SOCIAL RESEARCH, Vol. 57, No. 2 (Summer 1990)
Oleg Rumyantsev. Authoritarian Modernisation and the Social-Democratic Alternative
We are living in an epoch of compressed political time: serious problems arise and multiply, but the time required for their consideration is often lacking. Some get drowned in the stream of jejune "pro-perestroika" sermons, others are carried off by the whirlwind of political activism and thus fall victim to emotion. Meanwhile the struggle for the transformation of perestroika is proceeding apace, and the distribution of political power oscillates periodically. The evolution of a new stage in the democratic movement is taking place during a deepening crisis of the value system. The erosion of mass consciousness and the devaluation of socialist categories, as well as many other phenomena, follow from the very logic of the transition period.
Accordingly, several questions arise: Is the logic of reform coherent and necessary? Is there a reasonable alternative? And if the logic of reform is indeed necessary, what should be its content?
The following remarks arise from an internalized need for self-determination. I would like to establish certain ideological and practical coordinates for myself and for like-minded others, for that segment of Russian social movement whose actions are governed by the ideals of political and social democracy. But before proceeding with self-determination, we must understand the essential aspects of the current situation.
The Game and the Players
The Perestroika Formula. Let us assess in a somewhat biased fashion the progress of perestroika up to the spring of 1989. Such an assessment is far from simple, even though by now everybody has gotten the knack of evaluating current events. Some claim that indecision and contradiction in the implementation of perestroika are leading the country toward a deepening crisis. Far from it, reply others; the crisis has passed, and after some compromises the authorities have regrouped to keep the perestroika ship on course. Others still maintain a skeptical smirk: things are getting worse, not better, the collapse is at hand.
Let us abstain from guessing whether the crisis has passed or is yet to come. We are living in a permanent crisis, born of the destructive consequences of the complex antagonistic contradictions in "real socialism." One of the meanings of the Greek word krisis is "verdict." The current pitiful state of all government institutions and society as a whole is the strongest verdict on the social system that has given rise to our current situation. But the crisis is also a transition, a transition toward the solution of a number of contradictions. And so, once the self-regulation mechanisms of the system had obviously failed (the mechanisms that maintained individual elements in their normal order), an urgent reconstruction of the feedback mechanism was embarked upon a few years ago. This reconstruction became known as the "revolution from above," whose long-term strategic policy was aimed at endowing the existing system with qualitatively new characteristics that would improve its efficiency and ability to compete.
Let us attempt to describe the currently playing "revolution from above." In the political sphere the apparatus of ideocratic redistribution has successfully weathered the first trials of perestroika. After the initial shock it began to evolve: rectified the left deviation, regrouped, and embarked upon rational self-improvement. The program now envisions a workaday authoritarian modernization rather than the liberal modernization for which many have mistaken it. The decisive and enlightened new leadership makes no secret of the essence of the new course: a gradual, cautious retreat from the exhausted totalitarian mechanisms toward an authoritarian constitutional regime. The foundation of the new order is the statist model of the "socialist legal state."
The messianic tenor of perestroika is habitually set by the Leninist party, which emerges as the "engine of revolutionary change" powering the perestroika process. Once again the party has dared nothing less than to nail down with its conference resolutions "the basic norms of everyday life" for the entire society according to the party's perception of these norms. In the blink of an eye the grateful society found itself in a foundation pit intended for the rushed construction of the "socialist legal state." The very same behind-the-scenes manipulators have also taken the initiative in supplving the construction site with the construction materials of the "new" lawmaking.
The program of nondemocratic perestroika is executed by the party apparatus not only with a view toward the reactionary, conservative forces but in direct alliance with them. The strategic nature of this alliance is underscored by their identically haughty dismissal of the "leftists," "perestroika fanatics," "avant-gardists," and "antisocial elements." As ever, class intuition did not fail the leadership, but it did cause them to lose many potential allies.
At the same time, the economic sphere is witnessing the implementation of several contradictory policies—a back-and-forth game of tennis on the shopworn court of the "socialist production" prerogatives. The attempts to promote a coherent economic policy are failing, leaving in place the wasteful, politicized economy. Consequentiy, no real process has been achieved, and the problems continue to deepen. Inflation is increasing steadily. The adepts of free markets and monetary policy are no longer in favor, while the architects of nonsensical self-financing are, as always, in the driver's seat. These last have drawn up the project of "radical economic reform" consisting of a semifree and semiabandoned socialist marketplace beset by the regulations and restrictions of the ministries and organs of central planning, and populated by industrial enterprises with bound hands, feeble minds, and feet mired in financial quicksand. "Our cooperatives are almost operative" —almost but not quite, because the provident hand of the state has once again placed entrepreneurs at a great disadvantage compared to the state monopolies. The amateurish rackets of local party committee money-grubbers have been bested by professional racketeering on a countrywide scale. The self-management of industrial enterprises is also in trouble: the worker collectives are still a long way from becoming true partners in the ownership and rational utilization of the means of production.
There has been progress in the area of human rights, but we are still far from conforming to the international human-rights accords which we have ostensibly signed. The centrally dispensed and officially controlled semi-openness, constant pressures of censorship, and telephone-call monitoring do not make for freedom of speech. The episodic permissiveness of local party committees in regard to public rallies does not make for freedom of assembly. The legally and technically disenfranchised existence of the various officially unrecognized informal organizations does not make for freedom of association. These three basic freedoms, nominally gained back near the turn of the century, remain a faraway dream of the democratically minded community. Moreover, the curse of the empire is still with us: the problem of interethnic relations exacerbated by the illusory right to national self-determination. And what of the first prisoners of perestroika: the "Karabakh committee,' the leaders of the Azerbaijani Popular Front, and others?
Let me emphasize, the point of a legal state is that the law circumscribes the actions of the state and not of the citizens. In our case the situation is reversed.
