Funny thing is that many American scholars are much more optimistic about democratic processes in Russia than we are.
Can it be that we tend to idealize democracy, or we think that our parties are not «real» parties, or what?
It is quite understandable that many of us are really upset about the results of the elections, but that was the free choice of the majority and it was done in a democratic way.

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Avatar for ekorovina спустя 1 час (8 декабря 2003)
Екатерина Коровина

[quote]
pobedash писал(а):
Funny thing is that many American scholars are much more optimistic about democratic processes in Russia than we are.
Can it be that we tend to idealize democracy, or we think that our parties are not «real» parties, or what?
It is quite understandable that many of us are really upset about the results of the elections, but that was the free choice of the majority and it was done in a democratic way.
/quote

I think that American scholars are very optimistic about the state of democracy in the US as well, although recently I have often heard (in TV programmes) or read in newspapers that Americans are now really afraid to speak negatively about the current policies of the Bush administration. And anyway, even if this time it was a FREE choice of the majority in Russia, there's no guarantee that the same will happen in another four years time. I don't mean we are on the verge of losing whatever democratic principles we have, but the new Duma does make me wonder about the future.

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photo спустя 23 часа (9 декабря 2003)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

Well, whether America (meaning the USA) is still a democracy or it has become a totalitarian state can be a matter for long and heated discussions. Coming back to our own country, should we be so upset if THE GUARANTOR of democracy personally and publicly claimed that the campaign was a real success of democracy. Anyway it would be difficult to disagree with his statement that the results show the real preferences of our people. Of course, it's a shame that there are less than 5 per cent of «us» and there are much more of «them». But nobody could say yet that «they» have destroyed «our» democracy. Could anyone of you give real facts to the stupid me (not just hurt feelings and outbursts of emotions), facts proving that we are actually moving away from democracy towards a more authoritarian state???

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Avatar for elenita спустя 1 день (10 декабря 2003)
elenita

Seems like democracy in our country is shifting into some complicated matter. What's democracy for one person can be something else for another. So...
By the way, the recent expulsion of three members (one of them is Jakov Silin) out of «Edinaya Rossia» for not following the so-called «party line» can remind us of something or someone... don't you think?

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Avatar for amix спустя 20 минут (10 декабря 2003)
amix сотрудник

[quote]Elenita wrote:
By the way, the recent expulsion of three members (one of them is Jakov Silin) out of «Edinaya Rossia» for not following the so-called «party line» can remind us of something or someone... don't you think?
/quote

that's one of the reasons of being unhappy with the results of December 7
this kind of КПСС's rebirth
but there are things that are probably worse - these radicals who gained unexpectedly so many votes

hm, i'm sorry for breaking the discussion, but it's the *10*th (!) page of the topic.
maybe we close it somehow and create another?
otherwise there would be no making head or tail of it.
and - of course, i don't mean closing the forum (International Relations WorkGroup) - only the topic - «Call for participation in a working group».

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photo спустя 16 часов (11 декабря 2003)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

United Russia" is not a single party, but a combination of several power groups, it does not have an elaborate program to which all members adhere. Rather it is a way of showing your loyalty to the president. Nevertheless, the situation does not seem all that awful to me yet. So far the show has been acted out according to the rules of liberal democracy. It will stop being liberal when the rights of minorities (and i consider myself to be a part of a political minority) and individuals are violated. We won't be the first totalitarian democracy in the world and we stll have chances of avoiding even that fate.

And as for it being the 10th page, could we trust the admin to represent the will of the majority and do with the pages whatever he wants to? My own preference would be to store the beginnings of forums in some kind of archive, just in case... (for example, i met barrie hebb in toronto and he was happy to be able to see our discussion on our site)

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Avatar for ekorovina спустя 6 часов (11 декабря 2003)
Екатерина Коровина

Just some 30 min ago I watched the TV programme “Stand” hosted by Yevgeniy Yenin, and this time he spoke with Vladimir Gorev, who is the chief editor of some newspaper or maybe magazine called “The Adviser of the President”. The focus was of course on the results of the Duma elections, and Mr Gorev said, among other things, that:

  • now we have finally got rid of people who usually do nothing but talk nonsense;
  • 12 years of stagnation are over, and people like Mr Chubais who is “the greatest thief in Russia” (quote), and “thieves and pillagers like Mr Khodorkovsky” will be deprived of chances to continue their looting;
  • at last “the time has come for state-controlled political development of the country” (quote); we must be united around the strong state;
  • oil and gas property must finally be re-distributed, which, Mr Gorev emphasized, does not mean “otnyat’ + podelit’”; they only “must be used sensibly” (quote);
  • as soon as all of this happens, we will no longer live in “stinking houses”, always afraid of cold/hot water shortages, and we should not allow numerous demagogues to intimidate us by talks about the police state, for we are now for the first time going in the direction of true democracy.

Now, I am far from thinking that Mr Gorev alone can create a police state, but I am convinced that his words do express some kind of general mood. They show that people are tired of democracy, and this is where I see the real danger. Not in the current domination of the United Russia in the Duma, but in these claims that only a state-controlled political situation may give us hope of a brighter future, that the re-distribution of the natural resources property will clean our houses and make all of us happy in no time at all. This is what makes me think that we are becoming less democratic.

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Avatar for elenita спустя 2 минуты (11 декабря 2003)
elenita

[quote]
pobedash писал(а):
United Russia" is not a single party, but a combination of several power groups, it does not have an elaborate program to which all members adhere. Rather it is a way of showing your loyalty to the president. Nevertheless, the situation does not seem all that awful to me yet. So far the show has been acted out according to the rules of liberal democracy. It will stop being liberal when the rights of minorities (and i consider myself to be a part of a political minority) and individuals are violated. We won't be the first totalitarian democracy in the world and we stll have chances of avoiding even that fate.

