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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Not like we in the US need to read this book or anything.

A first-aid manual for the Dubya years?In 1993, a short book by Gene Sharp called From Democracy to Dictatorship was published in Thailand, intended for use in Burma by opponents of that country's dictatorship. Written by political scientist Gene Sharp — an expert in nonviolent political struggle — the book is a practical introduction to using nonviolent techniques to bring down dictatorial governments. Since 1993 it has been translated into 17 languages, and has seen use in the political struggles against dictators and authoritarian governments in countries such as Yugoslavia, Ukraine, and Georgia.

Why am I bringing up Sharp's book here? Take a look at this excerpt and maybe you can answer that question for yourself:

Among the weaknesses of dictatorships are the following:
  • The cooperation of a multitude of people, groups, and institutions needed to operate the system may be restricted or withdrawn.
  • The requirements and effects of the regime's past policies will somewhat limit its present ability to adopt and implement conflicting policies.
  • The system may become routine in its operation, less able to adjust quickly to new situations.
  • Personnel and resources already allocated for existing tasks will not be easily available for new needs.
  • Subordinates fearful of displeasing their superiors may not report accurate or complete information needed by the dictators to make decisions.
  • The ideology may erode, and myths and symbols of the system may become unstable.
  • If a strong ideology is present which influences one's view of reality, firm adherence to it may cause inattention to actual conditions and needs.
  • Deteriorating efficiency and competency of the bureaucracy, or excessive controls and regulations, may make the system's policies and operation ineffective.
  • Internal institutional conflicts and personal rivalries and hostilities may harm, and even disrupt, the operation of the dictatorship.
  • Intellectuals and students may become restless in response to conditions, restrictions, doctrinalism, and repression.
  • The general public may over time become apathetic, skeptical, and even hostile to the regime.
  • Regional, class, cultural, or national differences may become acute.
  • The power hierarchy of the dictatorship is always unstable to some degree, and at times extremely so. Individuals do not only remain in the same position in the ranking, but may rise or fall to other ranks or be removed entirely and replaced by new persons.
  • Sections of the police or military forces may act to achieve their own objectives, even against the will of established dictators, including by coup d'etat.
  • If the dictatorship is new, time is required for it to become well established.
  • With so many decisions made by so few people in the dictatorship, mistakes of judgment, policy, and action are likely to occur.
  • If the regime seeks to avoid these dangers and decentralizes controls and decision making, its control over the central levers of power may be further eroded.

  • Does any of that sound familiar to all of you Magpie readers in the US?

    Mind you, I'm not suggesting that Dubya's administration is a dictatorship now, or that it's likely to become one in the immediate future. But I am suggesting that the analysis of dictatorships and the tactics for nonviolent struggle that Sharp offers in his short book are of more than academic interest to US political activists. Leaders of the Democratic party could especially benefit from a look at what Sharp has to say.

    The Albert Einstein Institute offers versions of From Dictatorship to Democracy in many languages. You can purchase the English-language version here or download a copy in PDF form here.

    | | Posted by Magpie at 12:18 AM | Get permalink




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