Tuesday, June 03, 2014

You say you want a revolution? Well, you know...

Although my thoughts are not fully formed, I feel obliged to say a few words about revolution, bogus populism, and the elite's ability to exploit legitimate grievances for the purposes of manipulation.

"Populist" uprisings in foreign lands can be created, shaped or steered by outside powers. This kind of regime change has many advantages over the much more expensive option of direct military intervention.

Alternet has published a good piece on this phenomenon: "How Wealthy Elites Are Hijacking Democracy All Over the World."
But in country after country these days, the hallmarks of democracy are being dangerously subverted and co-opted by powerful elites. The question is, are we recognizing what is happening under our noses? Three examples unfolding right now are indicators of this trend: Thailand, Ukraine and Egypt.
We know about Ukraine. (At least, you know the truth about Ukraine if you read blogs like this one.) Egypt...? Well, that's a sad story. Mubarak really did have to go, but his absence opened the way for the Muslim Brotherhood, followed by a strange balance of militarism and chaos.

And then there's Thailand.

Thailand is pretty damned important. During the heyday of the Vietnam War, conservatives justifying American policy always pointed to Thailand as the ultimate domino-which-must-never-fall. Yet nowadays, for reasons which I cannot understand, nobody ever talks or thinks about Thailand.

The above-linked piece notes that Thaksin Shinawatra, driven from power in 2006, had tried to institute modern health care and educational systems. Of course, the guy was no saint. He was an arch-capitalist, and there were legitimate reasons to oppose him. 
But it was his progressive social programs for which he was “hated by the elites—the monarchy and the military, because in Thailand it is not just money but the gap between the elites and the majority” that matters.
What most of us viewed from the outside as a major people’s revolution occupying government buildings to oust a corrupt leader—the so-called Yellow Shirt movement—consists in fact of forces allied to the Thai royal family and military. The movement has ironically adopted the name People’s Alliance for Democracy.
According to Vltchek, the West has played a quiet role in supporting the royalist leaning forces, despite the opposition’s assertions that “Thaksin is very popular in the West and that it is him who is getting support from the West.” But, Vltchek said, opposition forces were “very reliable allies of the West. Don’t forget that Thailand for decades was massacring the left-wing opposition; they were burning communists alive in barrels of petroleum. They liquidated the entire left-wing opposition and gained a reputation as reliable allies [of the West].” In fact, he went on to say, “The majority of the people from the opposition were educated in Eton, Cambridge and Oxford. Thai people don’t speak foreign languages, but when you talk to their leaders they all speak perfect, fluent English.”
So Thailand in 2006 gives us an example of a "popular" rebellion secretly manipulated by an elite.

And before Thailand, there was the Philippines.

For many years, Ferdinand Marcos had been our loyal stooge, until he (as your grandparents used to say) grew too big for his britches. His replacement, Corazon Aquino, headed a movement she called "people power."

Sound familiar?

Regime change in the Philippines began with the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, Corazon's husband. Ninoy's murder turns out to be a  more mysterious affair than most Americans presumed at the time. Everyone presumed that Marcos was responsible. But it seemed to be an incredibly stupid and self-destructive move on his part, simply because the act was so brazen. Result: Marcos lost support around the world; even his by die-hard supporters in DC abandoned him. (Don't forget that Saint Ronnie backed Marcos even after the CIA had decided that he had to go.)

So maybe Marcos didn't order the killing of Benigno Aquino. Maybe that act was called forth by people who wanted to push Marcos out. Corazon Aquino's "people power" movement did very little to inconvenience either the American elite or the wealthy in her own country.

One could argue that the Iranian revolution of 1979 provides us with an even earlier example of a "controlled" revolution. Some Iranian exiles believe that Khomeini succeeded because he had secret CIA backing.

Although the neocons of today loathe the Iranian regime, they had a rather different attitude in the 1970s. Back then, many neocons considered fundamentalist Islam to be a good thing.

Why? Two reasons:

1. Before the sudden rise of Khomeini, everyone feared that Tudeh, Iran's socialist party, would benefit from the ouster of the Shah. The CIA preferred to see Iran governed by religious freaks than by pinkos.

2. The exportation of fundamentalist Islam was seen as an excellent way of undermining the USSR, which the neocons considered the primary enemy. Many Muslims lived in the Soviet Union, and many Americans believed that rebellion would start in the Islamic regions of the USSR.

One could cite even earlier examples of "controlled" revolutions -- for example, the creation of Panama.

The point I'm trying to make is simple: Americans get so caught up in the romance of revolution that they lose sight of the possibility that the rebels may be mere marionettes on a string.

How, then, should we view the growing number of would-be revolutionaries in our own country -- the militia maniacs, the secessionists, the Tea Partiers? Are they being manipulated?
Landdestroyer has some excellent commentary on Thailand that may interest some of your readers: (1) (2) (3)
The red shirt Thanksin forces are similarly organised in Thailand.

No-one was worried about Tudeh by '79. The Shah had got the SAVAK to wipe them out.
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