Nonviolence speaks: communicating against repression

Brian Martin and Wendy Varney


Brian Martin and Wendy Varney, Nonviolence Speaks: Communicating against Repression (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2003). Prepublication text available here.


Entire book in pdf, 148 pages


Individual chapters

1. Introduction

2. Nonviolence against Indonesian repression: barriers to action [co-authored by Adrian Vickers]

3. Nonviolent resistance to Soviet repression

4. Resisting global corporate domination

5. Nonviolence theory: insights for communication

6. Communication theory: insights for nonviolent action

7. Giving voice to nonviolence


This book addresses the power of popular nonviolent action against repression, aggression and oppression. A crucial aspect of effective nonviolent action is communication. Activists need to be able to contact each other and to mobilise support from other parts of the world. However, within the nonviolence literature, communication has been almost entirely neglected, while within the communication literature, nonviolent action is seldom mentioned. This is the first major study to focus on the joint dynamics of nonviolence and communication.

Three case studies are examined in depth: the popular action that forced the resignation of Indonesian President Suharto in 1998, the successful people's resistance to the Soviet coup in 1991 and the successful internationally coordinated campaign against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment in 1998. In each case, special attention is given to the role of communication in the struggle. Then comparisons are made with situations where there was less effective resistance: during the Indonesian massacres of 1965-1966 and the Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor from 1975, during Soviet rule under Stalin, and during the early introduction of structural adjustment programmes. Special attention is made to barriers to communication during these periods of less action.

Attention is then turned to theory. Surveys are made of nonviolence theories and communication theories, probing for insights relevant to the people-power-communication nexus. Gradually a model for analysing people's communication against repression is developed. The insights from theory are then used to propose a set of steps by which activist groups can analyse communication and develop effective communication strategies.

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