In essence our reforms recall the Polish situation of the 1980s: a nonfunctional marketplace combined with an all-powerful police. As for the police, we are in fine shape. The colossal apparatus of state coercion has not undergone any substantive change; the well-adjusted and oiled mechanism continues to function quietly and effectively. Today it is less occupied with organized crime (which grew precipitously in 1988), concentrating instead on the larger task of creating the socialist legal state. This includes the preparation of edicts and laws, "community work" among the citizens, shadowy machinations at the top and unofficial pressure on the democratic movement at the bottom. Recently, the April 8, 1989 Decree by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of USSR (introducing changes in the law covering criminal responsibility for crimes against the state) supplied the legal foundation for the suppression of the nettlesome civil society. After all, most informal organizations are openly agitating for institutional change in many elements of our administrative and social system. What's more, these informal organizations often dare to employ modern technology, disdaining the hand-drawn slogans of yore. Could the new decree yet lead to a witchhunt in a socialist legal state that has fallen under the sway of reaction?
The greatest success of perestroika has come in the area of foreign relations. The new thinking has contributed markedly toward the elimination of coercion from international relations. Willy-nilly we have accepted verification and compromise, since the image of a
Summing up the above points, we arrive at an approximate formula of the current stage of perestroika.
The Situation. The events of recent months have evolved in complete conformity with the above perestroika formula. "A profound transformation of all aspects of our society and the socialist implementation of the modern forms of social organization"—these remain the pia desideria, the good intentions of the communist leadership. But the trials of perestroika proved difficult for the leadership. Even though the examination problem was correctly anticipated (after all, there could be no other), the lack of serious knowledge, paternalistic pride, and a profound insecurity are making it impossible (as usual) to successfully pass the test of reform. And this test cannot be passed by half-measures, with diluted liberalization substituting for democracy, semiopenness substituting for free speech, and internecine struggles in the leadership substituting for radical reforms.
Will the plethora of political obligations issued by the party—"the leading and guiding force in society"—at the 1987-88 plenums ever be met? The true legitimacy of the leadership depends on the led recognizing the right of the leader to make important decisions, as long as these advance the common goal. In our society, however, many decades of self-appointed collective leadership have not been conducive to legitimacy, as amply evidenced by our "successes" on all fronts.
Has anything changed in recent months? Yes, but not much.
Recall the ominous post-Chernobyl prostration; the convulsive reaction to the Yeltsin debacle and the drawn-out spectacle of his demotion; the "congealment" of February-March of 1988 crowned by Nina Andreeva's infamous letter and the subsequent weeks of fretful expectation; the criminal washing of hands after the Sumgait pogrom and the desecration of the national feeling of the entire Armenian people; the periodic war parties against informal organizations; political repression of the leaders of the Popular Fronts . . .
Only once did the apparatus reach for the high ground with the "manifesto of April 5."
Also recall the manipulated selection of party-conference delegates and the resulting character of the conference resolutions—unclear to the party itself and incomprehensible to democratic opinion. Today the same technique is being employed to construct the "socialist legal society": secret preparation of laws, their undemocratic imposition on the public without discussion of any alternatives, and finally their ready-made, contrived acceptance.
Nor should we neglect the latest legal surprises: new laws on rallies and demonstrations, on the deployment of spetsnaz special forces, on limited access to information, on elections, on amendments to the constitution—all in clear violation of the fundamental rights and liberties of the citizens. The pillars of the new legal state are rotten from the start, and hence one may wonder whether the new edifice will outlast the old heap of rubble. The clumsy attempt to impose limits on journal subscriptions underscored the failure of the distribution model in the sphere of information. Finally, we should note the character of the last (1989) election campaign, when many were denied a choice of candidates because of underhanded pressure and interference by the authorities at all rungs of the convoluted election ladder.
These are the painful realities of the current perestroika process.
The four years which have passed since the historic events of April 1985 have underscored the organic inability of our leadership to take and implement democratic decisions. Back in the mid-1980s popular discontent was a much less significant factor than the economic difficulties, leaving some room for maneuver. Today, popular pressure has equaled and even surpassed in importance the looming economic catastrophe. Now the authorities are caught between a rock and a hard place, with no room for maneuver. Instead, there is vacillation and vacuum.
The current crisis in the
1. Structural vacuum. The brave directives of the reformist leadership have dismantled the existing vertical structures of the command-administrative system without replacing them with new horizontal structures (nor did these evolve spontaneously "from below"). An example of this is the delivery of supplies and raw materials that followed the liquidation of the State Committee on Supply (Gossnab); the elimination of the State Committee on Agriculture and Industry (Gosagroprom) has had equally dire consequences.
2. Legal vacuum. The old legal norms have become outdated, atavistic, and nonfunctional, but the new ones either do not exist or are inadequate to the task. This vacuum continuously engulfs the haphazard norms and decrees of the "socialist legal state" that often conflict with the very logic of perestroika.
3. Symbolic vacuum. We are witnessing a collapse of the old symbols of the strong state. The party is rapidly losing its role as the cementing force of the unitary central state. The question then arises: Need the party have some new symbolic function and, if so, which? All societies are held together by symbols; especially ours, which is founded on a mythology. The old myths are collapsing one after another, and the resulting vacuum is giving birth to new mythical projects, abstract notions, and symbols.
4. Finally, the vacuum of trust. Not only is our society lacking start-up funds and resources, but unfortunately it also lacks the essential fund of trust. The crisis of trust is the fundamental problem of the current situation. Magnified by pervasive bewilderment and dissatisfaction, it can quickly lead to a crisis. Those who previously believed in social justice and protection are in disarray: their already deformed value system is suffering further bl6ws. Those who had faith in perestroika are having their expectations dashed. In earlier times, people either had no faith at all or they had firm convictions. Today the disappointment which follows outbursts of hope is creating a unique combination which could provide the catalyst for an explosion. Dashed hopes are a hundred times worse than no hope at all. Yet we all need hope, hence the new mythical heroes and leaders, repositories of trust on the local and national levels.
