1. How did activists in the Indian movement for independence, in the Nashville sit-ins, and in the opposition to apartheid in South Africa use the three forms of nonviolent mass action: protests (such as meetings, parades, and demonstrations), noncooperation (such as boycotts and resignations) and direct intervention (such as factory occupations, takeovers, and blockades)? Suggested Response: There are several correct answers. Some suggested good responses are: India: protests: mass meetings and demonstrations; noncooperation: the refusal to pay the salt tax; the boycott of cloth made in England, the resignations of village headmen and other officials; direct intervention: the effort to take over the salt works; Nashville sit-ins: protests: mass meetings and the march on the Mayor's office; noncooperation: the boycott of downtown stores that would not integrate their facilities; direct intervention: sitting at the lunch counters; South Africa: protests: there were mass meetings, often limited to funerals, the only public forum that was permitted by the government; noncooperation: the boycott of white-owned stores; direct intervention: None.
SUGGESTED ANSWERS TO DISCUSSION QUESTIONS AND ANSWER KEY TO COMPREHENSION TESTS FOR
"A FORCE MORE POWERFUL"
Points that will be covered in a thorough class discussion are set out in the Suggested Responses that follow each question. The questions on the comprehension tests are identical in most cases to the discussion questions. The Suggested Response is an example of an excellent answer to the appropriate test question.
Nonviolent Mass Action -- General Questions
1. Early in his career, Gandhi described campaigns of nonviolent mass action as "passive resistance." Later he had second thoughts about this description. Does the term "passive resistance" accurately describe a campaign of nonviolent mass action? Explain your answer, focusing on each of the two words of the phrase "passive resistance". Suggested Response: The word "passive" is accurate in that nonviolent resisters don't physically strike their opponents. However, "passive" is not accurate in the political, emotional, or moral sense. Persons involved in nonviolent mass action are seeking to change political or social reality, usually in a very aggressive way. They are making things very difficult emotionally for their opponents. Nonviolent mass action seeks to make people look at their actions or their beliefs with a new ethical perspective. It challenges long held beliefs and established customs of behavior. In this sense, the word "passive" is incorrect. The word "resistance" is also both appropriate and inappropriate. A nonviolent protester "resists" the normal operation of the status quo in an effort to make it grind to a halt or in an effort to change it. At the same time, this "resistance" is very dynamic because it seeks to create change, often dramatic change. Thus Gandhi, in South Africa, "resisted" enforcement of the pass laws for the purpose of fundamentally changing society to improve treatment of people of Indian descent.
2. What benefits have the people of the United States derived from the influence of Mahatma Gandhi? Answer as to each group: (1) whites, (2) blacks, and (3) other minorities. Suggested Response: Gandhi provided tactics and a theory by which the black community in the U.S. could challenge the unethical practice of segregation and make the whites realize that it was wrong. It provided a means to force social change without violence. For whites, the Civil Rights Movement has enriched the ethics of the United States and made it less hypocritical. All Americans are its beneficiaries, for while black people obtained freedom from the restrictions of segregation, whites and other Americans (to the extent they learned from the Civil Rights Movement) freed themselves of the unethical conduct called segregation and brought their society more in line with the principles of the Declaration of Independence. The benefits were immense for both. As for other minorities, the prohibitions on racial segregation have also outlawed discrimination against them and they have benefitted from the understanding of the evils of racism that grew out of the Civil Rights Movement.
3. Methods of nonviolent mass action can be separated into three categories: protest, noncooperation and direct intervention. Describe each category and give at least one example of each. Your examples do not need to be confined to the Indian independence movement. Suggested Response: They are: (1) protests (such as petitions, meetings, parades, vigils, and demonstrations), (2) noncooperation (such as boycotts, resignations and work slowdowns) and (3) direct intervention (such as sit-ins, factory occupations, seizures of property, and blockades).
