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Research paper topic: Russian History Consolidation Of Democracy In Postsoviet Russia Introduction The Fall Of The Communist Regime In The Soviet U - 2072 words
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.. zation with the fusion between politics and economics. Shevtsova writes reformers cannot rest content with a rearrangement of relations among different institutions, but must strive to form new political and economic system (Shevstova 57). Democratization and the Reinvention of Russian Government An orderly exit from the Soviet past and progress towards stable democracy necessitates the development of a state capable of effective governance. Tsarism and state socialism have provided Russians with little experience with working governmental institutions, nor knowledge of how to coordinate the actions of state agencies in pursuit of a common goal. As especially was the case with the early Gaidar economic reforms, political compromise and coalition building were ignored in favor of policies designed for the public good.
The continued employment of Soviet-style politics by the Yeltsin regime bodes ill for the establishment of consolidated democracy in Russia. To begin the movement to a consolidated democracy, Russian government most promote new institutional capacities and move towards more rational and pragmatic linkages between formal administrative agencies and their functions. This is a sharp break away from bureaucratic malaise that characterized the Soviet system. Important in this development is the fostering of economic movements outside the old system (Shevtsova 56). Shevtsova raises an interesting question of whether the collapse of communism actually strengthened the hand of the nomenklatura , especially on the regional and local level, by allowing them to gain a novel claim of legitimacy as the leaders of new nations (Shevtsova 60).
Along with this new found legitimacy came access to the new found economic resources. It is of foremost importance that wealth not be distributed solely among a small group of state officials and enterprise directors. Such actions could lead to a continuation of patron-client and personalist relations that characterized the state socialist system. But the separation between the public and private sphere is not clearly defined in Russian society. The penetration and coerciveness of the Communist Party dulled the line between state and civil society. In order to consolidate and strengthen the budding private sector, Russia needs to create an administrative system that actively encourages its growth.
Note my use of the word actively. Laissez faire policies are not what the private sector needs to grow and develop into a true bourgeoisie. A true bourgeoisie in the sense that economic opportunity and success is not achieved by simply being a former member of the nomenklatura. But recent improvements show that the distribution of wealth is becoming more equitable. Recent improvements in the privatization process, especially in dwellings, hold great promise for the expansion of small-scale property ownership; an important step in consolidating private ownership. This is along with a growing entrepreneurial spirit among less advantaged segments of the population, especially the young (Fish 234).
To allow a government to actively encourage private, economic enterprise, political appointments must move above the personal level. There must be a balance between the administrative and political roles of the members of the bureaucracy. Shevstova writes on page 69 that Yeltsin has a habit of ranking personal loyalty to himself far above professionalism when choosing appointees and subordinates. The clientelism of the Soviet era is alive and kicking in the Yeltsin government. To challenge this system, a professional bureaucracy, one that is limited in its ability to intervene directly in the policy-making process, must develop.
Another important component of democratization that Shevstova feels is missing from the current Yeltsin administration is a lack of imperatives to build broad consensus and foster genuine communication between leaders and citizens at large (Shevstova 57). Much of this can be attributed to the Communist tradition that placed enormous authority in the local ministers. The autarkic, socialist system allowed executive agencies to acquire many legislative functions. Communication with constituents and consensus building was a unnecessary hassle. The real conflict existed within the decision-making elite. As we will see later, elite conflict is still a major ingredient in the Yeltsin formula of power consolidation. Shevstova call this lack of consensus building and communication a hangover from Leninism (Shevstova 57).
Political power was restricted to a self-selected elite which iniated new personnel less for their technical skills than their willingness to embrace Communist ideology or their relationship to powerful party elites. This system of clientelism retarded and made irrelevant any development of modern, responsive bureaucratic institutional arrangements. Consequently, todays bureaucrats (and yesterdays communists) find it difficult to appreciate the need for compromise, power sharing, and local initiative. This is precisely the problem Russia faces with Yeltsin. It is painfully apparent from his tenure as the architect of Russia early transition period, that old habits die hard. Yeltsin: Presidential Power and His Communist Tradition A brief look at the Boris Yeltsin biographical sketch shows that he is truly a maverick who, on the eve of Ol Blue Eyes birthday (Sinatra that is; I think Yeltsin also has blue eyes), did it his way.
Rising through the nomenklatura , gaining a reputation as a fearless reformer, Yeltsin found himself as a member of the Politburo. Once again, Yeltsin proved an able and determined reformer, but an estrangement between himself and Gorbachev set in when Yeltsin began criticizing the slow pace of reform at party meetings, challenging party conservatives and even criticizing Gorbachev himself. Yeltsin was forced to resign in disgrace from the Moscow party leadership in 1987 and from the Politburo in 1988. His Lazarus act is well documented. Just as well documented his tendency to become a political chameleon, changing his colors to suit any political condition. He has been a communist boss, a reformer within the communist system, a liberal slayer of communism and a nationalist warrior against secessionism (Shevstova 69).
While the American president may wear many hats, Yeltsin has traded in his entire wardrobe numerous times over. He is truly a skilled political in-fighter, maneuvers he learned from his Communist political education. Lilia Shevstova is ardently critical of the decisions Yeltsin has made in the post-Soviet era. She lays much of the responsibility for the politics of confrontation squarely at the feet of Yeltsin and his advisors (Shevstova 58). First, she debunks the idea that Yeltsin is a destroyer of the old system. Correctly, she considers him a reformer who has not attempted to address the institutional hegemony held by the former nomenklatura .
