Democracy Promotion For Dummies, Or What Is The Color Of Your Revolution?

Just a month ago, a Washington Post editorial shared with us some bad news: freedom is on retreat around the globe.  Helping the Post's editors arrive at such a sad conclusion was a survey by the Freedom House which claimed that the situation with the world's human rights has been deteriorating "for the fifth consecutive year."  Did it occur to the clowns from the Freedom House that the timing of their supposed trend conspicuously coincided with the George W. Bush administration's policy of advancing democracy at a gunpoint?  (Incidentally, supervising these clowns is a David Kramer, the Freedom House's executive director, who served  in the Bush administration as an assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.  For democracy and human rights!  One can be sure that in this capacity, Kramer did his best to sharpen the administration's favorite democracy promotion tools, such as Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, CIA secret prisons and waterboarding.)   

It is therefore quite understandable that the eruption of street protests in Egypt has lifted the spirit of thousands of professional democracy promoters in Washington, DC.   And rightfully so: it's not every day that a "pro-democracy" crowd is challenging the rule of a bloody Middle Eastern tyrant. 

Yet, at the risk of sounding obstructive, I have a couple of clarifying questions for the folks who're more versed than me in the science and art of democracy promotion.  (Actually, I'd love to start with this one: if Egypt is on its way to  democracy, then why did many countries, including the United States, begin evacuating their citizens?  But I won't let this technical question distract us from the more fundamental.)  The first question: what kind of proof do we have that the mob regularly gathering at the Tahrir Square in Cairo represents a bona fide "pro-democracy" movement?  Now, there is no question that this movement is antiMoubarak, but history provides us with enough examples of anti-movements — the 1789 French Revolution, the 1917 Russian Revolution, and 1979 Iranian Revolution come to mind immediately — that resulted in regimes that were arguably more brutal than the ones they replaced.  What exactly did the Tahrir Square protesters do or say to pursuade us that they were not simply anti-Mubarak, but pro-democracy?

And this leads me to my second question.  In democracy, the voice of majority rules.  Do we have any evidence that the protesters' demand for Moubarak's resignation reflects the opinion of the majority of Egyptians — and not of a particular minority faction, however large, organized and determined?  This is not a fancy question.  We all remember mass protests that engulfed the streets of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in the fall of 2007.  Many, myself included, believed that the days of Georgia's embattled president Mikheil Saakashvili were numbered.  But Saakashvili held on, and the protests have gradually stopped.  Why?  Because as much as Saakashvili was hated by the Georgian intellectuals running the show in Tbilisi, he was equally popular in the countryside where the majority of Georgians live.

I'm not an expert on the Middle East: I don't speak Arabic and my only personal experience with the region is restricted to a short tourist trip to Morocco.  (Yes, I know that a similar lack of knowledge of the Middle East doesn't prevent U.S. democracy promoters from comfortably issuing labels like "dictator", "pro-democracy", "moderate", "radical", etc.  But I can only speak for myself.)  I didn't plan to write about the Egypt protests and I changed my mind only in response to repeated attempts to bring parallels between the crisis in Egypt and the situation in Russia.

This, of course, shouldn't come as a surprise.  Ever since the glorious times of the Orange Revolution in Kyiv in November 2004, every case of mass disturbances in the post-Soviet space – and now even in the Middle East! — has been exploited as an excuse to stick the proverbial Mirror of the Russian Revolution into Russia's face.  My only wonder is which term will be chosen to describe the "revolution" that is supposed to bring  a "pro-democracy" change to Russia.  Somehow, I suspect that this isn't going to be a color, but, rather, a plant — pretty much in line with the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan,  the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, or the Date Palm Revolution in Tunisia.  The Birch Revolution?  The Daisy Revolution?  Or, perhaps, something completely unorthodox: say, The Samovar Party Movement?

To assess whether Russia is ready for a "revolution", I turned to a man with an impressive track record of launching Russian revolutions.  Obviously, I'm speaking about Vladimit Ilyich Ulyanov-Lenin whose definition of the "revolutionary situation" — presented in the 1915 article "The Collapse of the 2-nd International" — still remains the golden standard in the field.

