Preliminary Features of Russian Ideology

By on Październik 2, 2017 2 138 Views

In the aftermath of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, which considered by many as the „End of History”, liberalism maintained its domination on the global stage. However, with the renewed conflict between Russia and the West, signs of a new Russian ideology branded as „orderism” emerged and found support in many parts of the world.

Democracy is a form of modern political governance that “maintains binding consultation of equal citizens and protects them from arbitrary action by governmental agents.”[1]The creation of a modern consolidated democracy in the Western world was a long and painful journey. The process of democratic transition depended on a “complex mix of historical facts particular to each country”[2], and it involved the formation of an efficient state bureaucracy, effective legal system, along with instating economic and political freedoms.[3] Liberalism placed the individual at the center of politics and emphasized the role of the state in promoting progress through the democratic system of government.[4]

Fukuyama’s famous thesis on the “end of history” declared the triumph of liberal democracy and the arrival of a post-ideological world, where he argued that democracy cannot be replaced by another ideology.[5] Proponents of this thesis accept it as granted, given that modern democracies are free of serious conflict, recognize global protection of basic human rights, and argue that their economic activity is paramount. Liberals see international cooperation as central for peace, prosperity, and justice.

Huntington’s opposing vision, by contrast, portrays Western powers as trying to consolidate their supremacy and being able to control most world institutions to use them to their advantage.[6] However, only recently the opposition was able to take full shape against liberalism, especially because of the renewed conflict between Russia and the West, where the signs of the new ideology emerged.

The basic political premise of orderism places more emphasis on stability rather than on democracy, because Western liberal democracy has failed to live up to its promise, and in some cases, has produced inequality and chaos. Orderism places emphasis on conservative values related to religion, while opposing the secular values promoted by Western democracy. The new ideology claims that, on the global stage, international law is beaten into submission by the rules of the strongest and the West adheres to the global rule of law only when it suits its interests.[7]

On the other hand, a “West vs. Rest” mentality, as Samuel Huntington argues, in a future conflict, liberal states will inevitably beat non-liberal states, an idea that non-liberal states resent. It is therefore no surprise that this ideology is gaining popularity among countries in the periphery of Western democracies, such as Russia, Turkey and Egypt who have all challenged the West in varying degrees.

This analysis sheds light on the basic features of orderism, while taking into consideration that it has no ideologues. It is rather the culmination of a number of realistic practices, statements and official positions of politicians, namely Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Russia is the birthplace of the new ideology that is gaining more acceptance in more states.

FIRST- Prioritizing Stability

Several non-Western states, such as Russia and Turkey, prioritize stability to counter security challenges on their territory and in their regional surroundings. In fact, this trend does not emanate from practical considerations. Rather, theoretically, certain conditions should be met before democracy can be promoted.

Advocates of orderism believe that applying democracy in states that lack favorable conditions can lead to adverse results, including the rise of extremists to power, election of non-liberal leaders and even to civil wars. To prevent such scenarios, certain conditions, including rule of law and effective state institutions, should be ripe before adopting democracy. This is branded as democratic sequentialism.[8]

In her study of four advanced democracies- Germany, Britain, United States and Japan- Professor of political science Kathleen Thelen argues that institutional development should be incremental and gradual and that it should not be accomplished instantaneously, but rather in “critical junctures.”[9]

Critics of orderism believe that assertion of certain hard-edged prerequisites’ associated with a gradual, orderly path for development does not offer a real choice in most cases.[10] They do not see orderly transition from anarchy to prosperity as inconsequential, stating that “dictators are not the most likely implementers of well-sequenced reforms,”[11] and even stress that the weaker the state’s administrative apparatus, the more likely is the rise of chaos.[12]

However, proponents of orderism stress that many states suffer from problems and setbacks in their struggle for democracy[13], because the transition to democracy is not achieved smoothly and following distinct phases,[14] where there is no one right path, even when certain conditions, such as historical experience, help facilitate transitions.

It should be noted that many states that practically adopt orderism, such as Russia and Turkey, pursue elections as the way to seize power, but they are accused of having undemocratic practices such as suppression of freedom of the press and the interference of the executive authority in the jurisdictions of the legislative and judicial authorities, all of which are branded by international literature as actions taken by a pseudo-democracy.

Although this opinion appears to be rational, some states attempt to protect democracy from security challenges. In Tunisia, the Ennahda Movement, for instance, initially a ‘democratic party with an Islamic reference,’[15] learned valuable lessons from the Egyptian revolution,[16] made concessions, and decided to separate political and religious activities. As such, the Ennahda Movement was able to set a prime example of the successful transition from dictatorship to democracy by drafting a secular constitution and handed over power to a technocratic coalition government when it lost the parliamentary elections in October 2014.

