Interrelation of Violent and Non-Violent Resistance in Burma
George Washington University
APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper
In countries where armed and non-violent organizations resist the state, how do individuals decide which resistance to join? This paper draws upon original interviews with Burmese political activists, insurgents and ordinary citizens to demonstrate the interrelationship between armed and non-violent resistance. Despite growing understanding of why individuals join opposition movements, armed or non-violent, little empirical research examines why individuals decide to join one organization instead of another. Activists and insurgents have similar paths to resistance mobilization in Burma. Viterna (2006) argues nonviolent action is a gateway to eventual armed resistance, finding evidence that armed groups in El Salvador recruit from political/social organizations sympathetic to the objectives of the armed struggle. This paper argues the relationship goes both directions – insurgents also join non-violent organizations to continue their opposition to the state. Activists transitioned between nonviolent and violent organizations and sometimes back again.
Thus, non-violent and armed strategies and the groups pursuing them should not be viewed as ‘either/or.’ Rather, as events and interviews from Burma highlight, non-violent and violent oppositions complement one another and provide alternative options for continued resistance. Because initial recruitment is not due to pre-existing preferences regarding use of violence, this paper argues the interrelationship between non-violent and violent resistance – and member’s ability to transition between organizations – lays a foundation for unusually long-term commitment to anti-state opposition.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 29
Keywords: Non-violent action, insurgency, Burma, motivation, recruitment, retentionworking papers series
Date posted: August 1, 2011 ; Last revised: August 25, 2011
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