In response to:
The Coming Struggle for Power from the February 2, 1984 issue
To the Editors:
Mark Uhlig’s article, “The Coming Struggle for Power in South Africa” [NYR, February 2], was superb. His characterizations of the leadership of the African National Congress are not only accurate and just, but deservedly sympathetic.
I would simply like to raise one thought in the mind of the reader (even if it is only in the mind of the reader who chooses not to print this letter) concerning the following paragraph:
At Sharpeville, in March 1960, police killed sixty-seven unarmed demonstrators. This, in Tambo’s view, “was just the climax of a process that had been going on all the time. They were shooting at crowds and there was nothing we could do about it. When they began to call out the army to stamp out peaceful strikes, that marked the turning point, because after that, when we were confronted with the South African Defense Force, we knew that nonviolence had become meaningless….”
An alternative historical response to an even worse butchery occurred in 1919 in Amritsar, India. The British Army, under the command of a General Dyer, killed 379 unarmed Indian men and women and wounded 1,516 others.
My point is that this brutal massacre succeeded only in deepening, broadening, and refining the Indian nonviolent liberation movement.
In over three decades of nonviolent direct action, I have never found nonviolence meaningless, though I have often found that our understanding of and commitment to it were.
Ira J. Sandperl
Menlo Park, California