|Tjebbe van Tijen on Sat, 4 Dec 2004 23:23:34 +0100 (CET)|
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|[Nettime-nl] COUP >< REVOLUTION a false dichotomy (in reference to the UkraineOrange Revolution)|
Today (4-12-2004) an article with the following header was posted by Johannes van der Spek on nettime-NL: "The "Orange Revolution": US-Engineered Coup or European Model of Peaceful Revolution?" he did not write something himself just posted an article from The Weekly Bulletin of the Transatlantic Democracy Network http://www.demdigest.net which had some critical remarks on some European commentators of the recent events in The Ukraine, who saw US involvement and support of democratization movements in Ukraine now, and in Serbia and Georgia in the near past, as problematic, as a kind of imperialist democratization process. The full text you will find below my reaction, so I will not attempt to reproduce what is said. Just give my reaction which is mostly about the heading as shortened in the subject line of the Nettime-Nl mailing list: Ukraine: US-Engineered Coup or European Revolution? The sloganism of the header irritated me* and it took me a while to find out for myself why so: * tjebbe van tijen ======================================================================== COUP > < REVOLUTION a false dichotomy ======================================================================== The word 'revolution' has as many meanings as the number of historical events denoted by it. Each historical moment which gets a name with the word 'revolution' may be linked to thousands of other moments with that same word, still all those revolutions will have settings in time, space and mood that are unique. Jacquerie, riot, rebellion, insurrection, upheaval, rising, revolt, boycott, strike are some of the words closely related to the word 'revolution', often seen as the first steps in a serious of events that culminate in a change of power relations, temporal or lasting. The words used for these first steps are mostly associated with actions of the oppressed, those who are not in power, lower classes, proletariat, 'the people' , antipodes to rulers, oppressors, dictators and the like. Mostly but not exclusively, as army officers can rebel, aristocrats revolt sometimes, magistrates may strike, soldiers may lie down their arms. The other part of the dichotomy used in the article on the recent events in the Ukraine is 'coup', (full term coup d'etat) with a whole series of related terms: overthrow, putsch, power seizure, take over, palace revolution, conspiracy, cabal, plot, intrigue, treason, machination, scheme, frame-up. All these terms firstly associate with activities of those in power, government, military, political parties, church, ... Again not exclusively so, as workers do conspire, trade unionists or soldiers may seize power, activists plot, civil servants scheme. Coup and Revolution are often part of the same historical process. Social unrest may develop to such a point that an existing power relation gets unstable, creating a temporal power vacuum, which never fails to attract people who want to fill the void. Such a claim of power is mostly made in the name of others: peasants, workers, the masses, 'the people'. Only in hindsight it will become clear that what was labeled 'people's power' can not be much more then a constitution of a new ruling class that, maybe, will do better than the one before. Coup and revolution breed each other, an unwanted coup may lead to a revolution and a revolution necessitates a coup, someone, some group will take advantage of circumstances and establish a new power. A 'new power' will, most often, proclaim its legitimacy by reference to the revolutionary events simultaneous with its rise. It does not mean that such a 'new power' has been exclusively propelled into control by such revolutionary events, all kinds of other - outside - elements may also have been influential: secret deals with elements of the old power, threats of foreign intervention, shifting of alliances within a power structure. The term 'revolution' is of course problematic, we tend to know when it started but it is often difficult , sometimes impossible, to tell when it ended. Proclaiming the 'permanent revolution' is nothing but empty words. Once "a revolution" is claimed by a new power, its life span is certainly over; 'real practice' will be transformed into symbolic representation; and it is surprising how much of an old system survives in a new one, how "new institutions" breed old ideas. The term 'revolution' - in its modern sense, as it was at first an astronomical term - is mostly used for a drastic an far reaching change often, but not exclusively so, in a short period of time. Another usage is for long periods of (slow) persistent change, like the 'industrial revolution'. A society in a state of turmoil is like a storm, a violent weather condition that will calm down after a while. Revolutions are generally of such an order, they are momentary, so 'revolutionary moment' instead of 'revolution' tends to be a more precise term. The term 'revolutionary moment' implies a beginning and an end. It can be that such a historical moment finishes in its suppression by a challenged power, producing a failed revolution. In case it is successful - with the existing system shaken and about to fall - someone, some group will need to seize power, thus marking the moment after which the social storm will go down. Thus the shaking of power (revolution) is followed by the seizure or grabbing of power (coup). Shaking and grabbing are closely related, but not intentionally so. Those who do the shaking certainly want change, and, at a certain moment - be it at their own initiative or at the suggestion of someone else - they start to act. Once they act, they will need to devise their own methods; they will make decisions of how and with whom to associate; they will need to create their own social structures overnight; their social abilities will be challenged and enriched. These are the moments of real (revolutionary) practice, moments of personal empowerment for many. It is in the process of shaking that the mind awakens, solidarity is wrought, future seems to be in your own hands... Even when some agent, conspirator or schemer has provoked such a movement, the effects of 'revolutionary practice' (or the more neutral notion of 'self-organization') tend to go far beyond the original impetus. The starting motive can be a local discomfort or some form of disagreement, the end result may be a challenging of the whole existing social system. Some time is needed for such an awareness to take root and most often the revolutionary process is aborted half way, by a seize of power local, regional or national. Modern state interests are widely spread and deeply rooted in society. Heads of state can be made into disposable figureheads when it really comes to a crisis. The continuity of a state systems tends to come before personal or categorical interests. Sacrificing a reluctant ruler and some parts of the clique associated with him, is a logical and easy way out of a revolutionary situation. In the end a 'coup' is not something feared by the state but an essential element for its survival. When a social revolution, a movement with a wide popular participation, has evolved to the point that it starts to create alternative structures for those of the state challenged, these nascent state structures will be too limited in scope and can endanger the same society that seeks to free itself from violence and oppression. However paradoxical it may sound, some form of 'coup d'etat' must be made to prevent that from happening. The sudden erasure of social structures that took many decades, often centuries, to evolve, creates an 'unstable state', which is something to be feared by everyone. Compromise becomes the most radical solution to keep most of the old structure, by allowing some changes to be made. The creation of a completely new order is out of the question ... or one should be willing to pay the price of massive bloodshed to arrive at a social system that will be soon even more abhored as the one originally contested. What remains of the short periods of personal empowerment, the revolutionary moments, better remains in the consciousness of everybody involved, instead of being canonized in party slogans and discredited in hollow state symbolism. The new rulers will have some form of compliance, a temporal mandate, not to be abused; a feeling of dependency of something which can not be put in to laws, what is there nevertheless: the personal experience of many that they are able to organize themselves that they can challenge authority. On 2004- Dec -04, at 10:10, jo van der spek wrote: > December 3, 2004, Volume 1, Number 23 > > > DEMOCRACY DIGEST > > The Weekly Bulletin of the Transatlantic Democracy Network > www.demdigest.net > > > > > ----------------------------------------------------------------------- > --------- > > The "Orange Revolution": US-Engineered Coup or European Model of > Peaceful > Revolution? > > Yet the election has revealed a disturbing ambivalence towards > democratization > on the part of some commentators, particularly in western Europe, as > reflected > in allegations that democratizing efforts in Serbia, Georgia and now > Ukraine > have been "funded and organised by the US government, deploying US > consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and > US > non-government organizations." "For too long now we have gone along > with the > idea that spreading democracy on our terms is all good," a former > British > diplomat complains in The Independent newspaper, decrying European > complicity > in democracy promotion. > > In one of the more distasteful contributions to the debate, Jonathan > Steele, > chief foreign correspondent of the London-based Guardian, suggests that > Ukraine's orange revolution is nothing more than a "postmodern coup > d'etat." > Through tenuous and contentious associations, Steele hints that the > pro-Yuschenko forces share nationalistic, secessionist and anti-semitic > sentiments. > > As Timothy Garton Ash notes, observing events through a prism of > anti-Americanism distorts one's perspective. "This is a version of our > European > model of peaceful revolution, with the aim of rejoining Europe, not > America," > he argues, berating those who complain of US and EU support for > Ukraine's > democrats. > > These conspiracy theories--by no means unique to Europe--reveal a > mechanistic > approach to politics, suggesting that popular movements can be > artificially > manufactured and that resources determine success. As the Washington > Post's > Anne Applebaum notes, they not only overrate the influence of US money > and > organizations, as the example of Belarus attests, but also neglect the > countervailing forces of authoritarianism. Unlike any western > politicians, > Russia's President visited Ukraine twice to campaign for "his" > candidate and > deployed considerable resources of his own to counteract democratic > forces. > > Interventions by Western or any other agencies will only be effective > in > mobilizing popular support for democratic change where and when they > reflect or > feed into otherwise latent demands for change. "People have been > suppressed, > manipulated, downtrodden for so long, that this is resulting in an > explosion of > their best instincts," said Nadia Diuk, director for Europe and > Eurasia at the > National Endowment for Democracy. "People are saying, 'We're not going > to take > the manipulation of the media, and its control of the citizens, > anymore.'" Even > the previously quiescent media have grown more assertive. The > Ukrainian TV > channel 1 + 1 had been "very much in support of the government and the > government's candidates," Diuk said. "But last week, news readers and > news > anchors decided they were not going to read the news just as it was > handed down > to them." > > ______________________________________________________ > * Verspreid via nettime-nl. Commercieel gebruik niet > * toegestaan zonder toestemming. <nettime-nl> is een > * open en ongemodereerde mailinglist over net-kritiek. > * Meer info, archief & anderstalige edities: > * http://www.nettime.org/. > * Contact: Menno Grootveld (firstname.lastname@example.org). > Tjebbe van Tijen Imaginary Museum Projects dramatizing historical information http://imaginarymuseum.org
______________________________________________________ * Verspreid via nettime-nl. Commercieel gebruik niet * toegestaan zonder toestemming. <nettime-nl> is een * open en ongemodereerde mailinglist over net-kritiek. * Meer info, archief & anderstalige edities: * http://www.nettime.org/. * Contact: Menno Grootveld (email@example.com).