Serpent’s Tail £5.99
From Dictatorship to Democracy, By Gene Sharp
No fool, this child of the revolution
Sunday 08 January 2012
The American academic Gene Sharp's seminal essay "From Dictatorship to Democracy" could be subtitled "the essential guide to peaceful resistance".
It was originally written in 1993 to support the opposition movement in Burma and was circulated among dissidents. The brutal Burmese regime recognised its importance by sentencing those found in possession of the booklet to seven-year prison terms. Since then, it has inspired opponents of oppression the world over. The work has travelled, as a photo-copied pamphlet, from Burma to Serbia and from Egypt to China, and contributed to numerous peaceful uprisings including the Arab Spring.
This updated version is drawn from more than 40 years of research and writing on peaceful methods of protest, totalitarian systems and political theory. One of the key tenets of Sharp's analysis is that non-violent struggle has a greater chance of success than violent resistance, because tyrannical regimes will, invariably, have the superior military power with which to suppress armed risings. The solution, Sharp contends, is "political defiance" – a term first coined by Robert Helvey, a retired US army colonel with whom Sharp worked in Burma.
In emphasising the need for strategic planning, Sharp puts forward four important stages: the first, Grand Strategy, directs the use of all available resources and offers a basic framework for the other three – strategies, tactics and methods. Sharp also offers suggestions to ensure a dictatorship is not merely replaced by another tyrannical regime. Alongside the resistance movement, he advocates the development of independent social, economic, cultural and political institutions which can contribute to changing the power relations within a society.
Sharp refers to his work as "a heavy analysis" and "not easy reading", but I found it hugely accessible. To support his arguments, he adroitly blends a 14th-century Chinese parable and the Classical Greek myth of Achilles into his formal analysis.
The book is a must read for all those interested in human rights and democracy, but those supporters of totalitarian regimes should also pay heed to it for, as Sharp points out: "All dictatorships have weaknesses, internal inefficiencies, personal rivalries, institutional inefficiencies and conflicts between organisations and departments."
As Sharp demonstrates, identifying these vulnerabilities is the first step towards liberation from tyranny.
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
The magicians using online collaboration to push boundaries
lifeIt takes year-long dedication to get Selfridges ready for 25 December. And they're already working on plans for 2015...
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
Paris charity auction staged to save the ancient city of Tyre
Arts & Ents blogs
Brian Griffin returns: Cartoon dog back from the dead in Family Guy Christmas episode
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber announces he's 'retiring from music'
Coriolanus, theatre review: 'Tom Hiddleston has blazing stellar power'
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
Justin Bieber's mishaps and controversies
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Ian Watkins: Paedophile Lostprophets singer sentenced to 35 years for child sex offences, as judge labels him a 'dangerous sexual predator'
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber announces he's 'retiring from music'
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >