The real results of the Russian elections

As you may or may not know, Russia has recently had elections, in which the ruling United Russia (ER) party was battered in the polls, and then a series of ongoing protests over the dodgy results. However, given the adage, ‘It does not matter how you vote, what matters is how they count’, the results look like they are actually far worse for the Putin-Medvedev bunch. As Israel Shamir reports:

Were the elections falsified? Independent observers reported many irregularities in Moscow; probably it was even worse elsewhere. It seems that the ruling ER party activists inserted many fake ballots, and probably skewed the results in their favour. A poll made by NGO Golos on the basis of a few polling places with no irregularities showed that the communists won big, while the ER almost collapsed at the polls. On the web, there are claims of massive distortions following the vote count. It is hard to extrapolate from the Moscow results to the whole country, but the Russians believe that the results were falsified. They are also tired of their Teflon rulers.

Official results versus popularly believed:

ER: 49% – 32%

SR: 13% – 17%

CPRF: 19% – 35%

LDPR: 11% – 11%

(CPRF = communists; SR = Just Russia, a breakaway from the communists; LDPR = Liberal Democratic Party of Russia)

Shamir concludes that even with the dodgy ‘official’ outcome:

The results were quite impressive and they point to great changes ahead. The Russians have said to communism: ‘Come back, all is forgiven’. They effectively voted to restore the Soviet Union, in one form or another.  Perhaps this vote will not be acted upon, but now we know – the people are disappointed with capitalism, with the low place of post-Soviet Russia in the world and with the marriage of big business and government … The twentieth anniversary of the restoration of capitalism that Russia commemorated this year was not a cause for celebration but rather for sad second thoughts. The Russians loudly regretted the course taken by their country in 1991; the failed coup of August 1991, this last ditch attempt to preserve communism, has been reassessed in a positive light, while the brave Harvard boys of yesteryear who initiated the reforms are seen as criminals. Yeltsin and Gorbachev are out, Stalin is in.

All the same, the communists don’t have the guts of their predecessors and are overly keen to avoid a civil war. They’d also need to win over substantial parts of the army. Indeed, they ‘are ready to work with Putin any time. Can Putin change his spots and become Putin-2, a pro-communist president who will restore the Soviet Union and break the power of the oligarchs? He could certainly adopt some communist rhetoric and use the communist support.  Judging by his recent utterances at the Valdai forum, he is likely to turn Russia leftwards’. Either that or it’s time for another Lenin.

(ht sk via tp)

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31 thoughts on “The real results of the Russian elections

    1. That sounds suspiciously like the ‘official’ results, precisely what Shamir is reporting is pretty dodgy and what the people on the street know is out of whack. The exit polls where actually showing communists winning hands down. Interestingly, in the Ukraine, between 1996 and 2006 support for the communists has gone up from a lowly 12% to 38%. The catch, my dear anti-communist, is that communists should always use the bourgeois democratic system as a way of expounding and spreading their view that the system itself needs to be abolished – which is why the Russians need another Lenin.

      1. Well, forget the 20% figure from the exit polls – facts are for realists, not idealists.

        But you touch on an interesting issue – suppose the communist party really is becoming tremendously popular, and on the current trajectory imagined by your “people on the street” (both of them) the Party gets elected in with a whopping majority next election (say 70%), enabling them to change the constitution unilaterally, outlawing opposition parties, etc. Would this be a communist government, or would a revolution still be required?

      2. Good question, but that is a matter of ‘minimal difference’ – Si duo faciunt idem, non est idem. Changing the constitution/outlawing opposition parties and abolishing the bourgeois parliamentary system are not quite the same thing, since the former assumes that the system is still in place but has been modified.

      3. Well, with a 70% majority and ability to change the constitution, they can abolish the bourgeois parliamentary system as well – there is no need for any difference in effect from a classical Marxist revolution, let alone something as hegelian (your idealism, again!) as a “minimal difference”. Such a change would be one of those events about which constitutional legal experts generally acknowledge that – no matter what previous legal forms have been followed to get there – the new constitution is ultimately beyond and ungrounded in any previously existing law (i.e. it is ultimately grounded on a sheer act of power). To this extent the exercise of power would be “a minimal revolution” – bloodless, but a radical reorganisation of power nevertheless.

        I don’t think this scenario is hypothetical in any of the countries with popular communist parties – especially so if the percentages of your two friends on the street are correct.

      4. They are still two different acts: ‘winning’ an election within a bourgeois parliamentary system and abolishing that system. And don’t kid yourself that the second would be bloodless. Even a minimal survey of the history of communist revolutions shows that capitalist states attack any such revolution with insane fury. Example: the October Revolution (1917) was almost bloodless, but the massive loss of life came when the Entente instituted trade sanctions and a blockade and sent troops and huge amounts of aid to anyone who would attack the new communist government.

      5. Ah – so the lesson of 1917 is that a revolution can indeed be bloodless – and so too with a revolution resulting from a democratic election rather than storming a monarch’s palace.

