Gene Sharp (January 21, 1928 – January 28, 2018) was the founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the study of nonviolent action, and a retired professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He was known for his extensive writings on nonviolent struggle, which have influenced numerous anti-government resistance movements around the world. Unofficial sources have claimed that Sharp was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015, and had previously been nominated three times, in 2009, 2012 and 2013. Sharp was widely considered the favourite for the 2012 award. In 2011 he was awarded the El-Hibri Peace Education Prize. In 2012 he was a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award as well as the Distinguished Lifetime Democracy Award.
Sharp was born in North Baltimore, Ohio, the son of an itinerant Protestant minister. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences in 1949 from Ohio State University, where he also received his Master of Arts in Sociology in 1951. In 1953–54, Sharp was jailed for nine months after protesting the conscription of soldiers for the Korean War. He discussed his decision to go to prison for his beliefs in letters to Albert Einstein who wrote a foreword to his first book, on Gandhi. He worked as factory labourer, guide to a blind social worker, and secretary to A. J. Muste, America's leading pacifist. Between 1955 and 1958 he was Assistant Editor of Peace News (London) the weekly pacifist newspaper from where he helped organise the 1958 Aldermaston March. The next two years he studied and researched in Oslo with Professor Arne Næss, who derived together with Johan Galtung from Mohandas Gandhi's writings the Satyagraha Norms. In 1968, he received a Doctor of Philosophy in political theory from Oxford University.
Sharp has been a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth since 1972. He simultaneously held research appointments at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs since 1965. In 1983 he founded the Albert Einstein Institution, a non-profit organization devoted to studies and promotion of the use of nonviolent action in conflicts worldwide. The Albert Einstein Institution has received funding from the Ford Foundation, the International Republican Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, while some former directors have come from the RAND Corporation and the Ford Foundation. In 2004, the Albert Einstein Institution lost much of its funding (with income dropping from more than $1m a year to as little as $160,000), and since that time has been run out of Sharp's home in East Boston, near Logan Airport.
Sharp died on January 28, 2018 at home in Boston, exactly 1 week after his 90th birthday.
Sharp's contributions to the theory of nonviolent resistance
Gene Sharp described the sources of his ideas as in-depth studies of Mohandas K. Gandhi, A. J. Muste,Henry David Thoreau to a minor degree, and other sources footnoted in his 1973 book The Politics of Nonviolent Action, which was based on his 1968 PhD thesis. In the book, a "three-volume classic on civil disobedience," he provides a pragmatic political analysis of nonviolent action as a method for applying power in a conflict.
Sharp's key theme is that power is not monolithic; that is, it does not derive from some intrinsic quality of those who are in power. For Sharp, political power, the power of any state – regardless of its particular structural organization – ultimately derives from the subjects of the state. His fundamental belief is that any power structure relies upon the subjects' obedience to the orders of the ruler(s). If subjects do not obey, rulers have no power.
In Sharp's view, all effective power structures have systems by which they encourage or extract obedience from their subjects. States have particularly complex systems for keeping subjects obedient. These systems include specific institutions (police, courts, regulatory bodies), but may also involve cultural dimensions that inspire obedience by implying that power is monolithic (the god cult of the Egyptian pharaohs, the dignity of the office of the President, moral or ethical norms and taboos). Through these systems, subjects are presented with a system of sanctions (imprisonment, fines, ostracism) and rewards (titles, wealth, fame) which influence the extent of their obedience.
Sharp identifies this hidden structure as providing a window of opportunity for a population to cause significant change in a state. Sharp cites the insight of Étienne de La Boétie (1530–1563), that if the subjects of a particular state recognize that they are the source of the state's power, they can refuse their obedience and their leader(s) will be left without power.
Sharp published Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential in 2005. It builds on his earlier written works by documenting case studies where nonviolent action has been applied, and the lessons learned from those applications, and contains information on planning nonviolent struggle to make it more effective.
For his lifelong commitment to the defense of freedom, democracy, and the reduction of political violence through scholarly analysis of the power of nonviolent action, The Peace Abbey of Sherborn, MA awarded him the Courage of Conscience award April 4, 2008.
