Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything

Gene Sharp

BBC News and the New York Times have stories about Gene Sharp, an 83-year-old retired political scientist who has been called a CIA agent by the Iranian regime and a threat to security by Hugo Chavez. Sharp’s book, From Dictatorship to Democracy, is a how-to manual for toppling despots. First published in 1993 for the use of democracy activists in Burma, the book, written in general terms because Sharp lacked on-the-ground knowledge, has gone on to be used in Indonesia, Serbia, Ukraine, and many other hotspots — including, yes, Egypt. I’ve read the book, which is available for download from the website of Sharp’s organization: it’s quite general, but it makes the essential point that even the most repressive regime cannot function if the population withdraws its support, and offers some examples of how to go about doing just that without resorting to violence — because violence, Sharp says, means “fighting with your enemy’s best weapon.”