Russian communism Essay

This essay has a total of 4294 words and 16 pages.

Russian communism



RUSSIAN communisiunm
By: mike

Introduction The fall of the Communist regime in the Soviet Union was more than a
political event. The powerful interaction and fusion between politics and economics that
characterized the state socialist system created a situation that was unique for the
successor states of the Soviet Union. The penetration of the Communist regime into every
facet of life left the Russian people with little democratic traditions. Russia faces the
seemingly impracticable task of economic liberalization and democratization. This is
combined with a necessity to answer nationalist and ethnic questions that have plagued
Russia for centuries. This paper addresses the problems of creating a stable democracy in
Russia. The prospects for a stable democracy in Russia are limited at best. I will outline
some of the concerns that academics have in the consolidation of Russian democracy. What
is paramount to note is that a stable democracy must adequately address what Ken Jowitt
calls the “developmental trinity”: nation-building; capitalism and democracy.
The dilemma that is especially relevant to Russia it that these conditions are often
contradictory. The often messy business of politically reconstructing a nation defies
traditional democratic ideals. The establishment of democratic institutions can hinder the
development of a market economy and, conversely, programs that are designed to enhance
capitalist expansion often are antagonistic towards democratic goals (Jowitt 7). These
seemingly endless Catch-22’s are at the heart of difficulties facing Russia in its
attempt to create a stable democracy. The Process of Creating A Nation-State The question
of who is the playing the game and what makes the playing field is an important one for
the Russian Federation. Ethnic and nationalist questions plagued the Soviet Union and
continue to stress the Russia Federation during its nascent period. The dynamics of
center-periphery relations provides Moscow with some of the greatest challenges in
establishing a stable democracy. Phillipe Smitter writes, “There is no simply
democratic way of deciding what a nation and its corresponding political unit should
be” (Smitter 66). Later in his article, he writes “those that have not yet
resolved the dilemma of defining their national and territorial boundaries are unlikely to
make much more progress in other domains” (Smitter 73). The dilemma facing the
Russian Federation is that it finds itself with a charge of establishing and following
democratic institutions, while at the same time facing secessionary pressures that seem to
require extra-democratic means to preserve the integrity of the nation. Nationalism in
multiethnic areas in the Russian Federation has provided a substantial challenge for
democratization. There is a direct relationship between democratization and ethnic peace
(Smitter 72). In a democratically weak society, ethnicity assumes a stronger role, and
when democracy and ethnicity are balanced, political stability is possible. As a result of
a lack of democratic institutions and channels for dialogue, Russia’s inhabitants
are now increasingly identifying themselves as members of ethnic groups rather than as
citizens of the Russian Federation (Drobizheva). An important development in
center-periphery relations is the growing importance of “economic
nationalism,” an effort to create an economic basis for political independence.
