Staunton, June 17 – In the post-democratic West and in post-totalitarian Russia, aggressive minorities have assumed a disproportionate role, in the first by transforming democracy from majority rule to a system focused protecting minorities and in the second by providing the regime with the passion it lacks to mobilize society, Vladimir Pastukhov says.
In a commentary for the MBK news agency, the London-based Russian analyst says that this parallel development has had the effect of devaluing democracy in the eyes of many in Russia while stimulating others to demand the appearance of a good tsar who will impose the correct values on the country (mbk-news.appspot.com/sences/atakuyushhie-menshinstva/).
But more important than that, the readiness of the Russian powers that be to be swayed by and seek to rely on is fraught with risks. Not only does that open the way to the powers being infected by the paranoia of these aggressive minorities, but it changes the relationship between the authoritarian rulers and the population.
“In theory,” Pastukhov continues, “an authoritarian power should suppress with equal intensity any activity which deviates from the officially approved course regardless of whether it is to the right or above or below that court. But in practice, everything looks different and as we see certain ‘minorities’ appear to be ‘more equal than others.’”
The analyst says he can explain this “paradox” by “the permanent deficit of passion which the dim and corrupt regime experiences from top to bottom.” Because it lacks that energy, it often “is not capable of giving a powerful emotional impulse to society, especially under conditions of a crisis and a latent pre-revolutionary situation.”
At those times, he continues, “the regime tries to borrow passion from particular groups within the civil society it is suppressing.” And because of that very suppression, those groups which retain a high degree of passion ad the most marginal ones. But as the regime draws on their energy and views, it further alienates the majority.
In a strange way, Pastukhov argues, this is an echo of what has been occurring in Western democracies as well where aggressive minorities have sought to use the power of the state to impose their views via insistence on political correctness and in the process have alienated majorities from democracy as typically understood.
The drive for political correctness has done much good, he acknowledges, but beyond a certain point, it creates a backlash among majorities, as can be seen throughout the West. And the use by the regime of aggressive minorities has had the same impact on the Russian majority as well.
“The specific political regime which functions today in the region of West European civilization may be defined as ‘post-democracy.’ It is organically part of the eclectic culture of ‘the post-modern’ and combines very well with ‘post-industrial’ economics.”
Similarly, “the regime which has been established in Russia today with no less basis may be called ‘post-totalitarian.’” And in both the one and the other there are “elements of decadence, the agony of the old, and an algorithm of disintegration.” It is difficult to predict how either will develop.
Many Russian ultra-conservatives talk a lot about the dysfunctionality of Western democracy. In many cases, their criticism is correct but it can’t be taken seriously because it fails to acknowledge the positive elements of that system. But the response of “’the liberal fundamentalists’” is no better: they see only the positive and not the negative.
“It is therefore not surprising,” Pastukhov says, “that ‘the infuriated majority’ is seeking a way out of the situation not within the framework of the liberal tradition but in a new authoritarian leader cult and populism which smacks of ‘fascism lite.’”
Russia still has a lot to learn from Europe, but “to copy blindly the present-day model of Western democracy is stupid and even harmful. This will not solve the problems confronting Russia.” Instead, there needs to be in both Russia and the West a creative approach toward the elaboration of a new kind of democracy.
Just what this will look like is unclear, but it almost certainly will involve a return to the first principles of majoritarian rule with modifications so that the majority will not mistreat the various minorities. Different countries are likely to come up with different patterns to ensure that, but one thing is clear: democracy in its current form is in trouble and must change.
For Russians, this offers one very important hope. While they are far behind the West in moving toward democracy of the current kind, they may be entering a period when “the first shall be last and the last first” as both Russia and the West work to come up with a revived democratic model.