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The Time for Nonviolence Has Come

by C/O Diogenes Monday, Jul. 14, 2003 at 6:29 PM

As Robert Muller has said, there is not one superpower in the world today, but two: the militarized United States on the one hand, and the millions of ordinary people, including many Americans, who yearn to devote their energies to a humane future. Which will win?

The Time for Nonviolence Has Come

As Robert Muller has said, there is not one superpower in the world today, but two: the militarized United States on the one hand, and the millions of ordinary people, including many Americans, who yearn to devote their energies to a humane future. Which will win?

by Michael N. Nagler

07/13/03: Anyone who has seen Bowling for Columbine will recall the scene when Michael Moore is interviewing James Nichols, whose younger brother is in prison as an accomplice in the Oklahoma City bombing. As Nichols raves on about the need to overthrow the government with force, Moore suddenly interjects, “What about Gandhi?”

Stunned to silence, Nichols hears Moore say, “He threw out the British without firing a shot.” After a long pause, Nichols quietly answers, “I’m not familiar with that.” When I saw Bowling for Columbine in Berkeley, the whole audience gasped.

 When I am asked, as I often am, “Can non-violence possibly work in times like these?” my answer is, “Can anything else?”

It is not that I am unaware of the problem. I know what right-wing radio talk-show hosts are doing to the minds of millions of people, how corporate forces are dehumanizing an entire civilization—and how this dehumanization is making itself felt in the streets of Baghdad and Gaza. Nor am I making a prediction; I have no idea how things will turn out. But I am optimistic about what could be, because I am aware of the yet-to-be-unleashed power in the human individual—the power of nonviolence—and because I am aware of how that power has been growing.

 Jonathan Schell recently wrote that, despite a lot of noise to the contrary, the latter half of the 20th century saw brute force become increasingly futile and the power of the human will correspondingly more significant. This seems to me entirely correct. Despite, or in part because of, the appalling rise of violence, we are now experiencing the third wave of global nonviolence to uplift the modern world.

The first wave consisted of the struggles of Mahatma Gandhi, whose movement brought down a corrupt and outmoded imperial system, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose struggle uprooted an equally outmoded ideology of racialism.

The second wave was a rash of insurrectionary movements around the world, among them the defeat of dictator Pinochet in Chile, the “People Power” revolution in the Philippines, and the first Palestinian ‘intifada’ (shaking-off),which, while the follow-up has been thwarted, did lead to the Oslo peace accords. Various other ‘intifadas’ shrugged the Soviet mantle off Eastern Europe. While not all of these uprisings were nonviolent, many were, including in Poland, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia, whose 1968 “Prague Spring” uprising thwarted a Warsaw Pact repression for eight glorious months; the country later freed itself in a “Velvet Revolution.”

There were similarly popular and nonviolent uprisings elsewhere, along with less ambitious movements: The peasant-led struggle around Larzac, France, in the 1970s, thwarted government plans to enlarge an army base at the expense of grazing and farmland; European anti-nuclearism made the Green Party a force to reckon with, at least in Germany; and the Landless Rural Worker’s Movement has provided over a million Brazilians with land and new forms of self-sustaining community.

 In all these varied movements, oppressed people discovered they could organize resistance against a seemingly invincible regime, delegitimate it in the eyes of the public, and precipitate its downfall. While some of these movements were violent—sometimes brutally so—as Schell said, the key to their victories against overwhelming military force was the commitment of a community’s will. A discovery had been made: physical force could be overpowered by will.