(My opponents will surely complain: Once again, the streams of lies and slander, of obstreperousness and fear-mongering from these self-appointed social demagogues. You are quite mistaken, citizens, would be my soft-spoken reply. As a convinced supporter of reconstruction, I would be the last to slander perestroika, which I consider a national necessity. But I am thoroughly disappointed by the indecision and inconsistency of the perestroika helmsmen, as well as their obvious rightward drift.)
A real analysis will show that this is no accident. I would like to repeat my objections to those liberals who make fine discriminations among the perestroika opponents and inevitably bring up the tiresome
It is no accident that the main avenue of reform development in most of the existing Soviet-type socialist countries has been the break-up of the monopoly on power. But who can oversee this break-up process?
The "Players." There is no doubt that our society has been granted a historic opportunity to play a real role in charting the course toward "the greatest possible implementation of the humanist nature of the system in all key economic, sociopolitical, and moral aspects." This opportunity contains a fair amount of self-evident risk, since real participation implies the political maturation of society, which in turn contributes to the urge to pull the plug on the overlong, debilitating social experiment that has been carried out on our country. The initial symptoms of this maturation are already apparent. They include, above all, the burgeoning number of actors in the political process—or, more precisely, players in our peculiar political arena.
(Variations on the sports theme are inexhaustible. A year ago, in my booklet on the progress of informal social initiatives, I wrote: "For too long our life has resembled a match in which one team cannot be scored against, the results are predetermined, and the referees are paid off ... an honest contest on a level playing field requires the repudiation of unwarranted restrictions on the social creativity of the people." The referees did not take long to react. The secretary of the Moscow Comsomol Committee, V. Bazhenov, complained to the readers of the Mar. 2, 1988 issue of Moskovskii Komsomolets ("Moscow Comsomol") that some recent denigratory voices have dubiously compared the comsomol to a clique of referees running about the field and getting in the players' way: "These voices arise from the 'players,' to use the latest definition, that is, the so-called 'social-political' clubs and groups which have united under the banner of 'informal associations'." This referee had quite a way with words, you will agree! Some six months later I was debating this fruitful analogy with one of the leaders of the Lower Silesia Polish Communist Party Committee in
It would be naive to suppose that perestroika has created a level playing field, although the rules are beginning to change. The main innovation is the appearance of the new players— participants in the political process. Their variety has increased markedly.
By referring to a sociological evaluation of the peculiarities of the mass consciousness, psychology, and position with respect to perestroika, the following groups can be distinguished:
1. Modernizing reformers: enlightened backers of the authoritarian modernization of the existing system. They support Leninism and the October Revolution, deplore the "Stalinist distortions," and their actions are couched not only in the precepts of faith in scientific socialism but also in the notions of rational necessity. (We have mentioned this position earlier in these remarks.)
2. Socialist conservatives: the ideocratic cement. They defend state socialism as the rule of pervasive centralized redistribution apparatus. They are unwilling and unable to abandon the organically assimilated principles of the real Soviet socialism.
3. Law-and-order technocrats: the army of technocrats and institutional employees who are preoccupied with the chaos in the previously functional, albeit inefficient, structures. They came of age in the shadow of the command-administrative system and became cogs in the machine of total redistribution. Now they can become the foundation of the "demodictator-ship" called upon to reestablish stability and efficiency in the state mechanism. They are the ostensible audience of the supporters of authoritarian development and of a strong, stable, centralist state.
4. The silent majority: the passive group, which Ibsen once referred to as "united majority," which nonetheless exerts a real, inertia-laden influence on the reformers. They have little faith in the authorities but, lacking the democratic instinct, even less faith in the reformers. This fairly aggressive group is egged on by the vague sentiments of material and spiritual powerlessness, coupled with pervasive fear and militant ignorance. If push comes to shove, the silent majority will fall in behind the conservative banners.But even here perestroika has borne fruit in creating a certain proportion of the undecided. The elections have shown that the silent masses are imbued with a certain receptiveness to constructive ideas and concerted propaganda. They react sensitively to the actual core of any proposal. Our task consists of winning over from the conservatives the fraction of society that is casting off social infantilism.
5. Populists: supporters of populist-style democratic organizations that continue to attract ever-larger numbers of
interpreters and executors of "popular will." These groups play a positive role in politicizing the masses, but they are not always capable of adequately articulating the new cultural and political messages. Their ideological and political immaturity is more than compensated by the emotional hurly-burly of mass actions, organized either to counter the oppression of local despots, to mitigate regional problems, or to show support for new "popular heroes." This category of political players incorporates the numerous popular-front structures, with their territorially oriented, proecology symbolism promoting local historical patriotism and charismatic leaders. Multitudes of the lumpenized element are also attracted to these groups, and the proper channeling of their political activity is far from a simple task.
6. Nationalist radicals: supporters of the radical national-liberation and national-democratic movements. In 1988 these groups came to the fore in the struggle for the reorganization of society, as could be expected in a time when our unstuck empire is undergoing centrifugal decay. Nonetheless, I do not agree with the joyous reception of the gains achieved by these groups, as they have been accompanied by cases of discrimination, aggression, promulgation of propagandist slogans, etc.
7. Liberal aristocrats: more accurately, the status intellectuals, masterminds of perestroika, rebels of the Unions of Writers and Artists, movers behind the democratic-liberal publications—in other words, the enlightened. Adept use of the pen and the pulpit, the knack for taking a principled stand (not always in matters of real importance), the somewhat snobbish avoidance (dictated by inability?) of the real democratic struggle—these are some of the cardinal characteristics of this group, whose members undoubtedly play an important role in the implementation of the official party course toward perestroika and glasnost. Historically, Russian intellectuals rarely identified with the authorities, but this is changing. The influence of these circles on the leadership is significant, above all in their role of established experts and interpreters of "informed public opinion." It is a matter of considerable importance to find common ground and cooperate with this group to avoid the natural conflict between the "fathers and sons" of Soviet liberalism.
