Nonviolence and Peace Movements: Crash Course World History 228

Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course:
World History and today we are going to talk about something we haven’t discussed much here at
Crash Course. Peace. Peaceful, non-violent protest. Mr. Green! Mr. Green! Finally an episode where
no one gets killed. Mmmm. Ehhh. Some people are gonna get killed,
Me From the Past. Sadly, peaceful, nonviolent protest is often just peaceful on the one side. So we’ve talked a lot about war this year
on Crash Course, how it shaped civilizations and nation states. And it’s easy to assume
that humans are kind of naturally violent and prone to fighting. And in recent human
history, especially during the 20th century, we got scarily good at waging war, right? There
were, of course, the two World Wars, but there were also many other very destructive smaller wars
and we can’t forget that there were also genocides. But one of the most remarkable and often unnoticed
aspects of the 20th century is the incredible number of peace, non violence, and anti-war
movements. Like, we know about Gandhi, but what makes the 20th century unique in history
is that Gandhi wasn’t unique. There was actually a surprisingly large number of peace and
nonviolence movements that were occurring all around the world. So in this episode, we’re
going to talk a little bit about the nonviolent heavy hitters, like Martin Luther King and
Gandhi. I guess I should say, the heavy “non-hitters” because, you know, they were nonviolent. But
they were, by no means, the only ones. So by 1900, Europeans pretty much dominated
the world, even though there had been relative peace in Europe since 1871, Europeans, using
new weapons, had unleashed an incredible amount of violence everywhere else on the planet.
They had colonized most of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Americans had also expanded across
the continental United States, and were making eyes at the Caribbean and Asia. And I want
to be clear that this conquest and colonization was consistently violent. But some people
were beginning to question the very idea of violence itself. Like in his 1894 book, The
Kingdom of God is Within You, Leo Tolstoy, who knew a little bit about War and Peace,
explored how Jesus’s message to quote “turn the other cheek” was the basis for a life
of nonviolence. He argued that governments and individuals
needed to give up violence if they believed themselves to be true Christians, and Tolstoy
also saw nonviolence as a solution to ending colonialism. In 1908, Tolstoy wrote “A Letter
to a Hindu” to Mohandas Gandhi, and in the letter, he explained that Indians needed to
confront British imperialism with love and nonviolence. Gandhi not only read that letter,
he also published it in his South African newspaper “Indian Opinion” in 1909. And Tolstoy’s
ideas in this correspondence with Gandhi marked the beginning of an informal dialogue between
the advocates of nonviolence from around the world that spanned the 20th century. And Tolstoy wasn’t the only influence on Mohandas
K. Gandhi, he’d grown up in the Gujarat region of India where there’s a sizable Jain community.
And through the Jain monks Gandhi was exposed to the idea of Ahimsa: non-violence or non-injury
to life. He also read widely including western writers like John Ruskin, and Henry David
Thoreau. So after his return to India from South Africa
in 1915, Gandhi began to distill his thinking related to non-violence into a more explicit
philosophy. In his 1929 autobiography “The Story of my Experiments with Truth”, Gandhi
wrote about how his belief in Ahimsa could be the basis for Indian resistance to British
rule. So for Gandhi non-violence was both a way of life, and a tool for gaining Indian
self-rule. He saw Western civilization as violent and exploitative. That’s ridiculous.
I know the Eurocentrists are gonna get mad at me for saying that but it is true, a smidge
violent and exploitative at times. That said, well done with like market-based innovation
and the Mona Lisa and etc. OK let’s move on. Gandhi believed that Indians could reject
that lifestyle and replace it with a nonviolent one. And Gandhi also believed that Indians
could bring about an end to British rule through a combination of Ahimsa and Satyagraha, a
word often translated as adherence to truth. All right, let’s go to the Thought Bubble. These interconnected ideas of Ahimsa and Satyagraha
are best seen in the Salt March of 1930. So, since the mid 19th century, the British had
placed taxes on salt, and since salt, in addition to making food more delicious is necessary
to live, Gandhi saw these laws as a perfect example of how British despotism affected
all Indians. Gandhi announced that he and a small group planned to march from his home
in Ahmedabad to the coast in order to harvest salt. The march took almost two months and
quickly gathered media attention from around the world and the British raj in India was
forced to choose between arresting Gandhi for breaking a British law or else allowing
him to break the law because he was harvesting salt illegally. Millions of Indians were inspired
by Gandhi’s challenge to British rule and began their own protests against the salt
law. As civil disobedience spread across India, the British began to arrest people and the
international media focused even more on the protests and popular opinion began to see
British rule as unjust. By refusing to meet violent British rule with violence of his
own and highlighting the injustice of British rule, Gandhi was able to use nonviolence as an
effective tool in undermining the colonial regime. Thanks Thought Bubble. So as previously noted,
Gandhi’s use of nonviolence is very well known but it wasn’t unique. Throughout the
early 20th century nationalist movements in colonies throughout Africa and Asia also adopted
nonviolence. Like one of the first nationalist leaders to advocate for nonviolence resistance
to Imperialism was Phan Chu Trinh. Just as the Vietnamese independence movement was developing
in the first decade of the nineteen hundreds, Phan began to question the violent methods
advocated by other nationalists. Like he spoke out against the violent uprisings that were
occurring in many parts of Vietnam. He also resisted requesting help from Japan in the Vietnamese Independence struggle because of Japan’s militarism. In 1919, Egyptians protested against British
rule by going on strike, and boycotting British goods, and organizing demonstrations across
the country. Those protests went on for months and eventually in 1922 the British granted
independence to Egypt. Although some key areas, including the Suez Canal, did remain under
British control. And even as nonviolence became a tactic associated with anti-imperial movements
in Africa and Asia it was also becoming entrenched in the peace movement that developed in response
to World War One. When war broke out in the fall of 1914 there were lots of protests in
the United States, which had yet to enter the war. A number of young activists met to
discuss how to stop it and how to prevent the United States from entering it. This group
included AJ Musty and Kirby Page and Dorothy Day, all of whom would go on to become important
figures in the Peace Movement in the United States. They also helped found the Fellowship
of Reconciliation or (FOR), which advocated on behalf of conscientious objectors and encouraged
nonviolent alternatives to conflict. And then after the war ended many of these American
peace activists began to expand their horizons and they saw connections between nonviolence
and antiwar movements and nonviolence in the anti-imperial struggle. There was, for instance, Ricard Gregg, a young
activist who had been involved in the anti-war movement in the United States, who traveled
to India in 1925. He spent four years in India studying with Gandhi including seven months
living at Gandhi’s ashram in Gujarat. And then when he returned to the US, Gregg wrote
the very influential book The Power of Nonviolence in which he described how nonviolence would
remake the world. I mention this to get across the idea that
this was truly an international movement that involved cultural exchange that went both
west to east and east to west. And this idea of nonviolent resistance was also very compelling
to artists. During the Spanish Civil War the nationalist forces of General Franco heavily
bombed the Basque village of Guernica and after reading about the destruction of the
village, the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso who was working on a commissioned mural for
the Spanish Republic abandoned the mural and began painting Guernica to draw attention
to the horrors that war inflicts upon innocent civilians. The painting became one of the
most famous of the 20th century and it remains a powerful antiwar symbol. There were even
nonviolent protests against the Nazis. Like in 1943 the German Gestapo arrested about
1800 Jewish men who were married to non-Jewish women. And as those men were being held in
an office building, their wives gathered together on the street. Armed German Gestapo agents
attempted to disperse them with threats of firing into the crowd and a stand off between
the unarmed women and the armed Gestapo went on for a week. Instead of firing on the women,
Joseph Gerbils, the Nazi party director in Berlin, ultimately decided to back down and
he released the men. The so called Rosenstrasse protest was the only successful public protest against
Nazi policies in Germany but it wasn’t the only protest. And then we have the Civil Rights Movement
in the United States which brought together many of the different strains of nonviolent
resistance in the 20th century. Like during World War II, civil rights pioneer Bayard
Rustin met AJ Musty and other members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and they spent
much of the war protesting racial discrimination in the armed forces but at the same time Rustin
was also becoming increasingly aware of the injustice of the British colonialism in India
and Africa and began to protest that as well. And we see this global cross-fertilization
of nonviolent ideas again in 1948 when Rustin traveled to India, where he met with many
of Gandhi’s associates — Gandhi had been killed in January of that year — and learned
about the role of nonviolent protest against the British. And in the following decade,
Rustin would teach Martin Luther King Jr about Gandhi’s tactics, so he could use them in
protesting against racial segregation in the United States. King himself traveled to India
in 1959 to learn more about nonviolence. And before leaving he explained that he was quote
“more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most
potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.” And the principles of nonviolence would come
to shape the strategies used for the remainder of the Civil Rights Movement. Nonviolent resistance
was also an important protest tactic during the Cold War. Alexander Dubcek, the Czech
Communist Party’s first secretary, began a series of reforms to communist rule in Czechoslovakia
in January 1968 that would become known as the Prague Spring. And the Soviet Union was
like no no no no no no no we don’t like democratic reforms or Spring. So they sent
in troops to destabilize Dubcek’s government and in response to that invasion, civilians
quickly took to the streets in support of Dubcek and to resist the invasion. Most people
resisted through a variety of nonviolent means, including deliberately giving wrong directions
to Soviet tanks, forming human blockades across bridges, and distributing protest materials.
Secret radio stations were set up to broadcast calls for nonviolent resistance across the
country. And the protest continued on for the rest of 1968. In January of 1969, two
Czech students burned themselves to death in a Prague square to protest the Soviet occupation
and as the tensions between the protesters and the Soviets escalated, the Soviets began
a violent crackdown. By the summer of 1969 they’d brought the demonstrations to an end. Historians took note of all of this stuff,
like historian Gene Sharp published his multi volume Politics of Nonviolent Action which
was reportedly read by a lot of the original protesters in the Arab Spring of 2011, which
reminds us that nonviolent resistance movements advocating for and in some cases achieving
political change are not just part of history, they are also part of the world in which we
live today. Ideas about nonviolence that began with Leo Tolstoy at the beginning of the 20th
century are still very much with us. And I think it is good important to remind
ourselves of two things. First, that Tolstoy’s most famous book is called War and Peace.
And secondly, that the 20th century while it featured intensely destructive wars, was by
many measures the least violent century ever. Wars are traumatic and they have relatively
straightforward narratives that allow us to focus on human dramas and all of that stuff
is appealing to historians. But really the nonviolent struggles against oppression in
the 20th century have been just as dramatic and especially in the second half of the 20th
century they have born fruit and not just in the US and India. When the news focuses
just on death and destruction it can be hard to remember that more people are living under
peaceful regimes than ever before and that, at least between nations, inequality and injustice
are diminishing. Nonviolent resistance doesn’t always work and the governments that emerge
form these movements aren’t always good governments. The stories, as usual, are complicated.
So the next time we think about the 20th century merely as a century of war and genocide and
nuclear weapons we need to remind ourselves that it was also a century in which hundreds
of millions of people emerged from poverty and fewer people died as a result of violence.
Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is filmed here in the Chad and
Stacey Emigholz studios in Indianapolis and it’s made possible by our Subbable subscribers.
Thank you so much for watching and as we say in my home town, don’t forget to be awesome.

