The problem of "alternativeness" in Russia's past, present, and eventual future.
Second, at this time, history posits options in three dimensions of the problem of "alternativeness." The problem of seeking alternatives or options to the universal civilizing change brought about by the crisis of the "macrocycle" of national and industrial civilization,(1) is posited objectively, though it also tends to occur in a distorted way in Russia.
As happened in Latin American, Asian, and central and southeastern European states, there was also another option in the 1980s and 1990s in Russia, that of socioeconomic and political-ideological development, the alternative par excellence to our conventional points of view. This situation related to the structural crises affecting these societies and to the structural crises at the center itself,(2) as well as to its consequences in the periphery. In Russia, the traditional alternative was imposed again: that of cultural or national identity or dissolution by imitation, self-confinement, or resistance by assimilation. These dimensions of the problem, their options, imposition, or rejection in the case of Russia in the 1990s, are very closely linked and highly contradictory. The innumerable minor options and alternates of domestic and international concrete policy and development stand in a cause and effect relationship to the great troika.
Third, in Russia the options are neither identical nor imposed by the same mechanism of development as in other countries. This is basically due to the national history of the "country-regions" (imperial Russia, the USSR, and Russia today) in the 20th century. For 75 years, Russia was considered an alternative historical process to capitalism, which today gives rise to inevitable features of involution or restoration within the majority of alternatives for change.(3) Yet the singularity of the process of transformation itself must also be considered. Suffice it to recall in this respect the situation of tendencies devoid of appropriate social, cultural, and ideological subjects.(4)
Fourth, tendencies in alternative modes of development appear to be dominant today, though they may not necessarily appear so tomorrow. The course of the process may zig and zag extensively, including numerous variants and diverse moments of choice, the parameters of which are still open and far from clear since there is as yet no knowledge of what the alternatives may be.
Above I noted the confluence of three dimensions, background, civilization, and culture, as the alternates for development current in Russia and alluded to their historical simultaneity. All such options did not appear at the same time, however. The first, "submission, imitation, self-absorption, and autonomy" became a satellite of our national history centuries ago. The second, "capitalism, not-capitalism," became practice at the beginning of the 20th century.(5) The third appeared sharply only a decade ago and acquired its focus by combining in the strangest way with the processes of political-economic structural transformation.
In 1917, the two imperatives of alternative development ("opposition to capitalism and Westernization") conflated organically in Russian society and history. One was represented by the proletariat of the great urban centers, by the revolutionary intelligentsia, by Western tendencies toward anti-capitalism, anti-absolutism, and direct democracy (the Russian Soviets). Another was represented by the masses of peasants and soldiers in national-cultural rebellion against the "Westernizing" tendencies expressed, above all, during the war,(6) in the danger of privatization of land, and in the expansion of Western political institutions. The inability of the Russian bourgeoisie and the social democratic reformists to understand the situation and "resolve it" in their favor (peace and land) was not a coincidence; they constituted the prolongation and manifestation of the blockade of "Western"-style capitalist development by the structures of semi-peripheral society.
The historical situation in 1917 gave rise to a spatial foundation for the phenomenon of alternative development most characteristic of the 20th century. This phenomenon we christened socialism. It is now clear that the development and stability of anti-capitalist societies in the semi-periphery and periphery of the system - their autonomy as well as absolute and relative weight in the world - were related primarily to their domestic and international possibilities, imperatives, and processes of industrialization, most particularly in their extensive phase.
The enormous price paid for decades of relative success was the loss of the alternative society's capacity for self-development and self-improvement, its enormous inertia. That society was unable to adapt itself to an eventual new global situation. As a system, it did not offer a real alternative to either capitalism or self-renewal, much less to new challenges of global development. Therefore, upon reaching its peak between 1956 and 1968, the specific weight of real alternative development in the evolution of humanity began to dwindle. This was manifested first in its economic possibilities and scope, then in political and ideological matters, and finally in military and international affairs.
In the USSR, by the middle of the 1960s the principal reserves for extensive development - based on the centralization and verticality of economic management, the utilization of cheap raw materials and labor, and production of the means of production and for defense - were reaching exhaustion. The objective goals, independence, military and productive equilibrium, and, up to a point, the modernization of society, were apparently achieved. As a prerequisite to its currency as alternative, the Soviet economy and society demanded the intense and self-sustained character of subsequent development. This presupposed the qualitative growth of market factors in economic management, reorientation of the economy toward individual consumption, plus full and organic integration of science, production, and domestic and international economics.
It was said that all the above distanced Soviet development from alternativeness, bringing it much closer to the capitalist model. The combination of factors such as inertia, the corporate vested interests of the "stateocracy," and the extreme weakness of civil society constituted the mechanism that held back the development of Soviet society for more than 20 years and released a negative play of forces in all spheres of social life, characteristic of the phase of structural crisis. These were the decades of economic and social stagnation, gradual transformation of the stateocracy into a state bourgeoisie, the fall of social expenditure, and political degeneration.
In this situation the new crisis arose out of capitalism by transforming the growing quantitative breakdown into a qualitative one, striking a demolishing blow to the entire previous paradigm of "alternativeness" in development. The matter went beyond the technical and political advance of capitalism within (the rightward turn, neoliberalism) and outwardly (the breakdowns of NICs in the Third World); the more industrially developed societies and those less capable of feedback also became the most affected by the processes of change in the paradigm. Deficiencies in the mechanisms of adaptation, self-correction, and self-improvement in the market, as well as in political democracy, turned out to be fatal, both for the center of alternative development and for most of its periphery.
The attempt, now seen as desperate, to unblock the process and direct it toward socialism on the basis of inherited structures failed. Moreover, efforts to renew the system unleashed forces and tendencies that put an end to it, first in the central European countries, where it lacked historical legitimacy (particularly independent) and then in the USSR itself, where power was assumed by anti-alternativist, anti-globalist forces. The zone of alternative development fell back to Asia and Cuba. That happened precisely when global changes proposed the imperative of seeking an alternative to the multiplicity of tendencies in universal industrial development with greater force than ever.
The End of Alternativeness? (The USSR, 1989 to 1991)
Three successive problems present themselves in this respect. Why did Gorbachev lose (1989-1991)? Why did democracy lose (1991-1993)? What do the short- and medium-term prospects look like? Expressed from the point of view of alternativeness, what did the alternative to late perestroika look like and why did the procapitalist and prodependency (imitative) alternative triumph? How did the options or alternates to immediate "post-Communism"(7) turn out? To what extent may the situations in the Russia of Yeltsian neoauthoritarianism be considered charged with possible alternatives?(8) Development of the structural crisis has already reached a point of no return. The crisis has reached all spheres of social life: production is dropping, the fall of the USSR was precipitated by Lithuanian secession, the Caucasian war, and the ruination of the preceding political system.
The debate and incipient political struggle center on the modes and rate of transition to a market economy as the principal regulator of the economy and of political democracy, and on the nature of the new ethno-administrative relations and structures of the country or countries. The debate unfolded around three interrelated but essentially different axes: state = plan, versus the market; "political monopoly of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) = state, versus political pluralism"; and "unitary state versus federation or confederation." This struggle was over the grand redistribution, the new sharing of power and property, which supposedly had to create the premises for extricating society from the crisis.
