FROM DICTATORSHIP TO DEMOCRACY
by Gene Sharp
Link to pdf here (with helpful appendices)
Concepts and excerpts
1. THE FOUR TASKS
When one wants to bring down a
dictatorship most effectively and with the least cost then one has
four immediate tasks:
• One must strengthen the oppressed population themselves
in their determination, self-confidence, and resistance skills;
• One must strengthen the independent social groups and institutions
of the oppressed people;
• One must create a powerful internal resistance force; and
• One must develop a wise grand strategic plan for liberation
and implement it skillfully.
2. THE "MONKEY MASTER" METAPHOR
A Fourteenth Century Chinese parable by Liu-Ji:
In the feudal state of Chu an old man survived by keeping
monkeys in his service. The people of Chu called him “ju
gong” (monkey master).
Each morning, the old man would assemble the monkeys
in his courtyard, and order the eldest one to lead the others
to the mountains to gather fruits from bushes and trees.
It was the rule that each monkey had to give one-tenth of
his collection to the old man. Those who failed to do so
would be ruthlessly flogged. All the monkeys suffered
bitterly, but dared not complain.
One day, a small monkey asked the other monkeys: “Did
the old man plant all the fruit trees and bushes?” The others
said: “No, they grew naturally.” The small monkey
further asked: “Can’t we take the fruits without the old
man’s permission?” The others replied: “Yes, we all can.”
The small monkey continued: “Then, why should we depend
on the old man; why must we all serve him?”
Before the small monkey was able to finish his statement,
all the monkeys suddenly became enlightened and awakened.
On the same night, watching that the old man had fallen
asleep, the monkeys tore down all the barricades of the
stockade in which they were confined, and destroyed the
stockade entirely. They also took the fruits the old man had
in storage, brought all with them to the woods, and never
returned. The old man finally died of starvation.
Yu-li-zi says, “Some men in the world rule their people by
tricks and not by righteous principles. Aren’t they just like
the monkey master? They are not aware of their muddleheadedness.
As soon as their people become enlightened,
their tricks no longer work.”
3. THE LESSON OF THE "MONKEY MASTER" FABLE:
Dictators require the assistance of the people
they rule, without which they cannot secure and maintain the sources
of political power.
4. DICTATORS' SOURCES OF POWER
• Authority, the belief among the people that the regime is legitimate,
and that they have a moral duty to obey it;
• Human resources, the number and importance of the persons
and groups which are obeying, cooperating, or providing
assistance to the rulers;
• Skills and knowledge, needed by the regime to perform specific
actions and supplied by the cooperating persons and
• Intangible factors, psychological and ideological factors that
may induce people to obey and assist the rulers;
• Material resources, the degree to which the rulers control or
have access to property, natural resources, financial resources,
the economic system, and means of communication and
• Sanctions, punishments, threatened or applied, against the
disobedient and noncooperative to ensure the submission
and cooperation that are needed for the regime to exist and
carry out its policies.
If these sources of power can be severed, the dictator's power will be weakened.
5A. SEVERING POWER SOURCES: AUTHORITY
Acts of symbolic repudiation and defiance are among the available
means to undermine the regime’s moral and political authority
— its legitimacy. The greater the regime’s authority, the greater
and more reliable is the obedience and cooperation which it will
receive. Moral disapproval needs to be expressed in action in order
to seriously threaten the existence of the dictatorship. Withdrawal
of cooperation and obedience are needed to sever the availability of
other sources of the regime’s power.
Acts of symbolic repudiation and defiance
5B. SEVERING POWER SOURCES: HUMAN RESOURCES
A second important such source of power is human resources,
the number and importance of the persons and groups that obey,
cooperate with, or assist the rulers. If noncooperation is practiced by
large parts of the population, the regime will be in serious trouble.
For example, if the civil servants no longer function with their normal
efficiency or even stay at home, the administrative apparatus will
be gravely affected.
