Crypto against Dictators
In 1989 American political scientist Francis Fukuyama published his famous article “The end of history?” in the National Interest. Later on he turned the article into a bestselling book. His main idea was the absence of alternatives to the liberal democracy after the collapse of communism. And therefore he argued that the liberal democracy should spread around the globe.
But Fukuyama was wrong. Thirty years later most countries of the world are considered by political scientists not as “liberal democracies”, but as “authoritarian” or “hybrid” regimes. These countries are not real totalitarian states as the one described in “1984” by Orwell (perhaps, only North Korea may pretend to claim that “honour”). Formally, a citizen of such a country may disagree with their government or participate in a civil movement. In some of these countries there even exist legal political opposition. However, all branches of a state’s government in such countries are subjugated by a group of people (usually rallying around a strong leader), voting is often just a simulacrum and independent civic activity is oppressed.
most countries of the world are considered by political scientists not as “liberal democracies”, but as “authoritarian” or “hybrid” regimes
Russia, China, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Iran, Laos, Togo, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Myanmar, Yemen, Bahrain, Uzbekistan. And that’s not even a complete list of such countries. Even countries with rooted democracy can become “hybrid”, that’s unfortunately what has been happening recently in Turkey.
Usually in those countries there’s a class of economically active urban citizens who don’t like that state of affairs and who are ready to contribute to the changes. The bravest of them join civic initiatives trying to make change. They raise money for lawyers and for “care packages” for the protesters in prison.They organize campaigns against domestic violence or for women’s rights. They create independent media or Telegram channels that provide honest descriptions of what is happening, and so on.
in those countries there’s a class of economically active urban citizens who don’t like that state of affairs and who are ready to contribute to the changes
An even broader part of the discontented population is not ready to participate actively but wants to support those initiatives financially. The financial support for these initiatives is also often provided by immigrants from these countries or by compassionate citizens of other countries.
Thanks to that, grassroots initiatives grow even in the most severe of these countries, just as grass makes its way through the asphalt.
But as soon as such an initiative becomes noticeable the authoritarian government starts to fight it. Sometimes it’s a dully fight, the government just sends to prison everyone connected to that initiative. But more often the government fights not that dull (don’t forget that most of these countries are not real totalitarian states, they try to be seen as democracies): they put obstacles that make the work of such initiatives almost impossible.
And money is an Achilles’ heel. Even the best initiatives need money to be implemented. But all money transfers in the authoritarian countries are controlled by the government. The governments usually take one of two approaches.
money is an Achilles’ heel, even the best initiatives need money to be implemented
One of the approaches is to arrest bank accounts where the funds are accumulated. The government may say they suspect these accounts of being used for money laundering. Or the government may fine the organization and arrest the funds to secure the payment of the fine.
The second approach is to oppress the donors. It may involve indirect oppression, but it’s nevertheless painful. Career problems, lowering of “social rating”, denying loans, calls for questioning about supposed money laundering and so on. All of this can be done to discourage the donors.
Sometimes even more complex measures are taken. For example, in Russia laws about “foreign agents’’ make donations from abroad illegal for organizations even slightly involved in politics. Sometimes a foreign donation is sent to such an organization specifically to claim it as a foreign agent. That status results in fines (up to tens of thousands of US dollars), in endless inspections by the authorities, and sometimes even in jail terms for the leaders of such organizations. And that method is actively used. For example, movement “Golos” (Voice) which trains election observers was labeled as a “foreign agent” immediately after receiving 250 rubles (around $3.5) from a citizen of Moldova, and the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Alexei Navalny got such a status after receiving 10 euros from a citizen of Spain.
The obvious solution to that problem is the use of crypto by the civic initiatives in the authoritarian and hybrid countries.
The obvious solution to that problem is the use of crypto by the civic initiatives in the authoritarian and hybrid countries
Even the strongest and the most self-assured dictatorship can’t arrest a blockchain wallet. All the funds in the wallet are accessible only by the person who has secret keys from that wallet.
It’s also impossible to trace who made the donation or to prove that the donation was done by a foreigner. The donors may donate any sum to any initiative with no fear of oppression.
The cryptomarket is actively developing in most authoritarian countries — even in Cuba and Iran not to mention China or Russia. And the authorities of these countries can’t ban the crypto as they are using it actively. Iran and Cuba use crypto to get around the sanctions, Russia uses crypto to fund private military companies that fight in Eastern Ukraine, and so on.
One of the important tasks of Help Each Other project is to contribute to the development of this trend. To give to the civic initiatives in authoritarian and hybrid countries an opportunity to raise funds in crypto. And thanks to that to make the world change for the better.