La Resistance / Real Life


  • This trope is Older Than Feudalism: the Judean Zealots who sought to overthrow Roman rule in the 1st century C.E. were possibly the first example of a national resistance movement in history. Needless to say, they failed and the Jews ended up becoming diaspora across the Mediterranean and the Roman Empire.
  • Anti-Colonialist movements across Asia, Africa and Latin America often fought against their imperialist overlords:
    • The Irish Republican Army, and before them you had the Fenians in 19th Century Victorian Britain.
    • The Israeli government revolted against the British Mandate and likewise achieved independence.
    • India had several anti-English rebellions and conflicts until the 1857 Mutiny put an end to all military threats against the English. After that the Nationalist movement took root among several freedom fighters. The biggest and most influential mass movement was that of Mahatma Gandhi, which codified non-violent resistance movements in the 20th Century. The Indians finally got independence in 1947 but it was a Pyrrhic Victory on account of Partition. Ironically, Independent India would face "resistance" movements (more precisely "separatists") from the 80s and to the present day in Punjab, Kashmir and Chattisgarh.
    • The Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I where T. E. Lawrence attained international fame was a Resistance against an Empire, sponsored by The Alliance of other empires (the British and the French in this case). Needless to say Arab Nationalism would form against the British and French in the coming decades.
  • The French Resistance is the Trope Namer of course. The Resistance was led by Charles De Gaulle, who was a conservative Frenchman dedicated to restoring the French Republic. To this end, he managed to attract a coalition of right-wing and left-wing groups of varying persuasions (including royalists, patriots, communists, anarchists and social democrats) to more or less bury their hatchet and fight against the Nazis and Les Collaborateurs. During the Resistance, conservative Catholics fought alongside Communists, though perhaps not in the same group.
    • Ironically, a key factor for the success of the French Resistance was France's colonies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. After all, Casablanca is set in the (then) French colony of Morocco. The Government-In-Exile largely managed to convince these colonies to back the Resistance rather than Vichy, with the implicit promise of independence after the war. Then, on the day of France's liberation, French authorities fired down several protestors in Algeria.
    • Vietnam was a French colony that fought the Japanese during World War 2 but hoped to gain independence from the French. Some of the Vietnamese leaders, including Ho Chi Minh himself tried to appeal to America to intervene on their behalf. Roosevelt was personally committed to decolonization but after his death, America turned its attention to the Cold War. During the Vietnam War, the Communist groups in South Vietnam, the Viet Cong, provided another defining example of this trope in Hollywood History.
  • The partisan movements in Nazi-controlled areas during World War 2 gave regular forces information and helped them with acts of sabotage that made their military operations much more efficient and less costly.
    • According to the folks at the Axishistory forum, the largest European resistance movement in proportion to the size of the population was, surprisingly, in Albania (6.5% at its peak). Second was Yugoslavia, Greece and Poland are tied for third place, followed by USSR, France, Italy and finally Bulgaria. Other movements did exist, but were much smaller.
    • In Germany itself, the White Rose (a nonviolent resistance group led by students) opposed Nazi rule after the disaster of Stalingrad. There were also the conspirators of Operation Valkyrie, army officers that sought to assassinate Hitler but failed.
    • The Werewolves, pro-Nazi partisans (mostly ex-Hitler Youths) who operated in occupied Germany.
    • The Polish Home Army was not just a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, but a full-blown government operating in conspiracy. They had their own judicial system, educational system (extending from primary schools to universities), hospitals, arms factories producing the indigenous Blyskawica submachine gun and intelligence service operating in other countries. Its political activities ranged from assassinations of German officials to taking care of families of deceased soldiers to providing Jews with false documents. Downplayed in that the Home Army was technically an extension of the Government in Exile and operated under its orders. The two politically distinct groups, the National Armed Forces (nationalist) and People's Army (communist), play this trope straight.
      • In outlying regions with mixed populations, the Polish Home Army was also seen as The Empire by the local Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Belarussian nationalists. In many cases, a four-way conflict developed as the Poles fought the nationalist La Résistance belonging to whichever was the major "other" ethnicity in the area, while they both fought the Germans AND the Soviets at the same time.
      • On a sidenote, virtually any significant pre-war political organization, from natonalists to farmers to communist had its 'own' resistance organization.
    • The Greek National Liberation Front was also heavily organized, with its own goverment, polls, and a popular army of thousands essentially controlling almost all the rural areas of Greece by the end of the war, and had already set up infrastacture like schools and health care for the places they freed BEFORE the war was over, and did heavy fighting with the Germans holding essential reinforcements from the East Lines. After Liberation, this partisan group (which included communists and social democrats but not dominated by it) was fired upon by English soldiers who, in light of fears of the Cold War sought to install the pre-war Greek fascist government instead.
    • Italy had the biggest partisan movement of any Axis power. That was because Fascism got its supporters from the upper-middle class, who considered it a way to control the lower class. Needless to say, Fascism wasn't seen in a positive light by the farmers and workers who made up the majority of the population.
      • One of the most notable things of the Italian resistance was the success it enjoyed, at one point conquering a number of towns and creating temporary republics (including one near Mussolini's own hometown), before launching an insurrection in every single town and city still occupied when the Allies' spring offensive in Italy broke through the Gothic Line and prevented the Germans and Fascists from even attempting to use the Po river as a last line of defense. They also had their own weapon production of an original design, the Variara submachine gun (the only ones doing so besides for the Polish Home Army).
    • Belgium had the Belgian Resistance, when Belgium was occupied by the Germans. The Belgian Resistance was not a single organization and very fractured. The Belgians would sabotage railroads so the Nazis couldn't use them. Members of the Belgian Resistance would also fight alongside the Allies in the battles to free Belgium from Nazi control. The Belgian Resistance is notable for the Attack on the 20th Convoy, when resistance members attacked a Holocaust train and managed to free some of the Jews.
    • Second Sino-Japanese War saw several million men die in uniform, or bits of it, but many also died fighting the Japanese out of it. While it's true that there were communist cells in the occupied areas, these co-operated with the occupation authorities to help them root out all the non-communist ones. The Communists also refused to actually do any fighting, except for that one time when Stalin ordered them to in 1940 to save the Guomindang's hide, since they wouldn't have minded Japan winning (since it would mean them winning the Chinese Civil War by default) and wanted to build up their strength so they could start the Civil War up again later if the Guomindang survived.
    • Norway did not get an exceptional amount of publicity but both held out longer that France from invasion to defeat/surrender and had an active resistance going throughout the entire war. Granted it was not very violent, but it did manage to smuggle out its entire gold reserve, blow up ships loaded with heavy water headed for Germany, and carry about half the country's Jewish population over the border with Sweden. The other half were scooped up very suddenly, with not even Quisling being told about it. Then there is also how the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the country all refused to collaborate.
    • Zigzagged with a large number of movements during World War II (and to some degree, World War I), which were both La Résistance and Les Collaborateurs depending on your point of view. With the empires at war, many independence movements sided with the empire fighting against their own overlords. During World War I, Finland and the Baltic States gained independence from the Russian Empire (and its Soviet successor) with the support of the Germans. During World War II, many Croatians, Slovaks, Balts, and some Ukrainians cooperated with Nazi Germany against their Serb, Czech, and Russian oppressors. A large number of Southeast Asian and Indian independence leaders cooperated with the Japanese against their British and Dutch colonial masters.
  • There's also Dok-rib-goons (Independence Armies) and other underground resistances of Korea, who fought against the Japanese rule during 36 years of Japanese colonization. When Japanese invaded China, Korean armies fought with Chinese armies and Allied forces(One of the leaders, Kim Gu, tried to send a troop of commandos into occupied Han peninsula(with the help from the USA). Unfortunately the War ended in August, before the operation date of October). One of the most prominent Dokribgun leaders was a charismatic man named Kim Il-sung... who later became the dictator of North Korea and caused The Korean War.
  • Stay-behind units organised in case of a Soviet invasion of Europe. During World War II the Home Guard Auxilary Units in Britain would have carried out a similar function in the event that Britain was invaded by Germany.
