by Andrew Korybko
Color Revolutions have brought destabilization and destruction to a growing number of victimized states ever since the US unleashed the first modern one against Serbia in 2000. It might come off as antithetical for any multipolar supporter to claim that constructive and applicable lessons can be learned by studying this technology, but as taboo and ‘politically incorrect’ as it may be to say that, the present global strategic situation suggests that it’s actually true and conforms to the forecast that the author made last summer. The disciplined and selective utilization of key precepts of Color Revolution planning can be instrumental in catapulting a multipolar cause to the forefront of domestic and even international politics, which is why it’s so advantageous for activists to learn these techniques.
Whether consciously or by coincidence, the Balkans are once more leading the way in spearheading the deployment of a revolutionary strategy, albeit this time it’s not one of unipolar domination, but of multipolar liberation. The civil society movements that have sprouted up in the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia over the past year share in the similarity of being test cases where low-intensity Color Revolution technology has been applied to advance multipolar agendas. While each ongoing case study is presently separate from the other, the exciting potential exists for their respective momentums to converge together in forming the basis for a peaceful multipolar front coalition that could effect serious geopolitical change in the Balkans. In order for that to happen, however, several preliminary steps must be undertaken first.
The article begins by describing how Color Revolution technology, typically recognized as destabilizing and destructive, can creatively be used for stabilizing and constructive multipolar purposes. Afterwards, it transitions into describing how this is incipiently the case when looking at the modern-day political situations in Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Finally, it forecasts the actions that each movement must take in order to maximize their potential and create a united regional sum that’s much stronger than all of its disparate parts.
Turning Bad Into Good
The General Idea:
In terms of how the multipolar audience has been preconditioned, both due to the objective destruction that they’ve witnessed and the informative investigations that alternative media outlets have carried out, Color Revolution technology is identified as the most devastating socio-political process of the 21st century. That’s certainly true, but if curious activists peel back the violent regime change veneer and dig deeper into the actual strategies involved, then there’s a considerable wealth of useful information that can be learned in furtherance of their dedicated causes. All that’s needed is for multipolar supporters to have the discipline to not fall for the regime change objectives and violent tactics that are espoused in the theory’s major works, and if that can be accomplished, then activists can learn how to apply select facets of Color Revolution technology to their operational toolkit.
To explain, the lessons contained within Gene Sharp’s two most world-famous works could ironically have the effect of rolling back unipolar advances in victimized multipolar states, provided of course that they’re properly utilized. “From Dictatorship To Democracy”, if read by a politically self-aware and confident mind that’s inoculated itself from falling for the “anti-dictatorship” rhetorical ruse promoted within its pages, surprisingly contains a lot of valuable suggestions about which strategies could be most effectively employed in organizing a nascent civil society movement. On the tactical side of things, “There Are Realistic Alternatives” enumerates 198 methods of non-violent action that activists can make use of in creatively propagating their message, attracting new recruits, and propelling their movement to the forefront of domestic and international political attention.
Connecting Strategy With Tactics:
Lesser known but no less important, Saul Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals” can function as the bridge in imaginatively linking together Gene Sharp’s revolutionary organizational strategies and messaging tactics in forming a politically potent civil society movement. Furthermore, the successful application of all three theoretical works in practice, adapted of course to each particular situation on a case-by-case basis, could turn even a small civil society organization into a disproportionately influential force capable of enacting considerable pressure on the personal and/or institutional subject. If applied with the necessary intensity to pivotal pressure points, then this could result in the said subject being encouraged to make the anticipated political concession(s) that lie at the heart of the movement’s existence, thereby satisfying its foundational objective and successfully attaining the goal that it had originally set out to achieve.
The Republic Of Macedonia:
The aforementioned strategic-tactical blueprint that was described above is visibly in practice when it comes to Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, whether or not the activists themselves are even aware of it. Addressing the first one, the Republic of Macedonia’s patriotic citizenry spontaneously organized themselves in May 2015 in order to resist the US’ Color Revolution aggression against them during that critical time. Their impromptu demonstration of disciplined and peaceful mass resistance attracted global attention and surprised the US, which recalled its anti-government demonstrators from the streets and settled for a prolonged and phased regime change template instead of an immediate one.