Lenin describes three major conditions characterizing a "pre-revolutionary" situation in a given country.  The first is the inability of the ruling class to execute its authority ("the top can't rule in the old way").  It is plain clear that with the approval ratings of Russia's top two leaders oscillating around 60%, the Russian ruling class remains in full control of the country.  President Medvedev's attempts at "modernizing" Russia's economic and political institutions, however clumsy at times, still reflect the ability of the Russian elites to adjust to the changing conditions on the ground. 

The second condition identified by Lenin is the sharply increased ("beyond the usual level") impoverishment of ordinary citizens ("the bottom doesn't want to live in the old way").  True, the economic crisis has decreased the living standards of ordinary Russians and further widened the already large gap between the wealthy and the poor.  Yet, at the average per-capita income of about $14,000, it's a huge stretch to call Russians impoverished "beyond the usual level."  Characteristically, over the past couple of years, only two significant mass protests, in Vladivostok and Kalinigrad, have been marked by economic demands, and Vladivstok was obviously a special case.  At least for now, the authorities have enough financial resources to prevent "economic" grievances from reaching the boiling point — by increasing the pensions and salaries of state workers.

The third condition is the dramatic increase in political activity of ordinary people, their "readiness for spontaneous revolutionary actions", as Lenin called it.  This is definitely something that deserves consideration.  There is no question that mass political activity is on the rise in Russia.  However, so far, the most prominent anti-government movements, such as, for example, the Defenders of the Khimki Forest, have been alternating their protest actions with clever PR campaigning and occasional talks with the authorities.  And Medvedev is somewhat decreasing the likelyhood of "spontaneous" mass actions by holding well-publitized meetings with his Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, where "hot" topics are allowed to be at least publicly articulated.     

The close attention the West is paying to the regular episodes of a reality show mistakenly called "the rallies of the Russian opposition" is actually purely self-serving, as it allows the democracy promotion crowd to justify its own existence.  The spectacular clashes between wooden-headed "strategists-31" with equally wooden-headed omonovtsy may make great news in the Western media, but they can't hide this simple math: 1,500 of protesters gathering for such meetings represent less than a two-hundredth of a percent of the 10-million population of Moscow.  This is not something that the Kremlin should worry about.

What the Kremlin must worry about is the repeat of the demonstration that took place on the Manezhnaya Square on December 11, when a few thousand youngsters showed up out of the blue (or so it seemed) with the banners "Russia for Russians, Moscow for Muscowites!" and "Moscow is not the Caucasus!"  No efforts should be spared to prevent converting this, so far, one-off episode into another reality show.  For the genre of this show won't be Russia's "democratization."  It will be Russia's disintegration, something that even the evil Lenin didn't want happening to Russia.

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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36 Responses to Democracy Promotion For Dummies, Or What Is The Color Of Your Revolution?

  1. The most basic reason why Russia isn’t Egypt is pretty simple.
    Russia is a net grains exporter and largely self-sufficient in food overall.
    Egypt imports 40% of its food (60% of its wheat), from a real GDP per capita that is at least 5x smaller than Russia’s, and few manufactures or oil products to pay for them.
    In other words, Russia can always buffer the effects of food price gains via policy. Egypt can’t, and its population is far more vulnerable because of its greater poverty.
    PS. Tunisia is richer than Egypt, but even more dependent on food imports.

  2. Luis Alcalá says:

    I think that the situation in Egipt have some items similar to other revolutions but other news.
    There is a fundamental factor, the impoverishment of the people. To the normal citizen it imports more having enough meal every day for himself and his family that the democracy, both in Tunisia and in Egypt the increase of the commodities has been the key of the beginning of the riots. It is not important for them to have a dictator if it feeds them well, it is the ancient bread and circus of the Romans and that is valid for almost all the countries.
    An innovation of these movements there are been the social networks and the role agglutinant of the same ones. after the WWII the communism took the power of several Eastern bloc with coups d’état. Curiously the United States encouraged it in the colors revolutions and to assault parliaments turned almost into a legitimacy source, forgetting that a crowd for very big that is is not the mayority of the people of that country.
    Nevertheless the base on which these phenomena are happening is very dangerous since we speak about peoples at a level of very high illiteracy and with a medieval religion therefore the danger of which there happens a revolution to that of Iran is not contemptible.
    And only the poverty does not explain the fanaticism, the terrorists of the airport of London were Muslims of third generation and rich.
    As for the so called “professionals of the democracy” there is little that to say. Recently an argentinian minister ( not an ejemplar country by the way )said that the school of Americas´s of Clinton and another similars before had been the source of tormentors and coups d’état. Fortunately the credit of Unisted states is in the bootom of ocean and nobody believe them when speak about “democracy” or “human rights”, even Bush can be arrested in Switzeerland for his aprobation of torture.

