From: Brian Martin, "Social defence: arguments and actions", in Shelley Anderson and Janet Larmore (eds.), Nonviolent Struggle and Social Defence (London: War Resisters' International and the Myrtle Solomon Memorial Fund Subcommittee, 1991), pp. 126-139.

An extract was published in Korean in the magazine of the Peace and Human Rights Federation, issue 76, 8 June 2005, pp. 28-30

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Producing a leaflet or information sheet is a surprisingly valuable action if lots of people can be involved in it. If several people are involved in writing, editing and producing the leaflet, they all develop or improve skills which would be relevant in a crisis situation. On the other hand, if just one person in isolation writes the text and it is produced by an outside business with no connection to social defence, the impact of the production process is limited.

Even better is involving outsiders in discussions about the content of the intended leaflet.

Example 1 In 1982, four members of Canberra Peacemakers set out to produce a large information sheet on social defence. We first had lengthy discussions about what things were to be included, and then divided up the writing of the initial draft into four parts. We each commented on each other's drafts until a moderately polished text was produced.

Then we circulated the text to a range of other people for comments. Getting the comments, discussing them and making changes in response to them (and sometimes not making changes) was a stimulating process.

There was also the task of collecting graphics, especially cartoons. When the text was finalised, we had it typeset, and then laid out the text and graphics -- a skill new to several of us.

The result was the social defence broadsheet. (A broadsheet is a large sheet of paper such as one taken from a newspaper.) We had expected this to be a preliminary effort, but it has proved useful for many years. Versions of it were produced in Canada and Britain.

Two years later, we revised the text to be more relevant to Soviet readers, obtained a Russian translation, and thus produced the Russian version of the broadsheet.

Example 2 In 1983, Canberra Peacemakers produced a leaflet on "Social Defence and Public Servants". In Australia, government bureaucrats are called "public servants". Since Canberra is the national capital, public servants are the largest segment of the workforce.

We invited some friends who were public servants to join us in a meeting to develop ideas for the leaflet. We had several brainstorms (yelling out things to write on a piece of paper on the wall) to bring out ideas about how public servants could act against an invasion or coup. These ideas were then discussed.

After producing a draft of the leaflet, we circulated it to the people who were at this meeting, and to several other public servants, to obtain comments about accuracy and presentation. The result was a single sheet of paper giving a summary of social defence and particular actions that public servants could take. This was subversive because public servants are normally expected to take orders rather than act on their own initiative.

The leaflet possibly had more impact through the involvement of various people in its production than in its distribution.



Leaflets can be distributed in many ways. They can be displayed on racks, at bookstalls, given to friends and colleagues, passed out at rallies, mailed to interested people, etc.

The most effective use of leaflets is with people who are interested in the topic. Putting them in every mailbox is mostly a waste of time and paper. It is better to have them available when social defence is being talked about. For example, if you lead a discussion or give a talk about social defence, you can have leaflets available for those who want them. Or perhaps you are organising a local neighbourhood meeting to discuss social defence. If you knock at the doors of neighbours, you can have a leaflet for those who are potentially interested.

Example After producing the Russian social defence broadsheet, the bigger challenge was to get copies into the Soviet Union. We contacted a few organisations that smuggled material into the country, and made the broadsheet available to them. As well, we gave copies to a few people who were travelling to the Soviet Union. In the years since 1984, a larger number of dissident groups have become open, and we have posted copies to a number of groups and individuals.

In only a few cases have we received replies from the Soviet Union as a result of these deliveries. Apparently it has been published in one of the leading democratic opposition papers. But even if the broadsheets are intercepted by the KGB, at least someone reads the material! It's not a secret, after all.


Slide show

Written material is only one medium for communication. There are also radio, television, drama, posters, painting and sculpture. All of these and others are worth using.

After producing the broadsheet, members of Canberra Peacemakers wanted to try something different. We hit upon the idea of a slide show: a sequence of slides with a taped commentary. There were a couple of talented photographers who participated.

Actually, producing a slide show involves a lot of different skills, and this meant we had to ask a range of people to help. Many of them were friends who hadn't heard of social defence before.

The script. A couple of people worked on this. It required reworking to fit in with the ideas of the photographers.

Actors. Part of the show was a scenario of resistance to an invasion of Canberra. We needed a number of different people for a variety of roles. Setting up scenes and getting people prepared and in place was tricky but a lot of fun.


Library sleuths. We wanted some pictures of historical events, such as the Kapp Putsch and the resistance to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, and these had to be tracked down. The photographers made slides from the pictures chosen.

Artists. Some slides were made from drawings.

Speakers. The commentary to the slides was spoken by two people.

