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Color revolution playbook

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I would like to think about this episode in a wider context of the mechanic of staging of what can be called "Color revolutions." And if we think this way it is far from "Yawn". It is actually pretty sinister development.  Color revolutions is neoliberals rehash of the playbook of communist revolutions ("Red revolutions"), but for completely different purposes.  They manage to enrich the quote of  Thomas Carlyle "All revolutions are conceived by idealists, implemented by fanatics, and its fruits are stolen by  scoundrels." :-) . In this case it became symmetrically Machiavellian as in  "...conceived by one set scoundrels, implemented by the other set of scoundrels, and its fruits are stolen by the third set of scoundrels"

The technology is now well polished and extremely powerful against any "not so pro-western" country. Especially effective in xUSSR space. As such Russia is not an exception. For it too color revolution represents a grave threat like for any other government in countries with "not enough pro-Western" policy. So I think it is unwise to underestimate its power. It already proved itself in half dozen countries.  There are several films and books that document this new strategy such as Bringing Down a Dictator Ivan Marovic, Srdja Popovic, Otpor!, Steve York Movies & TV

The Time of the Rebels- Youth Resistance Movements and 21st Century R…

The idea of using economic difficulties for destroying "inconvenient" regimes facing elections and overthrowing the government without overt external aggression is far from being new. Bolshevik's  concept of a revolutionary situation <i>" when the lower strata does not want to live by old order  and the upper strata can't maintain the old older"</i> is a century old. The new element is the method of artificially creating such a situation out of parliamentary or presidential elections. Even this is not new but can be seen as a variant of "divide and conquer" the strategy is as old as Roman Empire.  Divide and rule - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In a way this is a modern, more sophisticated implementation of  the old Roman "devide and conque" imperial stategy:

The maxims divide et impera and divide ut regnes were utilised by the Roman ruler Caesar and the French emperor Napoleon. There is the example of Gabinius parting the Jewish nation into five conventions, reported by Flavius Josephus in Book I, 169-170 of The Wars of the Jews (De bello Judaico).[1] Strabo also reports in Geography, 8.7.3[2] that the Achaean League was gradually dissolved under the Roman possession of the whole of Macedonia, owing to them not dealing with the several states in the same way, but wishing to preserve some and to destroy others.

In modern times, Traiano Boccalini cites "divide et impera" in La bilancia politica, 1,136 and 2,225 as a common principle in politics. The use of this technique is meant to empower the sovereign to control subjects, populations, or factions of different interests, who collectively might be able to oppose his rule. Machiavelli identifies a similar application to military strategy, advising in Book VI of The Art of War[3] (Dell'arte della guerra),[4] that a Captain should endeavor with every art to divide the forces of the enemy, either by making him suspicious of his men in whom he trusted, or by giving him cause that he has to separate his forces, and, because of this, become weaker.

Elements of this technique involve:

I see the following key ingredients of "color revolutions" in action in Russian elections:

1. The whole process is always staged around election fraud (the best conditions are if two opposing candicates get around 50% of votes, or goverming party get close to 50% of votes, but can be used with different percentages as well). It  works in  two main phases:

  1. Attempt of de-legitimating of elections and forcing a new elections that supposal should rectify falsifications of the previous one. Gorbachov's "two cents" about the necessity of new elections are pretty telling move in this respect if we are talking about Russia. Old fox knows how best to serve his masters.
  2. Parallel de-legitimatazation of existing government candidates via charge of election fraud and subsequent overthrow of the weakened opponent "by peaceful means" via second round of elections. Here is one Amazon comment from The Time of the Rebels- Youth Resistance Movements and 21st Century R…

    I regularly screen Bringing Down a Dictator in my courses at Swarthmore College. This film does an excellent job of introducing students to the fundamentals of nonviolent power. Students come to understand that authoritarian regimes, while formidable, are often more fragile than we imagine. Milosevic's regime, like others, relied on a mixture of apathy, fear, and cynicism that the students of Otpor fought to dispel through humor, appeals to nationalism, and tireless public outreach. Like any large institution, Milosevic's regime depended on the loyalty of its functionaries (such as the police) and at least a veneer of public credibility. Otpor students carefully undermined both through its broad grassroots organizing, popular nonviolent resistance, and by awakening a multi-party political opposition.

2. The government in oligarchic republics like Russia always has a degree of  distrust from people as it is well known that it is corrupted. Also due to neoliberal brainwashing expectation of considerable part of urban population which wants to enjoy Western standard of life are completely unrealistic.  That why classic in "color revolutions" moment for challenging  "power that be" is when the election results in the election of the incumbent president or preserve the ruling party majority.  A very plausible claim that "old guard does not want to turn over the power voluntarily" and resorts to fraud to maintain status quo is used. It is attractive to considerable percentage of population in all xUSSR space. And often is true. But even if false can destabilize situation to the extent that new possibilities are opened for the initiators of this process. Also so previous supporters of the "old regime" might jump the ship (remember that their accounts and often families are at the West) or at least bet of both horses. Economic difficulties in addition to elections make a perfect combination. In this respect Putin's decision to be the candidate for the next president of Russia probably did served as a fuel in this particular episode. Because this does smell with the CPSU.   In this respect dual party system is much more advanced and much more suitable for the oligarchic republic (and architects can rely on rich, century old USA experience).

3. The starting point is always the immediate and coordinated campaign of forceful denunciation of  "mass falsifications" no matter what actually happened at the elections. Statements of  influential figures (like Hillary Clinton's recent statement), etc in support of the claims about mass falsifications. This is followed by creating of "artificial reality" around this claim via well coordinated press campaign with the direct and prominent support of major  Western MSM.  Direct forgery of video and other documents can be used pretty successfully. Medvedev understands this but the real question is does he has the political will to prosecute perpetrators ?  Use of  "nonpartisan exit polls" as a pressure cooker for questioning the results. Falsifications and exaggeration of ballot fraud, especially "ballot staffing" via selectively interpreted exit pool data. Here is important to achieve some level of demoralization of authorizes to avoid prosecution of people involved or the whole scheme will fall like a house of cards. The Teflon cover of "fighters for democracy" is used to prevent prosecution.  Same trick as with Khodorkovski.  In the latter case it did not work. We will see in this case.


4. Cutting the space for maneuvering of existing government by stressing that this not a direct interference into country affairs, but just support of democratic forces. As long as democracy is the "sacred cow" and Western democracy is the only legitimate form/model to which you need to progress from the current "wild", unlawful, criminal and authoritarian state of total darkness,  the Western powers are by definition the arbiters of  this progress. There is no defense from this claim in you have foreign observers on the ground. This way the current government itself betray its own legitimacy by delegating it to foreign powers, who can abuse their role at will for benign or not so benign motives: without leaving hotel, the western elections observers will state about mass violation during elections, playing the role of the Trojan horse of the "color revolution". The government is caught is zugzwang as foreign observers are by definition the arbiters of the legitimacy of elections. Any move makes the situation worse.

5. Systematic, long term attempts to build and maintain  student/youth based and heavily financed (60% in case of Ukraine) fifth column of  "professional protesters", the move that actually mirrors Bolshevik's reliance on "professional revolutionaries". Students are the most suitable target as they are more easily brainwashed, are excitable, often dream about emigration to Western countries, always need money. Perfect "canon fodder" of the "color revolutions". Creation of set of martyrs "for the just cause of democracy and freedom", especially among young journalists who were arrested during protests and, even better, mistreated, is a part of this tactic.  As emigration is considered as desirable future by considerable percent of young people, we have a pool from which it is easy to recruit fighters for the "democratic future" of the nation with the hope that after reaching critical mass the process become self-sustainable. And often it is. Also after being arrested and/or expelled from the university those people have nowhere to go but to became "professional color revolutionaries". Some of then are pretty talented and can do a lot of damage. This was pre-emptive creation of a well-organized  "anti-fraud front" tremendously helps to create legitimacy problem for the government as initiative is instantly lost to government opponents. The government is too bureaucratized, unprepared and is taken by surprise the strength of the response.  They try to convince that election process was completely legitimate people who does not want to be convinced and just laugh at their efforts. As in any revolution loss of initiative is half of the defeat: the "democratizers" have plan, have hard currency,  have hopes about their future in the West and the will to achieve their goals.  In Ukraine the "anti-fraud" front has worked under the succinct slogan Pora— "It's Time" (  )

Activists in each of these movements were funded and trained in tactics of political organization and nonviolent resistance by a coalition of Western pollsters and professional consultants funded by a range of Western government and non-government agencies. According to The Guardian, these include the U.S. State Department and US AID along with the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, NGO Freedom House and billionaire George Soros's Open Society Institute. The National Endowment for Democracy, a U.S. Government funded foundation, has supported non-governmental democracy-building efforts in Ukraine since 1988. Writings on nonviolent struggle by Gene Sharp formed the strategic basis of the student campaigns.

6. Use of press influence as the most easily hijackable "forth branch" of government to undermine the other three. If this part works for color revolution, and press turns against the government, the government is doomed. Under the cover of "freedom of the press" systematic use of all controllable media, Internet, web sites,  social media, mobile communications for spreading the "truth" about mass falsifications. As Goebbels used to say

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Substitute "State" for "color revolution". Press also serves for coordination and maintaining the the direction and unity of the movement. Operation "Occupation  of  the press" is supported by heavy use of  well-financed NGO as the brain trust and coordinating center for the movement:  

Throughout the demonstrations, Ukraine's emerging Internet usage (facilitated by news sites which began to disseminate the Kuchma tapes) was an integral part of the orange revolutionary process. It has even been suggested that the Orange Revolution was the first example of an Internet-organized mass protest. [31] Analysts believe that the Internet and mobile phones allowed an alternative media to flourish that was not subject to self-censorship or overt control by President Kuchma and his allies and pro-democracy activists (such as Pora!) were able to use mobile phones and the Internet to coordinate election monitoring and mass protests.[32][33]

7. Attempt to provoke police brutality so that "public demonstrations" against attempts by the incumbents "to hold onto power through electoral fraud" became definitely anti-goverment and status quo. The goal is to undermining police loyalty through carefully stage campaign about police brutality and "befriending policemen" neutralize then to allow "free hands" in undermining the current government.  See Nonviolent_Struggle-50CP

8.  The use of "end justifies the means" politic at all stages. Promiscuity in building coalition and seeking allies. Anybody opposed to "brutal and dishonest current regime" is welcomes to join "antifraud front". Are ultra-nationalists now best friends of democracy?  There was never such a good friends.  Are communist now best friends of democracy?  No question about it. 

So this is in a perverted way this is Trotsky idea of "permanent revolution" implemented on industrial scale.



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