiting 186. Preclusive purchasing 187. Seizure of assets 188. Dumping 189. Selective patronage 190. Alternative markets 191. Alternative transportation systems 192. Alternative economic institutions

Political Intervention 193. Overloading of administrative systems 194. Disclosing identities of secret agents 195. Seeking imprisonment 196. Civil disobedience of “neutral” laws 197. Work-on without collaboration 198. Dual sovereignty and parallel government

Without a doubt, a large number of additional methods have already been used but have not been classified, and a multitude of additional methods will be invented in the future that have the characteristics of the three classes of methods: nonviolent protest and persuasion, noncooperation and nonviolent intervention.

It must be clearly understood that the greatest effectiveness is possible when individual methods to be used are selected to implement the previously adopted strategy. It is necessary to know what kind of pressures are to be used before one chooses the precise forms of action that will best apply those pressures.

[1] Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973 and later editions.

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