Gene Sharp’s theories of non-violent revolution

The New York Times profiles Gene Sharp, whose writings on non-violent revolution have inspired dissidents around the world.

Based on studies of revolutionaries like Gandhi, nonviolent uprisings, civil rights struggles, economic boycotts and the like, he has concluded that advancing freedom takes careful strategy and meticulous planning, advice that Ms. Ziada said resonated among youth leaders in Egypt. Peaceful protest is best, he says — not for any moral reason, but because violence provokes autocrats to crack down. “If you fight with violence,” Mr. Sharp said, “you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon, and you may be a brave but dead hero.”

Autocrats abhor Mr. Sharp. In 2007, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela denounced him, and officials in Myanmar, according to diplomatic cables obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, accused him of being part of a conspiracy to set off demonstrations intended “to bring down the government.” (A year earlier, a cable from the United States Embassy in Damascus noted that Syrian dissidents had trained in nonviolence by reading Mr. Sharp’s writings.)

In 2008, Iran featured Mr. Sharp, along with Senator John McCain of Arizona and the Democratic financier George Soros, in an animated propaganda video that accused Mr. Sharp of being the C.I.A. agent “in charge of America’s infiltration into other countries,” an assertion his fellow scholars find ludicrous.

“He is generally considered the father of the whole field of the study of strategic nonviolent action,” said Stephen Zunes, an expert in that field at the University of San Francisco. “Some of these exaggerated stories of him going around the world and starting revolutions and leading mobs, what a joke. He’s much more into doing the research and the theoretical work than he is in disseminating it.”

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5 thoughts on “Gene Sharp’s theories of non-violent revolution

  1. Norman

    Well, I see that this old man has some educational reading to do. Interesting that we in the U.S. have such individuals, yet our Government has taken on such a role that has brought misery to millions throughout the world.

  2. Theo

    Leave it to the NYT to place Hugo Chavez in the same category as the military junta that rules Myanmar. It is amazing how the corporate media hold to the party line in regards to Venezuela.

  3. DE Teodoru

    I’m nauseated by Hillary’s BS “concern.” Where’s Obama finding it “ironic” that Iran supported Egyptian demonstrators but crushed its own? He doesn’t think it ironic that Bahrain is massacring its Shiite citizens using Pakistani mercenaries a la Tiananmen Square and he’s saying nothing while our warships float in and out as protectors of this murderous ruler. Barak and Hillary are making me a neo-Democrat puking in disgust at this administration’s version of “change.”!

  4. scott

    Who the fuck is this guy? All these conclusions are rather obvious. He ignores that all these non-violent movements had a violent movement in the background lurking. The “peaceful dissent” was less threatening and hence something that the regime feared could turn violent. If protesters get violent or offer the least provocation, the soldiers/police will attack, it’s what they are trained to do. After all this essentially is a PR campaign by both parties for the silent masses that did rise up.

  5. jerrry Hoyt

    Gee… I had no idea all those Egyptian protesters read up on Sharp before heading to the square. And I thought it was so spontaneous?

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