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John Laughland and the “French Spring.”

Posted by democratist on April 27, 2013

27th April 2013,

Democratist has been out of the loop for a while, working on other projects, but we simply had to write a few lines of comment on an outstandingly crass piece of FSB disinfo masquerading as “journalism”, because it demonstrates so much about how isolated the Russian government finds itself with regard to human rights and democracy these days.

The offending article, “Why France’s gay Marriage debate has started to look like a revolution.” is written by John Laughland, “Director of Studies” at the most-ironic-name-we-could-think-of Institution of Democracy and Co-Operation in Paris. Apparently, the IDC was set up by Russian NGOs and private businesses to expose “double standards” by the West with regard to Human Rights and democracy.

The truth is, of course that genuinely independent Russian NGOs and private businesses have little interest in this kind of whataboutism.

But guess who does?

Anyway, the essence of this idiotic article is that France’s legalization of gay marriage is about to result in a revolution bringing down the government.

Say what?

Yes indeed. According to Mr. Laughland;

“Revolutions are often sparked by an unexpected shock to an already weakened regime. As commentators in France remark not only on the crisis engulfing François Hollande’s government but also on the apparent death-rattle of the country’s entire political system, it could be that his flagship policy of legalising gay marriage — or rather, the gigantic public reaction against it, unique in Europe — will be the last straw that breaks the Fifth -Republic’s back.”

So there you go folks: Some of you may have thought that there was no historical precedent for this kind of thing; that there has never been a case anywhere in the world where an established democracy was overthrown by revolution; that while many people in France may disagree with gay marriage. they will continue to respect their democratic political system and restrict themselves to peaceful protest.

But you’re wrong! Oh so wrong! In fact they’re massing in the streets in their millions, and anyone who says that perhaps the numbers were a little less (or even a lot less) has clearly been taken into by the lies of those queer-loving French coppers, because;

“Credible accusations surfaced in Le Figaro on Monday night that the film taken from police helicopters on 24 March and released by the prefecture has been manipulated to reduce the apparent numbers of demonstrators.”

Ah I see. It’s all a conspiracy… again.

Laughland blathers on;

“Had the mobilisation in Paris taken place in Tahrir Square, the world’s media would be unanimous that a ‘French spring’ was about to sweep away an outdated power structure… By the same token, had the Moscow security forces tear-gassed children and mothers…the worldwide moral policemen on CNN would be frantically firing their rhetorical revolvers. Such repression would be interpreted as a sign that the regime was desperate. Indeed, had the Ukrainian police removed the ‘tent village’ which formed in central Kiev at the time of the Orange Revolution in 2004 — as the Paris police bundled more than 60 anti-gay marriage campers into detention on the night of 14 April — then one suspects that Nato tanks would have rolled over the Dnieper to their rescue.”

Now we seem to be getting to the crux of the matter. “You would have sent in the tanks if it was us.” Says paranoid Moscow’s none-too-subtle mouth-piece. “How dare you criticise our rigged elections, our repressive anti-gay laws, our attempts to imprison any well-known critic of the regime on trumped-up charges through our shambolic non-independent court system. Shame on you!”

Point is, France doesn’t have “an out-dated power structure.” Its a democratic country, and you can demonstrate all you want, and vote for anyone you like, even a bonkers Trotskyite like Jean-Luc Melichon, or an idiot fascist like Marine Le Pen; and your vote will actually count, unlike (say) the Russian 2011 parliamentary elections.

And so it is very clear, of the two, whose system is outdated, and where “spring” is due next.

Posted in Arab Spring, Conspiracy Theory, Electoral Fraud, Russia Propaganda | 2 Comments »

“Colour Revolution” and the Myths of Putinism.

Posted by democratist on March 23, 2012

23rd March 2012,

Since 2000, Russia has increasingly come to be governed by the use of propaganda as a method for ensuring the legitimation of the regime and keeping the population in check. A series of half-truths, exaggerations and myths have been created to this end, each of which bears the none too subtle whiff of the work of political technologists; that Russia’s elections are “more or less” democratic; that the country only suffers from “civilized” levels of corruption; that Skolkovo will make Russia’s economy a globally competitive center of innovation within a few years; that the Duma is an institution that dutifully scrutinizes legislation on behalf of the electorate; that political and economic reform is “just around the corner…”

But perhaps the overarching legitimation myth of Putinism is idea of the “Colour Revolution,” the notion that the processes of revolt and democratization which have taken place in the near abroad and (more recently) middle East over the past decade are part of some all-powerful, hydra-headed American conspiracy, aimed at “destroying Russia” (and incidentally, world domination). Indeed, according to this narrative we are to believe that those perfidious Americans work day and night to confound otherwise perfectly content populations into overthrowing such beloved (and, of course, free and fairly elected) leaders as Milosevic, Yanukovich, Mubarak, Gaddafi and Assad.

The rationale behind the promotion of such theories is an unwillingness to accept the growing appeal of democratic governance to people in autocratic states generally, and of the applicability of the democratic model to Russia specifically. The need for the continued promotion of such a view of the world is dictated by the elite’s unwillingness to relax their grip on power domestically, or allow themselves to be put to the test of a genuinely fair election (regardless of how popular the opinion polls say they are). It is far easier to ascribe an unwarranted role in these revolts to the CIA, George Soros, the Bilderburg group or whoever, than to accept that the autocratic model of governance, while currently popular in Russia,  has a very limited shelf life in the absence of high oil revenues, and has been rejected by the populations of at least a dozen countries over the last decade.