    • Being in a Home Guard Auxilary Unit was a heavy burden, because if your unit was actually activated (which would occur automatically if your town was occupied) the first job was to ensure security by killing the only other man who knew who the members were: The local police constable, who was invariably a close friend of all the members and trusted them enough to kill him if needed. Thankfully for them, by the time the units were actually formed, Germany was only a few months away from abandoning any thought of implementing Operation Sea Lion, for several reasons; they couldn't establish aerial or naval superiority, without which any attempt would have been extremely costly, and anyway, they had a much better idea - invading Russia!. The auxiliaries were finally stood down in 1944, when the Allies were going to be the ones doing the invading. Some of them joined the Special Air Service and saw action in Europe.
  • Several resistances against undemocratic governments in Latin America and South America qualify, markedly in Brazil the MR-8.
    • The MIR/Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front in Chile and the Montoneros/People's Revolutionary Army in Argentina might qualify as well.
  • During many wars local civilians were provoked by the incredible presumption of passing soldiers into becoming this. As if they failed, they would be subject to worse Rape, Pillage, and Burn than before, if they succeeded they would end up becoming like their persecutors and if they did nothing they would simply be ground down underfoot, it was a tough choice. Effectively it was La Résistance against both sides for pure self-preservation, but the chief target would be the nearest army.
  • The Spanish Civil War serves as both an example and a subversion.
    • The Nationalists saw themselves as La Résistance to the ruling Republican government which had deposed the monarchy. Since the Nationalists included a great part of the army, they were much better organized and prepared for war than the leftists (Loyalists). In addition they were backed by Hitler and Mussolini, while the Republicans could not court the support of the Americans and the British (with Winston Churchill stating that he would back Franco if he was Spanish).
    • The ruling regime was reduced to a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who frequently fought amongst themselves. Largely because it was a wide coalition of leftist groups and it's chief backer was the USSR of Josef Stalin and all that it entails. For the hardline Stalinists, the faction fighting was actually more important than fighting the Nationalists—many Loyalist offensives never got off the ground because important officers were detained and sometimes executed by the Stalinists in the name of ideological purity. During the war, the Republican government shipped 72.6 Percent of its Gold Reserves to Moscow which predictably never returned since the Republicans lost to the Nationalists.
    • The anarcho-syndicalist uprisings in Catalonia was this on the leftist side. They resisted Franco but were certainly not "Loyalists", as they fought for the complete dismantlement of the state apparatus and had strained relationships with the rest of the Republican side. Under the guidance of the FAI-CNT the citizen rose up against the Nationalists and fired off the shots for an anarchist insurrection, allying only with the Loyalist government as a sort of "the enemy of my enemy" deal. Then they ran into the Stalinists who did with them as is their wont.
  • The Arab Spring. Protests and revolutions have occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Libya, Morocco, Bahrain, Syria, and Iraq and Iran.
  • The vast majority of other American nations were formed after a group of patriots (referred as such for both the U.S. American, Hispanic American and Brazilian Insurrections) managed to organize this and overthrow the representatives of their respective Metropoles (The UK for the USA, France for Haiti, Spain for the Hispanic American nations and Portugal for Brazil).
    • The American Revolution is an interesting example. The men who resisted the tyrant King George were for the most slaveowners yet preached about their rights. This was seen as hypocritical even in its day and age (Samuel Johnson called them out on it). They also oppposed the Mohawks and Iroquois Confederacy of New York, most of whom were allied to the English. The English, which was also a slaveowning nation at this time, attracted some ex-slaves with the promise of manumission.
    • Against this trend, there is Canada, which is either Les Collaborateurs or La Résistance, as it became haven for Loyalists to British crown who opposed independence and twice fought off American invasions—once before Americans even declared independence (in 1775) and again in 1812.
  • The American Civil War is also presented as this:
    • The South portrayed itself as rebels against "the tyranny" of the Industrial North. Features like "Rebel Yell", "Johnny Reb" (a mascot still in use in some state football teams) and the vaunted nobility of its officers, endured in romantic accounts that followed the war. Recent scholars regard the war as an illegal rebellion by a bunch of slaveowners who refuse to accept that they started the conflict and brought down the wrath of the North on themselves, but the mythology of the South as a culture that resisted the North was a key feature of (white) Southern identity, nearly hundred years after the war ended.