The Przino Agreement, as it soon came to be known, stipulated that the “opposition” would gain control of certain government ministries during the transitional period that would precede early elections, with the expectation being that the US can use newly created “Special Prosecutor’s Office” to help it carry out a ‘constitutional coup’ before then. These plans were scuttled when President Ivanov suddenly declared an amnesty for all the people that were incriminated in the country’s political crisis, both those who were legitimately guilty such as Zoran Zaev and those who were the targets of a regime change witch hunt like former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. This abrupt decision took the US off guard, and it promptly pushed forward its Hybrid War plans one month ahead of time from their expected mid-May launch date.
In response to the US’ continuation of the Hybrid War against them, patriotic Macedonians once more reassembled in the streets and have been bravely trying to recreate the legendary success that they attained just last year. While the fear of US-supported Albanian terrorism is very real and could be used as the trigger for transitioning the regime change operation from a simple Color Revolution to a more complex Unconventional War, Macedonians do not appear deterred and look ready to confront whatever Hybrid War provocations the US decides to throw against them. Dealing strictly with the Color Revolution aspect of the Hybrid War aggression, however, Macedonia has demonstrated that the mirror reverse of this technology can effectively stop the strategy in its place and prompt the US to either eventually abandon it or escalate it into a preplanned Unconventional Warfare scenario.
Continuing along the chronological order that ‘reverse-Color Revolution’ technology was first applied in the Balkans, the next space where this was practiced was in Montenegro after the country received its official invitation to join NATO. The reaction of the patriotic citizenry was fierce and immediate, with large-scale demonstrations taking place in the capital of Podgorica and other cities throughout the country. The nameless civil society resistance movement that had sprung up wanted to put the controversial issue of Montenegro’s possible NATO membership up to a nationwide referendum, but the government regretfully responded with brute force in quelling the democratic demonstrations and succeeded in instilling the people with a pervasive sense of all-encompassing fear. From that moment on, the anti-NATO movement substantially weakened and became a simulacrum of its former self, advanced by co-opted “opposition” politicians and a handful of loyal activists.
Nevertheless, Montenegro still has about a year to go before it’s formally accepted into NATO, meaning that the pro-referendum campaign could still receive a second wind and return as a resuscitated movement that’s willing to make a grand and peaceful last stand. The government’s intimidating stranglehold over all aspects of the country’s socio-political situation suggests that it’s highly unlikely that any revived movement would have the opportunity to take hold within the country, meaning that dedicated activists would have to work extra hard in order to bring it about. Still, this doesn’t mean that such a scenario can be prematurely written off, since Color Revolution technology is of such a nature that it can be applied anytime and even at the most unexpected moments, which in this instance could be all the way up to the immediate weeks preceding Montenegro’s official ascendency to NATO.
It’s generally assumed that the later that any potentially revived pro-referendum movement reemerges, the more intense that its manifestation must be in order to compensate for its prior dormancy and make up for lost strategic time. This raises the risk that unruly activists and/or anxious police officers, whether with or without the involvement of government provocateurs, could intentionally or inadvertently move the scenario from being a peaceful reverse-Color Revolution one to a violent incident that incites a Hybrid War. Therefore, the recommencement of a revived anti-NATO movement must be given serious thought by its organizers and should only be carried forth after a sober assessment of all of its situational dangers has been undertaken and agreed to by its core members. This isn’t to dissuade any activists from resisting NATO, but to simply make sure that they understand exactly what they could be dreadfully getting into if Djukanovic decides to use deadly force and guile to protect his NATO pet project.
The last state to become aware of the potency of reverse-Color Revolution technology is Serbia, which saw large anti-NATO protests in Belgrade after it was revealed that the government had discretely agreed to a transit agreement with the very same bloc that bombed it 17 years ago. Even worse, the fact that none of the population was consulted and that the authorities pushed the deal through with scarcely any media coverage whatsoever led to an outburst of anti-government rage that saw thousands of patriots take to the streets in protest. Bearing in mind that Serbia’s media is almost totally controlled by unipolar interests, it’s remarkable that so many people turned out to take part in the demonstrations. This happened only due to the existence of effective alternative media outlets that spread information about the protests and encouraged people to join.
