Gene Sharp and the Theory of Soft and Undercover
By: Tarig Mohamed Mohamed-kheir Anter; Khartoum; Tel.:
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
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: (www.aeinstein.org/organizationsde07.html
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
"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
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 (www.aeinstein.org/
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
Misconceptions about Nonviolent Struggle
A handout sheet addressing common misconceptions about nonviolent
action and answering some frequently asked questions. Languages available:
Gene Sharp Works:
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
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.
A Post-Military Weapons System, with the assistance of Bruce Jenkins,
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990. ISBN 978-0691078090
and the American Struggle for Independence, 1765-1775, Co-editors Walter
Conser, Jr., Ronald M. McCarthy, and David J. Toscano, Boulder: Lynne Rienner
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
attributes opinions and activities to several other persons that are not
accurate or relevant.
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
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.
aeinstein.org 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: http://www.voltairenet.org/article30032.html
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  (he made the necessary arrangements with
Colonel Reuven Gal,  director of the Psychological Action division of the
Israeli armed forces, to train them secretly in the American Embassy in Tel
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
When the U.S began its rearmament in 1998,  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
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.