    • The Underground railroad that preceded the Civil War is seen as a more clear representation of this in popular culture. A good way to cultivate liberal cred among characters in old time setting is to show them working to help runaway slaves hide from authorities. The likes of Harriet Tubman (who used subterfuge, cunning, guile in the best resistance tradition) are lionized as heroes, as is Frederick Douglass. Nat Turner and especially John Brown are seen as darker chaotic expressions of this concept.
  • Finnish Civil War 1918 - both sides. The Whites considered themselves as the representatives of the legitimate government resisting the Communist Imperialism (which would have been true is they hadn't exiled, imprisoned or executed all the M Ps of the biggest party), while the Reds considered themselves as the sole defendant of the small guy against Capitalist oppressors (which would have had a bigger ring to it if the Finnish people hadn't shown through universal suffrage elections that they didn't like the communists). Needless to say, the Finnish Civil War was extremely bloody.
  • The French Revolution led to a change in regimes from Monarchical/Royalist to Republican-Constitutionalist/Revolutionary and it offers a feast of ironic contrasts:
    • The revolutionaries saw themselves as resisting the royal regime, and protestors who stormed the Bastille, and the women who marched to Versailles are iconic examples. However, the aristocrats who opposed the Revolution, saw themselves as resisting the tyranny of Mob Rule and emigrated to neighbouring Kingdoms and formed militia in the hope of restoring the old regime. Likewise, the Republic were the first to declare war on the monarchs of Austria, Germany and then England.
    • The Vendée Rebellion was a Civil War in France against the Revolution and its clampdown on local traditions (via The Civil Constitution of the Clergy), against rents owed to bourgeois landholders and the call to Conscription. This resulted in a mass uprising where 200 Republicans, officials and allies were massacred. They formed an army against the Republic inverting a lot of the slogans and songs of the Revolution for royalist ends, and invited a brutal clampdown during the Reign of Terror.
    • Thanks to political in-fighting, the Girondin club and their regional strongholds of Lyon and Bordeaux also joined a revolt against the Jacobin party that purged them. Some of them even joined forces with the Royalists only to be subsumed by them. Then after the Reign of Terror ended, the Jacobins who had fought and suppressed all the factions were driven underground, purged and then exiled. A revolutionary faction, called "Conspiracy of the Equals" tried to mount a resistance but they got crushed by the Thermidorians.
    • The French colony of Haiti, the majority of which comprised of African Slaves launched their own revolution against the French authorities and the plantation owners. The Haitian revolutionaries initially considered allying with the Spanish against the Republic but that changed when the French government abolished slavery in 1794. When Napoleon Bonaparte became First Consul, he sent a fleet to shut down the Haitians and restore slavery which failed thanks to mass uprising and yellow fever. As such, Haiti is an entire nation formed out of the success of a slave rebellion—a rare (indeed, unique) feat.
  • Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Northern Alliance in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as well as the Iraqi resistance after the 2003 invasion. The first four organizations alternate between being La Résistance and a de-facto government. In case of the Muslim Brotherhood, they were de-jure government too until the Egyptian military stepped in again.
  • The Dog Soldiers, one of six military societies of the Cheyenne Indians, opposed peace policies during their ongoing fight against the settlers, and refused to be restricted to reservation land. They were an important part of Cheyenne resistance, but eventually were almost entirely killed off in the Battle of Summit Springs in 1869.
  • Norwegian "ultra-patriots" during the first part of the nineteenth century was a kind of informal resistance against the union with Sweden, advocating the cause of Norwegian independence quite prominently. The Swedish authorities singled out Henrik Wergeland as their ring-leader, and had him under some kind of surveillance over time. Thus, when he was appointed to hold the first May 17 speech in 1833, a Swedish agent had placed himself on a nearby roof, with a notepad and a binocular, taking down minute observations to the king.
  • In the 1860s, France under Napoleon III invaded Mexico to colonize it. The French won enough battles to take Mexico City and install an Austrian Habsburg nobleman as Emperor Maximillian of Mexico, but Mexican President Benito Juarez escaped into Mexico's northern countryside with his Government in Exile. The republican "Juaristas" continued fighting against Maximillian and his French backers, who were never able to decisively defeat them. Eventually, the French public's unhappiness with the massive costs of the war and pressure from the United States led France to abandon Maximillian, after which Juarez and his supporters retook control of the country.

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