8. The constructive alternative: unofficial social-political organizations, clubs, and citizen groups which propose and implement collective and individual civil initiatives in the areas of lawmaking, human rights, free exchange of information, citizen diplomacy, social security, self-governance of various organizations (territorial, occupational, ethnic, religious), etc. Despite the recent upsurge of the democratic movement, the supporters of the constructive alternative are few—they are still a narrow stratum of Jacobins without popular support. All the same, here we may find the roots of future political parties: social-democratic, Christian-democratic, and radical liberal-democratic.
A necessary aside. To date, nearly all other teams of "players" have dismissed the constructive alternative (and occasionally constructive opposition) with surprising unanimity. Without recourse to actual quotes, let me emphasize the common denominator: the constructive-alternative group is accused of inaction and even unhelpful tendencies (verbosity, demagogy, excessively critical attitude, etc.). These unhelpful tendencies are often dismissed as a sort of allergy toward the system, while calls for involving the "masses" in the democratization process are perceived as a neo-Bolshevik totalitarian tactic. Yet the independent cultural forces have already demonstrated their eager acceptance of self-organization (the creation of active social-political structures) and their ability to carry a positive ideological message in the form of programs and projects. The examples of practical implementation of their ideas are multiplying, and the cultural forces of the civil society are becoming involved in the active promotion of new social norms and practices.
In all, we have eight teams of "players," eight types of consciousness. These teams occupy a spectrum that should not be treated linearly: the first and last teams do not embody antipodal positions on every issue. We should overcome the increasing polarization of our society by striving for a dialectic linking of efforts of the modernizing reformers and the supporters of the constructive alternative. The dynamics and stability of reform can be found through creative competition rather than confrontation between different groups.
It is not sufficient to dismantle a system without constructing something valid in its place. If we are to avoid catastrophe, we must discuss the mechanism by which alternatives can be proposed and freely adopted. We must also shoulder responsibility for the upcoming decisions and actions. For this reason, we should first discuss our alternative.
Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy
The Values. In the confused period during which new cultural and political forces are entering the social and legal arena, it is essential that practical action be guided by a definite system of values and principles. This value system should lie at the heart of our constructive alternative. Obviously the alternatives should be concrete enough to carry a palpable social charge. But we cannot proceed blindly, because the inchoate and unreflective mass action, ruled by murky instinct and firebrand slogans, has often led to disaster. In our circumstances we could easily fall into an even more profound totalitarian abyss than the one we are trying to escape. Consequently, we must first establish our alternative at the abstract level of values, ideas, and methods.
If the Khrushchev thaw of the 1960s rehabilitated genetics and sociology, the glasnost of the 1980s has rediscovered the ideas of pluralism and parliamentarism, of the legal state and civil society. The concomitant reevaluation of the value system has led to such confusion that today a steadfast definition of socialism can only be heard in
A new understanding of democratic socialism should fall back on the concept of humanism as the guiding spirit of political ideology and social psychology aimed at liberating the personality from totalitarian stagnation. Movement in this direction is powered by the notions of personal sovereignty and self-awareness, and the freedom to determine one's role in society. Democratic socialism is the strategy of societal development based on a coherent and conscious attainment of the totality of political and economic rights that guarantees an improving quality of life.
Our life should not only become freer, but also more prosperous. The apologists of "real socialism" always pointed to the nominally elevated status of work in Soviet society — diligent, controlled, communal, and unalienating work. The forced plaudits to work as a "matter of honor, valor, and heroism" have nourished a totalitarian disciplinary psychosis together with economic and political leveling. A voluntary disposition toward work can contribute to personal development only when uncoerced work is available—that is, work that permits initiative and innovation, that is suitable for personal expression and the effective regeneration of the environment. But such work can exist only in a prosperous society (Karl Kautsky, for one, associated socialism with universal prosperity).
Equal opportunity to attain this prosperity presupposes a freedom of choice. The choice, in turn, is conditioned by the level of cultural needs. A high degree of social and intellectual development of the citizens is the fulcrum of democratic socialism. This aspect is of prime importance in our specific, Russian circumstances. It is no easy matter to discuss ethical ideals in a country where rudeness has become a national trait, violence is tolerated, and the culture of interpersonal relations is low. Social culture includes respect for knowledge and informed debate; benevolence and ability to compromise; humanity and compassion in social relations; and a rejection of totalitarianism. Ethical unity will invariably guide us toward the principles of tolerance and peace (social convergence). Of course, this in no way precludes a principled stand against all manifestations of intolerance and rudeness in politics and everyday life.
If we are to become an organic part of the civilized world, we must embark on the monumental task of bringing a cultural renaissance to
The principal method of socialism is freedom. Naturally, a question arises, does this mean individual freedom or freedom for society as a whole? We believe that democratic socialism implies a collective freedom for everyone and not for the chosen few. Unlike the liberals, the social democrats advocate not only individual freedoms but also the priority of voluntary associations of free individuals. The collectivist principle is rooted in the very notion of socialism (socialis meaning collective or comradely). In the specific historical circumstances of Soviet Russia, where we find only patriarchy, traces of communal spirit, and degenerating social relations, this principle takes on a special urgency. Our ideal is a society of social solidarity.
Evidently the main success of social democracy has been the unification of liberal and socialist ideas. F. Hayek was quite correct when he noted that the main divergences between socialists and liberals "concerned the methods characteristic of all types of collectivism, rather than the concrete end towards which the socialists would employ these methods." Today it serves no purpose to do battle against liberalism; this is not 1917. The Bolsheviks have always viewed the demonization of liberalism as an inalienable component of the revolutionary education of the masses. For my part, I am a firm supporter of convergence between socialism and liberalism (even if the latter is often dismissed as the pinnacle of capitalist progress). The progressive features of liberalism are far from exhausted, especially in
On Movement and Action. Is democratic socialism the means to an end or the end in itself? This question has not only methodological but principal importance. My personal ethical ideal is a postsocialist society that will arise in the course of the natural convergence and cross-fertilization of various social systems. But this is a long-term prospect. A concrete way of approaching that ethical ideal is to follow the path of democratic socialism—a process of constant movement of social renovation.
