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Sharp Theory of Nonviolence Struggle and Color Revolutions

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Adapted from http://www.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/pubs/89jpr.html Gene Sharp's Theory of Power, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 26, no. 2, 1989, pp. 213-22 by Brian Martin.

The essence of Sharp's theory of power is quite simple: the power of rulers derives from consent by the subjects; non-violent action is a process of withdrawing consent and thus is a way to challenge the key modern problems of dictatorship, genocide, war and systems of oppression.  So in one sentence the idea of color revolutions advocated by Sharp can be stated as "delegitimization of rulers".

Sharp  borrows a lot from Marxism in general and Bolshevism in particular, especially Bolsheviks understanding of revolutionary situation although he is too shy to site those influences.

The two key concepts in Sharp's theory of power are:

The focus on obedience then leads Sharp to ask 'Why do men obey?' He suggests that important factors are habit, fear of sanctions, moral obligation, self-interest, psychological identification with the ruler, zones of indifference and absence of self-confidence among subjects (1973, pp. 16-24).

Non-violent action constitutes a refusal by subjects to obey in the presence of external forces which prevent government to use violence against the population.  So implicitly in Sharp scheme imply a powerful external country (say USA) interested in particular outcome: the  collapse of power of the current government due to the fact that it is delegitimized and non only the consent is withdrawn but action of non-obedience became prominent.

This active non-obedience actions fueled by external financing are vital. The ruler will not be threatened by grumbling, alienation or critical analyses alone. Sharp is interested in regime change.

Sharp's approach can be examined and challenged from many different angles especially from the point of view of structural approaches. The Marxist analysis of capitalism is probably the best example of this (e.g. Althusser, 1977; Baran & Sweezy, 1968; Mandel, 1976; Marcuse, 1964; Poulantzas, 1978). It includes several insight into capitalism behaviour as a social system such as the law of uneven development of international capitalism; international politics as struggles between states and also provides the framework of understanding social struggles (such as conflicts and accommodation between capitalism and labor). Founded on private property, the ownership of the means of production by a small minority of people, and a market on which labor power is purchased and exploited, capitalism appears to behave like a self-regulating system. Whatever the intentions of individual capitalists, if they do not extract surplus value from their workers and thus compete successfully in the market, they will be driven to bankruptcy.

Much Marxist scholarship has shown that vital to the establishment and maintenance of capitalist relationships are struggles between owners and employees, gender and ethnic divisions within the working class, economic intervention from the state to stabilize and protect markets, social intervention from the state to provide services (education, health and welfare) for reproducing the labor power needed by capital, and police and military intervention from the state to control labor revolts.

The resulting complex of economic and political relationships is still usually called capitalism which should be treated as a social system with its own dynamic.

Structural approaches help in analyzing social systems, if the structures which are conceptualized happen to capture key ways of organizing human interactions which tend to reproduce themselves. This is an important point. In principle, there is nothing to stop the employees at a factory from simply leaving their jobs and setting up production on their own in a different location. In practice, if the 'different location' were someone else's private property, police would be called in to evict the workers and there would be little support from anyone else in the community. Furthermore, the original company typically would find little difficulty in recruiting new workers. Thus, the system of private property and the market in labor would continue reproduce itself. It could be said that capitalist social relations are sticky.

It took many decades before the strike, a carefully circumscribed withdrawal of labor power, was accepted as legitimate, and it continues to be attacked by employers. Direct challenges to private property, such as squatting and workers' control, are even more difficult to use.

The existence of numerous internal conflicts within capitalism makes it hard to argue that capitalism is an automatically self-sustaining type of mechanism. Fundamentally involved is the commitment of individuals to the current order. This is where the concept of hegemony enters (Gramsci, 1971). Hegemony refers to the processes by which a given way of organizing social life, in which one class dominates another, becomes accepted as inevitable and desirable by most people. These processes include the mass media, formal education, the family, popular culture, and routines of daily life at work and leisure.

All those methods of achieving hegemony can be attacked, if financing is provided by external party.

One of the major dangers in using such concepts is the reification of categories. Capitalism, for example, is frequently presented as if it operates and evolves independently of the people whose interactions make it up.

The use of a structural analysis does not commit one to a particular method of political action. Historically, Marxist analysis has been linked to parties whose aim is to capture state power in the name of the working class, and for whom tools such as violence and the state are neutral. But others using a Marxist analysis favor more populist methods, involving themselves in mass struggles or working with the 'new social movements' such as the environmental, feminist and peace movements.

Limitations of Sharp's Approach

The question arise how this simplistic, pseudo-religious doctrine be so successful. It is now widely used as a blue print for color revolution used to export neoliberalism into particular countries, much Trotsky theory of permanent revolution for Marxism.

Sharp's focus on consent is individualistic and voluntaristic in orientation, as shown by his attention to psychological reasons for obedience. It requires external money source and a network of distribution for those money, such as NGO within the country as well as controlled by external power subservient press, ready to praise actions of protesters ("air cover" in cover revolution). It is typical in color revolution to create "opposition for hire" which supplements "natural" protesters making it closer for foreign power organized coup d'état, that a genuine social movement.

An analysis of social structure provides a better way to understand consent (Moore, 1978) then Shapr views. Also an understanding of the power relationships associated with capitalism would seem essential to developing effective non-violent methods of struggle. While Sharp gives numerous examples of non-violent action by workers - he devotes an entire chapter of The Politics of Nonviolent Action to 23 types of strikes (l973, pp. 257-284) - he essentially position himself as a tool of imperialist, neoliberal powers which use his theory for regime change and as such gives no examination of capitalism as a system of power, and misses out on insights provided by Marxist analysts.

While in principle an oppressive ruler can be opposed by workers walking off the job, in practice there are many factors to be taken into account in mobilizing them to do so. The workers are likely to be divided along lines of status, skill, wages, gender and ethnicity; the mass media may provide little support or active disinformation; certain workers may have been tied to the regime by dispensation of special favours, being involved in corruption, or compromised by participating in repression of minorities; education in nationalism may make it easy for the ruler to raise the specter of foreign enemies, external agitators and hurting the national interest.

Furthermore, the 'system', whatever its oppressiveness, it may still benefit large groups of people which constitute the "critical mass" of supported of regime that is not that easy to silence by using Sharp methods.  Many members of the working class, while exploited by capitalists, at the same time receive wages sufficient only to offer a life seen as better than those of their parents. Capitalism as a social system simultaneously oppresses and benefits those who live in it.

Sharp also gives no analysis of the social system of bureaucracy and how its hierarchy, division of labor and regular procedures serve to mesh everyone - including top bureaucrats - into patterns of behaviour which are hard to escape. Political struggles take place within the institutional framework of  bureaucracies (Weinstein, 1979).

As these struggles are almost always non-violent, Sharp's approach may offer some insights. But the ruler-subject dichotomy is of  very limited value here, since in a typical bureaucracy, nearly everyone has both superiors and subordinates. To be of use, the dynamics of non-violent action would have to be elaborated in light of studies of the dynamics of bureaucracy.

Another key factor in systems of power is technology. Rather than being neutral tools, technologies can be said to embody social relations (Dickson, 1974). In other words, particular artefacts are easier to use for some purposes and by some social groups than others. For example, nuclear weapons can serve the ends of state elites and perhaps some terrorists, but not the ends of environmentalists or even the police. Small-scale solar energy embodies values of self-reliance and decentralization, whereas fossil fuels are more easily linked to dependence on centralized suppliers.

The practical possibilities for 'withdrawing support' depend in part on the technological infrastructure available to protesters. Technologies for person-to-person communication, such as the cell phones, instant  messaging and Internet provide a stronger basis for non-violent resistance than one-directional technologies such as television. Sharp does not provide insights here as he wrote his books before Internt became donminant communication media.

Another important factor is the knowledge and experience of individuals and groups. People with a tradition of independence and social struggle, and with practical experience of opposing authority,  can easily use of non-violent action. Knowledge and experience of this sort depend on a number of factors, including styles of upbringing, formal education, the prevalence and mode of activity of community groups, and the organization of work.  Knowledge and experience are taken into account by Sharp in his discussions of the psychology of obedience and loci of power, but he provides no structural analysis of how people come to have the knowledge and experience that they do. Knowledge is importnat feature of processes of negotiation and the exercise of power. Governments provide funds to research and develop certain kinds of knowledge (including anti-Sharp leaflets ;-). MSM select and construct knowledge in certain ways creating the discourse for the nation.  Those factor are missing from Sharp analysys.

Like any moderately adaptable political theory, Sharp's theory of power can be extended or adapted to cover facets that initially seem to be left out. Indeed, a careful reading of Sharp's work reveals an awareness of many of the points raised here. Touching on issues in a general way, however, is quite different from integrating them into the core concepts. The adaptability of the theory does not remove its central focus, and it is this focus which shapes how the theory is used and who is likely to use it.

Sharp understanding of "oppressive regimes" is extremely naive. To fully understand the phenomenon of Stalinism, it is essential to analyze the mobilization of support and suppression of dissent through the Communist Party, the process of industrialization, the reconstitution of the hierarchical army in the 1918-21 war against the Western attack on the revolution, the social inheritance of Tsarism, and the international political scene. Similar comments apply to Nazism. The point is that Stalinism and Nazism were much more than simply systems of ruler and oppressed, and that a full understanding of 'consent' requires a deep social analysis (e.g. Gouldner, 1977-78).

This point is clearer in the context of present-day struggles, where the judgment of history has not yet become conventional wisdom in school history classes and bipartisan political rhetoric. The meaning of nonviolent action is the result of social struggle rather than following immediately from a simple examination of rulers and subjects. Those such as the Berrigans who have taken non-violent direct action against facilities linked to the capacity for nuclear warfare can be interpreted as acting for humanity against evil rulers who are willing to risk mass killing to defend systems of power. But only a minority of people accept this interpretation; in practice, the civil disobedients to the nuclear war machine are engaged in political practice to convince people that their concerns should be the concerns of others. These activists have found that the dynamic of non-violent action does not automatically click into place to generate greater support. Sharp could only agree; he continually stresses that non-violent action is not guaranteed to succeed. The trouble is that his theory of power does not provide the conceptual tools needed to determine whether direct action against nuclear facilities is a particularly effective way to challenge the current systems of power and the current ideologies which mobilize much of the population to support organized violence as 'defense' against an 'enemy'.

Sharp comes closest to a structural approach in his discussion of loci of power. For example, he describes how the distributed power of the nobility under feudalism constrained the monarch, who in principle had unlimited authority (1980, pp. 33-35). But Sharp does not introduce any concepts convenient for analysing these structures. The major purpose of his examples is to argue for his thesis that constitutions are not sufficient to control rulers, that replacing rulers does not lead to control over rulers, and that devolution and diffusion of power among many groups is necessary to control the ruler's power (1980, p. 47). In short, his discussion of structures is used to support his basic ruler-subject picture. Once established, the structures tend to be dropped out of the picture. It is perhaps significant that when Sharp does discuss structures of power it is usually using historical examples such as feudalism or Fascism rather than examples also quite relevant today such as capitalism or patriarchy.

Even Sharp's discussion of loci of power gives a very simplified picture. Sharp argues that 'In order for effective control over the ruler's power to be possible in the long run, power must be effectively devolved and diffused among various social groups and institutions throughout the society' (1980, p. 47). This ignores the possible supportive relationships between the loci ('various social groups') and dominant social groups, and conflicts between the loci themselves. For example, trade unions arose out of workers' struggles against oppressive working conditions under capitalism, and were only set up in the face of vigorous opposition by capitalists and governments. Therefore, trade unions seem to be a perfect example of loci of power. Yet, once established, many trade unions have been incorporated into the 'system' and act to control the workers, for example in opposing grassroots worker initiatives and wildcat strikes. The existence of hierarchy and bureaucracy in trade union structures belies the image of a straightforward process of devolution of power.

Trade unions, too, have been key agencies for maintaining the gender division of labour, often in the face of the acceptance or preference of employers for women at a lower wage (Walby, 1986). Women's groups in their struggle against discrimination in employment have gained some leverage from state power, for example in the form of equal employment legislation. This seems to be a process of one locus of power, the women's movement, drawing on state power (the 'ruler') to challenge features of another locus of power, namely patriarchal work practices supported by trade unions. A similar analysis could be made of the dual role of other organizations, such as political parties or environmental lobbies, which act both to gain concessions and coopt radical ferment. The message from such examples is that Sharp's idea of strengthening the loci of power is not nearly as straightforward as it might seem, while the complexities are hard to grasp using Sharp's conceptual framework.

Sharp argues that the use of non-violent action tends to diffuse power: 'Changes achieved by nonviolent action are therefore likely to be more lasting' (1980, p. 62). Sharp's lack of structural analysis makes it difficult to say anything more than this vague claim. The practical results of non-violent action depend on the political context, and a detailed analysis needs to be made to determine the role of nonviolent action (e.g. Zielonka, 1986).

For example, the Iranian Revolution in 1978-1979 was won largely through the mass use of non-violent methods mobilized through the decentralized loci of the bazaars. Furthermore, in the early stages of the revolution there were some important social initiatives, for example towards equality for women (Albert, 1980). Yet the revolution quickly turned into a system of centralized repression. Factors involved in this transformation include the availability of the state bureaucracy and military forces from the Shah's regime, the hierarchical structure and ideology of Shiite Islam, and the global political configuration. The point here is that a simple analysis of the 'dynamics of nonviolent action' leaves out much of the social complexity needed to understand the Iranian events. Structural analysis has much to offer in understanding the process of revolution (Skocpol, 1979, 1982).

From the point of view of structural approaches to social analysis, Sharp's theory of power is much too simple to capture the full dynamics of society, if it is not misconceived entirely. But this critique has been made using a tacit assumption, associated with structural approaches, about what a theory of power is supposed to achieve. To unearth this assumption, it is useful to start with a basic question: what is the point of having a theory of power in the first place?

