CBD - taking stock

Published in Civilian-based Defense: News & Opinion, Vol. 6, No. 1, July-August 1989, p. 3


In 1984, the peace movement was at its height. Social defense at best was something raised by a small minority within the movement. Now, five years later, the peace movement is continuing to wane, whereas interest in social defense has increased somewhat, going from very small to small. I expect this trend to continue during the next five years.

In Australia a decade ago, social defense had hardly been heard of except by a handful of people. Due to the efforts of a small number of advocates, it has been put on the agenda of what is called "alternative defense": it is an option to be discussed along with non-alignment, armed neutrality, defensive defense, guerilla warfare, etc. But it is still not all that well-known even among activist groups.

The major encouraging development has been increasing use of nonviolent action by various activists as part of a conscious strategy for social change. Environmentalists, feminists and peace activists have all been prominent in this. It is these people with personal experience of the dynamics of nonviolent action who are most receptive to the idea of social defense.

Some overseas uses of nonviolent action have been cited as inspiration, especially in Poland, the Philippines, Palestine and most recently China. In part (especially in the Philippines and Palestine) proponents of nonviolent action have played a role in the developments. But what has also changed is that more people are now attuned to nonviolent action and so have perceived the struggles in a different light.

I expect this process will continue. As more people are exposed to the idea of social defense they will begin to see the world differently, and obtain inspiration from nonviolent struggles. Some of them will support or join such struggles as the occasion arises, and so the process can grow. But I don't expect this to be a rapid process, because the "social defense movement" is still too weak to do much to mobilize against a direct threat, such as a military coup in an industrialized country. Until it is stronger, many opportunities for quick expansion in public interest and involvement will go begging.

Brian Martin, Wollongong, NSW, Australia

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