This process deepened into a situation of an extremely frail civil society that was always tied to and crisscrossed by numerous state umbilical cords. There were neither social classes, nor political parties. In most republics and on Russian territory, mass movements, whether national or popular, were nonexistent. Hence, the transformation process made its way forward within and by means of the struggle and interaction of elites and tendencies. It is worth characterizing them, though somewhat transformed, since they represent the principal subjects and options of the process as of November 1993.
The first is the "paleoelite" of the political and ideological nomenklatura, which was separated from power between 1985 and 1988. Most of them support the hard line against change and a return to the unitary, centralized state as the absolute proprietor of the economy and monopolist in politics. This was the repressive, reactionary, and utopian (economic) design. At the time, they lacked a refurbished ideological message, but possessed a degree of presence in the state structures of power and ideology.
The second sector was represented by the supporters of the golden mean, those wishing to maintain things at the 1988 to 1989 level, so as to prolong the situation of reforms within the (statist) system. This would maintain the hegemony of the design, but also increase the role of the market, preserve the obligatory political hegemony of the CPSU, though softening it with glasnost and features of political pluralism while maintaining an essentially unitary state and introducing elements of federalism.
The utopian design was also questioned between 1990 and 1991. Society was already breaking up and needed a comprehensive new balance, not a transitional situation. However, the design was quite attractive to all sectors of the transitional nomenklatura, for it represented the inertia of 1985 to 1988 and coincided with the interests of its new recruits, whose fear of jumping into the void magnified after the events of late 1989 in Central Europe. The conservatives constituted the relative majority in the CPSU structures, particularly in the provinces and in the agrarian nomenklatura.
A third tendency consisted of supporters of a qualitatively new system that resembled the ideal model of democratic and pluralist socialism, a socialist welfare state with a real presence of the private sector and the federal state. Gorbachev and the others directly in power preferred a slow rate of change, one that would zigzag. As the economic crisis unfolded, they thus lost the confidence and support of the masses and became the natural culprits. The deepening crisis outpaced the practical transition toward the design, leading to a polarization of elite tendencies with respect of it. This group was viewed as conservative by some and as treacherous by others, but inspired no enthusiasm among the masses. The power held by this group consisted in Gorbachev's commanding situation, with the support of a dwindling stratum of intellectuals, its position "at the center," and Western support.
Fourth, the majority of the industrial-administrative-economic elite had already accepted mercantilization. They were above all interested in transforming the economy so that what they had previously been allowed to enjoy in usufruct would be yielded to them as property (nomenklaturist privatization) and in preventing an excessively sudden break with the state, which had provided them with financial and distributive support. The latter was especially a matter of life or death for the most influential sector of the elite, the corpus of directors and administrators of the military-industrial complex. They were therefore partisans of festina lente, making haste slowly, but devoid of ideological concern.(9) Politically, they were situated among three elites: the conservatives, the reformers, and the new nomenklatura of the republics.
Fifth, practically and ideologically there were two types of republican elites (nomenklaturas). In Russia, they felt themselves primarily to be "liberal," anticommunist, and implicitly procapitalist. Among the reasons for this were the positions of the Moscow and Leningrad intellectuals and of the strata influenced by them, as well as the personal idiosyncrasies of the strong man in the republican apparatus. The most important reason was the confrontation with, almost direct antagonism toward, the central nomenklatura, and the anxiety to replace it as rapidly as possible since power gave immediate access to property, i.e., loot. The socialist ideology, or what passed for it, of the federal nomenklatura and its organization around the CPSU, logically conditioned the open "anticommunism" and implicit "anti-socialism" of the majority of the nomenklatura of the Russian Republic, or rather of the capital or metropolis.
The nomenklaturas of the other republics of the former USSR had no need for another ideological banner. To take power and property, they simply needed to declare themselves autonomous or separate themselves from the center. There was no need to replace them. This explains the preponderance of independence/ nationalist motives in their programs. Problems of the market or political democracy appeared only in the Baltic Republics and to a lesser degree in the Ukraine. Nevertheless, the tenacity of their demands for confederation or separation progressively endangered the balance of forces at the center.
Finally, two other elites slowly crystallized at the center: the regional Russian elites who demanded more economic rights and advantages and political autonomy, and the nascent private-sector elite. During that period, the position and demands of the latter group, consisting in radicalizing mercantilization and economic reform, privatization from below, etc., coincided essentially with those of the Russian Republics' nomenklatura and of the capital intellectual elite.
In August 1991, the fragile balance of forces and tendencies achieved four months earlier on the basis of an agreement between "reformers" and the elites of the republics shattered.(10) The desperate putsch by a nucleus of Moscow conservatives, eager to set aside the "reformers" and "republican" elites and to stop the federalization process, failed completely. However, the August 19 coup attempt did not and could not signify a return to the status quo. It reduced the real opportunities of the reformers, both socialists and social democrats, to near zero and smoothed the way to the peak of power for the republics' neonomenklaturas. Anticommunism was proclaimed as the official ideology of Russia. At the same time, the road to the dissolution of the USSR was opened, based on the Communist interest in getting rid of the center and Gorbachev. Perestroika came to an end and ushered in a new "post-Communist" phase of change.
The events of the last week of August and first of September 1991, and succeeding months, remain a strange phenomenon in the history of this century. They are almost unbelievable, as if we had fallen into the trap of traditional patterns of the Left. In the March 1991 referendum, 75 % of the population of the Soviet Union voted for its continuance as a federal state. Five months later, the USSR had become a Confederation, and three months after that was proclaimed nonexistent. All this occurred without protest from any part of the population, its elites, or representative institutions. The "end of Communism" and the return to the capitalist road in Russia was proclaimed on August 22 of the same year despite the absence of a bourgeoisie or a market in the country, or even the existence of modern capitalist traditions, consciousness, or values in either the masses or the elites.
A power that had existed for 75 years, rooted in certain national traditions, with an enormous apparatus of force and ramified structures that reached into every cell of society, and which hadn't lost a war, collapsed without the least resistance. The great majority of power elites that proclaimed themselves socialists and patriotic, heirs to revolutions and heroic wars, joined the victorious anti-socialists and pro-Westerners without a single general, colonel, diplomat, director, local administrator, or union representative resigning, rebelling, or emigrating and, what was even more significant, without the least protest by the masses in the streets or in the work place.(11)
The true nature of the regime is evident. All the foregoing constitutes irrefutable proof of the disintegration of the system, its de-ideologization and utter discredit at all levels. There is validity to arguments that this change was imposed from above and that the majority of the passive population was suspicious of, and above all confused by, the succession of coups and did not support it. However, in the great urban centers, the politicized masses undeniably supported the anticommunists, whereas elsewhere in the country they did not come out in defense of "Communism." What happened in the next two years, 1992 to 1993, demonstrated that this was not the "moment of the rape of the nation by the adventurer" (according to Marx).
