Staunton, October 25 – Many people effectively excuse the Russian state from becoming a democracy suggesting, falsely, that the Russian people are incapable of living under such a system; but the real reason Russia has not yet made the democratic transition lies in seven major mistakes those who want democracy have made, Igor Yakovenko says.
First, they have fallen into the trap of focusing more on their leaders than on institutions which encourage dialogue between temporary heads of their groups and the members of their groups, thus replicating again and again exactly what those in power have been doing, the Moscow commentator says (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5F9491D1D9210).
Second, they have bought into the idea that if the economy is privatized that will inevitably lead to democracy and thus neglected to focus on creating democratic institutions. As a result, “the Russian communist empire has been transformed into the Russian fascist empire.”
Third, Russian democrats have remained Moscow-centric, something that has rendered them incapable of fighting the imperial nature of the Putin state and in fact provides it with a certain unintended protection.
Fourth, those favoring democracy have often chosen quick and simple decisions without reflecting on their long-term consequences. This avoids “the complex political work” which democracies require but almost inevitably leads to authoritarianism.
Fifth, the participants and even leaders of nominally pro-democracy movements appear and then disappear, failing to put in the longer-term effort that the transition from authoritarianism to democracy requires in every case.
Sixth, the pro-democracy groups are distinguished by the absence of democracy within their ranks. And seventh, “the low prestige of party activity leads to the exodus of the more active and ambitious politicians and activists to the organs of executive power,” thus handing to the opponents of democracy the leaders they need to block democratization.
Those who want democracy in Russia need to recognize certain realities, Yakovenko says. There are three forms of protest – voting, street protests, and protests after emigration. They must work together with each part assuming responsibility for the collective effort rather than as now at cross purposes.
Moreover, the leaders of these three groups must be ready for a post-Putin Russia. It will happen suddenly, and only those who have a clear program will have any chance to produce radical change. That will require both a detailed list of goals and a simple slogan Russians can rally around, he continues.
Unfortunately, at present, those who want to see Russia become a democracy have neither.