January 30th, School Day of Nonviolence and Peace in Spain
Nonviolence and repression
The School Day of Nonviolence and Peace has been celebrated in Spain every January 30th since 1964. On this day, we celebrate the death of Gandhi, defender of peaceful struggle against injustice, whose nonviolent practices were followed in India by millions of people. Gandhi was the first to name nonviolence (ahimsa) as a way of life.
The peaceful actions of Gandhi were severely repressed, which did not however, impede finally accomplishing their objective. It is striking and ironic, that peaceful mobilizations today are also strongly repressed even while the international day of nonviolence is being celebrated. It is evident that in reality the governments of the nations do nothing to implement nonviolent measures in their own structures, holding to the privilege of using violence.
In our country new laws are reducing even more the possibility of citizen protest: the reform of the Penal Code, the Law of Citizen Security, the Law of Private Security and new municipal ordinances. These new laws comprise a series of regulations geared to weakening peaceful protests with fines between 1,000 and 600,000 Euros and imprisonment and expulsion. A sit-down in the street or in front of certain buildings, to set up a stall or tent, would be considered crimes. It is not violence that is penalized, rather it is the protest.
What sort of education are were transmitting to our children when on the one hand we present them with a history of nonviolence and, on the other hand, they see that on the streets peaceful actions are severely repressed? This sort of teaching is as unsustainable as it is incoherent.
Today, Women in Black of Madrid want to commemorate also the life and thought of Howard Clark, a companion who left us last November. He was president of the War Resisters' International (WRI), an organization that has worked since 1921 for a world without war, promoting and educating about pacifism and nonviolence. In one of his last articles, Howard Clark reflected on the repression that governments exercise against the people they are supposed to protect:
“Repression alone is weak. Looking at fear from the point of the view of those who hold power, nobody can rule for long by fear alone.
Repression by the State is a two-edged sword. It is meant to be a sign of strength, intimidating opponents and especially potential opponents. Yet it also indicates weakness, not least the regime's failure to convince the population to internalise restrictions. The most severe measures of state repression against unarmed protesters - massacres, murders and torture - often prove to be counter-productive. Meanwhile, in the anti-'austerity' demonstrations in Greece and in Spain (where I live), it seems that riot police have a licence to carry out violence more freely than since the days of dictatorship.
Should we see this kind of repression as a sign of weakness? I think so, despite the other elements present in the strategy to inculcate a culture of fear and submission."
Having researched the world-wide processes and strategies of nonviolence, Howard also shows us alternatives that are within our
reach. Our best homage to his life on this special day is that his words and ideas, remain always in our memory:
"One of the keys to nonviolent strategy is establishing groups and through them movements which put people in touch with their own sources of power - the power of communicating, of organising and building support, of opening social spaces, of refusing or disrupting what is wrong and of showing an alternative."
"We all need hope that the inhuman shall not triumph."
Translation: Trisha Novak, USA