Nonviolent Revolution

The recent series of uprisings called the Arab Spring started in  Tunisia in December 2010, then spread through North African and Arab countries. The Egyptian revolution of 2011 led to the fall of the government and hopes of something better. It did not happen in an intellectual vacuum. There was The Jewish Influence on Egypt's Glorious Revolution. Professor Sharp, a political scientist studies governments particularly tyrannies. Finding their weak points is the objective. In his guide, From Dictatorship to Democracy he gives us 198 of them. Not all will be applicable to one particular country in one particular period. They may need adapting but they are all possibilities.

Of course Arabs are very interested too. Moving from nomad to town dweller means that tribal ways are not always liked. This why Al Jazeera Spoke To Gene Sharp

It is worth giving some background. The Industrial Revolution began in England, bringing major changes to people's lives. Not all were good. One reaction was Socialism. It led to Karl Marx making his declaration in the Communist Manifesto:-

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

His ideas led to death for millions. Marx was influenced by Hegel. So was Adolf Hitler. They were both collectivist revolutionaries. They were also failures. The little known subversive who followed on from Marx was Antonio Gramsci, an Italian who was the chief theoretician and Secretary of the Italian Communist Party.

He worked out that the "inevitable" revolution of the proletariat predicted by orthodox Marxism had not occurred by the early 20th century. His answer was to subvert Christendom by a Culture War. This meant infiltrating society from the top down whereas Marx tried to do it from the bottom up. It was the Long March Through The Institutions, taking the means of control rather than the means of production. It is succeeding brilliantly.

Professor Sharp is getting back to the bottom up approach. An established government can look very solid. When protests started in East Germany things started to unravel. In 1989 Erich Honecker was prepared to use his fire power but Mikhail Gorbachev did not back him. So Honecker was replaced. In November 1989 the Berlin Wall came down. Popular discontent paid off.

A principle holds here. A people have the right to decide their own form of government. The United States Declaration of Independence tells us that: 

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness....... But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

That applies to every country. The American federal government is far from being the only corrupt tyranny. Once a government has lost the consent of the governed the first problem is how to get rid of it. The second is to replace it with something better. The Egyptians are proving that replacement is more difficult. Where there is a tradition of democracy it is easier. Norway had a government in exile during the Second World War. When the King returned, he reassumed authority. His legitimacy was accepted.

Professor Sharp in From Dictatorship to Democracy tells us that:-

The conclusion is a hard one. When one wants to bring down a dictatorship most effectively and with the least cost then one has four immediate tasks:

ē One must strengthen the oppressed population themselves in their determination, self-confidence, and resistance skills;
ē One must strengthen the independent social groups and institutions of the oppressed people;
ē One must create a powerful internal resistance force; and
ē One must develop a wise grand strategic plan for liberation and implement it skillfully.

People have lost their confidence, their pride in their country because foreign infiltrators have used the Main Stream Media and Education to instill Western Guilt, the idea that we abused blacks, browns, yellows. Exposing their lies is not difficult. Making them public means using the Internet,

Propagandists say that Englishmen in England are no longer English; we are merely the white majority - for the moment. This is one of the linguistic tricks used against us. There are others. Understanding the idea, the techniques matters. Knowing who the enemy is does too. Edward Abboud tells us about them in the Invisible Enemy.

Independent social groups like the British National Party have been attacked by the Main Stream Media. The BNP has also been subverted by other means. Break away groups are used to divide and conquer. It worked for the Romans. It still does. Similar approaches have been used on the Front National in France. The strategic plan is the difficult stage. It needs political leadership.

One technique for taking over is Entryism, the top down approach which means infiltration of the command structure. It means the Long March Through The Institutions which brought us the Marxist Takeover Of The Ruling Classes which we now need to counter.

One of Professor Sharp's findings is that military men understand his ideas better than pacifists. One such is Fred Reed  lately of the US Marine Corps. He made it back from Vietnam on a stretcher. Fred tells us in his article called Nullification that the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution means what it says. The federal government needs the states but not vice versa. The Feds cannot arrest Wyoming. If local politicians develop a bit of backbone or just plain get annoyed with Washington's meddling, things could change for the better. Why pay tax to the Feds then hope to get some of it back?

Indeed Wyoming has already made a move to block Federal interference using the Commerce Clause. The Wyoming Firearms Freedom Act with Teeth explains their approach, on which is may become a Homeland Rebellion.

