To take on an authoritarian regime, your best bet is non-violent resistance. We know that. It has shown the best and more effective results in the last 100 years but if has to be carried out right. To succeed, NVR needs structure. It needs cadres with the right mindset and training.

In an ideal world, we would’ve spent the last six months training tens of thousands of MUD cadres around the country on these principles and these techniques instead of chasing the impossible recall dream. In the world we live in, this is a task we can delay no longer.

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Main Luther King Jr. explains that non-violent resistance has four phases: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action.

The first phase has been duly covered by all kinds of civil society institutions, NGOs and politicians, very much including Caracas Chronicles. Injustice is rife in Venezuela and perpetrated by the State: if you read this blog, you know. The second phase is negotiation. Can the oppressing party open channels to resolve the injustice? Again, the answer in the Venezuelan case is clear. It’s been proven over and over again, most recently with the deadly halt to the RR.

Self-purification is not easy. It requires committed activism. You have to put yourself through physical and mental training to resist violence.

The third stage is the one that concerns me the most. When you’re attack, your instinct is to fight back. To meet violence with violence. Non-violence resistance is specifically about not doing that. MLK Jr (and Gandhi before him) called the process of preparing for this self-purification. And that’s something that has to be learned…and taught.

Self-purification is not easy. It requires committed activism. You have to put yourself through physical and mental training to resist violence. You have to be prepared to go to jail. This isn’t some afterthought. This is the heart of the matter. NVR is a political tactic with a spiritual dimension — it’s no surprise that it’s most famous practitioners have often been religious leaders. One thing’s for sure: you can’t wing it.  

Only after completing all three of these stages does it make sense to take direct action.

Direct action doesn’t need to be massive. It should be in some instances but in many others small, agile protests are better. You need to plan the escape routes. Make sure that injustice is visible and documented. This is no game for old ladies, who, even if they’re deeply committed, can have patatús at any moment.

MUD’s leadership is top heavy with old-style politicos, people at home at El Alazán with a steak and a pinky-stirred-whiskey.

Now, is MUD really prepared for the berenjenal it’s getting itself into? Are MUD’s leaders, and opposition activists in general, cognizant of the scale of the challenge?

This is the thing that keeps me up at night.

MUD’s leadership is top heavy with old-style politicos, people at home at El Alazán with a steak and a pinky-stirred-whiskey. People who understand their profession as centered on negotiating in back-rooms, making speeches at the National Assembly and organizing elections campaigns. That’s good and vital work…but it’s not this.

Seriously, have you seen Simon Calzadilla give a speech? Enrique Márquez? Omar Barboza? These are the guys who are going to lead our non-violent resistance? Really?!

The 2014 protests showed more than just the lengths at which the government is willing to go to repress us, but on how unprepared we were as activists to rise to the occasion.

If we go to Miraflores, what are people imagining they’ll be greeted with? What do they imagine will happen if they reach their destination? Are they ready to be subjected to physical violence and respond non-violently?

The reception Chúo Torrealba has received for even daring to suggest negotiation is a sign that we’re not really prepared. The ultimate goal of non-violence is to strike a deal with the oppressor and erase injustice. Here’s MLKJr. from his Birmingham jail:

You may well ask, “Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of the nonviolent resister. This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

The struggle might be just beginning. The preparations are late. 

35 COMMENTS

  1. Non-violence also assumes that given enough pressure the oppressor will blink and negotiate. History has shown that not all regimes are like that. I find it plausible that Venezuela is less like USA or UK back in 1950s and 60s, and more like North Korea.

  2. Great article, share most of its sentiments. On the whole, what you write needed to be said.

    However, I don’t see why you claim: “This is no game for old ladies, who, even if they’re deeply committed, can have patatús at any moment.” If I abstract myself from it, I think I understand where you are coming from. Still, on its face, this sentence is not just historically inaccurate, but also alienating if not insulting. Don’t the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo deserve some credit? How about the Damas de Blanco? Come to think of it, I don’t think I can think of any comparable old-gentlemen social movement equivalent anywhere in the world, and yet the attack is levelled against patatu-prone abuelitas.

