Dr. Sergey Zagraevsky
democracy and dictatorship in
Above all let us agree what we call democracy, and what – dictatorship.
Speaking formally, democracy is the power of the people, and dictatorship – the power of one person (or of a group of persons, or even of some social strata). But it is clear that pure democracy or dictatorship do not exist: even in the most democratic countries people are, at least to a small extent, manipulated by certain social groups and individuals, and even in the toughest dictatorship people’s opinion is taken into consideration, at least to a small extent. The terminology is also confused by the fact that the majority of dictators calls themselves presidents, organizes “elections” and declares “adherence to democratic values”, and by the fact that absolute monarchy is usually differed from dictatorial rule, although it is also the power of one person or a group of persons.
So let's give the simplest determination, which is based not on some philosophic, political or economic theory, but on concrete feelings of concrete people.
In the conditions of democracy the majority of respectable citizens feel that they are able to influence to some extent the elections results, strategy and tactics of the government, and if the authorities (government, president, legislature, judicial and power structures, etc.) would do something wrong, then they can be changed, exclusively in the constitutional way, without taking weapons.
But under dictatorship (also as under absolute monarchy) general sense of the vast majority of people is quite different: this power is forever (if not for thousand years, as Hitler's “Reich”, then for the foreseeable future), and if it does something wrong, we shall scold it, lament, complain, tell an anecdote about it, and if it becomes unbearable, go to some protest action... But there occur no constructive thoughts about its shift in the constitutional way.
There is a misconception
shared by many people. It consists in the opinion that under dictatorship the power is stronger
than under democracy. It is often
We are in no case going
to argue with the fact that
Democracy and spineless, democracy and weakness, democracy and instability, democracy and unpredictability, democracy and the lack of order, democracy and anarchy are not the same things. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Gustav Mannerheim, Conrad Adenauer, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ariel Sharon, Angela Merkel... Does history know few examples of "strong hands", ruling states within stable and predictable democratic systems?
Just near the "strong hand" there must always be other "strong hands" – the opposition movements and figures, constraining and correcting "the strongest". What if, for example, "the strongest hand" does something wrong? It is not omniscient, not omnipotent and not infallible (so people could think and talk about pharaohs, Roman Popes, emperors, Stalin or Hitler, but now nobody can be seriously persuaded in that).
And if, for example, the "strong hand" is already weak? What can it be compared with? Only with other "strong hands".
Therefore, the most important, fundamental difference between democracy and dictatorship is not the strength or weakness of the power, but the implementation of the real (not declarative) public control over the government. If not, then the probability that even the most brilliant ruler, even the most effective government will do this or that mistake, increases substantially. And human lives are the price of any error of the state power.
Let us say even easier: democracy is the mind of millions, dictatorship – the mind of ones. Yes, it is more difficult for huge and powerful, but inert and sluggish "mind of millions" to take decisions, but if it turns out, the effectiveness of results is multiplied. And to trust final and uncontrolled decisions on the fate of millions to one person (or even to several dozens) – it is more simple but much more dangerous.
For all of the above a fundamental conclusion can be made: ceteris paribus democracy is always more effective than dictatorship, and there is no justification for the latter. Underdevelopment of society, requiring an absolute and unquestionable authority of a dictator (whether president, emperor or tribal leader) – is not an excuse, but a problem that must be solved on the way to a more effective social system – democracy.
And if a society has not "matured" to
democracy – it should be aware of this and seek to "grow" as quick as
possible, rather than to turn the word "democracy" into almost an
expletive, as it is unfortunately the case in modern
We are far from blaming
in such situation the country's leadership, and especially its representatives
in person. When could
the Russian society manage to "grow" to the development of democratic
institutions characteristic for civilized countries, if in fact the history of
But the government must
understand and recognize this, and engage in the building of democracy (as it,
for example, was done in
And it is most worryingly, that the likeness to an ostrich has an objective basis: to let everything to chance and to do nothing – it is easier than to work, and it is always possible to find a lot of excuses.
There is another negative factor, even more serious: the movement from dictatorship to democracy is contrary to the basic instinct, articulated by Friedrich Nietzsche, – the quest for absolute power. To share power, and moreover to abandon it – it is very, very hard psychologically.
