Staunton, Sept. 25 – Not all political protests are the same, Abbas Gallyamov says. There are protests of various minorities against government policies; and there are protests of the majority against the very legitimacy of the government as such. Until recently, all Russian protests have been of the first kind, but now they are becoming the second.
The former Putin speechwriter and current political analyst says that “many think that the task of the opposition is the overthrow of the regime and the seizure of power. In fact, this is not exactly the case. At least now in the 21st century. Now opposition figures must not so much overthrow a regime as discredit it” (echo.msk.ru/blog/gallyamov_a/2909460-echo/).
The reason for that is simple: “now even the most backward societies view the people as the source of political power” and therefore they try to show everyone, including those in power, that “the people are against them.” If they can do that, then, even many members of the ruling elite will feel powerless to fight challenges from the population, Gallyamov says.
As the US political analyst Crane Brinton observed, “the most important cause of the destruction of regime is the loss on the pat of elites of a sense of justice and rationality of the existing order,” that is, when “a critical mass of the representatives of the ruling class cease to believe that they occupy their place by right.”
In that event, as German-American analyst Hannah Arendt pointed out, revolutions occur quickly because those who have held power no longer feel they can keep it and those opposed to them find that power is lying in the streets and they are able to pick it up without what appears to be any resistance at all.
A third American analyst, Samuel Huntington, suggested that there are two kinds of legitimacy, economic and procedural. A regime retains the former as long as it can oversee a rise in living standards, but if it can’t do that, it must fall back to procedural, to the idea that it is in power because it has been chosen legitimately by the people.
The Russian elite, Gallyamov points out, has not been able to maintain economic growth for the population; and so it must rely on the notion that it is in power because of the legitimate choice of the population. If that is challenged by large numbers of people, it will lack the power to remain in office for long.
And when a majority of the population see that the regime lacks that kind of legitimacy too, that those in power are there only because of fraud and force, protests against them change from those of minorities to those of the majority, and the days of the regime, however powerful it may look, are numbered.