On the other hand, in other cases such as in Iraq, disorder and turbulence cannot be attributed to attempts to establish a democracy, but to the endeavors of the then-Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and his supporters as they intended to consolidate the power of one particular sect of religious majority to build a strong centralized government and even target opposition leaders from other sects.[17] The Maliki government’s repressive practices were what led to security challenges, and most and foremost to the rise of ISIS.[18]

Turkey’s experience, by contrast, presented a unique example of adopting practices that support democracy, then retreating from it. The ruling Justice and Development Party’s golden age of 2002-2007 was underpinned by steps to instigate substantial democratic and liberal reforms for economic progress, ensuring the independence of the judiciary, building civil-military relations, and ensuring minority rights, thus raising its popularity.[19]

The AKP cleverly joined pluralism of moderate, political Islam with the pragmatism of embracing democracy, modernity, and liberal global economy.[20] It gained the lion’s share of an increasingly vibrant, affluent, and young electorate, a phenomenon reflecting the nation’s aspiration to refresh its collective memory of cultural heritage and “to mature further as a democracy while retaining its Muslim identity.”[21]

However, critics argue that this earlier period of reformation was followed by subtler attempts by Erdogan to weaken liberal ideas, such as the rule-of-law, separation of powers, and freedom of the press in order to propel the economy and create a pious and loyal middle-class. In the post-2013 period, Turkey appears to have inclined towards a form of “orderism” – a social contract originally branded by the Russian president Putin – emphasizing traditions, religion, and creating a sense of solidarity around neo-Ottomanism, thus “defying malicious attempts by foreign powers to undermine and divide the country.”

SECOND- Emphasizing Religious Values

Many thinkers do not perceive conflict between the principles of Islam and political liberalism, as demonstrated by Turkey’s experience in the early period under the AKP’s rule.[22] Experience reveals that liberalization can be accomplished even ‘in the most unlikely national and regional settings’. Islam is not incompatible with modernity and indeed has been a source of inspiration for Western thinkers in the Age of Enlightenment.[23] The mechanism of consultation grounded in the Islamic tradition of “shura” (consultation) is a case in point for this.

Nevertheless, some liberal principles are faced with opposition in some societies. Some reject claims by liberalism that it presents principles that can be implemented globally, and assert that liberalism is closely associated with a specific cultural context.[24] That is, such societies are governed by societal values rather than by individualism and hope to preserve its own lifestyle[25] which is not necessarily in conflict with democracy.

This comes as one of the issues with religion. While Western states place emphasis on secularism, states embracing the new ideology, namely Russia, emphasize religious values and their importance for society.

For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin- who is close to the Russian Orthodox Church – emphasized said the importance of religious values within society. Putin stated that „without the moral values rooted in Christianity and other world religions, without rules and moral values which have formed and developed over millennia, people will inevitably lose their human dignity and become brutes and beasts. We think it is right and natural to defend and preserve our Christian moral values.” Furthermore, Putin rejects Western rights group’s criticism over issuing an anti-gay law,[26] a position advocated by the Russian Church.

Within this context, orderism beats liberalism as it presents an alternative model to replace Western values, especially because some widespread phenomena and practices, such as gay marriage and atheism, are rejected even by segments in Western societies.

THIRD- Revival of the Glorious Past

Orderism resorts to the „revival of the glorious past” as an alternative form of social contract. Putin stated that the collapse of the USSR was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. His promise upon rising to presidency was to revive Russia’s status as a great power. To demonstrate its assertiveness, Russia annexed Crimea, waged a proxy war in eastern Ukraine, dispatched forces to Syria to prop up the Assad regime, strengthened its nuclear arsenal, and threatened NATO allies on the Russian periphery.[27]

Despite the high cost of this policy- evident in the damage wreaked on the Russian economy by reciprocal sanctions by Russia itself on one side, and European Union and the United States on the other- Putin’s popularity was not affected. On the contrary, his anti-Western policies stirred national feelings and improved his popularity at home.[28]

On the other hand, experts in Turkish affairs believe that Ankara is embracing a sense of neo-Ottomanism to revive the glories of the Ottoman Empire. However, former prime minister and foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, stresses, in his book Strategic Depth, that Turkey is a central power that should not be content with playing a pivotal role in the Middle East or the Balkans because it is a central power and not a regional power.[29]

This approach coincided with accusations of the West attempting to weaken and divide Turkey, claims that were echoed widely in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in July 2016. That is, Turkey was interested in escalating with the West, and the US in particular, and even hinted that it supported the attempt. What helped Turkey in this context was that Moscow sought to improve its relations with Ankara aiming to weaken the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).[30]

FOURTH- Failure of Democracy, Sometimes

Among the main arguments of Fukuyama was that what we are witnessing is the end of history, that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.[31]The success of liberalism in Western states does not necessarily mean that it does not suffer failures.

These failures emerge in times of economic crises associated with the activity of extremist movements, such as the extremist right-wing movements in several developed European countries where they gained popularity, as evidenced by their rising popularity in successive elections. Their extremist rhetoric poses a clear threat to democratic values and is a grave violation of minority rights. These developments threaten a possible rise of extremist leaders to power in Western democratic states, which means the lines between Western democracies and pseudo-democracies are fading.

Conclusion

While orderism as an ideology gained wide acceptance, and although there are justifications for resorting to it temporarily due to turmoil across the world, it is important that regimes, as they serve the interests of their states, should not be tempted to take advantage of orderism to justify their authoritarian practices.[32] Experience shows that authoritarian structures are unlikely to continue[33], as evidenced by the experience of Arab Spring states. Beyond the initial stage of having a functioning state bureaucracy, economic and political development should go hand-in-hand with liberal policies.

On the other hand, adherents of liberalism should refrain from presuming that other societies are ripe and readily accept liberal values that can be universally applied based on the presumption that liberal democracy fits all cultures in all circumstances. Otherwise, orderism will succeed and gain wider acceptance in non-Western societies, especially because they already accept and respect traditions while they do not exclude religious values.

To conclude, it is safe to say that both liberalism and orderism suffer shortcomings and failures, in some aspects, and that each state should choose its path that suits its history, culture, and values, and, at the same time, seek to achieve societal development and stability by guaranteeing real mechanisms for achieving the peaceful transfer of power.

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