Eric Hacopian, a California based political consultant with over 25 years of experience in American politics, says that “governments win 99 out of 100 times, but everyone in power doesn't sleep at night worrying about that one time.”
At the invitation of Impact Hub Yerevan, Hacopian gave a talk on the issue of Organizing in an Era of Change last Friday and commented on the ongoing rate price hike protests in Yerevan.
The speaker noted that movements for change in Latin America have faced much more authoritarian regimes than in Armenia. Here too the regime will not give up without a fight, but those assembled at Baghramyan Avenue "do not have the troops for that right now", Hacopian noted.
Hacopian said that the problem faced by the protesters is getting organized and cited the example in Buenos Aires where 100 organizations would be on the ground to organize the movement.
He laid out the fundamental principles of organization – to know the sources of power, to make the organizing effort long-term, to implement actions derived from local experience, to define the issue simply and plainly, to understand the opponent, to have flexible tactics, and to know the law. What’s also required for the above are leadership and institutional memory.
“What I mean by institutional memory is organizing and learning from it. You don't want to relearn from the same things. I think a lot of the young people involved in the movement today are veterans of movements from two years ago. So there's an element of it, but I think it needs to be institutionalized,” said Hacopian, adding that one must organize groups of 100, 500, or 1,000 people since “one cannot gather 10,000 to dance.”
He also said that such movements must understand the role of social media.
Hacopian believes that the #ElectricYerevan Twitter campaign is brilliant but it must understand that it is also be used by the government to find out who is against whom. He reminded the audience that in Iran, in 2009, the government used Twitter to arrest hundreds of protesters.
“There's a notion that social media changes everything. Social media does not change anything. It’s another tool, but like any tool, it's a neutral tool. Both sides can use it,” he said.
“No one should have any illusions that the problems of Hayastan (Armenia - H.G.) are going to be solved by anyone from outside of it or by any model from outside of it. The problems of Hayastan are going to be solved in rooms by people like you and in multiple rooms with a lot more people like you,” said Hacopian.
At the same time, Hacopian called on people not to be impressed by politicians who could just as easily have worked for Stalin, be a democrat in Washington D.C, or work in Armenia’s Ministry of the Economy.
“70% of people in political life all over the world are people that are taken from one system to the next. These are people that want pension and a comfortable life. So do not be impressed by these people.”