Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Kyrgyz Events Mark the End of ‘Color Revolutions’ And Open the Way for Real Ones, Kagarlitsky Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 13 – The events in Kyrgyzstan show that the so-called “color revolutions,” which took place there and in Georgia and Ukraine as well, have exhausted themselves, a development that opens the way to more genuine and possibly violent revolutionary change, according to a leading Moscow commentator.
More important, Boris Kagarlitsky of the Moscow Institute of Globalization and Social Movements argues, “the collapse of ‘the color revolutions’ marks not a return to the past [as some would like to believe] but rather the beginning of a new and much more dramatic stage” in the post-Soviet states (www.stoletie.ru/politika/v_predchuvstvii_bunta_2010-04-13.htm).
Just what that will entail, he continues, is at present unclear. Bishkek “after all is not Petrograd in 1917,”but “the situation of the provision government [there] forces one to recall the sad situation of ‘the provisionals’ in [the Russian capital then],” although up to now, there has not appeared “a Kyrgyz Lenin or a Kyrgyz Trotsky” to take control of events.
But one thing is certain, he suggests: “Whoever comes to power and does not resolve the objective social contradictions which are dividing society will not have either quiet or stability. And “this conclusion,” the outspoken author says, “applies not only to Kyrgyzstan” but to other parts of the post-Soviet space.
Kagarlitsky begins his article by arguing that the events in Kyrgyzstan last week “mark the logical conclusion of the political cycle of ‘color revolutions’ and thus allow an opportunity for analysts like himself to define what they were, what they have lead to up to now, and what they may result in over the coming months and years.
The essential feature of these “color revolutions,” he says, is that “one part of the ruling elite used the dissatisfaction of the masses against another part. The opposition figures themselves were from the camp of the party of power, had influential allies in the business community and in no way were trying to change something in the social order.”
Their “revolutionary qualities,” the Moscow commentator says, involved only “a willingness to violate the rules according to which the political process had worked up to then. To the administrative resource which the ruling group used, they opposed an appeal to the masses and the ability to call the people into the streets.”
Because of the problems they faced, the people were quite prepared to respond, but – and this is Kagarlitsky’s key point – “the secret of ‘the color revolutions’ consisted not in the ability of the opposition to bring the crowd into the streets but in their ability to control the crowd and get it to leave the streets so that only ‘serious people’ could deal with affairs.”
Thus, he suggests, the most important aspect of these “revolutions” was “not the mobilization of the masses but on the contrary the demobilization” of the population. Had the leaders of these events not been able to do that, they would have lost control of the situation. And it could have grown into “a genuine revolution without any color adjectives.”
For a time, developments after “the color revolutions” went “almost according to the plan” of the political technologists who arranged them. “But there remained one problem which the new power could not and did not intend to resolve: the social problems which had generated dissatisfaction were in no place resolved.”
Moreover, Kagarlitsky continues, it soon turned out that the leaders of “the color revolutions” proved no more competent as managers of the situation than their predecessor, and no less corrupt. Indeed, in some cases, he suggests, the new officials “began to steal in exactly the same way if not even more.”
As a result, the anger of the population quickly turned “against the new powers that be,” who turned to the only “trump card” they had – nationalism. But as all of them found out, nationalism had only “an extremely limited” capacity to consolidate society to address the problems people actually were experiencing.
In each of the three “color revolutions,” the new powers that be sought to use different resources in order to secure “the demobilization of the masses.” In Georgia, the government used force. In Ukraine, it had greater success but only “at the price of universal demoralization and apathy. And in Kyrgyzstan, as recent events show, the powers that be failed in this task.
According to Kagarlitsky, these “color revolutions” have been doomed by the world economic recession, a force that has not yet had its full impact on any of these societies but has shown that the desire of the new people to continue the old ways of doing business has no long-term future.
The people who came to power in “the color revolutions,” the Moscow analyst says, “are mistaken when they think that after the crisis everything will return to its former place. The thing is that these places no longer exist.” And because that is so, he insists, the political process in all of them is going to change, as it already has in Kyrgyzstan.
The widespread “apathy, indifference and cynicism” among the populations of these countries now “is nothing other than an indicator of the deep-seated alienation and division between the [currently] political system and the masses,” splits that, as the events in Kyrgyzstan show, can lead to “a sudden explosion of social anger.”
What remains an open question, he says, is against whom this anger will be directed. “The opposition politicians undoubtedly can use the anger of the masses against the existing powers that be who will automatically become guilty of all social evils.” But in doing that, these politicians are playing a dangerous game if they cannot address the problems of society.
On the one hand, having called the people into the street or at least benefited initially from their appearance there, the new powers that be may soon find themselves in a situation where they cannot demobilize a population that has decided to try to achieve its goals and not those of “color” revolutionaries.
And on the other, Kagarlitsky suggests, new “extra-systemic leaders” may appear who will seek not just to occupy the positions of those now in power but to change the entire social and political system. Such people are not in evidence yet, but as the Moscow analyst points out, they weren’t in evidence initially in Russia in 1917.

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