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The 20th century was the bloodiest in human history. In Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century, Jonathan Glover estimates that 86,000,000 people died in wars fought from 1900 to 1989. That means 2,500 people every day, or 100 people every hour, for 90 years.

In addition to those killed in war, government-sponsored genocide and mass murder killed approximately 120,000,000 people in the 20th century—perhaps more than 80,000,000 in the two Communist countries of China and the Soviet Union alone, according to R. J. Rummel's Statistics of Democide.

It is ironic, then, that the 20th century also produced numerous and stunningly successful examples of nonviolent victories over injustice and oppression. The best-known campaigns are probably those led by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. King's nonviolent marchers changed American history. (The fact that the police and National Guard sometimes guarded civil-rights marchers does not change the fact that King's movement was overwhelmingly nonviolent.) And Gandhi's nonviolent campaign defeated the British Empire and won India's independence. In contrast to Algeria's violent independence campaign, in which one in every 10 Algerians died, only one in every 400,000 Indians died in India's nonviolent struggle.

One of the most amazing components of Gandhi's campaign was a huge nonviolent "army" (eventually over 50,000) of Muslim Pathans in the northwestern section of India. These are the same people we now know as the Taliban in Afghanistan and along the Pakistan border! Even when the British humiliated them and slaughtered hundreds of them, they remained faithful to Gandhi's nonviolent vision.

There are other examples: In Poland, the nonviolent campaigns of Solidarity, an anti-Communist ...

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hide thisDecember December

In the Magazine

December 2007

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