Opinion

Hugo Dixon

Non-violent protest and “political jujitsu”

Hugo Dixon
Apr 13, 2011 08:32 UTC

LONDON (Reuters) – Gene Sharp’s writings on how to use non-violent techniques to bring down autocratic regimes are often cited as a major influence on the activists who led the campaign against Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.

The 83-year-old American academic had never met or spoken to those behind the successful uprising. But he has strong views on what happened in Egypt and what is happening elsewhere in the Middle East. First and foremost, he stresses the importance of preparation and discipline. The Egyptian protesters were prepared while the Libyans were not, Sharp said in an hour-long telephone interview from Boston, where he runs the Albert Einstein Institution, a non-profit organization that advances the study and use of nonviolent action in conflicts around the world.

Discipline means remaining non-violent despite brutality and provocation. “Sometimes the people using non-violent techniques don’t fully understand the methods,” says Sharp, who has written numerous books on the history of non-violent struggles, including two books on India’s Mahatma Gandhi. “They think that if they refrain from violence, their opponents will too.”

Quite the opposite, Sharp argues. The more authoritarian a regime, the more you have to expect it to resort to violence. That’s partly because it’s in its DNA; but also because it deliberately uses violence to provoke a response, knowing that this will solidify its own power base.

On the other hand, if protesters can maintain a disciplined non-violent approach, the regime’s brutality will boomerang on itself. Sharp calls this “political jujitsu.” Massacres undermine the support of all but the most hardened members of an autocrat’s entourage. Soldiers and policemen find it hard to mow down peaceful civilians. The turning point in the Egyptian revolution was when the army said it would not fire on the crowd in Tahrir Square.

Inside the Egyptian revolution

Hugo Dixon
Apr 13, 2011 07:36 UTC

CAIRO (Reuters) – In early 2005, Cairo-based computer engineer Saad Bahaar was trawling the internet when he came across a trio of Egyptian expatriates who advocated the use of non-violent techniques to overthrow strongman Hosni Mubarak. Bahaar, then 32 and interested in politics and how Egypt might change, was intrigued by the idea. He contacted the group, lighting one of the fuses that would end in freedom in Tahrir Square six years later.

The three men he approached — Hisham Morsy, a physician, Wael Adel, a civil engineer by training, and Adel’s cousin Ahmed, a chemist — had all left Egypt for jobs in London.

Inspired by the way Serbian group Otpor had brought down Slobodan Milosevic through non-violent protests in 2000, the trio studied previous struggles. One of their favourite thinkers was Gene Sharp, a Boston-based academic who was heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. The group had set up a webpage in 2004 to propagate civil disobedience ideas in Arabic.

Egypt needs a reconstruction fund too

Hugo Dixon
Mar 24, 2011 20:37 UTC

By Hugo Dixon
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

LONDON — Egypt needs a reconstruction fund too. Japan will be spending tens of billions of dollars on rebuilding after its tsunami. Egypt can’t afford to finance an equivalent fund after its political tsunami. But foreign powers could help by showing they are not just interested in bombing neighbouring Libya.

In the long run, the most important thing is to accelerate free trade between Egypt and the industrialised world, notably the European Union. More immediately, as the country teeters on the brink of recession, foreign countries can show they really care about Egypt’s transition to democracy by financing a fund to invest in physical and social infrastructure — such as power generation, transport, housing and education.

Riposte: Portuguese default shouldn’t be taboo

Hugo Dixon
Mar 24, 2011 10:33 UTC

– The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
– The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own –

By Hugo Dixon

LONDON, March 24 (Reuters Breakingviews) – A Portuguese
default shouldn’t be taboo. The euro zone should make clear that
there will be no bailout until Lisbon gets its act together.

Portugal is in its current mess because Jose Socrates, whose
minority socialist government has just fallen, has spent the
last year dithering. The prime minister rejected many
opportunities for a bailout from his euro zone partners, most
recently in advance of a summit two weeks ago. Now time has
virtually run out. It may take two months to call elections and
form a new government and, in the meantime, Portugal has a big
debt repayment due in April.