Regretfully, however, the early momentum that the anti-NATO movement had achieved dwindled down into almost nothing after only one month, due to a large part by the government’s success in confusing Serbs about the nature of the agreement and the authorities’ supposed intentions regarding NATO. By using its dominance over the mass media apparatus in the country, the government was able to make the highly publicized case that it does not endeavor to ever join NATO and that the transit agreement does not represent an infringement on Serbia’s sovereignty. This deception pacified most of the population that had started to get riled up by the patriots’ hitherto successful campaign, misleading the masses into thinking that the anti-NATO protests were unnecessary if Belgrade had no intention of entering NATO. What happened is that Vucic stole the narrative from the protesters and falsely shifted it to a scarecrow cause – Serbia joining NATO, something that was never in the cards anyhow – which diverted it from its true purpose of rescinding the NATO transit agreement.
Serbian geopolitical analyst Dragana Trifkovic rightly argues that “the level of cooperation with NATO that has been achieved is far more favorable to this organization than Serbia as a potential member of NATO, as within the current framework NATO can do whatever it needs to do while having no obligations to Serbia whatsoever.” Evaluated from this perspective, it’s revealed that the Vucic government engaged in a massive deception by arguing against formal NATO membership while justifying the existing controversial agreements as being seemingly beneficial for Serbia, despite this not being the reality at all. Therefore, the strong potential exists for patriotic Serbs to remobilize their peaceful civil society efforts in resisting the NATO agreement and demanding that it be immediately revoked or put up to a referendum, but so long as they first become aware of just how bad the existing deal really is.
Although all three of these situations are unique in their own way, they can be compared according to their objectives, urgency, and viability:
The use of reverse-Color Revolution technology in Montenegro and Serbia aims to put their respective NATO issues up to a democratic referendum, while activists in the Republic of Macedonia are fighting to counteract the US’ regime change plot against them. In this sense, they’re advocating “regime reinforcement”, the opposite of regime change, thus meaning that different strategies and tactics might be employed in their campaign that aren’t being used in their Montenegrin or Serbian counterparts’ (with the “Montenegrin” moniker henceforth being taken to mean the people inside of Montenegro, not some sort of ‘ethnic’ category supposedly separate from Serbs). Nevertheless, that doesn’t at all mean that there isn’t anything of value that each of them can learn from the other, since all of these civil society movements were spontaneous and have shared grassroots origins.
The situation in the Republic of Macedonia is critical and the patriots are organizing in order defend the existence of their country as they know it. They’re aware that a successful regime change there will result in the pro-US puppet government unilaterally changing the country’s constitutional name and thereby setting off the uncontrollable process of identity dissolution, likely culminating in the Identity Federalization of the country into Orthodox Macedonian and Muslim Albanian halves and its de-facto sphere of influence division between Bulgaria and Albania, if not outright partition.
Progressively less immediate of a cause is the one in Montenegro, which is perceived by many as regretfully being somewhat “inevitable” due to the information and thought dominance that Djukanovic holds over his citizenry. A last-minute reawakening can occur, but as described in the earlier relevant section, the longer that this takes to transpire, the more dangerous it becomes, and relatedly, the less appealing it becomes to the masses.
When it comes to Serbia, there isn’t any set deadline for action and the situation misleadingly appears to not be visibly pressing. After all, the most contentious and far-reaching agreement has already been passed into law, and it will remain so for the indefinite future until Serbs decide to peacefully and democratically rebel against it. Unfortunately, the lack of any perceptive urgency and the government’s success in deceiving the public with its earlier bait-and-switch tactic has led to people passively accepting the present state of affairs, driven to a large degree of course by Serbs’ unawareness of just how dire the situation truly is and the humiliating amount of sovereignty that Vucic secretly ceded to the US on their behalf.