Economic nationalism is a protective defense against the Russian federal
government’s economic dominance. Alternatively, it is also a sign that the republics
wish to retain relations with Moscow since politics remains primarily in the hands of the
center (Drobizheva). For example, Tatarstan and Sakha-Yakutia both have a wealth of
natural resources, giving them a potential advantage in economic development and a desire
to establish control over these resources. Tatarstan, for example, strives to sell its oil
at world market prices in foreign markets to generate income, and in 1993-94, the local
governments in Tatarstan and Yakutia sought economic decentralization in Russia by
refusing to pay federal taxes. Consequently, an agreement reached between the federal
government and the republics gave the latter what they wanted: increased economic autonomy
(Drobizheva). Further inquiry into the agreements with Tartarsan demonstrates the
flexibility the Yeltsin regime is willing to employ in dealing with possible powder-keg
situations. A treaty signed on February 15, 1994 attempted to mollify the tensions on both
sides. The treaty affirmed Tartarsan right to its own “international and economic
relations” and, as previously noted, provided substantial autonomy in economic
issues for Tartarsan. Smoothing over contradictions in each state’s constitution,
the agreement affirms the union between Russia and Tartarsan (Lapidus 107). The treaty
with Tartarsan provides a possible blueprint for future center-periphery relations. It
forebears a evolving and fluid approach that should be beneficial in establishing a stable
democracy. But in typical Yeltsin contradictory manner, the war in Chechnya has
demonstrated the worst of the Yeltsin regime. The conflict between Chechnya and the
Russian Federation should not be considered an ethnic conflict. The authorities did not
even give as a pretext for the invasion the defense of Russian-speaking people. Such a
pretext would have been unbelievable, in light of the fact that Russian- speaking people
suffered from the bombing of Grozny at least as much as the native population. The war was
connected more with the struggle for power in Moscow than with either economic or ethnic
factors. The Chechnyan campaign was characterized by Yeltsin employing Soviet-era coercive
measures. Paternalism, clientelism, and military intervention prevailed over legal methods
and legal institutions. Lilia Shevtsova considers the Chechnyan war a byproduct of the
Yeltsin regime’s reliance on personal politics. She writes “Yeltsin saw the
war as a chance to flex his muscles...neutralize the conflicts within his own regime;
expand his political base...and appear before the world...as a strong leader”
(Shevtsova 67). The tragedy in Chechnya not withstanding, and with all due concern towards
the dangerous tensions that exist between Moscow and it various ethnic republics, I agree
with Gail Lapidus and Edward Walker that it is unlikely that we will see a significant
secession movement in the Russian Federation in the near future. Of paramount importance
is the economic and political realities facing both Moscow and the various republics.
Secession provides the republics with a myriad of additional stumbling blocks towards
establishment of stable democracy. These include questions of international recognition,
Russian implemented economic pressures, and devastating civil war (Lapidus 108). The costs
of leaving the Federation would appear to outweigh any perceivable benefits gained by
secession. Yet there are serious nationalist and regionalist concerns that the Russian
Federation must address if there is a chance for democracy to take hold. Economic chaos
must be avoided by establishing a sound currency and creating a common economic bond
between the center and the periphery (Lapidus 108). There will be a deeper examination
into the economic issues facing the Federation as a whole in the next section, but note
that these concerns are magnified in the peripheral areas that lack developed agricultural
and industrial economies. Issues of more effective regional and ethnic political
representation must be addressed through a movement away from the Soviet system that
unfairly distributes economic control and political power among ethnicities and
nationalities (Lapidus 96). Many ethnic minorities lack administrative recognition for
seemingly arbitrary reasons. It would appear that the best antidote for ethnic and
national ills is a healthy economy that would bind the periphery to the center, therefore
making secession an unattractive option. Along with sensible economic reforms, political
restructuring is essential for stable democracy to take hold. The Road to a Market Economy
At the heart of the difficulties plaguing the Russian Federation are the economic reforms
that the Yeltsin regime has imposed upon the Russian people. Capitalism is viewed as a
necessary ingredient (though not sufficient) contingency of a stable democracy. All
established democracies are located in countries that place economic manufacture and
aggregation in the hands of privately owned firms, with distribution of scarce resource
achieved through market forces (Smitter 66). The movement away from the penetrative,
all-encompassing Soviet economic octopus has caused enormous hardships for the Russian
people. It has placed economic uncertainties in the path of political realities, resulting
in policies that attempt to address the often contradictory objectives of economic
liberalization in the wake of political democratization. Sweeping in after the failed coup