    Tsk, tsk…

    • Ideally not a single video will surface showing an opposition marcher using force, because even if it’s in retaliation of a blow just given, that blow will be edited out.

      How many videos have been shown by Chavez TV of protestors throwing rocks standing right next to police forces? I’ve not seen a single one and we never will.

    • There’ll be some protest in which there will be a space for that. Either some senior only or just your typical rally.

      But for a lot of these protests, the truly symbolic ones, we will need people with top physical and mental conditions.

  3. I think the pearl clutching is a bit over the top, really, RodLin…

    Every NVR movement has been led by a handful of people who were highly trained and committed together with tons of followers who were neither. Every NVR movement has had its excesses precisely because of that — dealing with those excesses is what NVR leadership is about. Gandhi had to keep calling hunger strikes not against the British but against the Congress Party’s own loquitos, remember?

    And we do have a cadre of party leaders who are trained in NVR tactics — all those 2007 student movement kids who now run swathes of PJ and VP went to their OTPOR trainings and read their Mandela books. They know this playbook, even if the followers don’t. Then, the followers never do.

    What you really need for NVR to work is a cadre of well prepared leaders and…to have no weapons. We’re NVR by default: we have no weapons, they do. La oposición va a terminar haciendo resistencia no-violenta por default…

    • I think the issue is more in tune with the spiritual side of things rather than the tactical one. It’s not the facts and actions, it’s the message.

      Do a survey today and ask if people really think these guys will step down without violence involved against them, and you will get the same alarming results as always. Everyone has been waiting for the peo to blow since forever, “esto no se resuelve sin sangre”. Sure, the words are there, “esta es una manifestación no violenta, los violentos son ellos” but look deep down into the opposition’s heart and the message, the conviction is not there AT THIS PRECISE MOMENT (at least not collectively). I think that was the point of the post. Out Step 3 is severely lacking. Has been since this whole thing started.

      Don’t kid yourself Quico. The kids may know the tactics and read their books, but neither Mandela nor Gandhi is among them, or at least they haven’t spoken up about NVR with the same tone and conviction. We need that faith to actually get into people’s minds, that yes, nonviolent resistance is the answer and that yes, it will work eventually.

      • Mandela, Ghandi and MLK were human beings with plenty of faults. Mandela participated in the bombing of infrastructure. Don’t think it directly harmed anyone but hardly nonviolent. When we create such an elevated mythical aura around these men we underestimate and undermine our own efforts and capabilities. I see so many heros in Venezuela already.

  4. Bien. El hecho de que no se vea tan evidente, no quiere decir que aquí no se esté practicando la resistencia no violenta. Si no, creo que ya estuviésemos más avanzados en este estadio de deterioro social.
    Hay ciudadanos sencillos, sin pretensiones de nada que están ahí, resistiendo y enseñando con su ejemplo a los suyos y a los de más allá a resistir igual Que no son una ‘fuerza política’? Estaría por verse, pues solo cuando se verifican las acciones es que se cuentan las historias.

  5. “It should be in some instances but in many others small, agile protests are better. You need to plan the escape routes. Make sure that injustice is visible and documented”

    You just defined the guarimbas, which are the most reviled and hated tactic EVER in venezuelan recent history.

      • It’s also noticeable the absolute LACK of ANY strategy oriented to the self defense of the people protesting.

        One of the things that the DRT doesn’t know (or doesn’t want) to explain is that people must be prepared for chavista violence, because they’ve shown since april 11 that they’re more than willing to do ANYTHING to keep people down, and I use april 11 because that’s the date that showed the worst face of chavismo, that they are a blood-thirsty dictatorship full of butchers capable of murdering hundreds so the rest shut up.

        And honestly there are only two ways to deal with chavista violence: Either the people flees from the scene, or they fight back.

        Yes, the mere mention of the idea will trigger the kneejerk reactions of “then you go so you alone get killed!” and blahblahblah, my point is, that there hasn’t even a single mention of a stategy to even try to keep people safe from chavista retaliation, and we’ve seen it hundreds of times, all the outrageous cases where people is cornered and in the best of cases they are beaten within an inch of their lives, or in the worst cases straight up murdered.

        The DRT has always acted in the protests under the stupid fallacy that “If we go peacefully they won’t dare to do anything against us, pinky swear!” And then time and again we see the same results, dozens wounded, hundreds arrested, some murdered, and the regime blaming everything on the opposition, because the SRT’s strategy to protests seems to be “walk with the white-painted hands, because they are guarantee that the chavista thugs will have a change of heart this time.”

        Some people are sick of the DRT’s methods because they rarely differ from “Hit their batons and soles with your face until they get bored”, the DRT MUST present or develop a credible and plausible strategy to retreat when the bullets start raining, not just screech “Those who stay are infiltrates!” or worse, the whole stupid and useless “We condemn this violence!” statements.

        And this is all steering clear of any semblance of the “fight back” option, because that one should have been used as back as 2002, beginning with lynching the Llaguno murderers and tossing them from the bridge, so chavistas would have learned that they weren’t dealing with just sitting ducks or mobile hay targets, as they’ve used to do until today.

  6. the tricky part is the dialog, you have to give something and get something from it, I could probably agree with a deal that allows Maduro to finish his term in exchange for tsj magistrates, cne neutrality and the restitution of a reasonable legal economic framework, i.e.: expropiation reversion or money printing machine slowdown. What makes me completely eskeptic of the current dialog attempt is that it has evindent time consuming street-cooling intentions and that the goverment has shown no sign that it’s willing to give up anything because it is far from cornered and has no scruples whatsoever

  7. Very good article. NVR works better mostly against real democracies with rule of mostly-impartial law, none of which is present in Venezuela. The Regime is waging a war of attrition against the mostly better-educated/more middle class activists, and gambling on the submission of the large 80% D-E socio-economic til-now submitted masses. The latter are bought/coerced/threatened into submission, but, the money to do so is running progressively out. The Ven. military, I believe, does not want (large?) bloodshed on their hands, which is very possible/likely with a NVR march to Miraflores; ergo, today’s Oppo-Regime “negotiations” will be key to Venezuela’s near-term future (as the Friday “huelga general” was not–score 1 more for attrition).

  8. Rodrigo, good post.
    Someone here mentions the kids from 2007…who basically have no role because the ones doing the talking are the old dinosaurs and the old PJ group with rhetorical skills close to zero.

    Apart from planning the opposition really needs to build its own identity.

    I keep hearing incredibly simplistic slogans of “we will do our Velvet Revolution”, “we will do what the Otpor movements did in Eastern Europe. Those who talk like that don’t even stop to think which groups actually succeeded and which didn’t and why.

    We keep trying to be others and we keep forgetting to study our special realities.

    We keep being INCREDIBLY PREDICTABLE for Chavistas.

    Actually: movements that really succeeded had a clear, autonomous form and yet when it came to actios they had a lot of surprises for the oppressive regimes.
    We seem to be too keen on being just a copy of what we have heard from others and when it comes to actions…well, everybody seems to know what we will do but we do not seem to be prepared for what they others have for us.

  9. So, abuelitos don’t get patatús? Is this just for the big strong machos to take care of? Really?

    What La Salida, the new country needs is less sexism, not more…

  10. As long as the venezuelans keep dreaming of a coup that may never happen, NVR are dommed to fail.
    The first step will be for leaders to publicly admit they can never win. They havent done that.
    They should openly call chavistas what they are, malandros, and the military what they are, drug dealers. They need to admit no one will save us, and then the people would had to get ready to be killed. They need to know they will be kille, because drugdelares and assasins arent big on human rights.
    Even here in CC it keeps moving back and forth with ” they have the guns” and ” the GN are hungry too”. Be honest at least: we are heading for a genocide.

