Calls for the 'democrats to unite' have already made
my mouth sore. Consequently I would prefer not to answer
them once again. However, I feel that I have to, as the
two sources of such calls - political intrigue and political
ignorance - both remain very dangerous. They pose a threat
to the future of democracy.
At present the Yabloko faction has been the most consistent
opposition force in Russia's parliament. This opposition
has adhered to the following openly declared positions:
- a refusal to accept the way power is structured at present;
a rejection of the pro-presidential Constitution; a demand
for a parliamentary investigation into the events that
took place on October 3-4 1993 (Editor: when riots occurred
and were followed by the bombing of Russia's parliament);
- refusal to support the unrealistic draft budgets for
1994 and 1995 proposed by the government; rejection of
presidential drafts on electoral legislation; condemnation
of inept military action in Chechnya.
For some reason all the other factions demonstrated their
loyalty to the President: they failed to share at least
two of the positions expressed by Yabloko (for example,
the communists, failed to share positions 2 and 4). Russia's
Choice - which has expressed more and more frequently
a desire for a merger with our party - adopted an opposite
viewpoint on the first four issues. Currently the LDPR
(Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) represents an absolute
antithesis to Yabloko. It has been the most consistent
pro-presidential faction in the State Duma.
Yabloko's ideology has evolved in response to a number
of social and political challenges.
- a fiasco of the radical phase of the democratic movement,
after the democrats supported the act of political vandalism
that occurred on October 3-4 and Yeltsin's anti-democratic
Constitution; the collapse of the radical-liberal project
of economic reforms associated with Yegor Gaidar's name;
the growth of authoritarian and oligarchic trends in society.
Ideology is a special form of intellectual creativity
with its own attributes. An acute polemical aspect is
one such attribute: ideology evolves in the polemics of
some opponents who can always be ranked in terms of their
importance by the development of key ideological principles.
The communist party was opponent number 1 for the democrats
of the radical-populist wave of 1989-1991. Since then
the radical democrats have represented our main opponent.
Yabloko stands out owing to the constant need to oppose
the advocates of a primitive and hopelessly discredited
image of democracy, who were formerly united under the
banners of Democratic Russia to obtain more and more power
for Boris Yeltsin. The mindset of these democrats who
backed Boris Yeltsin after some insignificant changes
is represented politically by Russia's Choice. However,
we have seen no evidence to indicate that this party is
inclined to revise some of the radical positions that
were decisive for its predecessors and present members.
Despite this fact, the leader and other representatives
of Russia's Choice constantly repeat calls for a union
with Yabloko. They consider Yabloko's ideological differences
as insignificant and attribute them to mere ambition.
But we believe that these differences are essential,
especially in terms of one's understanding of democracy,
the methods of developing a democracy in our society and
the principles of democratic behaviour in politics. That
is why we are ready to explain, repeatedly and patiently,
the positions that prevent us (the members of the Yabloko
faction) from regarding the democrats who supported Boris
Yeltsin and their successors from Russia's Choice as our
Yabloko's view of democracy is diametrically opposed
to the coarse comprehension of democracy expressed by
radicals. Here we differentiate our views according to
the following parameters.
Differences between the institutional and individual
According to Yabloko, democracy implies a system of legally
established institutions and procedures; it is regarded
by radical democrats as the power of certain individuals,
involving the common ownership of some aggregate emotions
and ideas. An individual approach here implies a democracy
based on a dictatorship of democrats. Consequently
the cult of Pinochet is extremely popular with these people.
Radicals are prepared to term any dictatorial moves by
the President as 'defence of democracy', provided that
these actions coincide with their emotions and views.
Taking their loyalty to extremes, they forgave their idol
not only his mistakes, but also his crimes. The temptation
of sensibility often served as a pretext for any failure
to adhere to the principle of compliance with the law.
This is categorically unacceptable for Yabloko. In our
opinion, when the authorities pursue their political goals,
compliance with democratic procedures (in other words,
laws) is as important as their actual goals.
The 1993 Constitution represents the apotheosis of individual
thinking, whereas the hybrid form of governance was only
chosen to provide unproportionally large powers to a certain
figure - Boris Yeltsin.
In general a very strange understanding of presidential
power has emerged in Russia. Nobody knows the reason why
people believe that there should necessarily be a strong
power, when they imply by this term the absence of any
controls over power. This understanding - which became
the ideological basis of the new Constitution - rapidly
led to a deterioration of power, rather than its consolidation:
a lack of external controls deprived this power of any
sense of internal self-regulation.
Yabloko adheres to a principally different opinion, whereby
the source of power for the executive authority involves
strict control over its actions by parliament and society.