The usual answer to this question in social science would appeal to some unexamined notion of achieving a better 'understanding' of social reality. But, to pursue the point, what is the purpose of better understanding? Whose ends does this understanding serve? If the aim to advance the careers of intellectuals who stand by the side observing society but preferring to avoid interaction with it, then a complex, erudite theory serves admirably. On the other hand, if the aim is to provide some insights which can be used by activists, then a simple, straightforward, easy-to-apply theory is far superior, so long as it grasps certain basic insights. By this criterion, Sharp's theory is highly successful.

While his jargon-free accessibility is important, however, his picture is essentially voluntarist and simplistic: people, by deciding to withdraw consent, can topple even the most repressive dictatorship. Sharp provides not only a host of examples of non-violent action, but also describes a simple dynamics which shows how seeming weakness - nonviolence - can lead to increasing support.

Sharp has been taken up as the patron theorist of color revolutions around the world. His ideas about power are regularly presented in color revolution activists training sessions,  endlessly re-used in talks and leaflets, and his authority is routinely invoked in support of non-violence.

Ironically, while Sharp's analysis is most applicable to at least semi-democratic then to pure authoritarian regimes. As soon as regime decide to cut West monetary and political support of neoliberal forces within the country color revolution comes to a screeching halt as happened in Russia. The other aspect of color revolutions is that can be tremendously successful if the country is already divided (Orange Revolution in Ukraine). Sharp method would be ineffective under Stalin's rule: gulags have enough capacity to host all the participants of non-violent actions and secret police would infiltrate any attempt to organize protests in no time.


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[Sep 20, 2020] "I'd Rather Have This Book Than The Atomic Bomb"

Sep 20, 2020 | www.theburningplatform.com

Ominous stuff indeed. For readers who wish to read further, please consult the full Politico piece from which we have excerpted the above highlighted passages. There is also a fascinating documentary on Sharp instructively titled " How to Start a Revolution ."

This is all interesting and disturbing, to say the least. In its own right it would suggest a compelling nexus point between the operations run against Trump and the Color Revolution playbook. But what does this have to do with our subject Norm Eisen? It just so happens that Eisen explicitly places himself in the tradition of Gene Sharp, acknowledging his book "The Playbook" as a kind of update to Sharp's seminal "Dictatorship to Democracy."

https://www.youtube.com/embed/bb8mGNWwv-Y

And there we have it, folks -- Norm Eisen, former Obama Ethics Czar, Ambassador to Czechoslovakia during the "Velvet Revolution," key counsel in impeachment effort against Trump, and participant in the ostensibly bi-partisan election war games predicting a contested election scenario unfavorable to Trump -- just happens to be a Color Revolution expert who literally wrote the modern "Playbook" in the explicitly acknowledged tradition of Color Revolution Godfather Gene Sharp's "From Dictatorship to Democracy."

Before we turn to the contents of Norm Eisen's Color Revolution manual, full title "The Democracy Playbook: Preventing and Reversing Democratic Backsliding," it will be useful to make a brief point regarding the term "democracy" itself, which happens to appear in the title of Gene Sharp's book "From Dictatorship to Democracy" as well.

Just like the term "peaceful protestor," which, as we pointed out in our George Kent essay is used as a term of craft in the Color Revolution context, so is the term "democracy" itself. The US Government launches Color Revolutions against foreign targets irrespective of whether they actually enjoy the support of the people or were elected democratically. In the case of Trump, whatever one says about him, he is perhaps the most "democratically" elected President in America's history. Indeed, in 2016 Trump ran against the coordinated opposition of the establishments of both parties, the military industrial complex, the corporate media, Hollywood, and really every single powerful institution in the country. He won, however, because he was able to garner sufficient support of the people -- his true and decisive power base as a "populist." Precisely because of the ultra democratic "populist" character of Trump's victory, the operatives attempting to undermine him have focused specifically on attacking the democratic legitimacy of his victory.

In this vein we ought to note that the term "democratic backsliding," as seen in the subtitle of Norm Eisen's book, and its opposite "democratic breakthrough" are also terms of art in the Color Revolution lexicon. We leave the full exploration of how the term "democratic" is used deceptively in the Color Revolution context (and in names of decidedly anti-democratic/populist institutions) as an exercise to the interested reader. Michael McFaul, another Color Revolution expert and key anti-Trump operative somewhat gives the game away in the following tweet in which the term "democratic breakthrough" makes an appearance as a better sounding alternative to "Color Revolution:"

Most likely as a response to Revolver News' first Color Revolution article on State Department official George Kent, former Ambassador McFaul issued the following tweet as a matter of damage control:

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1297593718363394048&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theburningplatform.com%2F2020%2F09%2F20%2Fid-rather-have-this-book-than-the-atomic-bomb%2F&partner=tfwp&siteScreenName=burningplat&theme=light&widgetsVersion=219d021%3A1598982042171&width=550px

What on earth then might Color Revolution expert and Obama's former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who has been a key player agitating for President Trump's impeachment, mean by "democratic breakthrough?"

Being a rather simple man from a simple background, McFaul perhaps gave too much of this answer away in the following explanation (now deleted).

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With this now-deleted tweet we get a clearer picture of the power bases that must be satisfied for a "democratic breakthrough" to occur -- and conveniently enough, not one of them is subject to direct democratic control. McFaul, Like Eisen, George Kent, and so many others, perfectly embodies Revolver's thesis regarding the Color Revolution being the same people running the same playbook. Indeed, like most of the star never-Trump impeachment witnesses, McFaul is or has been an ambassador to an Eastern European country. He has supported operations against Trump, including impeachment. And, like Norm Eisen, he has actually written a book on Color Revolutions (more on that later).

Norm Eisen's The Democracy Playbook: A Brief Overview:

A deep dive into Eisen's book would exceed the scope of this relatively brief exposé. It is nonetheless important for us to draw attention to key passages of Eisen's book to underscore how closely the "Playbook" corresponds to events unfolding right here at home. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that regime change professionals such as Eisen simply decided to run the same playbook against Trump that they have done countless times when foreign leaders are elected overseas that they don't like and want to remove via extra-democratic means -- "peaceful protests," "democratic breakthroughs" and such.

First, consider the following passage from Eisen's Playbook:

If you study this passage closely, you will find direct confirmation of our earlier point that "democracy" in the Color Revolution context is a term of art -- it refers to anything they like that keeps the national security bureaucrats in power. Anything they don't like, even if elected democratically, is considered "anti-democratic," or, put another way, "democratic backsliding." Eisen even acknowledges that this scourge of populism he's so worried about actually was ushered in with "popular support," under "relatively democratic and electoral processes." The problem is precisely that the people have had enough of the corrupt ruling class ignoring their needs. Accordingly, the people voted first for Brexit and then for Donald Trump -- terrifying expressions of populism which the broader Western power structure did everything in its capacity to prevent. Once they failed, they viewed these twin populist victories as a kind of political 9/11 to be prevented by any means necessary from recurring. Make no mistake, the Color Revolution has nothing to do with democracy in any meaningful sense and everything to do with the ruling class ensuring that the people will never have the power to meddle in their own elections again.

The passage above can be insightfully compared to the passage in Gene Sharp's book noting ripe applications to the domestic situation.

It is instructive to compare the passage in Eisen's Color Revolution book to the passage in Michael McFaul's Color Revolution book:

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First off, it is absolutely imperative to look at every single one of the conditions for a Color Revolution that McFaul identifies. It is simply impossible not to be overcome with the ominous parallels to our current situation. Specifically, however, note condition 1 which refers to having a target leader who is not fully authoritarian, but semi-autocratic. This coincides perfectly well with Eisen's concession that the populist leaders he's so concerned about might be "illiberal" but enjoy "popular support" and have come to power via "relatively democratic electoral processes."

Consulting the above passage from McFaul's book, we note that McFaul has been perhaps the most explicit about the conditions which facilitate a Color Revolution. We invite the reader to supply the contemporary analogue to each point as a kind of exercise.

    1. A semi-autocratic regime rather than fully autocratic
    2. An unpopular incumbent (note blanket negative coverage of Trump, fake polls)
    3. A united and organized opposition (media, intel community, Hollywood, community groups, etc)
    4. An ability to quickly drive home the point that voting results were falsified -- See our piece on the Transition Integrity Project
    5. Enough independent media to inform citizens of falsified vote (see full court press in media pushing contested election narrative, social media censorship)
    6. A political opposition capable of mobilizing tens of thousands or more demonstrators to protest electoral fraud ( SEE BLACK LIVES MATTER AND ANTIFA )

On point number four , which is especially relevant to our present situation, Eisen has an interesting thing to say about the role of a contested election scenario in the Orange Revolution, arguably the most important Color Revolution of them all.

Finally, let's look at one last passage from Norm Eisen's Color Revolution "Democracy Playbook" and cross-reference it with McFaul's conditions for a Color Revolution as well as the situation playing out right now before our very eyes:

A few things immediately jump out at us. First, the ominous instruction: "prepare to use electoral abuse evidence as the basis for reform advocacy." Secondly, we note the passage suggesting that opposition to a target leader might avail itself of "extreme institutional measures" including impeachment processes, votes of no confidence, and, of course, the good old-fashioned "protests, strikes, and boycotts" (all more or less peaceful no doubt).

By now the Color Revolution agenda against Trump should be as plain as day. Regime change professionals like McFaul, Eisen, George Kent, and others, who have refined their craft conducting color revolutions overseas, have taken it upon themselves to use the same tools, the same tactics -- quite literally, the same playbook -- to overthrow President Trump. Yet again, same people, same playbook.

We conclude this study of key Color Revolution figure Norm Eisen by exploring his particularly proactive -- indeed central role -- in effecting one of the Color Revolution's components mentioned in the Eisen Playbook -- impeachment.

__________

The Ghost of Democracy's Future

We mentioned at the outset of this piece that Norm Eisen is many things -- a former Obama Ethics Czar (but of course), Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, participant in the now notorious Transition Integrity Project, et cetera. But he earned his title as "legal hatchet man" of the Color Revolution for his tireless efforts in promoting the impeachment of President Trump.

The litany of Norm Eisen's legal activity cited at the beginning of this piece bears repeating.

As the man who implemented the David Brock blueprint for suing the President into paralysis and his allies into bankruptcy , who helped mainstream and amplify the Russia Hoax, who drafted 10 articles of impeachment for the Democrats a full month before President Trump ever called the Ukraine President in 2018 , who personally served as DNC co-counsel for litigating the Ukraine impeachment

If that resume doesn't warrant the title "legal hatchet man" we wonder what does? We encourage interested readers or journalists to explore those links for themselves. By way of conclusion, it simply suffices to note that much of Eisen's impeachment activity he conducted before there was any discussion or knowledge of President Trump's call to the Ukrainian President in 2018 -- indeed before the call even happened. Impeachment was very clearly a foregone conclusion -- a quite literal part of Norm Eisen's Color Revolution playbook -- and it was up to people like Eisen to find the pretext, any pretext.

Despite their constant invocation of "democracy" we ought to note that transferring the question of electoral outcomes to adversarial legal processes is in fact anti-Democratic -- in keeping with our observation that the Color Revolution playbook uses "democracy" as a term of art, often meaning the precise opposite of the usual meaning suggesting popular support.

Perhaps the most important entry in Eisen's entry is the first, that is, Eisen's participation in the infamous David Brock blueprint on how to undermine and overthrow the Trump presidency.

The Washington Free Beacon attended the retreat and obtained David Brock's private and confidential memorandum from the meeting. The memo, " Democracy Matters: Strategic Plan for Action ," outlines Brock's four-year agenda to attack Trump and Republicans using Media Matters, American Bridge, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) , and Shareblue.

The memo contains plans for defeating Trump through impeachment , expanding Media Matters' mission to combat " government misinformation ," ensuring Democratic control of the Senate in the 2018 midterm elections , filing lawsuits against the Trump administration, monetizing political advocacy , using a "digital attacker" to delegitimize Trump's presidency and damage Republicans, and partnering with Facebook to combat "fake news." [Washington Free Beacon]

This leaked memo was written before President Trump took office, further suggesting that all of the efforts to undermine Trump have not been good faith responses to his behavior, but a pre-ordained attack strategy designed to overturn the 2016 election by any means necessary. The Color Revolution expert who suggests impeachment as a tactic in his Color Revolution "playbook" was already in charge of impeachment before Trump even took office -- -Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is run by none other than Norm Eisen.

But the attempt to overturn the 2016 election using Color Revolution tactics failed. And so now the plan is to overthrow Trump in 2020, hence Norm Eisen's noted participation in the Transition Integrity Project. Looking around us, one is forced to ask the deeply uncomfortable question, "transition into what?"

To conclude, we would like to call back to a point we raised in the first piece in our color revolution series. In this piece, we noted that star Never Trump impeachment witness George Kent just happens to be running the Belarus desk at the State Department. Belarus, we argued, with its mass demonstrations egged on by US Government backed NGOS, its supposed "peaceful protests" and of course its contested election results all fit the Color Revolution mold curiously enough.

One NGO called the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group (TDWG) was bold or reckless enough to draw the parallels between the Color Revolution in Belarus and the events playing out against Trump explicitly. In response to a remark by a twitter user that the TDWG's remarks about Belarus suggested parallels to the United States, the TDWG ominously replied:

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-2&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1292956044252131329&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theburningplatform.com%2F2020%2F09%2F20%2Fid-rather-have-this-book-than-the-atomic-bomb%2F&partner=tfwp&siteScreenName=burningplat&theme=light&widgetsVersion=219d021%3A1598982042171&width=550px

Now, would the reader care to take a guess as to who runs the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group? If you guessed Norm Eisen, you would be correct.

Stay tuned for more in Revolver.news' groundbreaking coverage of the Color Revolution against Trump. Be sure to check out the previous installments in this series:

REVOLVER EXCLUSIVE -- The Curious Case of George Kent: State Department's Belarus "Color Revolution" Expert And "Never Trump" Impeachment Witness

REVOLVER EXCLUSIVE: Transition Integrity Project: Is this Soros Linked Group Plotting a "Color Revolution" Against President Trump?

