19 February 2007

Ruminations on Democracy, Russia and LaR

In an attempt to lift the La Russophobe debate out of the mire.

For those of you not fully-conversant in the politics of the english-language Russian blogosphere.  Andy at Siberian Light interviewed La Russophobe.  Who is, as the title of her blog suggests, Russophobic, and also anonymous.  The eXile has taken on the role of tracking her down, but as has already decided on the size of her ass - charming boys that they are.

She has many faults; not least of which is a pre-determined view of what has been posted. The one worth debating though is that of a George W. Bush-like fascination with democracy.  Which, in GWB's case seems Florida-strange, but has little to do with this post.

Her interview on SiberianLight mentions democracy a number of times (the list is not exhaustive, and the last point includes democracy in the question only);

  • "the end of democracy"
  • "democracy in the blogosphere"
  • "I’d been told that Russia was a nation of democrats"
  • "La Russophobe is trying to save the minority from the majority in Russia"
  • "in a sham democracy and thereby poisons the well of Russian attitudes towards democracy"
  • "I think anyone who sees a proud KGB spy as a transitional figure on a journey to democracy is quite mad."
  • "11. Do you think Russia will ever embrace the style of representative democracy now favoured in (most of) the rest of Europe? Answer - Not unless it is led to the well by a revolutionary equal to Lenin and as steeped in the West as Lenin was and ten times more courageous. I’d be happy if Russia would just adopt the physician’s maxim for its government: “Do no harm.”"

But it is the fourth quotation which really describes LaR's view of democracy as being what she believes is best for the people of Russia.  Which includes having MBK and VVP switching places.  It may well be that MBK has had a Damascene conversion on his long and winding road to Chita.  But right up to the moment of his incarceration his view of democracy, as evidenced by his actions as opposed to his words, was that it was OK as long as it could be bought.  And he was buying it.

Democracy is undoubtedly a good thing, or as Churchill would have it, not as bad as everything else.  As the US-led coalition in Iraq is finding out, democracy is not just about voting, it is about the law, and balance of power which forces respect for a minority position.  Whilst it may be tempting to say that a leader with 70-80% approval rating better satisfies concepts of democracy than his U.S, French and British counterparts, it is important to separate populism from the building of democracy, given that there are and were a number of populist but not entirely democratic leaders around the world - Hitler, in the former category and Chavez in the latter.  Russia, in common with Iraq, has a representative democracy which is totally undermined by a lack of the basic protections of democracy, minorities and indeed life itself.

However, to place the blame for failing to democracy on VVP and his Fifth Directorate Thugs is to take a snapshot of history without understanding the historical relevance.  You will be pleased to know that I am not about to undertake a Figes-like review of Russian history.  The last 14 years condensed in to three periods will do;

  • Collapse - financial, moral and of morale
  • The pre-crisis party years
  • The post-crisis revival - financial, moral and of morale

To tell a people that has suffered from the liberal economic and democratic experiment that it needs saving from itself invites the same reactions as post-collapse feminists encountered when spreading the good word.  And in my opinion rightly so - on both counts.  I have quoted Cobbett's "I defy you to agitate a man on a full stomach" to feel a little like a stuck record.  Repetition however, does not demean the point.  Democracy post-collapse has meant; valueless savings, rampant theft of state property or if you prefer, loans-for-shares, and complete collapse of anything that felt like being in control of your life.  Whereas this lack-of-democracy thing has meant; stability, food and consumerism.  Not unsurprisingly the narod have decided for now that they can live with their democratic freedoms being impinged.  But as they never knew what democratic freedoms were (see bullet three for bizarre belief in what you are told) it is more than likely that they aren't missing them now.  And won't, at least until the commodity cycle changes and they have no way of getting rid of this bunch of thieves.

Democracy is not the answer to Russia's problems, actually in today's environment it may add to them.  Would Russia would be better if it were democratic is like asking if you prefer peace to war - the answer is axiomatic.  However, democracy is not about voting and the right to vote.  That is purely the symbol.  Real democracy can only happen when rights and responsibilities are balanced.  Russia is not there yet.  It is poorer for not using this period of wealth to build the institutions, but a simplistic belief that Russia can copy US/UK participatory democracies and be better for it is too simplistic and short-term.  As always, black and white arguments seem reasonable and make a point.  I am sure that the narod would prefer that Schliefer et al and LaR did not make a point with their lives.

You can disagree with my point of view - but please make a reasoned argument or I will just disallow the comment.


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2 comments:

Andy said...

I completely agree that democracy is about far more than mere elections, and take your point as to why democracy may not be the answer for Russia at the moment (at least, not in a sham format where elections take place, but the Russian people still don't have a say in their country's governance).

But, if you qualify that by saying that it's obvious that 'true' democracy would be in Russia's interests, the question then arises - just how does Russia get there? What chance is there of 'true' democracy in Russia if the political system retrenches and abandons (even if only temporarily) elections?

Rurrik said...

There is no alternative to Democracy. Humans are by nature all pretty similar, they just need the rule of law to let every one air their opinion without fear. If Russia had a independent judiciary and law enforcement Democracy would be there now. The lack of those things is what made it possible for the ruling elites to form and hold power.

Russian people have more reasons to be democratic then anyone else. the history is there, the lands are vast and un-settled, the soil is rich. Democracy is the by product of continuous forces of progress on earth, and Russia will get there I have no doubt.

is it ready right now? Of course it's not the same as liberal democracies which have existed for at least a century but it's rapidly gaining in this respect the fact that there is a constitution that is at least partly respected is HUGE progress. Russia will keep trying and eventually it will be more democratic then America.

