Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Ideologies and Russians

Siberian Light commented on my previous post about Putin:

Putin to me is one of the world's most practical leaders - in the sense that he really has no big ideology and he has a technocratic style of leadership and, in a country that has had decade after decade of ideology drummed into them, is it at all surprising that someone basing their politics on an idea, any idea, would be met with suspicion?

I fully agree but with one addition. After 1991 the idea of free market economy was drummed into Russians and at first we fully supported it. So it's not just communism but also capitalism.
I also think that many sincere misunderstandings about Putin in the West stem from the habit of looking at his actions through ideological glasses. Is he liberal or conservative? Is he a tyrant or a democrat? Is he leading the country forward to freedom or back to communism? All such questions assume a certain ideological paradigm into which every fact of life should fit. In case it doesn’t quite fit one should go on interpreting facts of life until it fits. The idea that this paradigm itself might be flawed is not accepted in principle.
What frightens me and (probably) most of Russians in this way of thinking is that an idea, albeit a very nice democratic idea, is regarded as an ultimate goal of any country and any government. First, that was an idea of communism – it collapsed. Then, there was an idea of free market economy – it also collapsed. Now, Russian liberals and Western NGO’s are drumming into us an idea of democracy. What is democracy? That is a paradigm of certain norms, rules and instruments that make the people free and ensures progress and happiness. I really sometimes have trouble to find fundamental differences between communist and democratic ideologies. Both put a nice and noble idea as a cornerstone of freedom. Both believe that those ideas are reached by strict adherence to rigid norms and rules. Both put a lot of importance on revolutions and encourage people to revolt against the government in the name of freedom. Both believe that freedom and democracy could be planted (irrespective, in Iraq or Afghanistan) by installing a certain model. Almost always this model is just a copy of whatever system developed over years in their home countries – the USSR on one side or the US on the other.


Anonymous said...

Coming from a US citizen the average American can tell the difference when one is discussing the what constitues Communism and democracy. The idea of automony and supremacy of the individual that would be democracy verses the idea of Government dispensing a norm to follow that would be communism. When one cannot tell the difference Democracy is in danger. There is confusion when it comes to where people draw the lines of a strong federal government of the people and individual rights. As a human being we all have a common need and expression of what is right and fair. So the foundation of law that we can for the most part follow with agreement. That takes discussion so the creation of a legistratiing body of people that creates a society. For democracy even though an idea it only works out with society hammering out what that means. I have never lived under communism but I do have the impression that the common people ever could hammer it out no matter of education, position, rich or poor, or ethnicity. In America to hammer out is to debate that very idea, especially with every election.

Anonymous said...

Putin strikes me as more of a Autocrat then anything else. He must have some sort of ideology since he is centralizing power and eliminating political opponents (I think there was recently a high profile trial, no?)

Inna said...

Communism = USSR; democracy = the US. Is that so? It seems to be a simplified and dangerous approach. Among other characteristics of democracy there is governance and validity of the law as well as the posibility to criticize and change it. Law and public critique completely failed in the USSR, it's failing now under Putin. Unfortunately, it fails sometimes (may be more and more often) in the US. But why it has to be "USSR vs. US" all the time? There are other implementations of democratic values... We need to think on our own and think critically instead of trying to copy or resist the American way of life.

Anonymous said...

Comment #2 by Anonymous, above, is embarassing and irritating. I just came across this interesting blog and have yet to read the rest of it. But this comment by Anonymous disappointed me by its loud, boring (predictable) and uneducated proposition and lack of stated support therefor. To hear this, and yet to have no good quality argument following...

Anonymous said...

One word: Chechnya.

One thing that is certainly the sign of an autocrat is the lack of regard for human rights and even more indicting is the lack of massive and effective voice from the Russian people to call for an end to the bloody and horrific actions of the Russian military in the region. It is precisely the work of an autocrat that seeks to crush the resistance of a people who want to have independence and democratic voice. The autocrat essentially places himself in opposition to the values of democracy and self-determination when he fights against those calling invoking them. It is the autocrat that has the blood of countless innocents and that of his own citizens and nationals when retaliatory actions do occur.

In terms of 'ideology', maybe the Russian people are tired of being prescribed rhetorical indoctrination, but even in looking at the practical and 'technocratic' actions of Mr. Putin, one finds a disappointing track record that cannot be judged well under any framework.

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