Musicians. Music for the sound track was recorded by a band in which one of our members played.

Recorders. The music and commentary had to be tape recorded.

Producers. The slides and sound track had to be coordinated, including the additions of beeps (or automatic cues) indicating when the slides should be changed. This was a mammoth task.

The whole operation was a big one, but very worthwhile. The best thing was that quite a number of different people became involved because they were needed for certain things, and so became aware of social defence. Furthermore, this wasn't social defence in the abstract, but in the context of a vividly imagined scenario. After all, acting out being a soldier or a resister is quite different from just talking about it.

Comment There are several benefits from producing and distributing information about social defence, especially learning and interacting with other people. The disadvantage is that the information is not connected to practical action: it is knowledge in a vacuum. As well as getting information to people, there needs to be organising, namely encouraging them to do things.



Running a course -- anything from a few lectures to a university degree -- can be an excellent way to promote social defence. This topic is too large to be treated here, and anyway there is a lot of material available on peace education. It is worth exploring teaching in relation to groups which might otherwise never be exposed to social defence, such as police.

Example "National service" is compulsory for all males in many European countries. Conscientious objectors to military service usually undertake "alternative service". ("Total objectors" refuse even the alternative service.) In Belgium and Austria, study of social defence has been included in the study part of the alternative service.

References: "Belgium and Austria: conscientious objectors study civilian-based defense", Civilian-Based Defense: News & Opinion, volume 2, number 4, July 1985, pages 3-4; Andreas Maislinger, "The discussion of civilian-based defense concepts in Austria", Civilian-Based Defense: News & Opinion, volume 4, number 4, May 1988, pages 7-9.

A few cautionary remarks:

* Classroom learning sometimes becomes very separate from practical experience. It is learning about rather than learning to do something. Should social defence become just another subject in the curriculum?

The solution to this problem is to introduce as many practical exercises as possible, such as interviews, simulations, community research, short-wave radio communication and nonviolent action training.

* Learning is most effective when it is voluntary. Compulsory study of social defence should be approached with care.

* Teachers often learn much more than students. Preparing a course can be an excellent way to learn.

* Teaching does not have to be based on the usual model of expert teacher and ignorant student. More egalitarian models are possible. These are better described as study groups.



Getting people together to talk about a subject, plan strategies and run workshops is an excellent way to stimulate interest and activity, and can be a lot of fun. It is also lots of work for the conference organisers. This is a whole topic on its own that will not be discussed in detail here. A few points:

* There are big conferences, small conferences, specialised conferences and general conferences. Design your conference for your purposes. Get ideas from talking to people who have run conferences and from those who have attended them.

* Bigger is not necessarily better.

* The process -- the human dynamics of the conference -- is at least as important as the formal outcomes.

* Good organisation is essential. Bad organisation can make the whole thing counterproductive.

* Organising a conference is almost always more work than it seems when plans are first made. Make sure there are people willing to do the work.



Lobbying means trying to convince people in positions of power to take certain views or actions. Lobbying is more a matter of trying to get someone else to take action rather than taking action oneself. Nevertheless, it has an important function.

People in positions of power -- politicians, corporation executives, top government bureaucrats, military commanders, media producers, church leaders, trade union officials -- can make a big difference to efforts to promote social defence. They can provide support, including finance, resources, communication channels and legitimacy. Even their tolerance can make things easier. Certainly their hostility can make things difficult.

Some activists argue that social defence cannot be brought about by government decree, because governments are built on a monopoly over "legitimate" violence. That may be true: the problem of war is built into the social system. But individuals are not pure pawns of the system. Some of them are open to persuasion. Lobbying, though it has limitations, is one technique for promoting social defence.

In an actual crisis, the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance may depend on the understanding of people in positions of power. For example, in the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, Dubcek and most of the other Czechoslovak leaders did not really understand the dynamics of the resistance. As a result, they unwisely made compromises with the Soviet rulers that helped undermine the resistance.

The lesson from this is that people in top positions should be encouraged to understand the dynamics of nonviolent action, even if they are not willing to support it at the present time.

Lobbying requires the skills of speaking and producing information for particular audiences. Lobbying efforts often depend on one or two experts, and the nature of the activity encourages this. To make it more of a learning and participatory process, every effort should be made to involve a whole group in developing their skills in speaking and making contacts.


Language skills

The skills of translation and interpretation are crucial for social defence. If there is an invasion from a country where a different language is used, then being able to speak and write to the invading troops and to the population of the country is essential. Similarly, if there is a coup in another country, language skills are vital in mounting social offence to support resisters.