Another military man who has studied the issues is Tom Chittum, another Viet Nam veteran. Out there Guerrilla warfare was the only practical option for the people attacked by the Great Satan. His book, Civil War II predicts the break up of America on racial lines. California has an Hispanic majority. It is lost. Blacks will have their states. Strategic withdrawal to the Northwest is the option that makes sense. This means moving out before war breaks out making even more.

Another insight of Professor Sharp is that violence will stiffen soldiers in their resolve. Attacking them when they have the guns is counterproductive if not suicidal. This is why the Russian 1905 revolution failed. The Bolsheviks turned to violence. Soldiers started obeying orders for once. It enabled the Tsar to hold on for another twelve years, until the February Revolution in 1917. This point is not brought out in the Wikipedia article Revolution of 1905.

In conclusion what options are seriously worth thinking about? Education counters propaganda. It matters. Refusing to pay taxes would inconvenience the government. Civil disobedience generally is useful. Gandhi's methods are worth some thought. They worked in India. A million or so died as a result. Their deaths are blamed onto Partition rather than the agitator himself.

Of course if popular discontent is justified a political party should be able to harness it. Ron Paul was the victim of a Main Stream Media blackout when he ran for President. It was the Internet that made him into a contender. We still have it as a working tool. Fighting back against the Culture War that is being used to destroy our sense of self-worth matters.

Physicists have thought about takeovers and written How To Stage A Revolution which is on line at It is a new mathematical model that reveals the tactics that a small number of interlopers can use to seize power. Another approach is at Infowarrior Manual

The whole issue leads to many questions which need answers. They need action while we remain a majority. Here are Professor Sharp's thoughts:-

Gene Sharp Talks To Al Jazeera
Gene Sharp, a humble, 83-year-old intellectual, has been credited with promoting non-violent struggle around the world.

Sharp's book From Dictatorship to Democracy, a how-to guide for toppling dictators first published in 1993, has been translated into 24 different languages. From Burma to Bosnia, and more recently this February in Cairo's Tahrir Square, protesters distributed Sharp's 94-page manual as a guide for overthrowing autocrats.

To many despots, Sharp's works are threatening. The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has denounced his books. In 2008, the Iranian government produced an animated video portraying Sharp as a CIA agent, hobnobbing in the White House with John McCain and George Soros.

According to a cable written by the US embassy in Damascus - and later published by WikiLeaks - Syrian dissidents trained non-violent protesters by reading Sharp's writings. Another leaked cable from 2007 revealed that Burmese authorities thought Sharp was part of an attempt to "bring down" the country's government.

He was jailed for protesting conscription in the Korean War in 1953, witnessed China's Tianamen Square uprising in 1989, and snuck into a rebel camp in Myanmar in the 1990s.

Now, a frail Sharp lives in an East Boston townhouse which is also home to his Albert Einstein Institution, a non-profit organization that studies non-violent resistance.

One of Sharp's main ideas is that power comes from the obedience of the governed - and that if the sources of this obedience are undermined, tyrants can be toppled. In a conversation with Al Jazeera's Roxanne Horesh and Sam Bollier, a pragmatic Sharp tells us why dictators are vulnerable to well-organized, non-violent resistance.

What first made you interested in non-violent struggle?
When I was an undergraduate at Ohio State University, the world was just very much of a mess. The Second World War was fresh in our memories; the atomic bomb was new. There was European colonialism all over the world - Europeans thought they owned the rest of the world, so they divided it among themselves.

There were major problems with violence. Violence was only destroying things, it wasnít creating things. People needed some means of struggle. I was beginning to learn that there was such a thing as non-violent struggle, but I didnít know much about it. The literature at that time was very inadequate.  

You have been working in the field of non-violent resistance for decades. How have your views evolved from your original research? 
Originally I thought that in order to use non-violence, you had to believe in non-violence as an ethic or religious principle, and later I discovered that wasnít true. And at first that was a psychological threat - my goodness, they donít believe like they are supposed to.

But also it was a great advantage, because people didnít have to be pacifists before they could use this kind of resistance. And I learned that this kind of resistance has been going on sometimes for centuries. Ordinary people could do this - and did this in various parts of the world.

Why do you think non-violent resistance is more effective than violent resistance?
Violence is not all that effective, if you think how long many wars last and how every war is lost by one side or the other. Wars are one of the major factors that made European colonialism possible.

There were cases [of non-violent resistance] where people like Gandhi - he was challenging the largest empire the world had ever seen, and made the British get out of India. There are a lot of examples. But we didnít know a lot about those types of resistance.

You have said that military people understand you better than peace people do. Can you expand on what you mean?
This was a surprise at first. Sometimes I would get invited to speak to a pacifist group, and they would always give me a hard time because I was talking about pragmatic non-violent struggle, and they were talking about believing in non-violence as an ethical principle.