*****************

The QT has referenced "the playbook" (uncapitalized) several times. Don't know if they are pointing to Eisen's book, or the "Nazi" playbook. Whichever one it is, probably both, the legitimate question can be asked:

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Q !!mG7VJxZNCI 11/15/2019 13:38:28 ID: 0a9027
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What advantages might exist when you know the other sides playbook ?
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trap
Enjoy the show!
Q

* Note what word is being defined in the dictionary link.

If interested in seeing what QT is referencing in regards to "the playbook" you can click this link , type " playbook " into the 'Search' and all mentions of 'playbook' in the drops will come up.

Examples:

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[Sep 20, 2020] NGOs - Information Resource Center

Sep 20, 2020 | ircsofia.wordpress.com

Information Resource Center U.S. Embassy – Sofia, Bulgaria The Democracy Playbook: Preventing and Reversing Democratic Backsliding Posted on January 22, 2020

The Democracy Playbook: Preventing and Reversing Democratic Backsliding. Brookings Institution. Norman Eisen et al. November 2019

The Democracy Playbook sets forth strategies and actions that supporters of liberal democracy can implement to halt and reverse democratic backsliding and make democratic institutions work more effectively for citizens. The strategies are deeply rooted in the evidence: what the scholarship and practice of democracy teach us about what does and does not work. We hope that diverse groups and individuals will find the syntheses herein useful as they design catered, context-specific strategies for contesting and resisting the illiberal toolkit. This playbook is organized into two principal sections: one dealing with actions that domestic actors can take within democracies, including retrenching ones, and the second section addressing the role of international actors in supporting and empowering pro-democracy actors on the ground. [ Note: contains copyrighted material ].

[PDF format, 100 pages].

[Oct 31, 2019] Global Protests Round-Up Authoritarian Adaptation, Data Gathering, and the Role of Class

Notable quotes:
"... American Resistance ..."
"... in the United States ..."
"... color revolution ..."
"... Gene Sharp ..."
Oct 31, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

In Chile, a country of around 17 million people, more than 1 million people r out in the streets of capital Santiago protesting neoliberalism and the US-friendly govt's repression of protest. The Western media are curiously silent about the scale of the uprising. # ChileDesperto

... ... ...

Once again, protests in 22 countries is rather a lot (and these, as it were, the wildfires, not small flare-ups here and there). But note that none of the sources (including me, "L.S.") have a consistent list; it's extraordinary that Bloomberg, which is an actual new gathering organization, omits Haiti, and that Human Rights Watch (HRW) omits France (since the state violence deployed against the gilet jaunes has been significant, far me so than Hong Kong).

So how are we to make sense of these protests? The Dean, we might call her, of studies in non-violent protest (and hence of the violence that accompanies or suppresses it) is Erica Chenoweth, so we will begin with her (I would classify her as an academic rather than an advocate, like Gene Sharp.) From there, we will broaden out to look at how the data that any academic -- and, one would think, news-gathering organizations -- would use. Finally, we'll look at what the previous two academic approaches do not really consider: The social basis of protests as a predictor of success.

She speculates that the cause of the this decline is due to Authoritarian Adaptation:

the ability of authoritarian governments to adopt more politically savvy repressive tools may be part of
the reason for the decline in success rates in the past six years. 21 . Authoritarian leaders have begun to
develop and systematize sophisticated techniques to undermine and thwart nonviolent activists.

Chenoweth provides this table, categorizing these techniques:

table l Methods of authoritarian adaptation against nonviolent resistance 2 *

Strategies to Reinforce Elite Loyalty

• Pay off the inner entourage
•Co-optoppositionists

• Use public brutality against accused defectors to deter further defections
Strategies to Suppress or Undermine the Movement

• Use direct violence against dissidents or their associates

• Counter-mobilize one's own supporters

• Plant plain-clothes police and agents provocateurs

• Solicit the help of paramilitary groups and pro-state armed militias

• Infiltrate the movement and engage in surveillance

• Pass pseudo-legitimate laws and practices that criminalize erstwhile legal

behaviors

• Add administrative and financial burdens to civil society groups
Strategies to Reinforce Support among the Public and Other Observers

• Blame foreigners and outsiders

• Mischaracterize domestic oppositionists as terrorists, traitors, coup plotters, or
communists

• Conceal information through censorship and spin

• Remove foreign journalists from the country

21. There may be several other reasons for this decline in effectiveness. First, because non-violent resistance has become such a popular and widespread practice, it is possible that those wielding it do not yet have the requisite skill sets to ensure victory. For example, Kurt Weyland has shown that radicals in various European capitals mobilized against their dynastic sovereigns with a sense of false optimism , having witnessed a successful revolution in France in February of 1848 (Kurt Weyland, 'The Diffusion of Revolution: "1848" in Europe and Latin America,' International Organization 63/3:391–423 (2009)). They essentially drew what Weyland calls "rash conclusions" about their own prospects for success and attempted to import the French revolutionary model into their own contexts, failing miserably. Second, a higher proportion of nonviolent uprisings since 2010 possess "violent flanks" -- segments or groups within the campaign that destroy property, engage in street fighting, or use lethal violence alongside a predominantly nonviolent movement -- than in previous decades. Violent flanks tend to undermine participation rates in nonviolent movements while discouraging security force defections (see Erica Chenoweth and Kurt Schock, 'Do Contemporaneous Armed Challenges Affect the Out-comes of Mass Nonviolent Campaigns?' Mobilization: An International Quarterly 20/4: 427–451 (2015)). Whereas the most successful decades of nonviolent resistance featured highly disciplined campaigns of nonviolent action, today almost 50% of primarily nonviolent campaigns possess some degree of violent activity from within .

Chenoweth's strictures on "violent flanks" may apply to Hong Kong (though it is also true that the Hong Kong protesters have achieved their first goal, the withdrawal of the of the extradition bill). However, we should also remember the protester's spray-painted slogan: " It was you who taught me that peaceful marches are useless ." We have yet to see. Perhaps practice has outrun the academics. Perhaps not. We will look at this issue more tomorrow; obviously, it applies to Chile.

Data Gathering (Fisher, et al.)

Chenoweth's dataset of "major episodes of contention, 1/1/1900–5/1/2016" includes 237 non-violent and 235 violent cases. But if we seek to record and classify protests in near real time, there will be orders of magnitude more cases than that. Two projects to do just that are described by Dana R. Fisher, Kenneth T. Andrews, Neal Caren, Erica Chenoweth, Michael T. Heaney, Tommy Leung, L. Nathan Perkins, and Jeremy Pressman in " The science of contemporary street protest: New efforts in the United States " (Science Advances, October 23, 2019). This is a fascinating article, which I encourage all big data fans to read in full. From the abstract:

This article reviews the two most central methods for studying street protest on a large scale: building comprehensive event databases and conducting field surveys of participants at demonstrations.

Of event databases, they write:

Tracking protest events in real time is fundamentally a discovery and coding problem. It resembles the data collection components of past efforts to study protest by aggregating data from third-party sources (51, 54). Unique to today's environment is the sheer number of sources and the time-limited nature of the discovery-and-review period: Given the transience of information on the internet compared to print media, thousands of sources produce reports of variable reliability on a daily basis. Researchers must archive and extract information such as where, when, and why a protest took place, as well as how many people attended, before that content is moved behind a paywall, deleted, or otherwise made unavailable.

(Encouragingly, the event database is a citizen science effort.) However:

these event-counting methods also have several reliability, coding, and discovery limitations and challenges, including (i) resolving discrepancies in reported data, such as crowd size, for the same event reported by multiple sources; (ii) evaluating the reliability and bias of each source; (iii) requiring manual review of what can be hundreds of potential protest reports every day; (iv) accurately and consistently coding events in near real time; and (v) having an incomplete list of sources and an incomplete list of reports from known sources.

Of field surveys, Fisher et al. write:

The complex environment of a protest leads researchers to focus their attention on several considerations that are not common in many other types of surveys. First, it is impossible to establish a sampling frame based on the population, as the investigator does not have a list of all people participating in an event; who participates in a protest is not known until the day of the event; and no census of participants exists. Working without this information, the investigator must find a way to elicit a random sample in the field during the event. Second, crowd conditions may affect the ability of the investigator to draw a sample. The ease or difficulty of sampling depends on whether the crowd is stationary or moving, whether it is sparse or dense, and the level of confrontation by participants. Stationary, sparse crowds that are peaceful and not engaged in confrontational tactics (such as civil disobedience, or more violent tactics, like throwing items at the police) tend to be more conducive to research. In general, the presence of police, counter-protesters, or violence by demonstrators are all likely to make it more difficult to collect a sample. Third and last, weather is an important factor. Weather conditions, such as rain, snow, or high temperatures, may interfere with the data collection process and the crowd's willingness to participate in a survey.

The Women's March after Trump was elected was one subject of surveys:

In her book American Resistance , Fisher examined seven of the largest protests in Washington, DC, associated with opposition to President Trump: the 2017 Women's March, the March for Science, the People's Climate March, the March for Racial Justice, the 2018 Women's March, the March for Our Lives, and Families Belong Together (81). Her results show that the Resistance was disproportionately female (at least 54%), highly educated (with more than 70% holding a bachelor's degree), majority white (more than 62%), and had an average adult age of 38 to 49 years. Further, she found that the Resistance is almost entirely left-leaning in its political ideology (more than 85%). Resistance participants were motivated to march by a wide range of issues, with women's rights, environmental protection, racial justice, immigration, and police brutality being among the more common motivations (83). She also found that participants did not limit their activism to marching in the streets, as more than half of the respondents had previously contacted an elected official and more than 40% had attended a town hall meeting

I think Thomas Frank would recognize "the Resistance," although Fisher seems to have an odd concept of what "the left" might mean. For example, there's no mention of strengthening unions, the minimum wage, or the power of billionaries, so I wonder what her coding practices were.

The authors conclude -- as a good academic should do! -- with a call for further research:

Moving forward, best practices will require forming teams of scholars that are geographically dispersed in a way that corresponds with the distribution of the events under investigation. While previous studies have concentrated on conducting surveys in different regions and in major cities, the datasets would be more representative if data were collected in multiple locations simultaneously in a way that represents smaller cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

Consider an event projected to take place in 300 cities simultaneously in the United States or Europe. Suppose that the target areas were stratified into 12 regions or countries. If a survey was conducted in three types of locations -- one city, one suburb, and one rural site or one capital, one college town, and one urban area with neither a capital nor a university -- in each region, that would require the survey to go into the field in 36 locations (or roughly 12% of events). Such a task would likely require a minimum of 12 to 36 scholars working together, each coordinating research teams to collect survey data at events in their region. Even more resources and institutionalization would be required to conduct crowd surveys at a genuine random sample of events.

Beyond collaboration among multiple scholars, scaling up the administration of surveys would also require standardization of the instrument, sampling, and practices in entering and coding the survey data.

Ironically, the scale of the effort to survey and record such an event -- say, each scholar would have a team of 10, for a total of 360, would be within an order of magnitude or so of that required to organize it! (There were 24,000 Bolsheviks in 1917). What this article does show, however, is how blind the public and the press are flying (though doubtless the various organs of state security have better information.)

Class (Dahlum, et al.)

Finally, we arrive at Sirianne Dahlum, Carl Henrik Knutsen, and Tore Wig, " Who Revolts? Empirically Revisiting the Social Origins of Democracy " (The Journal of Politics, August 2019). They conclude:

We further develop the argument that opposition movements dominated by industrial workers or the urban middle classes have both the requisite motivation and capacity to bring about

democratization . We clarify how and why the social composition of opposition movements affects democratization. We expect that both the urban middle classes and, especially, industrial workers have the requisite motivation and capacity to engender democratization, at least in fairly urban and industrialized societies.

Other social groups -- even after mobilizing in opposition to the regime -- often lack the capacity to sustain large-scale collective action or the motivation to pursue democracy. We collect data on the social composition of opposition movements to test these expectations, measuring degree of participation of six major social groups in about 200 antiregime campaigns globally from 1900 to 2006. Movements dominated by industrial workers or middle classes are more likely to yield democratization, particularly in fairly urbanized societies. Movements dominated by other groups, such as peasants or military personnel, are not conducive to democratization, even compared to situations without any opposition mobilization. When separating the groups, results are more robust for industrial worker campaigns

Why? Our old friend, " operational capacity ":

The capacities of protestors are found in their leverage and in their abilities to coordinate and maintain large-scale collective action. Leverage comes from the power resources that a group can draw on to inflict various costs on the autocratic regime and thus use to extract concessions, including political liberalization. Leverage can come from the ability to impose economic costs on the regime, through measures such as moving capital assets abroad or carrying out strikes in vital sectors. Other sources of leverage include access to weapons, manpower with relevant training, and militant ideologies that motivate recruits. Urban middle classes score high on leverage in many societies. Many urban professionals occupy inflection points in the economy, such as finance. Industrial workers can also hold a strategic stranglehold over the economy, being able to organize nationwide or localized strikes targeting key sources of revenue for the regime. In addition, workers often have fairly high military potential, due to military experience (e.g., under mass conscription) and, historically, often being related to revolutionary, sometimes violence-condoning, ideologies (Hobsbawm 1974).

Riots and uprisings are often fleeting, and opposition movements are therefore more frequent than regime changes. Hence, in addition to leverage, protestors must be able to organize and maintain large-scale collective action over time, also after an initial uprising, in order to challenge the regime. In this regard, groups with permanent, streamlined organizations can effectively transmit information, monitor participants, and disperse side payments. Organizations also help with recruiting new individuals, networking with foreign actors, and experimenting with and learning effective tactics. The urban middle classes have some potent assets in this regard, as they include members with high human capital, which might enhance organizational skills. Various civil society, student, and professional organizations can help mobilize at least parts of the middle classes. Industrial workers typically score very high on organizational capacity (see Collier 1999; Rueschemeyer et al. 1992). They are often organized in long-standing and comprehensive unions and labor parties and have extensive networks, including international labor organizations and the Socialist International. In sum, we expect opposition movements dominated by the middle classes or industrial workers to be related to subsequent democratization. Yet, we anticipate a clearer relationship for industrial worker campaigns, due to their multiple sources of leverage and especially strong organizational capacity allowing for effective and sustained challenges to the regime.