We thus have a situation of profound structural crisis that, at the moment of its culmination, offered no alternatives, viable or not. That is precisely what makes the phenomenon unusual, especially in a country where alternativeness in development was deeply rooted in national tradition. There are several crucial moments from which to view the problem:
The first is the position of the dominant groups, the elites. Their behavior constitutes proof that the majority of them were clearly consciousness that they would not lose very much in the collapse of "Communism," that they would retain and largely legitimize their essential positions under "post-Communism" and "anticommunism." Some of these groups would even extend those positions. In short, they were certain that the democratic revolution would "not mean a change in the governing class," but rather modifications in the sharing of power and property within that class. Such consciousness raising required not days or months, but years of perestroika and decades of the silent degeneration or transformation of the dominant strata during Brezhnevism.(12)
The second is the complete isolation and impotence of the intellectual Left, whether the reformist variety formally in power but abandoned by their class, which lacked the support of the masses, or the opposition, which was overreached and "dissolved" by the anticommunist, anti-socialist, or nationalist current.(13) In short, neither the forces nor concrete subjects (social, political, or ideological) that might have constituted or constructed the alternative appeared. However, that does not resolve the major problem of the behavior of the masses. Among the obvious explanations are the profound discontent with the degeneration of their economic situation after decades of stability, irritation with all the words and no action of perestroika, a reaction against the fluctuations and vacillations, "the greatest torment in the political process" (according to Lenin), the generalized feeling of a degree of "being tired of politics," the first signs of political apathy,(14) and the feeling of being in a dead end. To this the liberals would add anxiety for freedom and democracy! However, in light of later events, these motives are insufficient to explain the position of the majority.(15)
What happened in 1991? The "anticommunist" position of the masses was not due to conscious or semiconscious rejection of the real values of socialism or non-capitalism. That was true for most intellectuals (a problem in itself) and for young people.(16) but not of the majority of workers, retirees, etc. Here, three principal positions appeared and continue to this day: one of explicit support for socialist values and ideals, by a minority of 15 to 20% of the population, another of implicit support for these values, represented by another 20 to 25%, and even among the remaining 20 to 30%, many are in no way in favor of capitalism.
Furthermore, among those who yesterday and today reject slogans, symbols, and socialist ideologies, many are motivated precisely by what 150 years ago gave life to the socialist movement and science as an anti-capitalist option, and not for liberal or non-liberal reasons. It appears to be a protest against political oppression and against anarchy and inefficiency, against a crisis of production disguised as planning, a protest against poverty, social injustice, and the hypocrisy of the governing class or cast.
In the USSR of 1990 to 1991, however, all this was deflected toward anti-socialism and anticommunism, since for most of that time, the words and imagery of Communism were not associated with either the young Marx or the mature Marx, with Lenin and the Revolution of 1917, or even with the defeat of fascism and the conquest of the cosmos, but rather with senile leaders, their privileges and prohibitions, and the complete alienation of the masses and compensation for their participation in ritual demonstrations. Above all, it was a reaction against the nomenklatura, the political rejection of the dominant stratum, which in the late 1980s, after a degree of recovery between 1986 and 1987, had finally lost any legitimacy for its practice and theory. This was accompanied by social and ethical-moral protest against corruption and privilege and by an even more categorical rejection of the ideological stance of the elite in power, whose hypocritical sermons were based on the principle, "Do as I say, not as I do." It was a rejection of a situation of "some more equal than others" under the banner of general equality.
This majority leaned on this state of mind or complex, rather than on pro-capitalist or even liberal anxieties, as much as on genuine anticommunist elements anxious for political pluralism, economic efficiency, and Western consumption or purchasing power, who succeeded in getting the support or passivity of the majority for its anti-socialist course. The liberal's greatest ideological and political achievement was knowing how to provide an anti-socialist channel for the oppositional subconscious of the masses, which transformed the anti-statist and anti-nomenklatura animus of the majority into anticommunism.
That political-psychological situation pulled the rug out from under alternative sociopolitical tendencies in 1991 and continues to do so today. Both possible options of "socialism-social justice" and "radical change-capitalism" were perceived in the popular conscience as one and the same, as countervailing "nomenklatura-Communism," leaving the moral, psychological, and political alternative solution with no room to maneuver.
Paradoxically, if the masses had consciously opted for the capitalist solution in clear opposition to the socialist one, it would have been better for the Left. The real experience in this respect would have pushed them toward more social justice, toward the left or center-left, as is happening in several Eastern European countries. In Russia today, when the "anticommunist option" favoring Yeltsin signified to many more social justice, equality, and state protection, that type of development was blocked. What or who was to blame for the failures of the post-Communist situation was not clear, nor was what had to be changed. The Communists were even perceived as the power of old, the proprietors of yesterday, and not as the new opposition representing the dispossessed of today.
The disorganization and disintegration of mechanisms of social and political protest and of social alternatives do not fully explain what happened. The events of 1990 to 1993 took another turn, related to the spatial and cultural aspect of the process. The option was to resist the disintegration of the country, the incredible invasion of the Russian national model. We suffer the imposition, the limitations of Western political models and their symbols, their streetscapes and their language. We endure subjugation to Western international politics and the dollarization of our domestic economy, the collapse of domestic industry and science, their discrimination and blockade by new barriers presented by openings to the West. It is a matter of pressure, imposition, and threats against independence, integrity, and national identity.(17)
Logically, one would have expected this situation to engender conscious resistance, to compensate for the disintegration of the alternativist impulse in the social sphere. However, up to November 30, 1993, apart from efforts undertaken by a minority current of nationalist intellectuals, Communists, and sympathizers, nothing happened. Such efforts only attempted to mobilize elements of social and national protest. The masses had not yet reacted, despite the fact that, objectively, the two forms of protest seemed to be converging again.
Up to the winter of 1993, the majority passively endured whatever came. Obvious explanations, based on superficial factors, abound: fatigue caused by 60 years of patriotic propaganda, inseparable from the Communism of the nomenklatura, the depressing effects of the Afghan War, fascination with the new, commercial propaganda and with the merchandise itself (alcohol, tobacco, some food, automobiles, electronics, pornography) in a country that had lived with the eternal and worn-out complex of the fortress besieged, with asceticism as the norm for the downtrodden majority and consumption of those products reserved exclusively to the officially privileged. The end of the Cold War also counted, with the destruction of the enemy image, and relief at the evaporation of the specter of a hot war.
There are deeper reasons in Russian history, however. Postrevolutionary development largely eliminated the differentiation of peoples and cultures by history, the state, external enemies, and partially by language. Between the 1920s and 1950s, processes of urbanization, cultural revolution, and great social mobility led to a very different cultural situation. What was endogenous retreated into psychology, the subconscious, and costumes. The culture of daily life became universalized and largely lost its strictly national characteristics. It was Sovietized and industrialized. Most of us had viewed this aspect of modernization as positive, "on the side of socialism" according to Marx. Only after the 1960s did a consciousness of its losses and dangers appear, in terms of the consequences of the loss of a traditional culture to an urban, modern, and universal one, not yet assimilated, and of the disappearance of diversity.
In the years of stagnation, that tendency and these dangers where intensified as much by a greater exodus from rural areas as by growing de-ideologization, and the loss of national and social objectives due to the consumerist and corrupt nature of the urban psycho-cultural environment. In this "culture of stagnation" (as Garcia Marquez called it), the demonstrative effect of TV, rock, the models of nomenklatura material consumption, etc., combined with a consciousness of growing backwardness in technology, seemed to deprive national cultural of stamina of its nerve. Space and military might were enough for national-statist self-esteem and identity. Yet these factors also began to disappear in the face of perestroika and the end of the Cold War. Their place would be taken by a tremendous inferiority complex and an unparalleled absence of values. Some have disappeared without being replaced by the values of capitalism, be it elitist or popular culture. Attempts to revive lost values by combining them in any way possible (traditional = popular + communism; traditional = elitist + capitalism, etc.) have so far yielded no palpable results. No inspiring ideas or images have taken hold, in spite of propagandistic efforts by the opposition and those in power. The Russian majority continues its resigned struggle for survival and adaptation.
