[main page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][guestbook][publications][hot issues]
Grigory Yavlinsky

Cynicism is a Form of Foolishness
Acad. Sakharov convinced us that morality in politics is practical

Novaya Gazeta, May 28, 2001

The public gathering in Moscow on the 80th anniversary of Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was marked by nostalgic and sentimental tunes. This is not surprising, as it was organised by the people who are still unable to comprehend why Acad. Sakharov's ideas have not prevailed in Russian society. They still speculate on the similarities between Yeltsin and Sakharov. Only Grigory Yavlinsky spoke about Sakharov as a man whose moral presence in politics is necessary today. Specially for Novaya Gazeta - extracts from his speech.

I did not know Andrei Dmitrievich personally. Consequently I cannot share personal memories. But I would like to share with you the ideas connected with today.

Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov established the foundations of liberal-democratic movement in Russia, identifying its main underlying concepts.

At the end of the 20th century Sakharov formulated a thesis that was extremely important for Russia: the country will only flourish - a future desired by the absolute majority - if Russia evolves as a free and democratic country. This condition is key to the modern development of our country.

If we consider developments since Sakharov's death, the following lessons can be drawn, which are directly related to the precepts of Andrei Sakharov that have been consigned to oblivion.

Andrei Dmitrievich was a great scientist and thinker of our day and did not consider himself a politician. And in his role as a key observer and not a politician, he formulated the underlying values and rules for all politicians.

His precept on the morality of politicians ranked at the top of this list. Sakharov realised that it was absolutely pointless to ask or demand politicians to be moral. That is why he achieved this goal by taking a different tack: he tried to convince people that a moral position in politics was the most practical and advisable. Naturally, if their goal is not only personal welfare, but, at least to some extent, the country's prospects and the future of our children and grand-children.

Such a practical understanding of morality in politics is extremely important, as a society raised on lies, as Elena Georgievna Bonner has recently wrote, will never grow up. I would add that it cannot fully blossom like a plant without sunshine.

Such a society will never leave adolescence and will be marked by terrible psychological complexes, grudges and aggression. The cynicism serving as the tool of "big-shot" politicians of the past decade is simply a form of concealing their own feeble-mindedness. Sooner or later the plans cynically implemented by such politicians will inevitable fail. Even a small dose of cynicism is capable of contaminating what would appear to be comprehensible and necessary ideas.

Contempt for the moral foundations of politics was displayed in autumn 1999 when the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya was transformed into a large-scale war against all the inhabitants of this republic. A unique situation evolved in the autumn: people fled Khattab and Basayev - fled the people who had been mocking and taunting them. If the people implementing the policies in Chechnya had realised that the practical aspect of morality is to bring all these people to the "federal" side, and provide support and understanding and together radically reduce the scope of terrorism!

Instead they initiated mass-scale bombings and the struggle with terrorism was transformed into a war against civilians. Exploiting modern information technologies and classical active measures, the authorities raised a hysterical wave of chauvinism in the country, using their intellectual political lackeys to denounce all dissenters as traitors. Consequently, Russia's policies in the Northern Caucasus reached deadlock.

This was one of Andrei Dmitrievich's precepts that was clear and obvious, but was not followed.

Academic Sakharov was not a politician, but a human rights activist. The notions "politician" and "defender of human rights" will be closely related in Russia for a long time. A true democratic politician in today's Russia has to be a defender of human rights. If we are talking about all the rights violated in our country, rather than about the individual rights of citizens, we end up with a political programme. Being a politician implies defending all the rights of citizens - political freedoms, economic rights and personal rights.

This situation will remain for a long time in a country, where the individual is humiliated, is subjected to moral and physical suffering in military barracks, in preliminary detention wards in a country where a third of our compatriots live below the poverty level and where the health care and social security systems have been destroyed.

A defender of human rights cannot differentiate between, let alone oppose, political and social freedoms. A prosperous society and rich country cannot be built without political freedoms. And a hapless population on the verge of economic survival cannot enjoy genuine political freedoms. This is another important precept left to us by Academician Sakharov.

This is extremely important today when the same people responsible for the construction of the system of oligarchic capitalism in our country propose, on the pretext of implementing a new cycle of structural reforms required by the country, a new project to society - a "manageable, controlled democracy".

Yes, we failed over the past ten years to establish the socio-economic foundation for democracy and a free society. Were liberal policies implemented in Russia over the past ten years? Yes, from the standpoint of the vulgar liberalism of the 19th century. But if we are talking about the liberalism at the end of the 20th - beginning of the 21st century, then the answer is no. For a genuine liberal policy always focuses on an individual's freedom, his social and economic prosperity. Such policies have never been implemented in Russia. The absolute majority did not obtain anything from these reforms.

The absolute majority feel deceived by the economic and social policies of the past ten years.

Most importantly, equal opportunities have not been created, something which is absolutely vital for the creation of the foundations of democracy in Russia. True liberalism is always based on equal opportunities, equal access to the main benefits distributed in a market economy, equal rights in the market, fair and honest competition, the opportunity to resist the pressure of monopolies and the pressure of a small circle of people, which we call oligarchs. These are real liberal reforms. We have not had such reforms.

Consequently there are good grounds to consider today - even if we don't actually formulate a programme now - what new democratic course should be adopted to us to celebrate Academician Sakharov's ninetieth birthday in other circumstances and in a different mood.

I would like to propose several elements of such a course. First of all this should be an uncompromising - I repeat uncompromising - struggle for the political rights and freedoms of all citizens of Russia. Naturally these rights include the right to property (including considerable property). But that right cannot replace the right to freedom. Where there is freedom, there will be property; if there is no freedom, there will be no property. I can imagine a rally "For Your Freedom and Ours" but not one called "For Your Property and Ours." This is the first lesson that must be learned by all those who call themselves democrats.

And no pragmatic explanations can justify deviations from this goal. Dilettante politicians who call themselves "pragmatic politicians" should know that pragmatism in politics is a form of political sell-out.

The second goal. All reforms to create a free market economy in Russia, to change the structure of our economy and the social sphere should from now on be regulated by the most important determining rule: reforms for the majority. It is impossible to further implement reforms aimed at the interests of a narrow group of people. We now know that the idea that they would subsequently become the motor pulling everyone else forward is short-sighted and flawed. This group of people did become a motor, but only to oversee the growth of their own wealth.

Reforms for the majority is the most important goal. This means that we want to build a liberal, socially oriented European type of market economy in Russia.

Therefore the European vector in Russia's development should be the third direction of the new democratic policies. The focus on European socio-economic structures is very important, as Russia is a great European country. Over the past few centuries and perhaps throughout its history, Russia brought all Eurasia with it along the European path.

And finally the consolidation of all rational democratic forces must be a major rule. This is now possible, because life has drawn the line, settling many of the disputes between the democrats. In economic policy the line was drawn on August 17, 1998, when the policies of Chubais-Chernomyrdin ended in the collapse of Russia's whole financial system and colossal foreign debts. Yabloko's assessments made five years earlier proved to be accurate. In politics and personal politics, on March 26, 2000 (Ed. the day of the presidential elections). Now anyone who seriously wants the creation of a really democratic, socially oriented market economy must learn from the last ten years.

I stress that the basic direction of consolidation for the democratic forces is based on the rapprochement of equal, independent, political democratic subjects that are subordinate to nobody, including each other. And I invite all of them all to collaborate with my party. We will bring this movement to a practical realisation: we are preparing for the convocation of a Democratic Assembly.

Our views were defined a long time ago. Yabloko will fight against the creation of a police state in Russia. We will show every possible resistance to the creation of a controlled democracy in Russia, as a controlled democracy would condemn Russia to hopeless backwardness.

Hapless, manipulated, intimidated and deprived of any objective sources of information, people cannot create a new economy of the 21st century, cannot stand in one row with the leading industrial countries of the world. They cannot defend the largest country in the world with its vast resources, the country with the longest borders with the most unstable regions in the world. Any attempt to remove Russia from the ranks of free countries in the 21st century would lead Russia in the 21st century to an irreversible crash.

We will strongly resist the crawling constitutional coup d'etat under the false slogans of a manageable, controlled and fraudulent democracy. We will cooperate with all the political parties that are ready to fight against the perpetuation of the conformity of opinions, a castrated democracy and the poverty of the overwhelming majority of the population.

We will take this path with everyone who is prepared to work with us to implement reforms for the majority and guarantee a free democratic socially oriented future for our country.

We do not claim to take any privileged position in this civil resistance. Let it set forth new, more talented leaders unrelated to the ten years of Yeltsinism and the discrediting of democratic ideals defended so passionately by Andrei Dmitrievich till the last minutes of his life.

See also:

the Human Rights section of the web-site

Novaya Gazeta, May 28, 2001

[main page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][guestbook][publications][hot issues]