The Yugoslav nonviolent revolution

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 99 – October 9, 2000

Originally published here.

 

Milosevic certainly did not even think the thought. The opposition had hoped for it but hardly foreseen it would happened just like that. Western leaders and commentators had predicted about everything else but this: that nonviolence by the many would sweep away the authoritarian power presided over and solidified by Slobodan Milosevic over 13 years.

It was a miracle unfolding, minute by minute, in front of our eyes. Unarmed citizens were stronger, finally, than Milosevic’ force.

They also achieved in about 24 hours what NATO violence could not achieve in 78 days. It’s yet another remarkable victory for non-violence. But do we see it like that?

 

  

The power of nonviolence

The Shah of Iran lost power mainly due to nonviolent struggle. The Marcos regime in the Philippines did too. Solidarnosc in Poland would not had won had it used violence. The Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia is yet another. The East-West bloc confrontation – the “hardest” conflict of modern times, imbued with nuclearism and militarism on both sides – dissolved, not in a nuclear war, as war statistics might have made us expect, but by the remarkable combination of nonviolent forces: the peace and women’s movements in the West and the dissident, human rights and church movements in the East and, of course, the towering figure of Michael Gorbachev who did what no other leader has dared, namely to work his way up to the top of a power system and then declare that it has to be thoroughly changed and that change has to begin here with ourselves, not with “the other.”

These fundamentally important events in contemporary history, like hundreds of smaller changes brought about by non-violence and civil disobedience around the world, have seldom been covered by the media or referred to in history books as victories of nonviolence the way military victories are seen as the result of violence. Nonviolent revolutions like that in Yugoslavia ought to be analyzed as a manifestation of alternative power, not just as a lucky chance.

On Sepember 25, 1999 I participated in the walking demonstrations against the government, arranged by the Alliance for Change in the streets of Belgrade. There were more than 10.000 people, one evening after the other. But it was not enough, it was not broad enough; at the time workers were not actively opposing the Milosevic regime. Opposition politicians were fighting each other while the people marched. But no one present could possibly miss the strength and the determination or the fearless, unrestrained hilarity. [Read more…]

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