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People Power
Alex Steffen, 5 Dec 04

The NYT has a great short article, riffing off the Ukraine's Chestnut Revolution to talk about the increasingly successful tactics of people power:

"In fact, over the last 30 years, the stereotype of mass uprising has radically changed. Largely gone are the bricks and barricades and calls to arms. Much more common now are hordes of unarmed people, often young, filling the streets to voice their hopes and wishes to their countrymen, their leaders and, perhaps most importantly, to the world watching on television.

"The remarkable thing about the "people power" tactics of nonviolent mass protest is how often they have worked. They are not foolproof, as the Chinese experience shows. But by the reckoning of Stephen Zunes, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, they have advanced democracy in Bolivia (1977 and 1982); Sudan and Haiti (1985); the Philippines (1986); South Korea (1987); Chile, Poland, East Germany and Czechoslovakia (1989); Mongolia and Nepal (1990); Mali (1992); Madagascar (1993); Bangladesh (1996); and Indonesia (1998). On top of that, he notes, spontaneous nonviolent action thwarted coups in Argentina (1987), Russia (1991), Thailand (1992) and Paraguay (1996 and 1999)."

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Forgot Georgia's non-violent "Rose Revolution" in 2003. Good coverage at

Posted by: Stephen A. Fuqua on 6 Dec 04

People power and the work Howard Rheingold has done in bird-dogging people power augmented by telecom are powerful forces but the recent controversial Guardian story on the funding behind the Orange movement in the Ukraine and a NYTimes magazine article on the ousting of Milosevic should remind us that people power can be manipulated. The NYTimes mag article was particularly interesting in that it reported on the research into non-violent, mass movement techniques by and for the Pentagon. This is both good and bad but it sends chills down my spine.

What happens when the military uses "soul force," satyagraha for purely partisan purposes? Does it work in the long term? Does it invalidate the techniques for anybody else?

Posted by: gmoke on 6 Dec 04

Although I love the idea of a pro-democracy movement, this sudden emphasis on democracy in the media smacks of manipulation. I feel as if I'm in the world of 1984, watching a newsreel about the freedom-loving crowds of our allies. Forgotten are the coup attempt in Venezuela (probably with some US backing), or the mess in Haiti.

I think a certain skepticism is in order about political movements in countries that are of strategic importance to the US, such as the Ukraine.

Today's Guardian has more background on the process. "The Ukraine street protests have followed a pattern of western orchestration set in the 80s. I know - I was a cold war bagman" writes Mark Almond.,3604,1367965,00.html

It's ironic that the NY Times is trumpeting People Power. According to the Guardian article, "The New York Times's correspondent trumpeted the victory of the people over communism, even though he had given $50,000 and the CIA-drafted text of the anti-Mossadeq declaration to the coup leaders himself."

Posted by: bart on 7 Dec 04

Sorry about the ambiguity in my previous comment. The last quote about the NY Times and Mossadeq refers to the people power crowds in Iran in 1953 who were agitating for the return of the Shah and the deposal of the elected Mossadeq.

Posted by: bart on 7 Dec 04

Dear All!
I may be partial, as I'll be voting AGAINST the "revolution". But I'll try to do my best to explain my position.
1) Why do you call this "revolution"? all you can see is Kiev. All the East and South of Ukraine are "blue and white", but you are too lazy - or too partial - to see this. Orange got a very good, the most visible, the strategically important position, that's all.
2) Elections were bad – I agree, I will not stand for the dirty political tricks! But – again – you cannot imagine that ALL 15 million bulletins were forged! I will accept a figure of 1 million – well, why not. And the “blue and white” deserved well this revolution (am I partial?). But – this revolution expresses the will of only ONE HALF of people, no? so when they say that “the nation elected Yushchenko” – well, let’s see the result of the future elections first? And – the other part IS ALSO A PART OF THE NATION, will you grant this?
3) They accuse the eastern regions of separatism. This is only a part of truth. Both candidates have EQUALLY contributed to separatist moods, one in the East, one in the West of Ukraine. And – now the Eastern regions do not speak anymore about SEPARATION. They speak about FEDERATION now, just autonomy, like the Crimea. And – to my mind, it would be fair, as we’ve got quite many differences with the West of Ukraine.
4) They say Yanukovich is bad, Yushchenko is good. But it’s not a Holliwood film! There are no such things in the real life, and even I have long hesitated between the two, as they BOTH pertain to corrupted mafia clans, and I can give you plenty of facts against Yushchenko, if you ask me. But I’m afraid of Yushchenko.
5) So far my arguments were purely logical. This one is not. I know a bit about the technologies he uses to manage and control the crowd, and I’m afraid of him, because – when he has all the power he wants – I cannot imagine what he may do with the country.
I cannot say either Yanukovich is a holy guy, but - I will not stand for this street power, as they look for me very like football supporters: most of them can - regretfully - say only that "this one is good, and this one is bad" - which is, at the very least, not entirely true. I'm living in Kiev, so I believe my viewpoint is to be respected, if not trusted.
You got my email, so if you don’t believe me or want me to explain anything in more detail, I’m open for your questions. I don’t think I’ll be often visiting this page, so better use my mail.

Posted by: Alex on 9 Dec 04



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