4. The three main ways in which nonviolent mass action forces political and social change are by: (1) changing hearts and minds; (2) applying economic pressure; and (3) preventing business as usual. Describe how each of these works to help protesters achieve their goals. Suggested Response: (1) Changing Hearts and Minds: Nonviolent mass action works on the ethical perspective of the majority and the powerful by challenging the morality of their conduct. It points out contradictions among the values of the powerful or of the majority. It highlights differences between their actions and the society's values. When the hearts and minds of the majority are changed, modification of policies and actions will naturally follow. Even if the entrenched powers are not convinced, it is difficult for governments or ruling elites to enforce policies rejected by the general public. (2) Applying Economic Pressure: Nonviolent action by masses of people puts economic pressure on the ruling powers through boycotts or other economic sanctions that hurt some of the ruling elite economically. This pressures and divides the ruling powers. (3) Preventing Business As Usual: Finally, by making the administration of the government or the functioning of society more difficult, nonviolent mass action pressures target groups to make concessions.
5. Would the tactics of nonviolent mass action have worked against violent dictators such as Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question. A good answer will show an understanding of the mechanics of nonviolent mass action and the difficulty that it has in operating against abject evil. Certainly, if nonviolent mass action is to work against a vicious dictatorship, it would have to be substantially modified. For example, the Danes, who used nonviolent mass resistance to fight the Nazi occupation of their country during WWII, modified Gandhi's principles by using secrecy in spiriting their Jewish countrymen to Sweden, in their work slowdowns, and in their general strike. In addition, because of the nature of their oppressor and because the world was at war, the pressure of public opinion in other countries was not a weapon that would help them. However, the fact that the Nazis needed the goods produced in Denmark's factories for the German war effort meant that the Germans would be somewhat restrained in their actions against masses of Danish workers.
6. One goal of practitioners of nonviolent mass action is to persuade their opponents of the justness of their cause. How do nonviolent protesters work on the minds of their opponents? Suggested Response: Practitioners of nonviolent mass action expose the abuses of the existing power structure and subject the beliefs and actions of their opponents to scrutiny. When the nonviolent mass action campaign is well conceived it, exposes contradictions between their opponents' underlying values and their behavior. In a successful campaign, the opponents of the mass action campaign, often also responding to aroused public opinion and economic pressure, will change their policies. Thus, in the U.S., the black minority made the white majority face the contradictions between the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the practices and beliefs of racism. Faced with this contradiction, propelled by an aroused national public opinion, and harassed by economic pressures caused by boycotts, sit-ins and other economic tactics, enough segregationists changed their position so that both government policies and social practices were modified.
7. Was Gandhi correct when he said at the start of the march to the sea that the British were not in control, but the protesters were? Explain your answer and discuss how it applies to any nonviolent mass action against a government or its policies. Suggested Response: To a very real extent Gandhi was correct. The British couldn't stop the protesters except with acts of repression which would show the British to be brutal occupiers who had lost the consent of the governed. In the same way, nonviolent mass action which has been properly conceived and planned will run its course and make its point, unless the authorities repress it with force and violence. However, the repression and violence will arouse public opinion in support of the demonstrators and undermine the position of the government.
8. Compare and contrast the situation faced by Indians seeking independence from Great Britain and the situation faced by blacks in the U.S. seeking equal rights. Compare and contrast the responses of the Indians and of black Americans to their situations. Suggested Response: The Indians faced an empire with a long history of dividing and conquering countries with large populations. The British were foreigners in India, using its wealth to enrich Britain. Blacks in the U.S. were trying to change the practices of people who were their fellow countrymen. Americans, black and white, were tied together by bonds of a common culture developed through living in the same country for centuries. In addition, although white segregationists may have wanted to deny it, most "black" Americans had some white ancestors. Whites and blacks were related by blood more often in the South than in other parts of the country. The Indians produced a leader, Mohandas Gandhi who developed Satyagraha, a theory and set of tactics to change society. Led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Americans seeking an end to segregation and racism adopted Gandhi's strategy and embraced his teachings. Another way to conceptualize the response is that the Indians sought to exclude the British who were, after all, foreigners. The blacks in the U.S. sought to participate in American society on the basis of equality. Both the Indians and black Americans sought to accomplish their goals through nonviolent mass action.
9. If nonviolent protesters are attacked by the police or other opponents what should they do? Suggested Response: They should not fight back. They should look their attackers in the eye whenever possible. Some strategies of nonviolent mass protest provide that the protesters should not even try to protect themselves from the blows; others permit them to move their bodies to protect vital organs but they cannot strike back.
