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Frank L. Hoffman Interviewed: Hope for Human Kind
Comments by Stephen Kaufman - 6 Mar 2003

Frank wrote:

"The key to this unconditional peacemaking movement, which we believe is the only hope of survival for the human race, is that we consistently present the whole truth, and that we live it in every aspect of our lives. And, that we do so openly before the world around us. This is exactly what Jesus Christ did 2,000 years ago, and what Gandhi and King did in more recent years."

It may be true that the only way to have peace is to live peaceably, unconditionally. This often requires personal sacrifice, and a problem is that many of us don't wish to sacrifice ourselves for the cause of peace.

Even if we did not fear our own deaths, many of us wish to live for the benefit of those who love and depend on us. Furthermore, there remains the problem of how best to protect those who are being victimized.

Gandhi and King are often mentioned to demonstrate peacemaking's effectiveness. However, I would suggest that they represent special cases and do not prove that peaceful methods result in progressive change. First, there have been hoards of similar peacemakers who have been killed and lost to history. The occasional success does not prove a point. Second, Gandhi and King worked within democracies in which the general public believed that peaceful protestors should not be victimized. Setting attack dogs on unarmed protestors horrified the U.S. Beating and shooting peaceful protestors was incompatible with English notions of justice and fair play.

Since leaders of representative democracies need to be sensitive to public concerns (unlike dictators), the ensuing public outrage became a political force. Third, in both cases there were threats of violence that made peaceful approaches more appealing. There were many militant Indians who offered a far bloodier alternative to Gandhi. Similarly, I am convinced that the Black Panthers and other militant Blacks in the U.S. made King seem far more palatable. Better to go with the civil rights peacefully advocated by King than the militant Black Power others were threatening.

Denmark's passive resistance to the Nazis may be a better case study in the power of nonviolent actions. However, I wonder whether Denmark's small size and strategic unimportance was one reason that relative lack of cooperation with Nazis was deemed acceptable. Many German soldiers, evidently, came to respect the Danes' refusal to turn over Jews, and this concerned the Nazi regime. I wonder whether a wider nonviolent movement among Nazi occupied territories would have inspired severe suppression.


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