We can expect more "amazing struggles" around the world in the next few years according to Gene Sharp, the man credited with the non-violent strategy behind the toppling of governments from Serbia to Egypt.
Events in the Arab world over the past year have showed that "the genie is out of the bottle", said the 84-year-old who has devoted his life to telling people how to liberate themselves from dictators.
People now know that there are alternatives to violence that they can use to free themselves from repressive regimes, he said at London's Frontline Club last night:
Most significantly, people have "thrown off" fear, said Sharp, the author of From Dictatorship to Democracy who has drawn up a list of 198 methods of non-violent resistance, from rude gestures to mock funerals that have been acted out in some of the most successful non-violent uprisings of recent years.
By showing that they were no longer afraid, people in places like Egypt and Syria had shown an "audacity" that was impossible to counter in the long term, said Sharp:
"This audacity - this is something tyrants cannot tolerate, if people are no longer afraid of them," said Sharp, adding that he had previously thought maybe Gandhi was "too extreme" when he wrote that people needed to cast off fear:
"I thought maybe you could only control fear. But in Syria and country after country, people are saying 'I am not afraid any more'."
Sharp told Ruaridh Arrow, journalist and director of the award-winning documentary How to Start a Revolution that he has been "pleased and shocked and surprised" at the numbers of countries where people have have risen up and maintained non-violent discipline and believes this kind of strategy is now more likely to happen than he had thought:
"If people lose their fear and use their brains and plan skilfully and act bravely, and maintain non-violent discipline and you have a wise, grand strategy, carefully thought through and planned, you have a good chance of succeeding," said the man whose office at his Boston home is constantly visited by revolutionary leaders of non-violent struggles.
But people in countries like Iran, where his book is banned, should not be surprised by the extremity of the repression used by the regime:
"Regimes do terrible things when they are frightened and non-violence is more frightening to regimes than anything else because it's more difficult to crush and deal with," said Sharp who said that it was a mistake to think that violence was justified because people were being killed.
"It's a suicidal step you take because your enemy always has greater power for violence than you do, so don't be stupid, don't do the thing he wants you to do, because he knows he can crush you if you go into violence," said Sharp. "It's a trick."
Sharp said he suspected such tactics were used in Libya, where the opposition had started off non-violently, but quickly became military when a Libyan general of Gaddafi regime, Abdul Fattah Younes, defected and took with him his soldiers and guns.
"Two weeks before Gaddafi and his sons had predicted that the struggle would end in civil war," said Sharp. "My hypothesis is that this was a high level agent provocateur planted specifically to get the rebel movement to shift to a violent struggle that the Gaddafi regime, with its superior military capacity, was confident they could control."
The idea that violence can be used as a tool of liberation is "nonsense" said Sharp, who concluded that From Dictatorship to Democracy had been so successful because people have been "quietly desperate" to find an alternative to fighting for so long.
Now that the knowledge of how people can free themselves has escaped "the genie" can't be put back again, said Sharp: "It can be crushed here and there, you can slaughter those people here and there, but the knowledge of how people can be free is there and spreading throughout the world."
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