War Resisters' International (WRI) is a network of mutual support, where we learn and support each other. Our 'Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns' is a vivid example of the strength and depth of the WRI network. In 2009, WRI published the first edition of this handbook, as a response to a need for a resource on nonviolent campaigning that could be used by grassroots groups in lots of different contexts. The content was based on the experience of many activists in different countries and across generations. After being published, some of the best responses to it came from local groups and people who took on translating the handbook into their own languages. When producing the first edition we thought people might use or translate specific sections; to our surprise, in the coming months and years, translations of its full content were completed in more than 10 languages. Some of them were only being finished as we went to press with this second edition.
By sharing experiences and providing mutual support in WRI, we learn of the power of nonviolent action. There are many dramatic images of nonviolent action; indeed, the ability to dramatise an issue is one of the strengths of nonviolence. Nonviolence allows people to see and act on what often passes unnoticed. However, this drama doesn't just happen. It gestates – in groups or cells of activists, in discussions, in training sessions, in reflecting on previous experiences, in planning, in experimenting, in making contacts. That is why this handbook is grounded in what groups have done and how they have done it. We are not attempting to present a definitive model, but to suggest methods that have worked in various contexts, that can be adapted by creative nonviolent activists in their own situations.
The work of this handbook has been an ongoing project for WRI. We don't see this version as an end in itself. This second edition reflects the thinking and experiences of using and translating the first edition as well as the development of nonviolent campaigning within the network at the time it was written. The printed version of the handbook is what you have in your hands, but the ongoing process of sharing resources on nonviolent campaigns continues on our website.