The common error of past improvised political defiance campaigns is the reliance on only one or two methods, such as strikes and mass demonstrations. In fact, a multitude of methods exist that allow resistance strategists to concentrate and disperse resistance as required.About two hundred specific methods of nonviolent action have been identified, and there are certainly scores more. These methods are classified under three broad categories: protest and persuasion, noncooperation, and intervention. Methods of nonviolent protest and persuasion are largely symbolic demonstrations, including parades, marches, and vigils (54 methods). Noncooperation is divided into three sub-categories: (a) social noncooperation (16 methods), (b) economic noncooperation, including boycotts (26 methods) and strikes (23 methods), and (c) political noncooperation (38 methods). Nonviolent intervention, by psychological, physical, social, economic, or political means, such as the fast, nonviolent occupation, and parallel government (41 methods), is the final group. A list of 198 of these methods is included as the Appendix to this publication.
Reading Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy is experiencing a distillation of years of wisdom – the potency of this truth is intoxicating. Einstein once said, ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’ Sharp’s, as he calls it, conceptual framework for liberation is made as simple as simple can be. And yet, he doesn’t underestimate what he is up against. Almost in every other page, he emphasises that revolutions take time, and they cost. Sharp is the Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and wrote From Dictatorship to Democracy (FDTD) in 1993. It has since been translated into at least 31 languages and is available for free download at (coincidentally) the Albert Einstein Institution.At just over 90 pages, including appendices, it is a dense but powerful read. The New York Times ran a story giving him credit for the uprisings in the Middle East – calling him the ‘shy intellectual’, the New Yorker called him the ‘reluctant revolutionary’. The Arabs were plain pissed off (when they got the time to react to the stories!) claiming that ‘the West’ was trying to claim credit for what were people-led revolutions. Apparently, according to the Angry Arab, no one knows who Gene Sharp is. As for Sharp himself, he says, “The people of Egypt did that—not me.” I don’t take the anti-West idiom, nor do I praise Sharp. But I am impressed with the elegance of his work. There is no credible way of knowing in first person how many dictatorships/oppressive regimes were toppled by this piece of work. What one can know by reading it is that Sharp has given a lot of thought to making the work accessible and lucid. He has written quite a few books on the politics of nonviolent struggle and Gandhi seems to be a big influence in his writing. Here’s another sample:
The democratic forces should remember that disaffection and disobedience among the military forces and police can be highly dangerous for the members of those groups. Soldiers and police could expect severe penalties for any act of disobedience and execution for acts of mutiny. The democratic forces should not ask the soldiers and officers that they immediately mutiny. Instead, where communication is possible, it should be made clear that there are a multitude of relatively safe forms of ‘disguised disobedience’ that they can take initially. For example, police and troops can carry out instructions for repression inefficiently, fail to locate wanted persons, warn resistors of impending repression, arrests, or deportations, and fail to report important information to their superior officers. Disaffected officers in turn can neglect to relay commands for repression down the chain of command. Soldiers may shoot over the heads of demonstrators. Similarly, for their part, civil servants can lose files and instructions, work inefficiently, and become ‘ill’ so that they need to stay home until they ‘recover.’