Summary: One of the key debates within social movements is about the use of violence or nonviolence as a strategy to bring about social change. This video is an edited montage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and Macolm X, respectively discussing the use of violence or nonviolence in the fight for civil rights. Thus, it juxtaposes key arguments in this debate by well-known activists (for better or worse, the clip also opens and closes with the Rocky theme song!). It also works well with readings that more systematically analyze this strategic question. One of the most famous positions (from a left perspective) advocating violence as one possible movement strategy is Ward Churchill's Pacifism as Pathology: Notes on an American Pseudopraxis. However, most movement activists and scholars support non-violent strategies. For one example of this, see George Lakey's (co-founder of the Pacifist organization, Movement for a New Society) response to Churchill, "Nonviolent Action as the Sword that Heals." Viewers are encouraged to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of nonviolent social protest and the role of violence in achieving social change in the past: should social movements always be nonviolent? Did the use of violence (or threat of violence) help or hinder the struggle for civil rights? What factors shape when violence is or is not a legitimate strategy for advocating social change?
I would like to thank Alper Yalçinkaya for suggesting this clip. The image above is a charcoal and pastel drawing by Ylli Haruni.
Submitted By: Paul Dean