Lots to ponder here, including the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of a quintessentially "urban middle class" protest, the Women's March, potential differences between Hong Kong and (say) Chile, and much much more -- including the operational capacities of our own working class, and the effects of deindustrialization and gutting unions. I wonder of the condition of teeth, as a class marker, is included in any survey coding?

Conclusion

I hope this survey of the literature has been stimulating. I will have more to say about invididual protests tomorrow.

NOTES

[1] I'm super-uncomfortable with the "responsibility to protect" framing (which is why so much of the focus of the article is on state violence, presumably as a justification for the U.S. to intervene). That suggests to me that Chenoweth runs with the wrong crowd, at least part of the time.


Geo , October 27, 2019 at 6:47 pm

Back in 2004 I had a few friends working in a film shot during the RNC convention protests. It made headlines because actress Rosario Dawson was arrested (police thought she was an anarchist protestor). The film shoot had footage of an undercover police officer posing as a protestor starting scuffles and trying to rile up other protestors.

It was written up in The NY Times but people still act as if this is crazed conspiracy talk.

Police Infiltrate Protests:
https://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/22/nyregion/police-infiltrate-protests-videotapes-show.html

Rosario Dawson Arrested:
https://ew.com/article/2004/08/30/rosario-dawson-arrested-gop-convention-protest/

Lambert Strether Post author , October 28, 2019 at 6:47 am

Thanks for this.

ambrit , October 27, 2019 at 8:41 pm

Of interest is the underlying assumption in the Conclusion of your post; that pre-existing exposure to sub-national group organizing is positive towards successful outcomes. In most situations, a Union is organized against strong countervailing pressures from the Owner class. A winnowing out process that concentrates and toughens successful organizers has already occurred. As it were, protests that draw on extant Union personnel have an automatic advantage. An entire step in the organization formation process has been rendered irrelevant. Access to "off the shelf" organizers will jump start a movement.
As a corollary to the above, I note the absence of an even semi-professional class of agitators in the United States. Not so do I note an absence of outright professional Organs of the State: Oppressors.
A century ago, the world had several international organizations seriously dedicated to the subversion and overthrow of "Free Market" Capitalism. Today?

hemeantwell , October 28, 2019 at 11:54 am

A century ago, the world had several international organizations seriously dedicated to the subversion and overthrow of "Free Market" Capitalism.

True, and that complicates the studies Lambert cites in at least two ways.

1. In what Lambert reports, and I think he's got the drift of their arguments, the distinction between violent and nonviolent movements ignores the way in which nonviolent movements have deployed the threat of violence precisely by offering themselves as a nonviolent alternative. Within the Civil Rights movement in this country "if you don't listent to us, you'll get them" was part of King's message to white elites, with "them" referring to everyone from Malcolm X to the revolutionary elements of international Marxism. Others with a better understanding of India's independence movement could find a parallel.

2. Running in the opposite direction, international movements, particularly on the left, have often been a brake on local initiative. The Trotskyist critique of Stalinist practice, wherein the Stalinist international imposed, often murderously, controls on national communist parties to avoid (overly) antagonizing the bourgeois international, is at least historically accurate, however much one might dispute its strategic validity. This isn't so immediately relevant to the violent/nonviolent question, but it does help foreground the international context that the summarized articles appear to lose track of.

Especially due to (1) the data behind the graph needs a good review for 'interactive effects' of this sort.

inode_buddha , October 27, 2019 at 9:11 pm

"Oh, they're rioting in Africa
They're starving in Spain
They're purging in Bosnia
And Texas needs rain "

Does anyone else remember the Kingston Trio's "Merry Little Minuet"?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVUh5OaiADc

PlutoniumKun , October 27, 2019 at 9:28 pm

3 weeks ago I witnessed a large protest on the streets of Seoul, I'd think at least 50,000 people. But it was mostly elderly folk and very right wing, essentially protesting at what they see as Government policies that are too pro Chinese and pro North Korean. The protests were clearly well financed and organized – the banners were mass produced and 'non-official' ones were almost all pushed to the fringes. Locals were contemptuous, saying they'd all been paid to turn up and bussed in from the provinces. There were smaller protests on other days. All were peaceful.

I also saw the aftermath of a very big protest in Hong Kong A few days before. There was a lot less damage than you'd think from the international reporting, a few shops burnt out. But I was left with little doubt that there was a lot of 'silent' support among regular HKers and even ethnic Chinese (mainlanders) for the protests.

VietnamVet , October 27, 2019 at 9:58 pm

The winners write history. Surviving losers also rewrite history ('Gone with the Wind"). Or, past lives are never written about at all. The problem is that western government has swirled down the drain into incompetent delusion. Corporations rule. Plutocrats are in combat over the spoils. Protests won't work until police and mercenaries realized that they aren't being paid enough to die or to subjugate their own families.

Right now, the problem is two million Californians forced out of their homes or waiting with no electricity for evacuation orders. The American government is simply incapable rebuilding Puerto Rico or Northern California. Or handling global plagues such as African Swine Fever that has already killed a quarter of the global pig population. Simply put, climate change, overpopulation, and rising inequality assure that revolutions cannot be orderly.

The 10% Technocrats like Elizabeth Warren will try to keep things running until they can't anymore.

Lambert Strether Post author , October 28, 2019 at 1:11 am

> The American government is simply incapable of rebuilding Puerto Rico or Northern California.

American elites are resolutely opposed to simply incapable of rebuilding Puerto Rico or Northern California.

Fixed it for ya

Oregoncharles , October 28, 2019 at 1:34 am

Does the administrative capability still exist? When we talk about "3rd World," we're saying it doesn't.

So, can PGE or PERS be fixed?

Oregoncharles , October 28, 2019 at 1:53 am

"operational capacity" – yes, that's the term I wanted.

deplorado , October 27, 2019 at 11:33 pm

Sorry, what is "adaption" in the title?

Lambert Strether Post author , October 28, 2019 at 1:09 am

A typo!

Noel Nospamington , October 27, 2019 at 11:37 pm

I don't see how the protests in Spain by Catalan nationalists are a case of political freedom.

If you believe that the right of self determination means that countries like Spain are divisible, then why not also allow Catalonia to also be divisible? And let people in every city, town, street, and house be able to decide which country they want to split off or join?

I would have complete sympathy if Catalans were protesting against any legitimate oppression regarding their language or culture, or any other related discrimination. Why don't more Catalans simple work with others in Spain and the EU to make it more equal, fair, and just, than give in to racist nationalism?

The modern world simply cannot afford to allow nationists to split up the world into smaller pieces, which often leads to wars, ethnic cleansing, and additional oppression of any remaining "non-pure" people.

Ignacio , October 28, 2019 at 6:22 am

This is a good question for which the stupidity of brainless nationalism has no answer (nationalism musn't be brainless but too often it is). In reality this is more an struggle for political power rather than fight for rights. And of course, although less noisy, there are many catalans that don't give a damn on independence. Only, or as many as, 42% of catalans ask for a referendum on independence but a larger majority prefers negotiations on autonomy.

One would think that brexit is a good example of what could go wrong on badly thougth procedures of independence but blind nationalism, always believes in its exceptionality. You can compare the Torras and Puigdemont of the moment as illuminated as Jonhson or Blair in their own moments: feeling incapable of wrong doing and above procedure rules. A recipe for disaster if they ever prevail.

Ignacio , October 28, 2019 at 6:28 am

Not to mention those grandiose catalan leaders are as neoliberals as any other counterpart of its class around the world.

Ignacio , October 28, 2019 at 8:47 am

As an example we have Mr. Utility Friendly Torras, current president of the Generalitat, going his way on energy policy and giving still validity in Catalonia to an anachronic decree approved in Spain by his co-religionary Rajoy (but hated because, you know, spanish) in 2009 –and now derogued– that was a stop signal for the development of renewables. This occurs even when the Parliament od Catalonia has already repealed the decree. Shows the kind of respect this great leader has for procedures when anything does not align with his ideas.

The Rev Kev , October 28, 2019 at 1:20 am

I think that riots in Gaza are going to have to added into that data set-

https://news.antiwar.com/2019/10/27/95-demonstrators-injured-in-gaza-protests/

It would come under the category of 'Political freedoms'

Lambert Strether Post author , October 28, 2019 at 3:26 am

> It would come under the category of 'Political freedoms'

I don't know if I accept those categories, though.

sharonsj , October 28, 2019 at 3:23 pm

If Gazans wanted political freedom, they'd be rioting against Hamas, which has refused to hold general elections for eight years and kills its political opponents and civilians who object to their policies. What they really want is dead Jews.

ambrit , October 28, 2019 at 5:17 pm

The Gazans are in a tough spot. The surrounding states view the Gazan situation as a spur in the flank of Israel. The constant threat of the descendants of those Arabs 'ethnically cleansed' out of the whole of Palestine in 1947 being sent into Israel to reclaim their ancestral lands is a constant in the Arab state's permanent conflict with the State of Israel.
The alternative offered to the Gazans is to become permanent second class citizens in a Greater Israel. Actually, make that third class citizens. At present, Israel has First Class, comprised of the Orthodox religious Jews, Second Class, comprising the Secular Jews, and Third Class, all others.
As for self rule, with a dollop of actual democracy, well, easier said than done.

Oregoncharles , October 28, 2019 at 1:31 am

" Violent flanks tend to undermine participation rates in nonviolent movements while discouraging security force defections"

Ecuador and Chile pose a challenge to that theory. The events there are significant in themselves, because traditionally, capturing the capital constitutes victory, whether a revolution or an invasion. In Ecuador, that was clearcut: the demonstrators – not very non-violent – controlled the capital and drove the government out of it, then continued a rampage against government buildings. The president, from Guayaquil, ordered the military to remove them – which didn't happen, probably for ethnic reasons. As before, this was essentially an Indian uprising. Moreno caved, which means he can't meet his agreement with the IMF. This was the IMF riot to end all. And we were just talking about retiring in Ecuador.

In Chile, more than a million people in the street have essentially captured the capital, as the videos make clear. Nothing is going to move, short of extreme violence. Again, the president capitulated and undertook to meet the demonstrators' demands. That one wasn't really non-violent, either, though the culminating demonstration was.

In both cases, victory is somewhat qualified because the right-wing president remains; the real result remains to be seen – but notice has been served. If that process continued much further, he could be lynched in the street. (I do wonder why Chile re-elected a right-winger, only a year ago. They now have to reverse an election.)

And looking at the map: the US isn't there. A hyper-violent police force alienated from the public might be a factor.

Lambert Strether Post author , October 28, 2019 at 4:55 pm

> Ecuador and Chile pose a challenge to that theory

I think Chenoweth's perspective could be a bit US-centric, or academic-centric. I have to admit that one reason I agreed with her is that the black bloc's role in Occupy was so pernicious (with "diversity of tactics" being on a par with "innovation" and "sharing" for seamy tendentiousness). I think in the United States we are not ready, as it were, for "violent flanks."

So when I started following Hong Kong, I viewed matters at first through the Occupy Frame (and the black-clad protesters didn't help me avoid that). However, it's clear that a substantial portion of the population really does see then as "front-liners," as in America we would not. Further, property violence seems carefully calibrated, as in the United States it is not. So I was wrong.

It depends

oaf , October 28, 2019 at 7:57 am

Possibly an area for contemplation: Where are the protests NOT and WHY???

Lambert Strether Post author , October 28, 2019 at 5:00 pm

See under "operational capacity." Another consequence of deindustrialization and union-busting. So, new tactics and strategies required

oaf , October 28, 2019 at 6:47 pm

Thanks, Lambert; I get that Here; in the U.S. it is *divide and conquer* , or conquering by division as long as we fight with each other over *hot button* topics; we can't get together to deal with the big; underlying issues.

"who's side are YOU on, anyway???

(rhetorical question)(not aimed at Lambert!!!)

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg , October 28, 2019 at 10:16 am

There's another kind of protest entierely; the entiely fabricated protest as means of pro-establishment propaganda. Here in Portland, OR, we've been treated to some breathlessly sensationalized street battles between ostensibly far right and far left 'protesters'. Eyewitness accounts speak of supposed ultra-conservative activists popping out of the back of police vans to instigate dustups. And anyone who's not wholly ignorant of the infiltration of left activists in the 60s knows just how easy this is. A Punch and Judy show managed from FBI headquarters which is then reported by hyperventilating media. Fox News shows us raggedy Bolsheviks with bandito massks beating up clean cut journo Andy Ngo (who then goes on the pro-Israel circuit after recovering from massive brain trauma!) Then switching to Amy Goodman, you get bald thuggish looking white guys with tattoos variously of Christian and Viking themes (how exactly these really mesh in anyone's mind, I don't quite get-but that's supposing it's real) forming a phalanx and waving confederate flags.
The entire thing seems fabricated to push fretting liberal homeowners and Responsible People to support the 'radical center' of neoliberal Clintonism.

scarn , October 29, 2019 at 12:03 am

Since you live in Rose City, feel free to go on down and meet the "raggedy Bolsheviks" for your own self. Or talk to the nazis, most are friendly enough to 'non-combatants'.

No doubt there are false flaggers and cops in both groups, but I assure you the conflict itself is not staged.

