Friday, January 24, 2014

Kiev Is Burning

They tell me this is yet another Color Revolution in Kiev, Ukraine, like that in Bangkok, one in which a militant and rising middle class demands that the more or less populist -- though oppressive -- government aligned with the 'lesser people' be gone and neo-liberal "democratic" government and economic policies be instituted.

When Gene Sharp's manual for Color Revolutions was being promoted heavily at Occupy events, I read it, tried to understand Sharp's philosophy about these things, and looked deeper into their results, and I said, "Whoa! Wait. Is this what you want? Is this what you really want from Occupy or any other revolutionary movement?"

Few knew what I was saying, or why, because very few understood the nature and purpose of Color Revolutions, nor did it ever occur to most of them that there were particular -- and highly exploitative -- economic interests behind every one of them, interests that were perfectly delighted to use whatever discontents they could find among the People to get what they wanted out of them, at whatever cost to the People it took.

Those who did understand what I was asking wanted nothing more than to shut me and anyone else who questioned the semi-divinity of Gene Sharp up.

Where I saw the Sharp methods and revolutionary practices had value was in their systems and organization -- which any movement can adopt and utilize, even anarchist ones. The problem is that any movement can adopt them, and that includes counter-revolutionary and reactionary ones. Sharp's directives and directions for carrying out a Color Revolution, and the Revolution itself, are not required to be "leftish" or carried out on behalf of the People (though they are always "in the name of the People.")  Yet that's a marketing slogan. It doesn't have to be -- and typically isn't -- real at all. It's marketing. Bernays on steroids.

In fact, the whole "Color Revolution" schtick is marketing. That's what Sharp was selling. How to organize and market your uprising so it will be successful in the marketplace, how to sell it. Not, by any means, how to achieve the revolutionary ends most beneficial to the greatest number of People. Apart from some yammering about "freedom" and "democracy" the ends are never discussed in Sharp's extensive work. I even dared to ask why that was so. If you don't know why you're having an uprising -- apart from some vague concepts of "Freedom" (for whom, from what?) and "Democracy" (In what way?), then why are you having it?

So I glance every now and then at what's been going on in Kiev and Bangkok, and ponder the disasters in the aftermath the Arab Spring, the general failure of the populist movements in Spain and Greece (among other places), and I see a common pattern. We can go all the way back to the Philippines insurrection against Marcos, or the numerous "Color Revolutions" in Eastern Europe and the eventual destruction of the Soviet Union and any hint of popular resistance to the looming economic and political catastrophe Soviet citizens were being forced to endure,  and see a common thread: these "populist" uprisings were all -- every one of the them -- conducted on behalf of a nascent 'new' oligarchy which wanted to replace the sclerotic 'old' one, using the discontents of a rising but blocked middle class and the often suppressed longings of the poor to gain the leverage necessary to overthrow the Old Order and institute a New one -- a new one that is as bad as, or even worse than, what it replaces. Every. Single. One.

And it is always all about the marketing in Sharp's vision.

Of course, it's supposed to be nonviolent, with nonviolence used as a weapon against internal opposition and against the Old Order, but on the margins, these successful "revolutions" -- or reactionary movements, which is what I came to believe they were -- were remarkably not non-violent at all. The "peaceful revolutionaries" always -- ALWAYS -- held the threat of violence over the state or oligarchy they wished to replace, while simultaneously claiming otherwise, and they sought ways to precipitate or initiate violent repression by the police and authorities so as to gain sympathy for their cause. This is not non-violence; it's an embrace of violence. In Kiev -- and in many other sites where this sort of double-tracking goes on -- there is a lot of violence initiated by the state to be sure, but there is also sabotage and violence initiated by the reactionary-revolutionaries, whether it is burning down symbols of the regime (as happened over and over again in Cairo, for example) to actually burning members of the police force with Molotov cocktails (Kiev, Athens, etc.) .

By comparison to almost any revolutionary movement in history, Occupy was almost preternaturally non-violent. Yet it was met with extraordinary levels of state violence that was widely approved by the general population in large part because they were convinced that Occupations were dirty and disgusting hotbeds for disease, rape and murder.

That, too, was marketing -- by the authorities -- to ensure that Occupy could not become a successful Revolution against the oligarchy that rules the world with rod and staff. Many of the same tactics that were used in the United States (and elsewhere) against Occupy and similar demonstrations are being used against protesters in Kiev and Bangkok, whereas in Cairo, the authorities just shoot into crowds, killing and maiming many thousands so far -- with no apparent end to the mayhem in sight.

But what is it for?

Some loud and energized Ukrainians would would rather be under the thumb of EU Bankers, Neo-Liberals and Technocrats than be aligned with (ick) Russia? Oh Kay, then. Let's have a Revolution!

They say that this year will mark another in a series of years of rage and rebellion around the world. We shall see, shan't we?

UPDATE: This video has been making the rounds. It shows a phalanx of police in Kiev confronting a large and enthusiastic crowd, members of which are hurling rocks, bottles, paving stones, smoke bombs, and Molotov cocktails at the police who are arrayed behind barricades and shields. Someone in the crowd is driving a front-loader repeatedly into the police line and appears to break through at one point but retreats. The version that is going around stops as the front-loader retreats, but there is another one that shows the action from the ground level, and that's the second one posted here.

You'll note that members of the crowd are attempting to stop the driver of the front-loader and try to speak/reason with the more militant members of the crowd. Others have pointed out that if anything like this demonstration were to happen in the United States, the front-loader driver would be taken out by a police sniper, and the crowd would be gassed and bludgeoned and shot by the police who would promptly arrest any survivors.

Though we're given to believe that the uprising in Kiev has wide popular support, some observers and commenters in this country and elsewhere have noted that much if not all of the violence has been instigated by what amount to Neo-Fascists whose determination is not at all in the interests of the Ukrainian people. In addition, the Ukraine apparently has a broadly divided population, with Eastern populations widely supporting closer ties with Russia (many ethnic Russians live in the Eastern areas) while Western populations widely support closer ties with Europe.

Eventually, this may lead to the break up of the Ukraine -- which wouldn't be the first former Soviet sphere republic to split apart or even engage in civil war.


  1. Previous comment didn't post I think.

    That is an interesting take on Gene Sharp's work. I think it could be used to effect real change but it apparently hasn't. Egypt is a good example.


    1. It has been used to effect real change, I'd say, just not the kind many of the participants were anticipating.

      Egypt ought to be the textbook example of what can go wrong, but we could go through just about every one of the Color Revolutions and find something similar as the result, though perhaps not as bloody.

      But it's true, Sharp's methods can be employed by any movement. But they tend to work best (exclusively?) on behalf of neo-liberal ones. Isn't that something?