And as for it being the 10th page, could we trust the admin to represent the will of the majority and do with the pages whatever he wants to? My own preference would be to store the beginnings of forums in some kind of archive, just in case... (for example, i met barrie hebb in toronto and he was happy to be able to see our discussion on our site)
/quote

I really doubt that they'll have the gutz to violate the rights of the minorities. Though it's risky to predict something untill the party gets started....

About the 10th page: doesn't bother me. I'd rather you stored it somewhere, if possible :)

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Avatar for ekorovina спустя 1 минуту (11 декабря 2003)
Екатерина Коровина

As for closing this thread, I think the administrator could close and archive the first part of it (about the war in Iraq), for at the moment there seem to be no new comments on this issue, and leave the part about our Duma elections open.

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photo спустя 33 дня (14 января 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

''In the United States, there is very little scrutiny of U.S. military actions,'' said As'ad Abukhalil, professor of political science at California State University. ''Rarely do we hear of investigations of the regular killings of Iraqi civilians,'' he added.

Abukhalil suggested that U.S. actions in Iraq will prove very damaging on two levels: first, Iraqis are becoming more opposed to the occupation, and more insistent on their freedom from it; second, the Arabic press pays far more attention to U.S. actions and violence in Iraq than the Western press, and that reporting will create more resentment in the Arab world.

''Public opinion in the Arab and Islamic worlds is more hostile to the U.S. than before, despite the silly U.S. propaganda campaign,'' added Abukhalil, author of 'Bin Laden, Islam and America's New War on Terrorism'.

Last month U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan implicitly criticised the tactics of coalition forces when he said: ''We need to act on the recognition that the mounting insecurity problem cannot be solved through military means alone. A political solution is required.''

And last year, London-based Human Rights Watch described some of the attacks by U.S. troops on Iraqi civilians as ''disproportionate'' use of force that merited full compensation for victims.

The tactics adopted by U.S. soldiers against Iraqi civilians were described by Baghdad lawyer Malek Dohan al-Hassan. ''All they do is put a bag on their heads, bind their hands behind them with plastic handcuffs and take them away. Families don't know where they go."

The situation has become so bad that the U.S.-endorsed Iraqi minister for human rights, Abdel Baset Turki, flew to Geneva last week to lodge a personal complaint with Acting U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan.

Turki specifically condemned human rights violations by U.S. occupying forces in Iraq and asked Ramcharan to investigate the charges.

Jose Luis-Diaz, spokesman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters the office is unable to make an independent assessment in Iraq because it has no presence in the country.

Since the bombing of the U.N. compound in Baghdad last August, in which 22 people died, the United Nations has withdrawn all its international staff from Iraq.

The OHCHR, Luis-Diaz said, knows the situation in Iraq is ''very difficult'', and is working with the Iraqi human rights ministry. But the United Nations will have to wait for security conditions to improve before human rights officials can visit Baghdad, he added.

Last year, Amnesty International (AI) expressed serious concern over photographs in a Norwegian newspaper showing Iraqis stripped naked and humiliated by U.S. soldiers.

''If these pictures are accurate, this is an appalling way to treat prisoners. Such degrading treatment is a clear violation of the responsibility of the occupying powers,'' AI said.

On Tuesday, Canada's 'Globe and Mail' newspaper reported that the Reuters news agency lodged a complaint with the Pentagon after three of its Iraqi journalists were «bullied» by U.S. soldiers.

A family member of one of them said the men were stripped and forced to stand naked with their hands in the air for hours.

''Let me be blunt here,'' said Solomon. ''The U.S. government is clearly engaging in all sorts of human rights violations in Iraq.''

The Bush administration's ''fully-justified condemnations of the cruelties of (former Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein's regime are a matched set with Washington's willingness to engage in cruelties when it suits the agenda of the occupiers'', he added.

Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of War, told IPS that Iraqis fall into either one of two categories: either they are prisoners of war within the meaning of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, or else they are civilians and thus qualify as ''protected persons'' under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

''But it does not appear that the U.S. government, as the belligerent occupant, is paying strict attention to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, just as it has not done so in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay,'' Boyle said.

While the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has supervisory jurisdiction for the Geneva Conventions, ''certainly the United Nations has in the past and should under the present circumstances insist that the United States, United Kingdom and their so-called allied forces in Iraq adhere to the punctilio of the four Geneva Conventions'', he added.

''Failure or refusal by the United States, the United Kingdom and their allied occupying powers in Iraq to obey the conventions creates personal criminal responsibility under international criminal law,'' said Boyle, author of 'Destroying World Order: U.S.. Imperialism in the Middle East Before and After September 11'.

Responding to widespread protests and complaints, last week the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad released more than 500 Iraqi soldiers, of the roughly 12,800 prisoners in U.S. custody — virtually all of them held without charges.

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Avatar for bhebb спустя 48 дней (2 марта 2004)
bhebb

[quote=pobedash]
Funny thing is that many American scholars are much more optimistic about democratic processes in Russia than we are.
Can it be that we tend to idealize democracy, or we think that our parties are not «real» parties, or what?
It is quite understandable that many of us are really upset about the results of the elections, but that was the free choice of the majority and it was done in a democratic way.
/quote

Democracy is first complicated because it means many different things to different people - and often the debates people are having is over their use of different definitions. Once you have a defitinition, only then is it possible to list a criteria that a democracy must meet to be considered a democracy - and it is unlikely that any society will ever meet in every way this definition. Instead it is something that will likely change as people's wills change, and as political arguments demand new definitions, criteria , and policies to achieve those ends. In other words, a true democracy is not something we will likely ever achieve - but always a work in progress, so we should never be surprised that it does not exist, but on the other hand, should not stop striving towards it because that is progress, improvement.