The possible activities here are countless. Leaflets, pamphlets and books can be translated into other languages. This requires a sensitivity to language and social understandings in other cultures, in order to translate terms such as social defence and nonviolent action. Translation efforts can be linked to group study of different cultures.

Better still, different versions of social defence materials can be produced. Relevant local examples can be introduced, and new arguments used to replace inappropriate ones. For example, people's major concerns in the United States about invasion or military coups are very different from those in Central America.

Skills in interpretation between languages are also crucial. Developing these skills could be linked to projects to spread the idea of social defence.

Language skills open up the possibility of comparing nonviolent struggles in different cultures and many other such projects.


Role plays and simulations

Armies use simulations, which are often called "exercises". They pretend that there is a mobilisation, military engagement or war, and have commanders and troops do all the things that they would do in the actual event. This provides excellent training, and many lessons can be learned. Of course, simulations can never quite be the same as the real thing, but on the other hand they are less costly and destructive.

Simulations are an excellent tool for social defence, too. Since there is no social defence system, simulations are unlikely to have full support of governments, corporations, trade unions and so forth. Therefore social defence simulations are both training for nonviolent resistance and also a method of promoting the nonviolent alternative. (This is really not so different from military simulations.)

A simulation can be considered to be a large-scale role play: people are playing roles in as realistic a situation as can be constructed short of the real thing. It is also possible to have role plays that are much smaller and therefore don't require the full participation of people in workplaces and so forth.

Radio station 2XX: a role play In 1982, Canberra Peacemakers organised a workshop with members of a local radio station. 2XX is a community radio station: it is noncommercial and is run mainly by the volunteers who produce the programmes. We knew some workers at 2XX and invited them along to a weekend workshop.

During the weekend we introduced the idea of social defence, did brainstorms about possible threats to 2XX and discussed methods of nonviolent resistance and who might undertake them.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, we ran a small role play of resistance at 2XX to an invasion. In a single large room, some people acted the part of 2XX workers, others pretended to be soldiers, and others acted like members of the public who came as a result of a broadcast asking for support. This little exercise, involving about ten people, was helpful in making the role of 2XX in a nonviolent resistance much more real. It also gave us a much more concrete sense of what taking action would mean.

This was as much as Canberra Peacemakers did with 2XX in terms of role plays. A next stage might have been to organise a simulation. A large-scale scenario could have been prepared, with people acting in the 2XX studios and local suburbs.

Grindstone Island: a simulation In 1965, members of the Quaker community in Canada carried out a major simulation. The scenario was that a right-wing Canadian government backed by the United States ("the Unionists") had taken power. The simulation took place on Grindstone Island in Ontario, following months of planning. Fifty people took part.

Some participants took the role of the local Unionist commanders, who were "instructed" to demand compliance. Other participants essentially played themselves, taking the role of resisters who were committed to a process of consensus decision making and personal nonviolence. There were also "umpires" who ran the socio-drama according to the rules planned beforehand.

The simulation was planned to last for several days, but it came to an end after only thirty-one hours. By that stage, thirteen of the defenders had been "killed" (in simulation). It was an emotionally shattering experience for many of those involved, leading them to question the relevance of their firm beliefs. It also was an extremely useful learning exercise, especially in showing the limitations of particular styles of consensus decision making in a crisis situation.

Reference: Theodore Olson and Gordon Christiansen, Thirty-one Hours: The Grindstone Experiment (Toronto: Canadian Friends Service Committee, 1966).


Short-wave radio

Short-wave radio is an excellent way for individuals to communicate at a great distance without central control. Television and conventional radio are one-directional methods of communication, and repressive regimes usually take control of them. Telephones are better, since they allow individuals to talk to each other. But the telephone network can be monitored centrally, and connections can be cut off, for example out of a country.

Few people have short-wave radios or know how to use them. There are several possible projects to promote the potential for nonviolent resistance using short-wave.

* Obtain a short-wave radio and learn how to use it.

* Run training classes in short-wave with people in social movements.

* Introduce the idea of social defence to existing short-wave users.

* Communicate with people in other countries, especially those under repressive rule, about nonviolent resistance.

* Encourage people with language skills to learn about both short-wave radio and social defence.

* Select a very cheap short-wave system and supply it free to nonviolent resistance groups around the world.

* Encourage engineers and technicians to develop cheap and effective short-wave systems that will serve well in the face of repression.


Community research

"Research" is often thought of as something that only scientists and scholars can do. But actually anyone can do certain kinds of investigation.

"Community research" means an investigation that is carried out by community activists rather than by outside professional researchers. Community research is a way to find out things and also to raise the idea of social defence in a relatively nonthreatening way.