Explanations for this vary: it may be the influence of the universal factor, the retreat of the national in favor of the regional, ethnic, and global. This element is perhaps expressed in the processes of denationalization of the "new Russians," of emigrant scientists and ex-Soviet mafias expanding throughout Europe and beyond. Another explanation could be that it is a delayed reaction by a people beaten down for the second time in a century.(18) Like two years ago, the situation is one of resignation and lack of alternatives. This distinguishes the Russian situation of 1990 to 1993 from the alternativist honeymoons that appeared after the fall of authoritarianism in the GDR, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, and even Czechoslovakia, even though in Russia, Communism was the product of endogenous, national development, and was not imposed. Perhaps it is precisely for that reason. Structural and psycho-political reasons appear to exist for the drastic reduction in "the idea of alternativeness in the Russia of the 1990s."
Russia Without Alternatives: Imposition of Neoauthoritarianism, 1991 to 1993
In autumn 1991, the new power, which then enjoyed the support of all the politically active elites and masses, proclaimed its willingness to resolve the accumulated problems without proposing its own option (the 1917 model) counter to the Western one. Rather, it would imitate the latter in the transition to capitalism (economic reform, mercantilization, and privatization) and in matters relating to the anxiously awaited structures of political democracy. This approach was also taken with respect to internal objectives that took integration on equal terms with "civilization," i.e., the international capitalist system, as their overriding external goal.
In early 1991, that new power undertook the destruction of what it perceived as its final political barrier to strategic options and its conquest of the nomenklatura, the republic, full power, and as much of the available loot as possible. It unburdened itself of the federal center, the USSR, and Gorbachev. At the same time, it had to choose the alternative most applicable to its existing objectives.
Society faced an option with four variants, all within the experience of central Europe and East Asia. The first, the Chinese "first economics (mercantilization, modernization), then politics (democratization)," seemed surmounted and filed away by mid-1991. Another, "toward economics via political-ideological change within authoritarianism," was unacceptable to a political society living a "democratic euphoria." The third presupposed broad, deep, but gradual economic reform, overcoming the enormous disproportions within the Soviet economy, maintaining production and the standard of living of the majority as much as possible, and preserving scientific capacity and favoring gradual transformation of cultural structures within a political system based on pluralism and the rule of law. This clearly postulated a high level of state intervention in the economy and society and a mixed economy similar to the model sought in the process of transition. The principal factors conspiring against this third variant (in autumn 1991) were (1) disorganization and disarticulation of the social and political forces that might have supported it (this option was, with some foundation, associated with the Gorbachev line), (2) complete disorganization of the financial, commercial, and distributive apparatus and the crisis of supply, affecting the spheres of productivity and personal consumption, and (3) real interests, ideology, and illusions with respect to the possibilities of imitation, deadlines, mechanisms of reform, support from the West, etc.,(19) on the part of an elite (the nomenklatura) that took over executive power in Russia without, until the spring of 1992, meeting any political resistance. Thus, a fourth variant was chosen: a great leap of radical reform toward capitalism, with strong elements of social shock therapy. This variant did not take into account the cost of the reforms in terms of the social and production problems concomitant with a complete opening to the West.
Thus, the tendency had to recover or create its own subjects, not by immediate privatization or demonopolization (variant three), but through a functioning system based on the symbiosis of nomenklatura capitalism with Mafia capitalism. At the same time, it was assumed that once price controls were removed, the mechanism would function with "Western" efficiency and spontaneity. Competition would bring about a lowering of costs and increase production, which would in turn quickly revert and compensate for increasing prices. Then, through closure of inefficient enterprises and flow of capital to other branches, unemployment would appear and be overcome; technological renewal would then take place thanks to the investment of foreign capital. All this would take place amid easily overcome social tensions (as in Poland), within the constructive interaction among powers and institutions of representative democracy.(20)
Trial and error of this option took place in 1992. On January 2, most price controls were removed,(21) and the first alarm sounded: in one month prices rose 500 to 600% (200 to 300% had been projected), thus eliminating most of the population's savings, which had not been indexed. This had been foreseen. In Russia's situation, however, where boards of directors monopolized all enterprise property and usufruct, the government's attempt to abandon its regulatory, distribution, and financing functions led the economy to react to price deregulation in a way that was far more painful to the citizenry.
Instead of producing in response to demand and on the basis of reduced costs, enterprises continued in the same direction by increasing prices and wages, demanding subsidies, and falling back on all kinds of abuses. State production dropped, due not to structural changes, but to a shrinking market, price increases, and principally the disappearance of previously existing mechanisms such as the Gosplan, USSR and CPSU government planning. A crisis of payments between enterprises (and sometimes within them) spun out of control in a single quarter. The enormous weight of the military-industrial complex incapacitated the entire mechanism of the "invisible hand."
Profits were stolen, deposited in foreign bank accounts, or squandered on bribes to the apparatus, since yesterday's rights had become today's "services." Amortization payments were spent on salaries to compensate for the increase in prices to the individual consumer, which led to complete erosion of the industrial infrastructure. There was neither interest in nor resources for productive investment. The same was true of the private sector, which was crushed under the weight of taxes and bribes. Loose capital was launched into speculation, taking advantage of the artificial rate for the dollar.
Toward midyear, it became clear that confidence in a spontaneous market had failed calamitously. The problem of lack of payments between enterprises brought the government face to face with the immediate necessity of providing subsidies, i.e., to admit mutual cancellation of debts or mass closings of old state enterprises without a competitive market having been formed. IMF recipes for underdeveloped, market-economy countries turned out to be totally inadequate for an industrialized country that lacked a market infrastructure and its actors. This was exacerbated by the political struggle, which had revived since the spring of 1992 specifically concerning the economic situation. Supporters of the third option, the gradualists, joined the old nomenklatura under anti-shock slogans, in favor of defending production and the return of active state intervention in the economy. However, another problem loomed behind these demands and proposals: Who would receive the lion's share of the loot in the incipient process of grand privatization? Would it be the industrial elite by itself or in corporate alliance with the workers, private capital, parastate commercial bank capital, practically private business, exploited by the state, or the Mafia?
The nomenklatura's(22) adversaries made up a majority in Parliament and the struggle little by little turned into a battle between supporters of the executive versus those of the legislative branches. Although the masses had lost 60% of their purchasing power and more than 90% of their savings due to the removal of price controls without revolting,(23) the government was obliged to seek a compromise. Debts were canceled and issuance of currency rose vertically and with it inflation, which had been checked in the "shock" period (January to May 1992).
The head to head clash between Yeltsin and Parliament, and Gaidar's resignation in December 1992, were expressions of the radical monetarist variants, bankruptcy and the beginning of the political constitutional crisis. Its subsequent development would condition the events of 1993. The danger of authoritarianism became increasingly ominous. It was postponed by general weakening of the state apparatus, but never entirely eliminated.