Such control is required to both prevent widespread abuse
of executive power and make it as effective as possible.
The restoration of a balance in the executive branches
of power constitutes one of the central tenets of Yabloko's
political programme. Here we are also irreconcilable opponents
of Russia's Choice, which backed passionately the pro-presidential
version of the Constitution in December 1993. If we bear
this fact in mind, the actual criticism by Russia's Choice
of the actions of the Russian authorities in Chechnya
looks paradoxical, as the possibilities for such arbitrary
rule result directly from the provisions of the present
Difference between confrontation-based and stability-based
Yabloko regards democracy in a positive light
as an effective system for distributing power and encouraging
the authorities to work for society, rather than for themselves.
The radicals value most its negative aspects: they
consider democracy as a negation of communism, a tool
to be used in the struggle against the CPRU (Communist
Party of Russia), the so-called "red-and-browns".
Their favourite means of mobilizing opinion is to boost
negative emotions by referring to the return of the nomenclatura
and the advance of fascism, etc. However, it is obvious
that attempts to nurture confrontation and fan public
hysteria constitute the basic framework for radical and
If we want to eliminate the grounds for such movements,
we must engage in patient and positive work to create
the pre-requisites of social peace rather than hysteria.
One of Yabloko's proclaimed goals is to switch from holding
meetings to discus ideas with the public to engaging in
daily work with different social and professional groups
that does not imply quick success. The main resource here
is the intellect rather than mere speech.
Correspondingly, ideas expressed by radicals about the
victory of democracy are painted in "repressive"
colours: this represents the total and utter defeat of
communism/fascism. Here the marxist paradigm of policy
(that is deeply ingrained in "Soviet soil")
was proclaimed as a ruthless battle between different
parts of society, followed by the final suppression of
one group. The enthusiasm of ruthless fighting runs deep
through all the political actions of the presidential
team and is the initial source of the bloody tragedies
that occurred in Moscow in Autumn 1993 and in Chechnya
Irrespective of the aims and goals of such policy, such
enthusiasm is destructive for society and rules out all
prospects for stabilisation in Russia. Yabloko regards
stability as the most important goal required for the
development of democratic institutions. The social prerequisites
for democracy are created through gradual consolidation,
achieved on the basis of a balance of interests and finally
through the consensus of different political forces over
minimum set values.
Another basic tenet of the Bolshevik mindset is inherent
in the revolutionary thoughts of radical democrats. Their
obsession with eliminating everything is reminiscent of
the Soviet era, which caused considerable harm and involved
payment in blood. But the difference between the reforms
and the revolution concerns adherence to a [succession]
principle. The events and the institutions that continue
to function and serve people should not be subject to
mindless interruption, especially when there is no clear
vision on how they should be changed. For example free
state education and health care were undoubtedly positive
achievements of the Soviet era. Any attempt to rapidly
privatise and commercialise these areas would lead to
social catastrophe. We should be very careful if we move
in this direction; we should realise that the state will
never be able to abandon its role in some fundamental
structures in education and health care to voluntary market
Attitude to corruption
Yeltsin's democrats have displayed a shameful tolerance
of corruption. They often sought ideological market excuses
for this vice of the state, which would not affect the
authority of these democrats. They are to blame for the
rejection by mass consciousness of democracy and its subsequent
identification of democracy with corruption. The myth
that primary accumulation of capital justifies economic
crimes inflicted colossal damage on the Russian state.
However, nobody has been able to prove the hypothesis
that dirty capital can be transformed into clean money.
Yabloko thinks that the elimination of corruption in
all the levels of state power is dependent above all on
the following: the clearly proclaimed intention
of the country's political leadership to eradicate corruption.
Today our authorities lack this will. Corruption by the
state executive authorities cannot be justified by the
idea of some political, economic or other benefit. The
joint will of the people embodied in the institution of
the state must never be harmed by private self-interest.
The state won't be able to protect citizens from criminals
without first eradicating crime in its structures. And
this is its first and foremost duty.
Priority of a civil society
The first set of democrats were characterised by a failure
to tackle the problems of self-governance and a civil
society. It was assumed that the latter would emerge independently,
as soon as the state will liberated the citizens from
its care. The system of soviets (Ed. local councils under
the communist regime) may be criticised for many things.
However, we must admit that at its lowest level (district
level) it could have become a real prototype for fully
fledged local self-government. Is this the reason why
the soviets were eliminated by Boris Yeltsin in October-November
1993 to the applause of the so-called democratic camp?
Consequently Russia lacks today the most important unit
of democratic order - a self-governed territorial community.
At the same time local executive authorities, subject
to a situation of absolute deregulation, demonstrate the
wonders of administrative arbitrariness.