Let me return to the fundamentally important idea advanced by E. Bernstein, who did not hold much stock in what is usually understood as the ultimate goal of socialism. The father of social reformism used to say, "The ultimate goal, whatever it is, means nothing to me—movement is all." Implicit here is a rejection of any ideological determinism that would evaluate all moral norms according to some abstract postulates. The primacy of movement determines the character and structural organization of a democratic society that is constantly evolving. Such is the dialectical foundation of our world view.
Movement means action. Without a planned, varied program of action aimed at a predetermined social result, we will never attain the goals of political, economic, and social democracy. Only by actually practicing these values will civil society acquire the capacity for conscious collective action. When democratic socialism becomes the object of practical political action, it acquires an individual meaning because the desired goal agrees with individual interests and motives. Thus we are not speaking of dogma, but rather of a general program of action which presupposes a variety of forms and social techniques. Participation in such a program should not be viewed as work but rather as life itself.
Movement and action need not threaten the stability longed for by our people and by the foreign supporters of perestroika. On the contrary, they are the guarantors of stability. The democratic perestroika movement can lead to the equilibrated social system, incorporating the necessary level of civilized democracy, that can ensure true social stability.
Democratic socialism is incompatible with dogma. It should not become a tool in the hands of ideocratic priests who alone possess the correct interpretation of the truth. Marxism-Leninism should occupy but one of the places in the intellectual baggage of social democracy; whenever necessary, it should yield to more modern and accomplished doctrines. (Note here that Marxism is still quite valuable, for example, as a dialectical approach in the analysis of the forces behind social and political processes.)
It is about time we acquired a critical appreciation of the social world, in all of its complexity and interpenetration. Only by giving a free reign to scientific and political criticism can we fashion a positive evolution in our theoretical and political constructs. To this end we must strive for new knowledge in the fundamentals of sociocultural development; we must review our slanted ideological heritage. Our criticism should be rational, our rationalism should be , ritical. A critical mind is the best antidote to scholasticism and the dogma of ultimate truth. Only this can enable our society finally to cast off its profound irrationality. The above-described theoretical worldview and methodology of democratic socialism is called on to support a pragmatic, workaday policy of reform and reconstruction.
(One might wonder why I have devoted so much space to a psychological justification of our conviction. The reason is that we are currently experiencing great difficulties of the psychological variety: "real socialism" has wreaked so much havoc in our country that the
Organizational Matters. Freedom and organization are the two pillars of social democracy. It is a truism that socialists simultaneously profess these two completely different and perhaps incompatible notions. Yet profess them we must, and so we must combine these two categories, which has never been accomplished in
In August 1987 (at the historic "First Conference and Dialogue" of independent political groups), the intense debate between the two main organizational tendencies—the widely represented Associated Circle for Social Initiatives (ACSI) and the Federation of Socialist Social Clubs (FSSC)—concerned precisely this question of freedom and organization. The principal difference did not lie between the conflicting policies of mass appeal versus more restricted membership. The root of the debate lay in the different conceptual approaches—the "horizontal" and the "vertical"—to the emerging political organization. At the time, we devoted much time and ink to this problem. Yet, a year later, history repeated itself at the August 1988 interregional conference of the representatives of various popular fronts and other democratic associations in
Another six months and the same problem visited the
This difference, in my opinion, lies in the consistent acceptance or rejection of a new, Bolshevik-style political structure in pseudodemocratic garb. To illustrate this idea, let us consider briefly the typical features of such a structure. The great, truly priceless heritage of Bolshevism requires exhaustive study—such that the new generations of socialists can avoid the errors that have led, on occasion, to criminality. The search for an escape from the blind alley of "real socialism" must proceed from a clear understanding of the internal levers of the ruling "socialist parties" (although, as P. Kudyukin cleverly noted, "totalies" would be a better term than "parties").
The internal levers are well-oiled and remain in full combat readiness, occasionally springing into action. We should learn to recognize the symptoms of this political reaction on sight. The Hungarian political scientist Mihai Bihari has carried out a perceptive analysis of the typical sociological characteristics of Bolshevik-type political organizations. Here I will present only a synopsis of his studies (filtered through a prism of my own convictions).
The main features of Bolshevik-type political organizations evolved in specific historical and political circumstances. A small, well-organized minority declares itself worthy of power. It embarks on the creation of some ideal scheme in an insufficient social environment, successfully employing dictatorial means. Victory brings with it a spirit of historic success, heroic pathos, and the idolatry of the one true way. Simultaneously the mechanism for maintaining power induces a disciplinary psychosis rooted in the fear of schism. This psychosis leads to the invention of the discipline-inducing external threat—usually the forces of world imperialism. The myth of internal unity as the prize possession which ensures survival is corroborated by a merciless repression of all manifestations of factionalism or dissent within the party. The same militancy and repression is transplanted into society as a whole, precluding the formation of peaceable institutions of political struggle and democracy.
Bolshevik-type political organizations grow into a political vanguard and ideological elite, imbued with a spirit of superiority. This superiority exists in three incarnations: the party is the only body endowed with the single true philosophy of society; the party is the only interpreter of the single true ideology; the party is the only force capable of exercising power. The result is a messianic complex: the party brings the true commandments to the people. Those who demur from following these commandments are by definition decadent and defective. Since the working class is unable to learn the single scientifically correct worldview on its own, a vanguard group is charged with the task of foisting a "scientifically correct" political worldview onto an inchoate popular movement. The messianic aspect of the historical role implies that the party can be responsible only unto itself—that is, the actions of the vanguard become irresponsible and uncontrollable.
The self-awareness of the vanguard, like the self-awareness of a charismatic leadership, is by definition infallible. The legitimacy of the leadership justifies the cult of force, the iron fist, and the supreme leader. The new czar is free of moral constraints. The end justifies the means. Legal norms have less and less influence, while the lawmaking bodies fall prey to ideocratic concerns.