At the same time, will needs intelligence and strategy. Some of these movements began developing an art whose importance cannot be overstated: nonviolence training. As Gandhi said, the training for a satyagrahi, or nonviolent activist, has to be more rigorous than the training for a conventional soldier. Civil Rights activists in the 1960s used “hassle lines” and role playing to evoke and then control the anger and fear they would face on the marches, picket lines and sit-ins. Like soldiers learning to stay cool in combat by having guns trained on them, nonviolence trainees learn to stay cool while emotions are trained on them, and how to avoid triggering one’s opponents’ rage. Groups like Global Exchange and the Ruckus Society began to use this training in preparation for the Seattle anti-WTO demonstrations in 1999, and harnessed the loose-knit, democratic “affinity group” structure, which first arose, appropriately, in the early struggles against fascism in Spain and was developed further in U.S. anti-nuclear campaigns.

We are now in the third wave of nonviolence, consisting of the world-wide movement against corporate globalization and, of course, the global anti-war movement that has sprung up with astonishing speed and effectiveness to meet the equally astonishing new arrogance of the U.S. government.

 What marks this third wave is that it is self-consciously global and, while the movement may not yet have fully articulated a positive vision, the millions who turned out to oppose war were aware that they possessed a differen kind of force from that of the world’s military powers. This dawning awareness that there is another kind of force strengthens the tendency to nonviolence. That will become clearer, I think, as both the militarism and the resistance wear on, confronting the world with a stark choice.

Violence undermines itself.  When necessary, this is just what nonviolence does: It forces violence into the open, causing violent regimes to undergo the “paradox of repression,” increasing the naked force they must exert to maintain control until it is unacceptable—to the oppressed, to the community that must maintain the force, and to the watching world. The crushing to death of Rachel Corrie by an American-made bulldozer in Gaza last March might be forgotten in the focus on Iraq, but now two others from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Brian Avery and Tom Hurndall, have been shot. The very violence of the militarism that caused these crimes, especially in a time of global communications, will prove its undoing.

The power of nonviolence is insistently surfacing now, even where resistance movements seem to have lost sight of it. An image comes to mind from recent protests in San Francisco: tension was building along a street where a sprinkling of “black bloc” demonstrators were taunting the police, much to the dismay of the majority of protesters. At first no one noticed a Buddhist monk standing at the back of the crowd, but he slowly made his way forward (despite his own considerable fear, I learned later) and stood, a dramatic figure in yellow robes and shaved head, before each policeman in turn, smiling at him or her and bowing with folded hands. Even before he reached the Asian officer who involuntarily greeted him in turn, the tension had melted.

 At the heart of nonviolent action is the power of the individual, a model for revolution expressed in Mother Teresa’s Bengali formula, ek ek ek (‘one by one by one’). Yet I have just been describing the growth of institutions of nonviolence. What has been discovered is that organizations can be designed to draw forth the energy and creativity of the individual, rather than suppress them as cogs in the corporate machine. This is democracy in thedeepest sense.

 Among the structures that are building on the power of each individual is the Nonviolent Peaceforce (which I reported on in YES! Fall 2002), which plans an international army of nonviolence.

 The ISM, too, even as some of its members have died, has been demonstrating the power of moral courage and clear vision. Jennifer Kuiper, who was in Palestine with the ISM when the recent killings of internationals occurred, said,  “We aren’t simply fighting against violence but for an alternative vision of the world. A world that rejects weapons in favor of intellect and heart. If we can’t imagine it, how can we create it? If we don’t create it, how will we transform our dreams into substance? If not us, then whom?”

In a Native American story that has become current of late, a grandfather tells his grandson that two wolves are battling inside him; one ferocious and destructive, the other gentle and powerful. When the child anxiously asks, “Grandfather, which of them will win?” he replies, “Whichever one I feed.”

 Gandhi and King’s movements roused the hidden power of the downtrodden, leading to a wave of insurrections against specific regimes. Over time, awareness of this power has percolated through the globe, spreading exponentially faster as communications grew, until now we have reached a global awareness of nonviolence and of the interconnectedness of global problems that I’m calling the third wave. It presents us with a hope and a challenge. If the first two waves showed that communities united in will could overcome brute force, the third wave shows a tantalizing vision of what the whole world community, united in will, could achieve.

