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Education for Nonviolence and Democracy

Education for Nonviolence and Democracy
(Coordinator Comment)

Education for a culture of peace is the first of the eight program areas for a culture of peace. Instead of preparing for war by training soldiers and preparing a population for war, we need to learn how to solve conflicts without violence, to resist violence with active nonviolent power, and to participate in democratic governance.

The UN resolution for a culture of peace calls for actions to "ensure that children, from an early age, benefit from education on the values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life to enable them to resolve any dispute peacefully and in a spirit of respect for human dignity and of tolerance and non-discrimination." (section B.9.b)

The followup report on a culture of peace by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan goes into detail on how education for a culture of peace should be promoted in schools and in the mass media. The recommendations follow the principles of problem-posing education worked out by Paulo Freire, who received the UNESCO prize for peace education in recognition of his work.

But the most important education for a culture of peace comes through real-life experience. As the draft UN document on a culture of peace stresses, it requires practical activities: "Solidarity, creativity, civic responsibility, gender sensitivity, the ability to resolve conflicts by non-violent means and critical skills should be learned through practice which involves the educational community in activities promoting a culture of peace."

Gandhi insisted that education for nonviolence requires training, courage and discipline, even more than that of a soldier: "It takes a fairly strenuous course of training to attain to a mental state of non-violence ... the perfect state is reached only when mind and body and speech are in proper co-ordination ... Non-violence is a weapon of the strong. With the weak, it might easily be hypocrisy " Its principles, described most clearly by Martin Luther King, Jr must be taken to heart by all who wish to learn the power of nonviolence.

Lenin stressed the role of education for revolutionaries: "By educating the workers' party, Marxism educates the vanguard of the proletariat, capable of assuming power and leading the whole people to socialism, of directing and organizing the new system, of being the teacher, the guide, the leader of all the working and exploited people in organizing their social life without the bourgeoisie and against the bourgeoisie."

Education about human nature is an important part of the ideological struggle for revolutionaries. Insofar as people are fooled by the myths of inherited intelligence, racial or male superiority and the inevitability of violence, they are less likely to take part in revolutionary action.

After the revolution, education is essential to the development of socialist (not bourgeois) democracy. As Che Guevara expressed it, "Society as a whole must become a huge school" and in that way "We can see the new man who begins to emerge in this period of the building of socialism." The keys are the development of true democratic participation and education: "We are seeking something new that will allow a perfect identification between the government and the community as a whole, adapted to the special conditions of the building of socialism and avoiding to the utmost the commonplaces of bourgeois democracy transplanted to the society in formation (such as legislative houses, for example) ... It is still necessary to accentuate his conscious, individual and collective, participation in all the mechanism of direction and production and associate it with the idea of the need for technical and ideological education, so that the individual will realise that these processes are closely interdependent and their advances are parallel. He will thus achieve total awareness of his social being, which is equivalent to his full realisation as a human being, having broken the chains of alienation."

Che Guevara echoes Lenin who saw the trade unions as schools for communist management: "Being a school of communism in general, the trade unions must, in particular, be a school for training the whole mass of workers, and eventually all working people, in the art of managing socialist industry (and gradually also agriculture)." Speaking of workers' control Lenin said,""socialism can only take shape and be consolidated when the working class has learnt how to run the economy and when the authority of the working people has been firmly established."

Above all, the revolutionary party and revolutionary army must base their power on education and training, as emphasized by Mao Tse-Tung: "Our Party organizations must be extended all over the country and we must purposefully train tens of thousands of cadres and hundreds of first-rate mass leaders. They must be cadres and leaders versed in Marxism-Leninism, politically far-sighted, competent in work, full of the spirit of self-sacrifice, capable of tackling problems on their own, steadfast in the midst of difficulties and loyal and devoted in serving the nation, the class and the Party." "If our Party does not have a great many new cadres working in unity and cooperation with the old cadres, our cause will come to a stop." Mao's comments are similar about the need for education of the revolutionary army.

Keeping in mind the dialectical principle that "the interdependence and the closest and indissoluble connection between all aspects of any phenomenon," any action of education for nonviolence and democracy contributes to the overall struggle of the culture of peace versus the culture of war.

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game administrator Jun. 13 2019,18:22
Readers' comments are invited on this topic.
Red-Metta October 2, 2009
The Capitalist war machine is strong and efficient.  It is trained to win at all and any cost, and its recruitment slogans are aimed at the unfilled dreams and assumptions of the young, so that they may perform their role of 'living material', an essential element for the military industrial complex.

The young are promised a vague glory, but are given instead, only hardship and death.  In Capitalist society, everything is achieved through agency.  A human being is believed to be 'complete', when they actively engage in all the oppressive establishments, thus perpetuating by default, the machinery of Capitalist oppression.  The Armed Forces recruit and train, and await their use.

Socialism should not and can not be like this.  A Socialist society, for it to claim true governing legitimacy, must be seen to be designed along scientific lines.  And this science must not be tinged with rightwing pragmatism.  The benefit of human ingenuity and developed intelligence, belongs to all humanity as a first point of principle, and not only to those who can afford to buy it, or those who can afford to sell it.  Money, as a legitimate agency for change, must be abolished.  Money knows no compassion or social justice.

Education along Socialist lines is the first step.  Learning how to view the world, free from the Capitalist, rightwing agenda is the crucial first step.  And we must be prepared to suffer for what is right, to gain the moral upper-hand, and show others that their welfare is our welfare.  Our bodies and minds maybe counter-attacked in various ways, but committment to the true course is the only way to ensure a culture of peace prevails.

A strong but calm mind grows out of correct knowledge.  To be immersed in Socialist compassion is the only armour a Socialist needs.  We can advance together, leaving none behind.  Today's enemies are tomorrow's comrades and our upright behaviour in the existing cultural milieu, will be observed as 'just', and win support from those who are moved by it.  As Antonio Gramsci theorised, society can be transformed from within, without the need for violence.  We must coonvince others of the strength of our arguments, and show that violence is no substitute for the intellect or for compassion.

It is not a crime to care about others.  A social consciousness begins in the mind of the individual.  Together we can stand strong.  Peace is Socialism.  Socialism is a society free of greed and the cult of personality.

Thank you
Kerri September 26, 2010
I really like what you have said here and how you have said it!! I am writing a journal about capatalism for my congregation do you mind if I use some of what you have written??
Mirin September 29, 2010
Of course, you are invited to make use of everything here with your congregation.  And we would appreciate hearing about how it goes.   - Mirin