Social Defence

Social Defence (or: civilian-based defence) is a concept for nonviolent action that is capable to protect a society effectively against a military assault or a military coup. A society that is prepared for nonviolent social defence is hence capable of shielding itself against different risks. Because various definitions of the concept of social defence exist, the Federation of Social Defence decided to develop the following for itself:


“The BSV understands the concept of social defence as the protection of the institutions and values of the civil society by nonviolent methods. Following this, defence means the preservation of life and the possibility of social change as well as the resistance against oppression and exploitation, military violence and the violation of human rights – here and elsewhere. The aim of those who advocate social defence in this sense as a new method of dealing with even “large-scale” conflicts, is the cohabitation of the peoples and nations in social justice and mutual respect.”


The concept of social defence assumes that, in the end, the willingness to cooperation by the population of the attacked country determines whether (military) aggressors achieve their objectives or not. It is not the territory that is defended at the country´s frontiers, but rather the self-determination of a society through the denial of cooperation.


Social defence is based on the principles and methods of nonviolence and nonviolent action. Nonviolence as an active and creative action has been called the “third way” (Martin Luther King) between the acceptance of injustice and the utilization of violence. Therefore the exponents of social defence don´t subscribe to the common assumption that against violence only violence itself is of any help, and that the alternative of violence is just helpless passivity.


Social defence always was also a concept of demilitarization, because it puts defence in the hands and the competence of civilians.  A society practising social defence would not start wars any longer. And this would be achieved not through agreements and treaties or through a new world government, but rather by unilateral, nonviolent action. Today, this basic idea is as relevant and up to date as ever. Social defence shares this idea with the traditions of nonviolent resistance and nonviolent insurgency.