A resistance movement is an organized effort by some portion of the civil population of a country to withstand the legally established government or an occupying power and to disrupt civil order and stability. It may seek to achieve its objectives through either the use of nonviolent resistance (sometimes called civil resistance), or the use of force, whether armed or unarmed. In many cases, as for example in the United States during the American Revolution, or in Norway in the Second World War, a resistance movement may employ both violent and non-violent methods, usually operating under different organizations and acting in different phases or geographical areas within a country. On the lawfulness of armed resistance movements in international law, there has been a dispute between states since at least 1899, when the first major codification of the laws of war in the form of a series of international treaties took place. In the Preamble to the 1899 Hague Convention II on Land War, the Martens Clause was introduced as a compromise wording for the dispute between the Great Powers who considered francs-tireurs to be unlawful combatants subject to execution on capture and smaller states who maintained that they should be considered lawful combatants. More recently the 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, referred in Article 1. Paragraph 4 to armed conflicts "... in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes..." This phraseology contains many ambiguities that cloud the issue of who is or is not a legitimate combatant. Hence depending on the perspective of a state's government, a resistance movement may or may not be labelled a terrorist group based on whether the members of a resistance movement are considered lawful or unlawful combatants and whether they are recognized as having a right to resist occupation.Khan, Ali (Washburn University – School of Law)
"A Theory of International Terrorism"
''Connecticut Law Review'', vol. 19, p. 945, 1987.
Ultimately, the distinction is a political judgment.


The Oxford English Dictionary records use of the word "resistance" in the sense of organised opposition to an invader from 1862. The modern usage of the term "Resistance" became widespread from the self-designation of many movements during World War II, especially the French Resistance. The term is still strongly linked to the context of the events of 1939–45, and particularly to opposition movements in Axis-occupied countries. Using the term "resistance" to designate a movement meeting the definition prior to World War II might be considered by some to be an anachronism. However, such movements existed prior to World War II (albeit often called by different names), and there have been many after it for example in struggles against colonialism and foreign military occupations. "Resistance" has become a generic term that has been used to designate underground resistance movements in any country.


Resistance movements can include any irregular armed force that rises up against an enforced or established authority, government, or administration. This frequently includes groups that consider themselves to be resisting tyranny or dictatorship. Some resistance movements are underground organizations engaged in a struggle for national liberation in a country under military occupation or totalitarian domination. Tactics of resistance movements against a constituted authority range from nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience, to guerrilla warfare and terrorism, or even conventional warfare if the resistance movement is strong enough. Any government facing violent acts from a resistance movement usually condemns such acts as terrorism, even when such attacks target only the military or security forces. Resistance during World War II was mainly dedicated to fighting the Axis occupiers. Germany itself also had an anti-Nazi German resistance movement in this period. Although the United Kingdom did not suffer invasion in World War II, preparations were made for a British resistance movement in the event of a German invasion (see Auxiliary Units).