Jerry Heath


  1. the most important economic peace treaty of all time,"Bretton woods,united news."12.07 the reason why hundreds of millions emerged from poverty and now due to not having stable currencies the reverse?

  2. Don't forget Tolstoy read an ancient Indian work on ethics written in Tamil originally and that's what gave him the mindset to write to Gandhi

  3. The researchers should really oversee the animation team at Thought Bubble. Anything not depicting the West, and they come up with so much cringe. Really bugs me. Not to mention those horribly distracting puns that come up every time a historical personality's mugshot is introduced.

  4. Forgot to mention that it's more effective! Research shows that 70% effective in overthrowing violent regimes!

  5. The examples only prove why non violence will only work in the long term against lawful or democratic states and not authoritarian and totalitarian states. Britain could not have invaded India before the war and due to the succession of actions during the war. Gandhi and the independence movement had the higher moral ground. The fact that the British Empire did not want to be seen as despots was what enabled non violent actions to work. The fact that the totalitarian Soviet government didn't care was why the Czech movement ultimately failed.

  6. thank youuuuuu sooooo much ….. I am damn happy i found this ….. it provides me with everything 😍😍

  7. what about Tienanmen square sure it wasn't successful but it made the Chinese communist party look like the dictatorial system and not a government for the people

  8. Part of my family ancestry is Quaker. The Quakers have a long history of non-violence, and their anti-war stance has often led to them being subjected to threats at violence on the home front. Like John Green said at the beginning of the video, “Peaceful non-violent protest is often just peaceful on the one side.”

