Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Right of Resistance

Brothers, sisters, comrades, friends,

Here are two snippets from Jack Duvall's May 11, 2006, speech, "The Right of Resistance," given at the California Institute of Technology. His words really stir the blood! Mine, at least. Thanks to George Lakey of Training for Change for the recommendation.
You can read the entire paper (8pp) online at

Duvall is president of the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict,
Check them out!

How does ICNC's take on "strategic nonviolent conflict" square with your own philosophies and practices?

love in resistance,
Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

The Right of Resistance
The Legitimacy and Support of Nonviolent Civic Force

Remarks by Jack DuVall - May 11, 2006
Social Activism Speaker Series, California Institute of Technology

“Never Yield Submission”

Eleven days ago, as a quarter-million immigrants demonstrated in downtown Los Angeles to dramatize the value to the American economy of undocumented workers, a 54-year old Guatemalan house painter stood and watched. “This is America,” he said to a reporter. “This is the first time in my life I have seen something like this. This is why everyone wants to be here

That Guatemalan man identified America’s purpose: To uphold the right of the people freely to express their minds, openly to seek relief from injustice, and fearlessly to hold government accountable for its action.

The nationwide boycott on May 1 stemmed from earlier protests aimed at legislation that would make illegal immigration a felony. In spirit and in purpose, they reminded me of an event that happened 100 years ago -- a mass meeting convened in Johannesburg, South Africa, by Mohandas Gandhi, an Indian lawyer outraged by a new law making Indians carry registration cards. “The Old Empire Theatre was packed from floor to ceiling,” Gandhi wrote. One speaker said they “must never yield a cowardly submission to such degrading legislation.”

They never did. During a long campaign of noncooperation, Indians burned their registration cards, marched across borders, and thousands went to jail, Gandhi himself three times, to disrupt the laws’ enforcement. In the eighth year of civic resistance, the laws were withdrawn. One piece of one empire of contempt for people’s rights was erased, starting that night at the Empire Theatre. The date was September 11.

While in jail, Gandhi read these words by the American writer Henry David Thoreau, published 58 years earlier: “All men recognize…the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.” That echoed even bolder words spoken one year before by an Illlinois congressman, Abraham Lincoln:

“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.”

Lincoln did not conceive that right. It was sewn into the fabric of our founding. Writing in the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton prefigured Thoreau: “When the first principles of civil society are violated and the rights of a whole people are invaded, the common forms of…law are not to be regarded.” James Madison, foreshadowing Lincoln, went further, recognizing the “transcendent and precious right of the people to ‘abolish or alter their governments’.” From the start, Americans were revolutionaries.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I believe that everyone now alive is witnessing, whether they know it or not, the pursuit of a very great cause: the formation of a common global civil society, based not on an empire of arms but on individual consent. If this world isn’t free and open, we have no chance to save the forests and the oceans, to remove disease and hunger, to release the full potential of every human being, because the old mortal habits of prejudice and avarice, ignorance and savagery -- which justify the jails and borders, guns and domination that keep us down and drive us wide apart – will abort this embryonic world. I believe that all of what stifles and divides us will eventually disappear. But not until our rights -- to speak, to write, to vote, and to resist -- are universal.

We have a choice. Would we delegate to those who are in love with violence the task of liberation? Do we believe, as Lenin said, that terror is invigorating? Do we accept Bin Laden’s cry that the walls of oppression cannot fall except in a hail of bullets? Or do we believe, with Lincoln, that the people have the right to overturn any form of servitude, and with Gandhi, that they have the opportunity? The ancient Hebrew prophet Ezekiel, quoting his God, said: “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it…until he comes whose right it is.” Today the right to overturn belongs to everyone.


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