Mark Anderlik , October 28, 2019 at 10:19 am

Thanks for starting to wade into this topic. I appreciate the academic sideboards as a way to discover the common elements. Which will help us with the revolution against neoliberalism here in the US.

dcblogger , October 28, 2019 at 12:13 pm

let me add my thanks for this round up. I look forward to continuing coverage on this topic and especially beg those living outside the US, most especially those speaking the local languages to give us the benefit of your observations.

dcblogger , October 28, 2019 at 10:59 am

a bold peace is a film about Costa Rica's path to demilitarization
http://aboldpeace.com/

dcblogger , October 28, 2019 at 12:23 pm

somewhat related,
John Perkins Confessions of an Economic Hit Man Full audiobook
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySefPIZaYT0&t=3160s

Elizabeth Oram , October 28, 2019 at 2:06 pm

Marcie Smith has done amazing research into the "guru of nonviolent revolution," Gene Sharp, who turns out to be a CIA tool responsible for the "nonviolent" color revolutions which were just an easier assertion of soft power than those annoying invasions and coups.

Lambert Strether Post author , October 28, 2019 at 5:08 pm

So amazing that you can't be bothered to supply readers with the link? Here is it is . I think Smith oversimplifies ; I also think misuse of Smith's work leads to a quasi-religious tendency ("faith is the evidence of things not seen") to imagine CIA agents behind every protest sign, and to imagine Sharp as a Saruman-like figure controlling the action from a distance, all of which is both untrue and demoralizing/disempowering. You also seem to think that Sharp's techniques substitute for invasions and coups; but in Serbia they clearly did not, since we had both Otpor and bombing; and in Tahrir Square, to the extent that Sharp inspired that protest -- the hashtag #GeneSharpTaughtMe was widely used at the time, in mockery -- an invasion wasn't even an option. It's also not clear that the outcome of Tahrir Square was an outcome we even desired; clearly the protesters had no idea what to do with power if they won, which one would think their case officers would have handled as a matter of course.

The reflexiv sequence protest -> color revolution -> Gene Sharp -> CIA seems deeply attractive to some soi disant leftists; it's so mechanical and pointless and self-defeating it makes head hurt and my back teeth itch. (Even at the best, it's like arguing that because the Germans sent Lenin over the Russian border in a sealed train in 1917, that the Bolsheviks were all a plot by Kaiser Wilhelm II.)

I'm also curious why you even bring up Gene Sharp. The post doesn't mention him. Is it your thesis that the CIA is behind all the global protests?

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg , October 28, 2019 at 10:08 pm

This is a good point.
Not all opposition is controlled, but that does not mean the forces of the ancien regime don't try. The upheavals in Egypt caught the neoliberal paladins by surprise and caused much dismay. That the Army brought the mild islamist party leader down in a counter-doup is not a symptom that the entirety of the Tahrir Square enterprise was a CIA orchestrated hoax of some kind. Just that the US was happy to let Morsi hang once the Generals got their act together. There certainly are many pro neoliberal coups that dress themselves up in liberatory clothing. (Maidan and Georgia are the claerest examples.)

Lydia Maria Child , October 29, 2019 at 7:21 am

Gene Sharp, from everything I've seen on him and his career, showed him to be a true believer in neoliberalism and the empire that propped it up. I suggest people look into his views on the "free market," and its relation to democracy, to see what he was really about.

What was the name of the institute he headed over at Harvard for so many years? Why, it was the "Center for International Affairs"! Now why did they decide to rename that, after waves of student protests against it? The acronym just a little too "on the nose?" He seemed like a willfully ignorant dupe working alongside a long list of cold war psychopaths. Whether or not he "believed" this or that, about his own work, is irrelevant.

Sound of the Suburbs , October 28, 2019 at 2:37 pm

How did housing costs soar during the Great Moderation?

They tweaked the stats. so that housing costs weren't fully represented in the inflation stats.

Everyone needs housing, and housing costs are a major factor in the cost of living.

Countries are suddenly erupting into mass protests, e.g. France and Chile, and neoliberalism is a global ideology.

What is going on?

Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)

They cut taxes, but let the cost of living soar, so people got worse off, as the millennials are only too painfully aware.

They have created artificially low inflations stats. so people don't realise wages and benefits aren't keeping pace with inflation.

https://ftalphaville-cdn.ft.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Perfect-Storm-LR.pdf
Part 4 : Loaded Dice

This is a time bomb waiting to explode.

It's already gone off in France and Chile and is waiting to detonate somewhere near you.

Sound of the Suburbs , October 28, 2019 at 2:46 pm

If you keep infaltion stats. down it reduces the cost of benefits.

In the UK we have two numbers for inflation.

RPI – the high number
CPI – the low number

We use CPI to track wages and index benefits.
We use RPI to index link bond payments to the wealthy and as a base for interest on student loans.

It's all very neoliberal.

How tight is the US labour market?

U3 – Pretty tight (the one the FED use)
U6 – A bit of slack
Labour participation rate – where did all those unemployed people come from?

eg , October 28, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Not to mention the underemployed -- the ongoing commitment of western regimes to inflation prevention at the expense of labor wastage and the consequent immiseration of the citizenry is scandalous.

Sound of the Suburbs , October 28, 2019 at 6:30 pm

Those neoliberals strike again.

The minimum wage is specified at an hourly rate, so a part time job doesn't pay a living wage.

Lambert Strether Post author , October 28, 2019 at 5:11 pm

That's an interesting link. Thanks!

marku52 , October 28, 2019 at 6:49 pm

It has always amazed me that economists wonder "Why did we get so smart around the 1700s? Growth world wide had been stagnant for a thousand years .."

I've always tried to yell "BECAUSE WE DISCOVERED FOSSIL FUELS, YOU MORONS!!!!"

Lydia Maria Child , October 29, 2019 at 7:28 am

Kenneth Pomeranz's "The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy," basically proves your point very effectively. Pretty much beats down any crypto-racist theories on the superiority of "western civilization," etc. China didn't have coal, simple as that.

scarn , October 29, 2019 at 12:28 am

I would say that one has to categorize "protests" in order to uncover how they relate to social relations of power. Violent vs non-violent framing is useful if you want to argue that violence is not just immoral but actually impractical. If you want to try to prove the eternal moral basis of the liberal order, it's great. If you really want to uncover how conflict and power work, you need more vectors.

Complicate Chenoweth's liberal framing by adding more categories. What's the goal of the movement? Is it revolutionary of reformist? Is the movement organized or diffuse? If the violence is diffused is it lumpen rioting and random terror? If the violence is organized is it terror cells, military columns, foreign invasion or something else? If the movement is organized non-violent, does it exist at the same time as an organized violent movement with similar goals? If the movement is organized non-violent, are the people in it armed but not using the arms? If the movement is diffused non-violent is it actively opposed to violence? Every combination matters in context, and the reform vs revolutionary labels absolutely matter. There is a big difference between demanding the end of a fuel tax and demanding the end of capitalism. There is a big difference between the treatment of armed people and unarmed people by security forces, depending on the context.

In general IMO, reforms under liberalism can be captured through non-violent protest, and diffused violence can harm their chances because they give security forces an excuse for a crackdown. The organized threat of violence can help organized non-violent reform protests because it scares the ruling class (BPP in the USA is a great example), but organized violence itself can harm non-violent reform protests unless it's successfully revolutionary. Revolution (not just a change in government!) can never be achieved through non-violent protest, because the ruling class will use violence to save themselves.

[Sep 10, 2019] It s all about Gene Sharp and seeping neoliberal regime change using Western logistical support, money, NGO and intelligence agencies and MSM as the leverage

Highly recommended!
What democracy they are talking about? Democracy for whom? This Harvard political prostitutes are talking about democracy for oligarchs which was the nest result of EuroMaydan and the ability of Western companies to buy assets for pennies on the dollar without the control of national government like happen in xUSSR space after dissolution of the USSR, which in retrospect can be classified as a color revolution too, supported by financial injection, logistical support and propaganda campaign in major Western MSM.
What Harvard honchos probably does not understand or does not wish to understand is that neoliberalism as a social system lost its attraction and is in irreversible decline. The ideology of neoliberalism collapsed much like Bolsheviks' ideology. As Politician like Joe Boden which still preach neoliberalism are widely viewed as corrupt or senile (or both) hypocrites.
The "Collective West" still demonstrates formidable intelligence agencies skills (especially the USA and GB), but the key question is: "What they are fighting for?"
They are fighting for neoliberalism which is a lost case. Which looks like KGB successes after WWIII. They won many battles and lost the Cold war.
Not that Bolsheviks in the USSR was healthy or vibrant. Economics was a deep stagnation, alcoholism among working class was rampant, the standard of living of the majority of population slides each year, much like is the case with neoliberalism after, say, 1991. Hidden unemployment in the USSR was high -- at least in high teens if not higher. Like in the USA now good jobs were almost impossible to obtain without "extra help". Medical services while free were dismal, especially dental -- which were horrible. Hospitals were poor as church rats as most money went to MIC. Actually, like in the USA now, MIC helped to strangulate the economy and contributed to the collapse. It was co a corrupt and decaying , led by completely degenerated leadership. To put the person of the level of Gorbachov level of political talent lead such a huge and complex country was an obvious suicide.
But the facts speak for themselves: what people usually get as the result of any color revolution is the typical for any county which lost the war: dramatic drop of the standard of living due to economic rape of the country.
While far form being perfect the Chinese regime at least managed to lift the standard of living of the majority of the population and provide employment. After regime change China will experience the same economic rape as the USSR under Yeltsin regime. So in no way Hong Cong revolution can be viewed a progressive phenomenon despite all the warts of neoliberalism with Chenese characteristics in mainland China (actually this is a variant of NEP that Gorbachov tried to implement in the USSR, but was to politically incompetent to succeed)
Aug 31, 2019 | Chris Fraser @ChrisFraser_HKU • Aug 27 \z

Replying to @edennnnnn_ @AMFChina @lihkg_forum

A related resource that deserves wide circulation:

Why nonviolent resistance beats violent force in effecting social, political change – Harvard Gazette

CHENOWETH: I think it really boils down to four different things. The first is a large and diverse participation that's sustained.

The second thing is that [the movement] needs to elicit loyalty shifts among security forces in particular, but also other elites. Security forces are important because they ultimately are the agents of repression, and their actions largely decide how violent the confrontation with -- and reaction to -- the nonviolent campaign is going to be in the end. But there are other security elites, economic and business elites, state media. There are lots of different pillars that support the status quo, and if they can be disrupted or coerced into noncooperation, then that's a decisive factor.

The third thing is that the campaigns need to be able to have more than just protests; there needs to be a lot of variation in the methods they use.

The fourth thing is that when campaigns are repressed -- which is basically inevitable for those calling for major changes -- they don't either descend into chaos or opt for using violence themselves. If campaigns allow their repression to throw the movement into total disarray or they use it as a pretext to militarize their campaign, then they're essentially co-signing what the regime wants -- for the resisters to play on its own playing field. And they're probably going to get totally crushed.

Wai Sing-Rin @waisingrin • Aug 27

Replying to @ChrisFraser_HKU @edennnnnn_ and 2 others

Anyone who watched the lone frontliner (w translator) sees the frontliners are headed for disaster. They're fighting just to fight with no plans nor objectives.
They see themselves as heroes protecting the HK they love. No doubt their sincerity, but there are 300 of them left.

[Aug 31, 2019] Clever Tactics "Add Oil" to Hong Kong Protests (and not "Hidden Hands" by Lambert Strether

