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Democracy from Scratch

Democracy from Scratch: Opposition and Regime in the New Russian Revolution

M. Steven Fish
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Democracy from Scratch
    Book Description:

    This book presents a fresh view of Russian political change in the Gorbachev and early post-Soviet periods not by examiningperestroikaandglasnostin and of themselves, but by investigating the autonomous political organizations that responded to liberalization. Extensive study of these political groups, in Moscow and several provincial cities, has led M. Steven Fish to conclude that they were shaped to a far greater degree by the nature of the Soviet state than by socioeconomic modernization, political culture, native psychology, or Russian historical tradition. Fish's statist theory of societal change in Russia yields a powerful explanation of why Russia's new political society differs radically not only from the "totalized," sub-jugated country of the pre-1985 period but also from the "civil societies" found in the West and in many developing countries. In addition, the author shows how the legacy of the Soviet experience continues to influence the development--arguably the underdevelopment--of representative political institutions in post-Soviet Russia, making the establishment of stable democracy unlikely in the near term.

    This book proposes a novel and theoretically sophisticated way to study Russian politics. It offers a rigorous approach to understanding social movements, political party formation, regime change, and democratization in general. While focusing primarily on a single country, it is vigorously comparative at the same time.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2154-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. I Western Scholarship and the New Russian Revolution
    (pp. 3-29)

    From 1985 to 1991, one of the great political dramas of the twentieth century unfolded in Russia. Although it began as an effort at reform from above, the process of transformation was snatched from its initiators and became a revolution. Unlike the revolution of three-quarters of a century past, the new Russian revolution featured no vanguard party and no armed insurgency, and was not made in the name of a class or a single identifiable program or principle. Unlike many other revolutions, it was not fought to craft nationhood or to recapture lost national sovereignty. It was a popular, democratic...

  6. II The Transformation of Politics: A Historical Overview
    (pp. 30-51)

    Karl Marx’s neglect of individuality, free association, and self-organization and his wholly negative critique of “civil society” are wellknown features of his work.¹ Whether Marx’s utopian vision of the end of conflict in communist society infused his theory with an authoritarian, statist logic is a point of debate among contemporary scholars. Yet Marx clearly attributed universality to the proletariat precisely by virtue of what he regarded as its capacity to transcend the realm of particularistic “interest” and to unite state and society. In his belief that social systems could be freed from conflict by abolishing the division between political and...

  7. III Investigating the Phenomenon: A Framework for Analysis
    (pp. 52-79)

    What did the groups examined in the previous chapter create? By the time of the abortive putsch, they clearly had forged a new independent political society and exerted substantial pressures on state institutions. How might the new society be characterized and its emergence explained? To what extent, moreover, did revolutionary societal organizations create the basis for democratic regime change in Russia?

    Construction of the “dependent variable” stands as an especially complex part of this study, mainly because the study seeks to explain not a concrete, discrete event (e.g., a military coup, an electoral victory or defeat), but rather the emergence...

  8. IV Building Independent Political Society
    (pp. 80-136)

    This chapter examines the questions posed in the previous one by investigating six democratic movement organizations: the Social Democratic Party of Russia (SDPR), the Democratic Platform/Republican Party of Russia (RPR), the Democratic Party of Russia (DPR), the Russian Christian Democratic Movement (RKhDD), Democratic Russia, and the Democratic Union (DU). These groups were chosen for three interrelated reasons. First, they span a wide spectrum of organizational forms. Second, each was a “serious” major organization. Each enjoyed at least several thousand members and was organized on the national level. All possessed concrete organizational structures, purposive goals, and programs. Third, these groups represented...

  9. V The Struggle in the Provinces: A Tale of Four Cities
    (pp. 137-199)

    Most works on revolution, including those on contemporary Russia, focus primarily on the national level. In Russia, as in many other cases, the capital city is properly considered the main locus of both opposition activity and regime resistance. During the period 1985–91, Moscow remained the undisputed center of policy-making authority in Russia. The headquarters of most independent organizations were located in the capital, and groups’ national conferences were usually held there. Most leaders of national (all-Russian) organizations resided in the capital, and the “Moscow” and “national” leaderships of many groups were virtually identical. The primacy of the “center” was...

  10. VI Democracy from Scratch
    (pp. 200-230)

    A central argument put forward in this study is that the character of state power furnishes the key to understanding the independent political society that emerged in Russia during the Gorbachev period. It has been argued that the conditions under which elections were held, state repression and control of popular political participation, and the fusion of polity and economy—all of which were shaped byvlast’—determined the scope of popular mobilization, the content of social movement demands and the organizational forms through which they were expressed, and the behavior and strategies of independent political associations. The causal argument has...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 231-236)

    Since the final chapter of this book was written in late 1992, the new Russian polity has experienced a year of turbulence and tumult. The term “crisis,” normally used to describe a temporary period of disruption between equilibria, appears to have established itself as a permanent feature of Russian political life.

    The events between the time of Gaidar’s ouster in late 1992 and the December 1993 parliamentary elections and constitutional referendum largely represented a denouement of the currents and conflicts that shaped the first twelve to fifteen months of the postcoup period. El’tsin attempted to preserve and expand his decree...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 237-272)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-288)
  14. Index
    (pp. 289-300)