Defining democracy is easiest by starting with what it must not mean. A democracy cannot mean, simply, that voting takes place, or that everything is subject to a vote. In Turkmenistan, voting takes place, but there is only really one choice. Thus, ballots alone cannot indicate democracy - we must mean and accept the idea that there are choices on the ballot. That people could choose one government or at least one other for there to be choice. Second, this choice must be real. The second choice must be one that people could actually select as an alternative government - it must therefore be different, markedly, from the current regime, and it must actually be able to take over. Thus, the choices must be effective. Note also that this must mean something else. It must not depend on majority rule. One government may be elected by 95% of the population and the alternative received 5%, only. But that 5% party must be protected from oppression since next election, they may be popular if the current government makes mistakes. Thus, implicit in this definition of democracy is the idea that there must be a limit on majority power to be a true democracy - there must be a consitutional limit to protect opposition, no matter how small, since they represent future potential choices on the ballot. Thus, democracy cannot mean simply voting takes place, and it cannot simply mean 50 +1 % rule forever and always - there are limits on majority power necessarily.

Democracy is further complicated by this limit on majority rule. There is no reason to subject everything to voting in a true democracy. We do not subject each person's choice in who they marry to majority rule. We do not subject everyone's choice on what to wear based on majority rule, or what jobs they should take. Why not? If the majority of people vote that I should not wear a T-shirt does my refusal to obey mean that I am unpatriotic? This may sound silly, but the point is crucial. Democracies must have a clearly defined set of consititutional limits on what the majority can rule on from what it cannot - if there is no reason to rule - if there is no reason to prevent someone from beahving in some way - then it should not be subject to majority conformist pressure. There must always be individual rights protection in a democracy.

The constitution must also be flexible and inflexible. Fundamentally the law must clearly outline what the majority can vote on, when and where and how, as well as protect the rights, certain rights of the indivudal. And if a crises emerges, such as a war, the departure from these rules, even temporary, may not be justified. If it could be, then every government which holds power need only convince the public of an impending crises as justifying its rule and refusal to adhere to its constitution - thus why bother having a constitution if it does not have to be adhered to - if it is subject to arbitrary rule? However, new conditions emerge, and new situations come up, which the writers of the constitution could never have thought about. There is no surprise that the internet is not mentioned in the US constitution, nor are drugs, the sale or production of alcohol, or really even freedom of speech. Nor was it imagined that terrorism would pose a problem. There have to be additional rules about how to resolve genuinely new issues, yet stay fundamentally on course.

These are only some of the more complicated principles in a democracy. But yet these simple principles provide a useful framework for thinking about Russia, and the USA, and in which ways they are progressing, staying the same or regressing. More importantly, what they need to do to progress. No one will ever find a president that acts in every way they they themselves approve of, and no society should ever coincidentally conform to the wishes of every single member - these types of crtiteria can be dropped as idle chitchat.

What makes Putin democratic? What makes Bush Autocratic?

Barrie Hebb

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Avatar for bhebb спустя 21 час (3 марта 2004)
bhebb

[quote=ekorovina]Funny thing is that many American scholars are much more optimistic about democratic processes in Russia than we are.
Can it be that we tend to idealize democracy, or we think that our parties are not «real» parties, or what?
It is quite understandable that many of us are really upset about the results of the elections, but that was the free choice of the majority and it was done in a democratic way. /quote
I think that American scholars are very optimistic about the state of democracy in the US as well, although recently I have often heard (in TV programmes) or read in newspapers that Americans are now really afraid to speak negatively about the current policies of the Bush administration. And anyway, even if this time it was a FREE choice of the majority in Russia, there's no guarantee that the same will happen in another four years time. I don't mean we are on the verge of losing whatever democratic principles we have, but the new Duma does make me wonder about the future. /quote
Above I have mentioned only some of the principles of a democracy. I obviously choose to include some, and therefore exclude others, and I may be accused of being arbitrary. So therefore, I must explain, if I am at least attempting to be objective, some reason for this inclusion exclusion of mine. I choose to emphasize those principles, generally, which show quickly that democracy does not imply a simply majority rules forever and always. I did this simply because most of the media I read seems to declare that a country is or is not a democracy by whether the majority support something. For example, in America today one of the largest questions being faced is the definition of marriage and whether gays, lesbians, and transgendered people should be afforded the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. If 50.1% of Americans or more support excluding the extension of this right – is that not what a democracy is about? Not necessarily if you accept some of the principles I have already pointed out – the majority is not free to choose everything – there are limits which protect minorities in all REAL democracies and one has to be careful about where lines are drawn.

For now, I think Dmitry is right to state that many Americans (not only Americans though) are more optimistic about Russia than are Russians themselves. First, I wish to point out that this is a generalization and what I means is that of course some Americans are pessimistic while some Russians are optimistic, I simply mean than if you look at the internal arguments of these two societies, this generalization seems to be true. Why do I think that there is a great reason to be optimistic about Russian democratic, and Russian liberal progress?