And to expect from ordinary citizens of contemporary
So there is a vicious circle: serious people do not want to join opposition, so it does not exist. Where will it appear from? And there is no need to prohibit any political party, no need to chase anyone for his political position, no need to close any newspaper, no need to break up rallies, no need even to falsify election results: if the situation is let to take its course, the opposition quietly dies itself, as it actually died in Russia in the past decade. And today no major Russian political party can be called opposition – except that formally.
Spontaneous public movements usually have no constructive programs and include small percents of population, insufficient to win elections. And police has more than enough forces to struggle against those who call to overthrow the power by strength.
Thus, today there is no real alternative for the
existing power in
And now let us remember our definition of
dictatorship. If the overwhelming majority of people see no real alternative
for existing power, then they feel that this power is if not forever, then for the foreseeable future.
Consequently, in fact, there is dictatorship in
Immediately a “corporate
feature” of this dictatorship is seen – the origin of most of its top officials
And the first feature is not as principled as the second. The second feature means that we are dealing with a very specific kind of dictatorship.
Military dictatorships are familiar in the history of humanity, but the secret service has virtually unlimited power perhaps for the first time. Dictators could be associated with special services, could subordinate them, depend on them, be at enmity with them ... But the fact that the intelligence service has committed itself to power and keeps it for many years – nothing like this is remembered.
What is similar in the military dictatorship and the secret service’s, and what it different?
For secret services, so as for men of arms, the life of a human, so as lives of millions, is not priceless – just by virtue of profession, requiring the skill to kill. And in both of these kinds of dictatorship there is a rigid internal hierarchy and discipline – it is also professional.
But there is also a serious difference. First of all, the militaries are naïve in their own way. They boast of power, embroider themselves with gold uniforms with a lot of orders, demand to give them the honor, love parades and, what is most important, – their hierarchy is usually in plain sight: a man with bigger epaulettes usually has more power. Accordingly, it is easy to understand who the first person (and the men of war usually make no secret of it, on the contrary – underline in every way), and this means that in the case of failure there is always someone to be blamed.
And an old French proverb is applicable to military dictatorships: "One can rely on bayonets but can not sit on them". The generals, having seized state power, always have to sit on bayonets, and it is extremely inconvenient.
And the workers of secret service (in any case, of high positions) do not possess these shortcomings. They are shrewd, educated, well informed, do not need external brilliance, do not emphasize the absolute authority of any person, are great masters of the "desk castle" and, what is most important, of manipulating by public opinion. Figuratively speaking, they sit not on bayonets, but in comfortable chairs at tables laden with files and compromising.
How many people now actually rule
But we have already said that the dictatorship is a mind of ones. And let the country be completely ruled by ten or hundred people – all the same, compared with 140 million Russians they are only ones. And even if they are united by common interests and common understanding of strategy and tactics, and even if they solve problems in their small circle in the most democratic way, – they are not insured from mistakes.
And they make mistakes – and the system, typical for any dictatorship, and the specific, peculiar to modern Russian conditions. And if the latter can be made by any government, even the most democratic, the first ones may be avoided under democracy (respectively, under effective social control).
And the mistakes at the highest level of state power cause global problems.
Talking about system, global problems, we firstly note that degeneration of management personnel is typical for every dictatorship. A dictator (or a group of people carrying dictatorship out) gradually becomes surrounded by a crowd of “court rascals”, who may be summarized as follows: thieves, or puppets, or both.
And the struggle against corruption in such circumstances will always be ineffective, because these “courtiers” obtain "the psychology of temporary workers". And they are hurrying to steal more and more before the mood of their chief changes and they are dismissed without explanation and severance pay.
And they really may be dismissed at any time and without severance pay, because the dictatorship and the rule of law are incompatible in principle. After all, dictatorship as a form of government is illegal in itself, since it contradicts many articles of the Constitution. And it never happens that at the highest levels of state power there is no law, and somewhere below the law suddenly appears.
And the lack of legitimacy in the country leads to a lack of confidence of officials (as well as of other citizens) in their future. And the consequences are the same: to steal as much as possible and as soon as possible, while there is such possibility.
Personal honesty of a dictator is not a key to the successful struggle
against corruption and other vices of society, because he cannot control
everything. And even if there are some tens or thousands of these "honest
dictators" in the country –
This means that globally nothing in
And this "damage" takes place at almost all levels of state power.