There is no questioning the viability of Macedonia’s patriotic resistance because it’s already ongoing in taking a stand against the urgent existential threat that the country is currently facing. Montenegro’s opposition, however, looks to have been intimidated and co-opted into inactivity, thereby neutralizing its present viability and making it much more difficult to revive in the coming future. As for the Serbs, they’ve been lulled into a state of complacency by Vucic’s lies and the pro-government talking points of the unipolar-controlled mass media, but once they finally awake, there’s no doubt that they’ll spring into action just as passionately as the Macedonians have and finally take the firm stand against NATO that the rest of the world knows they’re more than capable of mustering.
From Theory To Practice
The Macedonian population’s brave defiance of the unipolar world is already happening, while the totally controlled and draconian socio-political conditions in Montenegro seem to preclude any immediate return of the tangible anti-NATO movement there. Accordingly, this makes Serbia the only one of the three Balkan countries where the potential still reasonably exists for preplanning a reverse-Color Revolution civil society movement, and it’s this country’s activists which could help to bridge the geographic and issue divide between Montenegrins and Macedonians in helping to build a fledging transnational resistance network in the Balkans. The means to pursing this ambitious end lay in adhering to the following generalized guidelines and improvising them as necessary:
Learn From Macedonians, Encourage Montenegrins:
Serbs have the valuable chance to acquire indispensable in-the-field experience observing and/or partaking in the patriotic manifestations in the Republic of Macedonia. Although the “regime reinforcement” objective of the reverse-Color Revolution there is of a different nature than the pro-referendum one in Serbia, some of the lessons are still partially transferrable and could be of use to Serbian activists. The author must stress at this point that he is not asking Serbs to uninvitingly participate in the pro-government Macedonian events unless welcomed to do so by the local patriots, but if such an opportunity arises as it did with the Poles during “EuroMaidan”, then it would be a priceless chance to acquire on-the-ground organizational and tactical experience. Even if this possibility doesn’t present itself, then simply observing the situation from one’s own eyes or through the correspondence of trusted Macedonian friends and online activists could still teach a lot about what could be done in promoting the pro-referendum agenda in Serbia.
Concerning the Montenegrins, they too could do the same thing that the author wrote above about the Serbs possibly doing, or they could be educated in reverse-Color Revolution tactics via a more indirect approach. After Serbian activists acquire operational knowledge from their patriotic Macedonian counterparts, they could share this information with Montenegrins via social media networks or even physical demonstration to those that actually come to Serbia to learn about this from their trusted friends. It’s unlikely that Macedonian and Montenegrin activists will come into substantial contact with one another unless new social media connections are made, and while that’s definitely possible, it seems much more probable that Serbian activists could relay information between the two groups. Should they come to fulfill this role in any capacity, then this would enable them to concurrently maximize their knowledge about reverse-Color Revolution technology through their active and/or passive experience with the Macedonian and Montenegrin situations. This is important to emphasize because it represents the crucial information complement to Serbs’ already existing geostrategic role in bringing together the resistant anti-unipolar/pro-multipolar activists in both countries and forming the core of an emerging transnational semi-integrated network.
Read The Guidebooks:
It might seem redundant to include this in the list of suggested guidelines since it was earlier mentioned at the beginning of the research, but it can’t be emphasized enough – Macedonian, Montenegrin, and Serbian activists must read and reread the essential texts of Gene Sharp, Saul Alinsky, and other Color Revolution theoreticians and practitioners in order to absorb as much constructive information that they realistically can in building the most efficient civil society resistance networks. Once dedicated activists have decided to bravely go forth and spearhead a new anti-unipolar/pro-multipolar organization, they must also pick a catchy name, imagery, and slogan(s) in order to appeal to as diverse of an active and passive supporter pool as possible, since the strength of their movement also rests in how many physical supporters they can ultimately call into the streets (whether it’s to actively protest or passively observe the event).
Master The Tools:
Contemporary Color Revolution technology creatively employs Facebook/VKontakte, Twitter, and Google Maps/Earth as a means of amplifying their capabilities and planning the most effective resistance activities. Facebook and VKontakte fulfill the irreplaceable role of organizational ‘hang outs’ in planning new activities and sharing relevant information within the activist network. They can also be used to promote the civil society movement among potential recruits and sympathizers. Twitter functions a bit differently and is more useful as an up-to-the-minute newsfeed for on-the-ground activists in the midst of a protest activity. It can also provide instantaneous updates to interested supporters and could even be synched with Facebook. Google Maps/Earth provides activists with locational data for planning out the best places for organizing public activities such as gatherings and protest marches. The culminated integration of all three tools occurs when activists seamlessly cycle between them in carrying out non-violent “swarming” maneuvers that aim to overwhelm the subject’s strategic defenses and prompt them to elicit the desired political concessions after a short amount of time amidst heightened organizational intensity.