  3. jack says:

    The “Russian” revolution was neither Russian by the number of actual Russians that were involved and made of the leadership of the state and state institutions nor can it be called a “revolution” more like a coup financed and promoted by mainly British and British interests given the fact that British-American banks lead by Jacob Schiff financed Trotsky and his gang who were exiled for setting up terrorist cells and terrorist attacks against the Tsarist regime billions of dollars to finance the Bolshevik revolution going from New York into Russia on US passports.
    For decades they made Russia ripe for revolution through various efforts like lobbying to end US-Russia trade agreements since the Lincoln period, financing Japan during the Jap-Russo war, etc.
    I see many parallels to 19th/early 20th Century international Marxist terrorism and the campaign against Russia and today’s international jihadist terrorism against Russia who travel in the same circles in London.

  4. Igor says:

    You had really bundled a lot of not unrelated questions in this one post, Eugene..
    Eg. from what had really happened on Maneznaya (i.e. whether someone thought that extreme nationalism is a lesser evil than eradication of corruption) to whether obeying only the commands from the leaders which do not contradict some lower ranks’ personal agenda is not a sign of “inability of the ruling class to execute its authority” (although, here it probably, says more about the leaders than about the “ruling class”..).
    @Anatoly & @Luis – maybe for a stable society there is an optimum amount of food/goods/services for an average person to afford – so the people are neither hungry nor bored (“bread & circuses”) ? Like (a proper) socialism 🙂

  5. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Anatoly,
    You seem to be even more Marxist than me:)
    Well, there were times (actually, in quite recent, historically speaking, past) when Russia was net importer of grain. One could argue of course that perestroyka was a slow, bloodless, equivalent of a “revolution” – in response to this challenge. Remember Gorbachev with his “we can’t live like that anymore”? Sounds pretty much like Lenin’s “the top can’t rule in the old way.”
    Coming back to Egypt, I agree but would add that 30 years of emergency rule didn’t help, either.

  6. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Luis,
    You made a number of very good points. Let me only comment on one.
    Sure, the U.S. (through the CIA) has helped to overthrow a lot of regimes. However, I somehow doubt that we really STARTED any color revolution. To fund and train thugs to launch a military coup — yes, we can that. But to understand economic conditions, political situation and, even more importantly, people’s mood in foreign countries — this is too sophisticated for us.
    Even with regards to the events in Egypt: the democracy promoters were as surprised as all of us, including, as it turns out, the CIA. So much for democracy promotion around the world!
    Best Regards,

  7. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Hi Jack,
    Thanks for your comments. Sure, I argee with your “nationality” point, but I used the common Western term for the event which since my childhood, I was taught to call Великая Октябрьская Революция.
    I’d however disagree with your calling it a “coup.” Regardless how it was organized and triggered, this event resulted in profound, truly revolutionary, changes in Russia’s economic and political institutions.
    As opposed to color “revolutions” in, say, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan where the only thing that had changed was the names of the people sitting in high offices and using them for personal enrichment.
    Do come back.
    Best Regards,

  8. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Hi Igor,
    I love your points and I do appreciate the subtle way you express your disagreement with my position:)
    No, I’m not trying to say that everything is great and rosy in Russia. I can even intellectually accept that some day, there is going to be a “revolution” in Russia (God forbid of course!). What I’m saying is that Russia isn’t “there” yet. And, hopefully, there are people in the Russian elites who too read “Крах II Интернационала.”

  9. Андрей says:

    Понравилось, особенно, про “The spectacular clashes between wooden-headed “strategists-31″ with equally wooden-headed omonovtsy” улыбнуло )) Поверьте, многие либерально-настроенные люди так и расценивают этих как бы демократоров. К тому же, есть большое подозрение, что они если не марионетки ГосДепа, то кровавой гэбни.
    Вас читают в России, нам нравится, пишите ещё.

  10. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Спасибо за добрые слова.
    Ну, со связями “либералов” с кровавой гэбней, Вы уж там сами разбирайтесь. Но поверьте мне на слово: марионетками нашего госдепа они не являются. Наш госдеп не может даже задним числом объяснить, что произошло в Египте (о том, чтобы что-то предсказать, и речи не идет), стране, которой мы отламываем 1.5 миллиарда $$ каждый год. А уж направлять какую-то оппозицию в далекой и непонятной стране — за это они даже и не возмутся. Другое дело, что это госдеп часто ведет себя, как немцовская марионетка: Немцов что-то скажет, а те и рады повторять. Ну, как говорится, Немцову немцово, госдепу госдепово.
    Приходите еще.
    Всех благ,

  11. Hi Eugene & Co.,
    For valid reasoning, I sense a good number of the more Soviet nostalgic of Russians having a limited enthusiasm of Lenin. I note how his “great Russian chauvinism” quote gets uncritical play among some Russia unfriendly circles. Never mind the non-Russian and anti-Russian chauvinism out there, which many Russians seem unaware of and in some instances play up to.
    A case in point is this Socoresque spin from “stage news agency” RIA Novosti:
    “Pro-Russian hardliners,” without any characterization of non-Russian ultra-nationalists from Moldova and Romania, who favored attacking Pridnestrovie. (AKA Transnistria and closely related spellings.)
    At times, Russian mass media is influenced by some prevalent and ethically challenged (in the pure media sense) trends in English language mass media.
    As for Lenin and the need to change, he was by no means a pioneer.
    Pre-Soviet Russia existed in a different era, when the modern period of accepted tolerance was limited from the present day. British rule over Ireland wasn’t so much more progressive, if even more progressive than Russia’s authority over a good portion of Poland. Whereas Poland had at times threatened Russia, the same can’t be said of Ireland vis-à-vis English dominated Britain. As the not so Russia friendly historian John Lukacs observed, Finland had the greatest amount of autonomy of any future nation that was part of a European empire.
    I’m somewhat familiar (although not well versed) with one of Lenin’s works on pre-Soviet Russian economic development, where he acknowledges a noticeable upward trend. Hence, it’s erroneous to assume that Russia had been nothing before the revolution. I’d my dosage of politically left of center instructors who spun that line. I sense that the aforementioned work of Lenin’s might’ve been motivated to take issue with Marx, who believed that revolution wasn’t likely in Russia – on the premise that there would first have to be noticeable socioeconomic developement, before a Marxist theorized revolution can take place.
    By and large, the Russians opposed to Lenin were aware of the need to change. In exile, many of them carried themselves well. I’m glad to see that post-Soviet Russia is giving them greater respect from what was evident in Soviet times. Contrary to some of the anti-Russian propaganda out there, the Russian Whites supported Polish and Finnish independence, while not opposing autonomy for Ukraine. The Russian Whites were by no means an exclusively ethnic Russian monopoly. Towards the end of their war with the Reds, the Whites showed considerably more positive attributes on law and order and socioeconomic matters. A main drawback for them were some bad apples within their ranks, coupled with military people who weren’t formally educated in political studies (AKA political science).
    Regarding the discussion of the situation with Egypt and street protests which have occurred elsewhere, last night, MSNBC TV show host Rachel Maddow stated an upbeat and IMO overly-generalized linking of “people power” in Egypt, Ukraine and Georgia. Not mentioned was what can and has happened after such street activity and the replacement of the existing head of state. In the case of Ukraine, Maddow omits the role of outsiders in supporting one side over the other. Someone paid for the free concerts, food and condoms, as well as the flags of Poland, Yugoslavia, post-Soviet/pre-Lukashenko presidency Belarus and Saakashvili presidential era Georgia.
    BTW, Yushchenko’s presidency has made Kuchma a more popular figure from the time of his regime ended.
    Some of the mass media spin can have a sense of irony. I get the impression that a good number of establishment media types wouldn’t take too kindly to a people power like attempt to challenge them. I’m reminded of Tina Brown referring to bloggers as the Taliban of the media.
    Pardon much of the repetition in these comments from one made earlier by yours truly. IMO, there’s a constructive need to restate them for the benefit of those who haven’t yet come across them – especially when considering the kind of limited propping at the more high profile of venues like… In addition, perhaps some others might’ve something to say after sleeping on what has been expressed.

