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. 81-83.

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It was in 1980 that I first became involved in promoting social defence, along with several others in the group Canberra Peacemakers. At that stage we called it nonviolent defence, but the name didn't matter. No one that we knew had heard of it or understood a thing about it. So the immediate challenge was to be able to describe the idea in a readily understandable way to those unfamiliar with it. It wasn't long before the phrase "Social defence is nonviolent community resistance to aggression as an alternative to military defence" came tripping off our tongues.

This abstract explanation still didn't mean much to most people, so we amplified the description by referring to strikes, boycotts and noncooperation. If there was a bit more time, a few historical examples were very helpful, such as the resistance to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Thus, gradually, began an education in the arguments about social defence.

Since then, I have had many interesting experiences in speaking about social defence. Talks to military officers, government bureaucrats and left-wing activists each have their own particular challenges. Still, in some ways the most testing audience is interested members of the "general public".

It doesn't take long to find that there are a number of standard questions and common concerns. This applies whether talking to a large audience or to an individual friend.

Although I have read quite a lot about social defence over the years -- and written on the topic myself -- I never really thought about the fact that there was no simple introduction to the arguments for speakers. After all, it was a continual challenge to encourage others to develop their skills at speaking about social defence. It was only at the social defence conference at Bradford, England in April 1990 that it really became obvious to me that there was a need for more practical materials about social defence. By contrast, there are some superb academic studies, and there are numerous insights to be found in a wide range of books and articles.

I think that the most useful introduction to arguments about social defence is one that is honest about limitations of the arguments themselves. Therefore, although I am an advocate of social defence, I've tried to point out the weaknesses of some of the replies (as well as the strengths).

I've also tried to avoid presenting a single prescription about social defence. There are a number of ongoing disputes about what how it should be organised and promoted. I have my own views and these have undoubtedly coloured my presentation. Perhaps my strongest commitment is to widespread participation in promotion of social defence. This is reflected not so much in the particular answers here, but in the existence of this material itself.

In almost every case, the "best" answer is one tailored to the circumstances of the speaker and listener. The responses included here can at most be a starting point.

It's also important to remember that there are no official "right answers" on social defence. After all, social defence has never yet been introduced. As Johan Niezing, one of the world's foremost theorists on social defence, told me, "There are no experts on social defence."

Arguments are only one part of the promotion of social defence. Other activities are also necessary. One of the most enjoyable and challenging things in my involvement with social defence has been developing ways to promote it that go beyond trying to convince governments to implement it. The second part of this manual is titled "actions", and is intended to include all sorts of ways for people to promote social defence. (Of course, presenting the "arguments" of part 1 is also a form of action. Therefore, to be precise, the second part should perhaps be called "other actions".)

The sorts of actions that have most interested me are ones that can be carried out by an individual or a small group -- small here meaning from two to perhaps ten people. This is because my own work on social defence has mainly been with small groups. Undoubtedly there are many valuable things that can be done with large groups too! If you have the luxury of working with a large group committed to social defence, there should be plenty of ideas for activities surging forward.

My emphasis on actions for small groups also reflects my belief that social defence should be organised in a decentralised fashion, with maximum local autonomy.

Experience with actions to promote and implement social defence is very limited. My own involvement in a number of small projects has served to show the immense range of possible actions. But until there has been more practical experience with actions, it is largely speculation whether they will work in any particular situation. The best thing is to try things out and see what happens. The learning process can be rapid. I have emphasised actions that have been tried, but included also ideas for possible actions. I have also given extra attention to projects with which I have personal experience, because then it is possible for me to give a more realistic picture of strengths and weaknesses. Since there is a common practice of publicising one's successes and keeping quiet about one's failures, there is always a risk of over-optimism in relying on published accounts.

Needless to say, there are undoubtedly many other actions that I have not heard about. I would be greatly pleased to hear from others about both arguments and actions, and will do what I can to publicise the experiences of others.

(Schweik, the clever anti-hero of Hasek's classic novel The Good Soldier Schweik, caused havoc in the Austrian army during World War One by pretending to be extremely stupid.)



In compiling both arguments and actions, I have relied heavily on previously published materials. Several portions of text are taken directly from the broadsheet "Social defence" produced by Canberra Peacemakers in 1982 and written by Nick Hopkins, Claire Runciman, Frances Sutherland and myself. Much of the material on social offence is taken from a leaflet "Resist repressive regimes" produced by Schweik Action Wollongong in 1987 and written by Terry Darling, Lisa Schofield and myself. Sources for a number of the arguments and actions are given in the text.

I thank Barbara Clark, Howard Clark, Christine Schweitzer, Hans Sinn and Ralph Summy for valuable comments on an earlier version.