10. When many people are peacefully protesting against a government, refusing to cooperate, or engaging in nonviolent direct action, and the government restores its authority through mass arrests, beatings, and tear gas, what have the protesters accomplished? Suggested Response: The protesters have shown that the government rules by force and not by the consent of the people. No government, whether it is a dictatorship or a democracy, can last if the people withdraw their consent to be governed and stop obeying government orders. As Gandhi said: "Authority enjoys power only to the extent that obedience is rendered by the population."
11. When the British were resisting independence for India, they wanted Gandhi's supporters to get angry and become violent. Why would that have hurt Gandhi's campaign? Suggested Response: It would have denied Gandhi and his followers the advantage of the moral high ground and it would have given the British an excuse for their violent repression of the protests.
12. What is the role of the press, foreign and domestic, in a campaign of nonviolent mass action? Suggested Response: The press spreads the message of the protesters and distributes the news of the repressive and violent actions of those in power. This will hopefully mobilize public opinion to favor the goals of the protesters. It is difficult for any government to resist an aroused public opinion. Thus, even if those in power do not become convinced by the arguments of the protesters, they will at the least be influenced and perhaps compelled to give in by the force of public opinion. The foreign press is especially important when the domestic press is controlled by the government or when the government is not responsive to the people. The triumph of nonviolent mass action in India and South Africa are particularly good examples of the powerful role of the foreign press.
13. There are two major purposes for economic boycotts or other financial pressures in a campaign of nonviolent mass action. What are they? Suggested Response: The first is to compel the oppressive forces to give in, even if they are not convinced by the arguments of the protesters. The second is to divide the opponents. Usually, boycotts and economic measures hurt one segment of the power structure more than they hurt others. This divides and weakens the opponents. As the British taught the world, "divide and conquer" is an amazingly effective tactic. Nonviolent protesters use it, too.
14. How have changes in communication technology affected the kinds of power exercised by nonviolent movements and the regimes they oppose? What new tactics, for instance, might a present-day Gandhi employ in the era of the internet, cell phones, and email? Suggested Response: There is no single correct answer to this question. A good answer will mention the various changes in communications technology, computers, and the increased power of government to spy on its citizens ("big brother"). A good answer will point out how improved communications and computer technology will make it easier to mobilize masses of people and communicate with the press or, using the Internet, directly with the audience. A good answer will demonstrate some knowledge of the mechanics of nonviolent mass action when evaluating the new technologies.
15. Gandhi said that the only devils in the world are those running around in our hearts. What did he mean by this? Suggested Response: If people didn't allow themselves to be possessed by hatred, greed, etc., there would be no evil in the world. Another interpretation is that if people didn't allow evil to possess their souls and govern their actions, there would be no evil in the world.
16. What do you think would happened in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict if the Palestinians were to engage in nonviolent mass action rather than terrorism in their effort to secure an independent Palestinian state? Suggested Response: No one knows for sure but based upon the experience of the South African resistance to apartheid and other social/political movements that have rejected violence and gone on to secure their objectives, a strong argument can be made that the Palestinians would get their state in a very short time. Israel is a Western style democracy. Even when it was faced with terrorism from the Palestinians, it had a strong peace movement. Several Israeli prime ministers Rabin, Barak, and most recently Sharon, have tried to make peace with the Palestinians. If the Palestinians renounce violence and convince the Israelis of their peaceful intentions, the Israelis will have no need to respond militarily. The Israeli government would be under great pressure from the peace movement in its own country to withdraw. In addition, Israel depends upon the U.S. for support in the international community, for billions in foreign aid, and for many of its weapons. If the Palestinians were not sending rockets over Israel and if they were not training suicide bombers, the U.S. and the Israeli public would demand that Israel stop any military response. The model here is South Africa. So long as the anti-apartheid efforts of the ANC and others were violent, the South African government could survive by being even more violent. It was only after South African blacks discovered nonviolent mass action, with its economic pressures and the mobilization of public opinion world-wide, that black South Africans were able to change the minds of white South Africans. There are obvious differences between the two situations but the similarities are very strong. The violence used by Fatah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations and by the Palestinian people in the Intifadas, justify a military response. The terrorism blunts criticism of the violence perpetrated by the Israeli army against the Palestinians. The decades of delay caused by the failure to employ nonviolent mass action have led to the deaths of thousands and economic impoverishment in Palestine. In addition, the damage that the Palestinians have done to their own society by honoring violent elements and permitting them to run free must be immense.