  12. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Mike,
    I used to love a lot of American journalists, media personalities, etc. — but until the very moment they opened their mouth to say something about international issues. And then, all of sudden, the spell was gone.
    I’m actually happy that I didn’t listen to Rachel. I happen to like her and would hate being disappointed with a sophomoric lecturing about something she knows nothing about.

  13. When it comes to her, that’s good reasoning on your part Eugene.
    On the subjects of faulty media, Russia screwing itself and my reference to a biased RIAN piece, I note that RT has given air time to Messrs. Weir, Burger and Harding, unlike some others who’ve provided more accurate, interesting and originally thought out commentary, downplayed in English language mass media.
    This is stated while lauding the other instances of RT providing good alternative source material. My point concerns a further improvement of the status quo.

  14. jack says:

    I’d however disagree with your calling it a “coup.” Regardless how it was organized and triggered, this event resulted in profound, truly revolutionary, changes in Russia’s economic and political institutions.
    From the stand point of a mere change in government than I guess I can agree with you but the point I was trying to make is that the standard version of history that the people were dissatisfied with the Tsarist regime and his repression or alleged repression was the root cause of the “revolution” leaves about import points in history mainly the ethnic and racial component of those that lead the revolution and the Communist movement against Russia.
    No mention if made of the fact that Marxist terrorist groups emanated from the conflict in the Pale of Settlement that lead the revolutionary movement which when rather puzzling elements why they would deliberately tear down every aspect of Russia culture, kill large scores of the Russian populace and intellectual class and replace the previous government with hostile non-Russian minority groups everything makes sense.
    It would be like if Chechens and affiliated Islamist groups were engulfed in civil war against Russia. The first thing they would do is kill all the ethnic Russians and destroy Orthodox Churches.
    So from an ethnic perspective the outcome of the “revolution” makes perfect sense.
    @Michael Averko
    What is the Lenin’s chauvinistic quote?
    From the ones I have read he was chauvinistically anti-Russian.
    “I don’t care what becomes of Russia. To hell with it. All this is only the road to a World Revolution.”
    – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
    [Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov] (1870 – 1924), First Leader of the Soviet Union
    “Lenin, whose maternal grandfather, Israel Blank, was Judaic, said that Judaics made the best revolutionaries: “The clever Russian is almost always a Jew or has Jewish blood in him.” (Dmitri Volkogonov, Lenin: A New Biography, p. 112). Lenin was both clever and a revolutionary. He was surely referring to himself.
    Researcher Wayne McGuire of Harvard University writes: “Lenin was a Jew by the standards of Israel’s Law of Return: he possessed a Jewish grandparent. It would seem that not only was Lenin a Jew, but that he was a Jewish racist and chauvinist, although he kept his ideas on this volatile subject far in the background, probably because they were in radical conflict with the supposed universalism of Marxism. …Lenin was a Jewish racist who deliberately gave Jews especially, the most ‘intellectually demanding tasks.’ He admitted that 50% of the communist terrorist vanguard in the south and west of Russia was comprised of Jews.”
    Lenin declared, “We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class.” His partner in crime, Apfelbaum (Zinoviev) stated: “The interests of the revolution require the physical annihilation of the bourgeoisie class.” Who were these bourgeoisie? Certainly not Jews. Trotsky gave a clue to their identity in a 1937 interview in the New York Jewish newspaper, Daily Forward: “The longer the rotten bourgeoisie society lives, the more and more barbaric will anti-Semitism become everywhere.”

  15. Makes sense that a good number of Communists in the south (Ukraine) and west of the former Russian Empire were Jews, since that’s where many resided.
    I’m a bit reserved on highlighting the ethnic wrongs among Communists. There was a good deal of bad to be found among numerous groups. This point highlights why the Captive Nations Committee is a bigoted organization.
    Albats wrote of a situation of Jews being disproportionately represented among the political security elite involved in persecution. She also notes how many Jews were on the receiving end of such persecution.