Notable quotes:
"... So, a well-meaning Westerner suggests Gene Sharp's well-known 198 Methods of Non-Violent Action to a HKer, who politely informs him that Sharp's work is already available in Chinese ..."
"... You don't have to wait for your CIA handler to vouchsafe The Sacred Texts. Very sophisticated and tested protest tactics are all available on the Internet, if you research the media coverage of Tahrir Square, los indignados in Spain, the state capital occupations in the United States, Occupy proper, the Carré Rouge in Quebec, and many, many other examples (including the Umbrella movement organic to Hong Kong). It's not all Maidan -- which is on the Internet too, and I don't regard it was useful to forcefit all protests into that model. ..."
"... If they have factories in China now, and they are the invisible hands, I think they (and their factories) would be in trouble already, as in 'now,' and they don't have to worry about being extradited in the future. ..."
"... Me neither. That's a concern. However, there is the idea that "you taught me" that non-violence doesn't work (in 2014), "you" being the Chinese government. There is also the idea that the Mainland is no more agreement-capable than the United States," since they have no intention of adhering to the Basic Law on matters like universal suffrage . If the attitude among a great mass of the protestors is that they have nothing to lose, some sort of Masada-like scenario seems likely. ..."
"... And exactly whose interests would that serve? The interests of the students? The interests of Hong Kong generally? Answering that question will begin to take you down the rabbit hole. ..."
"... Now, it is true that "color revolution" in strong form seems to have lost some credibility, and that, if I may characterize the discourse collectively, we see a strategic retreat to formulations like "I'm sure the protestors have legitimacy," but they're still "manipulated," because, by gawd, that's what the US does. ..."
"... And then we get NGOs (been around for years) and Jimmy Lai (been around for years). Constants, that is, where the protests are a variable (which is why the heavy-breathing GrayZone post about xenohobia doesn't impress me all that much). ..."
"... So will this protest end the way Occupy ended here in "democratic" USA? One has to suspect the secessionist aim that is one of the apparent motives will not be rewarded. ..."
"... US funding and influence was quite well-attested then, for those who were paying attention. Oddly, or not, there seems to be no Victoria Nuland-equivalent for HK. One could argue, of course, that there's an invisible Nuland, but Occam's Razor eliminates that. I never followed Ukraine closely, I admit, partly because Ukraine is fabulously corrupt, and partly because (like Syria) it seemed impossible to separate fact from fiction on the ground. (The only rooting interest I have in Ukraine is their wonderful enormous airplanes.) I think for HK we have a lot more well-attested information. That's what the post is about, in fact. ..."
"... There is video of HKers using 3-person surgical tubing catapults to return to sender tear gas cannisters. I've seen pranksters use these "slingshots" to lob water balloons into unsuspecting civilians, but they are much better suited to return cannisters to the police. ..."
"... I know enough about HK to be a little suspicious of the motives of *some* protestors, but I'm in awe of their inventiveness and raw courage. And believe me, to protest publicly in HK/China requires real physical courage that is not required anywhere in the west, anyone who thinks otherwise is entirely clueless about the nature of the Chinese government and what it is capable of. ..."
"... The fact that neo-con elements in the US are happy about the protests is entirely irrelevant, it really is. Its like saying that when RT had approving articles about Occupy or Black Lives Matter that this proves the Russians were behind it. It really is that stupid and US centric an opinion. ..."
"... But here's the rub. Can you imagine what would happen if this all happened in a western country? Imagine this happening in New York for example. Actually we don't. The authorities came down on the Occupy Wall Street movement like a ton of bricks so we had a taste of what would happen. ..."
"... I am not saying that the Chinese government is right but I can understand their position here. They give Hong Kong a 'special deal' and the rest of China will want their own special deals. ..."
"... Just like the Chinese elites, the U.S. elites don't want to deal with the citizenry, and protest is something that shocks them. ..."
"... What really makes most HK skeptics suspicious is the way the media and the political establishment in the West are constantly slathering the students there with pure, unadulturated praise, while lambasting us skeptics as 'conspiracy theorists'. So comparisons of HK to Maidan are indeed apt. And please contrast the media's treatment of this protest with their (non-)treatment of the gilets jaunes movement in France. On that rare occasion when the MSM did deign to mention the gilets jaunes , they always faithfully accused them of 'racism' and 'anti-semitism'. But note how the HK protesters get pass for using Pepe the Frog as their symbol! ..."
"... The idea of protest is to disrupt the system and generally gum up the works, raising the costs of the offending campaign, hopefully to the point where the material and reputational damage makes the whole thing no longer worth pursuing. This is the end game. ..."
"... To paraphrase Noam Chomsky: Elites want a smoothly-running system of oppression. There is no reason to give them this gift. ..."
"... In general, the techniques described here seem unreliable and dangerous if masking your identity from surveillance is vital. The idea that you are going to identify and precisely target every video camera that can see you, 100% of the time, esp. in a moving and rapidly changing environment, seems extremely naive. Video cameras are small, cheap, inconspicuous, and easy to disguise. All that's needed by the opponent is a single video frame that shows your face clearly. ..."
Aug 30, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Let me start out with a sidebar on "add oil" (加油), which you see all over the coverage of the Hong Kong protests: It originated, says the OED , as a cheer at the Macau Grand Prix in the 1960s, meaning "step on the gas" (which is good to know, because I thought that the underlying metaphor was adding cooking oil to a wok preparatory to frying). It translates roughly to " go for it !" Here, an apartment block encourages the protesters by chanting it:

Interestingly, "add oil!" was also used as a cheer by the 2014 Umbrella movement , which should tell you that Hong Kong has considerable experience in running a protest.

Sidebar completed, this post will have a simple thesis: The people of Hong Kong have considerable experience in running protests, and we don't need to multiply invisible entities ("hidden hands") to give an account of what they're doing. For example, it's not necessary to postulate that the participants in the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests consulted CIA handlers on tactics; their tactics are often available, in open source , on the Internet; other tactics are based on Hong Kong material culture , things and situations that come readily to hand and can be adapted by creative people (which the protesters clearly are).

I started thinking about this post when I read this tweet:

Andreas Fulda ‏ @ AMFChina Aug 27 More Copy link to Tweet Embed Tweet

Wow, amazing! This campaign is on fire I was wondering if someone could volunteer and translate the attached 198 methods of nonviolent action into Cantonese? It would be great to share a Cantonese version with @ lihkg_forum Link below is safe! https://www. aeinstein.org/nonviolentacti on/198-methods-of-nonviolent-action/ pic.twitter.com/4kh6ORUnai

So, a well-meaning Westerner suggests Gene Sharp's well-known 198 Methods of Non-Violent Action to a HKer, who politely informs him that Sharp's work is already available in Chinese .

Clearly, #genesharptaughtme is alive and well! (In fact, I remember Black Lives Matter using the same hashtag.)

I am well-aware of Gene Sharp's equivocal role as a defense intellectual -- in strong form, the Godfather of "color revolutions" -- but at this point Sharp's influence is attenuated. Out here in reality, information on non-violent strategy and tactics has gone global, like everything else.

You don't have to wait for your CIA handler to vouchsafe The Sacred Texts. Very sophisticated and tested protest tactics are all available on the Internet, if you research the media coverage of Tahrir Square, los indignados in Spain, the state capital occupations in the United States, Occupy proper, the Carré Rouge in Quebec, and many, many other examples (including the Umbrella movement organic to Hong Kong). It's not all Maidan -- which is on the Internet too, and I don't regard it was useful to forcefit all protests into that model.

So, I'm going to go through a few of the tactics used in the 2019 Hong Kong protests: Umbrellas, Laser Pointers, Lennon Walls, and a Human Chain. For each tactic, I will throw it into the open source bucket, or the material culture bucket; in either case, there need be no "hidden hand." Also, I find protest tactics fascinating in and of themselves; I think a movement is healthy if its tactics are creative, and when they are so no longer, the movement has not long to live. (For example, Black Lives Matter started to disintegrate as a national movement when the college die-ins stopped (and when the liberal Democrats co-opted it by elevating Deray.) To the tactics!

Umbrellas

Umbrellas were already a symbol of protest in Hong Kong, from the Umbrella Movement of 2014. Here we see umbrellas being used to shield protestors from surveillance cameras (although they can also be used as shields against kinetic effects).

In concept, the testudo (tortoise) formation dates to Roman times:

One can indeed see that Maidan protestors using literal shields:

However, I would classify umbrella tactics as deriving from Hong Kong's material culture ; Hong Kong is sub-tropical ; there are typhoons; there is rain, fog, drizzle; and there is also the sun. Massed umbrellas scale easily from the tens to the hundreds; they create a splendid visual effect en masse ; and they are available in any corner shop. So, it is not necessary to postulate an entity translating Maidan's heavy medieval shields to Hong Kong umbrellas; the protestors would have worked out the uses of umbrellas themselves, adapting the tools that come to hand to the existing conditions.

Laser Pointers

Hong Kong, under Mainland influence, is increasingly a surveillance state; it makes sense that HKers would give considerable thought to surveillance, and how to avoid it, in the normal course of events. How much more so protestors:

I would classify the laser pointers tactic open source , since that's how I found out that yes, laser poinerns can knock out surveillance cameras . Again, there's no need to postulate that some unknown entity gave the protesters the idea; anybody with a little creativity and some research skills could come up with it, given the proper incentives (like being arrested, say).

Lennon Walls

Here is a Lennon Wall ("you may say I'm a dreamer") in Hong Kong: Lennon Walls originated in Prague after John Lennon's murder in 1980 : ( The 2014 Umbrella movement also used them .) But these are Lennon Walls with Chinese characteristics:

The idea that one may "post" anything has been actualized with Post-It Notes, giving HK walls a digital, pixelated look:

And the authorities have just begun to tear them down: Reminds me of the NYPD bulldozing the Zucotti Park library, sadly.

I would classify Lennon Walls in both categories: They originated, conceptually, in Prague (so open source ) but they are well adapted for massed protest in the material culture of Hong Kong. (Like massed umbrellas, massed PostIt notes scale easily from the tens to the thousands; they create a splendid visual effect en masse ; and they are available in any corner shop.)

Human Chain

Here is a poster publicizing "the Hong Kong Way," a human chain across Hong Kong: Here is the beautiful result:

I would classify "the Hong Kong Way" as open source , since the idea originated from " the Baltic Way ," where some two million people joined hands to form a human chain across the three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

Conclusion

Just to tweak the "It's a color revolution!" crowd, here's an image of HKers watching a movie about Maidan:

I hope I have persuaded you that (a) this Maidan movie is open source "; knowledge of Maidan as a worthy object of study, that (b) by Occam's Razor, it doesn't take a CIA handler to tell this to HKers, and that (c) if the HKers end up building catapults , they will be adapted to Hong Kong's material culture (i.e., probably not medieval in appearance or structure).[1]

NOTES

[1] The HKers may also be sending a message to the authorities: If Maidan is what you want, bring it!



TooSoonOld , , August 30, 2019 at 5:40 pm

Maciej Cegłowski has written a first-hand account that helped me understand some of the tactics the protesters employ. I see he's written a follow-on piece, too.
https://idlewords.com/2019/08/a_walk_in_hong_kong.htm

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , , August 30, 2019 at 6:46 pm

Another claim is that rich Hong Kongers are behind the protests, fearing extradition.

If they have factories in China now, and they are the invisible hands, I think they (and their factories) would be in trouble already, as in 'now,' and they don't have to worry about being extradited in the future.

I'm doubtful of that claim as well.

PlutoniumKun , , August 31, 2019 at 4:40 am

I've read that claim too, and for the reasons you state and others it doesn't pass the smell test, its simply not credible.

pjay , , August 30, 2019 at 8:11 pm

Ok. I really did not want to post any more comments on Hong Kong, or China for that matter, here at NC. But I am genuinely puzzled, and I have to say concerned, about the way this issue has been framed here. One does not have to accept the argument that *either* (1) the protests are completely spontaneous and genuine; *or* (2) the protests are mainly the product of CIA manipulation of otherwise clueless dupes (a whole lot of them apparently!). This is a false dichotomy. None of the critics of the mainstream Hong Kong narrative that I am familiar with take a position any where close to (2). It is a straw-man position if applied to most reputable "skeptics."

Rather, the argument I have seen most often among these skeptics (including some commenters here) is that, while the protests *were* authentic and directed at real issues of concern to protesters, there have also been efforts on the part of Western agents to manipulate this situation. This included support of particular, strategically significant leaders and groups and, of course, control of the Western media narrative. We have pictures and stories in even the mainstream press of US officials and representatives of western NGOs meeting with such individuals. Hell, we have US politicians bragging about it. These connections are pretty clear, whether or not HKers can find Gene Sharp's work on the internet.

https://thegrayzone.com/2019/08/17/hong-kong-protest-washington-nativism-violence/

I have no doubt that many HKers are opposed to mainland rule, so China hands here need not lecture me condescendingly on that issue. On the other hand, I have no doubt that Chinese officials are justified in suspecting covert action by the CIA to stir things up even more (though a lot of the activity is actually pretty overt). Looking at the postwar actions of the US and its allies all over the world, including China in the past, they would have to be idiots not to. And they are not idiots.

RubyDog , , August 30, 2019 at 8:56 pm

Good post. As usual, reality is far more complex and not reducible to simplistic either/or narratives. Protest, rebellion, and unrest are endemic in Chinese (and world) history. In a globalized and interconnected modern world, of course there is widespread awareness and cross fertilization of movements. The "West" did not start this fire, though no doubt they are doing some fanning of the flames.

What worries me is that I do not understand the endgame of the protesters. If you are facing a power far greater than your own, guerilla tactics are in order, but you have to know when to declare victory and back off for awhile. They seem to want to keep pushing and pushing until another Tienanmen may become inevitable.

Anon , , August 30, 2019 at 11:02 pm

The HK protesters recognize that they have enough bodies to literally bring parts of the city to a halt. Soon the authorities will realize that they don't have enough police to maintain order and some sort of compromise will be in order.

Imagine if 200 cars stopped on an LA freeway. Traffic would be halted for hours before enough tow trucks could be put in service. Bodies in the street (cars on the freeway) can be enough to stop "business as usual".

Lambert Strether Post author , , August 31, 2019 at 3:03 am

> I do not understand the endgame of the protesters

Me neither. That's a concern. However, there is the idea that "you taught me" that non-violence doesn't work (in 2014), "you" being the Chinese government. There is also the idea that the Mainland is no more agreement-capable than the United States," since they have no intention of adhering to the Basic Law on matters like universal suffrage . If the attitude among a great mass of the protestors is that they have nothing to lose, some sort of Masada-like scenario seems likely.

As for the rest of the comment, meh. It's simultaneously an initial withdrawal of the debunked "color revolution" theory, and a mushy reformulation of same in different terms ("no doubt that Chinese officials are justified in suspecting covert action by the CIA"). Either you believe that the Hong Kong protests are organic in origin and execution, or you don't. See my comment here .

Harry , , August 31, 2019 at 6:05 am

My sympathy for the HK protesters is somewhat impaired by their antipathy for mainlanders and mainlander immigration to HK. Its worth reading Carl Zha on Tiananmen. I thought i knew what happened in Tiananmen, but it turned out i didn't.

Lambert Strether Post author , , August 31, 2019 at 6:10 am

I'm a bit leery of Chongqing native Carl Zha and his sudden elevation. Let's remember that the Mainland is just as sophisticated in its information campaigns as the US. For example, a claim that he has revealed what really happened, as we say, at Tien An Man, without an explanation what his views are is a red flag to me. (In the worse case scenario, disinformation is infesting the NC comments section.) No, I'm not going to "just listen to the YouTube" because I don't have time to devote to it, as opposed to reading a transcript quickly.

Also, weird flex on "immigration."

PlutoniumKun , , August 31, 2019 at 8:52 am

I've just come across Zha once or twice and I certainly would not consider him a reliable source. The 'official' narrative around Tiannanman in China (as taught to Chinese people) has changed more than once, his seems to match the current version. This doesn't mean he is lying or wrong, I'm just suspicious about anyone who claims to know the 'truth' about such a chaotic and charged event, and some of the things he has written is simply not a reflection of what Chinese people I know think about it.

