Rethinking Radical Flank Theory: South Africa

31 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2014

See all articles by John Braithwaite

John Braithwaite

School of Regulation & Global Governance (RegNet)

Date Written: January 2014


Chenoweth and Stephan (2011) found that nonviolent resistance movements since 1900 have twice the success rate of violent movements in achieving their objectives. Schock and Chenoweth (2012) furthermore show that nonviolent resistance movements with a violent radical flank have a lower success rate than nonviolent movements without a violent radical flank. This contradicts the analysis of the African National Congress of how Apartheid was defeated. The ANC believes both armed struggle and nonviolent resistance were effective and complementary. After listening to voices from the South African resistance, a tweak of Schock and Chenoweth is advanced. Nonviolent resistance should not cultivate the creation of violent radical flanks; if violent radical flanks exist, however, nonviolent leaders should be reluctant to cast them out of resistance coalitions. Indeed, like Nelson Mandela in the 1980s, nonviolent oppositions may do best to resist tyranny with willingness to invoke the spectre of violent spoilers.

Keywords: nonviolence, South Africa, radical flank, resistance movements, violent spoilers

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Braithwaite, John, Rethinking Radical Flank Theory: South Africa (January 2014). RegNet Research Paper No. 2014/23, Available at SSRN: or

John Braithwaite (Contact Author)

School of Regulation & Global Governance (RegNet) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

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