 As Robert Muller has said, there is not one superpower in the world today, but two: the militarized United States on the one hand, and the millions of ordinary people, including many Americans, who yearn to devote their energies to a humane future. Which will win? Militarism, with its thinly disguised imperial agenda, or the awakening power of human will and consciousness? Fear or love? If we feed the new awareness of nonviolent action, with its spiritual dimension, its focus on empowering individuals, its grassroots forms of organizing, and the knowledge that each of us possesses what Gandhi called “the greatest force humankind has been endowed with,” there is no question that it will be love. 

 Michael Nagler is professor emeritus of classics and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-founder of its Peace and Conflict Studies Program. He is the author of Is There No Other Way? The Search for a Nonviolent Future, which won a 2002 American Book Award. 
 

©2001-2003 Positive Futures Network

 


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"...as for me...

by Diogenes Monday, Jul. 14, 2003 at 6:31 PM

...give me liberty, or give me death." - Patrick Henry
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Active resistance

by lumumba Monday, Jul. 14, 2003 at 10:59 PM

I don´t think the model of non violence you are supporting is got much to say these days. It had its moment and it got some reforms going on but basically left the structural problems untouched. It has failed as much as straightforward violent struggle has.

I can see more interesting ways of approaching the struggle in the mixture of armed struggle, civil desobedience and active resistance of the zapatistas than in Gandhi or MLK.
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Nonviolent civil disobedience gets nothing done.

by Sansculotte Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 2:54 AM

There is only one way to slay this devil. Violently, by the sword.
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Resistance

by IMHO Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 3:18 AM

I think that whatever resistance to the system occurs should be along a three-fold or more approach. That is, dedicated members actively engaged in sabotage and liberation tactics such as property destruction, a second group dedicated to non-violent civil disobediance and mass arrest/prison solidarity, and a third much more 'public' group engaged in nonviolent protest and conversation/idea exchange. It is time to start thinking strategically about this as individuals and as small groups. Since we do not really have any leaders, an inherent strength compared with the vagaries and disconnects of the 60s, we should decide where we want to be individually and them find our unknown compatriots, for ma affinity groups, and topple this evil empire before it destroys our culture and our lives.
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revolution/evolution

by Smaug, eater of souls Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 4:53 AM

the rules of this game has already been drawn to deal with violence.
only idiots try to mass charge a line of firepower.
wake up newbes, this is about active communication. It's not sexy
and it takes persistence. Its impact is monumental and as noted here,
resulting in reactionary predictable response. We know their game if we observe them.
Their tactics are fixed.
Ours are fluid.
don't be a
chump..
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Please shut up, shill.

by Sansculotte Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:06 AM

The time for non-violent, direct action has passed. Only a shill would try to convince us to continue on such a futile effort. If you are not with us, you are against us, shill. Like Vlad the Impaler, we will have your bloody carcass on a pike, for all to see.
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Violence

by activist community Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:11 AM

The time for non-violent, direct action has LONG passed. It's time we begin killing and looting in order to get our way. This non-violence approach only worked for fools like Ghandi. Stab someone who disagrees with you TODAY!!!! The time to act is NOW!!!! Let's sit around and talk about it.
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^

by George W. Bush Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:17 AM

"It's time we begin killing and looting in order to get our way."

It worked for me!!!!
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^

by George McGovern Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:19 AM

It worked for me, too.
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You sarcastic merry andrew...