Example: Social defence and the Australian Post Office Members of the group Schweik Action Wollongong wanted to learn more about communications and social defence. Communications is an enormous topic, so to narrow it down we focussed on the postal service.

First, we tried to find articles and books about the post and about how it had been used in the face of repression. Were there studies of how to avoid censorship under a dictatorship? Were there studies of how a resistance infiltrated the postal service and ensured delivery of its own messages while interrupting the regime's communication? Unfortunately we could find almost nothing helpful along these lines. These, therefore, are useful topics for investigation!

Second, we looked for articles about the Australian Post Office, such as the way it is organised and the stages through which mail is processed. Most of the articles available deal with economics and the quality of service. There is hardly anything that describes the day-to-day practicalities of postal operations.

To search for articles and books on these topics, we used a university library. Encyclopaedias were good sources of information and also listed further references. We used searches of computerised databases to try to find current articles about the post. Many of the articles that we did trace were in obscure journals, and we had to use the interlibrary loan service to obtain them. There was not much available. Obviously social scientists are not very concerned about the post office.

The next stage of our project was interviews with people working for the post office. We used three methods of approach. One was just walking into a local post office and asking to interview the workers there. We obtained some helpful information in this way. A second approach was contacting friends who happened to work for the post office. This was the most helpful method. The third approach was to call up post office managers. They were not willing to talk with us. But this approach is worth trying, because managers often have an excellent overview of operations, and their cooperation can lead to introductions to other employees. We also contacted a trade union official, but he was not helpful either.

The post office project is just one of an enormous number of possible community research projects. Here are some groups that might be approached as part of a project.

* Computer programmers.

* Transport workers.

* School students.

* Workers in television and radio.

* Workers in the building trades, including plumbers, electricians and carpenters.

* Actors.

* Health workers.

* Farmers.

* Police.

* Soldiers.

There are several benefits from community research. To begin, it does not require highly specialised skills to do it. The techniques are straightforward. But there are skills that require development.

Community research can be done by an individual or a group. As an individual project, community research can be carried out even where there are no other people interested in the topic. But when there is a group involved, this makes the project more satisfying. The different members of the group learn from each other and provide stimulation and support for keeping the work going.

An important feature of community research is that the process is as important as the end product. This includes not only learning by the researchers, but also by the people interviewed.

In giving a talk about social defence, the speaker is usually considered to be the expert. This can be a problem, since some people do not like being lectured to. Interviews in a community research project are quite different. The people being interviewed are the experts. For example, the post office workers knew far more about the post office than we did. Yet as they were telling us about the post office, they were also learning about social defence, because they were thinking about how nonviolent action might work in their own situation.

The results of community research can be presented in talks, leaflets or articles. Best of all is providing information to the people interviewed. This is a way of thanking them for their contribution and also showing them the picture toward which their comments contributed.


Scientific research

It is not news that vast amounts of money are spent on science for war and repression. This includes development of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, biological toxins, the psychology of fighting groups, and technologies for crowd control, electronic surveillance and torture. The range of military-related research and development is enormous and frightening. By comparison, there is hardly any scientific research devoted to improving nonviolent resistance.

Partly this is because scientists do not know about social defence and have no idea how their skills could contribute. The problem runs deep, since whole fields of science have arisen because of military spin-offs; these fields have little positive potential. Other fields, which would be highly useful for social defence, have never been developed because funding is not available.

Scientific research, in any case, is a virtually untapped resource for social defence. Contact a few scientists. Tell them about social defence. Ask them what things they would be able to do. Suggest some projects and see what they think. Ask them to suggest other scientists to talk to. Get their help in searching scientific and technological publications.

Here are some useful developments for a social defence system.

* Easy ways for insiders to disable and re-enable machinery.

* Industrial processes resistant to outsider sabotage.

* Small-scale renewable energy systems.

* Cheap and easy-to-use short-wave radio.

* Ways to determine whether torture has been used.

* Ways of destroying or hiding computer information.

* Coded or hidden communications via computers, telephone, radio.

* Long-term storage of food.

* Non-vulnerable transport systems.

* Medicines easily administered by non-specialists.

* Miniature video recorders.

* Safe ways to disable weapons.

* Non-jammable broadcasting systems.

* Seed varieties robust to lack of fertilisers and pesticides.



Soldiers are expected to undergo military training, otherwise they are much less effective. Similarly, social defenders can undertake training in nonviolent action. Voluntarily -- no conscription!

There is a vast wealth of experience in nonviolent action training, developed in campaigns against racism, nuclear power and nuclear weapons, environmental threats, male domination and so forth. There are many experienced nonviolent action trainers. They have practical knowledge of brainstorming, facilitation of meetings, consensus decision making, group dynamics, dealing with group conflict, role plays, simulations, planning for direct action, organising meetings, applying the theory of nonviolence, analysis of local power structures, listening and speaking, reading and writing, personal development, and a host of other things. There are also some good readings on methods in these areas.

The challenge is to apply these methods to social defence, and to develop campaigns that use the skills developed.

References on nonviolent action training

Virginia Coover, Ellen Deacon, Charles Esser and Christopher Moore, Resource Manual for a Living Revolution (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1981).

Martin Jelfs, Manual for Action (London: Action Resources Group, 1982).



Organising means building community support. This is the basic work of forging a social movement, or just mobilising support to rectify a wrong. It includes canvassing door-to-door, calling public meetings, researching local power structures, mounting campaigns, raising money, bringing together diverse groups, developing the skills of local people, establishing organisational structures and communications systems, developing support from a range of groups, and numerous other methods.

Organising is hard work. The people who benefit most from organising are the poor, oppressed and the discriminated against. They must confront the power of social system.

Organising for social defence is virtually unknown. How would it work? Who would do it? What would be the goals? Who would be hostile?

Example: Community inventory Let's say that you are a member of a small group that would like to build awareness of and support for social defence in your neighbourhood, which might be an apartment block, an area of suburbia, a small town or a rural region. After a lot of preparation, you embark on a survey of community resources for nonviolent resistance.

Visiting people household by household, you ask about:

* telephones, radios and other electronic communications equipment

* equipment for typing, word processing, photocopying and printing

* energy supplies

* transportation

* food

* personal skills, including speaking, writing, health care, telecommunications, gardening, child care, fixing machines

* contacts and networks, including sporting clubs, church groups, friendship networks, co-workers, etc.

With this sort of information, it should be possible to develop a good idea of the strengths of the community against aggression, and also weaknesses that need to be overcome.

Of course, one of the main reasons for carrying out the "survey" is to introduce the idea of social defence, and to find out what it means in terms of people's lives. Those carrying out the survey need to be quite familiar with arguments about social defence, to have plenty of written material for distribution, and be willing to alter their own views!

A slightly different survey would be to find out about what people think are threats to their security. This might be crime, police harassment, or economic conditions -- the response would vary enormously from person to person and from community to community. The next thing would be to link social defence to people's concerns. This may be quite difficult!

References on organising

Saul Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals (New York: Vintage, 1969).

Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals (New York: Random House, 1971).

Ed Hedemann (editor), War Resisters League Organizer's Manual (New York: WRL, 1981).

Anthony Jay, The Householder's Guide to Community Defence Against Bureaucratic Aggression (London: Jonathan Cape, 1972).

Si Kahn, How People Get Power: Organizing Oppressed Communities for Action (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970).

Si Kahn, Organizing: A Guide for Grassroots Leaders (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981).

Richard K. Taylor, Blockade: A Guide to Non-violent Intervention (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 1977).



It should be possible to link the promotion of social defence with any of a number of campaigns.

* Community security against crime. Networks of friendship, communications and local awareness can provide protection against neighbourhood crimes.

* Defending against male violence. Feminist groups and others have taken action to prevent or resist male violence against women and children. Similarly, gays have organised against anti-gay violence and ethnic groups have organised against racial violence.

* Workers' control. It is possible for workers to collectively make decisions and run their workplaces.

Campaigns in each of these areas (and many others) have an obvious connection with the potential for social defence. The difficult question is, how can social defence be linked, in a practical way, with campaigns in these areas? There is a lot of work required to develop answers to this question.



Societies are filled with networks of people. This includes groups of friends, professional groups, sporting clubs, church groups, trade unions, women's groups and many others. Networks are commonly based on personal friendship or acquaintance, and on mutual interests. They are a key resource for social defence.

There are two basic ways to promote social defence through networks. One is to set up new networks for the specific purpose of nonviolent resistance. The second is to help existing networks become better vehicles for nonviolent resistance. This leads to a virtually unlimited number of possible projects.

* Mobilise your personal networks for social defence. Tell your friends about it so they will know what you are talking about when there is a crisis. Approach the most sympathetic individuals to take action against repression in other countries.

* Make contingency plans for communication. Make sure that lists of telephone numbers are available, with back-up copies. Plan what you would do if telephones were not working.

* Introduce social defence in organisations with which you're involved, such as church groups, workplace groups or school groups. Develop practical activities that build the network and the skills of the people in it.

* Imagine that your network is infiltrated, for example by political police. (It might well be.) Develop methods that take this into account.

* Decide which technologies help your network communicate most effectively, and make sure people know how to use them.