<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español August 15, 2018 | Issue #67

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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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Gene Sharp Responds to Mexican Citizens’ Petition Seeking His “Support for Our Revolutionary Movement”

‘The Credit for Successes Is Deserved by the Brave Participants in the Nonviolent Struggle, not Outsiders,” Writes the 84-Year-Old Scholar of Civil Resistance Strategy and Tactics

By Gene Sharp (Introduction by Narco News)
The Albert Einstein Institution

July 19, 2012

Publisher’s Note: It took until Gene Sharp turned 83 – and the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 – for the mass media to discover his work documenting strategies and tactics of nonviolent resistance. But even that attention made the soft-spoken former college professor and author uncomfortable for crediting him with the achievements of people who organized and won civil resistance campaigns in their own countries.

Community organizers, practitioners of civil disobedience and war resisters have utilized Sharp’s works for decades to plan nonviolent strategies and tactics. And some governments and “conspiracy theorists” over the years have attacked Sharp, accusing this former political prisoner (in the 1950s, he served nine months in jail in the United States for refusing to fight in the Korean War) of somehow being an “agent of imperialism” (an absurd and malicious charge that important anti-imperialists from Noam Chomsky to the late Howard Zinn to Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg countered in a 2008 public letter, calling on people “to reject the false allegations leveled against Gene Sharp, the Albert Einstein Institute and other groups promoting strategic nonviolent action”).

Gene Sharp and Jamila Raqib, in a scene from the documentary “How to Start a Revolution.”
In recent weeks, Sharp’s small East Boston office (which is inside his small home) has been deluged by emails, phone calls, snail mail and even an online petition drive from citizens of yet another country who seem willing to embark upon a civil resistance campaign of their own: The Republic of Mexico. And a recent documentary about Sharp’s work, “How to Start a Revolution,” that appears in Spanish on the Internet has suddenly jumped from a few thousand to more than 500,000 views, most of them from Mexico.

“We noticed the extremely high viewing figures for the Spanish version of ‘How to Start a Revolution.’ They actually increased dramatically almost overnight. There were three different YouTube channels posting the same film, and I remember seeing that they all added up to about 60,000 views at the end of June. Two days after the Mexican elections, I noticed that there were more than a quarter million views on just a single one of the film postings. This has coincided with literally hundreds of inquiries from Mexicans in the country, and abroad. A sudden demand for the work that is totally unprecedented in the ten years I’ve worked at the Institution,” wrote Jamila Raquib, executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution, founded by Sharp, its senior scholar, in an email to Narco News. “I think we ought to pay attention to this massive hunger for resources and information.”

The online petition drive, with more than 800 signatures in a few days, asks AEI and Sharp to “support our revolutionary movement.”

Sharp (who speaks a little bit of Spanish) responded to the petition with this letter, a copy of which was obtained by Narco News:

Queridos estimados amigos Mexicanos,

Thank you for your petition requesting my assistance in your conflict concerning the conduct of the recent national election in Mexico.

I am pleased that you are seeking an alternative to the use of  violence in the conflict concerning the results of the election.

I am also pleased that you understand that my studies of nonviolent protest and struggle offer an important alternative to violence in serious conflicts. I hope that Mexicans who do not agree with you will also be pleased that you want to urge your views without the threat or use of violence in the political conflict. Their recognition of this and therefore their restraint in responding to your pressures can only benefit Mexico in a time of great violence.

I regret that you are unaware that both my personal policy, and that of the Albert Einstein Institution, prohibits our giving instructions for action in other countries and becoming participants in such conflicts. We cannot know the situation in-depth in such conflicts, and our instructions would very likely be in error. We therefore could unintentionally help to defeat the struggle to which we might be sympathetic.

At least equally seriously, in case of that movement being successful, the credit might wrongly be given us. The credit for successes is deserved by the brave participants in the nonviolent struggle, not outsiders. The participants will have earned the victory by their courage and disciplined struggle, despite casualties and suffering.  We believe that it would be an injustice for us to claim credit for their victories.

Therefore, we do not tell people how to conduct their struggle.

We help in an other way. We share knowledge about the power and potential of nonviolent struggle. We share information of how people in political need can become competent to plan their own strategies for necessary struggles. See www.aeinstein.org for my publication “Self-Liberation: A Guide to Strategic Planning for Action to End a Dictatorship or Other Oppression,” which is freely downloadable, along with all the required readings.

We refuse to tell people in conflicts what to do. We try to help those people to plan their own struggles competently. When they plan competently and struggle skillfully, they will deserve the victory and credit.

Study, planning, and thinking takes time. Defeat can come quickly. Success may come when it has been earned.


Gene Sharp

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America