Its worth pointing out of course that almost all the evidence suggests that the Chinese intelligence penetration of the US has been far more competent than vice versa. The narrative that somehow the CIA was behind Tiananmen (which even MoA has pushed) and the current protests simply strains all credulity. There is no doubt they would provide any help they could to anti-government movements within China, but there is no evidence that they've done anything more than promote a few fringe dissidents.

harry , , August 31, 2019 at 11:56 am

Zha (to my recollection) did not suggest the CIA was behind Tiananmen. He did suggest that the amount of violence and the cause of the violence was not as reported in the West. There was little corroboration though. That said, he had quite an interesting take on the lone man with shopping bag stopping tank column. Perhaps it is common knowledge but he suggested that event took place on the day after Tiananmen, when the tanks were trying to head back to base. Just cos he said that don't make it true of course. But it did make me ask how i know what i think i know.

Harry , , August 31, 2019 at 12:11 pm

I apologize for not outlining his views. I thought it better to just suggest him as a possible reference and allow people to come to their own conclusions. I came across him cos I follow Mark Ames on twitter. I know of Ames cos I spent time in Moscow in the 90s. So I considered it a good recommendation -- but hardly foolproof. Zha suggests that students in Tienamin set a bus on fire in the square (of heavenly peace?) which unfortunately contained a number of PLA soldiers who were burned alive. I have no way of knowing whether this account is true. However he also suggested the iconic man in front of tank column took place on the following day. Which was news to me, and seemed quite plausible when you consider the interaction. But I have no reason to believe this anymore than I should believe the BBC or CNN. Its just that where I have listened to the BBC on subjects I am personally familiar with, they have occasionally been rather "economical" with inconvenient truths. Mr Zha has the advantage of Ames recommendation, a clean slate, and an interesting but unproven assertion.

His take on HK protests is that they have become rather violent, with the aim being to prompt a violent response from the Chinese authorities.

HKers appear to view themselves as distinct from mainlanders, and do not seem to welcome mainland immigration. Fascinating to see british colonial flags brandished when telling Mandarin speakers to "go home". But even here I am relying on the translations applied by the makers of the videos. I dont speak Cantonese or Mandarin.

Seamus Padraig , , August 31, 2019 at 7:19 am

They seem to want to keep pushing and pushing until another Tienanmen may become inevitable.

And exactly whose interests would that serve? The interests of the students? The interests of Hong Kong generally? Answering that question will begin to take you down the rabbit hole.

Plenue , , August 30, 2019 at 9:28 pm

(2) seems to be Olga's position. She's repeatedly demonstrated a disregard for 'gullible youth'.

Lambert Strether Post author , , August 31, 2019 at 2:54 am

> But I am genuinely puzzled, and I have to say concerned, about the way this issue has been framed here. One does not have to accept the argument that *either* (1) the protests are completely spontaneous and genuine; *or* (2) the protests are mainly the product of CIA manipulation of otherwise clueless dupes (a whole lot of them apparently!). This is a false dichotomy. None of the critics of the mainstream Hong Kong narrative that I am familiar with take a position any where close to (2). It is a straw-man position if applied to most reputable "skeptics."

Nonsense. If you say that the HK protests were a "color revolution," which was the original claim ( following Moon of Alabama here , with the most frequent analogy being Ukraine, #2 ("clueless dupes") is exactly what you're saying.

So, I'm not "straw manning" at all, but replying directly to a criticism expressed here. Please follow the site more closely before you mischaracterize what I wrote.

Now, it is true that "color revolution" in strong form seems to have lost some credibility, and that, if I may characterize the discourse collectively, we see a strategic retreat to formulations like "I'm sure the protestors have legitimacy," but they're still "manipulated," because, by gawd, that's what the US does.

And then we get NGOs (been around for years) and Jimmy Lai (been around for years). Constants, that is, where the protests are a variable (which is why the heavy-breathing GrayZone post about xenohobia doesn't impress me all that much).

The formulation employed in your comment is even weaker:

there have also been efforts on the part of Western agents to manipulate this situation. This included support of particular, strategically significant leaders and groups and, of course, control of the Western media narrative.

I don't know what "efforts by" even means. (I mean, there were "efforts by" various odd Russians to meet with Trump, but no hotel was build, and so, so what?) Nor do I think that editorials in the Times have the slightest influence either on the Hong Kong protestors or the Mainland. I can't imagine why anybody would take them seriously.

What I am here to say is that the HK protests are organic to HK. They are organized and directed by HKers, many of whom have a lot of experience protesting. There is no need to multiply entities -- whether in strong form the CIA or in very weak form "the connections are pretty clear" -- to give an account of them. Now, as I said here, I'm sure Five Eyes are "sniffing around." Probably Taipei, Japan, Indonesia, even the French and the Dutch; anyone with an interest in events in the South China Sea. But IMNSHO the protestors have full agency . (It's also hard to avoid that there's a whiff of colonialism here, too: How is it possible that mere Chinese people could achieve such things without Western help?

And so, like clockwork -- I've noticed this in other comments that start out with the weak form of "manipulation" and end up with the strong form of "control" -- we come right back to that claim!

On the other hand, I have no doubt that Chinese officials are justified in suspecting covert action by the CIA to stir things up even more (though a lot of the activity is actually pretty overt)

(So "overt" that you can't even link to whatever the activity might be. Fine.) First, we come back to the Mandy Rice-Davies rule: They would say that, wouldn't they? Second, so I wasn't straw-manning at all, then, was I? Third, after I went to the trouble of applying Occam's Razor to your claims, you just repeat them!

NOTE * "We have pictures and stories in even the mainstream press of US officials and representatives of western NGOs meeting with such individuals." The picture is in a hotel ffs. Pretty low level of operational security, if you ask me.

Carolinian , , August 30, 2019 at 8:37 pm

So will this protest end the way Occupy ended here in "democratic" USA? One has to suspect the secessionist aim that is one of the apparent motives will not be rewarded.

RBHoughton , , August 30, 2019 at 8:49 pm

This is frankly quite superficial but, if anyone has 30 minutes spare, they can learn the history behind today's Hong Kong riots here :

https://youtu.be/17f9yoorTu8

Lambert Strether Post author , , August 31, 2019 at 3:26 am

I've often inveighed against YouTube links that don't summarize the content. In this case, those interested in "connecting the dots" and following the money might be interested to know that the videocaster, Sarah Flounders, is a member of the Secretariat of Workers World Party :

The Workers World Party (WWP) is a revolutionary Marxist -- Leninist political party in the United States founded in 1959 by a group led by Sam Marcy of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Marcy and his followers split from the SWP in 1958 over a series of long-standing differences, among them their support for Henry A. Wallace's Progressive Party in 1948, the positive view they held of the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong and their defense of the 1956 Soviet intervention in Hungary, all of which the SWP opposed.

I don't know what the Chinese word for "tankies" is, or even if there is one, but we seem to have one such here. Here from their newspaper, Workers World, an article originally written in 1993, reprinted in 2019 :

Immediately before and during the Tienanmen Square days, China appeared to be in danger of disintegrating into warlordism. This was overcome and the decentralizing process that threatened to emerge was eliminated. That was a victory of socialism.

The question of how far the Chinese government can go with the capitalist reforms will certainly be up for review, notwithstanding a constitutional provision meant to make the reforms a permanent feature in Chinese society.

One fact has certainly emerged: the millions who left the rural areas for the great cities of China and were absorbed into the proletariat have given the Chinese government and Communist Party the opportunity to strengthen the socialist character of the state. The growth of the proletariat is the objective factor most needed for the building of socialism.

I don't think its surprising that Flounders and the WWP would retail the mainland line.

The Rev Kev , , August 30, 2019 at 9:56 pm

I guess that this comes about seeing what happened to all the young people who supported the Ukrainian "revolution" for a free, just society. Twice! How did that work out for them? How is the Ukraine going these days? What did they say when they found out that that so-called "revolution" last time had a $5 billion 'Made-in-the-USA' sticker on it? Conspiracy theory at the time. Recorded fact now.

Lambert Strether Post author , , August 31, 2019 at 6:24 am

> Conspiracy theory at the time. Recorded fact now.

Not so. US funding and influence was quite well-attested then, for those who were paying attention. Oddly, or not, there seems to be no Victoria Nuland-equivalent for HK. One could argue, of course, that there's an invisible Nuland, but Occam's Razor eliminates that. I never followed Ukraine closely, I admit, partly because Ukraine is fabulously corrupt, and partly because (like Syria) it seemed impossible to separate fact from fiction on the ground. (The only rooting interest I have in Ukraine is their wonderful enormous airplanes.) I think for HK we have a lot more well-attested information. That's what the post is about, in fact.

John A , , August 31, 2019 at 7:47 am

Re similarities or otherwise with Kiev, we will have to wait and see if there is any sniper crowd killings in HK as with the 'Heavenly Hundred' in Kiev. At the time, the shootings were blamed on the government, but compelling evidence since points to US backed snipers from Georgia.

Harry , , August 31, 2019 at 12:23 pm

Compelling might be pushing a point. There is certainly evidence, and some of it is quite persuasive. However I dont consider some Georgians snipers on Italian tv compelling evidence.

Anon , , August 30, 2019 at 10:54 pm

RE: Catapult

There is video of HKers using 3-person surgical tubing catapults to return to sender tear gas cannisters. I've seen pranksters use these "slingshots" to lob water balloons into unsuspecting civilians, but they are much better suited to return cannisters to the police.

I did a brief search on the Internet for some video but couldn't find it.

Anon , , August 30, 2019 at 11:08 pm

okay, here's a link:
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7319925/Demonstrators-use-slingshots-hurl-rocks-police-station-Hong-Kong.html

Lambert Strether Post author , , August 31, 2019 at 6:39 am

The Maidan catapult had its own Twitter account. Here's what it looked like:

I doubt very much that a catapult designed by HKers would look like this; it is not constructed of materials that come readily to hand. (And perhaps massed slingshots would be more effective anyhow.)

(I can't read any languages written in Cyrillic, so I defer to any readers who can on my interpretation.)

VietnamVet , , August 30, 2019 at 11:30 pm

Endless wars. Smoke filled skies. Hurricanes, drought, flooding. No purpose in life. Incarceration, surveillance and insurmountable debt. Arrogant incompetence.

Change is coming. People need hope. A movement will be born.
"Bring it on" -- "Pa'lante" in Spanish.

Hurray For The Riff Raff -- Pa'lante

"And do my time, and be something
Well I just wanna prove my worth --
On the planet Earth, and be, something"

"To all who had to hide, I say, iPa'lante!
To all who lost their pride, I say, ¡Pa'lante!
To all who had to survive, I say, ¡Pa'lante!"

"To my brothers, and my sisters, I say, ¡Pa'lante!"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LilVDjLaZSE

Lambert Strether Post author , , August 31, 2019 at 3:11 am

So "Pa'lante" is how you say "add oil" in Spanish!

Alex morfesis , , August 31, 2019 at 11:52 am

Para Alante. Pa'lante for forward/move forward/go forward/go to the front/continue/keep pushing forward/don't stop

Different Spanish interpretations depending on which blend of the language your ears become attuned to .mine flow from cuban, with a twist of Puerto Rican/Newrican, a dabble of dominican, some mexican icing and a little Columbian sprinkles on top

PlutoniumKun , , August 31, 2019 at 4:36 am

Thank you for this Lambert. Perhaps its my perspective of coming from a small country, but I find the anti-HK protestor comments I see here and elsewhere baffling coming from supposed progressives. Sometimes, really, its not all about the US, or even US Imperialism.

I know enough about HK to be a little suspicious of the motives of *some* protestors, but I'm in awe of their inventiveness and raw courage. And believe me, to protest publicly in HK/China requires real physical courage that is not required anywhere in the west, anyone who thinks otherwise is entirely clueless about the nature of the Chinese government and what it is capable of.

The fact that neo-con elements in the US are happy about the protests is entirely irrelevant, it really is. Its like saying that when RT had approving articles about Occupy or Black Lives Matter that this proves the Russians were behind it. It really is that stupid and US centric an opinion.

As to the questions about the endgame, I really don't know, and I suspect the protestors don't know either. My own opinion is that this is as much a nationalist movement as a political one. Many HKers see themselves as a nation with one foot in the east and one in the west and want to preserve this status, but nobody has to my knowledge articulated how they can achieve this. Many of them have a romantic notion of what western 'freedoms' mean, but not quite as romantic as people think, as so many HKers have lived in the US or UK or elsewhere and are not entirely politically naive. But they sure as hell know they do not want to live in an autocratic State led by Beijing, and they are perfectly entitled to that view.

The Rev Kev , , August 31, 2019 at 5:03 am

Your last part of your comment makes the protestors sound like the Brexiteers of the Far Fast. People who want radical change but are uncertain how to go about it and with no clear aim in mind. They may not want to live in an autocratic State led by Beijing but according to the map that I use, Hong Kong is within the borders of China. They are not going to get independence and they cannot go back to the way things were so they had better sort out what it is they want their relationship to Beijing to be before it is decided for them.

PlutoniumKun , , August 31, 2019 at 5:18 am

And thats exactly what they are doing. What are they supposed to do, just let their appointed leaders decide for them?

The Rev Kev , , August 31, 2019 at 5:33 am

No. But their five demands don't sound like a winning combination. It doesn't make them sound even serious about full-fledged change-

1-The complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill
2-The government to withdraw the use of the word "riot" in relation to protests
3-The unconditional release of arrested protesters and charges against them dropped
4-An independent inquiry into police behaviour
5-Implementation of genuine universal suffrage

Lambert Strether Post author , , August 31, 2019 at 6:04 am

> 5-Implementation of genuine universal suffrage

That's a demand that Mainland China adhere to the Basic Law that transferred Hong Kong from British sovereignty to PRC sovereignty. What's unserious about that?

The Rev Kev , , August 31, 2019 at 6:20 am

Agreed about that last demand but it is the outlier on that list. Demands 2, 3 and 4 sound like they are trying to 'prepare the battlefield' for the next series of protests by undermining the ability of the Hong Kong Police to do their work. Demand 1 is just fulfilling the casus belli for this series of protests.