Today, when the shoots of self-government have been eradicated
from Russian soil, the President has the requisite resources
to engage in pompous ceremonies, where people - who had
until recently applauded the decision to stifle self-government
- can now express their belief in such structures.
Yabloko believes that it is the state's duty to create
an infrastructure of local self-government, which can
assume most of the responsibility for resolving vital
problems that no other state authority can handle. State
guarantees of support and protection of other vital basic
forms of independent organisation by citizens (housing
associations, primary school and other school commissions,
youth organisations, mutual assistance groups, professional
associations, leisure and sport clubs, etc) are of principle
In general, we regard the state as the most important
instrument for building a civil society, which is also
required by the state as a partner, which can resolve
many of the problems that the country has to face today.
Role of the state in the economy
A key ideological provision separates Yabloko from Russia's
Choice: our view on the state's role in the development
of a market economy. Contrary to the followers of Yegor
Gaidar, the advocates of Grigory Yavlinsky think that
the state cannot "abandon" the economy, until
it has created the requisite market infrastructure, preventing
its development into various monopolies, criminalisation
and extreme social risks. Even when this has been achieved,
the state cannot completely "abandon" the market.
Its new role will comprise maintenance of the levers that
prevent a widening in the gap between market anarchy,
chaos and public interest.
The restructuring of the economy's institutional base
(a form of monetarism that leaves intact the fundamental
sources of inflation is alien to our principles) rather
than so-called financial stabilisation is at the core
of Yabloko's economic policy. A well-considered policy
of enterprise recovery programmes and bankruptcies is
our alternative to the absurdity of non-payments. Yabloko
regards the course towards economic integration with the
CIS countries as a way to gradually restore the links
that were broken above all by the activities of radical
Yabloko believes that the technocratic approach to economic
reforms which has developed since 1992 is unacceptable.
This approach relates to a form of absolutism, based on
purely economic parameters for reform, involving a complete
disregard for their social, environmental and cultural
implications. In particular, we regard the decline in
living standards and abrupt polarisation of incomes as
social costs that must be reduced to a minimum when reforms
are implemented, in order to maintain social stability
for the short term and long term.
Culture and the environment as political priorities
The reforms must not be conducted in a way that sacrifices
long-term resources for one-off economic interests. We
understand culture in the broadest sense of the
word - from the ability to give birth to the greatest
level of intellectual creativity, to high quality mass
education (at all levels), correct daily behaviour, stable
families and work ethics. These are the most important
resources. An integrated culture, where the lowest mass
consciousness is closely connected to high "elite"
specimens, represents the most fundamental dimension of
national capital. Such capital is more powerful than a
rich raw material base. If we lack such a culture, which
generates highly skilled labour and entrepreneurial initiative,
we cannot even think about eradicating such a global evil
as crime and create a progressive economy based on advanced
technologies and scientific achievements.
Education, culture and science cannot be abandoned to
the arbitrariness of the market. It is up to the state
to establish a system of careful selection and financing
of research teams, programmes, projects and technologies
capable of becoming a structural foundation for society's
cultural and intellectual development. Current developments
in science, education and culture caused by the radical
reforms are tragic owing to their ability in both the
short and long term to multiply: it has transpired that
developments in this area, both useless and empty, are
on the verge of causing total collapse.
There is another dimension of national capital, which
can like culture be very easily broken if treated thoughtlessly,
but which is very difficult to restore. We are referring
here to the wholesome nature of a healthy environment.
We cannot accept a situation where the Russian environment
can become the victim of economic, technocratic or some
other experiments. Ecological principles should not become
only repressive restrictions imposed from the outside,
but also a regular factor of economic policy.
At the same time, in their pursuit of one-off economic
profit, the government of the so-called "reformers'
sacrificed environmental interests on a number of occasions.
For example, the Yabloko faction has ever since its formation
been waging an endless struggle against the practice of
burying the nuclear waste of foreign countries in Russia.
Such practice is very profitable for the budget and the
nuclear complex, but is fraught with unpredictable cost
for future generations of Russia's citizens.
We could continue outlining the list of our differences.
However, there are obviously enough. So it is easy to
understand the absurdity of trying to unite such different
parties as Yabloko and "Russia's Choice". It
is clear that they both advocate diametrically opposing
reform programmes. As the successor of radical tradition,
Russia's Choice acts as a party that discredited its programme
in the eyes of most of Russia's population. If we agreed
to some form of coalition with this party, Yabloko would
be indicating to society that it intended to follow the
same route and could not offer anything more attractive.
Consequently, Yabloko would lose both its present authority
and also any hopes of rehabilitating democracy in Russia