An important distinguishing feature of Bolshevik-type parties is the organizational and functional principle of democratic centralism. The democratic rights cannot balance the preponderance of centralism, which impedes the expression of new ideas and interests. This principle is the fundamental means of establishing a central partocracy. The party loses its self-correcting mechanisms; an insurmountable abyss appears between the leadership and the ordinary party members. The result is an unprecedented concentration of power, both horizontally and vertically.
The evolution of society is multifaceted, and politics should reflect this fact. The ruling (and only) party, which did not have to face competition and alternatives, created an upside-down value system: loyalty and obedience to the existing hierarchy came to the fore, whereas competence, ability, and nonconformism became expendable. As a result, the immanent anti-intellectual bent of the vanguard is becoming ever more apparent and the inevitable stagnation sets in.
Instead of trying to avert this stagnation, let us weigh some alternatives. We must constantly propose reasonable alternatives to the current political course. Society must have a secure right to choose between different alternatives in the course of its evolution. It is precisely the freedom of choice that defines democracy.
In our country, social democracy must above all promote the quest, proposal, and realization of reasonable alternatives, as well as the struggle for the inalienable right of civil society to a free choice. Our task is to create the appropriate conditions for the education and self-realization of the workers in an atmosphere where the individual and collective social initiatives expressing diverse interests can be freely realized. Our credo consists of conscious social action based on an active citizenship and a heightened sense of social responsibility.
We are still in the process of working out the platform of the social-democratic movement. The country is currently awash in programs, including our own democratic manifesto, "The Way to Democratic Socialism" (April-May 1988). But it does not suffice for the new platform to be social democratic in character; it should define a number of high-priority tasks appropriate for practical political action.
We should flesh out the details of these high-priority tasks. They include:
1. Social policy: We should strive for the creation of a prosperous state that can satisfy the real (rather than "long-term") interests and needs of its citizens. These needs include the combination of social security, social regulation, and social equality. The rights and interests of citizens should be secure. To this end we call for:
- the right to dispute all acts and decisions of government officials in court, including the right of individuals to sue;
- the improvement of labor laws to prevent the workers from shouldering more than their fair share of the burden of economic restructuring;
- the extension of labor laws to cover all workers, both in government and cooperative sectors;
- the reform of trade unions and their transformation into true defenders of the workers' interests, the introduction of pluralism to the trade unions;
- the guaranteed right to strike;
- the introduction of indexing of fixed incomes (pensions, stipends, compensations) to counteract the effect of rising prices;
- the repeal of undeserved privileges unrelated to productive work.
This active social policy would counter the deterioration of the standards of living and create the preconditions for future improvement.
2. Economic democracy and real economic reform: The free development of productive forces, guided by the growth of collective and individual prosperity, presupposes the following:
- the creation of economic and organizational stimuli for the formation of modern forms of collective property, based on economic efficiency, effectiveness, and avoidance of economic subjugation;
- guarantees of multiple and legally equal types of property and production, freedom of economic initiative and entrepreneurship, especially in the countryside; the development of a system of cooperative/leased/private agricultural holdings as the means of truly freeing the peasants and overcoming the shortages of foodstuffs;
- the creation of a free socioeconomic marketplace for all (financial, information, and productive) resources and means of production; curtailment of ministerial functions accompanied by the liquidation of the majority of ministries that are the pillars of the current command-administrative system;
- the repudiation of the chaotic bureaucratic controls over price formation accompanied by controls over basic consumer goods by financial and taxation means; the elimination of monopolies; the curtailment of inflation; the gradual elimination of unprofitable enterprises and transfer of funds to profitable sectors of the economy; the sharp reduction of expenditures on the administrative, military, and repressive sectors, as well as other parasitic items in the state budget;
- the transfer of administrative and control functions to the Soviets of workers' collectives and other bodies of democratic self-governance; promotion of self-governance by the co-owners of the means of production; freedom for all methods
of representing and defending the interests of workers.
When power is wielded by the workers' collectives, the working people gain control over themselves, their work, and their social and productive relations. This is the true meaning of collective ownership of the means of production. As for those forms of property that distort the dignity, freedom, and rights of the workers, they are antisocial by definition.
3. Consistent democratization of the political system based on principles of parliamentary democracy: The creation of legal and political guarantees for the active, peaceful, and nonviolent transformation of the existing monopoly on power, these guarantees including:
- free expression of the political will of all economic, social, political and other minorities; legalization of the various nonviolent forms of pressure on government institutions with the aim of implementing community participation and control over the administrative functions and decision-making;
- freedom of association and equal societal rights for all social (including political) citizen groups which do not call for or engage in violence—this should lead to a gradual transition to a multiparty political system and more room for political pluralism;
- amendment of the election laws, promulgation of free and direct elections, free nomination of candidates with universal registration of all nominated candidates, repeal of corporatist representation;
- repeal of anticonstitutional laws, edicts, and instructions which limit the freedoms of speech, association, and demonstrations.
The key guarantee is the emancipation of all citizens, who must be granted all their rights and freedoms. The purpose of a civilized state is not to suppress or impinge on these freedoms, but to create the conditions for their full realization. Legal democracy is impossible until our laws are brought into conformity with international legal norms. Human rights impose a natural limit on the powers of the state—this is the fundamental principle of a legal democracy.
4. Respect for the inalienable sovereignty of all naturally arising self-governing entities, including all groups—civil, territorial, social, ethnic, religious, professional, and other—that comprise the building blocks of a democratic self-governing socialism.
In this regard the main problem concerns the resolution of the nationality conflicts. Some of the necessary steps include the consistent imposition of federalist principles on the relations of the Union republics between themselves and with the central authorities, as well as the signing of a new Union treaty between the republics. The Russian social democrats pursue the policies of internationalism. We strive to see and understand our people as an equal and free member of the family of nations, equally concerned with the prosperity and development of the entire family as with its own prosperity. Support for the national-liberation movements in our country and abroad remains on the agenda. 5. Finally, the creation of civilized cultural norms of everyday life. We should strive for the enhancement of those cultural forces in our society that are endowed with intellectual development, logico-ethical (a useful term due to P. Abovin-Egides) and legal maturity, and capacity for conscious creative social progress. This is a subjective factor of social evolution, but without it our circumstances will deny us the new heights of popular consciousness and higher levels of civilization in
These are the main principles, the credo of our movement. The realization of these principles will require a struggle against the ossified system, the ignorance and brutishness, and the myth of the "only true faith." And the Russian social-democratic movement can be one of the front-line soldiers in this exhausting, nonviolent battle.