  9. And now liberals are using to violence to attack those they don't agree with.

  10. You would think that after years and years of this stuff and knowing what we know today, we would get along better.

  11. Yo crash course your audio is never consistent like i was binging your world history series but there has never been 2 videos with the same audio volume at the start. NEVER

  12. This is great! Would love to see some women of history… Not just when we talk only about women but as examples among men! 🙂

  13. my history teacher linked us this i love ur episodes but seeing my teacher linking this

  14. Let me tell you an interesting truth. The main independence was got by Netaji, Subhash Chanda Bose. Gandhiji did a great job by uniting every Indian together to oppose British policies and by his movement called "Satyagraha" demand the Colonial British government to sanction their demands. Before World War II these movements were fantastic but as WWII started all atmosphere got warmed up. British was in hurry to supply army men into Europe to fight against Nazi Germany. Netaji. Subhash Chandra at this moment got the fantastic idea to create an army in Germany from British PWD generally Indians to fight back to Britishers in India. Netaji was allied to Hitler and Imperial Japanese Army but he was feeling bad that he didn't got the support from USSR. Netaji thought that a country who is against imperialism will fight for India and many Indian communists which were also in the party in Moscow applied a help from Stalin but not successful. Netaji also told that for India I could shake hands with devil too. Hence Netaji with his army allied by Japanese Army started a war in Burma and then Arunachal Pradesh India. They won the area but as Axis powers were defeated and Japan then was surrender to US Japan was unable to support Netaji. Netaji still fought bravely and the Britishers this time were frighten. When they saw that an army of Indian men and mutiny of all Indians in their colonial army has began the British fled away from India and thus India got it's independence. But Socialism was to come in India but Bhagat SIngh was killed and he was the representation of Soviet bonding with USSR in India !!! so Laal Saalam (means red salute, a way Indian Communists pay respect) India and Russia will come again with China =D

  15. Obviously this just scratches the surface what books would you recommended on nonviolence?
    peace and war or something more recent?

  16. Gandhi was a fool , he delayed indian independence by atleast 25 year .

  17. Gandhi may have been non violent but he was also a RACIST who looked down on black people.

  18. Is it bad that I find his facetious refusal to attempt to pronounce non-English names semi-correctly an example of subtle American exceptionalism and Eurocentrism?

  19. Strange how The U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. mirrored each other during the summer of 1969.

  20. Non-violence is a tricky issue.Feelings of violence are rooted deep in us.I follow a simple spirituality called Nichiren Buddhism whose practice and study can open doors of 'protection' and some fulfillment for those engaged in non-violent efforts.

  21. no justice no peace by any means necessary is the only way!

  22. It must've taken a lot of guts to deliberately give wrong directions to a soldier operating a FRICKIN' MILITARY TANK.

  23. In Vietnam the monks lit themselves on fire to protest the catholics that were inserted by Foreign invaders. Just a observation no judgment.

  24. Its very hard not to be violent especially when people are being violent toward you . Its truly a godly characteristic

  25. There was another guy, named Bacha Khan in North Western India who had developed a very wide community movement with special focus on nonviolent anticolonial resistance.

  26. I am afraid but it's not Gandhi BUT Subhash Chandra Bose who gave us Independence.

  27. Wow Mr Green grew a lot of facial hair did any of you guys notice that?

  28. Discuss anarchist movement next. They're the ones causing death to peace protest

  29. Was the most peaceful? are you mad? over 250million deaths from wars and over 200 million from communism with another 100million in genocides around the world? 550million violent deaths is "most peaceful" to you???!?!!!!

  30. The only virtue gandhi had was his adherance to truth.He was just a symbol, atleast the west was relatively realistic and sensible in their colonial ambition.

  31. Giving wrong directions to soldiers as a form of protest is one of the best types of protest I think I've ever heard of.

  32. If you were to record this video again in this period, you would end up adding at least a comment about the Hong Kong protests hehe

  33. I really like your show, I myself am from Russia and this video is very relevant in our time and allows us to look into the past and build the future. Thanks you.👍

  34. Oh sure…
    yes, of course, peaceful resistance, Prague spring, 10 people died under tanks, 2 students set themselves on fire, savagery and injustice. Not like in 1941, Czechoslovakia met the fascists without any resistance, and gave productive powers, the best forge of Europe, and about the genocides in this area are not a reason for peaceful protests. The communists will always be worse, better tell the comrade of democracy what the democrats did in Vietnam. how many bombs were used and killed by the local population.

  35. Hi John! Not many in the west are aware that the name “War and Peace” has two names hidden. In Russian, the name reads as “Voyna I mir”, and the word “mir” has two meanings: “peace” and “world”. Tolstoy wanted to say not only about peace, but also about world and the role of war in both terms of the word “mir”.

  36. This was when protesters actually had balls, and were willing to do great risks to bring great things to the world. Many protesters today are millennials who don’t protest enough. Millennials need to protest more.

  37. 7:19 Hate to be knit picky but the Nationalists did not bomb Guernica, it was Hitler’s Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion that aided Franco in the Civil War.

  38. Gandhi in his earlier days was little bit of racist but in his later life he was not .

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