Gene Sharp at his office in Boston. (June 25, 2009, file photo.)
Gene Sharp at his office in Boston. (June 25, 2009, file photo.) Elise Amendola/AP
He's been called "the man who changed the world," by the editorial board of the Boston Globe, and the Karl Von Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare" by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
As Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep notes, former Harvard reseacher Gene Sharp has been an inspiration to young revolutionaries in countries such as Serbia and Egypt, where they used his manual From Dictatorship to Democracy and his book The Politics of Nonviolent Action to help guide them through what turned out to be successful — and peaceful — revolts against oppressive regimes.
In a conversation with Morning Edition, Sharp talks with Steve about why dictators can't stand up to a determined, organized, non-violent resistance.
"It's wise," he says of nonviolent resistance. "Nonviolence is a kind of people power — a people mobilizing power ... [and something that dictators] are not equipped to deal with effectively."
Violence, on the other hand, is a dictator's "best weapon," Sharp says, and something that such a regime is well equipped to handle.
Steve asks Sharp, who's now 83, if he learned anything from the young protesters in Egypt who ultimately led to the collapse of President Hosni Mubarak's regime.
"I was amazed when I saw, very early on in the Egyptian struggle, this testimony — 'we're not afraid anymore, we've lost our fear,' " Sharp says. "That is something Gandhi always advocated. He said 'cast off your fear.'
"Once a regime is no longer able to frighten people — to terrorize them into passive submission — then that regime is in big trouble."
Here's that part of their conversation:
Sharp is now a senior scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution, which he founded. It is "dedicated to advancing the study and use of strategic nonviolent action in conflicts throughout the world."
Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams Morning Edition.
Update at 11:50 a.m. ET: "For Dictators, 'Coup-Proofing' Is Key To Survival; Here's How They Do It."