17. Which comes first in a democratic society, attempts to work through the democratic process or nonviolent mass action? As nonviolent mass action proceeds what, if anything, is the role of the democratic process? Suggested Response: First and continually, one should work through the democratic process. If the democratic process is not responsive, nonviolent mass action is a way to change the mind of the public or to exert the pressure needed to get the democratic process moving again.
18. Give examples of five social or political movements, not described in the film, that have made use of nonviolent mass action. Suggested Response: See listing above.
19. Is it fair to say that the mass media (newspapers, radio and television) made nonviolent mass action an effective tactic? Suggested Response: Yes. The press and the media permit the protesters to spread their message and publicize the brutality of any attempts to suppress their activities.
20. During the 20th century, new technologies enhanced the ability of the state to repress dissent. Did this have any relation to the growth of nonviolent mass action as a tactic to overthrow governments and force social change? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer. However, an argument can be made the as governments and their intelligence services became more and more powerful, armed insurrection became less and less of a realistic possibility. Nonviolent mass action was a tactic that was less vulnerable to repressive tactics of governments than armed insurrection.
We Were Warriors - Nashville 1960
1. Segregation can be defined as the separation of black and white Americans in social, political and economic spheres of life. Describe: (a) the ways in which blacks were harmed by segregation, (b) the ways in which segregation harmed whites, and (c) the way in which the failure to give equal rights to black Americans harmed the nation. Suggested Response:
For the discussion questions in the form of a comprehension test, suitable to be printed and distributed to a class, see Comprehension Test -- We Were Warriors -- Nashville 1960. The test consists of the discussion questions slightly modified in some cases. The test is designed to be a learning experience itself. Allow 30 minutes for the test.
(a) Segregation, particularly in education and employment, denied black Americans the opportunity to realize their full potential, to be paid as they deserved for their work, and to live the American Dream. Segregation sent a message to blacks that they were inferior to other Americans; it was a mark of inferiority that was devastating to the self-esteem of many. It was a constant and irritating reminder that blacks were considered second class citizens by their white compatriots.
(b) As to whites, segregation betrayed the political and cultural ideals of the Declaration of Independence. Relegating people to second-class citizenship because of their race undercut basic ethical lessons taught at home and in the churches and temples that whites attended. It is harmful to live in a way that takes unfair advantage of others. This harm may be more subtle than the harm from segregation suffered by a black person but it is nonetheless real.
(c) For the United States as a community, segregation betrayed the principles of the Declaration of Independence. By denying African Americans an equal opportunity to better themselves and contribute to society, segregation the denied country the full benefits of their talent.
2. What characteristics of population and tradition made Nashville a good place in which to mount a challenge to the segregation of department store lunch counters? Suggested Response: Nashville was generally thought to be an enlightened community with several colleges, black and white. Blacks had already been elected to the City Council and the School Board. There was a strong professional and middle class component to the black community in Nashville. It was called the "Athens of the South" for its colleges and its reputation as being an enlightened community. There were many students from the black colleges to serve as volunteers. James Lawson, an expert in Gandhian nonviolence, was in Nashville and available to aid the students.
3. Explain the symbolic value of the lunch counters of downtown department stores targeted by the sit-in demonstrators. Suggested Response: Lunch counters were central and easy for the media to cover. It was particularly unjust for the department stores to sell merchandise to black people but not to allow them to eat at a lunch counter located in the store. The segregated lunch counters were a symbol that access to a place to eat, a basic human need, was being denied to the black community. The prospect of blacks eating next to whites would infuriate racists but also stress the humanity of the demonstrators and of all black people.
4. What happened on Big Saturday, February 27, 1960, the day the students labelled "Big Saturday"? Did it work to the advantage of the students or that of the segregationists? Explain the reasons for your answer. Suggested Response: Agitators attacked sit-in demonstrators on February 27, 1960. Then the police arrested 81 demonstrators for disturbing the peace despite the fact that they had done nothing illegal and had been passive during the entire incident. No agitators were arrested. James Lawson, a leader of the demonstrations, named February 27, 1960, as "Big Saturday." It led to outrage nationwide and helped the protesters prevail.
5. What would have probably happened had the demonstrators fought back when they were attacked? Suggested Response: Fighting back would have sacrificed the students' moral authority as nonviolent protesters. It would have made the goal of mobilizing public opinion for desegregation more difficult by changing the focus of the controversy. The story in the press would been about the fight, rather than about the protesters' complaints, their demands for change, and the viciousness of the segregationists. In addition, fighting back would have given the segregationists an excuse to hurt the demonstrators and would have given the police a justification for arresting them.