A feature documentary by Scottish director, Ruaridh Arrow, "How to Start a Revolution" about the global influence of Gene Sharp's work was released in September 2011. The film won "Best Documentary" and "The Mass Impact Award" at the Boston Film Festival in September 2011. The European premiere was held at London's Raindance Film Festival on October 2, 2011 where it also won Best Documentary. The film has been described as the unofficial film of the Occupy Wall St movement being shown in Occupy camps in cities all over the world. The film has been screened to MPs and Lords in the British Houses of Parliament and won a Scottish BAFTA award in April 2012. A How to Start a Revolution iPad app was released on the Apple app store on October 9, 2012 including the documentary and several Gene Sharp books.
Sharp's influence on struggles worldwide
Sharp has been called both the "Machiavelli of nonviolence" and the "Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare." It is claimed by some that Sharp's scholarship has influenced resistance organizations around the world. His works remain the ideological underpinning of the work for the Serbian-based nonviolent conflict training group the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies which helped to train the key activists in the protest movement that toppled President Mubarak of Egypt, and many other earlier youth movements in the Eastern European color revolutions.
Sharp's 1993 handbook From Dictatorship to Democracy was first published in Burma, fourth edition in 2010. It has since been translated into at least 31 other languages. It has served as a basis for the campaigns of Serbia's Otpor! (who were also directly trained by the Albert Einstein Institution), Georgia's Kmara, Ukraine's Pora, Kyrgyzstan's KelKel and Belarus' Zubr. Pora's Oleh Kyriyenko said in a 2004 interview with Radio Netherlands,
"The bible of Pora has been the book of Gene Sharp, also used by Otpor!, it's called: From Dictatorship to Democracy. Pora activists have translated it by themselves. We have written to Mr Sharp and to the Albert Einstein Institute in the United States, and he became very sympathetic towards our initiative, and the Institution provided funding to print over 12,000 copies of this book for free."
Sharp's writings on "Civilian-Based Defense" were used by the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian governments during their separation from the Soviet Union in 1991. Lithuanian Defence Minister Audrius Butkevicius declared at the time, "I would rather have this book than the nuclear bomb".
The Iranian government charged protesters against alleged fraud in the 2009 elections with following Gene Sharp's tactics. The Tehran Times reported: "According to the indictment, a number of the accused confessed that the post-election unrest was preplanned and the plan was following the timetable of the velvet revolution to the extent that over 100 stages of the 198 steps of Gene Sharp were implemented in the foiled velvet revolution."
Former members of the IRA are reported to be studying his work.
Sharp and his work have been profiled in numerous media however some have claimed Sharp's influence has been exaggerated by Westerners looking for a Lawrence of Arabia figure.
Coverage of Gene Sharp's influence in the Egyptian revolution produced a backlash from some Egyptian bloggers. One, journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy, stated that "Not only was Mubarak's foreign policy hated and despised by the Egyptian people, but parallels were always drawn between the situation of the Egyptian people and their Palestinian brothers and sisters. The latter have been the major source of inspiration, not Gene Sharp, whose name I first heard in my life only in February after we toppled Mubarak already and whom the clueless NYT moronically gives credit for our uprising." Another Egyptian writer and activist, Karim Alrawi, argued that Gene Sharp's writings are more about regime change than revolution. He defines the latter as having an ethical as well as a material dimension that Sharp deliberately avoids engaging with, and credits local circumstances and the spark provided by the Tunisian revolution for the Egyptian success.
However evidence and testimony from four different activist groups working in Egypt at the time of the revolution contradict these claims. Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian blogger and activist said that activists translated excerpts of Mr. Sharp's work into Arabic, and that his message of "attacking weaknesses of dictators" stuck with them. Ahmed Maher a leader of the April 6 democracy group also stated in the How to Start a Revolution documentary, "Gene Sharp's books had a huge impact" among other influences. The Associated Press reported as early as September 2010 more than four months before the revolution that Gene Sharp's work was being used by activists in Egypt close to political leader Mohammed El Baradei. Finally The New York Times reported that Sharp's book From Dictatorship to Democracy had been posted by the Muslim Brotherhood on its website during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
Gene Sharp has been accused of having strong links with a variety of US institutions including the CIA, the Pentagon and Republican-related institutions, i.e. International Republican Institute and RAND Corporation, National Endowment for Democracy. The Voltaire Network has accused Sharp and his Albert Einstein Institution of just promoting destabilization on countries disaligned with USA interests. On the other hand, there has been debate around Sharp's works influencing the Arab Spring, with a Wikileaks cable citing his work in a US embassy in Damascus while other media rejected such claims.
Gene Sharp has consistently denied these claims and after a period of these sustained attacks in June 2008 notable left wing writers Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn among others defended Gene Sharp in a signed a letter which was circulated by U.S. and internationally based scholars and activists. An extract from this letter reads as follows:
Rather than being a tool of imperialism, Dr. Sharp’s research and writings have inspired generations of progressive peace, labor, feminist, human rights, environmental, and social justice activists in the United States and around the world.
The Albert Einstein Institution has never received any money from any government or government-funded entity. Nor does Dr. Sharp or the Albert Einstein Institution collaborate with the CIA, the NED, or any U.S. government or government-funded agencies; nor has Dr. Sharp or the Albert Einstein Institution ever provided financial or logistical support to any opposition groups in any country; nor has Dr. Sharp or the Albert Einstein Institution ever taken sides in political conflicts or engaged in strategic planning with any group. The Albert Einstein Institution operates with a very minimal budget out of Dr. Sharp’s home with a staff consisting of two people – Dr. Sharp and a young administrator – and is quite incapable of carrying out the foreign intrigues of which it has been falsely accused.
Sharp's major works, including both authored and edited books, have been published since the 1950s.1960s and 1970s
- Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power: Three Case Histories, Foreword by Albert Einstein. Introduction by Bharatan Kumarappa. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1960. OCLC 2325889
- Gandhi Faces the Storm. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1961. OCLC 4990988
- Civilian Defense: An Introduction, (Adam Roberts, T.K. Mahadevan & Gene Sharp, eds.). Introductory statement by President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and New Delhi: Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1967. OCLC 2904885
- Exploring Nonviolent Alternatives, Introduction by David Riesman. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1970.
- The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Introduction by Thomas C. Schelling. Prepared under the auspices of Harvard University's Center for International Affairs. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973. ISBN 978-0-87558-068-5
- I, Power and Struggle. 114 pp., June 1973. ISBN 978-0-87558-070-8
- II, The Methods of Nonviolent Action. 348 pp., June 1973. ISBN 978-0-87558-071-5
- III, Dynamics of Nonviolent Action. 466 pp. Boston: Porter Sargent, November 1985. ISBN 978-0-87558-072-2
- Gandhi as a Political Strategist, with Essays on Ethics and Politics, Introduction by Coretta Scott King. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1979. ISBN 978-0-87558-092-0 OCLC 5591944
- Indian edition. Introduction by Dr. Federico Mayor. Original Introduction by Coretta Scott King, New Delhi: Gandhi Media Centre, 1999. OCLC 52226697
- Social Power and Political Freedom, Introduction by Senator Mark O. Hatfield. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1980. ISBN 978-0-87558-091-3
- National Security Through Civilian-based Defense, Omaha: Association for Transarmament Studies, 1985. ISBN 978-0-9614256-0-9
- Making Europe Unconquerable: The Potential of Civilian-based Deterrence and Defense (see article), London: Taylor & Francis, 1985. ISBN 978-0-85066-336-5 Second Edition with a Foreword by George F. Kennan. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1986.
- Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence, 1765-1775 (see article), (Walter Conser, Jr., Ronald M. McCarthy, and David J. Toscano, & Gene Sharp, eds.). Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1986. ISBN 0931477751
- Civilian-Based Defense: A Post-Military Weapons System, with the assistance of Bruce Jenkins, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990. ISBN 978-0-691-07809-0
- From Dictatorship to Democracy: A conceptual framework for liberation (see article). The Albert Einstein Institution, 2003. ISBN 978-1-880813-09-6 (first published in 1994)
- Nonviolent Action: A Research Guide, with Ronald McCarthy, New York: Garland Publishers, 1997.
- There are realistic alternatives, 2003. ISBN 1-880813-12-2. Accessible as an e-book and LibriVoxaudiobook.
- Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential with Joshua Paulson, Extending Horizons Books, 2005. ISBN 978-0-87558-162-0
- Self-Liberation: A Guide to Strategic Planning for Action to End a Dictatorship or Other Oppression with the assistance of Jamila Raqib, First Edition, Boston, MA: The Albert Einstein Institution, November 2009. ISBN 978-1-88-081323-2. Accessible as an e-book.
- Sharp's Dictionary of Power and Struggle. Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-19-982988-0
- Sharp, Gene; Bernal, Jaime Gonzalez (2013). How Nonviolent Struggle Works. East Boston, MA: Albert Einstein Institution. ISBN 978-1-880813-15-7. (condensation of Sharp's Politics of Nonviolent Action)
Source: wikipedia.org, timenote.info, kp.ru
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