The process of privatization in 1993 came in an essentially legal and ideological guise, changing nothing economic, social, or political. Progressively more pressing was the need to continue complete elimination of price controls and choose between subsidies to enterprises or their closure. However, the correlation of forces and tendencies within the executive power itself, like the confrontation with Parliament and contradictions among elites, complicated decision-making in this respect.
The political crisis of March-April 1993 might have allowed another split between alternative variants, but nothing changed. The April 25 referendum gave the nomenklatura, the radical liberals, an unexpected victory on some points and a relative one on others.(24) The results of the referendum gave legitimacy to their economic and political option. Yet, from May on, the anti-parliamentary and anti-constitutional offensive by supporters of the president bogged down again, principally due to the resistance of regional elites.
After four months of maneuvers and counter maneuvers, and apparently worried by early indicators and expressions of a weakening image given economic and social deterioration, Yeltsin made his decision.(25) He first announced a "decisive offensive" against Parliament in September. He then set aside the vice president, made continuous visits to the elite divisions around Moscow, and gave pay raises to the military. Then came the self-inflicted anti-constitutional coup of the night of September 21: dissolution of Parliament and appropriation of all its rights, proclamation of new and earlier elections controlled entirely by the presidential team, and announcement of a referendum, also precipitous, with respect to the new constitution (the text was published only a month before the plebiscite).
Yeltsin and his followers apparently hoped Parliament would disperse with no more than verbal resistance. Its members refused to do so, becoming the center of resistance to neoauthoritarianism inside their headquarters at the White House, a symbol of Russian democracy. The offensive bogged down in 10 days over the impossibility of sending the army against the White House and due to the obstinacy of its defenders in the face of a blockade of services, barbed wire, and physical aggression. Moreover, six of the seven regional Soviets did not support Yeltsin. For this reason, arson was employed on October 3. This enormous provocation made it possible to organize two massacres. By creating the image of a Communist mutiny, the army was persuaded to take part in an armed assault on Parliament like the September 11 action in Chile.
The assault failed to produce a single protest, either from an apathetic and depoliticized majority, or from an over-politicized and pragmatic West. The autumn events testified to the extreme weakness of civil society. Once the second pole of central power had been destroyed, the remaining institutions of civil and political society also collapsed. The constitutional tribunal was humiliated and purged, and the Soviets, regional and district elective powers, dissolved. Unions were blackmailed into changing their leadership. There were also prohibitions, beatings, and ethnic cleansing operations. Simultaneously, elections for a new Parliament within the law were announced, with an electoral mechanism alien to conventional political democracy.
After the plebiscite and elections of December 12, Russia again found itself under an authoritarian regime. Russia's third or fourth democratic republic had ceased to exist. A new variant of change was imposed based on the combination of radical reform and authoritarian regime, with various features of dictatorship. This was the sole meaning of the end of the Soviets in autumn 1993. This is the chronology of the new Russian executive's "big bang," which proved to be incompatible with socioeconomic reality, Russia's psycho-cultural reality, and especially with the features of political democracy.
The transition that began with the removal of price controls never became a rapid, self-sustained process toward integration of Russia's economy and society into the international community. Even more than other post-Communist countries, Russia lacked the actors for a genuine market, infrastructure, competition, or an economic and political situation capable of attracting foreign investment. Unlike most of those countries, Russia even lacked a legal private sector,(26) much less a recent tradition of European capitalism. However, alongside its enormous military-industrial sector, the least permeable to mercantile relations, was a centuries old, deeply rooted "statified" economy. Moreover, civilized capitalist values were extremely weak in the national culture and civil society lacked the elements required to balance excesses, whether of the market or the state. Great leap or spurt recipes did not respond to the real imperatives of the national situation, but rather to universal recipes of international economic strategy.
In the absence of other variants of change and of mass reaction to "shock without therapy,"(27) the big bang or "sprinter's" variant failed in its original form (accompanied by political democracy). Instead of a civilized market, a Mafioso market was consolidated around the illegitimate and criminal. Instead of a managed economy, there arose an economy motivated by perks and state and private rackets. It was impossible to overcome inflation or increase production in the absence of competition.
Instead of economic development with a tendency to self-improvement, the situation reached the brink of self-destruction. Recourse to the managing and beneficent hand of the state to lengthen the stages and reduce the rate of retreat was again necessary.(28) Although they increased the rate of inflation, enormous subsidies made it possible to prevent the complete collapse of industry.
Despite economic and social deterioration, the political influence of the team in executive power, headed by the president, remained relatively stable. The factors behind the success of the Yeltsin team, most evident in the April 1993 referendum, were: (1) The national personalist tradition of power represented by the chief, czar, leader, etc., along with limited expressions of democratic party or parliamentary traditions within civil society. (2) The anxiety of an economically and psychologically beaten population to obtain a minimum of security, along with the prevention of civil war and the suppression of delinquency. (3) The mass perception that there was no real alternative to Yeltsin given the negative image of the nationalist-Stalinist opposition, as representative of the past, and the progressively obvious crisis of the center, divided and disconcerted by reverses, and devoid of leaders capable of replacing Yeltsin with respect to the two first points. (4) The inertia of the past carried with it rejection of the former power. Yeltsin's image was as a champion of the struggle against the nomenklatura and in favor of change. (5) The reputation and reviled image of the adversaries were exploited by a mass media dominated by the nomenklatura. (6) Economically, there were changes in consumption, from the unimaginable abundance of private shops and showcases in the provinces (though accompanied by semi-exclusive prices), to the appearance of the new Russians, generals and marshals of speculation, and the demonstrative effect of their consumption particularly among the youth. (7) Elements of adaptation-compensation, though at times leading the domestic economy to ruin, made it possible for most of the population to survive. (8) An anxiety for Western-style change characterized most of the urban masses in the great cities. (9) The pro-Yeltsin and anticommunist position of the arriviste and vulgar intellectual cream of society was still capable of influencing the majority. (10) Finally, there was direct and indirect ideological, political, and economic support for Yeltsin from the West.
This list is incomplete since it excludes the moments of opportunity. Nonetheless, the factors mentioned were instrumental through the autumn of 1993 in mitigating the psycho-political effect of the economic disaster, declining living standards of the majority (75%), social polarization, insecurity regarding the future, the impact of corruption, the drastic increase in common delinquency, the crumbling of values, and the imposed national inferiority complex.(29) Since 1992, though, the active protest of regional producers and elites against deindustrialization and the centralist tendencies of the new apparatus, along with the latent protest of the population against their misery and the looting, crystallized what might have become a block favoring the alternativist variant. Since spring 1992, unanimity and unilinearity in the process had come to an end.
This proto-alternativist block, entrenched in Parliament and in the regions, was unable to develop or present a viable alternative to the masses. Recipes from the past predominated in its postulates, while tremendous discredit of the Left and its ideology spread everywhere.(30) Yet the deep-seated internal contradictions inherent in most components of the eventual block were immediately obvious. Its elites also actively participated in the looting of the century, while their struggle against the neonomenklatura looked very much like a fight over the loot. The extreme ideological and political heterogeneity of this budding opposition was also influential, as was its limited influence in the metropolis.