  16. Joe Kozak says:

    All revolutions start by getting rid of a repressive regime. But, anti-Mubarak does not necessarily mean pro-democracy (or pro-Sharia). What comes next will be determined by the dynamics and dialectics of the particular historic moment and the actors involved. The only thing that has been established is that people power is alive and well in Egypt. This phase is similar to the Russian February revolution, Iran in January 1979, Poland in the early ’80’s, and the recent ‘colored’ revolutions. In Ukraine, for example, the orange revolution may have been financed and supported from the west, but it was the people in Maidan that forced new elections. Whether these represented the majority opinion in Ukraine was irrelevant, because it was the people in the street who forced the issue (Lenin’s rule #3).
    Finally, the dismal failure of Yuschenko to live up to the hype does not diminish the exercise of people power that got him to the presidency. Similarly, the excesses of the USSR does not discredit 1917. And, whatever comes next in Egypt does not diminish the accomplishments of the demonstrators. The pre-conditions Lenin noted were present in Egypt, and the people responded.

  17. Eugene says:

    Hi Joe,
    Thanks much for your great comments.
    Let me start from the end of your last paragraph. I’ve just seen a headline in the WP: “In 18 days, a revolution in Egypt.” A revolution? I feel one has to start with the definition of “revolution” (much like one has to define “democracy” every time as the discussion on the subject begins:). A dictator (former air force general) is replaced with a military junta led by a security service general. So much for revolution and democracy! No, I don’t want to diminish “the accomplishments of the demonstrators”, but I can’t accept your “whatever comes next” until I know what it is that comes next.
    I have perhaps a different from yours opinion on what happened in Ukraine in 2004. In a nutshell, I believe that the people were cynically used by different oligarch groups fighting for power — but that’s debatable, of course. And yet, I’d like to pose this question: don’t you think that the Orange Revolution turned to be so short-lived exactly because it was not supported by the majority of the citizens?
    Best Regards,

  18. Leo says:

    The unfortunate consequences of “political vacuum”, especially 30 year long one is that only the radicals are “ready” to take power. Ready in the sense of being fully organized. So, Egypt is in for times of trouble. Hard to make a preference between the military rule and radicals in power if you ask me. But half-jokingly coming to defence of the respectable TV journalist – the most important analogy between recent peaceful revolutions has a human dimension. People get sick of seeing the same face (or the same clan) in power for long long years. Add to this large numbers of unemployed youth and you have a revolution. Is there a lesson for Russia? If Putin stays in power for another 30 years, then who knows.
    All the best,

  19. Agree completely with Eugene’s last set of comments.
    The last four Egyptian leaders have come from military backgrounds. The Egyptian military is once again represented in a political change. It remains to be seen what the extent of change in Egypt comprises.
    BTW, the Russian and Orange revolutions involved a good deal of foreign prodding. There was a time when foreign support for the Whites (not as great as suggested in some citcles) was played up without noting the foreign support given to Lenin (notably from Germany as well as some others that wasn’t exclusively monetary).

  20. Eugene says:

    Hi Leo,
    “Is there a lesson for Russia? If Putin stays in power for another 30 years, then who knows.”
    Exactly my lesson from the Egypt events! That’s why Western democracies are so stable: there is always a possibility to blame the previous guy for the problems and promise improvements. Blaming Bush has carried Obama for the good first 1-1.5 years of his presidency. And now, the Republican agenda is basically only to repeal what Obama has done.
    Hopefully, Russian elites will finally agree among themsleves for this simple rule: no more than 2 terms for one guy. And the next guy isn’t alllowed to touch not only his IMMEDIATE predecessor, but ALL predecessors. That’s it. The problem solved.

  21. Eugene says:

    Completely agreed. I’d only add that after grabbing the power, Lenin seemed to have stopped taking his marching orders from Germany. In contrast, Yushchenko seemed to only listen to his wife and their family friend Taylor.

  22. For sure Eugene with at least one major difference. Whereas Germany was significantly weakened after WW I, the post-Cold War, Western influenced neolib/necon foreign policy establishment has comparatively stronger tools to work with in its favor.
    In the early years following WW I, Germany and the USSR found common interests in what can be categorized as a kind of misery (as negatively looked at countries) seeking company. This situation is what motivated the Treaty of Rapallo between the two nations.
    Towards the end of WW I, German policy in what became the former Russian Empire exhibited Machiavellian tendencies. In Ukraine, the Germans threw their weight behind Skoropadsky, who they hoped would bring better control over that territory to serve German war aims. Skoropadsky briefly replaced the left leaning group that included Petliura, who become reliant on German support, before being dumped by Berlin. In his memoir’s, Kerensky (a Belaeff favorite – snicker) notes that and makes a connection with how the Germans showed interest in supporting some anti-Provisional Government and anti-Bolshevik Russian monarchists to cover all grounds in the event of failure in one of them. To some degree that happened.

