The Applicability of Nonviolent Struggle in Armenia: Part 6.1

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As we have already noted in the previous publications, each part of the article series concerning the applicability of nonviolent struggle in Armenia will discuss in detail the applicability of possible options of political/civil disobedience in our country, as well as the reasons of failure of the means has been chosen by political forces so far.

The article series is based on the study of international practice, as well as the scientific literature available. For Part One, Two, Three, Four and Five of the current article you can follow the shown links.

The main subject of discussion in this section is the need for quite a flexible strategy in political race. I’ve tried to combine the theory of nonviolent struggle discussed in the framework of this article with the current political situation in our country. The need for strategy discussed in this section will also be considered in this very framework.   

Thus, like at any level, at this level as well Armenian political reality is far from vocational approaches. All the political powers that have joined the political race basically try to refrain from developing a comprehensive strategic plan beforehand. We have already stated in previous sections that the political opposition in Armenia applies only the limited means of political struggle mainly focusing on the most popular but basically less effective means of street struggle. Even in this case, though, quite restricted methods of street struggle are being applied, let alone having a previously developed comprehensive strategy. All of us are familiar with a number of cases when our political forces went to the streets with the motto “Let’s begin then we will see what will happen” and in all cases they faced exclusively adverse results. Our oppositionists quite frequently relied on the idea of spontaneous civil disobedience during which they adopted the way of gaining possible political dividends by appearing in the status of the persecuted. In fact, spontaneous civil disobedience theoretically has many positive sides, but practically its ineffectiveness has been proven repeatedly.

International practice indicates that those who only rely on spontaneous civic disobedience didn’t take into account the issue of possible provocations being prepared by the opposite camp and as a result they were unable to avoid a stalemate situation and the initiated process failed at once. In the absence of meticulous planning by the participants of spontaneous civil disobedience the decision-making process was of a situational nature, which in its turn led to the adverse outcome of the movement. However, it needs to be clearly underlined, though spontaneous democratic activities can surely have positive results, still initiating any large-scale political movement the maturity of the developed political situation as well as public sentiments need to be objectively assessed first, then there should be worked out such a sequence of steps with the help of which it would be possible to get the maximum benefit from the developed political reality. The assessment of public sentiments and situations must be carried out as objectively and realistically as possible. After specifying the goals of a movement appropriate ways to accomplish them should be worked out. The more important the declared purpose of a movement is and the bigger the severity of the consequences if failed is, the greater strategy planning importance is. The presence of a strategy based on objective calculations increases the likelihood of effective implementation of sources of power a democratic movement has. The meaning of the term “strategy” (like any other term) is exposed to subjective interpretations in our reality and its real meaning is quite often distorted. For instance, many leaders of oppositional movements perceive the idea of strategy to be just a primary purpose declared by them at that point. Whereas, strategy means a course of such planned actions through which transition from the current political situation to the desired one can become much more realistic. Besides the above-mentioned misunderstanding, our oppositionists often forget to include the importance of establishing democratic system following a regime change in meaning of strategy based on their unique perception of it. The intellectual potential of the political oppositional forces is fairly low, but there are some cases when knowledgeable political leaders expressed the latter idea, which is senseless. In this case we simply deal with an ordinary act of populism, which in its turn is the result of the objective reality developed in the field.

Reasons for Overlooking the Political Processes       

Non professional approaches towards political processes marginalize and lead to inevitable defeat even the most massive political movements. A striking example of the said is the course as well as the ultimate destination of national movement launched in 2008 following the presidential elections. In contrast to the oppositional political forces the ruling one almost always manages to stay a couple of steps ahead of them and using all the possible means completely crack and split any wave of civil disobedience.

One of the basic indicators of overlooking the political processes is the absence of a thoroughly developed strategy during both large-scale civic movements and those with little human involvement. The lack of developed strategy is conditioned by a number of well-known constraints. Particularly, all those groups and political forces that have declared themselves to be soldiers for freedom restrict the idea to declarative statements on democratization while specifying the objectives of a movement and never concentrate all of their capacities on the issue of discovering the means of accomplishing sustainable democratization. In general, even for those movements aiming at getting rid of dictatorships it is a more complex task to arrange a democratization process generated during the post-revolutionary period than to get rid of the dictatorship itself.

This issue is quite similar to the well-known iceberg principle pursuant to which getting rid of bad governors is only the tip of the iceberg, while at the bottom of the iceberg-in the rampant part-is the integrity of the problems faced by the democratic forces after getting rid of those bad governors. Post-revolutionary problems are neglected like all the other issues of utmost importance in our country and the main goal remains the act of removing the current authorities from power. Not casting doubt on the honesty of those forces who advocate for political change, still a question arises-what is the reason that all forces having the vision of granting the society with political liberties rarely develop comprehensive strategic plan to achieve this goal.

Unfortunately, the political forces proclaimed themselves to be a democratic opposition quite often do not realize the importance of developing a strategy or simply lack strategic thinking, which is more justified in this case. Here again exist several objective reasons. First, such groups having misjudged the principles of effective political struggle constantly appear in the center of futile political processes. Thus, they naively believe that if persistently and firmly struggle for the declared objectives that will become a reality in any way and during this process pragmatic political calculations are replaced by political fanaticism leading to the inevitable marginalization. Another misunderstanding is also specific to such movements according to which they are convinced that only living in accordance with their principles and ideas and by overcoming encountered difficulties is all they must do to turn them into reality. Remaining true to own ideas and keeping the declared principles is of course commendable, but as experience shows, it is not sufficient for achieving a political change.       

In addition to political forces there are various activist groups in the field who also ignore the need for developing a strategy. Some activists who initiate such civic movements in their turn are guided by so called ultra-democratic principles and announce that each and every civic movement must be spontaneous and without any management. They strongly believe that any citizen who will be involved in the movements initiated by them must do whatever he/she ”feels”, but such attitudes are self-centered and lead to same point as in case with political forces. Local activities based on a ”creative idea” of an individual are fairly limited. In order to fulfill the objectives proclaimed by any civic movement a set of actions is needed which will be based on a detailed calculation of further steps necessary for accomplishing the objectives of the movement. Certainly, the presence of creative and brilliant ideas proposed by individuals can have a positive impact on the process of the movement, buy still those ideas need to be included in the grant strategy and be used purposefully for the sake of the common good.

To be continued….

Narek Samsonyan