Moreover – it infects the uniformed services and
business... Is it any wonder that, despite the frantic efforts of the federal
government and the huge sums invested in the struggle against corruption, the
majority of Russian officials continue to take bribes, and the majority of
goods produced in
But the impossibility of defeating the corruption is not the most serious and global of problems faced by any dictatorship. Even more serious is that between people and the leadership an unbridgeable chasm appears, and it does not let citizens feel the complicity to the management of the state. And it deprives people of a common, global interest in the results of their labor. Just to earn money, as much as possible! And to pay taxes, to protect ecological environment and architectural monuments, to observe cleanliness in the streets, etc. – all this is somewhere "beyond". As they say, the government is wise, let it think about all...
In any society a citizen must sacrifice some part of his wealth for the common cause. Democracy gives him the desire to do so, and dictatorship does not give.
And really, can there be in a human a sense of complicity to some higher and inexplicable case, which is done in the endless distance from him by “the living god” – the dictator?
And at that it is impossible to make modern humans a dumb obedient herd, even purposefully making them more and more silly by the ancient Roman principle of "bread and circuses". So people begin to live their own life by the old Russian proverb: "God is high, tsar is far”. And everyone works only for himself.
And this inevitably implies that in a country under dictatorship there will always be low wages in the public sector, and low pensions, and poverty, and dirt, and high crime rates, and high mortality, and poor roads, and the lack of education, and the plundering of national wealth, and the loss of architectural monuments, and thoughtless rebuilding of historical cities, and the absence of competitive industry... And, of course, as we have already mentioned, corruption with the whole spectrum of its adverse effects.
In the foreign policy of
This, very dangerous and unreliable,
policy adhered to the
the leaders of
But all internal and
external global problems, which we have listed, although are very painful for
the country, but in the foreseeable future are not fatal. They can bring
But there is one problem that threatens the very
Russia is not only a multi-ethnic country, but also incorporates a variety of nations with state formations in their own autonomous territory – as in Chechnya, Tatarstan, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Bashkortostan, Kalmykia, Yakutia... So, in the modern conditions, when all over the world the nations, even much smaller and having no autonomous territory, state the right to self-determination, much of the peoples of Russia are literally doomed to separatism.
And a way out of the country of any territory (and moreover the disintegration of the country into several independent states) – always means blood, refugees, destroyed lives, the gap of economic ties, many years of instability...
So, these separatist tendencies must be fought with.
Dictatorship can effectively use only power control methods – to put its trustees at the head of autonomies, to keep the troops there, etc. (But democracy also can do that – we have already said that it should not be confused with softness).
All other methods can be based only on the desire of a national autonomy to be the part of the federation. And it is very difficult to create such a desire. This may be either economic interest, or good relations with the federal government.
Neither one nor the other is possible under dictatorship. The first – because economically, as we showed above, dictatorship is always less efficient than democracy. Second – because the inhabitants of national territorial entities can not possibly feel a little bit warm feelings for the infinitely distant dictator, foreign to them by blood, and by religion, and by mentality.
The second was more or less (so to say, more less than
more) possible in the Soviet times due to the rule of non-national and
non-religious communist ideology, but now it is completely another epoch. And
So, in the conditions of dictatorship
the federal government has only one tool cementing the unity of the state –
force. And this means an eternal undeclared war, because it is impossible to
completely defeat an unruly nation, even using the methods of genocide
(remember even the massacre of Armenians by Turks or resettlement of Crimean
Tatars and several other nations by Stalin to
And further it is necessary to solve the basic issues
of coexistence of nations within the federative country, otherwise the
destabilization of life in
And the fundamental solution of these issues is
possible only under the development of democracy in
Separatism is primarily psychologically connected with
the fact that people in the province consider: "In my native village
(town, province, national republic) I am respected,
A question may be sited: democracy is certainly good,
but where can it appear from, if, as we have said, in
Let us answer. Of course, they must not be forced, but they can and should be taught democracy. And the task of the state is to develop specifically democratic institutions, to promote civil equality, to raise the political activity of citizens, to ensure real equality of all parties in the elections...
Will those who have now power in
If their most important goal is to keep power at any
cost – then, of course, will not. But if they
care about the future of the state – they must start using their power resource
to establish genuine democracy in
© Sergey Zagraevsky