  23. Sorry, second sentence in my last set of comments should read as:
    Whereas Germany was noticeably weakened after WW I, the post-Cold War, neocon/neolib influenced Western foreign policy establishment is in a comparatively stronger position.

  24. Luis Alcalá says:

    I believe that we are talking about three very important topics and each of them deserves books and years of study.
    On the Bolshevik revolution Jack’s opinion is very interesting and I coincide with him that the situation gepolítica is looking alike greatly at the end of the XIXth century and beginning of the XXth. Any revolution independently from his actors needs an element named luck. If the Germans had not sent Lenin in a special train, one of the trips with any more consequences of the universal history, it is possible that nothing had happened or at least not with so much force. Let’s remember that most of the Russian people were rural and illiterate and it was the small industrial proletariat, and his penuries, the ground of the revolution. But the efforts of the western potencies to dismember Russia earlier and after the WWI they are very similar to what happens at present.
    On the colors revolutions we lack information, but for the small one that it is going out to the light and for mere observation and common sense, the attitude of the United States and other western potency was any thing less neutral . It is not necessary to be Brzezinski for knowledge that those thousands of equal orange tents, they neither were spontaneous the impoverished Ukrainian citizens nor could pay them. There is an old tactic, not only Anglo-Saxon, the divide and you will win. Certainly the role of England is curious in the origin of several of the worst current conflicts, India – Pakistan, Israel, Cyprus or Ireland.
    On the conflict of Egypt I believe that the most sensible position is to wait and to see. The fact that the ideal of the liberals and democrats of Egypt is Turkey and not Sweden is not encouraging. Turkey is not any example of democracy, we can ask about it the scarce Christians who stay and to the Kurds for example.
    I don´t know if the western potency will learn something since they are keep on supporting central assian dictatorships , between other dictatorships, which – literally – boil in water his opponents and the “western democrats” look for another side, perhaps because they do not like the smell of boiled meat.

  25. Hi Luis,
    The Germans did considerably more for the Bolsheviks than transport Lenin from Zurich to Petrograd.
    Remember that the education level in Europe and North America wasn’t as high in 1913 as it was to become. The Russia of that period comparatively lagged, while simultaneously advancing.
    Further socioeconomic advancement wasn’t needed with the exclusive utilization of the Bolsheviks. On the premise that politics has ruthless aspects (which vary in degrees), it can be reasonably said that the Bolsheviks were good organizers and manipulators – factors that contributed to their success.
    With the benefit of hindsight, these matters can be analytically reviewed in greater detail.

  26. Joe Kozak says:

    I agree that, in essence, the military in Egypt has implemented a coup. But it was the demonstrators who forced the crisis situation. They demanded a change. They created a critical mass and displayed a “readiness for spontaneous revolutionary actions”. A showdown may yet come between the military and the demonstrators, but will the conscript army follow the orders of the generals, or the will of the people?
    In Russia, that was the difference between December,1905 & February,1917.

  27. Eugene Ivanov says:

    I’m 100% with you here. But it took a few months to finish what the Ferbuary 1917 Revolution had started — and the result was far from the originally intended.
    So let’s wait and see — that’s the only thing that I suggest. By any means do I want to downplay people’s “readiness for spontaneous revolutionary actions.” What I do have an aversion to is to calling every popular movement a “revolution” and a “pro-democracy.” As far as the “pro-democracy” part goes, I don’t have any idea which fraction of the society the protesters represent. Take a look, for example, at this piece in TNI: The guy pretty much shares my concerns.

