People Power against Armed (Non-State) Groups

15 May



It happens. From today’s New York Times:

Thousands of steelworkers fanned out on Thursday through the city of Mariupol, establishing control over the streets and banishing the pro-Kremlin militants who until recently had seemed to be consolidating their grip on power….The workers, who were wearing only their protective clothing and hard hats, said they were “outside politics” and were just trying to establish order. Faced with waves of steelworkers joined by the police, the pro-Russian protesters melted away, along with signs of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and its representatives. Backhoes and dump trucks from the steelworkers’ factory dismantled the barricades that separatists had erected.

Well then.

It’s not clear whether this development will “restore calm” to Eastern Ukraine as the NYT suggests, but it follows a pattern of unarmed civilians re-establishing (or at least contesting) control over political space occupied by armed non-state actors during civil conflicts. Other recent examples include episodes in NigeriaLibya, MexicoSyria, and many others.

As I mentioned in a previous post, nonviolent action against armed non-state actors may be especially tricky because it’s often difficult to identify armed groups’ pillars of support. Moreover, in the context of widespread civil strife, where violence is often committed with total impunity, it can be difficult to determine exactly where the

It’s difficult, but not impossible. Check out recent work by Oliver Kaplan (here and here) to read more about how civilian movements have done this in several civil war contexts. And stay tuned for work by Cassy Dorff, whose dissertation-in-progress catalogues ways that civilians maintain control of their own destinies during armed conflict.

2 Responses to “People Power against Armed (Non-State) Groups”

  1. H. Alexander Ivey May 16, 2014 at 4:50 am #

    Humm, weelll. I bought your book, have spread the word about your blog, and find hope in your findings on non-violent resistance, but… the NYT is NOT an unbiased observer so quoting from them as support for your work may not be the best thing. The actions going on in the Ukraine are complex, and who is doing what to whom is inaccurately reported in the MSM. Just sayin’…

    • rationalinsurgent May 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

      Hi Alexander, Of course the situation is complex, and this post is not meant to diminish the complexity nor to endorse the veracity of all of the NYT’s reporting. I was merely commenting on an interesting development–the use of nonviolent methods by civilians against armed groups–which has been reported by a number of different news sources. It is true that in this case, these workers appear to have been mobilized by an elite oligarch–a revelation that may add a cynical note to this development but that does not take away from the fact that these workers appear to be relying on nonviolent rather than violent methods to reclaim power.

      Regarding bias in reporting more generally: Provide some examples of reliable, unbiased news sources and I will gladly read them!

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