6. What strategic advantage did the demonstrators gain by deciding to remain in jail rather than posting the $50 bail? Suggested Response: Their purpose was to clog the court system and the jails, thereby increasing the pressure on the government.
7. Mr. Lawson instructed the demonstrators to look their attackers in the eye. What was his purpose in giving this instruction? Suggested Response: It brought home to the attackers that they were hurting human beings.
8. The sit-ins, the marches and the boycott were designed to address many audiences. Describe some of the audiences and explain the demonstrators' reasons for targeting them. Suggested Response: Seven of the audiences and the reasons for targeting them were: (1) the segregationists, because nonviolent mass action always seeks to change the minds of the opponents;
(2) the public officials of Nashville, because they held the power of arrest and controlled the government;
(3) the Nashville business community, because these people had a lot of influence with the public officials; this group was particularly vulnerable to the sit-ins because the controversy disrupted business;
(4) the people of Nashville, because nonviolent mass action always appeals to the sense of justice of the community which can pressure those in power to change the policy, especially in a democracy;
(5) the citizens of the nation, for the same reasons as the people of Nashville; the sit-ins were a major factor in getting Congress to pass a public accommodations law that prohibited racial segregation in restaurants, including lunch counters;
(6) politicians outside of Memphis, particularly at the national level, for the purpose of convincing them to pass laws banning discrimination; and
(7) the people of the world, because Americans and U.S. public officials would be embarrassed by the failure of the U.S. to live up to the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
9. The students considered the mass arrests to be a victory. What was their reasoning? Suggested Response: It meant that the government officials didn't know how to deal with the protests. Arrests and imprisonment of many clean cut, well dressed college students angered the larger community and demonstrated that something was going on in Nashville that people should pay attention to.
10. When he was a young man, Mr. Lawson went to jail rather than cooperate in any way with the United States military. People have very different opinions about whether this was a patriotic act. However, looking at the accomplishments of Mr. Lawson over his long career, do you think he was a patriotic American? Suggested Response: This is an opinion question for which there is no single correct answer. A good answer will mention most of the following facts: Mr. Lawson knew what he thought was right and what he believed was best for the country; he acted on those beliefs. Even when he went to jail for resisting the draft, he didn't try to run away and he didn't try to take the easy way out. He stood up for his principles and took the punishment that society required of him. It is clear that he always had the best interests of the country at heart. Standing up for your principles is a very patriotic thing to do. Mr. Lawson's work in the Civil Rights Movement was definitely a benefit to the country.
Freedom in Our Lifetime
- South Africa 1984
2. For each use of the three forms of nonviolent action listed in your answer to the preceding question, briefly describe how each action contributed to the campaign of nonviolence. Suggested Response: There are several correct answers. Any answer that shows that the student is beginning to grapple with the way in which nonviolent mass action works should be given credit. Some suggested good responses are set out at Three Types of Methods Used in Nonviolent Mass Action.
3. What was the role of economics in the triumph of the blacks of South Africa? Suggested Response: As shown by this episode in the movie, it was essential. The international economic sanctions and internal resistance forced white South African businesses to recognize that an apartheid future was one of economic stagnation and eventual decline. This is not to denigrate the courage of de Klerk and his white supporters in releasing Mandela and engineering a turnover of power from the white minority to the black majority. But economic pressure was a major motivating factor.
4. What action by the South African government showed that it had lost the consent of the majority to govern them? Suggested Response: The fact that the government had to declare states of emergency and martial law to keep control.
5. Did the violent struggle by the ANC and other revolutionary groups have any hope of success against the apartheid government? Suggested Response: Not much. The apartheid government had well trained troops that were armed with modern weapons. As a last resort it had about six nuclear weapons.
Living with the Enemy - Denmark 1940
1. What is Scandinavia and where is it located? Suggested Response: Scandinavia consists of the countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland. Norway, Sweden and Denmark are located in the northernmost part of Western Europe. Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic just south of Greenland.
For the discussion questions in the form of a comprehension test, suitable to be printed and distributed to a class, see Comprehension Test -- Living with the Enemy - Denmark 1940. Note that the test assumes that the concepts underlying the answers to the questions have been discussed in class.