  11. “So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation”, “Guarimbas are blockades or sit downs. They do have a place in NVR” ….. Amigo linares, te recuerdo que los regimenes tiranicos como el de los castro tambien aprenden de la NVR. Y en los 17 años de tirania q nos destruye, solo la guarimba de 2014 y la anterior, pusieron al regimen de rodillas con el lamentable saldo de muertes q se produce solo cuando no se cumple la regla de oro de la NVR de no confrontar. A que otra forma de crear una “Situacion de crisis” te refieres????

    • Optor!’s approach could be one. One of mockery. But also just being annoying. Destroying symbols. (like those Eyes in the Calvario Steps). Claiming el Lander en el Parque del Este with a flag of the movement.

      Find where you can really become an obstacle to the government (not to your fellow citizens).

      Provoke disobedience from PNB and GNB. Being smart.

    • “pusieron al regimen de rodillas” hazme el favor, chico. ¿En qué novela estabas viviendo tú? La dictadura esta ganó más y más argumentos con las guarimbas, señalando a la oposición y sus seguidores de “violentos” y tuvo una excusa para meter presos a sus líderes. Fue una protesta visceral y sin foco, y te lo digo porque yo bastante que estuve por allá.
      ¿Cómo es que trancar Chacao y zonas que ya ganó la oposición pone al régimen de rodillas? ¿Qué ganamos con protestar por los jóvenes presos para que pusieran presos a más jóvenes? Y luego dejamos solo a esos presos políticos. No sabes de lo que estás hablando.

      • Metieron presa a un coñazo de gente precisamente por lo que le dije a Linares en una respuesta en este mismo tema, NUNCA ha habido una estrategia a seguir para cuando lleguen los aberrados rojos a hacer de las suyas, en el momento en que aparece el primer malandro, las guarimbas, las protestas y hasta las bailoterapias se convierten en un “sálvese el que pueda”, donde todo el mundo corre como gallinas descabezadas para que o les metan un tiro, los muelan a coñazos o se los lleven presos.

        Es una especie de tabú decirle a la gente que sí, que están arriesgando sus vidas en este peo, porque supuestamente eso disuadiría a la gente de ir a protestar, ¿Y entonces qué quieren, que se cumpla la ridiculez de que a los choros les va a dar pena que los graben?

        Tú dices que las guarimbas le “dieron argumentos al régimen”, hijo, BÁJESE DE ESA NUBE, y deje de usar eso de excusa para no protestar, la dictadura va a usar LO QUE SEA PARA CULPAR Y JODER A LA OPOSICIÓN, SIN IMPORTAR LO QUE NOSOTROS HAGAMOS, ELLOS NOS ACUSARÁN DE VIOLENTOS PARA ARRIBA, si hasta acusaron a Lilian Tintori de que estaba “metiendo medicinas VENCIDAS de forma violenta” cuando hubo aquel peo de la donación, y han metido presa a cantidad enorme de gente que de vaina y se atrevió a decir pío contra esta basura.

        Fué una protesta sin foco, sí, y eso fué precisamente lo que la jodió, los diálogos burundangueros esos inútiles de porquería.

