The Most Revolutionary Act

Diverse Ramblings of an American Refugee

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
New Plymouth, New Zealand
December 02
Retired psychiatrist, activist and author of 2 young adult novels - Battle for Tomorrow and A Rebel Comes of Age - and a free ebook 21st Century Revolution. My 2010 memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee describes the circumstances that led me to leave the US in 2002. More information about my books (and me) at

MARCH 10, 2012 7:47PM

Why the CIA Funds Nonviolence Training

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Nonviolent guru Gene Sharp

Nonviolent guru Gene Sharp

(This is the first of five posts about the American godfather of nonviolent resistance, Gene Sharp, and the role of CIA and Pentagon-funded foundations and think tanks in funding and promoting nonviolent resistance)

One important aspect of the debate over  "diversity of tactics" (i.e. the decision whether to be exclusively nonviolent) in the Occupy movement relates to mounting evidence of the role CIA and Pentagon-funded foundations and think tanks play in funding and promoting nonviolent resistance training. The two major US foundations promoting nonviolence, both overseas and domestically, are the Albert Einstein Institution (AEI) and the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC). Both receive major corporate and/or government funding, mostly via CIA “pass through” foundations. While the ICNC is funded mainly by the private fortune of hedge fund billionaire (junk bond king Michael Milken’s second in command) Peter Ackerman, the AEI has received funding from the Rand Corporation and the Department of Defense, as well as various “pass-through” foundations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the US Institute of Peace and the Ford Foundation (see The Ford Foundation and the CIA),which all have a long history of collaborating with the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA in destabilizing governments unfriendly to US interests.

This is a strategy Frances Stonor Saunders outlines in her pivotal Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. According to Sanders, right wing corporate-backed foundations and the CIA have been funding the non-communist left since the late sixties, in the hope of drowning out and marginalizing the voice of more militant leftists. It’s also noteworthy that the governing and advisory board of both AEI and ICNC have been consistently dominated by individuals with either a military/intelligence background or a history of prior involvement with CIA “pass-through” foundations, such as NED and USAID.

Gene Sharp, the Fervent Anticommunist

Much of this debate focuses around America’s godfather of nonviolent resistance, Gene Sharp, the founder and director of the Albert Einstein Institution. Sharp’s handbooks on nonviolent protest were widely disseminated in the Eastern Europe color revolutions, in the Arab spring revolutions and in the Occupy movement in the US (see Unfortunately Sharp has become a decoy in this debate, deflecting attention from the larger question of whether the US government is actively financing and promoting the work of the AEI, the ICIC and other high profile organizations that promote nonviolent civil disobedience. The question is extremely important, in my view, because it possibly explains the rigid and dogmatic attitude in the US progressive movement regarding nonviolent civil disobedience. In other words, I think it explains the knee-jerk rejection of more militant tactics, such as smashing windows and other property damage that don’t involve physical violence towards human beings.

Is Military-Intelligence Funding Compatible with Progressive Politics?

The institutional nonviolence clique has cleverly refocused the debate on whether Sharp, who is 83, is a CIA agent and whether he actively participated in US-funded destabilization efforts in Tunisia, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iran and elsewhere that resulted in so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions. The obvious answer to both questions is no. For me the more important question is why the alternative media and “official” progressive movement embrace Sharp unconditionally as a fellow progressive without a careful look at his past or his ideological beliefs. Sharp has never made any secret of his fervent anticommunist (and antisocialist – he shares the US State Department’s animosity towards Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez) views.

Sharp makes no secret of the funding he has received from the Defense Department; the Rand Corporation; CIA-linked foundations, such as NED, the IRI and the US Institute of Peace; and George Soros’s Open Society Institute. All this information is readily available from the AEI website. Sharp himself states, “I have been arguing for years that governments and defense departments – as well as other groups – should finance and conduct research into alternatives to violence in politics and especially as a possible basis for a defense policy by prepared nonviolent resistance as a substitute for war.” (See The living library: some theoretical approaches to a strategy for activating human rights and peace, George Garbutt, 2008, Southern Cross University, Australia).

Less well known is the role military and intelligence figures have played in helping Sharp set up and run the AEI. I think most progressives would be extremely disturbed by the major role played by the military-intelligence establishment in funding and running the AEI. I think they would find it even more troubling that progressives who refer to any of this on so called “independent” or “alternative” media websites and blogs have their posts removed.

To be continued.

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I can understand why the CIA might want to fund Sharp's work. After all, his handbook was a catalyst in the color revolutions of Ukraine and Georgia, among other countries.

However, given all of these facts -- a tool is still just a tool. A .22 rifle can be a valuable tool on a farm, or it can be a murder weapon depending on how it's used. The same thing can be said of Gene Sharp's work. Yes, I can see the CIA financing his work in its global anticommunist crusade. But what goes around, comes around. And now Sharp's work is being applied in Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street.

The pigeons have come home to roost in America, and now the Occupy movement is not only a paradigm changer, but it represents a potential threat to the status quo of 'Merka.

Is it any wonder that the OWS movement was the perceived threat that made Sens. Levin, Lieberman et. al. initiate the NDAA Act?

His CIA funding does not negate the legitimacy of his handbook for revolutionary tactical analysis.
Very interesting and educational. Well done.
This is not meant as a critique of Sharp's work per se. In fact, I'm trying to shift the argument away from Sharp. My particular concern, as will become clear in future posts, is the CIA funded ideologues who perpetuate a rigid and dogmatic stance towards nonviolence, to the exclusion of other tactics, such as destruction of corporate property or violent self-defense. The left in the US is very different, in this regard than the anti-austerity protests in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and other parts of the world.
I can suggest also that non-violence on behalf of protesters would be welcomed by those prepared to bring violence to them. It's a pretty easy job to mop up many thousands of non-violent folks when you use military methods and weaponry against an unarmed crowd.

I do not know if the CIA and corporate America funds Occupy but if they have half a brain they would do so in a New York minute. When people are encouraged to come together in common cause but admonished to keep it non-violent while praised loudly and continually for their "love" and "caring" attitudes, they get to have a love-in, pat each other on the back, sing a few revolutionary songs together, and go back home feeling that they've saved the world.

The world, of course, continues on its merry way with quiet chuckles at how naive the "protesters" are and how easy it is to defuse their legitimate complaints.

The game is a complex one and the "powers-that-be" play it with great skill and intelligence. The protesters tend to underestimate the abilities of the "elite" very, very badly. They should never forget that their opponents climbed to the top of the heap in as dirty a fight for "success" as ever could be imagined. They are smart, experienced, knowledgeable, underhanded fighters and survivors of the roughest game on earth.

They too have read Gandhi's philosophy, Mao's Little Red Book, Castro, Che, Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and many, many more. They use what works, regardless of source.

How do I know they do this? Because, if I were them, I would.

They will not be taken down easily.
This is very interesting Dr. I look forward to the rest of the series. I've heard of this character (is the consensus method attributed to him?), but I don't know a lot about him.
Wow, skypixeo, sounds like we're on the same page about "love-ins."
I appreciate the information. Thank you.