3.5% of the population is enough to achieve a social change as important as expelling a tyrant

3.5% of the population is enough to achieve a social change as important as expelling a tyrant

Non-violent protests are twice as likely to be successful as armed conflicts, and only if a minimum of 3.5% of the population participates , the desired change will be achieved.

The power of the people, therefore, can be profoundly undemocratic when it is based on protests, demonstrations and pressure: basically a minority can impose its opinion on a majority .

The power of minorities

According to a study that analyzes the period 1900-2006, carried out by Erica Chenoweth , a political scientist at Harvard University, non-violent movements achieve political change twice as often as violent movements (53% versus 26%) and when they achieve involving 3.5% of the population have never failed to achieve change .


The study collected data from 323 violent and non-violent campaigns. And his results, which were published in his book Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict .

This confirms that civil disobedience is not just a moral choice; it is also the most powerful way to shape world politics. African-American abolitionist Sojourner Truth , suffragette activist Susan B. Anthony, Indian independence activist Mahatma Gandhi, and American civil rights activist Martin Luther King are good examples.

Chenoweth argues that nonviolent campaigns are more likely to be successful because they can recruit many more participants from a much larger demographic , which can cause serious disruptions that paralyze normal urban life and the functioning of society. During a peaceful street protest of millions of people, members of the security forces may also be more likely to fear that their family or friends will be in the crowd, meaning that they cannot crack down on the movement.


The People’s Power campaign against the Marcos regime in the Philippines, for example, attracted two million participants at its peak, while the Brazilian uprising in 1984 and 1985 attracted one million, and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989 attracted 500,000 participants.

They seem like very high figures, but they are low in percentage terms. Such a level of active participation probably means that many more people tacitly agree with the cause, but we don’t know that either . Perhaps it is a very motivated group.

This has a good part and a bad part: if the fight that this small percentage of people is defending is good and just, then it seems positive. But they could also be wrong, or misinformed, or driven by hatred, ideological blindness, or any other bias. Fortunately, it must also be said, despite being twice as successful as violent conflict, peaceful resistance still failed 47% of the time . In other words, it is only successful half the time. Another thing is to find out if that half is the good or the bad one.

Podemos, Monedero and Spain

Lately we are seeing escraches to Pablo Iglesias or Juan Carlos Monedero . Democratic syrup, they called it … before they had to take it by force, of course. Those who now consider them righteous, previously considered them abominable, and vice versa. Because we all love protests, mass demonstrations and even the cutting of streets or burning of containers if … they vindicate the ideas that we like. Either they annoy the politician we hate or consider Evil incarnate.

I tell you a little more about the problem of using the count of people who participate in a demonstration, as well as the noise they make, to direct the politics of a country (with all its basic rights guaranteed) in the following video .

Yes, I know that right now you are lighting the torches to come and escracheme at the door of Baker Café . But give me a little time, let’s have a coffee and chat: