Sat, 13 Aug 2011 Feature Article

Gene Sharp and the Theory of Soft and Undercover Coups d'États

Gene Sharp and the Theory of Soft and Undercover Coups d'tats

Gene Sharp (born 21 January 1928) is Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. He is known for his extensive writings on nonviolent struggle, which have influenced numerous anti-government resistance movements around the world.

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, 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 it 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.

Sharp was born in 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. 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.

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. Most recently, it is claimed that the protest movement that toppled President Mubarak of Egypt drew extensively on his ideas, as well as the youth movement in Tunisia and the earlier ones in the Eastern European color revolutions that had previously been inspired by Sharp's work, although some have claimed Sharp's influence has been exaggerated by Westerners looking for a Lawrence of Arabia figure.

Sharp's handbook From Dictatorship to Democracy: ( ; ; )

It served as a basis for the campaigns of Serbia's Otpor (who were also directly trained by the Albert Einstein Institute), 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.

The Albert Einstein Institution's web site offers many of Gene Sharp works for download, in English and in over sixty translations.

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."

Albert Einstein Institution ( )
The Albert Einstein Institution is a non-profit organization that specializes in the study of the methods of non-violent resistance in conflicts and to explore its policy potential and communicate these findings through print and other media, translations, conferences, consultations, and workshops. The institution's founder and senior scholar, Gene Sharp, is known for his writings on strategic nonviolent struggle. Named after the physicist Albert Einstein, the institution "is committed to the defense of freedom, democracy, and the reduction of political violence through the use of nonviolent action".

To further this mission, the Institution has supported research projects; actively consulted with resistance and pro-democracy groups from Burma, Thailand, Egypt, Tibet, Serbia, Equatorial Guinea, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and elsewhere; and worked to publicize the power and potential of nonviolent struggle around the world through educational materials, scholarly writings, workshops, and the media.

The Albert Einstein Institution was founded in 1983 and operates out of a small office in East Boston, Massachusetts. The current executive director is Jamila Raqib.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has accused the Albert Einstein Institution of being behind a "soft coup" attempt in Venezuela," Similarly, a number of Marxist critics, such as French writer Thierry Meyssan, have accused the institution of being part of CIA subversion efforts. Dr. Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution have dismissed such accusations.

Albert Einstein Institution Publications:
They have many translated publications for download for the following languages: Arabic, Azeri, Belarusian, Burmese, Burma (Chin), Burma (Jing-paw), Burma (Karen), Burma (Mon), Chinese (Mandarin), Dutch, English, Estonian, Farsi, French, German, Hebrew, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Kyrgyz, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Thai, Tibetan, Ukrainian

On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: Thinking About the Fundamentals by Robert Helvey

On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict delves into the question of how to build a strategy for nonviolent struggle. Covering a variety of topics--such as ways to identify a movement's objectives, preparing a strategic estimate for a nonviolent struggle, and operational planning considerations--this publication contains insights on the similarities between military and nonviolent strategy. It represents a major new contribution to this field of study. Additional topics covered in the book include psychological operations and propaganda, contaminants that may affect the efficiency of a nonviolent movement, and providing consultations and training for members of movements and organizations.

There Are Realistic Alternatives by Gene Sharp

There Are Realistic Alternatives is a short, serious introduction to nonviolent struggle, its applications, and strategic thinking. Based on pragmatic arguments, this piece presents nonviolent struggle as a realistic alternative to war and other violence in acute conflicts. It also contains a glossary of important terms and recommendations for further reading. Languages available: English, Arabic

From Dictatorship to Democracy by Gene Sharp

From Dictatorship to Democracy is a serious introduction to the use of nonviolent action to topple dictatorships. Originally published in 1993 in Thailand for distribution among Burmese dissidents, this booklet has since been translated into seventeen different languages and spread worldwide. This is the third US edition.

Languages available: Amharic, Arabic, Azeri, Belarusian, Burmese, Chin (Burma), Jing-paw (Burma), Karen (Burma), Mon (Burma), Chinese (Simplified Mandarin), Chinese (Traditional Mandarin), English, Farsi, French, Indonesian, Khmer (Cambodia), Kyrgyz, Pashto, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Tibetan, Tigrigna, Vietnamese

The Anti-Coup by Gene Sharp and Bruce Jenkins

As coups are one of the primary ways through which dictatorships are installed, this piece details measures that civilians, civil society, and governments can take to prevent and block coups d'état and executive usurpations. It also contains specific legislative steps and other measures that governments and non-governmental institutions can follow to prepare for anti-coup resistance. Languages available: English

The Role of Power in Nonviolent Struggle Einstein Institution Monograph Series #3 by Gene Sharp

"Nonviolent action . . . is capable of wielding great power even against ruthless rulers and military regimes," writes Sharp, "because it attacks the most vulnerable characteristic of all hierarchical institutions and governments: dependence on the governed." Abstracted from Sharp's classic three-volume work, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, this monograph summarizes the core concepts behind the technique of nonviolent struggle. Languages available: English, Arabic, Burmese, Russian, Spanish

Self-Reliant Defense without Bankruptcy or War by Gene Sharp

In this booklet, Sharp discusses the potential of civilian-based defense for the Baltics, East Central Europe, and members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Languages available: English, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian

National Security Through Civilian-based Defense by Gene Sharp

This publication offers an introduction to civilian-based defense. It also identifies significant research areas and policy studies that are relevant to advancing the field. Languages available: English

Making the Abolition of War a Realistic Goal by Gene Sharp

This popular essay, first published in 1980, provides a brief introduction to civilian-based defense, a policy in which civilians are prepared to use nonviolent resistance as a means of national defense. Languages available: English, Dutch, French, Japanese

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action
Practitioners of nonviolent struggle have an entire arsenal of "nonviolent weapons" at their disposal. Listed are 198 of them, classified into three broad categories: nonviolent protest and persuasion, noncooperation (social, economic, and political), and nonviolent intervention. Languages available: English

Correcting Common Misconceptions about Nonviolent Struggle

A handout sheet addressing common misconceptions about nonviolent action and answering some frequently asked questions. Languages available: English

Gene Sharp Works:
· Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential with Joshua Paulson, Extending Horizons Books, 2005. ISBN 978-0875581620

· From dictatorship to democracy: A conceptual framework for liberation The Albert Einstein Institution, 2003. ISBN 978-1880813096

· Gandhi as a Political Strategist, with Essays on Ethics and Politics. Indian edition with a new Introduction by Dr. Federico Mayor. Original Introduction by Coretta Scott King, New Delhi: Gandhi Media Centre, 1999. (See 1979 edition below.)

· Nonviolent Action: A Research Guide, with Ronald McCarthy, New York: Garland Publishers, 1997.

· Civilian-Based Defense: A Post-Military Weapons System, with the assistance of Bruce Jenkins, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990. ISBN 978-0691078090

· Resistance, Politics, and the American Struggle for Independence, 1765-1775, Co-editors Walter Conser, Jr., Ronald M. McCarthy, and David J. Toscano, Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1986.

· Making Europe Unconquerable: The Potential of Civilian-based Deterrence and Defense (see article), London: Taylor & Francis, 1985. ISBN 978-0850663365 Second Edition with a Foreword by George F. Kennan. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1986.

· National Security Through Civilian-based Defense, Omaha: Association for Trans armament Studies, 1985. ISBN 978-0961425609

· Social Power and Political Freedom, Introduction by Senator Mark O. Hatfield. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1980. ISBN 978-0875580913

· Gandhi as a Political Strategist, with Essays on Ethics and Politics, Introduction by Coretta Scott King. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1979. ISBN 978-0875580920

· 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 978-0875580685

I, Power and Struggle. 114 pp., June 1973. ISBN 978-0875580708

II, The Methods of Nonviolent Action. 348 pp., June 1973. ISBN 978-0875580715

III, Dynamics of Nonviolent Action. 466 pp. Boston: Porter Sargent, November 1985. ISBN 978-0875580722

· Exploring Nonviolent Alternatives, Introduction by David Riesman. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1970.

· Civilian Defense: An Introduction, co-editors Adam Roberts and T.K. Mahadevan. Introductory statement by President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and New Delhi: Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1967.

· Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power: Three Case Histories, Foreword by Albert Einstein. Introduction by Bharatan Kumarappa. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1960.

An open letter from: Gene Sharp to: Thierry Meyssan dated: June 12, 2007 (French political analyst, founder and chairman of the Voltaire Network and the Axis for Peace conference.)

Dear M. Thierry Meyssan,
I am Gene Sharp, Senior Scholar of the Albert Einstein Institution. You wrote about us in January 2005.

We appreciate attention to the technique of nonviolent action, or as I prefer to call it, nonviolent struggle. In a world of so much violence and injustice, it is crucial that people have access to information about a different means of conducting conflicts and struggling against oppression. No one should, for lack of accurate information, or exposure to inaccurate information, believe that passive submission to oppression and injustices is the only alternative to resort to greater violence.

Your presentation of this technique in the International Edition of Voltaire 4 January 2005 is a prime example of inaccuracies about nonviolent action and about myself. Why and how this came to be is somewhat puzzling. Perhaps you were given false information. Your article contains so many inaccuracies that it is surprising to me that some people can believe much of its contents. It appears, however, that some do. That will have serious consequences to the detriment of future events. Therefore, I feel obliged to point out some of the factual errors that you have presented.

Nonviolent action is a technique for conducting conflicts, as is military warfare, parliamentary government, and guerrilla warfare. This technique uses psychological, social, economic, and political methods. This technique has been used for a variety of objectives, both “good and “bad” ones. It has been used both to change governments and to support governments against attacks. Nonviolent struggle provides realistic alternatives to violence by which people can lift oppression and confront and defeat violence against themselves. Nonviolent struggle is not magical and does not easily produce miracles. However, if used wisely with understanding and good judgement, it can be of great benefit to humanity, in ways compatible with freedom and justice.

The Albert Einstein Institution receives no funding from any government, including the United States. The Albert Einstein Institution has no government funders or masters. I have never worked for NATO. I have never worked for the CIA or received money from it. When writing my doctoral dissertation for Oxford University in the 1960s I did indirectly receive partial financial support from the Department of Defense through a grant to a Harvard University professor, as acknowledged in my Preface to The Politics of Nonviolent Action.

The Albert Einstein Institution neither creates conflicts, nor becomes a participant in a conflict once one exists, nor does it take ideological sides in conflicts. It simply conducts research, generic policy studies, and education.

The term “soft coups” is erroneous and distorting. More accurate are the terms “nonviolent action,” “nonviolent struggle,” or “people power.” “Soft coup” links this type of action to the very different anti-democratic coups d'état by military, political, or intelligence groups. Coups are one of the main ways dictatorships are established.

I have studied Mohandas K. Gandhi in depth, and have written two books about his work. The first, printed finally in 1960, was completed when I lived in Brooklyn in February 1953. It carries a Foreword by Albert Einstein, who wrote it in 1953 at my invitation before I was imprisoned as a conscientious objector to military conscription. This is documented in Einstein on Peace, edited by Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden.

I did study Henry David Thoreau and wrote an Introduction to his essay on civil disobedience. However, that was a very minor part of my studies.

Many of the sources of my doctoral studies in political theory at Oxford University are footnoted in my 1973 book The Politics of Nonviolent Action, that was based on my 1968 doctoral thesis. However, the references to political theorists do not include additional important studies that I did on dictatorships, totalitarianism, coups d'état and other forms of conflict.

I did hold research appointments for nearly thirty years at Harvard University, primarily in the Center for nternational Affairs. and for several years directed a Program on Nonviolent Sanctions in Conflict and Defense. I also founded the independent Albert Einstein Institution in 1983. I am Professor Emeritus of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. I also taught at the Institute of Philosophy and the History of Ideas of the University of Oslo in Norway.

I have by invitation met with a variety of groups facing acute conflicts to share with them information about the nature of nonviolent action, and to explore its significance and potential as an alternative to violence in struggles for greater freedom and justice.

However, as Albert Einstein Institution policy, we never tell people facing conflicts in another country what they should do. We can provide knowledge and understanding when requested. We stress the importance of careful study, independent thinking, and self-determination. We do not know other countries in depth and therefore, by offering detailed advice, we could make serious errors. What people in other countries decide to do is their responsibility and prerogative.

In this educational and consultative work we have never had the backing of any agency of the United States government and have not conducted courses in any US embassy.

We did go to Beijing in 1989, but the purpose was only to learn why the students were employing nonviolent protests. We gave no advice to anyone about what the students should do. We were not expelled, but left voluntarily after the massacre when we could no longer conduct interviews.

Your article attributes opinions and activities to several other persons that are not accurate or relevant.

Your statements on my contacts with Sweden and the three Baltic countries are not accurate. Our main influence in the Baltic countries was through page proofs of the then forthcoming Princeton University Press book Civilian-Based Defense: A Post-Military Weapons System. We did meet with defense officials of the pro-independence Baltic governments, but did not tell them what they should do.

I have never met members of the Iraqi National Council and never “trained” them anywhere. The Albert Einstein Institution did not advise opposition to the Shevardnadze government in Georgia. They did have access to my booklet “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” in Georgia but we only learned this after the struggle was complete. This essay is also available in twenty-seven translations, on web sites or in print, including the languages of Eritrea, the Maldives, Nepal, and other countries, always at the request of people in those countries and even though we had almost no money to facilitate this. The subtitle of that booklet is generic, “A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. I do not know your motivation for attacking me and the Albert Einstein Institution. You may find my publication list and biographical notes on our website: www. When you include falsehoods in your comments, you lose credibility. If you offer corrections to errors in earlier writings your stature will grow. Regretfully, Gene Sharp

Also see: Soft and Undercover Coups d'État; The Albert Einstein Institution: non-violence according to the CIA by Thierry Meyssan at:

Nonviolence as a political action technique can be used for anything. During the 1980s, NATO drew its attention on its possible use to organize the Resistance in Europe after the invasion of the Red Army. It's been 15 years since CIA began using it to overthrow inflexible governments without provoking international outrage, and its ideological façade is philosopher Gene Sharp's Albert Einstein Institution. Voltaire Network reveals its amazing activity, from Lithuania to Serbia, Venezuela and Ukraine.

Unknown to the public, Gene Sharp formulated a theory on nonviolence as a political weapon. Also he first helped NATO and then CIA train the leaders of the soft coups of the last 15 years. Since the 50s, Gene Sharp studied Henry D. Thoreau and Mohandas K. Gandhi's theory of civil disobedience. For these authors, obedience and disobedience were religious and moral matters, not political ones. However, to preach had political consequences; what could be considered an aim could be perceived as a mean. Civil disobedience can be considered then as a political, even military, action technique.

In 1983, Sharp designed the Non Violent Sanctions Program in the Center for International Affairs of Harvard University where he did some social sciences studies on the possible use of civil disobedience by Western Europe population in case of a military invasion carried out by the troops of the Warsaw Pact. At the same time, he founded in Boston the Albert Einstein Institution with the double purpose of financing his own researches and applying his own models to specific situations. In 1985, he published a book titled "Making Europe Unconquerable whose second edition included a preface by George Kennan, the Father of the Cold War. In 1987, the association was funded by the U.S. Institute for Peace and hosted seminars to instruct its allies on defense based on civil disobedience. General Fricaud-Chagnaud, on his part, introduced his "civil deterrence" concept at the Foundation of National Defense Studies.

General Edward B. Atkeson, well-known by CIA director, incorporated the Institute to the American interference stay-behind network in allied States. To focus on the moral issues of an action helped to avoid all doubts on the legitimacy of an action. Therefore, nonviolence, recognized as good-natured and assimilated to democracy, offered a suitable aspect to antidemocratic secret actions.

In 1989, when the Albert Institution became well known, Gene Sharp began to advice anticommunist movements. He participated in the establishment of Burma's Democratic Alliance - a coalition of notable anticommunists that quickly joined the military government - and Taiwan's Progressive Democratic Party - which favored the independence of the island from communist China, something U.S. officially opposed. He also unified the Tibetan opposition under Dalai Lama and tried to form a dissident group within PLO so that Palestinian nationalists would stop terrorism [4] (he made the necessary arrangements with Colonel Reuven Gal, [5] director of the Psychological Action division of the Israeli armed forces, to train them secretly in the American Embassy in Tel Aviv).