5C. SEVERING POWER SOURCES: SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE
Similarly, if the noncooperating persons and groups include
those that have previously supplied specialized skills and knowledge,
then the dictators will see their capacity to implement their
will gravely weakened. Even their ability to make well-informed
decisions and develop effective policies may be seriously reduced.
noncooperation of skilled persons
5D. SEVERING POWER SOURCES: INTANGIBLE FACTORS
If psychological and ideological influences — called intangible
factors — that usually induce people to obey and assist the rulers
are weakened or reversed, the population will be more inclined to
disobey and to noncooperate.
reversal of psychological and ideological influences
5E. SEVERING POWER SOURCES: MATERIAL RESOURCES
The dictators’ access to material resources also directly affects
their power. With control of financial resources, the economic
system, property, natural resources, transportation, and means of
communication in the hands of actual or potential opponents of
the regime, another major source of their power is vulnerable or removed.
Strikes, boycotts, and increasing autonomy in the economy,
communications, and transportation will weaken the regime.
strikes, boycotts, autonomy in economy, communications, transportation
5F. SEVERING POWER SOURCES: SANCTIONS
As previously discussed, the dictators’ ability to threaten or
apply sanctions — punishments against the restive, disobedient, and
noncooperative sections of the population — is a central source of
the power of dictators. This source of power can be weakened in
two ways. First, if the population is prepared, as in a war, to risk
serious consequences as the price of defiance, the effectiveness of the
available sanctions will be drastically reduced (that is, the dictators’
repression will not secure the desired submission). Second, if the
police and the military forces themselves become disaffected, they
may on an individual or mass basis evade or outright defy orders to
arrest, beat, or shoot resisters. If the dictators can no longer rely on
the police and military forces to carry out repression, the dictatorship
is gravely threatened.
resistance and subversion of army and police support
6. SOURCES OF DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION
One characteristic of a democratic society is that there exist independent
of the state a multitude of nongovernmental groups and institutions. These include, for example, families, religious organizations,
cultural associations, sports clubs, economic institutions, trade
unions, student associations, political parties, villages, neighborhood
associations, gardening clubs, human rights organizations, musical
groups, literary societies, and others. These bodies are important
in serving their own objectives and also in helping to meet social
7. DEMOCRATIC POWER AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO STATE POWER
Combined with political defiance during the phase of selective resistance,
the growth of autonomous social, economic, cultural, and
political institutions progressively expands the “democratic space”
of the society and shrinks the control of the dictatorship. As the civil
institutions of the society become stronger vis-à-vis the dictatorship,
then, whatever the dictators may wish, the population is incrementally
building an independent society outside of their control.
8. CATEGORIES OF NONVIOLENT ACTION: PROTEST AND PERSUASION
Methods of nonviolent protest
and persuasion are largely symbolic demonstrations, including parades,
marches, and vigils (54 methods).
9. CATEGORIES OF NONVIOLENT ACTION: NON-COOPERATION
Noncooperation is divided
into three sub-categories: (a) social noncooperation (16 methods),
(b) economic noncooperation, including boycotts (26 methods) and
strikes (23 methods), and (c) political noncooperation (38 methods).
10. CATEGORIES OF NONVIOLENT ACTION: INTERVENTION
Nonviolent intervention, by psychological, physical, social, economic,
or political means, such as the fast, nonviolent occupation, and
parallel government (41 methods)
11. THE NEED FOR STRATEGIC PLANNING
A plan to achieve that
objective will usually consist of a phased series of campaigns and
other organized activities designed to strengthen the oppressed
population and society and to weaken the dictatorship. Note here
that the objective is not simply to destroy the current dictatorship
but to emplace a democratic system. A grand strategy that limits
its objective to merely destroying the incumbent dictatorship runs
a great risk of producing another tyrant.
12. DRAFTING OF CONSTITUTION
The new democratic system will require a constitution that establishes
the desired framework of the democratic government. The
constitution should set the purposes of government, limits on
governmental powers, the means and timing of elections by which
governmental officials and legislators will be chosen, the inherent
rights of the people, and the relation of the national government to
other lower levels of government.