Geographies of resistance

When geographies of resistance are discussed, it is often taken for granted that resistance takes place where domination, power, or oppression occurs and so resistance is often understood as something that always opposes to power or domination. However, some scholars believe and argue that looking at resistance in relation to only power and domination does not provide a full understanding of the actual nature of resistance. Not all power, domination, or oppression leads to resistance, and not all cases of resistance are against or to oppose what is categorizd as "power". In fact, they believe that resistance has its own characteristics and spatialities. In Steve Pile's (1997) "Opposition, Political Identities and Spaces of Resistance," geographies of resistance show: We can better understand resistance by accounting different perspectives and by breaking the presumptions that resistance is always against power. In fact, resistance should be understood not only in relations to domination and authority, but also through other experiences, such as "desire and anger, capacity and ability, happiness and fear, dreaming and forgetting", meaning that resistance is not always about the dominated versus the dominator, the exploited versus the exploiter, or the oppressed versus the oppressor. There are various forms of resistance for various reasons, which then can be, again, classified as violent and nonviolent resistance (and "other" which is unclear). Different geographical spaces can also make different forms of resistance possible or impossible and more effective or less effective. Furthermore, in order to understand any resistance its capacity to achieve its objective effectively, its success or failure we need to take closely into account many variables, such as political identities, cultural identities, class, race, gender and so on. The reason is that these variations can define the nature and outcome of resistance. Harvey (1993), who looked at resistance in relations to capitalist economic exploitation, took on a fire accident happened in the Imperial Foods chicken processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina in 1991, in which 20 of 200 workers were killed and 56 were injured due to poor working conditions and protections. He compared this accident with a similar fire accident at Triangle Shirtwaist Company, New York, 1911, killing 146 workers, which caused a labor resistance by 100,000 people. He argued that no resistance took place in respond to the fire accident in Hamlet because most of the people who died there were black and women workers, and he believed that not only class but also other identities such as race, gender, and sexuality were important factors in understanding nature and outcome of resistance. For an effective resistance, he proposed that four tasks should be undertaken: There are many forms of resistance in relations to different power dominations and actors. Some resistance takes place in order to oppose, change, or reform the exploitation of the capitalist economic systems and the capitals, while other resistance takes place against the state or authority in power. Moreover, some other resistance takes place in order to resist or question the social/culture norms or discourse or in order to challenge a global trend called "globalization". For example, LGBT social movements is an example of resistance that challenges and tries to reform the existing cultural norms in many societies. Resistance can also be mapped in various scales ranging from local to national to regional and to global spaces. We can look at a big-scale resistance movement such as Anti-globalization movement that tries to resist the global trend of capitalist economic system. Or we can look at the Internal resistance to South African apartheid, which took place at national level. Most, if not all, social movements can be considered as some forms of resistance. Not all resistance takes place in physical spaces or geographies but in "other spaces" as well. Some resistance happens in the form of Protest Art or in the form of music. Music can be used and has been used as a tool or space to resist certain oppression or domination. Gray-Rosendale, L. (2001) put it this way: In the age of advanced IT and mass consumption of social media, resistance can also occur in the cyberspace. The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW's Tobacco Resistance and Control (A-TRAC) team created a Facebook page to help promote anti-smoking campaign and rise awareness for its members. Sometimes, resistance takes place in people's minds and ideology or in people's "inner spaces". For example, sometimes people have to struggle within or fight against their inner spaces, with their consciousness and, sometimes, with their fear before they can resist in the physical spaces. In other cases, people sometimes simply resist to certain ideology, belief, or culture norms within their minds. These kinds of resistance are less visible but very fundamental parts of all forms of resistance.

Controversy regarding definition

Some definitions of resistance movement have proved controversial. According to Joint Publication 1-02, the United States Department of Defense defines a resistance movement as "an organized effort by some portion of the civil population of a country to resist the legally established government or an occupying power and to disrupt civil order and stability". In strict military terminology, a resistance movement is simply that; it seeks to resist (change) the policies of a government or occupying power. This may be accomplished through violent or non-violent means. In this view, a resistance movement is specifically limited to changing the nature of current power, not to overthrow it; and the correct military term for removing or overthrowing a government is an insurgency. However, in reality many resistance movements have aimed to displace a particular ruler, especially if that ruler has gained or retained power illegally.

Freedom fighter

Freedom fighter is another term for those engaged in a struggle to achieve political freedom for themselves or obtain freedom for others. Though the literal meaning of the words could include "anyone who fights for the cause of freedom", in common use it may be restricted to those who are actively involved in an armed rebellion, rather than those who campaign for freedom by peaceful means, or those who fight violently for the freedom of others outside the context of an uprising (though this title may be applied in its literal sense) Generally speaking, freedom fighters are people who use physical force to cause a change in the political and or social order. Notable examples include Umkhonto we Sizwe in South Africa, the Sons of Liberty in the American Revolution, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, and the National Resistance Army in Uganda, which were considered freedom fighters by supporters. However, a person who is campaigning for freedom through peaceful means may still be classed as a freedom fighter, though in common usage they are called political activists, as in the case of the Black Consciousness Movement. In India, "Freedom fighter" is an officially recognized category by the Indian government covering those who took part in the country's independence movement; people in this category (can also include dependant family members) get pensions and other benefits like special railway counters. People described as freedom fighters are often also called assassins, rebels, insurgents or terrorists. This leads to the aphorism "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". The degree to which this occurs depends on a variety of factors specific to the struggle in which a given freedom fighter group is engaged. During the Cold War, the term ''freedom fighter'' was first used with reference to the Hungarian rebels in 1956. Ronald Reagan picked up the term to explain America's support of rebels in countries controlled by communist states or otherwise perceived to be under the influence of the Soviet Union, including the Contras in Nicaragua, UNITA in Angola and the multi-factional mujahideen in Afghanistan. In the media, the BBC tries to avoid the phrases "terrorist" or "freedom fighter", except in attributed quotes, in favor of more neutral terms such as "militant", "guerrilla", "assassin", "insurgent", "rebel", "paramilitary" or "militia".