In terms of the implications of this we might expect for Russia’s domestic political development over the coming years, the continued employment of conspiracy theory as a means of control does not bode well. It is unlikely that the government will allow any genuine political alternatives to emerge to the current system whilst it also tars them, at the same time, as agents of foreign influence. This makes an eventual peaceful transition of power less likely.

A related problem is that Russian history already has several examples which demonstrate that where conspiracy is given prominence, there is a strong tendency that eventually even the leadership and security organs will come to believe their own inventions.

In Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory has Shaped Modern History (2009) the British author David Aaronovich gives the example of the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion; a forged document supposedly describing how senior representatives of the Jewish community were plotting to achieve world domination, which was in fact cooked-up by the Okhrana in the early 1900′s as a weapon to bolster tsarist autocracy against reformism (many reformist politicians were Jews).

Another example of the NKVD’s (as it was by then called) handiwork can be seen in the Moscow “show trials” of the late 1930′s. During these trials several senior party members were coerced into implicating themselves in a complex series of conspiracies apparently intended to derail Soviet industrialization and overthrow Stalin in favour of the exiled Leon Trotsky. Needless to say (as was later admitted), no such plots ever existed; they were invented by the NKVD in order to consolidate Stalin’s grip on power, provide excuses for the numerous shortcomings of the first 5-year plan, and pander to the leader’s own deep personal paranoia. As Robert Conquest has described in The Great Terror (1968/1991), many millions died in the subsequent purges.

What is important in both cases is that eventually those in power in Russia came to believe the fictions they had created were true: In The Mitrokhin Archive (a document whose veracity and accuracy never been officially denied, more than a decade after publication), Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin recount that many among the KGB senior ranks still fully believed in the existence of Zionist plots well into the 1960′s and 1970′s. Similarly, many in the nomenklatura genuinely believed in the truth of the “show trials,” and supported the purges up until Khrushchev’s “secret speech” in 1956.

Therefore we should perhaps not be too surprised at the anger in Prime Minister Putin’s voice, and the tears which streamed down his face during his otherwise carefully choreographed acceptance speech on the Manezhka earlier this month. His invocation of outside forces trying to interfere in Russia’s internal affairs may seem contrived to the foreign observer, especially after what the OSCE described as a poll which was “clearly skewed in favour of one of the contestants.” But, old chekist that he is, the possibility remains that Russia’s old-new President has come to genuinely believe in the myths that have been invented over the years by his colleagues in order to ensure he retains his grip on power.

Additional note: I have just added a link for the Wikipedia page for The Mitrokhin Archive. Oddly enough, there is no Russian translation of this page.  I wonder why?

Posted in Conspiracy Theory, Russian Politics | 11 Comments »

The Politics of Conspiracy: The Case of the North Caucasus.

Posted by democratist on February 28, 2011

February 28th 2011,

A mere twelve hours after Democratist published an article suggesting Medvedev’s speech in Vladikavkaz last Tuesday was a new iteration of the nomenklatura’s historical use of conspiracy theory for domestic control, Pavel Baev from Jamestown has penned his own superb article entitled “The Kremlin Spins Conspiracy Theories Explaining Revolutions Away.”

Among other things, Baev notes that last week’s speech marked the public unveiling of a new theory, of a supposed relationship between Russia’s worsening problems in the north Caucasus, and the recent wave of unrest in north Africa;

“Medvedev tries to reinvigorate the siloviki by sacking mid-level police generals and even a deputy director of the FSB; he has also replaced the head of Karachaevo-Cherkessia for poor efforts in economic development, while tensions in this republic still remain manageable (www.newsru.com, February 26). These cadre reshufflings make little difference in the administrative system based on converting power into profit, while Medvedev’s personal inspections of airports and train stations only demonstrate that no efficient defense against terrorism could be invented (Novaya Gazeta, February 26). It is the growing understanding of futility of the two-track strategy of buying stability and exterminating rebels that feeds the official readiness to subscribe to the preposterous “American-Turkish conspiracy” (Vedomosti, February 25).”

The idea of a Turkish-American conspiracy in the north Caucasus is indeed preposterous; the obvious reality is that the Kremlin has failed miserably over a period of more than a decade in its attempt to “pacify” the region.

 But, as we wrote yesterday, the emerging danger (as demonstrated by historical precedent) is that Putin and Medvedev themselves will soon come to genuinely believe in what is essentially a self-serving and exculpatory Macédoine of falsehood and quarter-truth: Medvedev’s speech raises the spectre of the FSB falling into the established pattern of pandering to the Kremlin’s fears of foreign plots, and of discovering “proof” of this involvement in the ongoing series of terrorist attacks that they have repeatedly demonstrated they are too inept to prevent.

Either way, this development does not bode well for Medvedev’s “modernization” strategy. As Baev also suggests, it is likely to strengthen the hand of those in the nomenklatura who distrust the West, and, combined with a rise in oil prices, may finally come to mark Russia’s return to the “petro-state” development model.

Posted in Conspiracy Theory | Leave a Comment »

 
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