of August 1991, economic reformers, led by Prime Minister Egor Gaidar, placed the Russian
economy on a steady diet of economic shock therapy. The government’s misguided
attempt to rest its reform program on fulfillment of a limited number of macroeconomic
variables left the Russian economy in disarray. Despite a precipitous decline in economic
productivity, radical reformers defended their macroeconomic policy, arguing that the
supply side of the Russian economy would receive proper attention after stabilization. But
what were the Russians to do in the meantime? The revolutionary fervor that characterized
the early economic reforms did not take into account the punitive realities of their
policies. As Steven Fish writes: “All had advocated ‘transition to a market
economy.’ But this goal had been more of a dream than a demand, and few had actually
considered how to achieve it (Fish 215). With all due deference to clichй, the early
Russian economic policies can be succinctly summarized in “Be careful what you wish
for; you might just get it.” Khrushchev stated that a country may follow its own
road to socialism, and in a perverse sense that logic is still be applicable for Russian
affairs. But, rather the mandate should be that each country should follow its own road
towards capitalism. An examination of what the Communist apparatus left in its wake should
cause pause for any free-market optimist. Seventy plus years of state socialism has left
Russia with a two-ton gorilla on its collective economic back. On page 66 and 67 of his
“Dangers And Dilemmas of Democracy”, Smitter outlines possible starting
scenarios for incipient democracies. A best case scenario finds the nation with a
preceding autocracy that had already concentrated profits, encouraged the private
accumulation of wealth, increased the state’s fiscal capacity, invested in the
country’s physical infrastructure and provided a positive starting point for
international trade. Countries, such as Chile and Spain, that had inherited these
elements, found the transition to a market economy easier. Russia and the other successor
states to the Soviet Union found themselves in a much more precarious predicament. The
state socialist regime left a legacy of corruption, protectionism, price distortions,
foreign indebtedness, inefficient public enterprises, trade imbalances, and fiscal
instability (Smitter 67). Combined with the simultaneous need for political reform, Russia
faces a tall task indeed. The dubious tradition of the Soviet era has led to an
overdependence on foreign advise and models of capitalism. Yet, it is clear that this may
not be a wise path to follow. Much of the literature concerning post- communist literature
warns of Russia relying to closely to the Western model of capitalism. Jowitt warns that
Americans should temper their “missionary zeal” in exporting an idealistic
view of “what we once were” (Jowitt 7). The simultaneous difficulties of
nation-building, marketization, and democratization place the Soviet successor states in a
unique and precarious situation. Privatization in Russia did occur extraordinarily
rapidly, with the idea being that getting productive assets into private hands as fast as
possible would make economic reform irreversible. This was arguably right - there is
indeed a large and powerful group that has a great deal to lose from any effort to
re-nationalize the economy. But this class is at the same time decidedly not interested in
fair rules of market competition and an open economy. Rather it wants the state to
preserve its privileges, protect its markets, and allow it to continue to reap the
windfall gains of privatization. And neither does it seem to care much about democracy. At
the same time, privatization has contributed greatly to the popular conviction that
marketization has been deeply unjust: state assets were distributed disproportionately to
insiders, to people willing to skirt the letter of the law, and in many cases to outright
criminals. Official corruption and the lack of fair and enforced laws and clearly-defined
property rights, have only contributed to this perception. As a result, while there is a
growing middle class in Russia, it is smaller, less democratic in orientation, and less
politically influential than it might have been without the state socialist tradition. The
greatest misstep the Yeltsin regime took was moving forward with economic reform without
addressing the need for wholesale, political renovation. There is a serious quandary that
results in concurrent democratization and marketization. It derives from the basic
difference between a government that strives to distribute power and status relatively
equally (democratization) and an economy that distributes property and income relatively
unequally (capitalism) (Smitter 67). This obstacle is magnified in Russian democratization
with the fusion between politics and economics. Shevtsova writes “reformers cannot
rest content with a rearrangement of relations among different institutions, but must
strive to form new political and economic system” (Shevstova 57). Democratization
and the Reinvention of Russian Government An orderly exit from the Soviet past and
progress towards stable democracy necessitates the development of a state capable of
effective governance. Tsarism and state socialism have provided Russians with little
experience with working governmental institutions, nor knowledge of how to coordinate the
actions of state agencies in pursuit of a common goal. As especially was the case with the
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