But when I spoke to a military audience, they understood this, because they knew strategy and tactics. The military people really took it much more seriously. Thatís been true in several different countries where I met with military people.  And itís true today: My 1973 book The Politics of Nonviolent Action was reviewed very favourably in military journals in several countries. Itís not what people would expect.

You've written a lot about the importance of strategy and long-term planning for non-violent struggles to succeed. In this regard, what are your thoughts on the Occupy Wall Street movement?
They donít have any specific demands or a clear objective. It is not like a bus boycott in Alabama, for example, many years ago - where people would just walk, or hitchhike, or take taxis instead of using the busses. They had a clear objective: to break down the segregation on the buses.

The [Occupy] protesters donít have a clear objective, something they can actually achieve. If they think they will change the economic system by simply staying in a particular location, then they are likely to be very disappointed. Protest alone accomplishes very little.

What advice would you give to the Occupy movement?
I think they need to study how they can actually change the things they donít like, because simply sitting or staying in a certain place will not change or improve the economic or political system.

The Arab Spring movements in some countries have become violent. Do you think this turn to violence will damage efforts to move away from dictatorial systems in those countries?
Absolutely. We know that from other cases. For example, the 1905 revolution [in Russia] that was trying to get rid of the Tsarist dictatorship. People there were on the verge of complete success. The army was on the verge of mutiny. Lots of soldiers had refused to obey orders to shoot non-violent people, similar to the situation in Syria.

Non-violent means will increase your chances of the soldiers refusing to obey orders. But if you go over to violence, the soldiers will not mutiny. They will be loyal to the dictatorship and the dictatorship will have a good chance to survive, as indeed happened in the 1905 revolution. [The revolution] could have succeeded very quickly at that time, but then the Bolsheviks deliberately changed the non-violent general strike to a violent uprising. That meant the soldiers, for the first time in a long time, did obey orders. And then that gave the Tsar the ability to maintain the repression, and maintain the system for another 12 years.

You've said that leadership is important in non-violent struggles. But if we look at, for instance, Egypt, or Iran in 1979, there was not one clear leader early on. Can non-violent struggle be successful without a leader?
It can, and it has been at times. But in those cases, people need to understand what makes this succeed, and what makes it fail. 

If they have no strong leader, this can be an advantage at times, because then the regime cannot really control the situation by arresting or killing off the leadership.

But if you are going to do it without leaders, you have to do that skillfully, and know what youíre doing. If you spread information about what is required, and have a list of ďdo this, and not thatĒ, and everybody understands that, the struggle can have greater chances of success. If you donít have that basic understanding of what youíre doing, then youíre not going to win anything.

Since the Egyptian revolution, the media has linked the Egyptian uprising to your work. What are your thoughts on this?
I think if my work had an influence, Iím happy for that. I donít claim that and I donít have hard evidence, and I claim very little for myself. Other people have been doing this kind of work, and doing this writing.

The people who actually do the struggles are the ones who deserve the credit, not me.

What do you think of the fact that your book From Dictatorship to Democracy is on the Muslim Brotherhood website for years?
I am honoured. Some of the bravest people waging non-violent struggle have been Muslims. One of my books had an introduction by Abdul Rahman Wahid, who headed at the time the largest Muslim organization in the world. Back in the days of Gandhi, in the northwest frontier province of British India, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a very brave, very sophisticated and very astute Muslim leader of non-violent struggle, led a movement there. Gandhi said that the leadership of the Muslim movement in the northwest frontier exceeded that of the Hindus in India.

People are dispelling some of these ridiculous stereotypes about Muslims, and people in some other parts of the world.

Have you learned anything from people involved in non-violent struggle?
Oh, I try to learn whenever I can - because what they have done sometimes people would have thought impossible.

They have proved that itís possible for ordinary people to maintain non-violent discipline, maintain their courage, to continue the struggle, despite the repression. As Gandhi always said, ďCast off fear. Donít be afraidĒ. I thought many times myself, thatís a bit naÔve. The British had the guns and the army.

But the people of Syria especially, and other countries as well, certainly in Egypt and Tunisia and on down the line - all of them - they have been very brave. And that bravery is something that deserves major credit. Theyíre the ones who actually do the job.

Who do you think some of the great thinkers of resistance are today?
Iím not sure. Sometimes people are really very important in leading these movements, but they sometimes donít get the credit they often deserve. They are not as famous as Gandhi was in his lifetime. But this is not a bad thing, if people learn that they can do this and the knowledge that people power is powerful.