  12. No se puede practicar la lucha no violenta e ir al diálogo, son acciones mutuamente excluyentes. Ir al diálogo significa aceptar tácitamente que tú eres un agente violento La oposición no puede hacer nada para evitar la violencia que otros factores podrían generar; ni siquiera le conviene hablar de eso porque iría en contra de la narrativa de su lucha. Nosotros tenemos que hacer lo nuestro y la dictadura lo suyo, eso es todo. Ni siquiera veo objetivamente qué demonios se puede negociar. ¡La idea de que se pueden negociar los derechos con una dictadura es algo tan estúpido que ni siquiera puedo concebirlo; no soy suficientemente estúpido para siquiera pensar que es posible tal cosa! ¡Pensar que se rompió el hilo constitucional y que va a ser el mismo dictador quien lo va a restaurar! ¿De verdad? No sean estúpidos, están en un bucle perpetuo de sufrimiento y estupidez por no querer aceptar lo evidente. No hay nada que negociar, no porque negociar sea algo malo o indeseable en sí mismo sino porque literalmente no hay absolutamente nada que negociar, no es posible lógicamente. El compilador les va a dar error un millón de veces y el programa nunca va a correr. En determinadas circunstancias, hay cosas que se pueden negociar, pero no estamos en esas circunstancias pues estamos hablando de derechos fundamentales, no de cuotas de poder, plata o territorios. Si no eres capaz de ejercer violencia, porque no tienes armas, ni entrenamiento, ni el deseo de hacerlo entonces, justamente, lo último que te conviene es ir a dialogar en nombre de la paz porque así sólo te garantizas que nunca vas a ganarte nada. ¿Es una idea muy difícil de entender? No van a recuperar sus derechos a través de la obediencia hacia quien los oprime. El opresor no va a ceder porque no tiene ninguna razón para hacerlo. No puedes en recuperar el derecho de ir a Miraflores si no vas a Miraflores, ni puedes recuperar el derecho de votar una elección democrática a través de una conversación en una mesa con la misma persona que te lo negó. Eso es todo menos una lucha no violenta. Lo que la oposición quiere sólo lo puede lograr a través de acciones de desobediencia muy concretas y éstas van a ir siempre en contra de la idea misma del diálogo, que las deslegitima. Lo último que nos conviene desde todo punto de vista es el diálogo. Miren, a estas alturas, tenemos que pensar fríamente y entender las cosas con claridad. Si la MUD aceptó ir al diálogo es porque no va a ejercer nunca el camino de la lucha no violenta y porque es abiertamente colaboracionista. Es un colaboracionismo muy triste, porque creo que en algunos casos es hasta inconsciente. La persona no se da cuenta de la cagada que está poniendo.
    Algunos dirán que es mejor no hacer nada porque “si vamos a Miraflores va a ocurrir una masacre”. Primero, eso es pura especulación , pero más allá de eso, usted tiene que entender que en una dictadura su vida ya de por sí no vale nada, usted se puede morir en cualquier momento si al régimen le da la gana. Hay personas que creen que no hemos llegado a ese nivel todavía, pero la verdad es que llegamos hace tiempo.

    El otro día vi una entrevista que le hizo Jerry Seinfeld a Barack Obama. Jerry Seinfeld le pregunta si la política es como el ajedrez. Obama le respondió que no, que era como el football, porque tienes que esforzarte mucho para conseguir un espacio mínimo, una oportunidad, y cuando lo encuentras, tienes que atacarlo con todo.

    Reflexionen.

  13. Good article. It expresses very well what the NVR is all about and what is needed to practice it. I’ve been studying it for almost seven or eight years both in the books and on the field, and I can’t agree more with Rodrigo in the need for preparations, strategic planning and well trained activist. I feel we are not yet prepared, even having all the time of the world from 2014 to the date to have done that. I feel people in the MUD haven’t read a single book about NVR, despite the fact there is a huge amount of material in the web. The only thing I can’t agree is to say that NVR’s only goal is to force dictatorships or opressive systems to dialog. I guess Martin Luther King is right on his apreciation on the need for a dialog on that particular case, but out of context on the real domain of scholar NVR. Haven’t you read the Gene Sharp’s (real guru and true scholar of NVR) classic “From Dictatorship to Democracy”, where he clearly warns about negotiations with tyrants? NVR main goal is to disintegrate a dictatorship through the tenacious notch of the power pilllars, which have to be identified previously, during the preparation phase. Maybe dialog is not really bad in many political stages, but in NVR it is totally accessory to the main goal, and maybe it’s not a good idea at a given time. Best regards.

  14. Como los rusos también juegan, y leen, es bueno darse una pasada por el libro de Will Dobson “The Dictator’s Learning Curve”. RL das en el clavo con la preparación, aunque parece que aquí las únicas luchas no violentas pareciera que las vimos por netflix donde el conflicto mas largo se resuelve en 120 minutos. Y claro cualquier táctica no violenta debe adaptarse al contexto. Lo que funciona en la Ucrania puede que no funcione aquí.

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