Passive Resistance

Intellectual heritage of civil disobedience or passive resistance.


" Individual or group decides to obey either the law of the state or higher law."

" If "higher law," individual or group disobeys "law of the state" but holds "moral high ground" by refusing to use violence while withstanding state violence"

" Often involves lifestyle of voluntary simplicity as means of reducing social or economic pressure available to state"

" May involve willingness to be jailed as form of social protest"

Ancient China: Mencius (Meng-Tzu)

"Classical Greece: Sophocles, Antigone; Aristophanes, Lysistrata (women of Athens use sexual abstinence to force men to end warfare)"

"New Testament era: Jesus of Nazareth: Turn the other cheek; Forgive your enemies; "Return love.""

"Mid-19th century: Henry David Thoreau, "Resistance to Civil Government""

"Late 19th-early 20th century: Count Leo Tolstoy Russian novelist (War and Peace); voluntary simplicity"

Twentieth Century:

"Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi (India) satyagraha; nonviolent disobedience and resistance to English rule; jail and hunger strikes against violence"

"Martin Luther King Jr. (USA) nonviolent Civil Rights campaigns; sit-ins; letter from Birmingham Jail."

"Nelson Mandela (South Africa )—decades in prison for resistance to apartheid, forgiveness of (or no vengeance against) oppressors after release"

Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries:

"Aung San Suu Kyii (Burma or Myanmar; elected president of Burma in early 1990s; election overturned by military; under house arrest or other repression but refuses to leave, even to join children or dying husband in England"

"Kim Dae Jung (South Korea)—South Korean President & Nobel Peace laureate 2000, but earlier jailed by authoritarian governments"

"Folk" examples:

"Worker slowdowns as protests against management"

" 'Shuffling,' etc. by African Americans during slavery"

"Rosa Parks refuses to give up bus seat to white man, Birmingham, 1960s"

"Sixties civil rights and antiwar demonstrations, sit-ins, be-ins"

"Abortion clinic blockades"

"Students in a classroom, when overworked, sometimes do less than in a less demanding class."

"Wives saying 'Yes, dear' without consenting. ('Double language')"

Advantages of nonviolent resistance: moral high ground; dialogue possible

"Risk: If results aren't forthcoming, backers may resort to violence (Civil Rights militancy, Antiwar bombings, Pro-Life murders)."

Gandhi's Words | from

"Nonviolence succeeds only when we have a real living faith in God."

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."

"A person who has realized the principle of nonviolence has the God-given strength for his weapon, and the world has not yet known anything that can match it."

"Satyagraha thrives on repression till at last the repressor is tired and the object of Satyagraha is gained."

"Satyagraha does not depend on the outside [for] help; it derives all its strength from within."


"Passive resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is the reverse of resistance by arms."

"Passive resistance is an all-sided sword; it can be used anyhow; it blesses him who uses it and him against whom it is used."

"Passive resistance is a misnomer for nonviolent resistance."

"Passive resistance, unlike nonviolence, has no power to change men' s hearts."

"The sword of passive resistance does not require a scabbard."

"Jesus Christ, Daniel, and Socrates represented the purest form of passive resistance or soul force."


"Your character must be above suspicion, and you must be truthful and self-controlled."

"The truest test of civilization, culture, and dignity is character, not clothing."

"A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers."

"Men of stainless character will easily inspire confidence and automatically purify the atmosphere around them."

"The real property that a parent can transmit to all equally is his or her character and educational facilities."

"All your scholarship would be in vain if at the same time you do not build your character and attain mastery over your thoughts and your actions."


"Civil disobedience is the assertion of a right which law should give but which it denies."

"Civil disobedience presupposes willing obedience of our self-imposed rules, and without it civil disobedience would be cruel joke."

"Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the State becomes lawless or, which is the same thing, corrupt."

"Civil disobedience means capacity for unlimited suffering without the intoxicating excitement of killing."

"Disobedience to be civil has to be open and nonviolent."

"Disobedience to be civil implies discipline, thought, care, attention."

"Disobedience that is wholly civil should never provoke retaliation."

"Non-cooperation and civil disobedience are different but [are] branches of the same tree call Satyagraha (truth-force)."


"Conscience is the ripe fruit of strictest discipline."

"Unless discipline is rooted in nonviolence, it might prove a source of infinite mischief."

"Non-cooperation is a measure of discipline and sacrifice, and it demands respect for the opposite views."


"Faith gains in strength only when people are willing to lay down their lives for it."

"Faith is not like a delicate flower which would wither away."

"Robust faith in oneself and brave trust of the opponent, so-called or real, is the best safeguard."

"A living faith cannot be manufactured by the rule of [the] majority."

"What is faith if it is not translated into action?"

"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
— James 2:14, 26

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."
James 1:22

"Faith is not imparted like secular subjects. It is given through the language of the heart."

"Every living faith must have within itself the power of rejuvenation if it is to live. Just as the body cannot exist without blood, so the soul needs matchless and pure strength of faith."

"Nonviolence succeeds only when we have a real living faith in God."

"My effort should never be to undermine another's faith but to make him a better follower of his own faith."

"My faith is brightest in the midst of impenetrable darkness."

"Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed."

"Even as a tree has a single trunk but many branches and leaves, there is one religion—human religion—but any number of faiths."


"Satyagraha is a process of educating public opinion, such that it covers all the elements of the society and makes itself irresistible."

"Satyagraha is a relentless search for truth and a determination to search truth."

"Satyagraha is an attribute of the spirit within."

"Satyagraha has been designed as an effective substitute for violence."

"The fight of Satyagraha is for the strong in spirit, not the doubter or the timid. Satyagraha teaches us the art of living as well as dying."

"Satyagraha, of which civil-resistance is but a part, is to me the universal law of life."

"Satyagraha is a law of universal application. Beginning with the family, its use can be extended to every other circle."

"Satyagraha can rid society of all evils, political, economic, and moral."

"Satyagraha and civil disobedience and fasts have nothing in common with the use of force, veiled or open."

"A genuine Satyagraha should never excite contempt in the opponent even when it fails to command regard or respect."

"Satyagraha thrives on repression till at last the repressor is tired and the object of Satyagraha is gained."

"Satyagraha does not depend on the outside [for] help; it derives all its strength from within."

"The method of Satyagraha requires that the Satyagrahi should never lose hope, so long as there is the slightest ground left for it."

"In the dictionary of Satyagraha, there is no enemy."

"Since Satyagraha is a method of conversion and conviction, it seeks never to use the slightest coercion."

"For a Satyagraha brigade, only those are eligible who believe in ahimsa--nonviolence and satya--truth."

"Satyagraha is a force that has come to stay. No force in the world can kill it."

"Satyagraha does not begin and end with civil disobedience."

"A clear victory of Satyagraha is impossible so long as there is ill-will."

"Whatever may be true of other modes of warfare, in Satyagraha it has been held that the causes for failure are to be sought within."

"What I call the law of Satyagraha is to be deduced from an appreciation of duties and rights flowing therefrom."

"A Satyagrahi turns the searchlight inward relentlessly to weed out all the defects that may be lying hidden there still."

"A Satyagrahi has infinite patience, abundant faith in others, and ample hope."

"A Satyagrahi has no other stay but God, and he who has any other stay or depends on any other help cannot offer Satyagraha."

"A Satyagrahi cannot go to law for a personal wrong."

"Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?"
I. Corinthians 6:7

"A Satyagrahi loves his so called enemy even as he loves his friend. He owns no enemy."

"A Satyagrahi exhausts all other means before he resorts to Satyagraha."

"In the code of the Satyagrahi, there is no such thing as surrender to brute force."


"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."

"A person who has realized the principle of nonviolence has the God-given strength for his weapon, and the world has not yet known anything that can match it."

"A definite forgiveness would mean a definite recognition of our strength."

"The greater our innocence, the greater our strength and the swifter our victory.

"The dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law, to the strength of the spirit."

"If your heart acquires strength, you will be able to remove blemishes from others without thinking evil of them."