Arab spring’s violent phase ratchets up risk

Hugo Dixon
Mar 21, 2011 15:21 UTC

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

By Hugo Dixon
The Arab spring’s violent phase is ratcheting up investor risk. Hopes that further dominoes would fall with minimal violence, in the same way that regimes in Tunisia and Egypt were toppled, have been dashed. Others — notably Libya, but also Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and even Saudi Arabia — are still tottering. But none will fall easily. The prospect of bloody conflicts will push up already-heightened risk premia, including the resurgent oil price.

Conflicts are bubbling up throughout the region — most obviously in Libya, where it is unclear whether the Western-led imposition of a no-fly zone will lead to the swift ousting of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi or a long drawn out civil war. Yemen could be next but it probably won’t fall in a happy manner: the al-Qaeda-infested country could split and turn into even more of a failed state.

Glencore partners eye Goldman-style bonanza

Hugo Dixon
Feb 22, 2011 15:51 UTC

By Hugo Dixon
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

LONDON — Glencore’s partners are eyeing a Goldman Sachs-style bonanza. When Goldman went public in 1999, the Wall Street firm’s 221 partners shared a pot worth $16 billion. That was an average of $72 million each. If Glencore launches its initial public offering later this year, there will be an even bigger jackpot for the 500 partners at the Swiss commodity trader: up to $60 billion, according to Liberum Capital. On average, that’s $120 million each.

In both cases, the Croesus-like riches reflect firms at the top of their game. Goldman was the world’s classiest investment bank. It didn’t just connect clients with capital; it also was aggressive in taking lucrative but risky proprietary positions. Similarly, Glencore isn’t just the world’s premier commodities trader. Nearly two thirds of its value is actually in proprietary stakes in mining assets.

India corruption travails could presage catharsis

Hugo Dixon
Feb 21, 2011 10:00 UTC

– The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

By Hugo Dixon

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) – It’s easy to see why investors in India are running scared. Two top tycoons have been hauled in by investigators in connection with a mounting telecoms scandal, inflation is rampant and the government seems paralysed.

The Sensex has dropped 11 percent this year. And the shares of Reliance Communications, chaired by Anil Ambani, one of the two tycoons questioned by police, have been hammered: they are down 36 percent. The other is Prashant Ruia, chief executive of Essar Group. Neither has been charged.

Vodafone wins first round in Essar war

Hugo Dixon
Jan 31, 2011 19:15 UTC

– The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

By Hugo Dixon

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) – Vodafone has won the first round in its war with Essar. The UK group’s partner in its Indian mobile venture is downplaying a plan to inject its stake into an illiquid shell – a move which could have artificially inflated the stake’s value. Although the saga could have more twists, the most likely conclusion is that Vodafone will pay $5 billion to buy out Essar completely.

Vodafone can feel pleased that it has thrown a spanner into Essar’s plan to pop part of its 33 percent stake in Vodafone Essar into Indian Securities, the listed shell. If

Vodafone wins ground in Indian jv tussle – sources

Hugo Dixon
Jan 31, 2011 14:19 UTC

LONDON, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Indian mobile phone operator
Essar has abandoned plans to inject part of its 33 percent stake
in the Vodafone Essar venture into a listed shell company after
objections by its partner Vodafone (VOD.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), according to two
people familiar with the situation.

Instead, the partners have agreed to appoint two investment
banks to value the stake in the Indian mobile operator as a
precursor to Essar deciding whether to sell it to Vodafone.

Essar was previously planning to inject an 11 percent stake
into Indian Securities (ISL) (ISEC.BO: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), a listed company it
controls. It argued that this would reveal its true value.

Euro zone crisis may be close to resolution

Hugo Dixon
Jan 28, 2011 23:47 UTC

By Hugo Dixon
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

DAVOS, Switzerland — The euro zone crisis may be close to resolution. There is certainly optimism among policymakers at the World Economic Forum in Davos that a comprehensive deal — involving more discipline by peripheral nations and more help from rich nations — could be put together in coming weeks. If so, the hot phase of the crisis could be over and even Greece would have a fighting chance of getting out of the woods.

There is still no deal. But the stars seem to be coming into alignment. Germany, the zone’s paymaster, clearly realises that it has a strong interest in the single currency holding together — and will do what is needed to make that happen. Peripheral nations also seem to be willing to go an extra mile to give Berlin enough air cover to sell further help to the German people.