19 February 2007

Ruminations on Democracy, Russia and LaR

In an attempt to lift the La Russophobe debate out of the mire.

For those of you not fully-conversant in the politics of the english-language Russian blogosphere.  Andy at Siberian Light interviewed La Russophobe.  Who is, as the title of her blog suggests, Russophobic, and also anonymous.  The eXile has taken on the role of tracking her down, but as has already decided on the size of her ass - charming boys that they are.

She has many faults; not least of which is a pre-determined view of what has been posted. The one worth debating though is that of a George W. Bush-like fascination with democracy.  Which, in GWB's case seems Florida-strange, but has little to do with this post.

Her interview on SiberianLight mentions democracy a number of times (the list is not exhaustive, and the last point includes democracy in the question only);

  • "the end of democracy"
  • "democracy in the blogosphere"
  • "I’d been told that Russia was a nation of democrats"
  • "La Russophobe is trying to save the minority from the majority in Russia"
  • "in a sham democracy and thereby poisons the well of Russian attitudes towards democracy"
  • "I think anyone who sees a proud KGB spy as a transitional figure on a journey to democracy is quite mad."
  • "11. Do you think Russia will ever embrace the style of representative democracy now favoured in (most of) the rest of Europe? Answer - Not unless it is led to the well by a revolutionary equal to Lenin and as steeped in the West as Lenin was and ten times more courageous. I’d be happy if Russia would just adopt the physician’s maxim for its government: “Do no harm.”"

But it is the fourth quotation which really describes LaR's view of democracy as being what she believes is best for the people of Russia.  Which includes having MBK and VVP switching places.  It may well be that MBK has had a Damascene conversion on his long and winding road to Chita.  But right up to the moment of his incarceration his view of democracy, as evidenced by his actions as opposed to his words, was that it was OK as long as it could be bought.  And he was buying it.

Democracy is undoubtedly a good thing, or as Churchill would have it, not as bad as everything else.  As the US-led coalition in Iraq is finding out, democracy is not just about voting, it is about the law, and balance of power which forces respect for a minority position.  Whilst it may be tempting to say that a leader with 70-80% approval rating better satisfies concepts of democracy than his U.S, French and British counterparts, it is important to separate populism from the building of democracy, given that there are and were a number of populist but not entirely democratic leaders around the world - Hitler, in the former category and Chavez in the latter.  Russia, in common with Iraq, has a representative democracy which is totally undermined by a lack of the basic protections of democracy, minorities and indeed life itself.

However, to place the blame for failing to democracy on VVP and his Fifth Directorate Thugs is to take a snapshot of history without understanding the historical relevance.  You will be pleased to know that I am not about to undertake a Figes-like review of Russian history.  The last 14 years condensed in to three periods will do;

  • Collapse - financial, moral and of morale
  • The pre-crisis party years
  • The post-crisis revival - financial, moral and of morale

To tell a people that has suffered from the liberal economic and democratic experiment that it needs saving from itself invites the same reactions as post-collapse feminists encountered when spreading the good word.  And in my opinion rightly so - on both counts.  I have quoted Cobbett's "I defy you to agitate a man on a full stomach" to feel a little like a stuck record.  Repetition however, does not demean the point.  Democracy post-collapse has meant; valueless savings, rampant theft of state property or if you prefer, loans-for-shares, and complete collapse of anything that felt like being in control of your life.  Whereas this lack-of-democracy thing has meant; stability, food and consumerism.  Not unsurprisingly the narod have decided for now that they can live with their democratic freedoms being impinged.  But as they never knew what democratic freedoms were (see bullet three for bizarre belief in what you are told) it is more than likely that they aren't missing them now.  And won't, at least until the commodity cycle changes and they have no way of getting rid of this bunch of thieves.

Democracy is not the answer to Russia's problems, actually in today's environment it may add to them.  Would Russia would be better if it were democratic is like asking if you prefer peace to war - the answer is axiomatic.  However, democracy is not about voting and the right to vote.  That is purely the symbol.  Real democracy can only happen when rights and responsibilities are balanced.  Russia is not there yet.  It is poorer for not using this period of wealth to build the institutions, but a simplistic belief that Russia can copy US/UK participatory democracies and be better for it is too simplistic and short-term.  As always, black and white arguments seem reasonable and make a point.  I am sure that the narod would prefer that Schliefer et al and LaR did not make a point with their lives.

You can disagree with my point of view - but please make a reasoned argument or I will just disallow the comment.


Technorati Tags: ,

2 comments:

Andy said...

I completely agree that democracy is about far more than mere elections, and take your point as to why democracy may not be the answer for Russia at the moment (at least, not in a sham format where elections take place, but the Russian people still don't have a say in their country's governance).

But, if you qualify that by saying that it's obvious that 'true' democracy would be in Russia's interests, the question then arises - just how does Russia get there? What chance is there of 'true' democracy in Russia if the political system retrenches and abandons (even if only temporarily) elections?

Rurrik said...

There is no alternative to Democracy. Humans are by nature all pretty similar, they just need the rule of law to let every one air their opinion without fear. If Russia had a independent judiciary and law enforcement Democracy would be there now. The lack of those things is what made it possible for the ruling elites to form and hold power.

Russian people have more reasons to be democratic then anyone else. the history is there, the lands are vast and un-settled, the soil is rich. Democracy is the by product of continuous forces of progress on earth, and Russia will get there I have no doubt.

is it ready right now? Of course it's not the same as liberal democracies which have existed for at least a century but it's rapidly gaining in this respect the fact that there is a constitution that is at least partly respected is HUGE progress. Russia will keep trying and eventually it will be more democratic then America.