Coup and Anti-Coup. Gene Sharp Amended

Irina LEBEDEVA | 01.03.2014

In the Coup in Kiev piece published by Antiwar.com on February 24, Justin Raymondo makes no bones about it saying that the events in Ukraine were nothing else but an outright coup d’état «pure and simple, the violent overthrow of a duly elected official», as he puts it. The author describes it as an overthrow of pro-Nazi and anti-Russian nature, just another regime change in the line of «color revolutions» taking place in the post-Soviet space. According to Justin Raymondo, the coup bringing putschists to power is being hailed not only by «that champion of «democracy», the United States government, but also by our clearly biased media, which is using this as «a bludgeon to beat the hated Vladimir Putin»

The author believes Americans would get a better understanding of the Ukrainian events if they realize that, «the role of the United States government in this affair is utterly pernicious. While funding and encouraging the Ukrainian people to rise up against a gang of kleptocrats, Washington plots behind the scenes to install their own favored thieves in power»… According to Raymondo, the way the events unfold makes one believe that at this stage it’s just a beginning. With bitter irony he comments the recent statement by Susan Rice, the United States National Security Advisor, as she stressed that deploying Russian troops to Crimea «would be a grave mistake». The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs tactfully recommended Susan Rice to address her advices to the US President, while the American journalist leaves diplomacy aside saying bluntly that Susan Rice plays with fire reviving the old Cold War fears and raising «Russians are coming!» style hullabaloo to spook people. The author explains that Russians don’t need to go anywhere; Sebastopol is the site of the Russian fleet stationed at Sevastopol, as well as the heart of the Russian-speaking population living there since ancient times. As Kiev burned, Crimeans rallied in their tens of thousands calling for unity with Russia. Quite unexpectedly the American author arrives at the conclusion that Susan Rice is completely wrong because «the present borders of Ukraine no more represent a real nation than do the borders of African states set by nineteenth century European colonialists».

Not that unexpectedly though. Whatever it is, American politicians never known for harboring any pro-Russia sympathies before have started to cite Russia Today reports. Ron Paul is a politician often characterized as the «intellectual godfather» of the Tea Party movement. He sought the presidency of the United States a number of times. The website of the Institute for Peace and Prosperity, the think tank he founded and chairs, has posted the interview that professor Mark Almond of Oxford University granted Russia Today. The caption reads ‘Whole of Ukraine held hostage by a small group of radicals’. According to Almond, the violence in Ukraine, incited by the West, is something more than just another orange revolution boiling down to revision of election results. This time it’s about «a clean sweep». Mr. Almond believes the situation in Ukraine is similar to the process taking place in Syria. He says, «One of the problems of this crisis is that there isn’t a constitutional way out because, in fact, about half of the country, the Western third of the country at least, is already controlled by these very radical groups who suppress any opposition».

On February 24 and February 27 the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) made statements regarding the events in Ukraine. It is clearly stated that the agreement on settlement of the crisis in Ukraine of the 21 February, signed by President of Ukraine Yanukovych and opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleh Tyahnybok, is not observed despite the fact that its signature was certified by Foreign Ministers of Germany, Poland and France, as well as the United States, the European Union and other international bodies that welcomed this document. The February 24 MFA statement notes, «We are deeply concerned about the actions in the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada in terms of their legitimacy. Actually referring to the «revolutionary appropriateness» only, they are stamping «decisions» and «laws», including those aimed at deprivation of humanitarian rights of Russians and other national minorities living in Ukraine. There are calls to prohibition the Russian language almost fully, lustration, liquidation of parties and organizations, closing of undesirable mass media, removal of restrictions for propaganda of Neo-Nazi ideology».

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the Ukraine’s new government is not legitimate. According to him, «Some of our foreign, western partners think otherwise, considering them to be legitimate authorities. I do not know which constitution, which laws, they were reading, but it seems to me it is an aberration of perception when something that is essentially the result of a mutiny is called legitimate».

I open From Dictatorship to Democracy, a Conceptual Framework for Liberation by Gene Sharp, the book-length essay translated into dozens of languages. It is devoted to the theory of color revolutions. Gene Sharp has gained fame. His instructions on non-violent insurgency have been followed in many coups staged across the globe to meet the interests of the «only superpower». But this time Gene Sharp does not help me to better understand what is happening in Ukraine now. Unexpectedly his, much less popular publication, called The Anti-Coup, happens to be just the thing. It was written together with Bruce Jenkins and contains a host of instructions on measures civil society can take to resist illegal power when a coup has already taken place. Isn’t it the kind of resistance we’re witnessing in Sebastopol, Crimea and the south-eastern part of Ukraine?

According to Gene Sharp, «A coup d’état is a rapid seizure of physical and political control of the state apparatus by illegal action of a conspiratorial group backed by the threat or use of violence. The members of the previous government are deposed against their will. Initially the coup group rapidly occupies the centers of command, decision-making, and administration, replacing the previous chief executive and top officials with persons (military or civilian) of their choices». That is exactly what is happening in Ukraine. The steps taken by incumbent Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which are supported by Pravy Sector, a new version of «White Al Qaeda», perfectly fit the scenario described by Gene Sharp.

The coup manual is not so big, its length is only 40 pages, but it gives a clue as to how to proceed and effectively resist a coup: never give up and unmask the usurpers as illegitimate imposters. As Sharp puts it, «Immediately after the coup is started, the putschists require legitimacy, that is, acceptance of their moral and political right, or authority, to rule». That’s why, «The first basic principle of anti-coup defense is therefore to deny legitimacy to the putschists». The author notes, that, «The putschists also require that the civilian leaders and population be supportive, confused, or just passive. The putschists additionally require the cooperation of specialists and advisors, bureaucrats and civil servants, administrators and judges in order to consolidate their control over the society». Therefore, «The second basic principle of anti-coup defense is to resist the putschists with noncooperation and defiance». Sharp believes that, «If both legitimacy and cooperation are denied, the putsch may die of political starvation». Thus the society will revive the chances for return to democracy.

Closing the Gene Sharp’s book I start to think about how life makes amendments to what the classic has written in his works. These days the parliament of Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea has found a way out of the crisis spread across the nation. A referendum on «improving the status of autonomy and expanding its powers» slated for May 25, 2014 is the step in this direction. It’s something completely different from an anti-coup. Today Crimea is facing the powerful rise of people’s self-consciousness. Those who take part in the process cherish a hope that the trend would make possible the return to democracy.