One struggle doesnít always do the job; sometimes you have to have two or three or four or five struggles in succession. Itís like in a war. How many years did the Second World War last, for example? Wars are not won in the first attempt. Sometimes people lost the first battle. They learned they had to strengthen themselves, [learned] what was required to become stronger and what was required to become more brave and not to run away when they first got shot at, but they would charge ahead skillfully.

What does the Albert Einstein Institution do today?
We do research on the nature of non-violent struggle, prepare educational material, and guide translations - because if they donít translate something accurately, itís going to mess things up badly - and fill orders for all the continued interest from the new struggles.

What are your interests outside of your work?
I grow a variety of plants in my house, and in my backyard, and I have a small dog. I used to have big dogs, Great Danes - three or four of those - and they are great, wonderful creatures. Dogs and pets, and animals, and plants and flowers and all those kinds of things - I unwind my head that way.
The fact that military men understand him better than peaceniks is curious, yet it makes sense.

The great man.


The Jewish Influence on Egypt's Glorious Revolution: A Gene Sharp Reader
If you are anything like me, you've been transfixed by the Egyptian revolution.  If you value political freedom, human dignity and non-violent resistance as means to achieve both, than this was an event impossible not to love.  We all know the future is uncertain--if a legitimate democracy will takes Mubarak's place, and if that democracy will mesh with its former allies, America and Israel among them--but the short history of the revolution itself is what both conservatives and liberals alike in the U.S. have been hoping for years: a democratic revolution with broad popular support.

But here's what you may have missed: the Jewish influence on the revolution.  In the past couple of days, the name of the non-violent theorist Gene Sharp has continued to pop up. An 81-year-old retired professor, Sharp's writings on non-violence have not only been read by the key leaders of the Egyptian revolution, but by ones who kicked off similar protests in the former Soviet states, Burma, Iran, Venezuela and many other current dictatorships. His short 90-page manual, "From Dictatorships to Democracy," has shown up in the hands of thousands of protesters, and it includes practical non-violence techniques from how to stage public funeral, to adopting a color as a movement's theme.

Right now you're probably thinking that Sharp is Jewish.  That's what I assumed, but he's not. According to this Wall Street Journal profile from 2008--when Sharp's name popped up again, after Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez cited him, not in praise--his father was an itinerant Protestant preacher.  But the non-violent center he's been running for almost 30 years, the Albert Einstein Institute, was funded for more than two decades by Peter Ackerman, who was Jewish.  A former student of Sharp when he taught at Harvard, Ackerman made millions working with the junk-bond financier Michael Milken.  But he remained loyal to his old professor, and when Sharp asked for funding for a non-violent center, Ackerman backed him.

The story doesn't exactly end well, however. Ackerman, the Journal reports, had a falling out with Sharp over the direction of the institute, where Sharp wanted to keep it small, and Ackerman wanted to expand.  In 2004, Ackerman stopped funding it, leaving Sharp with a $150,000 annual budget.  But Ackerman went on to fund a newer activist center based in Washington, D.C., called the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.  Since 2002, it's also helped give advice and raise awareness about non-violent resistance to anti-democratic regimes.

Sharp has other Jewish connections too. I found an interview Sharp gave to The Progressive in 2009, where he cites some of his influences.  Of course there are the non-violent titans--Gandhi [ a Racist who admired Adolf Hitler ] and Martin Luther King [ thug, fornicator, thief & Racist full of hate run by communist Jews ]--but there is also the time his spent in Norway in the 1950s.  While he was there, he interviewed dozens of locals about what they did under the Nazi-allied regime during the war years.  "What did the Norwegians do during the Nazi occupation? How did they successfully resist the Norwegian fascist regime of Vidkun Quisling, during the Nazi occupation?" Sharp told The Progressive.

"I interviewed several people on that subject," he went on, "and I wrote that up and it became a booklet. [The booklet details how Norwegian teachers braved intimidation and incarceration to band together and resist Quislingís indoctrination program for the schools.] I also interviewed several people on what was done to save the Jews of Norway. And there were other successful anti-Nazi movements, such as German women married to Jewish men, who demonstrated at Rosenstrasse." 

I am sure there are other Jewish ideas that have found there way into Egypt's marvelous revolution, however circuitously. But I don't want to over-claim their significance; it is only nice to hear they exist. This event was, after all, by and for Egyptians, and there is nothing wrong with simply praising that.
So there you have it. It is up to you, to me, to us. Think then act.


Errors & omissions, broken links, cock ups, over-emphasis, malice [ real or imaginary ] or whatever; if you find any I am open to comment.
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Updated on 23/02/2013 16:36