2. Did the Danes do the right thing in not resisting the initial German invasion? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question. A good answer would consider the following issues: (1) any resistance would have been futile and would have resulted in needless deaths; (2) if a people allows another country to take away its freedom without resistance, the soul of that people will be destroyed. The Danes avoided this fate by mounting a resistance movement after there had been a few Allied victories and there was hope that eventually the Germans could be defeated. It would have been better had there been more resistance at the beginning but the resistance that occurred was enough to prevent injury to the Danish national spirit and sense of honor.
3. How far from Denmark is the country of Sweden? Suggested Response: A sail of just a few miles.
4. Sweden was a neutral country during the Second World War. What did that mean? Suggested Response: It didn't take sides and maintained relations with the contending parties.
5. Why was the underground press a danger to the Nazi occupation of Denmark? Suggested Response: The Germans wanted to control the flow of information to the Danish people. This would allow the Germans more control over what the Danish people would do. For example, the Germans didn't want the Danes to know that the tide of the war had changed or that they were trying to exterminate people, including Jews, in their concentration camps.
6. Describe two major nonviolent mass actions mounted by the Danes against the Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Suggested Response: Four are described in the film: (1) work slowdowns; (2) the general strike that forced the Germans to lift the curfew; (3) the rescue of the Danish Jews; and (4) the underground press.
7. For the two examples mentioned in your response to the last question, describe how they differed from classical nonviolent mass action. Suggested Response: (1) work slowdowns -- the workers did not make themselves known to the Germans; there was no effort to use the slowdowns to motivate world-wide public opinion to convince the Germans to leave Denmark; this was passive resistance; (2) the strike was accompanied by some violence; (3) the rescue of the Danish Jews was done in secret; there was no effort to use the national and international press to force the Germans to stop persecuting Jews; (4) the underground press was secret activity and was not directed at a single definable goal.
8. What risk did the Danes take in not resisting the initial German invasion and in not mounting a strong resistance movement during the first year or so of the occupation? Suggested Response: The risk was that the Danes would lose their sense of self-respect and the respect of other nations.
9. Was Mr. Duckwitz a traitor to his country or a hero? Suggested Response: Mr. Duckwitz was not a traitor to Germany because he sought to prevent his country from committing a crime. He did act against the explicit desires and wishes of the rulers of his country; against law and established authority. Technically this was treason. However, he was responding to a higher obligation, his duty to humanity as a whole. Mr. Duckwitz was a hero because he exposed himself to great danger to save the lives of other people.
10. Compare the heroism of Mr. Duckwitz and that of Oscar Schindler and his wife, Emilie. Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question. A good answer will include the following concepts: Mr. Schindler (and Mrs. Schindler; they were in it together) saved the lives of a little more than 1,100 people. Mr. Duckwitz' action resulted in saving the lives of about 7,000 people. Mr. Schindler and his wife bore the whole burden of the effort while Mr. Duckwitz only started the ball rolling by trying to stop the German operation, alerting the Danes, and getting the patrol boats into dry dock. See Learning Guide to "Schindler's List". The Danes did the work of notifying their countrymen, hiding them, and transporting them out of the country. Both Mr. Duckwitz and the Schindlers took incredible risks and would have lost their lives had the German authorities discovered what they were doing. Both actions took great courage.
We've Caught God by the Arm
- Poland 1980
1. Before Solidarity came to power in Poland, what was the relationship between the Polish government and the Soviet Union and between the Polish government and the U.S.? Suggested Response: The relationship between Poland and the Soviet Union can be described in a number of ways. Poland was a "puppet" regime of the Soviet Union. Soviet troops were stationed in Poland and the Polish government was Communist. Poland was a member of the Warsaw Pact, which the Russians had created to counter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Poland was behind the Iron Curtain. As for relations between the U.S. and the Polish government, Poland was an ally of the Cold War enemy of the U.S., the Soviet Union. Relations were not friendly.
For the discussion questions in the form of a comprehension test, suitable to be printed and distributed to a class, see Comprehension Test -- We've Caught God by the Arm - Poland 1980. Note that the test assumes that the concepts underlying the answers to the questions have been discussed in class.