  28. Sergey says:

    There is a clear link from Russia to Egypt: summer fires lead to export ban, Egypt was supposed to get upwards of half a million tons of wheat, the delivery of which had to be ‘rescheduled’. Some of that Egypt reportedly was able to get from France, but apparently not all of it. The food prices have been rising even without Russian embargo: see this Jan 2011 report by Credit Suisse, Page 22 mentions 20% food inflation for a country where 41% of all expenditures is on food. Or this report from Aug 22, 2010, A quote: “Egypt’s Central Bank has reported that ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, the prices of poultry, red meat and rice increased dramatically in July. The announcement is no surprise for consumers, who have repeatedly said prices are sky-rocketing.”
    Who knows which straw has broken camel’s back, but Russian influence definitely wasn’t removing them.
    What about Egypt affecting Russia? Why, Brent oil is at $103, couldn’t have been more conductive to a revolution, right?
    Some other components of Egyptian revolt. Educated youth, with estimated 20% unemployement rate. A lot of them: Under 15 years old are 33% of Egyptian population (only 15% in Russia). Median age is just 24.8 years in Egypt (38.4 in Russia)! Data is from
    Don’t forget: in Egypt a young male needs money to marry. There’s a lot of them, poverty is widespread: 18.5% living on less that 2$ a day (, and so many simply wouldn’t be able to afford marriage. Egypt is a socially conservative country, remember? So, a lot of young, educated, unemployed, poor and probably sexually frustrated people after a major price shock to their main expenditure category – tension was very high, revolt has happened.
    Now, which part of that mixure is present in Russia? Not too many young, and the numbers are going down (very small 90s generations are entering adulthood). Well educated, yes, but without large unemployment (probably overqualified, but not doing Herbalife any longer). Social lifts are clogged, true. Sexually repressed? Give me a break. Well… we are going to wait for that revolution in Russia for a long, long, long time, I guess.

  29. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks very much for your comments. As far as I’m concerned, I’m in no ruch for another Russian revolution.
    What triggered this post was in part an article in BNE:
    Take a look at Fig. 3. According to this criterion, Russia is better off than even Slovakia. Interestingly, at the far right of this scale (“Greatest risk of unrest”) are Iran and Kuwait. Iran is on already. Will Kuwait follow or it will be spared by its per-capita GDP?
    Anyway, I felt that judging Russia using the “Middle East” approach was unfair. So I turned to Lenin. Still works, does it not?
    Best Regards,

  30. Sergey says:

    Hi Eugene,
    No way Kuwait is going to explode anytime soon – by Constitution, every citizen has a right to a job. When such a citizen, often with a degree from a Western U. paid for by the government, arrives home to request the job, another desk is put into one of the ministries or agencies, and some of the papers to be pushed start arriving on that desk.
    So, yes, a lot of young people, but a total lack of young, unemployed, and unmarried ones.
    South Africa and especially Kenya have experiences ‘revolutions’ recently, Pakistan has a set of never-ending conflicts as a safety valve. As long as Saudi Arabia got funds to pay off its citizens, it’s safe too.
    BNE should have added a few other factors into their model, Gini coefficient and macro volatility come to mind immediately. Or share of transfers in the budget.
    On Lenin – trouble with any social science (including economics) is that it’s very hard to reject a hypothesis. So, yes, perhaps it still works.

  31. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Sergey,
    Funny, a college friend of mine in St. Petersburg (a member of unregistered Ryzhkov’s Republican Party) told me recently that days and nights, he’s reading Lenin’s “Государство и революция.” So finally, he got to appreciate what he, me and many others loved to mock just a few (about 40) years ago…

  32. Quetzalcoatl says:

    In Kuwait and other Gulf states employment means spending time at the shopping malls all day. (Unless you are a guest worker from Bangladesh, where you are treated as a slave.) That does not look good for the long term of these states.
    I think it is interesting that the Maghreb has so many young people, but birth rates are already below replacement level in those countries. I wonder if the chaos will lead to everyone-for-sale climate of EE despite the Islamic background. Egypt – while not in the Maghreb – has more in common with them since they cannot rely on oil prices (I wonder if low oil prices may have had something to do with the very large baby boom in this region in the 80s.)

  33. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Dear Quetzalcoatl,
    Thank you very much for your comments. Again, I’m not an expert in the region and don’t know well the difference in economic and political situation between all these countries. Yet, with all differences, it does appear that the unrest is spreading around, albeit being restricted so far to the least prosperous countries. So it is important to understand what is driving these protests.
    What was interesting though to watch is the reaction of the Obama administration to the protests in Egypt vis-a-vis Iran: very cautious approach in the first case and an unconditional support for “democracy” in the second.
    Best Regards,

    • Princess says:

      piga savvato vrady kai eida tin taniia proti seira sto makedoniko..kako auto..alla i taniia stroti me exairetiki atmosfaira..europaiki..proigoumenos eixa dei to happy feet..xeneroto.,

  34. Sergey says:

    Dear Eugene,
    “to friends everything, to enemies democracy?” 🙂

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