His policies have resulted in the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of the former communist elites. And she lists a number of Soviet era tactics, such as playing the members of nomenklatura against one another, that still personify Yeltsin decision making (Shevstova 60). Yeltsin still digs deep into his Communist bag of tricks when trying to consolidate his power. The Presidential Revolution of 1993 signified a turn towards a more personalistic brand of rule for Russia. Shevstova argues, and I would agree, that the Constitutional Crisis of 1993 was largely predicated on Yeltsin attempting to outmaneuver his old Communist rivals, who had taken refuge in the legislature (Shevstova 62).
The supporters that Yeltsin lined up behind him for this insurgency upon the Supreme Soviet were wildly divergent in their political orientations and goals. They included liberal reformers, bureaucrats and pragmatists, statists and security officials, and extreme nationalists (Shevstova 63). This motley crew testifies to the bizarre landscape that makes up Russian politics. Yet it is that bizarre political landscape that Yeltsin appears to be most comfortable operating upon. Yeltsin can consolidate and maintain authority because of the lingering sense of crisis that hangs over Russian politics (Shevstova 65). The widely held belief that a successor would be a worse option and an absence of any real alternatives has allowed Yeltsin to maneuver with impunity. The June presidential elections present a clear example of this phenomenon.
Even with horrendous economic and political performance, Yeltsin still was able to defeat Zhyguanov, for the reason that the challenger was the pits, a tired political retread. Shevstova refers to the fear, inertia, and disorientation that pervade Russia (Shevstova 65). Yeltsin has adeptly used these pathologies to create a system that Shevstova refers to as divide and conquer (Shevstova 69). So what are the dangers in Yeltsins brand of governing? There has been very little change in how things are done under the Yeltsin regime versus the Gorbachev regime. The specific issues were addressed in the previous section.
Another important point to note is that there has been too much reliance on Yeltsins personal prestige and charisma (Shevstova 64). Yeltsin operates outside of the nascent party system because parties constrain leaders. He is not an institution builder but, as his policies have demonstrated, he is a populist. His communist background has not made him adverse to resorting to extra-legal means to achieving his goals. It is this procedural uncertainty, and reliance upon the man and not the measures, that create the greatest concern for the establishment of stable democracy. The Crystal Ball The problems that I have outlined in this paper do not bode well for the establishment of a stable democracy in Russia for the near future. The literature on the subject contends that consolidated democracy is not a likely option for Russia.
Instead we are much more likely to see a unconsolidated democracy take hold in Russia. Fish describes an unconsolidated democracy as a system that would include many of the basic elements of democracy, such as elections and considerable civil and cultural freedoms (Fish 226). Yet we are unlikely to see the establishment of durable and stable rules and institutions that are appropriate to their respective social structures or accepted by their respective citizenries (Smitter 60). Because of the lack of any credible alternatives to democracy, we are unlikely to see a regression back to authoritarianism. Yet if appropriate reforms are not enacted, we are likely to see what is referred to as democracy by default (Smitter 60).
The basic rights of democracy will exist but regular, acceptable, and predictable democratic patterns never quite crystallize (Smitter 61). The 1993 Constitution excaberates this problem by placing enormous power in the hands of the president, laying the groundwork for discretionary, personal expressions of authority that contradict the needed objectives of broad based political aggregation. There has been growing disenchantment in Russia with the not only Yeltsin, the politician, but with the institution of democracy itself. Public opinion show that most Russians evaluate democracy in negative terms (Whitefield). This is the danger of having a politician also represent a movement. For a stable democracy to take hold in Russia, Yeltsin and future presidents must not become institutions themselves.
The personalization of transition politics presents enormous difficulties by hampering the institutionalization of necessary reforms. Still, with all these problems that have been outlined, I feel that it is unlikely that we will see a return to authoritarianism. Lilia Shevtsova concludes: Despite the shallowness of democracys roots and the continuous attempts by some in power to curtail freedom, the obstacles to the establishment of a full blow authoritarian regime appear insurmountable. There are just too many active and self-conscious interest groups, too many people who have become accustomed to life in a relatively free atmosphere, too many competing elites, no united and effective bureaucracy, and a military establishment that seems highly unlikely to rally behind any would be man on horseback (Shevtsova 70). The character of the next regime will provide many clues to what the future of Russia might be.
Economic transformations are not sufficient conditions for the consolidation of democracy. I am not optimistic that Yeltsin has either the proclivity or the longevity to engage in any sort of meaningful political reform. If the next regime does not adequately address what, Smitter referred to as, the extrinsic dilemmas facing Russia, then consolidation is very unlikely. These dilemmas include political graft, privileged treatment of the elite, unequal distribution of wealth, and crime (Smitter 73). If they are not dealt with the future of democracy will be bleak, indeed.
Works Cited Drobizheva , Leokadia. "Democratization and Nationalism in the Russian Federation." Sponsored by the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies: Presented on February 8 1996. Fish, Stephen. Democracy From Scratch: Opposition and Regime in the New Russian Revolution . (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
Jowitt, Kenneth. Dizzy With Democracy. Problems of Post Communism, 1 (Jan-Feb, 1996) : 3-8. Lapidus, Gail and Edward Walker. Nationalism, Regionalism, and Federalism: Center Periphery Relations in Post Communist Russia. In Lapidus, ed., The New Russia.
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1995): 79-113. Shevtsova, Lilia. The Two Sides of The New Russia. Journal of Democracy. 6 (July 1995): 41-55.
Smitter, Phillipe C. Dangers And Dilemmas Of Democracy. Journal of Democracy, 5 (April 1994): 57-74. Whitefield, Stephen and Geoffrey Evans. The Popular Basis of Anti-Reform Politics on Russia.
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