Japan’s devastating defeat in World War II led many ordinary Japanese people to develop a general antipathy and aversion to war and militarism. Pacifism was enshrined in the famous Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which states that Japan “forever renounce(s) war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” Although the post-war Japanese constitution was authored by progressive-minded Americans during the U.S. occupation of the Japanese archipelago (1945-1952), Japanese people embraced the peace constitution as their own. Japan became a cradle for a large-scale anti-nuclear weapons and anti-war movement. Following the U.S. involvement in the Korean War, Japan created a Self-Defense Forces in 1954, with American encouragement, but the country has not engaged in direct military conflict since 1945. Some scholars credit Japan’s lower military spending for the country’s economic miracle, which led to it becoming the world’s second largest economy by 1968, a position that it would maintain until it was eclipsed by China in 2010. However, even as Japan has not engaged in military conflict, it is still under the U.S. security umbrella. Japanese national security is guaranteed by the United States and its military, which has numerous military bases across the country, most notably in the islands of Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture. With its own Self-Defense Forces, and with the widespread presence of U.S. military bases, Japan cannot be described – despite Article 9 and its long post-war pacifist tradition – as a country that has irresolutely abjured war and militarism.
SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy) was a student organization founded in May 2015 as part of the protest movement against Shinzō Abe and his government’s legislations to reinterpret the Japanese Constitution to allow Japan to engage in collective self-defense on behalf of its allies, e.g., the United States. Japan was rocked by its largest anti-war demonstrations in over fifty years in the summer and fall of 2015, and SEALDs quickly grew in significance to become the most visible face of this movement. Although SEALDs drew on pre-existing protest movements such as the anti-nuclear movement that had arisen after the nuclear meltdown following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan, it expanded the range of its objections beyond nuclear issues and thus gained a wider appeal. Widespread popular protest had been discredited in Japan following the violence and excesses of student radicalism in the 1960s and 1970s. Further, young Japanese people, and especially college students, were seen as apolitical and generally apathetic to social and political issues. SEALDs defied both these trends in contemporary Japanese society by mobilizing tens of thousands of young people to protest Abe’s security legislation.
Nonviolent resistance is a powerful tool for ordinary civilians to transform their governments. Individuals and organizations facing restrictive, oppressive or authoritarian forms of governance may be able to employ nonviolent methods to amplify their voices, challenge power dynamics and press for reforms. In their book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent conflict, Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan noted that nonviolent civil resistance is far more successful in creating broad-based change than a violent campaign. However, despite the greater chances of success, it is evident from the work of scholars that not all nonviolent movements succeed, and many ultimately escalate into violent conflicts. As a result, some nonviolent movements fail to achieve progress. More specifically, In Nigeria, what began as a peaceful protest by a motley of interest groups against key issues ranging from the rising unemployment and inflation, inequitable distribution of the palliative, increasing insecurity, and the excesses of officials of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in some part of the country snowballed into violence after the police fired tear gas and live bullets to disperse protesters.
Toyohiko Kagawa (1888-1960) was a Japanese social reformer, labor activist and Christian evangelist known as “Japan’s Gandhi.” As a social activist, pacifist and public figure, Kagawa was well-known during his lifetime – both in his home country of Japan as well as in the United States. He was nominated for the Nobel Prizes in literature and peace on numerous occasions. However, today he is a mostly forgotten figure. The Washington National Cathedral has a statue of Kagawa, clad in traditional kimono-like clothing – but most visitors to the site have probably never heard of him, and he is hardly remembered in the United States today. Similarly, although some people in contemporary Japan may recognize his name, he is largely forgotten among his countrymen, decades after his death. Who was this Japanese Christian pacifist and social reformer? What were his achievements and legacies? And did he deserve the title of “Gandhi of Japan”?
Colonialism as a subject of research has garnered interest on the path of academic scholars over time. In his book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” Walter Rodney noted that colonialism had only one hand and it was a one-armed bandit. It was a system which functioned well in the interests of the metropoles. Even though it brought some material benefits to European-educated intellectuals, colonialism alienated and frustrated most Nigerians who believed that it eroded traditional cultures and institutions. Colonial rule exploited Nigerian labour in a way that profited European firms far more than Nigerians themselves. It also limited Nigerians’ political participation in issues that concerned the governing of the country. These perceived shortcomings of colonial rule gave rise to Nigerian nationalism otherwise known as anti-colonial movements. Nigerians, like other colonized peoples of the world, sought for their independence. However, unlike societies like America in the American War of Independence (1775), Algeria in the Algerian War of Independence (1955), and Haiti in the Haitian Revolution (1791), Nigeria secured her independence through nonviolent movements. In this article, I will examine Nigeria’s anti-colonial movements, highlighting nonviolence as an alternative way to change political regimes.
In October 2020, after a summer of massive global protests surrounding the issue of police brutality, Nigeria found itself in the midst of a similar watershed moment. After a video of an extrajudicial killing committed by an officer of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) went viral, young Nigerians joined together in country-wide peaceful protests calling for the disbandment of the unit. The protests were completely decentralized, youth-led, and, utilized the power of social media to create global awareness. After only a week of protests, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the complete dissolution of the SARS unit, effective immediately. To many outsiders, this was a massive victory, but within Nigeria there was hesitancy, this hadn’t been the first time the SARS unit was dissolved and many feared it wasn’t the last. Since 2015, the SARS unit had been disbanded or reformed on four separate occasions and had always come back in one form or another. But why and how? Who was this seemingly immune police unit and did the introduction of their abuses to the international stage create lasting change?
In 2014, the world saw Hong Kong stop in its pace to make way for the Umbrella Movement. The protest started in response to a decision made by China that would allow elections in Hong Kong in 2017, but only from a list of candidates pre-approved by the Chinese government. The Umbrella Movement was nicknamed so because protestors would use umbrellas to protect themselves from the tear gas used by police. The umbrella became an international symbol of peaceful resistance, in an attempt to fight for Hong Kong’s sovereignty and freedom.
Writing as a senior on the eve of the annual Mifflin block party, I know plenty of people who plan to spend their Saturday drinking the day away between Dayton St and W Washington Ave. Yet many of the students who will be spending their day at Madison’s largest annual “darty” are unaware that the event started as a political protest.
The country of East Timor, now better known as Timor-Leste, had been occupied by Indonesia until their independence on May 20th, 2002. The occupation can only be described as violent and brutal, while the resistance focused on a strategy of nonviolent campaigns, both in East Timor and internationally, in order to push forth their agenda for independence. Through examining the independence struggle and the mobilization of peaceful protests, I believe that nonviolence has foregrounded the independence struggle, but it alone as a political tool would not be sufficient. By examining the effects of the post-Cold War conditions which emphasize sovereignty and freedom, the use of media, and the eventual international circulation of discourse, nonviolence movements in East Timor would not have succeeded without other preconditions which allowed these movements to receive the international attention that it did, and eventually led to the withdrawal of Indonesia from the area.
It is no secret in the international community that the humanitarian situation in Venezuela is dire. A history of detrimental governance has driven Venezuela into political and economic ruin. Former President Hugo Chávez’s populist political ideology was characterized by a desire to nationalize Venezuelan industries and a rejection of U.S. imperialism. However, Chávez’s economic policy resulted in a destructive spending spree that produced an incredible run-up in the price of oil and racked up enormous piles of debt. As a result, almost 10% of Venezuela’s 31 million-strong population have fled overseas; of those who remain, nearly 90% live in poverty. Throughout his reign, Chávez effectively edged Venezuela towards authoritarianism, paving the way for current President Nicolás Maduro to establish a dictatorship.