by Sansculotte Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:21 AM

You may think this is a joke, but I assure you, it is not. Thousands of innocent people have been murdered by your Killer-in-Chief, and you condone it. Any action we take to depose you and your ilk is thereby justified. Now why do you sit around and talk about that, clown.
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^

by anti-moron Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:23 AM

You are an idiot, you conservative troll, you. George McGovern never ordered the US military to invade and occupy a country which posed no immediate threat to us. Go buy yourself a brain, you imbecile.
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Talk

by activist community Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:24 AM

We HAVE been talking about it, and we will KEEP talking about it. Then, we're going to go out and hit the bong. Then we'll talk some more.
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^

by Ignatius Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:27 AM

You hit the bong, I'll hit my crack pipe. I'll then hit the ass of a ten year-old boy.
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Yes and No

by George McGovern Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:30 AM

No, I never ordered our military, but, Yes, I did kill and loot in order to get things I wanted. I am a liberal politician.
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^

by conservative Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:32 AM

Yes, I am BOTH a conservative troll AND an imbecile. I like to rewrite history to support my unfounded arguments.
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^

by anti-moron Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:35 AM

Re-writing history is my job. I am a liberal.
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^

by Ignatius Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:36 AM

Re-writing history is my job. I am a conservative.
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ZZZ

by ZZZZZ Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:39 AM

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ....................
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Yes

by conservative Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:40 AM

I already know how mentally lame I am. I'm a conservative.
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^

by liberal Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:52 AM

I wish that was my only problem. My whole world is falling apart. I'm a liberal.
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^

by conservative Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:54 AM

I live in my own little world, so I don't have that problem. I'm oblivious to reality. I'm a conservative.
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^

by Rush Limbaugh Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:56 AM

I'm on the radio right now talking to millions of people. Does that bother you?
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^

by conservative Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:03 AM

Why should it bother me? I let you do all of my thinking for me. I never miss your show.
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attn: liberals

by Rush Limbaugh Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:06 AM

I'm on the radio talking to millions of people right now. Does that bother you liberals?
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Rush

by anti-Rush Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:07 AM

Actually, you're on the internet right now making a fool out of yourself. Does that bother you?





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can I add something?

by Amt Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 10:04 AM

Rush, your constant presence on the airwaves made me who I am today. Thank you. Now may I also add that Al Franken's book is also
a guide post in getting to know you.
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Multi Dittos Rush

by Garaj Dohr Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 12:04 PM

Multi Dittos and welcome Rush!

Al Gore is simply letting the world know that there is considerable 'Rush Envy' on the left.

They've had their own hold on the media for years. Everyone knows that most major newspapers, all the major TV networks except Fox, most magazines like Time, The Nation, Salon, etc. are all left leading. That's because the Jews in NYC control the media and Jewish people consistently vote Democratic. That's why books like "Bias" and "Treason" are best sellers. People are sick and tired of a biased left leaning media.

That's why your show has become so popular Rush. That's why Bill O'Reilly sprinted past Larry King in the ratings. That's why Ann Coulter and Michelle Makin have become such big starts. It's a public backlash against the long time liberal controlled media.
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Al Franken

by <> Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 12:20 PM

Rush is a big fat idiot, BA.
http://www.salon.com/07/features/franken.html
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??????

by Garaj Dohr Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2003 at 7:42 AM

What color is the sky in the real world? In my world, it's green.
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Non-violence

by Sansculotte Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2003 at 7:52 AM

In a war of revolutionary character, guerrilla operations are a necessary part. This is particularly true in war waged for the emancipation of a people who inhabit a vast nation. Iraq is such a nation, a nation whose techniques are undeveloped and whose communications are poor. She finds herself confronted with strong and vicious American imperialism. Under these circumstances, the development of the type of guerrilla warfare characterized by the quality of mass is both necessary and natural. This warfare must be developed to an unprecedented degree and it must co-ordinate with the operations of their regular armies. If they fail to do this, they will find it difficult to defeat the enemy.

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No panties

by Eddie Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2003 at 7:58 AM

"Like Vlad the Impaler, we will have your bloody carcass on a pike, for all to see."

Those are fightin' words, especially coming from a tough guy not wearing his panties, Mr Sans Culotte.

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^

by Eddie Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2003 at 7:59 AM

I would just like to add that my favorite brand of panties are Hanes Her Way.
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Excerpt from The Mysterious Stranger

by Diogenes Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2003 at 8:09 AM

Victory of the Loud Little Handful

by Mark Twain

 
"The loud little handful - as usual - will shout for the war. The pulpit will - warily and cautiously - object... at first. The great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, "It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it."

Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded, but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the antiwar audiences will thin out and lose popularity.

Before long, you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men...

Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

Mark Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger" (1910
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Truth is no mystery.

by Sansculotte Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2003 at 8:39 AM

There is no reason to consider guerrilla warfare separately from national policy. On the contrary, it must be organized and conducted in complete accord with global anti-American policy. It is only who misinterpret guerrilla action who say "The question of guerrilla hostilities is purely a military matter and not a political one." Those who maintain this simple point of view have lost sight of the political goal and the political effects of guerrilla action. Such a simple point of view will cause the people to lose confidence and will result in their defeat.

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Mark Twain

by anti-nut Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2003 at 8:49 AM

"...and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

In addition to God, what other fairy tales do you believe in? Santa Clause? The Easter bunny? The Tooth Fairy? You're nuttier than a truckload of peanut brittle!!!!
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Notice the strident clamor...

by Diogenes Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2003 at 9:00 AM

...of the confirmed idiot.
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Logical Fallacy

by debate coach Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2003 at 9:30 AM

"Notice the strident clamor of the confirmed idiot."

Unsubstantiated Allegation

For more on this subject, see "Logic for Dummies."
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The time has come.

by Sansculotte Thursday, Jul. 17, 2003 at 3:06 AM

If, in today's struggle, we fail to apply the historical truths of revolutionary guerrilla war, we will fall into the error of believing that under the impact of America's mechanized army, 'the guerrilla unit has lost its historical function'. Jen Ch'i Shan writes: 'In olden days guerrilla warfare was part of regular strategy but there is almost no chance that it can be applied today.' These opinions are harmful. If we do not make an estimate of the characteristics peculiar to our anti-America guerrilla war, but insist on applying to it mechanical formulas derived from past history, we are making the mistake of placing our hostilities in the same category as all other national guerrilla struggles. If we hold this view, we will simply be beating our heads against a stone wall and we will be unable to profit from guerrilla hostilities.

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Sancloute

by eye Thursday, Jul. 17, 2003 at 4:30 AM

you are a revolutionary yes? You sound like a cointel pro spook.
try some different chum, chump.
Or come up with some ideas. You are posting cut and paste dogma, dog. Making threats. Being so stupid that you must be a cop or cop's
boy. Old stuff.
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Ideas?

by Sansculotte Thursday, Jul. 17, 2003 at 4:45 AM

In effect, the human being should be considered the priority objective in a political war. And conceived as the military TARGET of guerrilla war, the human being has his most critical point in his mind. Once his mind has been reached, the "political animal" has been defeated, without necessarily receiving bullets.

Guerrilla warfare is born and grows in the political environment; in the constant combat to dominate that area of political mentality that is inherent to all human beings and which collectively constitutes the "environment" in which guerrilla warfare moves, and which is where precisely its victory or failure is defined.
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yes a cop or cop's boy

by eye Thursday, Jul. 17, 2003 at 4:55 AM

still doing cut and paste. this is why we will win, popo head,
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Cop's boy. What? You don't agree?

by Sansculotte Thursday, Jul. 17, 2003 at 5:20 AM

In order to obtain the maximum results from the psychological operations in guerrilla warfare, every combatant should be as highly motivated to carry out propaganda face to face as he is as a combatant. This means that the individual political awareness of the guerrilla of the reason for his struggle will be as acute as his ability to fight.

Such a political awareness and motivation is obtained through the dynamic of groups and self-criticism, as a standard METHOD of instruction for the guerrilla training and operations. Group discussions raise the spirit and improve the unity of thought of the guerrilla squads and exercise social pressure on the weak members to carry out a better role in future training or in combative action. Self-criticism is in terms of one's contribution or defects in his contribution to the cause, to the movement, the struggle, etc.; and gives a positive individual commitment to the mission of the group.

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