Fri, Dec 10, 2004 - Page 9 News List

The unnerving consequences of people power

The Ukraine street protests have followed a pattern of Western orchestration since the 1980s. Mark Almond should know -- he was a globetrotting Cold War bagman

By Mark Almond  /  THE GUARDIAN , OXFORD, UK

People Power is on track to score another triumph for Western values in Ukraine. Over the last 15 years, the old Soviet bloc has witnessed recurrent fairy tale political upheavals. These modern morality tales always begin with a happy ending. But what happens to the people once People Power has won?

The upheaval in Ukraine is presented as a battle between the people and Soviet-era power structures. The role of Western cold war-era agencies is taboo. Poke your nose into the funding of the lavish carnival in Kiev, and the shrieks of rage show that you have touched a neuralgic point of the New World Order.

All politics costs money, and the crowd scenes broadcast daily from Kiev cost big bucks. Market economics may have triumphed, but if Milton Friedman were to remind the recipients of free food and drink in Independence Square that "there is no such thing as a free lunch," he would doubtless be branded a Stalinist. Few seem to ask what the people paying for People Power want in return for sponsoring all those rock concerts.

As an old Cold War swagman, who carried tens of thousands of dollars to Soviet-bloc dissidents alongside much better respected academics, perhaps I can cast some light on what a Romanian friend called "our clandestine period." Too many higher up the food chain of People Power seem reticent about making full disclosure.

Nowadays, we can google the names of foundations such as America's National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and a myriad surrogates funding Ukraine's Pora movement or "independent" media.

But unless you know the NED's James Woolsey was also head of the CIA 10 years ago, are you any wiser?

Throughout the 1980s, in the build-up to 1989's velvet revolutions, a small army of volunteers -- and, let's be frank, spies -- co-operated to promote what became People Power. A network of interlocking foundations and charities mushroomed to organize the logistics of transferring millions of dollars to dissidents. The money came overwhelmingly from NATO states and covert allies such as "neutral" Sweden.

It is true that not every penny received by dissidents came from taxpayers. The US billionaire, George Soros, set up the Open Society Foundation. How much it gave is difficult to verify, because Soros promotes openness for others, not himself.

Engels remarked that he saw no contradiction between making a million on the stock market in the morning and spending it on the revolution in the afternoon. Our modern market revolutionaries are now inverting that process. People beholden to them come to office with the power to privatize.

The hangover from People Power is shock therapy. Each successive crowd is sold a multimedia vision of Euro-Atlantic prosperity by Western-funded "independent" media to get them on the streets. No one dwells on the mass unemployment, rampant insider dealing, growth of organized crime, prostitution and soaring death rates in successful People Power states.

In 1989, our security services honed an ideal model

as a mechanism for changing regimes, often using genuine volunteers.

Dislike of the way communist states constrained ordinary people's lives led me into undercover work, but witnessing mass pauperization and cynical opportunism in the 1990s bred my disillusionment.

Of course, I should have recognized the symptoms of corruption earlier. Back in the 1980s, our media portrayed Prague dissidents as selfless academics who were reduced to poverty for their principles, when they were in fact receiving US$600 monthly stipends. Now they sit in the front row of the new Euro-Atlantic ruling class.

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