The first genuine elements of political pluralism in post-Communist Russia, like the semi-institutionalized struggle among the elites, the confrontation between the branches of government, and the existence of a real opposition were perceived by the executive branch as a challenge to the radical course of reform and to the Asiatic despotic tradition of the country. The ideal objectives of the transition to market capitalism and political democracy in Russia, the big bang construction of capitalism from above, turned out to be incompatible. In large measure, the end of the CPSU signified the marginalization of alternativeness, precisely to safeguard political democracy, whereas the end of the Soviets signified the imposition of authoritarianism, thus denying the end of history and sowing the seeds of future storms. The road taken after the "crossroads of autumn" necessarily involved further bifurcation at the same level, with indicators that they might, day after tomorrow, mean not only paths of partial options, but also routes to the alternative, which would not take place if Russia were to continue with legitimate and democratic power.
Neoauthoritarianism in Russia: The Prospects
One healthy aspect of a neoauthoritarian regime in Russia was the possibility of concentrating attention on the weaknesses of authoritarianism instead of lamenting the vulnerability of the democratic design. There are three principal debilities inherent in the Russian rightist authoritarian regime. The first stems from its internal flaws as an oligarchic authoritarian regime that has not earned consensus or hegemony among the elites and is considered illegitimate by one-third of the population and some un-coopted elites. The regime also lacks the most important attribute of authoritarianism: physical force, i.e., the capacity to impose itself on these elites, regions, minorities, etc., beyond strictly political control. It is unable to bring about compliance with its decisions or impose obedience, even incipient, in economic, social, and administrative life. It has no ramified and efficient instruments to count on, such as the CPSU or the KGB, their hierarchical and disciplined civil apparatus, or a civil society willing to accept them as the only representative of their interests.
By exploiting elite fear of civil war, Yeltsin's autumn 1993 victory came without much difficulty. Considering all they have to lose, the elites continue to lack an interest in civil war and most defend and promote their own interests outside the authoritarian structures of the state, without submitting to the neonomenklatura. Most of these groups prefer the confusion and bet on the Mafias or tolerate them. Forced social polarization has its price.(31)
Most of the elites of private capital or "private state capital" that fought with such tenacity for direct representation in Parliament are dissatisfied with the reign of the bureaucrats, bribes, and taxes. A considerable part of democratic intellectuals shifted their allegiance after October to their regime's intransigent opposition. Before the events of autumn, Yeltsinite influence among the youth had diminished with the disappearance of Parliament as the unifying common enemy. The executive elite began to divide as a function of concrete interests or personalities, as the internal struggle for the big prize began.
Given this hegemonic void, which is equivalent to amorphous authoritarianism, the regime could directly address the most dispossessed among the masses, who are interested in a large and strong welfare state and continue to adore the "heavy hand" of the good czar,(32) even if he lacks an ideological message for them. This explains the growing temptation to accompany the European discourse or its Latin American version with Asiatic and patriarchal overtones, or a paternalistic discourse for others.(33)
The main obstacle to the practice of rightist populism lies not in ideology but in the economy. The November 1993 skirmishes between monetarists and structuralists within the government, and particularly the dissolution of the Supreme Soviet, foreshadowed another round of shocks, again with the prospect of mass unemployment amid a breakdown of the industrial infrastructure and exhaustion of economic reserves. Such conditions make political appeals to the economically beaten-down masses difficult, especially after the disappearance of earlier scapegoats (Khasbulatov, the Supreme Soviet, Communists, etc.) and erosion of the charismatic leader (particularly in the provinces).(34) The first proof of this was the threat of a miners' strike in November and December of 1993.
The regime may attempt to recover the active support of the masses using another discourse and sphere of action: the war against delinquency and corruption. This war is a double-edged sword, though, for it would mean a direct attack on the immediate social base of the new nomenklatura. This is not an internally stable and established regime. Its power is basically due to the weakness of its adversaries.
The internal physical and political flaws of the regime, the contradictions between its functioning and its base, between its explicit liberalism and its latent populism, constitute the first level of vulnerability of Russia's right-wing soft dictatorship. Its second flaw, a legacy of the immediate and remote past that extends to the near future, is the possibility that the new authoritarian regime can resolve the problem of its immediate reason for being, i.e., its ability to create a new social order (B. Hottne) based on the market and political pluralism. What can be expected from the application of economic reform under conditions of authoritarianism? Who and what motives can force it to fall back on democracy? Among the deepest seated conditions of the new authoritarianism in Russia is the imposition on society of an external design, in contrast to internal development of society. From this derive the specific relations between the state and civil society, and the forms of the state itself.
This cause and effect relationship will probably also act in another direction: the imposition of an authoritarian regime tends to invigorate the tendency to impose the anti-statist and monetarist design of the radicals. Experience has demonstrated the dangers of the doctrinaire radical line, since it tends to ignore domestic realities in the extreme and further increases the enormous cost of change (which is directly proportionate to the depth and breadth of the rupture). That is already clearly visible. High-tech industry and basic science, which were immolated on the altar of universal recipes, could have constituted a basis for the advance of real society. The triple price of deindustrialization, destruction of scientific-cultural potential, and the unnecessary impoverishment of the majority has already been paid. None of this smoothes the way to civilized capitalism. Nevertheless, the absence of a democratic deterrent (pluralism of elites and institutions of power, civic freedom with participation) and the pressure of time may again(35) be a catalyst in radicalizing economic reform. There will undoubtedly be resistance from producers and structuralists, etc., but in the absence of institutionalized democracy and the resistance of the masses, monetarists may attempt to carry out their cherished dream.(36)
The most probable result of that acceleration(37) will not be a break in the direction of take-off. Under the best of circumstances, Russia's market and capitalism may be similar to that of half a century ago. Political pluralism and democracy will not likely emerge from this economic and concomitant social situation, particularly because since October 4, 1993, the current power structure has against it the bloodshed for which it will have to answer. This will probably give rise to a tendency to shift from soft dictatorship to a hard version, efforts to dominate, reinforce, and consolidate structures of repression, and other possible dissolutions of Parliament. As is well known, "nothing will happen." Undoubtedly, freedom of expression will be limited in the style of the presidential declarations of November 25-26, 1993, as will regional rights. In such a situation, changing executive power and the constitution within the framework of a new constitutional legality will be practically impossible. There would be no official torture or firing squads; instead, repression would stay within the limits of "decency" imposed by public opinion and the Western powers.(38) Another limitation will be the correlation of forces within the power structures.
The foregoing is valid only if the majority remains passive in its struggle for survival and adaptation. However, such a situation will be untenable under mass unemployment. For this reason, the "need for ideology" will be felt more strongly.
The third flaw consists of political maneuvering around the problem of national-cultural identity. This "sui generis Westernization," which takes from the West everything negative and almost nothing positive, has met with no resistance from the majority. In a situation of "loss of values," Communist and nationalist efforts to form a barrier were destroyed by the demonstrative effect of consumption and by the assault of the mass media. However, this will not last for long. Economic failures and the impact of the assassination of democracy will force central power to turn over the tortilla. "If you have nothing in which to believe, what do you believe in? You believe in what you have," is the familiar adage the regime will follow at the ideological level. It will stress prerevolutionary and pre-perestroika traditionalism. Instead of the liberal-democratic credo, we are already hearing the traditional slogan, orthodoxy-absolutism (this time, presidential)-patriotism (nationalism). The praise of, and calls for the clenched fist of the strong state and anathemas against divisionists, regions, and impure ethnicities are already commonplaces throughout the press. Some nationalists (Pamiat, Zhirinovsky's party) had already supported Yeltsin's authoritarianism. It is difficult to foresee the speed and modes of implementation of this tendency, but the process is undeniable and the victory of authoritarianism will lend it new vigor.