Already today the social-democratic movement is no mirage. I can visualize at least six components that could provide a backbone of a united, albeit multifarious, social-democratic movement. These are: (1) democratic socialists from such organizations as the Democratic Perestroika club; (2) social democrats from various opposition groups (the social-democratic wing of the Democratic Union, the various groupings of the Social-Democratic Confederation); young socialists from the ranks of the various popular fronts; (4) activists in the movements promoting independent trade unions and self-governing workers' collectives; (5) "status socialists" —those well-known scientists and political figures who have expressed considerable sympathy for social-democratic ideas; (6) active reform-seekers from the ranks of the Communist party who could potentially form social-democratic fractions. (Curiously enough, many activists subscribe to the views of the European social democrats without realizing this and without identifying themselves with the social-democratic movement.)
All of these component movements are active and evolving. The similarity in their ideologies and ethical principles became apparent at several conferences, in the course of combined actions and events, and in various publications. In recent times there has been a pronounced tendency toward unification, both with other Soviet movements and with the international social-democratic movement. Now the pressing problem is to transform this tendency into a guiding principle, to establish de jure what has gradually evolved into a serious and independent movement. We have avoided the mistake of first creating a "central committee" and then dredging up the rank-and-file membership. The movement already exists, thank God, and it is never too late to establish the coordinating structures.
In March 1989 the sociopolitical interests section of the Democratic Perestroiha club (
We have finally arrived at the point when we can propose alternatives not only in the sphere of ideas and values, but also on the concrete level of organizational and political activity. To this end we can also employ our widening base of popular support.
Should the Rules Be
Our actions should spring from the logic of the current political situation. What is the current situation?
The enthusiasm with which the citizens (including ourselves) threw themselves into the spurious election campaign indicates that hope has not been extinguished. But what happened? The well-orchestrated district election assemblies succeeded in their underhanded task of eliminating the majority of the candidates who supported the democratic platform. Among the more notable illustrations of this process were the elimination of Academician Sakharov from the USSR Academy of Sciences candidate slate and the "voluntary" concession of alternative candidates in all seventeen districts of the
The citizens might have even acquiesced to this insulting parody of free elections if the powers that be had not accidentally slighted the ready-made folk-hero candidate Yelstin. The organized persecution of Yeltsin increased in direct proportion to the number and frankness (and the attendant popularity) of his interviews. The series of insulting questions during televised debates, the intentional disruption of a number of workplace campaign rallies (for example, at the Soyuz factory), the demarche of the "working-class" Central Committee members, and finally the selection of a committee headed by the party ideologist Medvedev to inquire into the "Yeltsin case" (the favorite buzzword of the current leadership)—the patience of the masses was tried once too often.
The result was an explosive situation. People took to the streets. The new, third wave of citizen activism had arrived.
The turbulent preelection week became "Yeltsin week." As we have mentioned earlier, it was characterized by the emotionally charged symbolism of a charismatic leader and the aggrieved popular anger when this leader was persecuted. On March 17 there was a rally at the Frunze embankment with the workers from the Soyuz factory (and the subsequently distorted report from the scene published in Moskovskaya Pravda); on March 18 there was a 15,000-strong rally in Brateevo; on March 19 there was an impressive throng near Gorky park; on March 20 there was a miniriot of 2,500 people near the main building of the Moscow State University in the Lenin hills; on March 22 there was a 10-12,000-strong rally in front of the Moscow Soviet building; on March 25 there was a colossal crowd at the officially sanctioned rally in the Luzhniki sports arena (with the number of participants variously estimated between 10,000 and 90,000).
It is instructive to realize that a key role in these popular actions was played by our informal organizations. This was the first tenuous sign that a small but nonetheless real stratum of civil society had come into being, the first trace of politically organized pressure "from below." The experiences of the preceding two years of the informal movement had borne their first fruit!
Note that while the first notable rally of the scientific community before the building of the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences on Feb. 2, 1989 was attended by about 3,000 people (this was the harbinger of the politically hot spring and summer), the pro-Yeltsin rallies had attracted tens of thousands. After the disturbances in the Baltic states and
Entire new strata of citizens left the political ghetto and entered the arena. This was the "Yeltsin draft" of the democratic movement. Here I should sound a cautionary note. Recall that the "Lenin draft" of the Communist party brought in the social strata that five or six years later provided the base of support for the dismantling of Lenin's New Economic Policy. Could the same happen with our democratic movement? The sentiments at the pro-Yeltsin rallies were very different from the scientific-community rally or from the meetings of the Memorial Society. The crowds did not want to hear of anything but Yeltsin, the greatest applause was garnered by the primitive but easily grasped chants of "They can do what they like, I ain't voting for the party candidate!" The mood was joyfully aggressive like during a holiday weekend and profoundly antidemocratic. There was a hysterical lumpenized element in attendance. One of them told me it was high time to tug the
What would happen then one can only guess, with precious little confidence.
The elections will finally come and our candidates will gather for the holiday bash of the All-Union Congress of the People's Deputies, which would be more properly described as the "district electoral congress" that will elect the Supreme Soviet. Unlike the Party Congress, here we can expect to see a small but united and active circle of independent deputies. The total composition of the conference unfortunately cannot be expected to elect a strong Soviet parliament capable of carrying out radical reform. The new Supreme Soviet will be little different from the current one, both in composition and in the tenor of its decision-making. This could prove a serious blow to the ambition of those actively interested electors who had hoped to see their representatives "at the top."