The first and primary reason is this: and it is best to leave it the way it is. The very fact that Russians are pessimistic and think they are behind is what gives them the incentive to change and try radical things – it is what gives them the reason to in reality progress. What gives America the lack of incentive to reform is the very fact that they think they are a model for others to emulate. If you think you are the best, whether it is true or not, you cannot improve by looking elsewhere. If you think you are behind, and you WANT to catch up, you will try things and experiment. A student who receives effortlessly an A will not have the same incentive to try a new method or learn when something new comes along as the student who receives less. Reform comes from without, not from within, typically.

If you take some examples, the Russian intelligentsia in the middle 1800s were familiar with an English writer, John Stuart Mill. Mill was ahead of his time in many ways, but especially in regards to women. He thought, rationally, that there is no reason to suspect that women are inferior to men and he was a great advocate of equality of the sexes. Russian reformers read this with great zeal. But more importantly, they must have thought how far behind Czarist Russia was from this ideal and they began implementing reforms to allow women to enter universities and Russia had female medical doctors far earlier than the West as a result. But it is clear that had the Russians thought they were not behind, and been eager to catch up, they might not have done this. Thus, I argue that it is the very fact that Russia complains about its state of democracy that is the necessary condition for progress and reform. People have to first recognize that there are problems and admit them, then desire to change them. If no problems are admitted, then what is there to change? People have to point out not only what is wrong, but a way towards genuine progress – and democracy is more about providing a method for this healthy debate, constantly, than ever achieving a static society where people simply mark x’s on a ballot.

There are many other reasons why I am encouraged to look towards Russia for reform and progress democratically. Russia historically has challenged the western view of society repeatedly. Russia marched on Paris and defeated Napoleon with a far smaller army against the odds. Alexander the first, in spite of being born a Noble birth, used his position in some ways to implement reforms that were against his own personal interests – such as granting constitutions to other colonial states – which no English empire would have done of its own accord. This is a very serious challenge to active and conscious reform. When Marx predicted which societies would have a violent overthrow and result in a communist society, America was first on the list and Russia would have been the last – in the sort of developed world as it was seen at the time. Chernishevsky had to argue with Marx that it was possible, theoretically and historically for Russia to skip parts of history and achieve communism. Even then, Economic Theory in most of the developed world predicted Russia could not survive and that planning could not be done even for one year. This was done, for 70. And if you look at IBM or any corporation in the free market societies, they all have long term plans and actually, in theory, they are using theories developed by Slutsky, Leontief, Kondratieff and Marx, albeit they place different words on it.

But the most important economic reason that I would use to state that I am optimistic about Russia’s progress is the idea of access and equality. In the West, even though we call Canada and the USA liberal states, and we point to the great universities, the easy lifestyle, and the multitude of goods and services and shops and food available for the masses, the fact of the matter is that you need money to access any of these things, and it is not distributed equally – and therefore different people have different degrees of access – most have little while a small, and very visible minority, live well. Anyone who wishes to attend Harvard and meets the qualifications can go. They do not discriminate based on race, creed, color, or sexual orientation. But they do discriminate based on ability to pay an afford the excessively high tuition rates. A minority of Americans can really afford these rates. And people’s incomes in the USA are based more on luck than anything else. Rich families tend to have rich children and they get to go to the best schools and get the best jobs while poorer families do not – unless they win a lottery and receive a scholarship – which are extremely exceptional. Poverty perpetuates poverty and wealth perpetuates wealth in America and although it is possible to show that some poor people have managed to become wealthy, it is an exception – it is a possibility and not a probability. On the surface, America boasts equality and hard work, but under the surface, it perpetuates discrimination based on income which is often based on color, race, creed – simply birth luck. And this is unfortunate because it is not as if God, in whom America places its trust right now, actually makes it so that the best and brightest are born into families with the most resources and the less talented are born in poor families, so that this all works out nicely and the poor, even if they were given more, would not succeed anyway. Prisoners do not give birth to criminals in prison – nature does not act in ways which promote the social good by shear luck.

But America will never really become a true democracy in providing people with real equal opportunity in the state until it admits this problem is real and must be resolved by conscious human effort. The Russian version is the opposite – it is only by active intervention that the luck of nature can be tampered with to provide opportunity for the masses where nature has not so blessed society. To think more carefully about this, think about all of the famous European artists, writers, professors, thinkers, inventors. Now ask yourself what portion of the population they represent? And for the most part, from what kinds of family backgrounds did most of them come? Small portion most of whom came from families who could provide education and opportunities for their children – a small minority for most of history. Now think of all that same talented, maybe 1 or 2% or the population, and imagine how many thoughts, inventions, music and art we may have had from an even larger group of people who have been poor, but likely born with talents, which have never been encouraged because they were too busy just trying to survive. In other words, if Europe had 100 million people, and they produced all of this great stuff, how much would have been produced had the other several billion in the world, with the same percentage of talent, have achieved if only they had a bit of a chance?

I hope Russia does not adopt the elitist system that is the West and instead, sees through this image that has been painted beautifully by those in power in the West, and instead takes its own course, as it has done in the past. The world must have a challenger which poses problems and new solutions, particularly to those who think there are none.

Barrie Hebb

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Avatar for nks спустя 10 дней (14 марта 2004)
nks

[quote=pobedash]Funny thing is that many American scholars are much more optimistic about democratic processes in Russia than we are.
Can it be that we tend to idealize democracy, or we think that our parties are not «real» parties, or what?
It is quite understandable that many of us are really upset about the results of the elections, but that was the free choice of the majority and it was done in a democratic way. /quote

Yes, it was a free choice. How much was the result due to the disorganisation and infighting of the minority parties.

Democracy is dificult to define, it means different things to different people. However, you still seem to have free speech, movement, no restrictions on who you meet and the internet is uncensored so that information about the rest of the world is readily available, unlike the situation in China for example!