Less certain is the ideological efficacy of this semblance of a self-generated Russian route. It tends to create more problems with technocrats, Westernized intellectuals, and non-Russian peoples, as well as with a segment of Western public opinion, without guaranteeing consolidation of the regime's real influence over the masses. In short, all the visible solutions relative to the new nature of power and the regime raise strong doubts regarding immediate and short-term prospects. The diverse parameters of a "society under construction" seem hardly compatible among themselves and there is neither the mechanism nor historical time to overcome this situation.(39)
Other concrete and linked questions may be formulated within the parameters of existing options. Where will the resources be found to build on the ruins? How can the flow of wealth and skilled labor toward areas of greater income be stemmed?(40) What would motivate investment in production given forced deindustrialization? What social mechanism could bring about a change from the monopolist, speculative, Mafioso market of parastate structures to a civilized market of self-sustained development, while power lies in the hands of the same groups presently controlling the market? How would removal of the state or real competition with foreign capital affect domestic private, armed (Mafioso) capital, which is accustomed to hyper-profits and is devoid of the least Protestant, Confucian, or any other ethic? How might today's or yesterday's capitalism be constructed with the methods, psychology, and actors of the period of primitive accumulation in a society deprived of capitalist values? It seems appropriate to recall the words of Norberto Bobbio: "Democracy was able to stop the attack of historical communism, but what methods and ideals does it have to solve the problems that gave birth to communist society?"
Above we considered Russia's backwardness and how threats to its independence-identity figured among the basic reasons for October 1917, and how the latter was an attempt to reach the heaven of social justice and to shortcut the development process. Fifty years later, after utopia in Russia had clearly failed, the impression remained that the short cut had been achieved. Today it is obvious that not even this task was fulfilled. The problem of historic backwardness, the break that must be overcome, is again being postulated. To accomplish this undertaking, a 180 degree turn (with respect to 1917) is proposed, affecting every aspect of national life, again via an imposed design.
In my view, doubts about the "other" transition, a transition of civilization, appear here. Could the imperatives, mechanisms, and consequences of the transition toward post-industrial society grant Russia real opportunities to resolve its problems by materializing "the advantages of the backward"? While Western societies are forced to expend so much effort to overcome "the inertia of success," cannot Russia turn its failure around, break with the gradual, in overcoming its bogged-down industrial development? This is not as far fetched and illusory as might be believed, for certain parallels are evident in comparing the imperatives and profiles of Western processes of post-industrialization with those of Russia in the 1990s. These are tendencies toward deindustrialization, decentralization, deverticalization and regionalization, and fragmentation and de-ideologization of Russian society. They are consonant to a point with the process of Western individualization and fragmentation of the 1980s and 1990s, with de-statification in favor of civil society proclaimed by the liberal ideology of the Russian process.
Though rejected at the outset, we cannot ignore the objective possibility of taking a novel course toward overcoming this new backwardness. Besides the will, the means and goals to achieve improvement must exist. The essential instruments for such a transition are almost non-existent in Russia: there is neither civil society, a system of feedback, whether from a market or democratic state, nor grass-roots social activity, even though resignation encouraged by the regime does exist.
Some concrete processes illustrate the trajectory and scale of the divergence from the West. The Russian bureaucratic apparatus has grown enormously. There are already twice as many civil servants today than existed under the Soviet Union before 1990. It is a kingdom of officialdom for every kind of regulation, etc. There is the destruction of the nation's immense scientific potential plus the current crusade against representative democracy, and against individual, regional, and any other kind of independence. The foregoing political outlines do not demonstrate the involution of movement, the inverse of post-industrial transition.
The Alternatives of Today and Tomorrow
The foregoing seeks to outline the imperatives(41) and elements that provide the historical opportunity for a different development. One alternative for overcoming the structural crisis combines the market with political democracy and social and national defense, aiming at a mixed economy. This "social democratic" (or social conservative)(42) option is less polarizing and, more fundamentally, does not create authoritarian structures that Russia has limited chances of overcoming. The social democratic option there better fits the imperatives (objectives, ideals, models) of a transition imposed by the crisis of industrial civilization, of overcoming its inertia and finding more advanced solutions within this transition.
Why opt for the "social democratic" over the revolutionary, socialist, participative, and anti-capitalist alternative? The latter will reappear in Russia later, I believe, in the next stage of transition, when the challenges of the crisis of civilization become immediate. At this time, though, it is not viable, given the problem of actors and the real aspirations and peculiarities of the majority. Because they associate its vocabulary, historical memory, and official ideology with an already rejected pseudo-communist nomenklatura past, that majority neither aspires to nor is inclined to revolutionary socialist solutions. Paradoxically, many of them continue in the inertia of the past, hoping the state, now in the hands of a sworn enemy of participative democracy, will provide solutions to their problems. For the majority, there is no greater peril than civil war, and revolution is loaded with such perils. Revolutionary forces and the entire Left today lack the instruments, vehicles, and channels for anti-capitalist options. There is neither class consciousness, nor the organizations, parties, or movements capable of mobilizing the masses behind banners of internationalism and solidarity.
A sense of injustice, betrayal, and frustration has a hold over the masses, while conscious political commitment to struggle actively and collectively against those responsible does not. Resignation, apathy, and fragmentation still predominate. To wit, recall the reaction of Moscow's majority and the unemployed at the bombardment of Parliament, listen to conversations among the youth and workers, or compare the results of political evolution in Russia with that of Central Europe.
Of course, the opposition has been unable to take advantage of the opportunities that freedom from political responsibility has opened to the Left, or of the political flaws of its adversaries.(43) However, the events of September and October 1993 did have some politically positive consequences, including the broadening of the democratic sector, the rapprochement of its various components, and the shift of sympathy from Yeltsinism to the center and center-left (which was very palpable and conscious among intellectuals, less conscious and more "political" among the provincial masses). The degree and scale of these changes became known on December 12.(44)
The only real possibility of awakening and consolidating the forces striving for an alternative, of changing them into majorities, lies in the defense and reconquest of political pluralism in its three dimensions: the separation of powers, civil liberties, and participation in the fight for more gradual and less painful economic reform (a withdrawal of the state), in the social defense of the majority and of national cultural identity in its broadest sense.(45) It will not be an easy task since the diversity of interests among the participants carries great weight. The imperative of relying on the logic of real life in the heterogeneous aspirations and characteristics of the masses (even those disliked by the traditional Left) is considered extremely complicated and even embarrassing. Yet within the new design of "social engineering," any action that relies on trickery or violence against the masses will be counterproductive and disastrous. Only by directing the political struggle against these points, fighting against involution, can one channel the transition toward the level of current Latin American societies.
One should not ignore that these postulates can lead to acceptance of the "movement toward capitalism." In a sense they do. In attacking the most vulnerable points of the rightist authoritarian regime's structure and the incongruities of its policy, the democratic movement does not directly postulate the structural alternative to current development. I do not believe another road toward this alternative exists in Russia for the day after tomorrow. Not even attempts to revive the immediate past of the 1980s or the more remote past of Brezhnevian Stalinism, or attempts to use the ideology and cultural structures of the prerevolutionary period could mobilize the majority in favor of the advanced options of the future. The same may be said today, unfortunately, for Leninist and even participative programs, for they all suffer a testimonial, theoretical nature. The Russia of today is not the Russia of 1917 or 1961, the Brazil of 1994, or even the Mexico or Venezuela of 1993. More than any other, the post-Soviet Left is condemned to obey the well-worn adage about the courage required to accept the inevitable and to combat what is indeed avoidable, and to have the wisdom to know the difference between the two. In other words, neither determinism nor mirage.
