- March 8th, 2011
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According to the Febraury 23 broadcast of the CBC radio program ’As It Happens’, online copies of Gene Sharp’s online book, From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation ( in Arabic translation ), has been floating around the Middle East for the past few years.
Some people would say that the tactics used by demonstrators across the region bear similar resemblances to similar uprisings in Eastern Europe: they occupy symbolic locations of their respective cities; they establish tent villages; and they refuse to leave until they achieved their principal goal — toppling the dictator. And, perhaps most importantly, they avoid violence, even when provoked.
This idea that these demonstrations are, in fact, the result of an organized plan following a concrete and proven strategy is a perspective that has not been front and center in the news media. Perhaps this is a case of the image being taken as truth. Chaos is taken to be spontaneous disorganization when what we are seeing is, in fact, it is the intentioned result of a specific strategy planned over the space of years.
From Dictatorship to Democracy: a Conceptual Framework for Liberation was initally published in 1993 in the Khit Pyaning (The New Age Journal) the request of exiled Burmese dissient U Ting Maung Win, but because Sharp didn’t have a background on the political situaton in Burma, he wrote a general prescription that identified weaknesses of dictatorships in general. Since that time, that essay has been revised and simplified into a final work that is less than 100 pages. It condenses the collective experiences of 40 years of struggle against dictatorship into a practical manual of action. The brevity and simplicity of this book has enabled it to be translated into over 25 languages and distributed widely via the Internet.
The thesis of this book itself is quite simple: how does one overthrow a dictatorship?
After exploring and rejecting the options of armed opposition, guerilla warfare and intervention by foreign powers, Sharp goes on to explain a dictatorship in terms of the Chinese parable of the Monkey Master: