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Tuesday, March 29

Pundita replies to critics, Part II

(See March 29 for Part I.)

TM Lutas blogger wondered whether the kit I described in Democracy Stage Show Kit exists.

As I stressed there is no actual kit; however, the phenomenon I described can be considered a kit; i.e., a set of methods that have been abstracted by studying general principles and 'packaged' for use by virtually anyone. In this case, the basic kit was created by analyzing mass civil disobedience/nonviolent protests in democratic countries.

Of itself, the kit isn't a 'stage show' (phony) because genuine democracy movements seeking guidance on how to confront governments nonviolently can make use of the methods. However, just because anyone can use the kit, it can and has been be used by governments and factions wanting to put on an appearance--a stage show--of a genuine nonviolent mass protest. Thus, the Democracy Stage Show Kit.

An organization known for providing the basic kit is transnational (they advise groups anywhere in the world) and not connected with any government or political party. Here the reader might ask whether I can be entirely certain of both assertions; the answer is "no" because I don't know who funds the organization and in these days of shell corporations even knowing the names of the donors wouldn't necessarily provide a definitive answer to either question.

However--and this is very important to understand--even if the organization is a front for a government agency or special interest group, this would have no bearing on the points in my earlier essay. Such an organization, and the 'kit' they provide, is as inevitable in the modern era as K&R (kidnap and ransom) negotiation firms and contractors that provide private military assistance to governments. Although the organization is a nonprofit, it follows the same pattern as any type of consulting contractor. It is a group of specialists--in this case, academics and former government workers with scholarship and/or direct experience with nonviolent movements.

Because my essay was not chiefly concerned with examining this type of organization, I did not explain that the organization I had in mind does not limit their advice to pro-democracy groups in countries that have nondemocratic government. The organization will also advise groups in democratic countries. In other words, if your group or political party didn't get what they wanted through the voting process, or doesn't like the way the government they voted in decides on issues, this organization will advise you on how to use mass protests and civil disobedience in the attempt to pressure the government into doing what you want.

If the reader is suddenly at full attention--with hindsight, Pundita might have made it easier on the reader if I'd mentioned that point. The organization is not really about 'democracy training.' It's about training large numbers of people to confront a government via mass protests.

Of course, taking to the streets out of anger at a voting outcome or in the attempt to pressure a government on an issue is part and parcel of life in democratic countries. But it's not democratic countries and mature democracies that are under discussion in the Democracy Stage Show Kit essay.

Lutas remonstrated that Pundita neglected to mention that the DSSK is a "mirror" of the violent rent-a-mob protests organized by dictatorships such as the Soviet regime, then asked what harm the DSSK did in the Ukraine, given that the protests did not involve bloodshed.

Lutas answered the first part of his question for himself. Pundita did not mention the rent-a-mob because it's nothing like the DSSK, which doesn't deploy violence. It's the very model of a nonviolent "by the rules" civil protest, so the DSSK is not a mirror of the rent-a-mob. The only connection is that as with the rent-a-mobs organized by dictatorships/autocratic regimes, the DSSK can be organized and controlled by a government.

However, it is wrong to assume that the DSSK does not carry the threat of violence. All massed protests carry the threat of violence; in the case of Kiev, which Lutas mentioned, there was more than threat even though no blood was shed. This wasn't evident to first glance because the paid protestors who filled the streets of Kiev to demand another the election round did not come armed. And they had been coached on how to act with the cameras rolling. They sang and danced and threw orange carnations and waved orange streamers. To the camera eye, they were a well-behaved lot following the democratic model of nonviolent protest against an unresponsive/tyrannical government.

But slowly the whole well behaved singing, dancing, clapping lot moved in on the Supreme Court building in Kiev. Inside the justices were trying to decide how to judge on the matter before them, until they realized they were blocked from leaving the building by the protestors--and with the police clearly not willing to stand between the justices inside the building and the happy campers blocking the building entrance.

That is how it came to pass that in districts that showed balloting at 100% for Yushchenko, even with as many as 24 candidates in the running, the justices did not order another election round in those districts. They gave the Orange protestors exactly what they wanted. That's the only way those justices could get out of the building, and be assured they wouldn't be torn apart by the happy clapping Orange demonstrators.

Pundita will not waste tears and Kleenex about the plight of the judges. There were voting irregularities on both sides and the country was virtually split down the middle about the candidates. Bottom line is that one oligarch clan wanted to replace another in the Ukraine government; the Orange side had EU and American backing. The Russians and their Blue candidate didn't have a handy-dandy DSSK. All they had was clunky Soviet style rent-a-mobs. When they learned the Orange side had the Full Monte DSSK, the TV cameras running and half the West's election observers parked in Ukraine, they realized they couldn't deploy the bone crackers. And Kuchma's government couldn't order the police to break heads because the police refused. So the slicker fools won. End of story.

The question is whether genuine democratic government can emerge from a putsch disguised as a peaceful revolt. The question has been discussed at great length in America since it was clear that the US was going to topple Saddam Hussein's regime and replace it with a democratic government, even though the DSSK was not deployed in that instance.

Thoughtful Americans asked, "What if the democratic government in Iraq throws out the US military and votes in a radical fundamentalist Muslim agenda? Is the US government prepared to live with that?"

The answer is that you need to be pretty darn clever, and very knowledgeable about democratic government, if you want to wiggle out of a Faustian bargain with the foreign powers that help you gain the palace. Because it's sure enough true that the powers did not help you gain the palace out of sheer love of democracy. Pundita's Democracy Stage Show Kit essay simply looks squarely at that reality.

Contrary to Zenpundit's observation, I am not skeptical about democratic rule. I am skeptical that the DSSK includes a companion guide to real democratic government. And I am realistic about the problems that the poorest emerging from dictatorial rule face, if they want to create workable democratic government.

Many people in certain countries (in Latin America, FSU) are exhausted with the constant turmoil and uncertainty that their experiment with democracy has brought them. And they are bitterly aware (as with the Ukrainians who wanted to throw out Kuchma's government) that no matter which platform/party they vote in, somehow the new administration is always the same old jazz: corrupt bureaucrats controlled by an elite that does no better at managing the country than the last bunch.

All this is despite the fact that the countries have received large ongoing infusions of aid from UN organizations, the EU and America, cheap loans from the World Bank and regional development banks, and numerous development projects concerned with creating and strengthening democratic institutions.

It's against this stark fact that the US government's use for the Democracy Stage Show Kit must be weighed. On paper the ends justify the means, as Lutas pointed out, if the regime in power is a brutal one. But the DSSK isn't a recipe for good government; it's simply a tool for wresting power. If the people carrying out the stage show aren't knowledgeable about good government they must try to invent the wheel--or allow themselves to be guided by an elite that is not necessarily a friend of true democracy. Neither option is pretty and given the problems of this era, unacceptable.

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