Common weapons

Partisans often use captured weapons taken from their enemies, or weapons that have been stolen or smuggled in. During the Cold War, partisans often received arms from either NATO or Warsaw Pact member states. Where partisan resources are stretched, improvised weapons are also deployed.

Examples of resistance movements

The following examples are of groups that have been considered or would identify themselves as groups. These are mostly, but not exclusively, of armed resistance movements. For movements and phases of activity involving non-violent methods, see civil resistance and nonviolent resistance.

Pre-20th century

* The Sicarii were a first-century Jewish movement opposing Roman occupation of the Jewish Promised Land. * Pemulwuy – The first Aboriginal Australian to resist the British. In 1797, a state of guerrilla warfare existed between indigenous people and the settler communities in Sydney. The aboriginals were led by Pemulwuy, a member of the Bidjigal tribe who occupied the land.Willey, K., ''When the Sky Fell Down: The Destruction of the Tribes of the Sydney Region, 1788–1850s'', Collins, Sydney, 1979 He was eventually shot and killed by British sailor Henry Hacking in 1802.Collins, D., ''An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales'', Vol. 1, Cadell and Davies, London, 1798. * The American Continental forces of the American Revolutionary War were essentially a resistance movement against the British Empire. * The 1808 invasion of Spain by Bonaparte sparked a resistance movement composed mostly of the lower classes, who felt that the nobility was simply allowing themselves to fall under French control. Lord Wellington remarked that it was extraordinary that the French had managed to remain in the country for so long (about 4 years). * Carbonari – 19th-century Italian movement resisting Austrian or Bourbon rule. * The Polish National Government – Underground Polish supreme authority during the January Uprising against Russian occupation of Poland. In 1863–1864, it was a real shadow government supported by majority of Poles, who even paid taxes for it, and was a significant problem for Russian secret police (Okhrana). * Andrés Avelino Cáceres' Resistance – Andean resistance movement against invading Chilean forces during the War of the Pacific. * Jandamarra – The first Indigenous Australian to use fire-arms and conduct organized warfare in battle against the British; led a war against Euro-Australian colonists for three years, from 1894 to 1897. Resistance movement ended when Jandamarra was shot dead by a native tracker. * TsaliCherokee tribal member who led a small band of Cherokee people against the United States military during the Trail of Tears era. Executed in exchange for the survival of his band, the band were integrated into the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. * OsceolaSeminole chief who was very influential. Resisted deportation during the Indian Removal era. Led a number of successes until being captured by the United States during faux peace talks, died a few months later in prison. * Francis Marion was an American Revolutionary War partisan who led a partisan guerrilla movement against the British. * Bushwhackers were Confederate guerrillas who engaged in raids, robberies, and massacres against the Union forces and affiliated citizens. Continued resisting for some years after the American Civil War ended. Responsible for the Lawrence Massacre * Jayhawkers were Union guerrillas who engaged in the same acts as the bushwhackers did, they were also active during Bleeding Kansas, most prominent member was John Brown responsible for the Pottawatomie Massacre and John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. * The Yellow Turbans were peasant rebels against the Eastern Han dynasty, led by Zhang Jue, was crushed by the lack of co-ordination with other Yellow Turban groups as well as destabilization. * The Abbasid Revolution overthrow of the Umayyad dynasty under Abu Muslim, which was caused by discrimination against non-Arab Muslims and government corruption. * The Mamluks were Turkic slaves who overthrew the Ayyubid dynasty. * The Jacobite risings were a series of rebellions, uprisings, and wars to reinstate the Stuart dynasty. * The Kataas-Taasang, Ka-Galang-galangang, Katipunan ng mga Anak Ng Bayan (KKK) was an organization in the Philippines that instigated the Philippine Revolution in 1896 against the Spanish colonials and resulted in the dissolution of the ''Republic of Biak na Bato'' and the exile of the Philippine Government, headed by Emillo Aguinaldo.

Pre-World War II

* Filipino guerrilla units after official end of Philippine–American War (1902–1913) * Charlemagne Peralte and his Cacos rebels who resisted the United States occupation of Haiti. * Rise of the Ukrainian Army (1918–1921) * Forest Guerrillas (1921–1922) * Jewish paramilitary organizations that resisted the British Mandate for Palestine (1920s until 1948) prior to the founding of the State of Israel include the Haganah, the Irgun, and Lehi * Augusto César Sandino led a rebellion against the United States occupation of Nicaragua * Lwów Eaglets * Black Lions (1936) * Irish Republican Army (1918–1922) * Turkish national movement ** Association for the Defense of the Rights of Anatolia and Rumelia * TIGR, Italy (1927–1941)