I, too, am optimistic about Russia, but I look one or two generations ahead to when you younger people gain more influence.

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photo спустя 16 дней (30 марта 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

I could only hope that you are right and in 1-2 generations we'll be still Slavs but not slaves ...

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photo спустя 48 дней (18 мая 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

ALBERTO R. GONZALES, the councel to the President, wrote an article The Rule of Law and the Rules of War. It was published in the New York Times on  May 15, 2004 and discusses attitude towards Al Qaeda terrorists and Iraqi POWs.

The article can be found at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/15/opinion/15GONZ.html?th=&pagewanted=print&position=>

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Avatar for tammer спустя 5 дней (23 мая 2004)
tammer

Looks like American theorists rely on the strong connection between the democratic form of governing and the stable political order based on the hegemony of one country. That's why the USA have been such an energeic exporter of democracy during the last century and especially after the end of the Cold War.
Charles Popper once said 'We choose a democracy only to avoid a tyranny'. Is it really so I wonder?

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Avatar for ekorovina спустя 5 дней (29 мая 2004)
Екатерина Коровина

May I turn our discussion into a slightly different direction? At the university - and many other places - we learn that a liberal democratic state (LDS) is a perfect model for the organization of political space. But just how liberal and democratic can a state get? The liberal part interests me especially. Civil liberties are one of the key elements of the LDS (as I found out during the Stanford terrorism course), but if we take privacy, for example, it is very often violated - to use the word most frequent in this context - by the secret services. Our letters may be read, our e-mails are all being checked, our phone conversations may be tapped. And it doesn't only concern «suspicious» citizens, but, I suppose, most of us.

In most larger organizations, firms, companies there are representatives of the secret services who may hold some official position, but who are in fact observing what is going on.

Actually this is not appalling, I think, considering that the state must protect itself somehow and form its policies. To do that efficiently, the state needs information and gets it this way.

But that brings us back to my question: what does LDS mean in this context? Is there a liberal state in the classical sense of the word? Or maybe I have misunderstood the concept all this time? Yet, NOBODY ever tells you the concept has its limits. Instead, you read and hear that liberalism is universal and wants to be applied to all circumstances. Gives food for thought, doesn't it?

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photo спустя 2 дня (1 июня 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

Here is an abstract from a recent article in NY Tymes that is about IRaq but mentions Russia as well:

Is Vladimir Putin's Russia today a Jeffersonian democracy? Of course not. But it is a huge nation that was tilted in the wrong direction and is now tilted in the right direction. My definition of a country tilted in the right direction is a country where there is enough free market, enough rule
of law, enough free press, speech and exchange of ideas that the true agent of change in history - which is something that takes nine months and 21 years to develop, i.e. a generation - can grow up, plan its future and realize its potential.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/30/opinion/30FRIE.html?th=&pagewanted=print&position=>

The New York Times

May 30, 2004
OP-ED COLUMNIST

Tilting the Playing Field
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

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Avatar for tammer спустя 12 часов (1 июня 2004)
tammer

«What might an Iraq tilted in the right direction look like? It would be more religious than Turkey, more secular than Iran, more federal than Syria, more democratic than Saudi Arabia and more stable than Afghanistan.»
it's amazing, isn't it? Some kind of 'political genetics'.

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photo спустя 11 часов (2 июня 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

Exactly, political genetics. And that is one of the sources of anti-americanism that the lone superpower is so eager to play the role of a genetics engineer. Come to think of it, who wouldn't want to change the world after her/his own image and likeness?

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Avatar for tammer спустя 1 день (3 июня 2004)
tammer

As for changing of the world if we take it seriously in a philosophical aspect, there's a nice article (in Russian, though) on http://www.russ.ru/politics/20030317-rem.html

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Avatar for ekorovina спустя 35 дней (8 июля 2004)
Екатерина Коровина

Back in December, right after the Duma elections, Dmitry Ivanovich argued that the results of the elections were a free choice of our people and in so far should not be interpreted as undemocratic. My point was that even though the elections were free and truly reflected the general public feeling, they showed that there was little sympathy in our society for democratic and liberal principles.

Now, I think, there are plenty of indications that our society has stopped being liberal and democratic, and not because citizens have been deprived of fundamental rights and liberties, but because they have no desire to defend them and give them away of their own free will. Our Regional Duma provides a perfect example of this: its majority has decided to give up the Duma's right to dismiss the Regional Government. Moreover, it has also deprived the Government itself of the right to step down. Now it is only the Governor who is capable of dismissing it. How come a parliament no longer wants to control a government, the legislative power doesn't want to control the executive? Can anyone imagine that in a society committed to democracy?

Another example that was a profound shock for me: when the Chechen terrorists again attacked Ingushetia (sorry, I've no time to find the proper English name of the country) and killed almost one hundred people within a day, what were the final political talk-shows on that week's Friday about? In «Osnovnoy Instinkt» with Ms. Sorokina they were arguing whether Philippe Kirkorov had a right to insult Ms. Aroyan, and in «Svoboda Slova» - whether it was the fault of Mr. Yartsev that our football team had lost most of the games it had played at the European Football Championship. Not a word was said about the events in Ingushetia. I could not believe my ears. If this is not a proof of the end of liberalism, democracy and all healthy instincts, then I don't know what is.

