Nonviolent campaign’s discipline consists of two components: (1) adhering to the broader strategic plans for the struggle and (2) refraining from violence. Maintaining persistent nonviolence discipline is critical to the long term success of the movement. Even limited violence by resistant or on their behalf including in response to brutalities can be counterproductive. Violence by the resisters reinforces the oppressor ability to use repression on the resistors.
Knowing that violence can cause harm to movements and provide an ideal pretext for repression, governments and reactionary groups have actively tried to encourage it. Highlighting this tendency, Gandhi put forth a willfully counter intuitive proposition. For a member of a mass protest movement to resort to violence he argued “was to cooperate with the government in the most active manner.”
In many cases when activists do not initiate violence, governments have worked to provoke them. Across a wide range of countries and time periods, authorities have sent infiltrators into activist organizations to serve as agent provocateurs to instigate violence.
Creating discipline within a movement is at once a difficult task but an essential one. Where structured- base organizations such as labour unions and political parties operate through clearly defined hierarchies, mass mobilizations rely on activating loose broad networks of supporters. This creates a unique challenge for the momentum based organizations. Hybrid organization offers some solution to this dilemma. They can maintain discipline by mass training in advance of the protest and having local leaders maintaining the discipline of nonviolence. If needed they can kick out the trouble makers. If the resisters create even small violence incident, the authorities can and most of the time they do brutally repress the movement in the name of maintaining “peace and order”.
Hence sticking to nonviolence action is the key to the success of the campaign.