(London and New York: Routledge, 2015, 241pp.)
This book in the rich Routledge collection of Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution is dedicated to the memory of Howard Clark, long active in War Resisters and Peace News but also interested in more academic research on nonviolence. It is this research through case studies that is the aim of this useful book.
The current armed conflict in Syria is an example of how what started out as nonviolent protests for a more open and democratic society has been transformed into a violent confrontation among the government and armed groups and increasingly foreign forces and governments. Fewer cases come to mind of the reverse pattern: armed conflicts being transformed into nonviolent protest movements. What is one to do if the original armed violence does not produce the expected or desired results? Can groups move from armed violence to advance their aims by other techniques? Should one modify one's aims if armed violence is blocked by one's opponents?
These are the basic questions developed in this analysis of armed violence in nine case studies. As the editor Véronique Dudouet writes The original intent behind this book project was to focus the inquiry on organized and cohesive armed groups which had made a decisive strategic shift from armed to unarmed resistance, directed from the top leadership and followed by members down the chain of command. However, while searching for empirical evidence in the 'real world', it became obvious that few groups (if any) would neatly fit this model. Most of the actors examined in this book did have clear-cut boundaries, clear hierarchies and decision-making systems, but the shifts in methods were usually undertaken in a much more decentralized manner.
The nine case studies are grouped
into three types of demilitarisation trajectories:
The case study on the Nepali Maoists presents its leaders as opportunists who adapted their discourse and ideology to the interests of potential followers and to maximise their political power. Initially, their main demands focused on the grievances expressed by marginalised communities as a way to gain their attention and support. Later, the Maoist ideology was replaced by a readiness to embrace multi-party democracy, both for the movement to survive and to facilitate alliance-building with the mainstream parties. Yet a stable system of government rooted in a constitution has not yet been found in Nepal.
As Dudouet points out If recent research has demonstrated the comparative effectiveness of civil resistance over armed struggle, there is still a hugh knowledge gap in understanding the various motivations of opposition groups for opting for one or the other, and especially for transitioning from the latter to the former. This book aimed to contribute to filling this gap and its findings reveal a complex web of personal and collective interactions within armed groups, with social movements, with state agents and with international supporters or potential allies...Leaders should be encouraged to revise their frames of struggle and to expand their 'toolbox' of tactics by introducing them and their close advisers to successful examples of transition to unarmed resistance from relevant (i.e. similar cultural or geopolitical) contexts, which they may seek to emulate. There are many possible ways of supporting cross-border learning between activists and movements nationally and internationally, from circulating written material to diffusing information technology and providing safe venues for exchanging peer-advice, skills, experiences and information about effective nonviolent action.
Véronique Dudouet at the end of the book outlines the needs for further analysis This book has only scratched the surface in terms of exploring the multi-level drives of change influencing behavioural shifts from armed to unarmed means of collective contentious action. It is hoped that it will encourage scholars, practitioners and trainers in security, conflict resolution, social movements, nonviolence and social psychology to collaborate more closely to uncover the full spectrum of the dynamics and factors of conflict demilitarisation.