Lambert Strether Post author , , August 31, 2019 at 6:30 am

> 'prepare the battlefield' for the next series of protests by undermining the ability of the Hong Kong Police to do their work

In what sense is that not serious? (I'll say again that I think the HKers want what they think is liberal democracy as the US/UK may once be said to have had it this is not a proletarian revolution. Hence, the presence of billionaire Lai is unproblematic, despite heavy breathing at Grey Zone.)

In what sense is asking for one's first demand not serious? Is it more serious to write it off?

The Rev Kev , , August 31, 2019 at 6:57 am

I realize that this is not a popular line of thought but I believe that you do have to consider all aspects of such a big event to be fair. I mean, even Paul Joseph Watson came out with a video supporting the protests-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVu9b6mcWos

But here's the rub. Can you imagine what would happen if this all happened in a western country? Imagine this happening in New York for example. Actually we don't. The authorities came down on the Occupy Wall Street movement like a ton of bricks so we had a taste of what would happen.

I am not saying that the Chinese government is right but I can understand their position here. They give Hong Kong a 'special deal' and the rest of China will want their own special deals.

PlutoniumKun , , August 31, 2019 at 8:09 am

Hong Kong already has its own special deal, 'one nation, two systems' is the official slogan from Beijing. Its Beijing that is backing away from this, not the protestors.

The Rev Kev , , August 31, 2019 at 8:53 am

That's right. A 50-year deal and China was not in much of a position to do a lot about it. Times change and I guess that the Chinese feel that it is time to redress the wrongs of the past according to their lights. I wonder if Macau has the same issues.

Carolinian , , August 31, 2019 at 9:16 am

So if China is, as accused, reneging on the "two systems" then where are the protestors on the "one nation"? To some of us it appears that these young people simply don't want to be a part of China. If true then that's an aim that goes far beyond mere reform.

And the reason USG involvement matters is that some of us don't believe the US should be meddling in other countries -- even ones as unfree as China. The protestors could reassure about the purity of their aims by renouncing US support or the sanctions that some Republicans in Congress are threatening rather than waving US and British flags.

PlutoniumKun , , August 31, 2019 at 9:41 am

A 50-year deal and China was not in much of a position to do a lot about it.

Where on earth did you get that idea? It was actually China's idea, promoted by Deng Xiaoping -- part of their strategy to woo Taiwan and ease the concerns of their neighbours. Plus, it made perfect sense for them economically.

Lambert Strether Post author , , August 31, 2019 at 6:06 am

> The fact that neo-con elements in the US are happy about the protests is entirely irrelevant, it really is. Its like saying that when RT had approving articles about Occupy or Black Lives Matter that this proves the Russians were behind it. It really is that stupid and US centric an opinion.

The NYT wrote some editorials! ZOMG!!!!!

DJG , , August 31, 2019 at 10:57 am

PK: Thanks. You mention coming from a small country, and I think it would benefit all U.S. peeps here to adjust their perspectives accordingly. Good advice.

Second is dispelling the typical "Don't know much about history" attitude in the U S of A. I notice how Lambert Strether ties together several recent organic protest movements. (Should we also throw in Iranian protests after the presidential election in 2009, Taksim protests in Istanbul, and Greek protests against austerity? All of which were organic and fit these models -- the chants from the apartment building remind me of the videos of call and response at night in Iranian cities during those protests.)

Americans like to act as if every event is brand new. And the "don't know much about about history" attitude means being "nonjudgmental" -- which means having no control to assess facts and not much concern for critical thinking.

One question to be asked here would be: How can protest in the U S of A be raised to the HK or Taksim level of disruption?

Just like the Chinese elites, the U.S. elites don't want to deal with the citizenry, and protest is something that shocks them.

And the endgame? The endgame is protest. What comes next? We may be in an era where more protest is needed. Time to study again the disruptions of 1848?

Harry , , August 31, 2019 at 6:53 am

https://twitter.com/joshuawongcf/status/1167480860804710400?s=19

Seamus Padraig , , August 31, 2019 at 7:29 am

What really makes most HK skeptics suspicious is the way the media and the political establishment in the West are constantly slathering the students there with pure, unadulturated praise, while lambasting us skeptics as 'conspiracy theorists'. So comparisons of HK to Maidan are indeed apt. And please contrast the media's treatment of this protest with their (non-)treatment of the gilets jaunes movement in France. On that rare occasion when the MSM did deign to mention the gilets jaunes , they always faithfully accused them of 'racism' and 'anti-semitism'. But note how the HK protesters get pass for using Pepe the Frog as their symbol!

Whom the media cover and how they cover them will always tell you a lot about who is really behind a protest movement and who really stands to benefit from it.

Seamus Padraig , , August 31, 2019 at 7:34 am

Let me start out with a sidebar on "add oil" (加油), which you see all over the coverage of the Hong Kong protests: It originated, says the OED, as a cheer at the Macau Grand Prix in the 1960s, meaning "step on the gas" (which is good to know, because I thought that the underlying metaphor was adding cooking oil to a wok preparatory to frying). It translates roughly to "go for it!"

I have noticed that Germans often the phrase Gas geben (to floor it, to accelerate) with roughly the same colloquial meaning of 'to get a move on'.

XXYY , , August 31, 2019 at 10:42 am

I do not understand the endgame of the protesters.

The idea of protest is to disrupt the system and generally gum up the works, raising the costs of the offending campaign, hopefully to the point where the material and reputational damage makes the whole thing no longer worth pursuing. This is the end game.

To paraphrase Noam Chomsky: Elites want a smoothly-running system of oppression. There is no reason to give them this gift.

DJG , , August 31, 2019 at 10:59 am

XXYY: Yes. And there were a few essays recently about disobedience. The question isn't why people disobey. The true question is: Why is the mass of citizens so obedient?

XXYY , , August 31, 2019 at 11:23 am

During the Occupy protests one continually heard this question: What do they want?!?!

Leaving aside the fact that a group of 5000 people carrying large signs generally makes answering this question pretty easy, there seemed to be a limited ability to grasp the idea that protest is in fact an end .

I think we have somehow been seduced or indoctrinated with the idea that if you do A, it must be strictly in service of getting B. Often the motivations are just inchoate rage or anger, and often the intention is just to call attention to something or just f*ck sh*t up!

As we saw with Occupy, a major turning point in US history and society and the origin of much that was to come, it's fine to just trust the universe to helpfully spin your actions in ways your never could have predicted.

cbu , , August 31, 2019 at 10:55 am

The protest will end with the Hong Kong government invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance.

John k , , August 31, 2019 at 1:03 pm

To what end? That doesn't boost the number of cops. China brings in the tanks? That maybe ends hk usefulness to China as offshore financial center and certainly ends rapprochement with Taiwan.

IMO China's instinct for heavy handed response has led them to a series of mistakes. Perhaps the trade war has them on edge.

XXYY , , August 31, 2019 at 11:11 am

Re: https://www.wikihow.com/Blind-a-Surveillance-Camera

In general, the techniques described here seem unreliable and dangerous if masking your identity from surveillance is vital. The idea that you are going to identify and precisely target every video camera that can see you, 100% of the time, esp. in a moving and rapidly changing environment, seems extremely naive. Video cameras are small, cheap, inconspicuous, and easy to disguise. All that's needed by the opponent is a single video frame that shows your face clearly.

A much better approach to work on seems like trying to obscure your own identifying features. Obviously people are doing this with masks, hoods, goggles, hard hats, umbrellas, and everything else.

One thing I haven't seen too much about is strategies specifically intended to defeat facial recognition technology. AI-based recognizers seem to be extremely brittle; small and even undetectable modifications to the source data seem to be able to throw them off completely (e.g. https://mashable.com/2017/11/02/mit-researchers-fool-google-ai-program/ ). One can imagine these approaches being deployed deliberately as camoflauge or a "disguise". Obviously the problem would be finding robust techniques.

[May 04, 2019] The art of provocation and Sacral victims of Maidan

Color revolution is a military operation in which protesters are just a tip of the iceberg. the key players are Embassy staff, three letter agencies, NGOs, bought and foreign owned neoliberal press, some oligarchs (who might be pressed into submission with the threat of confiscating their assets), compradors and bought players within the government.
The initial crash with police was organized by one of such players (supposedly Lyovochkin). One of the key instruments were huge cash flows in diplomatic mail that feed the protest ("bombing country with dollars"). In a sense in any neoliberal republic color revolution is designed to be a success, the fact which EuroMaidan proved quite convincingly.
Ukraine actually was a very easy target. Yanukovich was essentially neutralized and paralyzed by threats from Biden. Security services were infiltrated and partially work for Americans. Several bought members of the government (Lyovochkon?) did their dirty job in organizing the necessity clashes with policy to feed the protest.
Notable quotes:
"... The script writers of the Maidan, in his opinion, were Americans. ..."
Feb 21, 2015 | vesti-ukr.com

Former Prime Minister Azarov explained his version of events on the Maidan. The script writers of the Maidan, in his opinion, were Americans.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told the NTV about how coup d'état of February of the last year was organized. According to him, the script of the coup d'état was written at the U.S. Embassy.

"The main puppeteers were not on the Maidan," Azarov said. The protests started because of the decision of Ukrainian authorities to suspend the signing of the Association agreement with the EU.

"There was, of course, the enormous pressure from the leaders of the European Union, from several European countries. The meaning of this pressure was the fact that we must put aside all doubts and to sign this agreement," said the former Prime Minister. "They just needed an excuse, a reason to overthrow our government. Because we were frankly told: "If you do not you sign this agreement, it will sign another government, another President,"

In this regard, according to Azarov, they needed a provocation to start protest and such a provocation became the use of force on Independence square in Kiev, where supporters of European integration were staying for several nights. "The action was slow. The organizers understood that without the sacred victims they will be unable to ignite the crowd. Suddenly around 3 am several TV crews arrive, set lights, camera. What to shoot? This ordinary situation, when people spend the night at the square?" - said Azarov.

Ukrainian people were cynically played. According to Azarov at this moment "prepared by gunmen in masks" arrived to the square. They started beating on duty policemen with metal sticks. When police called reinforcements instigators quickly disappeared. And when riot police began detention, "they detain generally innocent people who spend night at the square as a part of peaceful protest."

Speaking about the negotiations Yanukovich with the opposition, Azarov noted that the current Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk "every day spend most of his time in the American Embassy and following their instructions to the letter."

In the end, an agreement was signed between the President and opposition leaders on the peaceful resolution of the conflict, the guarantor which were several European countries, but no one except the Yanukovich, fulfilled their obligations. "I still do not understand, how foreign Ministers of Poland, Germany, France, which signed an agreement on February 21 feel themselves. In the history of diplomacy this agreement will be included as an example of the utmost degree of cynicism and deceit," said Azarov.

See also

[Jan 18, 2014] Class of Nonviolence - Introduction

You ought to believe in something in life, believe that thing so fervently that you will stand up with it till the end of your days.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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  1. If We Listen Well, by Edward Guinan
  2. Nonviolent Response to Assault by Gerald Vanderhaar
  3. Human Nature Isn't Inherently Violent by Alfie Kohn
  4. Axioms of Nonviolence By Lanzo del Vasto
  5. Teaching Reverence for Life by Albert Schweitzer
  6. Students Astutely Aware by Colman McCarthy

Readings for Lesson Two

  1. Doctrine of the Sword by Mohandas Gandhi
  2. Gandhi in the 'Postmodern' Age by Sanford Krolick and Betty Cannon
  3. Family Satyagraha by Eknath Easwaren
  4. Ahimsa by Eknath Easwaren
  5. My Faith in Nonviolence by Mohandas Gandhi
  6. Love by Mohandas Gandhi
  7. A Pause From Violence by Colman McCarthy

Readings for Lesson Three

  1. Love is the Measure by Dorothy Day
  2. Poverty and Precarity by Dorothy Day
  3. Undeclared War to Declared War by Dorothy Day
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  5. The Scandal of the Works of Mercy by Dorothy Day
  6. Dorothy Day by Colman McCarthy

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  1. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Charles De Benedetti
  2. Loving Your Enemies by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  3. Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  4. Pilgrimage to Nonviolence by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  5. King and Pacifism: The Other Dimension by Colman McCarthy

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  2. Rape is all too Thinkable for Quite the Normal Sort of Man by Neal King and Martha McCaughey
  3. To the Women of India by Mohandas Gandhi
  4. Narrowing the Battlefield by Carol Ascher
  5. Patriarchy: A State of War by Barbara Hope
  6. An American Shero of 1941 by Colman McCarthy

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  1. The Technique of Nonviolent Action by Gene Sharp
  2. The Politics of Nonviolent Action by Gene Sharp
  3. The Methods of Nonviolent Protest and Persuasion by Gene Sharp
  4. Albert Einstein on Pacifism
  5. Letter to Ernesto Cardenal: Guns Don't Work by Daniel Berrigan
  6. Building Confidence at Prairie Creek by Colman McCarthy

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  2. The Judge and the Bomb by Miles Lord
  3. Patriotism or Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  4. What Would You Do If? by Joan Baez
  5. Pray for Peace but Pay for War by Maurice F. McCrackin
  6. A Vigil for Life While We Celebrate Death by Colman McCarthy

Readings for Lesson Eight

  1. Animals, My Brethren by Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz
  2. Interview on Respect for Animals, with Isaac Bashevis Singer
  3. A Vegetarian Sourcebook by Keith Akers
  4. Diet for a New America by John Robbins
  5. Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé
  6. 'Terrorists' for Animal Rights by Colman McCarthy

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"Communication technology and nonviolent action," Media Development, Vol. 43, No. 2, 1996, pp. 3-9.

"Science, technology and nonviolent action: the case for a utopian dimension in the social analysis of science and technology," Social Studies of Science, Vol. 27, 1997, pp. 439-463.

Helen Gillett, Brian Martin and Chris Rust, "Building in nonviolence: nonviolent struggle and the built environment," Civilian-Based Defense, Vol. 11, No. 3, Fall 1996, pp. 1, 4-7.

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