Gene Sharp's Peaceful Revolution Techniques

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http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=egypts-revolution-vindicates-gene-s-2011-02-11

The previous is a link to an article discussing how the Egyptian protesters used methods to create a peaceful revolution which were described by Prefessor Gene Sharp. He works at the Albert Einstein Institution and based his conclusions on a historical analysis of peaceful revolutions in the past. He has written several books, and despite having his methods successfully used in several peaceful revolutions over the past 15 years or so, has received virtually no recognition from our government, perhaps because those revolutions have often overthrown our government's dictator "friends." However, he is well known in many foreign nations. I first heard of him this morning when talk show host Ian Masters interviewed him for Pacifica Radio. The very fact that I had never heard of him before speaks poorly of the way our government conducts foreign policy, or perhaps the fear that his techniques will be successfully used here in the United States. This is intended as sort of a follow-up post to Revolution, American Style by Zenzoe. Since Sharp is an American, it would make sense that his techniques would result in "Revolution, American Style." I am not necessarily advocating using his techniques here in the U.S. of A., but if our political system becomes (or already is) too stultified and closed, it may be what is required in order to effect change. The protesters in Wisconsin could certainly use Sharp's advice.

His basic premise, from what I gather, is that government gains its power through the consent and obedience of the collective citizenry. By peacefully protesting, refusing to obey the government, and negating the source of the government's power, citizens can effect a change of government, otherwise known as a revolution. Some of the "revolutions" that Sharp discusses have resulted in the overthrow of a government, while others have resulted in reforms. Certainly, our government is in need of major reforms here, however they can be generated, so I thought it was important to share Professor Sharp's ideas here.

Here is an excerpt from the article in the above link.

"Egypt represents an extraordinary vindication of the philosophy of Gene Sharp, a political scientist whose work I described here last July. For decades, Sharp has argued that nonviolence is the best means of overthrowing corrupt, violent, repressive regimes. He disseminates his ideas through books such as From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation (1993), which has been translated into 24 languages, including Arabic, and can be downloaded from the Web site of The Albert Einstein Institution, a tiny nonprofit founded by Sharp in 1983.

Sharp is not a moralist but a pragmatist, who bases his claims on an empirical analysis of history. He asserts that violence, even in the service of a just cause, often results in more problems than it solves, leading in turn to greater injustice and suffering; hence, the best way to oppose an unjust regime is through nonviolent action. Nonviolent movements are also more likely than violent ones to garner internal and international support and to lead to democratic, non-militarized regimes.

Nonviolent resistance, Sharp acknowledges, requires enormous dedication, courage and hard work, all of which may culminate in failure, including the death of resistors. But nonviolent resistance has played a much more significant role in human history than generally acknowledged by historians. "Using nonviolent action, people have won higher wages, broken social barriers, changed government policies, frustrated invaders, paralyzed an empire and dissolved dictatorships," Sharp wrote."

Finally, although Sharp's work focuses mainly on overthrowing dictators and building democracies, it appears to me that many of his techniques can be adapted for use in domestic protests. in order to effect political changes.

I just found one of Sharp's shorter books online in its entirety, at this link:

http://books.google.com/books?id=9ThfnNG68vMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=from+dictatorship+to+democracy+gene+sharp&source=bl&ots=uM_Ju2hfGv&sig=N-p7cG4AeM4Yp08rK7d5dryMmT4&hl=en&ei=omBcTfaqGIHEsAOKmczlBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CEgQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q&f=false

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Comments

Lefty,like your thread.The criminal element controlling the world want violence.We getting fighting mad,we lose sight of the real problem,"the system"! Thanks

tayl44's picture
tayl44
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Aboslutely, Tay! That is the big message from Gene Sharp's work. I read some stuff from the book in the last link, which talked about how frustrated protesters tended to get violent, which gave the people running "the system" the excuse they needed to crack down violently on the protesters. That resulted most often in failure of the popular movement because people became confused or intimidated into giving up the struggle. When the protesters organized and peacefully negated the power of the people running the system, the protesters won. He has a whole lot more detail than that, which is why I put in so many links. He has big lists about how to find the weaknesses of oppressors and use them to topple the oppressors, and big lists about how to organize protesters, for instance, but i summarized Sharp's ideas the best I could. Sharp has been working at this for at least 40 years, dooing careful historical analyses, and is now 83 years old. He should be a lot more well-known here than he is, and that's a shame.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Going through a pile of old peacemaking resources, I came across "Making the Abolition of War A Realistic Goal," by Gene Sharp. Published in 1980.

He definitely influenced my peacemaking thinking as we put together a major Stanford course with a bunch of senior faculty. They really got charged up dealing with a subject not directly in discipline but with huge intellectual issues.

DRC's picture
DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Hello DRC! That must have been one of Sharp's earlier works. I didn't run across that one yesterday as I researched his works. "Making Abolition of War a Realistic Goal" -- he is definitely talking my language there. So his work is (or was) being taught at Stanford and you participated in that. Good on you!

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Natural Lefty
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

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