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SOCIETY Magazin 358

POLITIK INTERNATIONAL CANVAS: Export of Revolutions The Expertise Behind Nonviolent Revolutions He is a founding member of OTPOR and now he teaches people all over the world the basic principles for nonviolent revolutions: Srdja Popovic talks with SOCIETY about the CAN- VAS program, changes within societies and the history of nonviolent action. � How did you and your mates come up with the ideas for nonviolent action in the uprising against Slobodan Milosevic? How did you know back then how to organize people on the streets? We were eleven young men and women who have founded the Serbian student movement OTPOR in 1998. We did it because it was necessary. It was necessary to create something new and fresh, once political opposition had clearly proven that it is disunited and incapable do get rid of Milosevic. Also foreign governments didn’t understand that their outside pressure and later even military intervention in fact only fed Milosevic and his stay in power. After wars, ethnical conflicts, economic crackdown and clear signs of a growing dictatorship of Milosevic’s regime, there was a strong resistance within my generation. This generation saw what a student protest is like in 1992 and gained experience. We formed OTPOR. We were very young but already had a lot of experience in street theatre, protests, use of humor, mobilization, public speeches, negotiations, coalition building and so on. Is there a certain ideology behind your nonviolent action program? CANVAS (Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies) is an educational institution, not an ideological or political organization. We should consider the phenomenon of nonviolent struggle as more than a “strategic”, “ideological” or “moral” choice. If we look at historical consequences, though, it is quite obvious that nonviolent revolution or “people power”, however you want to call it, is a force much more powerful when it comes to democratic change than a violent struggle and foreign military intervention. India, Poland, Chile and of course Serbia prove that nonviolent social change is the better way to oppose an autocratic regime and achieve durable change within society. Vi- 48 | SOCIETY 2_11 Srdja Popovic with the book „Nonviolent Struggle: 50 Crucial Points“ olent struggles or military interventions only claim lots of victims and boosts the spiral of violence. An example: The NATO bombed Serbia in 1999. This almost killed my own mom Vesna, who was in the National TV building just a few hours before the NATO bomb hit it. The bomb wasn’t able to bring Milosevic down, but in fact it made him more powerful. The nonviolent movement OTPOR on the other hand got rid of him very successfully. The core of CANVAS’s work is rather to spread the word of “people power” to the world than to achieve victories against one dictator or another. Our next big mission should obviously be to explain to the world what a powerful tool nonviolent struggle is when it comes to achieving freedom, democracy and human rights. This knowledge should be part of academic courses and decision

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