World War II

* Albanian resistance movement * Austrian resistance movement (O5) * Azad Hind * Belgian resistance movement * Bulgarian resistance movement * Burmese resistance movement * Czech Resistance movement * Chinese resistance movements ** Anti-Japanese Army for the Salvation of the Country ** Chinese People's National Salvation Army ** Heilungkiang National Salvation Army ** Jilin Self-Defence Army ** Northeast Anti-Japanese National Salvation Army ** Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army ** Northeast People's Anti-Japanese Volunteer Army ** Northeastern Loyal and Brave Army ** Northeastern People's Revolutionary Army ** Northeastern Volunteer Righteous & Brave Fighters ** Hong Kong resistance movements ** Gangjiu dadui (Hong Kong-Kowloon big army) ** Dongjiang Guerrillas (East River Guerrillas, Southern China and Hong Kong organisation) * Danish resistance movement * Dutch resistance movement * Forest Brothers * French resistance movement ** Maquis * German resistance to Nazism * Greek resistance movement ** Cretan resistance * Italian resistance movement * Jewish resistance movement, including Jewish partisans and Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee * Korean resistance movement * Latvian resistance movement * Lithuanian resistance during World War II * Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian (Forest Brothers, Latvian national partisans, and Lithuanian partisans) resistance movements during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the Baltic countries (continued after the end of World War II). * Luxembourgish resistance movement * Norwegian resistance movement * Philippine resistance movement (Multiple, often opposing organizations, were active during the Japanese Occupation) * Polish Underground State and Polish resistance organizations, such as: ** Armia Krajowa (the Home Army), Polish underground army in World War II (400 000 sworn members) ** Narodowe Siły Zbrojne ** Bataliony Chłopskie ** Gwardia Ludowa (the People's Guard) and Armia Ludowa (the People's Army) ** Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ZOB, the Jewish Fighting Organisation), Jewish resistance movement that led the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 ** Zydowski Zwiazek Walki (ZZW, the Jewish Fighting Union), Jewish resistance movement that led the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 * Slovak resistance movement * Soviet resistance movement of Soviet partisans and underground which had Moscow-organized and spontaneously formed cells opposing German occupation. * Thai resistance movement * Ukrainian Insurgent Army – fought the Poles, the Germans and the Soviets. * Yugoslav resistance movements: ** Yugoslav Army in the Homeland - the ''Chetniks'' ** People's Liberation Army – the ''Partisans'' *** Slovene resistance movement * Viet Minh * Werwolf – German guerrillas resisting Allied occupation of Germany, 1945 Planned resistance movements * The Auxiliary Units, organized by Colonel Colin Gubbins as a potential British resistance movement against a possible invasion of the British Isles by Nazi forces, note that it was the only resistance movement established prior to invasion, albeit the invasion never came. * Volunteer Fighting Corps (Japan)

Post-World War II

* Post-WWII anti-fascism (ongoing)


* Casamance conflict (ongoing) * Conflict in the Niger Delta (ongoing) * Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda) (ongoing) * Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahideen (ongoing) * Lord's Resistance Army (ongoing) * Mai-Mai (ongoing) * March 23 Movement * Mau Mau * MPLA * Ogaden National Liberation Front * Sudanese resistance (ongoing) * Symbionese Liberation Army * Umkhonto we Sizwe/African National Congress * ZANU–PF

East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania

* East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ongoing) * Free Papua Movement (ongoing) * New People's Army (ongoing) * Pathet Lao * People's Liberation Army/Communist Party of China * South Thailand insurgency (ongoing) * Tibetan resistance movement (ongoing) * Viet Cong * Viet Minh


* Anti-communist resistance in Poland * Caucasus Emirate (ongoing) * Continuity Irish Republican Army * Cursed soldiers Polish anticommunist resistance * Free Wales Army * Greek resistance * Hungarian Uprising * Irish National Liberation Army * Irish People's Liberation Organisation * Irish Republican Army * Insurgency in the North Caucasus (ongoing) * Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru * National Liberation Front of Corsica (Fronte di Liberazione Naziunale Corsu) * Óglaigh na hÉireann (ongoing) * Prague Spring * Provisional Irish Republican Army (1969–1997) * Real Irish Republican Army (ongoing) * Romanian anti-communist resistance movement * Spanish Maquis

