From Dictatorship to Democracy

Sharp, Gene

Publisher:  Albert Einstein Institution
Year Published:  2010   First Published:  2002
Pages:  101pp   ISBN:  1-880813-09-2
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX13636

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.


Gene Sharp writes:
I have tried to think carefully about the most effective ways in which dictatorships could be successfully disintegrated with the least possible cost in suffering and lives. In this I have drawn on my studies over many years of dictatorships, resistance movements, revolutions, political thought, governmental systems, and especially realistic nonviolent struggle. This publication is the result.

Table of Contents


Facing Dictatorships realistically 1
A continuing problem 2
Freedom through violence? 4
Coups, elections, foreign saviors? 5
Facing the hard truth 7

The Dangers of negotiations 9
Merits and limitations of negotiations 10
Negotiated surrender? 10
Power and justice in negotiations 12
'Agreeable' dictators 13
What kind of peace? 14
Reasons for hope 14

Whence comes the power? 17
The 'Monkey Master' fable 17
Necessary sources of political power 18
Centers of democratic power 21

Dictatorships have weaknesses 25
Identifying the Achilles’ heel 25
Weaknesses of dictatorships 26
Attacking weaknesses of dictatorships 27

Exercising power 29
The workings of nonviolent struggle 30
Nonviolent weapons and discipline 30
Openness, secrecy, and high standards 33
Shifting power relationships 34
Four mechanisms of change 35
Democratizing effects of political defiance 37
Complexity of nonviolent struggle 38

The need for strategic planning 39
Realistic planning 39
Hurdles to planning 40
Four important terms in strategic planning 43

Planning strategy 47
Choice of means 48
Planning for democracy 49
External assistance 50
Formulating a grand strategy 50
Planning campaign strategies 53
Spreading the idea of noncooperation 55
Repression and countermeasures 56
Adhering to the strategic plan 57

Applying political defiance 59
Selective resistance 59
Symbolic challenge 60
Spreading responsibility 61
Aiming at the dictators’ power 62
Shifts in strategy 64

Disintegrating the Dictatorship 67
Escalating freedom 69
Disintegrating the dictatorship 70
Handling success responsibly 71

Groundwork for durable democracy 73
Threats of a new dictatorship 73
Blocking coups 74
Constitution drafting 75
A democratic defense policy 76
A meritorious responsibility 76

Appendix One
The methods of nonviolent action 79

Appendix Two
Acknowledgements and notes on
The story of From Dictatorship to Democracy 87

Appendix Three
A note about translations and reprinting of this publication 91
For further reading 93

Subject Headings

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