Non-violence is both a moral philosophy and strategy for action which rejects the use of violence in attempting to realize social, political or economic change. It is an alternative to violent resistance and to passive acceptance of oppression and exploitation. It is sometimes called non-violent resistance, and is more than just a rejection of war (pacifism).
Non-violence in historical communities:
The ideas of non-violence and pacifism have been basic to a number of historical communities. It can be found as a basis of both religious communities and political communes. For example, some Christian religious groups had non-violence as one of their core principles, as did communities following other religions such as Jainism and Buddhism.
Non-violence in 17th and 18th century communities:
The Diggers at St. George’s Hill were one of the first political groups to avow their non-violence when Gerrard Winstanley assured General Fairfax that they did not intend to use force to maintain their community. A dozen years later, in January 1661, the Quakers made their first official declaration of pacifism in an attempt to protect themselves from charges of sedition. It also marked the start of their refusal to accept any civil or military office. Twenty years later, William Penn founded the colony of Pennsylvania, and the ideas of the Quakers strongly influenced the character of the colony. Two years later, in 1683, members of the Mennonites founded Germantown there and in 1740 the first Amish settlement began, the Northkill Amish Settlement.
Non-violent communities in the 19th and 20th centuries:
One major religious group espousing non-violence were the Russian Doukhobors, who had a tradition of communitarian living. After a long period of persecution, they were forced to leave Russia. At the end of the 19th century, they moved to Canada. The costs of the sea voyage were mainly paid for by Quakers and Tolstoyans. Peter Kropotkin also helped them.
The Hutterites had also emigrated to North America not long before (1874 – 1879).
The non-violent ideas of Leo Tolstoy were also influential for a number of communities. At the end of the 19th century a number of Tolstoyan communities were started in Britain, and later, in 1921, Russian Tolstoyans started the Life and Labour Commune.
At about the same time, in 1920, Eberhard Arnold started the first Bruderhof community at Sannerz in Germany, a pacifist christian commune. Just as the Life and Labour Commune suffered from repression at the hands of the Bolsheviks, the Bruderhof communities were persecuted and repressed by the Nazis because of their pacifism and conscientious objection to military service.
Non-violence in modern communities:
In the USA, non-violence is one of the core principles held by members of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.
Articles in Wikipedia.
“The World Turned Upside Down” by Christopher Hill, Peregrine Books edition, 1984. (About the Diggers and Quakers)
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