Is Violence Necessary For a Revolution to Succeed?

Gandhi led one of the only successful non-violent revolutions to date. Through non-violence he was able to ratify the injustice that was overt, and he remained this tactic throughout the revolution. In the movie we watched in class when asked how he would react to violence being inflicted upon him he said that he would react by offering his other cheek and not by striking at the inflicter. On the other hand, many other revolutions have been successful with violence. For example, the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution would not have been successful if violence was not present. Many of the leaders of these revolutions would not have had the same outlook on violence that Gandhi had instead they would remark that violence was necessary to keep the rebels from rebelling. My question is whether or not violence is necessary for a revolution to succeed? Can you have a successful revolution without every laying a hand on your enemy? Violence is necessary to have your cause heard against the enemy?

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9 Responses to Is Violence Necessary For a Revolution to Succeed?

  1. Sarah Esterow says:

    I think under different circumstances violence is the last resort to making the revolution successful, however it is not the only way for a revolution to work. Thus far, all of the revolutions that we have studied this year have used some sort of violence to terminate or start the revolution. However, I do not believe that violence is the key to winning all revolutions. I think that if there is a specific goal in mind and the enemy is not attacked, that is the BETTER way for a successful revolution. I am interested in learning more about this revolution without violence, because I think a revolution without violence is one that should be admired.

  2. Pho says:

    I don’t believe that violence is necessary in order for a revolution to succeed. Primarily, it depends on the type of revolution that occurs. If the revolution is a social change, such as the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, in which divisions within society didn’t rebel against each other or their government, then violence most likely won’t occur. However, similar to the comment Sheena made, I believe that whether violence occurs in a revolution depends on the leader of the revolution. For example, Gandhi made the choice of following brahmacharya, which is living a life of poverty and chastity in order to control emotions of anger and pride. Unlike leaders such as Stalin or Robespierre, Gandhi chose to live a life of nonviolence and therefore implemented his nonviolent efforts into campaigns of nonviolent resistance. Gandhi didn’t believe that he needed violence in order to bring down his enemy. Gandhi instead believed that without violence he could understand the suffering of those around him and as a result, become more self-aware. Although society and the people influence many of the revolutions we’ve studied, I believe that specifically in India, the people were influenced by Gandhi. Unlike Gandhi, many of his followers were violent. For example, when a group of demonstrators set fire to a police car during the noncooperation and civil disobedience campaign, Gandhi immediately shut down the campaign even though victory was in reach. I do believe that nonviolent revolutions are possible, however for those revolutions to succeed it will most likely be the result of a strong, persistent leader.

  3. Aaron Stagoff-Belfort says:

    Almost every revolution in history is brought about by violence. Violent revolution is necessary in many cases and two of the last revolutions we have studied, the Russian and French Revolution’s have proven thus. While non-violent revolution cannot occur in many cases, under the right set of circumstances it can be successful. The only way a non-violent revolution can occur is if it is led by a revered and brilliant leader. leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King were respected and excellent at gathering a large following. In addition, the opposing force, in this case the British government must be benevolent enough that they would not use harsh force to crush a non-violent rebellion. The British were not willing to kill Gandhi or destroy his campaign for fear of mass retaliation. Because India’s revolution had the right circumstances, it was able to triumph with non-violence.

    • Dr. K says:


      It’s true that the Russian and French Revolutions were violent, and they were arguably successful (although also, arguably not). But just because they were violent, doesn’t mean they had to be violent, does it?

      • Nick says:

        I don’t think that the Russian and French Revolutions would have succeeded without violence. In each of these cases, there were not, as Aaron previously stated, the necessary conditions for nonviolent revolution, namely leaders as brilliant as Gandhi nor an opposing force who was as willing as Britain was to simply give in. I do not think that unless pressed by the immediate danger that was felt in these revolutions that either would have succeeded, as violence is without a doubt the most effective and imposing method of getting your point across. It was necessary for the revolutionaries to act upon their words instead of simply sitting behind them, as they would never have been taken seriously without the violence they displayed. Now, this is not meant to mean that all revolutions must be as bloody as the French Revolution; in fact, I believe that the French Revolution could have been just as successful, if not more so, if there had been considerably less violence. However, without at least some violence, revolution is made much more difficult.

  4. Mary Kate says:

    I don’t think violence is necessary for a revolution to occur, but it seems that people’s initial reactions to something they don’t like are to either complain about it or try and get rid of it- either way, they like to display their dislike. And in many cases people believe that the best way to get the attention needed to disband or correct whatever they don’t like and create a solution they enjoy more is, many seem to think, through violence. I believe this is why we’ve had many more violent rather than non-violent revolutions. Also, not nearly as many people have the patients to wait for change in a non-violent revolution or to refuse to use violence as Gandhi did. Many people’s first reaction is to cause a ruckus so people notice them and their cause, and wish to compromise with them or fight with them to stop the violence.

  5. Sydney says:

    I think that the violence/noviolence? question strongly relies on the kind of opposition one is facing and the lengths one is willing to go in nonviolence. I also believe that in using nonviolence, one has to be able to gain support no only from other protesters but from outsiders. I doubt that the Russian Revolution (especially in it’s end stages) would have gained much outside support because it was introducing something so different and radical that I doubt that other countries would have been willing to condone it. Because of the fact that at the time of the French Revolution many other countries were ruled by monarchs, I also do not think that the French rebels would have been able to gain outside support. I think what I’m trying to say is, in order for a nonviolent rebellion to work, a group needs to be able to gain outside support. Something like Indian independence is likely to gain the blessing of at least a few outside groups, which is why I think that nonviolence worked in this this case.

  6. AJ Pruitt says:

    I do not think that violence is neccessary to BEGIN a revolution, but I do think that in most cases violence is a common side effect. If we look at some of the recent revolutions that have taken part in the Arab Spring, we can see that most of these movements were started peacefully. The problem occurs when the group in power begins to feel the pressure of the movement barring down on them. This is when we tend to see violence occur, when most of the time it is inflicted by the group struggling to stay in control. Again I would like to say that violence is not necessary in a revolution, but most of the time it is unavoidable.

  7. Natalie says:

    This, I think, is a great question to ask since so many revolutions were driven by violence, though others that were not succeeded as well. Revolutions without violence though capable of success can are difficult. In my opinion to have a breakthrough without violence is all the more difficult than with it. You need a strong driven leader who will stick to their word and persevere through all the threatening adversity they may face. On the other hand some revolutions would not be able to succeed without the use of violence especially if their adversaries use it in a great amount. I think, though, that it all depends on who is insinuating the revolution, their opposition, and their leadership.

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