Middle East

* Armenian resistance * Free Patriotic Movement (1988-2005) * Free Syrian Army (ongoing) * Front for the Liberation of the Golan (ongoing) * General Military Council for Iraqi Revolutionaries (ongoing) * Green Resistance (ongoing) * Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present) (ongoing) * Iraqi Resistance Movement * Hezbollah * Houthis (Ansar Allah) (ongoing) * Popular Mobilization Forces * Kurdistan Workers' Party (ongoing) * Kurdistan conflict in Turkey and Iran * Lebanese Front/Lebanese Forces (1975–1990) * National Liberation Front (Algeria) * Palestinian militants (ongoing) ** Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade ** Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine ** Hamas (ongoing) ** Palestinian Islamic Jihad (ongoing) ** Palestine Liberation Organization (ongoing) ** Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (ongoing) * Polisario Front (ongoing) * People's Mujahedin of Iran * Rojava * South Yemen Movement (ongoing) * Taliban (ongoing)

Indian subcontinent

* Mukti Bahini (1971) * Bhutan Tiger Force * Indian Independence movement and Pakistan movement * Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir (ongoing) * Khalistan (ongoing) * Sindhudesh (ongoing) * Tamil Tigers

Western hemisphere

* American Indian Movement * Black Guerrilla Family (ongoing) * Black Panther Party * Boricua Popular Army * Contras of Nicaragua * Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front * FARC (ongoing) * FLQ * Fruit of Islam * Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña * Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity * Los Macheteros – Puerto Rican armed independence movement (ongoing) * MOVE * Ñancahuazú Guerrilla * Paraguayan People's Army (ongoing) * Popular Revolutionary Army (ongoing) * Sandinistas * Shining Path (ongoing) * Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement * Tupamaros * Weather Underground * Zapatistas (ongoing)

Notable individuals in resistance movements

World War II (anti-Nazi, anti-Fascist etc.)

* Mordechaj Anielewicz * Josip Broz – Tito * Edmund Charaszkiewicz * Charles de Gaulle * Mildred Harnack * Jan Karski * Henryk Iwański * Jean Moulin * Christian Pineau * Hannie Schaft * Aris Velouchiotis * Mao Zedong * Chiang Kai-shek * Sandro Pertini * Luigi Longo * Ferruccio Parri * Witold Pilecki * Sophie Scholl * Haile Selassie * Gunnar Sønsteby * Max Manus * Marcel Louette

Other resistance movements and figures

*chief Mkwawa of Uhehe *chief Kimweri of Tanganyika *Kinjekitile Ng'wale * Michel Aoun * Hassan Nasrallah * Buenaventura Durruti * Giuseppe Garibaldi * Geronimo * Ho Chi Minh * Lembitu * Louis Joseph Papineau * Nestor Makhno * Maria Nikiforova * Osceola * Red Cloud * Juba * Rummu Jüri * Osman Batur * Mustafa Kemal Atatürk * Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale * Ülo Voitka * Pancho Villa * Emiliano Zapata * Ernesto Guevara * Abbas al-Musawi * Russel Means * Leonard Peltier * John Brown * Osama bin Laden * Cochise * William Quantrill * Crazy Horse * Tecumseh * Fidel Castro * Maqbool Bhat * Vladimir Lenin * Leon Trotsky * Sitting Bull * Mangas Colorado * Alfred the Great * El Cid * Lawrence of Arabia * Charlemagne Peralte * Boudica * King Arthur * Spartacus * Charles Martel * Nat Turner * Toussaint Louverture * Jean-Jacques Dessalines * Sans-Souci * Nelson Mandela * William Wallace * Robert the Bruce * Little Turtle * Mahatma Gandhi

See also

* Anti-war * Anti-communism * Anti-fascism * Anti-imperialism * Asymmetric warfare * People's war * Civil resistance * Civil rights movement * Collaborationism (and Collaboration), the opposite of resistance * Covert cell * Definitions of terrorism * Fictional resistance movements and groups * Fifth column – clandestine citizen operatives loyal to a foreign government * Guerrilla warfare * Insurgency * Irregular military * List of guerrillas * List of revolutions and rebellions * Nonviolent resistance * Opposition to the Iraq War * Opposition to the Vietnam War * Partisan (military) * Polish Secret State * Protesting * Propaganda * Reagan Doctrine * Rebellion * Resistance Studies Magazine * Riot * Social Change * Sniper * Special Activities Division * Special Operations Executive * Unconventional warfare



* Gardam, Judith Gail (1993). ''Non-combatant Immunity as a Norm of International Humanitarian'', Martinus Nijhoff. . * Ticehurst, Rupert.
The Martens Clause and the Laws of Armed Conflict
' 30 April 1997, ''International Review of the Red Cross'' no. 317, pp. 125–34. {{Authority control