See Past The Provocations:
The easiest way for the US to neutralize resistant networks is to infiltrate them and/or stage various provocations to divide and discredit them. The most relevant example that comes to mind is how the US used the negative and false stereotypes that it had generated about Serbs in order to discredit the Montenegrin anti-NATO movement and sow discord within the pro-government one inside of Macedonia. To address the former, Djukanovic blamed “Greater Serbia nationalist circles in Serbia” for supposedly inciting the anti-NATO protests in Podgorica, while there have recently been reports that CANVAS mercenaries from Serbia have been paid to participate in Zaev’s Color Revolution riots in Skopje. The end goal of both of these provocations is to sow artificial discord between Montenegrins and Serbs, and Macedonians and Serbs, since the US is scared that patriotic multipolar Serbian activists can geostrategically and informationally connect the three protest spaces and help construct the basis for a fledgling civil society resistance network in the Balkans. If each of the respective anti-unipolar/pro-multipolar protest movements can see past the divisive provocations that the US is trying to create among them and within their own ranks, then they can more confidently cooperate with one another in generating the momentum that each of them needs in fulfilling their domestic objectives and moving towards a transnational partnership.
Dismiss Wishful Thinking And False Expectations:
One of the most common ways in which many nascent resistance organizations have been neutralized hasn’t been through the US’ intrigues against them, but through their self-demoralization that was brought about by wishful thinking and false expectations. There’s nothing wrong with being optimistic about one’s activities – after all, nobody would join an organization that they thought was pursuing an impossible goal – but this shouldn’t cross the threshold into naiveté and thinking that the journey will be easy. Activists will likely experience many organizational and situational hardships, and the sooner that they condition their minds into preparing for a prolonged political struggle, the sooner that they can more adeptly manage the diverse difficulties that they’ll inevitably be confronted with.
Correspondingly, Balkan activists mustn’t get their hopes up for receiving Russian support. As unfortunate as it may seem to some, Moscow isn’t interested in funding any opposition groups and doesn’t even have any experience doing so since the end of the Old Cold War. Furthermore, Russia strongly abides by its publicly proclaimed principle of not interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries, no matter how much it may dislike their chosen course of action. That being said, what Russia can do is provide important, albeit reactionary, informational and diplomatic support to any anti-unipolar/pro-multipolar civil society movement that sprouts up. While this might not be what some activists are expecting, it mustn’t be underestimated just how pivotal this can be in popularizing the said movement and turning it into a focal point of domestic and possibly even international political attention.
The point of all reverse-Color Revolution movements is to peacefully put tremendous pressure on the subject in order to encourage the individual or institution to enact the desired political concessions, and if this can be achieved with a minimum of protest activity due to the maximizing effect that Russian informational and diplomatic support can possibly have, then it can obviously make all the difference. Still, in line with the theme of this subsection, there shouldn’t be any false expectations about the effect that this type of indirect assistance can have, and it ultimately comes down to the activists themselves to carry their civil society campaign through to the finish. To repeat – Russian informational and diplomatic support is not guaranteed, but in the instances where it is present, it cannot by itself fulfill the activists’ multipolar agenda, although it can do much to help them promote their ideas and market them to an untold number of potential recruits.
