Grand-daddy of the ‘Color revolutions’ hits hard times

Five years after the much-hyped, west-backed “Orange revolution” swayed Ukraine in 2004, the leadership it brought to power continues to disintegrate. The NYT’s Clifford Levy reports:

    Ukraine, which has suffered a roundhouse blow from the economic crisis, has had no finance minister since February. It also has no foreign minister or defense minister. The transportation minister just stepped down. The interior minister has offered to resign as well, after being accused of drunken behavior.
    The president and the prime minister are no longer speaking, though they were once allies and heroes of the Orange Revolution…
    The public appears so frustrated that the leader of the opposition, who has close ties to the Kremlin and is often portrayed as the villain of the Orange Revolution, is the early favorite to win the presidential election next January.

9 thoughts on “Grand-daddy of the ‘Color revolutions’ hits hard times”

  1. The popular movement behind the Orange Revolution was genuine. The failings since then have been the failings of leaders. Yushchenko and Tymoshenko among others have not appeared to show the character needed to cooperate effectively to form a vision for the future. Similarly, Sakaashvili had the tragic flaw of a hard-line stance towards the breakaway states that led him to take military action that cost lives. If these people can’t work, the people show bypass them. But that should not be a big deal. Revolutions are not supposed to be about leaders. Leaders are transitory, and revolutions evolve over time given the circumstances. These color revolutions remain valid regardless of whatever changes in leadership happens.
    And actually, I think the revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine are the only “color revolutions”. In other movements such as in Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, or Myanmar, I don’t think the people marching took on any color name. Whatever color names people mentioned were added on after the fact by the media. The notion of the “color revolution” as one coherent international movement is greatly inflated by both supporters and detractors.

  2. I agree with the judgment expressed in your last sentence, Inkan. However, I’ve just come from a discussion on Iran at the ‘prestigious’ Carnegie Endowment in which the term color revolution was a very live (and completely unexamined) category of the discourse.

  3. How many Carnegie endownment members are marching in Iran?
    Marchers are wearing green, but green is the color of Islam. I would suspect that the marchers are trying to evoke imagery beyond a color revolution, if they’re even trying to connect to a color revolution meme at all.

  4. Inkan1969 concludes that, “the marchers are trying to evoke imagery beyond a color revolution,” Is this in reference to the signs in English, that posit “Where is my vote?”.
    Is one to presume that since they are written in English, those holding the signs are the true “democrats” and that if written in Persian one would have to conclude that the holders of such signs are for the Mullahs?
    And speaking of “color” why were the elections and demos in Zimbabwe not merit the demands by the vocal neocons and likudniks that the President condemn and threaten the ruling clique in Zimbabwe?
    Never heard mention that, “We are now all Zimbabweans”.

  5. omop, I could’ve sworn I’ve seen many signs in Iran’s “Death to America” protests written in English; I saw that in a PBS special on the English language. English signs reflect the ubiquitousness of English in the world rather than any pro-US sympathy. And I thought there had been a lot of anti-Mugabe protests from neo-Con elements.

  6. Actually, I suppose the grand-daddy of all ‘color revolutions’ was the Red Revolution of 1917. It had a lifespan of some 70-plus years… But that one had a lot of indigenous authenticity; it was part of a long-preceding movement toward socialism (a movement that everywhere except in the US has been denoted by the color red); and it had a comprehensible and fully argued set of social principles, like them or not.
    The recent brand of US-backed color revs are different in several respects. They do not usually have a full set of clearly explained social principles that they hew to except for a commitment to individualism and market fundamentalism. The ‘color’, whatever it is, is often used to mask the lack of a full and convincing policy platform. So these color revs have many inherent weaknesses… in addition, of course, to the fact that they often become seen as meddlesome or malevolent imports from outside.
    I do think the recent ‘green revolution’ in Iran suffered from all those problems, especially the lack of clarity regarding goals and means.

  7. Perhaps a goal in Iran should be full transparency in the vote count. A public hand count of all hand ballots plus confirmation of the ballots’ authenticity, which should either reveal fraud or confirm Ahmadinejad’s win. If it’s the latter, then I think Mousavi’s movement could then take some years to evolve into an organized opposition party for future elections.
    I’m thinking about the governments that these color revolutions were revolting against. The governments range from ones accused of recent election fraud, such as Ukraine and Iran, to ones with long standing accusations of authoritarianism and corruption, such as Shevardnadze’s Georgia, Kyrgyzstan (all former soviet republics in Central Asia have authoritarian governments, and the revolution in Kyrgyzstan actually has changed very little), to Myanmar. I think Lebanon might be the only case where the current government had no accusations of illegitimacy (beyond the confessional proportional system, which 3/14 was not acting against).
    Meaningless trivia: They call these “color” revolutions, but all the names (rose, orange, tulip, cedar, saffron) are plant names instead.

  8. “I do think the recent ‘green revolution’ in Iran suffered from all those problems, especially the lack of clarity regarding goals and means.”
    A bit early to use the past tense, isn’t it?
    In any event, one could call the 1979 revolution a “color revolution” as well, dressed in clerical black. It also suffered from all the problems you mentioned above: the opposition to the shah brought together liberals, the secular left, the Islamist left and the Khomeinists, all of whom had different long-term (and even short-term) goals for the country. They united temporarily behind an immediate goal – getting rid of the monarchy – but had no unified platform, making it unsurprising that the bloodiest phase of the revolution was after the shah fled.
    The Russian revolution also isn’t as much of an exception as you think. You’re thinking of the Bolshevik takeover in October 1917, but the March 1917 revolution involved many disparate factions, of which the Bolsheviks were a minority. These groups were every bit as unable to agree on a social program as the Ukrainian opposition in 2004 or the Iranian opposition in 1978-79, clearing the way for the most disciplined and ruthless of them to take over.
    This isn’t all that unusual for revolutions, from the French one forward: once the old boss is toppled, programmatic disputes within the opposition come to the fore, lasting until the factions reach a modus vivendi or one of them becomes the new boss. This can be particularly true where a revolution is over quickly, before the opposition has time to discuss power-sharing and programmatic compromises. The problem with many of the recent “color revolutions” may have been, not the absence of roots in indigenous social movements (which some of them did have), but that they were over so quickly.

  9. Good points, Azazel.
    Regarding the current anti-Ahmedinejad movement in Iran, though, I think there is a very strong internal contradiction in that evidently very many of the participants want to overthrow the clerical-rule system altogether, while another portion of them want to reform it. But there is something very dissonant about seeing these wannabe ‘glam’, extremely west-ophilic young people– women with scarves falling off their hair, men with gelled-up quiffs, etc– using “Allahu-akbar” as their rallying cry and green as their rallying color.

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