When CIA realized how useful could the Albert Einstein Institution be, it brought Colonel Robert Helvey into play. An expert in clandestine actions and former dean of the Embassies's Military Attachés Training School, "Bob" took Gene Sharp to Burma to educate the opposition on the nonviolent strategy for criticizing the cruelest military junta of the world without questioning the system. By doing this, Helvey could identify the "good" and the "bad" opponents in a critical moment for Washington: the true opposition, led by Mrs. Suu Kyi, was labeled as a threat to the pro-American regimen.

«Bob's» job was easily done. Since he was military attaché in Rangoon from 1983 to 1985 and helped to structure the dictatorship, he knew everybody. By playing a double game, Colonel Helvey simultaneously directed a classical action of military support to Karen resistance: by providing weapons and controlling a limited guerrilla, Washington wished, indeed, to maintain the military junta under pressure.

Since that moment, Sharp has always been present everywhere American interests are put at risk. In June 1989, he and his assistant, Bruce Jenkins, went to Beijing, two weeks before Tiananmen events. They were both expelled by Chinese authorities. In February 1990, the Albert Einstein Institution hosted a Conference on Non Violent Sanctions that brought together 185 experts of 16 countries under Colonels Robert Helvey and Reuven Gal. This marked the beginning of an international anticommunist crusade to involve peoples in nonviolent action.

Professor Thomas Schelling, well known economist and CIA consultant, joined the Administrative Council of the Institution whose official budget was still stable though it was also funded by the International Republican Institute (IRI), one of the four branches of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED/CIA).

At the same time, Baltic countries proclaimed their independence but, after a test of endurance with Mijail Gorbatchov, they postponed their decision for 2 or 3 years to negotiate their terms. In October 1990, Gene Sharp and his team traveled to Sweden and trained several Lithuanian politicians in the organization of a popular resistance against the Red Army. Months later, in May 1991, when the crisis broke out and Gorbatchov deployed his special forces; Gene Sharp was the adviser of Sajudis separatist party (Perestroika Initiative Group) and remained close to Vytautas Landsbergis. In June 1992, independent Lithuania Minister of Defense, Audrius Butkevicius, hosted a symposium to thank Albert Einstein Institution's key role during the independence process of the Baltic countries.

When the U.S began its rearmament in 1998, [8] the Albert Einstein Institution became part of an expansionist strategy. It provided ideology and technique to Otpor («Resistance»), a group of Slobodan Milosevic's young opponents. Simultaneously, it intervened in Kosovo province to train Ibrahim Rugova's LDK, but it turned useless for Washington during the Kosovo war. Then, Otpor quickly became a choice to overthrow Milosevic who was very popular for resisting NATO. Colonel Helvey trained Otpor's leaders through seminars hosted at Hilton Hotel in Budapest. Money was not a problem to overthrow Europe's last communist government. The person in charge of commanding the operation was agent Paul B. McCarthy, discreetly settled at Moskva hotel in Belgrade until Milosevic's resignation in October 2000.

In September 2002, Gene Sharp went to The Hague to train the members of the Iraqi National Council who were preparing themselves to return to Iraq, along with the American army.

In September 2003, it was also the Albert Einstein Institution who advised the opposition to question the electoral results and go on demonstrations to force Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation during the «revolution» of the roses in Georgia.

When the CIA-organized-coup against Venezuela failed in April 2002, the State Department counted again on the Albert Einstein Institution which advised the owners of enterprises during the organization of the revocatory referendum against President Hugo Chávez. Gene Sharp and his team led the leaders of Súmate during the demonstrations of August 2004. As done before, the only thing they had to do was questioning the electoral results and demanding the resignation of the president. They managed to get the bourgeoisie out in the street but Chavez's popular government was to strong. All in all, international observers had no other choice but to recognize Hugo Chávez's victory.

Gene Sharp failed in Belarus and Zimbabwe for he could not recruit and train in the proper time the necessary amount of demonstrators. During the orange «revolution» in November 2004, we met again with Colonel Robert Helvey in Kiev. Finally, we must point out that the Albert Einstein Institution has begun to train Iranian agitators

But, why Albert Einstein? It is an unsuspicious name. Gene Sharp's first book on Gandhi's methods began with a preface signed by Albert Einstein, though the book was written in 1960, five years after the genius's death. Therefore, Albert Einstein did not write anything for Sharp's work. All that Sharp did was reproducing an article on nonviolence written by the scientist.