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By Grigory Yavlinsky

The New Course.

What Yabloko supports and opposes. Theses by Grigory Yavlinsky.

Moskovskiye Novosti, June 20, 2001

A law allowing for the import of nuclear waste was adopted recently. In view of this fact the newspapers and TV stations have been discussing the issue as to whether our legislative authorities are completely subordinate to the executive authorities. But the issue is far more serious. This is not simply an episode when the State Duma has completely fulfilled the will of the government. The adoption of this law provides a striking example of the nature of relations between the authorities and the people. They have remained virtually unchanged for the past 15 years. The government and the deputies of almost all the factions, except for Yabloko, openly declared and insisted that the opinion of 90 per cent of the people was not important. The people "do not understand where their happiness lies".

This is a well-known scheme. The authorities think that they can simply teach and educate the citizens of Russia, via "a lecture on the political situation” and directives that admit no objections, merely stating that "the people have not worked it out yet", rather than engaging in a discussion or dialogue.

One hundred million Russian citizens (as indicated by the polls) object to the import of nuclear waste into Russia, and 500 people in Moscow - 300 deputies and 200 bureaucrats - oppose this will by enforcing their decision.

Therefore in our opinion the main challenge, main problem and threat is provided by the intensification of trends towards building a make-believe democratic system in Russia, another "Potyomkin's village" (Ed. fake villages specially built by Prince Potyomkin to demonstrate to Catherine II how well her people were living), with bureaucratic authoritarian rule at the core.

Over the past ten years Russia has made considerable progress and changed a lot in life – it has abolished communist ideology and formulated the democratic principles of the Constitution. However, the reformers for the past ten years have failed to create a reliable democratic foundation either in the state system, social order or in the form of a market economy. In reality Russia has not moved beyond a formal, extremely unstable democracy. Authoritarian-bureaucratic moods and trends are evolving, while make-believe democratic systems that are very manipulable are emerging as a replacement for civic organisations that cannot be so easily controlled.

In general this is the result of incompetent decisions, a cynical, mercenary and ideologically vulgar approach to reforms. The most important components of democracy are transformed into a caricature in Russia. A parliament exists, that immediately executes every single order that it receives. The winner-party was created a month before the elections. Federalism is more redolent of

feudalism, where relations between the centre and regions are built on the basis of private relations between the governors and the president of the country. The law-governed state acts selectively, finds its opponents and resolves its disputes with them through legal instruments in such a way that any citizen of the country may be subjected to criminal proceedings at any moment. The dependent judicial system annuls the registration of a candidate disagreeable to the authorities a day before the election.

And what is the result? Only the minority won from the reforms. The vast majority were disappointed. The country obtained an unstable democracy.

What are the variants of development for unstable democracy? There are three variants. A defective democracy. A so-called authoritative modernisation. And the third, but not so easily achieved goal: the steady path of democratic development.

The defective democracy does not require extensive description. It is right before our very eyes.

The authoritarian temptation is also clearly prominent as one possible direction. This is confirmed by the example of imports of spent nuclear fuel and many recent events. This scenario is whispered in the President's ear by adventurers and silly plagiarist political scientists. The essence of their mumblings can be summed up as follows: democratic and civic institutions should not be eliminated as before, but adjusted to the needs of the police-oligarchic ruling clan. And if they cannot be adjusted, then they should be replaced, ousted and imitated by obedient and artificially created parties, journalist unions, civic organisations, controlled and paid mass media, etc. Such moves will inevitably lead to the creation of a police state in Russia.

This will certainly not lead to the installation of order. There will be only a huge bureaucratic construction, where one group of bureaucrats will control the other, and one group of representatives will give rise to another group of representatives. This structure will evolve in even in the smallest villages. Corruption will increase and the degeneration of state machinery will intensify.

The way of building an authoritarian-bureaucratic system feigning to be something else represents the path of irreversible backwardness for our country. A hapless people in chains who are being manipulated cannot create a competitive economy of the 21st century.

The stable democratic liberal and therefore socially oriented development of our country is the only goal that is worth fighting for. All other scenarios will develop independently without our efforts.

To achieve these goals we require a new course that differs from the one conducted over the past ten years. We should finally learn lessons from the bad mistakes of the past ten years, dump the ravings of the advocates of the Pinochet regime and implement a new liberal-democratic course of the reforms for the majority. All our actions should be tested to ascertain whether they are favourable for the majority of our compatriots, whether they provide them an opportunity to be free and simply conduct their daily business without having to undergo heroic deeds every time.

I would like to propose the four main components of this course:

First. Uncompromising protection of human rights, an aspiration for justice and subordination of the state to the interests of the citizens.

A man is born free and equal to all the other people. He is able to think and act independently and differentiate the truth from a lie.

We proceed from the premise that respect for the individual and respect for the family constitute the real foundations of society.

The personal freedom of an individual should by guaranteed by the independence of the legislative and judicial authorities from the administration, and political freedom by free and fair elections with due respect for the rights and opinions of the minority.

Freedom of speech, conscience, choice of unions and profession, equal rights for men and women, as well as respect for a language, faith, the laws and traditions of national minorities constitute an absolute moral and political imperative for us.

We also understand the word freedom to mean the right to private ownership and the right to engage in private entrepreneurial activity and derive potential profits from such activity.

An important element of our understanding of freedom is that the state should serve the citizens as it is only a tool and should in no case prevent their independent and free development.

We do not believe in absolute might and power. We think that [public] accord is the basis for lawful and stable power. However, the excess concentration of unlimited power in the hands of one man stifles and suppresses an accord. To make it real, power should be dispersed through different responsible democratic institutions.

We are convinced that the values of freedom and independence can lead to a moral revival of Russian society, if we can demonstrate that freedom for the sake of an individual is not identical to egoism, that it is freedom in the social context, meaning responsibility and solidarity.

We understand freedom to mean both the defence of the rights of citizens to a timely and varied education in accordance with his capabilities, independent of his material well-being; defence and insurance of everyone against sickness, unemployment, loss of the ability to work and old age; the right to quality housing and constant improvements in the environment.

Second. A free market economy constitutes an integral principle of building a stable democracy in Russia. This implies private property and private property guarantees; open transparent and equal competition; minimum state intervention in the economy; guarantees to investors; strictly set and observed rules of civil turnover of land, demonopolisation of the markets, free trade, reduction in taxes and their simplification, elimination of currency restrictions and real deregulation. We insist on a liberal concept of the market, but none of its principles have been realised today.

We pay special attention to the liberalisation of access to income distribution, in a way that is fairer to society as a whole, that was accumulated as rent from the extraction and sale of natural resources; abolishing the economic policies of the past 30 years based almost exclusively on their export.

Speaking about a new course we declare: freedom is undermined and violated when a huge number of people suffer from destitution, diseases, poverty, unemployment and unqualified labour. The functioning of a market economy should be assessed, proceeding from its ability to provide more welfare than any other system and fairer market distribution.

How does our market economy resolve this task? An incompetent attempt to control the economy exclusively through monetary instruments led to a situation when economic policy is separated from the interests of society in general, and its poorest members in particular.

Third. It is obvious to us that Russia is a European country. The European vector in Russia’s development in terms of practical policy implies orientation to a European socio-economicš structure.

The European way indicates to us how we can overcome social inequality between regions and population groups and achieve stable development of the country and how we can create the social state envisaged by our Constitution.

In addition to the geographical location and socio-economic orientation, there is a geopolitical aspect. Russia has the longest borders with the most unstable regions in the world, and, probably, with half of the poorest population of the planet; at the same time it disposes of about 60 percent of the world’s natural resources that are economically profitable. This means that we should pay special attention to our relations with Europe, including issues of strategic security.

In my opinion in the 21st century there will be two major centres of economic power in the world: North America and Asia. If Europe intends to compete with them as an equal, and not end up on the outskirts of economic development, there is only one way out – economic and political integration with Russia.

For Russia this provides a way to preserve its integrity, independence and national identity and to flourish. For Europe – this is the way to competitiveness, if you want, to economic survival in the future. Here our interests coincide and we will propose definite economic, military and political projects.

Fourth. Our All-Russia Democratic Movement. The tasks that we put forward here can be implemented through the active consolidation of Russia’s democrats. Why has this become possible today?

We have adopted a very tough position over a number of years. Yabloko rejected the economic policies of the past ten years, as it considered them to be incompetent and to merely facilitate the implementation of the scenario of a criminal market run by bandits. There were many theoretical disputes here. But on August 17, 1998, life itself drew a line under this discussion. The untalented and mercenary implementation of economic reforms in Russia led to a major debt crisis. This day buried the position that our economic opponents had been defending.

We are ready to cooperate with everybody who can learn lessons from the past. We have been working practically in this direction. The permanent democratic assembly may become the first step here. Representatives of all democratic political organisations, non-state organisations, civil human rights and ecological organisations. For the first time in ten years they will be able to discuss on an equal basis without any subordination the key issues of the country’s development.

The principal difference of the New Democratic Course is based primarily on an understanding that the democratic institutions in Russian cannot be stable and productive without the support of these institutions by the majority of the population. All Russian democrats should finally understand that the implementation of reforms for a narrow circle of persons leads to reaction and irreversible backwardness and they should turn back now and face the majority. The New Democratic Course is the course that protects not only people who have already profited from the reforms, but, first of all, those who have not received any benefit to date.

In practical terms this means that attention should be focused on housing and communal services reform, pension reform, the referendum on [imports of] spent nuclear fuel, liquidation of excess bureaucratic regulation and development of small and medium-sized businesses.

Yabloko does not consider liberal democracy to be a perfect and irreproachable system. However, it is most suitable and convenient for normal life, freedom, creative work, human dignity and social justice.Yabloko does not think that a liberal democracy can resolve all the problems in Russia. But we are convinced that this way is the only one that can help to resolve the four main tasks faced by our Fatherland in the 21st century:

- radical improvement of the demographic situation;

- development of Siberia;

- protection of our borders and preservation of the integrity of our country;

- fully-fledged membership in the European Union.

Once again we confirm here that our values remain unchanged. They are: freedom, responsibility, tolerance, social justice and equal opportunities. Once again we stress our conviction that is confirmed by European experience, that the creation of a prosperous state in Russia is a democratic, liberal task. Together we will need to be extremely patient, industrious, freely cooperate, display overt understanding of the pains and troubles of citizens and meet their real needs.

See also:

Nuclear waste bill section of the web-site

Grigory Yavlinsky does not see any alternative to the development of a new liberal democratic course for reforms in Russia
Press release, 09.06.2001

Rusia es una democracia de imitacion
El Pais, 29 de mayo de 2001

Moskovskiye Novosti, June 20, 2001

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