Documentary review: How to Start a Revolution by Ruaridh Arrow
A common argument in the leadup to the 2003 invasion of
An insightful and stirring look at the life and work of Gene Sharp, How To Start A Revolution demolishes this argument. Countering the widely accepted view of nonviolence as hopelessly naïve, the 84-year-old professor of political science has spent his life documenting the numerous examples of nonviolent resistance that have successfully overthrown dictatorships across the world.
A quote from Sharp opens the documentary: “Dictators are never as strong as they tell you they are, people are never as weak as they think they are.”
But the plainspoken Sharp is more than just a historian of popular struggles. Rather, books such as From Dictatorship to Democracy (1993) serve as “how to” guides for those working to topple autocratic regimes. As the film explains, this book alone has been translated into more than 30 languages and been read and acted upon by key players in the Arab Spring, the “colour” revolutions in Eastern Europe and beyond, and the Green Movement in
With the narrative switching from scenes of Sharp serenely watering his orchids in his
For example, one of the ten lessons that serve as chapters in the film, is simply: “Plan a strategy”. Sharp argues that the Chinese students occupying
A welcome attempt to popularise important ideas which have received relatively little attention in the US and UK until recently, How To Start A Revolution is essential viewing for activists and the general public alike.