But the whirlwind will be reaped in the fall. Then we will learn of the harvest situation, and the problems will not be explained away by bad weather or untoward solar activity. We will also be reaping the fruit of the March 1989 agrarian Plenum of the Central Committee. That plenum witnessed the victory of the conservatives: much more was said about the new agrarian policy of the party than about the necessary radical measures concerning the peasantry. The examples of
The dissatisfaction with the spurious election show, the charismatic outpouring about Yeltsin, the possible shortages of foodstuffs in the coming winter, the ill-feeling toward the party in general and the leadership in particular—all this has heightened the political fervor of the citizenry considerably. The local and republican elections in the fall will tell whether the dissatisfaction can be channeled into useful protest or whether it will get out of hand.
It seems the time has come to change both the rules of the game and the referees.
The main result of the March elections of the peoples deputies has been the failure of several score first secretaries of the various party committees to gain the required majority and be elected (even though many of them were running without the distraction of an opponent). The official press attempted to convince the readers (and perhaps themselves) that in the main the party received "a strong vote of confidence from the people." Perhaps the strength of the confidence could have been gauged more accurately if all party functionaries, including the Politburo, had been nominated in the territorial districts and had faced the indignity of free elections.
The people did not simply vote against particular party figures, they voted against the ruling party itself. The party—and here I mean the inner party composed of the several hundreds of thousands of party functionaries—is rapidly losing political capital. The elections served the party with a slap in the face. Can we expect the party to turn the other cheek? Unlikely. Christian moral norms have never characterized Bolshevik-type organizations.
Now is the right time to demand changes in the status and functions of the Congress of People's Deputies. The irony of history has brought back the old Bolshevik slogan "Down with the Electoral College!" In other words, the Congress of People's Deputies should abandon its electoral functions, refuse to elect the Supreme Soviet, and temporarily take over the Supreme Soviet's functions until free direct elections of the new parliament can be arranged.
(Historical analogies can take us much further back then the revolution of
In order for this to happen, the bloc of democratic deputies should begin by forcing changes in the agenda and program of the congress. The work of the congress should not be curtailed by some artificial time limitation. The democratic bloc should open a wide-ranging discussion on the state of perestroika and future perspectives, with emphasis on leading the country out of the crisis. The people's deputies should have the time to state their positions and coalesce into groups and fractions. The democratic bloc should propose the repeal of several sections of the constitution and of the elections of the Supreme Soviet and its secretary—a temporary chairman for the congress only should be elected instead. The democratic bloc should discuss and propose several alternative variants of the election laws and submit them to a national referendum. Then, in 1990, free direct elections of the Soviet parliament and president can take place.
We should demand that our deputies submit a platform of democratic reforms to the new Soviet parliament (be it a Congress of People's Deputies or some version of a USSR Supreme Soviet). This platform may contain the following proposed laws and edicts:
—on changes in the
—on changes in the government structures and presidential power;
—on political rights and liberties (which should fully conform to the accords of the
—on social organizations and political parties;
—on democratic election laws;
—on nationwide referenda and petition campaigns by the citizens;
—on the state coercion apparatus;
—on the right of nations to self-determination and a new Union treaty;
—on the ownership of the means of production.
We should initiate a radical shift of the Gorbachevite reformers from their current conservative right-wing orientation to the left and to a pact with the democratic movement. In the popular mind the radical wing is associated with Yeltsin, who has wide electoral support. A correct move would be to nominate Yeltsin for the chairmanship of the USSR Supreme Soviet (direct elections would make this possible). His election would produce a real separation between the party leadership and the parliament. We should work for the resignation of the Council of Ministers and the subsequent selection of the new cabinet by the Congress of People's Deputies. To follow up on our successes in the spring elections of 1989 we should strive for immediate local and republican elections in the fall of 1989 (rather than the following spring). We should begin the preparations for the Special Party Congress at which the democratically elected delegates will elect a completely new Central Committee and a new editorial board for the party newspaper Pravda. We should work for radical changes in the composition of the Politburo, including the resignation of the apparatchiks who lack popular support (Ligachev, Zaikov, Chebrikov, Shcherbitsky, and several others). We should legislate limits on the Communist party monopoly on everything—enough teasing! This can only be accomplished by a strong and active parliament.
All of these are but tactical problems. And they are far from extremist: our time of deepening crisis and societal polarization requires strong measures. As for the strategic policy, it remains the same: removal of ideological monopoly in politics and everyday life; separation of party and state; active promotion of civil society and the abandonment of the current form of government. Therefore the new cultural forces will organize themselves into political forces that will permanently alter our society. This is the essence of our constructive alternative.
There is no time to lose. The forces of inertia are considerable, as demonstrated by the wave of counterattacks and retreating maneuvers that materialized after the elections. We have witnessed, in reference to the "complex political situation": the preparation of a law on criminal responsibility for resisting the authorities and officials; the Tbilisi provocation and the subsequent bloody deployment of special forces armed with trench-digger shovels and poison gases against a peaceful demonstration; the promulgation of the aforesaid law to combat "extremist outbreaks" (including the Tbilisi massacre); a number of propaganda newspaper broadsides "in defense of democracy"; the Leningrad case against the Democratic Union fabricated by the KGB; persecution of the activists who coordinated the electoral defeat of the Leningrad party committee secretary; a ban on samizdat in Belorussia; the Special Plenum of the Central Committee and the aggressively reactionary speeches made there; propaganda in favor of delaying the local and republican elections; and so on and so forth. This is a chain of interrelated and troublesome events.
The democratic movement must keep up its guard. While we should be ready for dialogue, we should steadfastly defend the perestroika course, whether the assault is coming from above or from below. If we are to avoid the current course of vacillatory authoritarian modernization, fraught with the possibility of cataclysms, we must elaborate and implement a constructive social-democratic alternative, replete with institutional guarantees of political, economic, and social democracy. If we are to avoid an all-pervarsive crisis and a tragic social explosion, we must decisively and strategically realize the policies of democratic perestroika.
For there is no other way!
Translated by Olga Rubenchik