Questions 3 & 4 have been adapted from Questions 6 & 8 respectively in the Discussion Questions suggested in the website from the filmmakers. The answers have been supplied by TWM.
2. Why was it ironic that a Communist government was brought down by a labor union? Suggested Response: The Communists claimed that they championed the rights of workers, yet it was dissatisfied workers who brought down Poland's Communist government.
3. Early in the strike some workers called for expanding the list of demands to include free elections and an end to all censorship -- direct and sweeping challenges to the Communist Party's dictatorship. How might the conflict have turned out differently had the strike committee decided to include these political demands? Was dropping these demands a mistake, or was it a wise choice? Suggested Response: Limiting the demands at the outset was a wise choice. If the demands had been too broad they would have brought down the full force of the government and the Soviet Union. The most important factor in this consideration was the attitude of the Soviet Union, which had a large military presence in Poland. If the Soviets had thought that Solidarity would lead to the fall of the Polish Communist Party they would have crushed the union in its infancy. By the time the Communists realized that their entire system was in jeopardy, Solidarity had spread across the whole country and couldn't be isolated and eliminated.
4. Industrial workers have played key roles in several of the stories presented in this series. Why have workers and their unions often been such effective vehicles for nonviolent action? What forms of leverage do workers possess that ordinary civilians do not? Suggested Response: Workers are concentrated in one area and have similar interests. This makes them easier to organize. Some groups of workers also have a history of organization.
5. In December, 1981, the government of Communist Poland declared marshal law and arrested the leaders of Solidarity. As he was being led to prison Lech Walesa told his captors: "At this moment, you lost. We are arrested, but you have driven a nail into your communist coffin... You'll come back to us on your knees." What did he mean by this? Suggested Response: Marshal law was an admission by the Communist government that it had lost the consent of the people to govern. Once the people withdraw their consent, no government can last forever. It may take years (in the case of Poland, it took seven years) but eventually the government will fall.
Defeat of a Dictator - Chile 1983
1. In the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, Al Gore won 500,000 more votes than George W. Bush. However, Mr. Bush became President. In 1992, Bill Clinton, although he won more votes than any other candidate, became President when 57% of the voters wanted someone else. In 2005, Tony Blair was reelected Prime Minister of Britain with only 36% of the vote. A whopping 64% of the British electorate wanted Blair out of office. Why were these election victories in democratic countries accepted (though grudgingly in some quarters) but the military coup by Pinochet was roundly condemned as antidemocratic? Suggested Response: The answer is that the victories of Bush, Clinton and Blair conformed to the constitutional process in their countries and were not secured at the point of a gun or maintained by police state measures.
For the discussion questions in the form of a comprehension test, suitable to be printed and distributed to a class, see Comprehension Test -- Defeat of a Dictator - Chile 1983. Note that the test assumes that the concepts underlying the answers to the questions have been discussed in class.
2. (a) Where is Chile located? (b) The Chilean coastline borders on the _____________ ocean. (c) What is the most striking thing about the geography of Chile? Suggested Response: (a) Chile is located in South America along the western coast; (b) the Pacific Ocean; (c) Chile is very long and narrow.
3. Why did the U.S. support the 1983 coup by which General Pinochet came to power? Suggested Response: The elected Chilean government was led by a Communist and at the time the U.S. was engaged in a cold war against Communism, most particularly Russian Communism. The U.S. feared that the Chileans would align themselves with Russia and support Communist movements in other South American countries.
4. In the context of the Cold War, should the U.S. have permitted a Marxist/socialist government to remain in power in Chile in 1973? In 1987, while it was still fighting the Cold War, should the U.S. have allowed the plebiscite to follow its normal course and refrained from giving aid to the Concertación? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question. Large and powerful countries have been intervening in the politics of their smaller neighbors located near them for as long as there have been countries. The U.S. had a genuine fear that a Communist government in Chile would lead to Communist Russia-friendly governments in other South American countries. At that time, the U.S. was in a Cold War with Russian Communism. On the other hand, one country does not have a right to control the government of another country.
5. Was it a good result or a bad result that the Chilean dictator, Pinochet, and his right wing and militarist allies retained an inordinate amount of power in the decades after they were defeated in the plebiscite? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer to this question. Good answers will include a reference to the fact that the privileges granted to the right wing and the military kept them from mounting another coup but that it also prevented the will of the people from being expressed.
Last updated April 27, 2009.
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