01/12/2020 08:04 – Updated: 01/12/2020 22:42
pro-independence movement has developed commandments on the ‘nonviolent struggle’
to confront Spain. It is a compendium of standards drawn from various studies.
Do not forget that the Catalan ‘procés’ drank from the
theories of Gene Sharp, whose methods inspired some of the most important social movements of
recent decades, such as the Arab spring. In 2019, the pro-independence groups ‘discovered’
the Engler brothers, authors of the ‘Manual of civil disobedience’, translated last
September to Catalan.
One of its authors, Paul Engler, was invited at the end of November to Catalonia, met with Quim Torra at the Palau de la Generalitat, was the star protagonist of several political acts and was conveniently interviewd on TV3 and Catalunya Ràdio, the media of public communication of Catalonia. Torra himself asked the Catalans to listen carefully, since he advised that “if the Catalans want to win, you have to polarize much more, scale up much more, and accept high levels of sacrifice”. That is, radicalize the protests.
writer Paul Engler (c) with Elisenda Paluzie (r). (EFE)
put openly that Engler is harshly criticized by some sectors (including pro-independence
leaders) for falsifying historical reality to adapt it to his interests,
although that does not matter for the great mass of pro-independence Catalans,
who see in his work the new bedside book for use against Spain.
commandments that have been distributed to pro-sovereignty activists since last
January 7 is a compendium of the theories not only of Sharp and Engler, but of
other authors such as Erica Chenoweth (American political scientist and
professor at Wesleyan University) and María J. Stephan (Director of Educational
Initiatives of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict). It is titled
“Effectiveness of ‘nonviolent’ fighting campaigns”.
It indicates that the campaign for the independence of Catalonia can be long and last more than a decade. And it emphasizes that the movement (referring to civil disobedience in general, but also to the ‘procés’, since among the pro-independence followers this stage is known as the ‘Movement’) must have a clear leadership and a unitary strategy. “Some experts point out that it is the organization and structure of the movement that determines the viability of the resistance”, it emphasizes in one of its points. It also encourages continued police charges because it weakens the image of power. That is, of Spain.
The benefits of ‘repression’
“When the State applies violence, imprisonment or murder against demonstrations of unarmed people, in the long run the movement can achieve success as long as it is in the form of a large and well-coordinated campaign. When the movement has a shared objective with leadership and internal norms. Of course, it has a greater capacity to maintain the ‘nonviolent’ resistance despite the continuous repression; although a very sophisticated repression can neutralize the resistant ‘nonviolent’, repression against unarmed protesters usually has a counterproductive effect, since it generates moral outrage and increases social participation, repression gains support from third parties and can lead to defections by security forces”. Hence the theory that the actions of law enforcement on October 1, 2017 and the attitude of the then President of the Government, Mariano Rajoy, were the best incentives to convert indifferent Catalans into convinced and pro-independence assets.
related to independence movements maintain that non-violent methods “have
a greater potential to promote mass participation”
text warns that ‘nonviolent’ fighting campaigns “are twice as successful
as violent campaigns”. A report that studies all the campaigns of the last
100 years concludes that from 1900 to 2015, 51% of the ‘nonviolent’ campaigns
were successful compared to only 27% of the violent ones. And if we stick to
the last years, between 2010 and 2015, 30% of the ‘nonviolent’ campaigns were
successful against only 12% of the violent ones.
This leads to reflect on the decrease in the proportion of success in recent years. And that is for two reasons: “First, adversaries in power learn and adapt; and second, ‘nonviolent’ activists learn incorrect lessons from upcoming scenarios”. The theories embraced by the Catalan independence movement thus maintain that non-violent methods “have a greater potential to promote mass and transversal participation of the population compared to armed conflicts. The movements of ‘nonviolent’ struggle attract on average 11 times more participants than the armed uprisings In fact, all movements of ‘nonviolent’ struggle with a sustained participation of at least 3.5% of the population have gone well (3.5% of 7.5 million are 262,500 Catalans)”.
theory, which is what the Engler brothers wanted to apply in the United States
to make Wall
Street stagger or to change the Mortgage Law, however, has been
a failure so far, so the permanent mobilization of Catalan pro-independence sectors
will also have to assume the risks of failure with that maxim of permanent
mobilization. In other words: much mobilization will not bring independence
The fact that the pro-independence parties, social organizations and most extremist platforms call the protest ‘nonviolent’ is due to pure strategy. “Self-participation in ‘nonviolent’ struggles seizes people, draws support from hard-line supporters, attracts various segments of society and makes it possible for security and repressive forces to change loyalty”, say the commandments. And they add: “The effectiveness of the ‘nonviolent’ struggle comes not so much from the potential for conversions it causes among adversaries, but from the creative and coercive potential and also from the attraction of the undecided and third parties”.
The violent flank
warns that campaigns based on nonviolence are not all successful or short,
since they can last more than a decade. And they explain: “The repression
defies all dissenting movements, but it does not necessarily determine whether
or not the choice of resistance is violent or the end result”.
text emphasizes the benefits of ‘nonviolent’ campaigns against other
alternatives, such as military actions
The commandments dedicate one of the points to one of the phenomena that has occurred with unusual force in Catalonia: the appearance of violent groups. “Violent flanks in ‘nonviolent’ campaigns (sometimes defended as ‘diversity of tactics’) cause disadvantages for ‘nonviolent’ transverse and massive movements: the violent flank can achieve some milestone in the short term, but in the long term it reduces participation and growing, it reduces the support of third parties and does not promote the change of loyalty of the repressive forces”. The text adds that this violence “is used by the power to justify a greater repression. The violent flanks do not help the success of the ‘nonviolent’ campaigns (…). The power uses it to get the focus of public attention of the cause that is denounce and put it into violent acts”.
The text emphasizes the benefits of ‘nonviolent’ campaigns against other alternatives, such as military actions. “The massive ‘nonviolent’ actions involve a series of coordinated and disturbing actions against the established power and can happen to you almost anywhere and for any reason, they are unpredictable. Some of the reasons could be: that popular movements are very circumstantial and they escape predictive tools or that ‘nonviolent’ uprisings often overcome adverse circumstances in such creative ways that defy expectations”. Hence the emergence of initiatives as ‘groundbreaking’ as the ‘performances’ of the ANC and Òmnium Cultural or the almost improvised acts of Tsunami Democràtic, so difficult to control even for their own organizers but that have a great impact on public opinion.