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people power and the power of civil disobedience

a briefing document

New translation, the Magna Carta

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people power and the power of civil disobedience is part of a group of briefing documents on citizens and their relationship to the state.
people power and the power of civil disobedience authoritarianism and liberty
corporate corruption citizens wage

people power can work
how to do it
on the growth of freedom by civil action

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Government cannot control its population when that population, or an assertive part of it, refuse to submit to their government’s repressive and over-controlling measures. This briefing document illustrates various independent, civil actions taken by populations, actions that often result in the government being overthrown and changed.

people power can work [Xavier]

happy new year, ukraine - welcome to the free world!
[originally written and published on 31 December 2004]

31.12.2004 19.40 UT

“It appeared his resignation was effective immediately.” [Quoted from the Selma Times-Journal]

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Ukraine’s reversal of fraudulent elections is not the only example of how a discontented population can change a country’s destiny. Some recent examples:

country when removed from power catalyst in days
Ukraine 21 November 2004 - 31 December 2004 Viktor Yanukovych Blatantly fraudulent presidential elections

[Orange revolution]
Georgia 2003 Eduard Shevardnadze Government corruption and ballot rigging, disputed election result. [Pink revolution] 2
Serbia 2000 Slobodan Milosevic Refusal to resign after losing presidential election 1 - 2
Romania 1989
16/12 - 25/12
Nicholae Ceausescu Antigovernment violence broke out in Timisoara and spread to other cities, later joined by army units. 9
Philippines 2 2001 Joseph Estrada Collapse of impeachment proceedings against Estrada. 4
Philippines 1 1986 Ferdinand Marcos Refusal to resign after losing presidential election. 3


20/5 - 3/6

Communist regime -


In the spring of 1989, an estimated one million students, workers and others staged weeks of protests in Tiananmen Square. By early June, some of the protesters felt emboldened by the presence of the the world's media and believed Xiaoping and his cronies would back down rather than commit any atrocities with the everyone watching.” 13


7/10 - 9/11

the Berlin Wall East Germany opened its side of the Berlin Wall allowing its citizens to travel freely to the West for the first time in decades since the early 1960s. Germans begin tearing down the wall later that day. 1 - 2

[Note that determining how many days each uprising took to have effect is pretty subjective, dependant on which particulry start event is chosen.]

Other examples could include the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, the ousting of Pinochet in Chile, the movement led by Martin Luther King, Ghandi’s non-violence movement in India, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

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“The "people power" revolution in the Philippines, the coalition that ousted Pinochet in Chile, South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, and civilian movements that felled communist regimes in Poland and Eastern Europe all had common strategic features. They were deliberately nonviolent, proudly indigenous, unified on the basis of practical goals, and dispersed across the map and class lines of the country - and they co-opted the military. [...]

“Successful civilian-based struggle makes a country ungovernable through strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, and other nonviolent tactics - in addition to mass protests - crumbling a government's pillars of support.” [Quoted from link below.]

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How to do it, using the example of Serbia:

“[The] opposition moved to divide the regime from its sources of power.

  1. [...] they subordinated lesser objectives to the paramount goal of ousting Mr. Milosevic.
  2. [...] the Serbs ignored the temptation of going for broke with premature demonstrations in the capital and instead organized in neighborhoods and towns around the country, giving ordinary people low-risk ways to join in.
  3. [...] the Serbian police and military were persuaded that they weren't seen as the enemy - that their support was welcome. To do that, the opposition had to maintain strict nonviolent discipline.”

related material
more from the ukraine: second round vote cancelled and other updates
more from the ukraine: yushenko poisoned
another lot fight for freedom - ukraine

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on the growth of freedom by civil action Five GoldenYak (tm) award
[10 May 2006]

56-page .pdf report from Freedom House - useful source and background document.

“Growing international discourse about democratization is not a theoretical exercise. In the last three decades, dozens of corrupt, authoritarian, autocratic, one-party, and military regimes have fallen. As empires, multinational states, and colonial systems have receded, new states have emerged. Dictatorships collapse and new states and new democracies arise by a variety of means.

“As this study shows, far more often than is generally understood, the change agent is broad-based, nonviolent civic resistance - which employs tactics such as boycotts, mass protests, blockades, strikes, and civil disobedience to de-legitimate authoritarian rulers and erode their sources of support, including the loyalty of their armed defenders.”

“This study examines a large array of long-term data about political openings, transitions from authoritarianism, political rights, and civil liberties in order to better understand how key characteristics of the period prior to a transition correlate with the eventual outcome for freedom and democratic practice. The report looks at the pre-transition environment in 67 countries where transitions from authoritarianism occurred, and assesses and codes them according to three key characteristics: a) the sources of violence that were present prior to the political opening; b) the degree of civic (bottom-up) versus powerholder (top-down) influence on the process; and c) the strength and cohesion of a nonviolent civic coalition....The study then correlates these three transition characteristics with the degree of freedom that exists today, some years after the transition.”

The report indicates that non-violent resistance, civic education and civic coalitions are the better indicators of increasing freedom and expanding freedom most successfully. The report indicates that aid would be much more effective and cheaper in these areas but that these areas are often neglected.

With many related tables and individual country notes.

Five GoldenYaks because this is a workman-like job that needed doing. return to the index

For further reading: authoritarianism and liberty
corporate corruption citizens wage

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