January 6 was Not a Real Insurrection. Take it From Someone who Lived Through One

A fake insurrection (January 6, 2021)

Chaotic events of January 6th were sold to Americans as “a violent insurrection.”  Because most Americans have experienced so few (read: zero) insurrections, it wasn’t a hard sell.  However, disorderly crowd “parading” in the Capitol, while reprehensible, does not an insurrection make.  What distinguishes a true insurrection from a riot is the end goal

An insurrection, by definition, has as a goal of dismantling the ruling government.  Every following investigation proved beyond a reasonable doubt that people who entered the Capitol on January 6, 2020, whether peacefully, or by force, were not there to dismantle the government.  The protestors were not a uniform group, and had various goals, but none of them was there for “a regime change.”

Farther, it was established early on that the Capitol desecrators carried no weapons.  Any uprising against the government which has an army on its side requires a serious weaponry if it is to have any chance of success.  The US government is protected by the strongest army in the world, so confronting it with “sticks and stones” cannot be called “an insurrection” so much as “a suicide mission,” if the media were honest. 

The media has successfully drilled into the American psyche that colorful and disturbing events of January 6th were a true “insurrection,” even though by every historical definition it was not.  Real insurrections, in many instances, do not include violence, and are often carried far away from government buildings.

A real insurrection (August 19, 1991)

I had just finished my freshman year at Odessa (Ukraine) State University.  I woke up unreasonably early that morning because I wanted to meet my best friend returning from her summer travels.  Her train was late, so I came back home to catch on my sleep. 

When I woke up a couple of hours later, all three TV channels were playing “Swan Lake.”  Having three TV channels was one of the perks we got when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power.  Before, we only had two, one working part time – both run by the state.  But no matter how many TV channels were operational, they all would inevitably play “Swan Lake” wall to wall on one occasion: the death of a “dear leader.”

In the mid-80s, the Soviet Union lost three leaders in quick succession.  However, the death of the current one seemed improbable.  Mikhail Gorbachev was a relatively young leader with no known health problems.   He was in the process of “restructuring” the communist system we all came to know and hate.  Nobody thought Gorbachev was anywhere near death’s door. But that August morning, “Swan Lake” kept playing.  Absent any announcements for several hours, speculation was abundant – a nuclear attack might have been under way, for all we knew. 

I went searching for my friends.  My apartment, as many others, had no telephone, and I had to use a public phone on a street corner.  Most of my friends were out of town visiting family or vacationing, and I had no way of knowing if they were safe.

An announcement came hours later.  A gang of old party apparatchiks appeared on TV, with their voices hoarse and hands shaking.  They announced that Mikhail Gorbachev was in poor health and was unable to continue governing.  GKChP (State Committee on the State Emergency) had now taken charge and all his reforms were declared null and void.

In reality, former KGB members took Gorbachev into custody while he was vacationing in Crimea and held him there against his will.  His captors wanted to re-impose the old totalitarian system of government thus preventing farther unrest and coming collapse of the Soviet Union.

The coup continued for three days, “the old guard” desperately trying to hang on to power while Boris Yeltsin fought to restore power to the rightful leader.  In the end, the lawful force prevailed, but the uncertainty and unrest of those three fateful days have stayed with us.  No matter how ominous or grotesque the events of January 6 were, at no point did it feel like your life can be forever changed at any second – a necessary aspect of a true insurrection.

The legacy of Michail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev came to power after the successive deaths of the three Soviet dictators: Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko.  Viewing the totalitarian system of government as unsustainable, Gorbachev took it upon himself to “restructure” it, bringing people some much needed economic and social freedom.  He ushered in economic reforms (perestroika) and freedom of speech (glasnost’). 

Gorbachev never intended to break the Soviet system, instead opting for “softening” it from within, believing he could keep the system intact while having a freer society.  His mistake lay in not realizing that the communist system of government cannot function with any degree of freedom.  It can only be imposed on people by force, and once the force is removed, people completely reject it.

That is exactly what happened in the Soviet Union in the late 1990s.  A weak socialist economy completely collapsed, making food shortages even more pronounced and sending prices skyrocketing.  Newly found freedom allowed people to rebel against Gorbachev’s regime, putting blame for their hardship squarely on him.  In December of 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed.

Following his recent death, Mikhail Gorbachev stands largely unappreciated by both his compatriots and his critics abroad.   Accustomed to the iron rule of a dictator and unable to take control over their destiny, the Russians unjustly blamed Gorbachev for the economic hardship and chaos that followed.  On the other side, many on the American right consider Gorbachev not much different from his predecessors and a politician who pretty much followed events rather than led them.

But for those of us who came of age during his reign, Gorbachev stands as a true leader.  However imperfect, he had the bravery and the fortitude to go against the totalitarian system.  While he could have turned into another brutal dictator, living a long life of adulation and wealth, he chose to change the direction of the country, bringing about (albeit unwittingly) the end of The Evil Empire.  Not getting recognition from one of the world’s greatest villains on the day he died, is, perhaps, Mikhail Gorbachev’s greatest vindication.

RIP, Mikhail Sergeevich.

Tanya Berlaga is a freelance writer, translator, and a publisher, and is currently a contributor to Right Wire Report, The Liberty Loft, and Free Speech Movement.

Graphic credit: YouTube screengrab CC BY 3.0 license

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