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Martin Luther King had Malcolm X. Gandhi had Bhagat Singh.

I've lately been involved in a pretty radical movement in which there are many people arguing against the movement being only non-violent. Their point is that no non-violent movement has ever succeeded in a vacuum. There have always been parallel violent movements that essentially scared the powers that be into negotiating with the more moderate non-violent movement.

To what degree is this supported by the historical record? Are there other examples of non-violent movements succeeding in a vacuum? Are there examples of a violent movement causing a non-violent movement to fail? What's history say about this?

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Interestingly, I recently read a book on Freedom Summer, and discovered that the SNCC folks were having the exact same arguments amongst themselves back in the the '60's. – T.E.D. Apr 4 '12 at 16:23

I found this artice from the Atlantic that addresses this topic and give the recent events in Egypt as an example of a successful non-violent movement. There are similar examples going on currently in other Middle Eastern countries, as well as examples of some that turned to violence, such as Lybia.

There is also a web site for an organization called the International Center of Nonviolent Conflict which is documenting current and past examples as well. They have a page of summaries with links to additional information for each of the events they chronicle.

Personally, using the very examples you provided, I believe that a lot of the violent movements actually stem from people who are impatient with the non-violent efforts to obtain a goal. When these outliers decide to speed up the process by taking matters into their own hands and escalating, they might inadvertently impact the willingness of others to negotiate with the non-violent faction. However, I don't believe that the ultimate success of people like Ghandi was dependent on violent actions by others. Patience and persistence would most likely have accomplished the same end results, but some were simply not willing to wait.

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Of course, some people think that the Atlantic's point of view as complete nonsense (Stratfor would be a good reference). The main reason things in Egypt succeeded was that the junior Army command wanted power away from Mubarak-age old guard and therefore switched sides. The non-violent protestors (though from most reports I read, they weren't as non-violent as some people would like to pretend) didn't have a chance of winning without the Army throwing in with them. – DVK Nov 19 '11 at 19:25
"success" is kind of optimisting about Egyptian revolution. Since the army took power it behaved quite brutally and oppressively... – o0'. Dec 24 '11 at 19:07
I think your last paragraph is the most important point you presented. The power in non-violence is exposing the injustice and oppression used to maintain the status quo for the world to see. With it out in the open, the common folk can no longer pretend it isn't happening, and the perpetrators can no longer pretend they are not bad guys. This invariably makes people livid. Some folks respond constructively, some destrutively. – T.E.D. Apr 4 '12 at 16:29

In direct answer to your question, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine comes to mind as another example of a nonviolent protest that was very successful without a violent analog.

This is definitely interpreting 'what does the history say about this' a bit broadly, but it seemed like some notes on the nature of violent protest movements might be in order. There is an important difference between a pro-violence movement and a movement that hasn't specifically ruled violence out.

Non-violent protest as a means of creating societal change has its roots in Satyagraha--very loosely the idea that a person/group can, through a show of moral goodness and purity in the face of tremendous abuse, bring their attacker under their moral sway.

I'm making this differentiation because I would argue that the 'violent' end of a given protest movement is usually not so much pro-violence as it is skeptical that Satyagraha is the most effective, practical means of change. Many 'violent' protest movements were focused on various public policy programs, grassroots organizing strategies, or economic agendas as the most effective path towards their determined goal, rather than appealing to their antagonists' moral sensibilities. There are certainly examples of the phenomenon not mentioned in your question--'violent' movements that achieved some of their goals without using violence to do so.

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Now we could object about the actual successfullness of the Orange Revolution... – o0'. Dec 19 '13 at 12:49

The revolutions that brought down the Soviet Union were largely non-violent.

In general, I would say it depends. If the violent part is strong enough to cause a significant problem (very uncommon), then it can help force negotiations with the non-violent side.

If it is not very strong, then I doubt it has any significant positive effect. It can even be a hindrance as it may turn moderates somewhat sympathetic to the movement away from it.

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