Apart from this, has it ever occurred to those reading this message how effectively in the last three years the NTV channel was emasculated? First, they dismissed a team of highly motivated and professional journalists. Then they closed «Namedni» and sacked Mr. Parfyonov. And now it is rumoured that the remaining key programs of the channel - «Svoboda Slova», «Lichny Vklad» and finally «Strana i Mir» - are going to be closed as well, as a part of the new general director's policies. What kills me is not even the fact that the programs are being closed because of their political orientation, but the fact that highly professional programs like «Namedni» or «Svoboda Slova» have not been spared despite their top quality journalism. What will be left to us? Emptiness? Programs of the 9 1/2 type? Soap operas? Reality shows? What one seems to need is loalty and mechanical obedience, but not talent and skills, not the ability to think critically and independently. In so far, I believe, this is the most dangerous thing of all - this kind of priorities.

I am sorry if my message is not clearly structured. But what I want to say is that in my opinion we have little democracy and freedom left, because few people seem to need them.

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photo спустя 1 день (10 июля 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

My point exactly - we don't have enough democracy because the majority doesn not care about such trifles. As for a parliament that doesn not want to exercise control over the executive branch of power - actually in any truly democratic country there is constant fighting between different branches. Democracy is not something that you achieve once and for all, but something you should fight for. Quite an important point about this fighting though, that one should also be ready to fight for others' rights, including those that you might not like. The essence of a Western liberal democracy is nicely described by the famous phrase: «I may not agree with what you say, but I'll fight to the death for your right to die in a fire of suspicious origin».

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Avatar for ekorovina спустя 2 дня (13 июля 2004)
Екатерина Коровина

I agree that if one wants to be a true and logical liberal, one has to fight for the rights one doesn't approve of. But there is one thing about it that is worth mentioning.

The liberals who I heard of or whose works I read don't seem to be that logical and prepared to fight for their cause till the end. Of course they are able to organize a rally in front of the UN HQ in support of gay marriages in Greece, but those same people won't say a word against depriving other nations of their sovereignty on the false grounds. They are willing to allow soft drugs lest someone's vicious habits are publicly criticized or even punished, but they will silently let Albanian extremists destroy Serbian churches that are supposed to be under their protection without immediate public punitive measures. There are plenty of examples, these are only ones that immediately come to mind. And I believe it is not a coincidence, but a rule. Which is why, if I understood Dmitry Ivanovich's phrase correctly, I'd rather describe the essence of the Western liberalism in a slightly different way: «I would fight to death for your right to die in a fire of suspicious origin, but as regards political power and leadership, I won't easily let you say or do something I don't agree with».

Given what I have just said, I do admit that I am not liberal or democratic in the idealistic sense of the word. I am convinced that these values are not and should not be absolute, even if it sounds somewhat heresy-like. I do admit that this is a dangerous prerequisite to build upon, but I would go as far as to say that few people – usually those with no real power lying in their hands – would want liberalism or democracy to be absolute. And besides, I think that by saying so, I don't put forward a thesis, but just describe the reality.

But in case someone wonders how all of this complies with what I said in my previous message, I will say that unfortunately, at this point the only real alternative to democracy and liberalism, controversial as they are, in our country is totalitarianism. At least this is how I see it. And totalitarianism is an absolute evil. In order to defend ourselves from it, we must appeal to liberal principles in economics and politics, to our right to say what we think, and we must look for some practical means to make the authorities take our opinions into account. Otherwise – another interesting thing about modern democracies – you can shout and demonstrate, and nobody will forbid you to, because nobody will take notice.

Finally, I can quite honestly say that I haven't yet come to a definite conclusion – even for myself alone – how a state as a political space should be organized. In one of the other forum threads, I have already asked question about the limits of a liberal democratic state, but no-one could help me… Well, lack of attention at the due time made me a critic of the LDS :))

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photo спустя 7 часов (13 июля 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

"... at this point the only real alternative to democracy and liberalism, controversial as they are, in our country is totalitarianism. At least this is how I see it. And totalitarianism is an absolute evil".

An authoritarian (but not totalitarian!) state could be another option. Besides, I would not go as far as calling totalitarian regimes absolute evil. They are pretty good at lots of things - fighting terrorism is only one example.

"...interesting thing about modern democracies – you can shout and demonstrate, and nobody will forbid you to, because nobody will take notice".

I beg to differ. Public opinion is quite a serious force in Western countries and should not be disregarded. Granted, it can be manipulated to a certain extent, but it would not be wise to neglect it completely. One of the recent striking examples - Spanish elections after March 11 bombings. That's real civil society working!

«Finally, I can quite honestly say that I haven't yet come to a definite conclusion – even for myself alone – how a state as a political space should be organized».

Neither have I. But our discussion might be of some help.
One thing I really liked about the so-called Founding Fathers is that they believed that people are sinners, have no civic virtue and pursue only their selfish interests, but a truly liberal-democratic state can and should be built using their «pursuit of happiness», as Jefferson put it. Bearing that in mind, it might be better if we stopped thinking about great/sad/etc. Russian mission/idea/calling/fate/etc. and started thinking about one's own career/salary/etc.? Or it sounds too base for our enigmatic Slavic souls?

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Avatar for ekorovina спустя 12 дней (26 июля 2004)
Екатерина Коровина

I disagree with the statement that one of the merits of a totalitarian state that prevents one from calling it an absolute evil is that such a state can successfully combat terrorism. While it may be able to combat non-state terrorism, one of its ever-present elements is state terrorism directed against its own citizens, which I think is much worse if one can distinguish between the two.

I am not sure that public opinion is such a decisive factor in the Western politics, and I see the situation in Spain from a completely different point of view. One could say the Spanish deliberately changed their government, the policies of which no longer found public support, but one could also say that their actions were manipulated by the terrorists who had blown up the Madrid railways. As far as I know, before the explosions there were no clear indications that the Conservatives would lose the elections because of sending Spanish troops to Iraq.

