Dangers of Democracy

I would like to call attention to a deeply serious problem that arises from the kind of democracy emerging today both in the Eastern European countries and in the Soviet Union.

In my opinion, the forms of democracy being established in these countries are exceptionally contradictory and in a very short time they will lead to serious internal conflict. That conflict has already started in Poland. It can be observed in Romania, and it is beginning in our country, too. What is happening apparently does not depend on the national characteristics of the particular countries involved, but on more fundamental processes.

I see the main problem in the relationship between, on the one hand, populism and, on the other, the tasks that must be carried out if the economy and the society are to be transformed. Clearly, we could not have overthrown the powerful totalitarian system without the active participation of millions of ordinary people. But now we must create a society with a variety of different forms of ownership, including private property; and this will be a society of economic inequality. There will be contradictions between the policies leading to denationalization, privatization, and inequality on the one hand and, on the other, the populist character of the forces that were set in motion in order to achieve those aims. The masses long for fairness and economic equality. And the further the process of transformation goes, the more acute and the more glaring will be the gap between those aspirations and economic realities.

We must create an effective economy. But the masses of workers participating in the economy are not thinking about how to organize work more effectively; they are thinking about being consumers and of having more goods to consume. If economic transformations are to work, we must create an effective apparatus for management, yet the masses have an intense hatred of any bureaucracy. Whatever assessment we may make of perestroika, we constantly find that large numbers of ordinary citizens are interested in deep economic and social transformations only temporarily and then only during the first stages. And that interest is based not on an understanding of the new, but on a hatred for the old—a destructive motive.

Therefore, in the new democratic soviets in the USSR in which the radicals have won control, we observe a characteristic process. In the first stage, the stage of struggle with bureaucratic communism, most of the forces of society joined together to win; and indeed they are still winning victories over the communist bureaucracies. But no sooner does a bloc or identifiable group of democrats take power and start discussing the question of what to do next than the democratic forces begin breaking apart. We now observe what could be called a renaissance of left-wing populism. But I would call the growing group of left-wing populists the New Communists.

They now criticize the democratic forces that have taken power for not solving one problem or another. Our Soviet trade unions are…

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