Build Pragmatic Partnerships:
Throughout the course of the peaceful campaign, the civil society movement(s) will inevitably branch out and clinch temporary strategic partnerships with other likeminded groups that are pursing the same vision, be they other grassroots-founded organizations or political parties. Activists shouldn’t be naïve in assuming that the political front will necessarily survive after their shared objective has been met, and they should be pragmatic enough to understand that occasional ‘marriages of convenience’ are necessary in order for all interested sides to take a broad step together in furthering their joint goal. This isn’t to say that the civil society movement must sacrifice its ethics and morals to side with some shady characters or organizations, but just that there might be times where it’s to the greater interest that two rival groups cooperate in order to attain the political change that they both want to see. Again, recalling the earlier suggestion that activists dismiss wishful thinking and false expectations, it’s more than likely that the united front will collapse almost immediately after the shared objective has been actualized, but activists must ask themselves – is it better to refrain from teaming up with a rival and never fulfilling one’s political objective, or is it preferable to accomplish one’s political goal and then return to jostling with their once-again rival soon thereafter?
No matter what twists and turns the deal-making organizers eventually take, it’s imperative that the united front that they assemble out of the various disparate interest groups retains a non-political civil society face in order to both attract as many potential recruits as possible and safeguard against being hijacked by ulterior-minded coalition “partners”. Under no circumstances whatsoever should direct foreign government support such as financing be accepted by any members of the civil society movement, let alone the de-facto leaders, since this could be used to de-legitimize it and paint it as a proxy for a foreign power. Domestic counter-intelligence agents might impersonate foreign intelligence ones such as Russia’s in order to entrap activists in a situation where they can either be blackmailed or directly “outed” as a “foreign asset” and therefore discredited in the eyes of the public.
Strategic and tactical advisors from other countries can be valuable if a strong enough of a case can be convincingly made that they represent their personal interests while operating in their reverse-Color Revolution capacity and not that of the government from wherever they might be from, and it’s of course always a welcome boost to morale when activists see that they have direct participatory support from their international counterparts. Furthermore, run-of-the-mill international activists can gain important operational experience by observing what their host partners do during the course of their manifestations, which is why the author suggested that Serbs and Montenegrins try to make contact with trusted Macedonian friends in order to be invitingly welcomed to do so. Even if this isn’t possible owing to the expected lack of person-to-person contacts between these two countries and the Republic of Macedonia, interested individuals can still closely follow footage and reports from Skopje and elsewhere in the country in order to try to learn as much as is feasibly possible.
This final step is important in general when considering every phase of the civil society movement’s anti-unipolar/pro-multipolar campaign, but it acquires geostrategic significance when analyzed in a regional perspective. What’s important isn’t just that Macedonians, Montenegrins, and Serbs achieve their desired political objectives, but that their respective grassroots movements link up with one another and try to form a transnational network of positive activism that survives the post-campaign environment. The author has stated a few times that activists shouldn’t be naïve in thinking that their united front coalition will remain intact in the event that their domestic mission is accomplished, and that’s certainly true, but what’s important is for the most active cores of each movement to come into contact with their regional counterparts throughout the course of their respective campaigns and find a way to integrate their capabilities into the future.
Not only would this greatly assist with each movement’s post-campaign sustainability, but it can help them to acquire new related targets that they could collectively team up to pursue, such as safeguarding their victories and rejuvenating positive people-to-people interaction between the countries of the former Yugoslav space. In effect, this could lead to the creation of a vibrant transnational multipolar civil society movement in the region that would act as a proactive bulwark against the US’ Hybrid War threats and form the precedent for tightening Central Balkan cooperation. As suggested by the author in an earlier analysis, this could in turn lay the groundwork for the possible institutionalization of the Central Balkan corridor between the Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, and the subsequent full-spectrum Democratic Security strengthening of the vital transit countries through which the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership’s multipolar transitional infrastructure projects are projected to pass en route to liberating the rest of Europe.
As provocative as it may initially sound, the disciplined and selective use of Color Revolution technology can realistically be employed by multipolar activists in order to resist the unipolar agenda being thrust upon their countries. Whether it’s “regime reinforcement” in the Republic of Macedonia or the democratic effort to get a contentious piece of NATO legislation up to a national referendum in Montenegro or Serbia, reverse-Color Revolution strategies and tactics are instrumental in peacefully achieving these objectives. Just as the Balkans have always been, they’re once more the testing ground for rolling out a new sort of asymmetrical process all across the world, except for the first time ever, it’s not one which advances the US’ grand geostrategic vision, but one which actively works against it and presents the greatest hope for the emerging multipolar world order.