Finally, the question of whether there is a real liberal-democratic state in the sense it is propagated seems to remain open.

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Avatar for tammer спустя 22 дня (18 августа 2004)
tammer

The working class will understand that, behind the backs of the [Czechoslovak] Central Committee and the government leadership, right-wingers were prepared to transform Czechoslovakia from a socialist into a bourgeois republic. All that is clear now. Talks on economic and other matters will begin. The departure of troops, etcetera, will begin according to material principles. We have not occupied Czechoslovakia, we do not intend to keep it under “occupation”, but we hope for her to be free and to undertake the socialist cooperation we have agreed upon in Bratislava. It is on that basis we want to talk with you and find a workable solution.(From Alexander Dubcek, Hope Dies Last(New York: Kodansha,1993), p.191 cit. by Karl E. Meyer, ‘America Unlimited: The Radical Sources of the Bush Doctrine’, World Policy Journal, Volume XXI, No.1, Spring 2004).

People just cannot escape the influence of the stereotypes. That’s the thing shaping the certain kind of mentality. People are bound to repeat themselves. And what is true for people could be true for the nations.

And here’s another something: Francis Fukuyama article on http://www.russ.ru/politics/20021106-fuk.html


I know it’s kind of old but the more interesting it is to compare with what he’s writing in his new article: ‘The Neoconservative Moment’ in The National Interest, No.76, Summer 2004.

“If the United States cannot create new global institutions, then it could try to pursue a vision of overlapping multilateral organizations on a regional basis. The bush Administration has stumbled into a six-power format for dealing with North Korea; why not seek to make permanent a five-power caucus once we (hopefully) get past the current impasse over nuclear weapons with Pyongyang? Such an organization could play a very valuable coordinating function in the event of, say, a sudden North Korean collapse. Mutual suspicions between Japan, Korea and china are high, and a multilateral forum would be a much better vehicle for sharing information and plans that the current system of bilateral alliances running through Washington. The Chinese in recent years have been pushing a series of regional pacts – ASEAN plus Three, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, a Northeast Asian Free Trade Area, and ultimately, an East Asian Free Trade Area – that they argue may some day serve as the basis for regional security arrangements as well. While the Japanese have seen these as bids for regional leadership and have replied in kind with trade pacts centered on themselves, the Bush administration has not, as far as I am aware, formulated anything like a coherent response. Do we simply want to swat down proposals for regional multilateral organizations, as we did in the case of Mahatir’s East Asian Community in the early 1990s or Japan’s proposal after the Asian financial crisis for a regional IMF, or do we want to engage with the region and shape such proposals in ways that can suit our own interests? I believe that East Asia is under-institutionalized and ripe for some creative thinking by the United States”.

So looks like here another law of Nature works: everything is coming to its balance. The unipolar world simply doesn’t work, for every force there should be certain kind of counterforce. If it can’t be Europe or Russia why couldn’t it be China?
The situation might change if say Democrats win the elections. I don’t know what you think about uncharismatic John Kerry, but I do really doubt he can manage it. The strongest support he’s got is the Viet–Nam veteransJ
‘It’s an evolutionary imperative that the strong survive and the weak perish. At this time, we’re the most powerful and the richest organism around. I like it that way. Why should I feel guilty?”

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Avatar for tammer спустя 9 дней (28 августа 2004)
tammer

Hannah Arendt

Action and the pursuit of happiness
Among the many surprises this country holds in store for its new citizens, especially of European background and origin, there is the amazing discovery that “pursuit of happiness” which the Declaration of Independence asserted to be one of the inalienable human rights has remained to this day considerably more than meaningless phrase and an empty word in the public and private life of the American Republic. To the extent that there is such a thing as an American frame of mind, it certainly has been deeply influenced, for better or worse, by this most elusive of all human rights which apparently entitles men, in the words of Howard Humford Jones, to “the ghastly privilege of pursuing a phantom and embracing a delusion.” …
That the phenomenon of action as one of the elementary human activities might contain a clue in this matter was suggested to me by an incident which, though of no great significance in itself, happened to revive certain trains of thought which has lain dormant at the back of my mind for some time. The incident convinced me of the old verity that nothing is more overlooked than what lies before everybody’s nose. My justification for telling you about it is that I have always believed that, no matter how abstract our theories may sound or how consistent our arguments may appear, there are incidents and stories behind them which, at least for us ourselves, contain as in a nutshell the full meaning of whatever we have to say. Thought itself – to the extent that it is more than a technical, logical operation which electronic machines may be better equipped to perform tan the human brain – arises out of the actuality of incidents, and incidents of living experience must remain its guideposts by which it takes its bearings, if it is not to lose itself in the heights to which thinking nears, or in the depths to which it must descend. In other words, the curve which the activity of thought describes must remain bound to incident as the circle remains bound to its focus; and the only gain one might legitimately expect from this most mysterious of human activities is not a result, such as a definition, or attainment of a goal, such as a theory, but rather the slow, plodding discovery and, perhaps, the mapping survey of the region which some incident had illuminated for a fleeting moment.

http://memory.loc.gov/mss/mharendt_pub/05/051010/0001d.jpg
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photo спустя 3 дня (31 августа 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

«While it may be able to combat non-state terrorism, one of its ever-present elements is state terrorism directed against its own citizens, which I think is much worse if one can distinguish between the two.»

Let's assume that the term «terrorism» in our discussion means «political use of terror», in other words, frightening people into doing (or not doing) something. If we accept it as a working definition, then i would argue that even in a very totalitarian Soviet Union terrorizing people into some sort of action did NOT play a major role. Custom, tradition, social pressure, beliefs were much more important factors influencing social behaviour.

«I am not sure that public opinion is such a decisive factor in the Western politics»

That is something i would strongly disagree with. Public opinion might not be THE decisive factor, but is among the most important and is certainly to be taken into consideration by any politician.
Even the point that it is manipulated shows that it is important enough. Even in your example terrorists find it worth manipulating. Anyway, the dramatic changes were made by people who organized themselves, not by authorities. This public action still seems to me a good example of  a civil society, and whether they were frightened by terrorists is another issue.

«Finally, the question of whether there is a real liberal-democratic state in the sense it is propagated seems to remain open».

I would agree wholeheartedly if you change it into «there is a real liberal-democratic state in the sense it is propagated»

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photo спустя 7 минут (31 августа 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

“pursuit of happiness” which the Declaration of Independence asserted to be one of the inalienable human rights has remained to this day considerably more than meaningless phrase and an empty word in the public and private life of the American Republic.

That is a very nice way of saying «Americans are still greedy». Well, so are many other people...

Actually, at a certain stage instead of «pursuit of happiness» it was honestly said «private property». But, on the other hand, who could say that the two are equal?

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Avatar for tammer спустя 4 дня (4 сентября 2004)
tammer

I'm afraid I've lost your idea at some stage. It's unbeilivable how different is the male/female comprehension of the very same text.
What I was thinking about is that many of your ideas could be somehow influenced by this 'American-like frame of mind'.
So, from my side, it was just some kind of association working, nothing more

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photo спустя 24 дня (29 сентября 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

The most bitter critique of America can be heard from Americans. A very concerned American wrote the following:

Come hear our pipe dream where the greed of our large companies (who we gave subsidies to sell nuclear plants to all these countries we are worried about now) does not come back to bite us in the ass! See us avoid mentioning that our cries of Wolf! in Iraq are why we are so screwed in dealing with the real threats! Watch as we attempt to «isolate» a country for violations of a treaty we ourselves are violating! Marvel as we boldly pretend to have allies and people who believe our «intelligence.» Gasp as we pretend that going into Iraq was not the biggest gift the Iranians ever got, pinning down our own forces for the foreseeable future and wiping out their enemy Saddam as well as any possible threat from Iraq in the next twenty years!

My own comments: have we heard anything of the sort about Russia?

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Avatar for tammer спустя 9 дней (9 октября 2004)
tammer

'God has a plan. Bush will hold back the evil'
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,13918,1323316,00.html

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photo спустя 27 дней (5 ноября 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

Last month a worldwide survey was conducted by the UN. The question asked was:

Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?

The Survey was a huge failure...

In Eastern Europe they did not know what 'honest' meant.
In Africa they did not know what 'food' meant.
In Western Europe they did not know what 'shortage' meant.
In China they did not know what 'opinion' meant.
In the Middle East they did not know what 'solution' meant.
In South America they did not know what 'please' meant.
And in the US they did not know what 'the rest of the world' meant.

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Avatar for tammer спустя 5 дней (10 ноября 2004)
tammer

Philip James is a former senior Democratic party strategist so I guess this article might be of some interest.
Here endeth the lesson http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,,1344461,00.html

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photo спустя 13 дней (24 ноября 2004)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

An American lecturer David Cowell had a discussion with a group of our students. He spoke about AIDS and about grassroots movements, civil society and the role of a concerned citizen in combatting this threat. It could be quite an interesting topic for discussion: whether civil siciety and a concerned individual can be instrumental in combatting global threats. Comments?

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photo спустя 140 дней (13 апреля 2005)
Дмитрий Победаш

сотрудник

We've already discussed that in Russian, but anyway, here it goes:

'Offensive' Art

Friday, April 8, 2005; Page A24

IN JANUARY 2003 vandals entered an art exhibition in Moscow and used spray paint to destroy many of the «offensive» paintings. It's not the first such incident in the annals of modern art, but this time the story had several peculiarly Russian twists. The gallery was part of the Andrei Sakharov Museum, set up in 1994 to preserve the legacy of Russia's best-known human rights activist. The exhibition, titled «Caution! Religion,» was intended, the curators explained, to get people to focus on the danger of religious fanaticism and prejudice in a country where only Russian Orthodoxy has any firm legal status. The vandals were acolytes of the Russian Orthodox Church. After a brief investigation, charges against them were dropped on the grounds that the exhibition was indeed offensive. Instead, museum administrators were put on trial. Last week a judge found the museum's executive director, Yuri Samodurov, guilty of «inciting hatred»; also convicted were a colleague and an exhibiting artist. All were fined.

First among the disturbing elements in this story is its eerie echoes of the past. In the history of the Soviet dissident movement, two key events — Nikita Khrushchev's closing of an exhibition of unofficial art in 1962 and the KGB's bulldozing of a similar exhibition in 1974 — involved conflicts over artistic license and freedom of expression. The case also illustrates the degree to which Russian justice is once again becoming beholden to the whim of authority. The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and religion and forbids censorship — none of which dissuaded prosecutors from demanding that museum administrators be held criminally accountable.

Most disturbing are hints that the attack on the Sakharov Museum's directors may have nothing to do with art and everything to do with their opposition to the war in Chechnya. In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the priest of the church whose acolytes organized the vandalism accused the museum of intending to corrupt «the morals of Russian society and the Russian army» through antiwar activity. What may be challenged here is the continued existence of political opposition in Russia. We hope that President Bush, who has described Mr. Putin as his friend many times, is watching the outcome closely.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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