1. The cycle seems to cover more than 200 years, from the second half of the 18th century to the 1980s in this century.
2. The crisis is rooted in the transition of capitalism from the Kondratiev 4 cycle (based on cheap energy and mass production) to the Kondratiev 5 cycle (based on microelectronics, informatics, flexible production, etc.), and linked in the semi-periphery to processes and inertia of the preceding crisis. (For this agenda, see principally the work of Carlota Perez, Venezuela.)
3. The nature of the option "dictates if they are to be major or minor, conditional or subordinate."
4. Here the differences between Russia and the European countries, and even with respect to the majority of the former Republics of the USSR, appear sharply.
5. In the field of theory, this problem has been discussed since the mid-19th century; as is well known, it involved Marx himself.
6. This was once Russia had entered and remained in the war (even after the February Revolution), principally to fulfill her commitments to the Franco-Anglo Saxon West and its interests; there was a prospect of becoming a kind of appendix to the system (a situation somewhat parallel to that of Italy).
7. Here we make use of alien terminology for linguistic convenience.
8. Yeltsin is a collective pseudonym adopted by a team that took over executive power in Russia in 1993, according to G. Parlovsky (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 28, 1993).
9. They were joined by part of the old CPSU nomenklatura that between 1989 and 1990 had already gone to the parastate economic structures. This sector's position was closer to that of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
10. This is the Novo-Ogareno of April 1991 between Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Nazarbaev, and other republican leaders (the Baltic republics excepted) on the transition to a federation and the struggle against the economic crisis.
11. True, there were two or three suicides among the hundreds and thousands of members of the nomenklaturas.
12. The best material published in Russia on this subject is the article by D. Furman in the ex-Communist, Pensamiento Libre 4 (1993).
13. The CPSU position merits separate consideration as an apparatus that was the only sub-elite that would really lose out under change and joined a not negligible segment of left intellectuals. Unfortunately, Gorbachev's great personal responsibility in this respect must be recognized, as much for his vacillations of 1990 to 1991 as for his "desertion" of August 24, 1991.
14. We should not forget that the same majority ignored Yeltsin's call for a general strike; only some tens of thousands came to the defense of the White House (whereas hundreds of thousands joined the demonstrations of 1989 to 1990).
15. I refer to the absence of a reaction to the drop in living standards during the autumn and winter of 1991 to 1992, which was much more drastic than that of 1990 to 1991, or to the anti-constitutional coup and the bombardment of Parliament in the autumn of 1993.
16. Principal credit in this respect goes to the domestic mass media, not to CIA manipulation.
17. This is against Russians and Russia.
18. Two weeks later, they carried out their vote of December 12.
19. As pointed out by a Swedish researcher, the fundamental logic of the radical reformers did not reflect the real image of the contemporary West, but the antithesis of socialism: "Which didn't work, so the opposite must."
20. Yeltsin's enormous authority had to function as an efficient shock absorber.
21. Except for bread, milk, and other food products, as well as fuel, rents, and related items.
22. These were industrial producers and agrarian supporters of the third option, members of the paleo-nomenklatura or Yeltsinists removed from power during the "liberalization."
23. On the reasons for this phenomenon (mechanisms of adaptation, compensation, etc.), see this writer's articles in Motivos (Mexico, Nos. 35 and 41, March and May, 1992, respectively; Nos. 87, 89, 92, and 98, March, April, and June, 1993, respectively); CEMOS Memoria (Mexico, Nos. 53, 57, and 61, April, August, and December 1993, respectively; and No. 62, January 1994).
24. Most surprising was the majority vote in favor of executive economic policy. The relative nature of this liberal success stemmed from a high degree of abstention, with the pro-presidential vote failing to surpass 37% of the registered voters.
25. In August and September of 1993, falling production accelerated and inflation was again over 25% per month.
26. However, an underground economy (particularly in the southern republics) is increasing its economic and political presence. It existed outside of the law, ideology, and (in Russia) culture, unlike Poland or Hungary, for example.
27. "The absence, so far, of an organized labor movement in post-Communist Russia has been a veritable gift to economic reform," wrote Sevodnya (November 30, 1993), one of the best-known writers of the authoritarian Right.
28. Retreat was in the sphere of the immediate direction of the economy. The regulatory function of the state continued to coexist with the characteristic income redistribution function within its apparatus through ceremonies, perks, permits, prohibitions, licenses, etc.
29. The dike restraining popular protest with respect to these points was weakened and breached in the December 12 elections of 1993.
30. Any action in favor of production was easily labeled "pianist" and any in favor of the population, populist or Communist. In fact, the weight of Communists in the Parliament was notorious.
31. On the contrary, elites that require an efficient, verticalized state historically constituted themselves as adversaries of the regime or rivals of its elite.
32. The results of the April referendum (see Motivos, Nos. 87, 89, 92, and 98, 1993) and recent public surveys show that Yeltsin's strongest support was concentrated at the two extremes of the status-income pyramid. He received an absolute majority of the richest and the poorest.
33. I refer to the tender texts of the presidential spokesman, V. Kostikov, and Moscow Mayor Yu Luzkov's "Operation (ethnic) clean up."
34. This was demonstrated in the December 12 vote, when 80% of the provincial ballots failed to support parties supporting Yeltsin.
35. It was possible the first time (late 1991 and early 1992) due to the virtual absence of an opposition. Now, because it has been overcome....
36. The scope of the liberal defeat in the December 1993 elections and, perhaps, political consciousness of the above-mentioned realities conditioned another economic option (variant) for the government and marginalized the ultras. However, this has been more evident in discourse than in real action.
37. According to Gaidar's monetarists, "1994 was to be last for falling production, and the cleanup operation in the productive structure."
38. Slightly changing the famous formula, it may be said that in today's Russia, the hypocrisy of power is "the tribute paid by one's own vice for the other's virtue."
39. That is, to overcome it by means of an approach to "advanced societies." On the contrary, the small step "toward internal organization" in Latin America in the 1950s to 1960s seems quite probable.
40. To date, the damage caused to all the countries of the Community of Independent States by the brain drain is estimated at $50 billion.
41. "Imperatives" is used in the sense of countervailing the inadequacy of the current variant of development for the interests of the population, the nation, and the majority.
42. It is "conservative" in the sense of preserving more of the features of noncapitalist structures of the past, which would be less dramatic to the majority.
43. In this respect, see the author's articles in CEMOS Memoria 61 (1993) and 62 (1994).
44. In fact, they were greater than was supposed, which is what elections are for.
45. This means the defense (and development) of the nation's cultural heritage, from science to the ethical norms of its identity, without it becoming either embedded in or turning into nationalism, or the central idea of this message.
DR. KIVA MAIDANIK is affiliated with the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, 23 Profsoyuznaya Street, Moscow, 117859, Russia. Translation by John Page.
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|Date:||Mar 22, 1996|
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