      6. Of course, but this is irrelevant. If such is a step to the reconstitution of a communist society, it is pragmatically the same thing.

      7. Now you have shifted positions, suggesting that an election ‘win’ is a step, with some subsequent fiddling with the consitution. Instead, electoral campaigns are the means of propagating the position that the bourgeois state needs to be abolished. Whether one does so before or after an election is irrelevant.

      8. No shift: I already acknowledged that while a bourgeois democratic election is within the existing order, a constitutional change – while resulting from that election – must be beyond the previous regime of power. New constitutions, even if effected “constitutionally”, paradoxically rest on a sheer act of power.

        I’m not so sure that a communist revolution would result in a united capitalist opposition, as it did in 1917, etc. Shockwaves are much greater the first time, and end to diminish in later repetitions. Humans get bored.

  1. Another thing – what is your primary reason you’d offer for having communism rather than capitalism? What is the basic ethical reason (assuming your main reason is not simply utilitarian or arbitrary whim, or something amoral)? What is the basic rational for your “ought”? Why ought the mode of production be communist rather than capitalist?

    1. Seriously, Deane, have you had a good look at the most ‘advanced’ capitalist country in the world, USA? It’s what Ken Surin calls a ‘successful’ third world country. But forget ethics, since I prefer unethics (whihc is not amoral but anti-moral).

      1. So … what is your primary reason you’d offer for having communism rather than capitalism? Why ought the mode of production be communist rather than capitalist?

      2. From all according to ability; to all according to need. That is, economically efficient, politically democratic, socially equal, sexually liberated. Or more prosaically, so all the fat cats can enjoy the lovely weather in Antarctica.

      3. So, social fairness and egalitarianism is your main ethical reason for a communist structure, huh (with an eye on stopping resource waste and sexual liberation)?

      4. Really – is this coherent? What does your “fairness” mean in a “unethical” (non-ethical?) sense?

        Are you saying your primary reason for shifting to a communist mode of production involves no ethical rationale? How so?

  2. Let’s put it this way. Ethics may be defined as the effort to grease social relations so they run more smoothly. Specifically, ethics operates by constructing an ‘other’ with whom one must therefore relate. It relies on a notion of the chosen people and the theological codes of good and evil, let alone being an approach developed and reserved (Aristotle’s ta ethika) for the ruling class. On that score and given its semantic associations with appropriate custom and habit (ethos and mos – mores), it has some extremely unsavoury class associates. So you are buying into a deeply problematic theological and ruling class approach by invoking ethics. By contrast, the only course is an unethical (aēthēs) and unmoral (praeter morem) politics.

    1. I see. Again, I think you place too much stock on etymologies and origins – like a trained philologist (as in your earlier discussions of historical criticism [too tied to German 19thC origins] and reception history [too tied to Gadamer]). I, on he other hand, reckon “we” can kick away the ladder that “we” might have climbed to get to any of these points. There is no need for ethics to be tied to the historical discussion in Greek and modern European discourses. I do not see that they are inevitably constitutive of an ethical discourse, more broadly conceived.

      All I mean by ethics is some statement of an “ought”. This wide conception of “ethics” quite includes your un-[aristotelian, class-based]-ethics, as I understand it.

      Or, just to get rid of the word (with the etymological connotations that you seem to have trouble getting past), do you consider there is a primary oughtness for shifting to a communist mode of production? And is that oughtness “fairness”, to state the oughtness fairly abstractly?

  3. The characteristic flanking move by those committed to a universal ‘wide conception’ ethics, for which ‘oughtness’ is another code – a universal based on a false particular. The problem is that the particular happens to be our dear friend, Mr A, since pretty much all discussions of ethics make Aristotle a contemporary conversation partner, so you need to see why and how. Simply dropping him is obscuring the particular nature of the ‘universal’ position to which you are committed, much like the argument that we are all, deep-down, capitalists by nature and that those ancients were simply not as good at it as us. It forgets the specific provenance and mechanism by which is became ‘universal’.
    Then again, a good number of communists would take your position on the ethical plus of communism. I am not one of them, since the framework of ethics is the problem here.

    1. As far as universals go, I think the bare “you ought to ….” is difficult to deny amongst humans, and is even more difficult to delimit to the Aristotelian particular. It’s certainly not like the spurious claim that we’re all capitalists deep down – which is an unexamined particularism falsely universalised. So, I am justified in classifying (also a favourite occupation of Aristotle, but an activity which hardly exhausts the universal human activity of classifying) your “un-[Aristotelian, class-based]-ethicism” as …. ethicism.

      But, word-worship aside, is your primary rationale “fairness” of a particular sort?

      1. You are referring to something different than I am. “Universalist ethics”, on any ordinary definition, refers to an ideal single system of prescriptions, which has application to any group in any time or place. As I’m an ethical subjectivist, this is precisely the opposite of what how I describe ethics. Whereas, the universalism I’m referring to is one meta step back: all human societies have “oughts” – my universalisation of particulars is not at the level of specific ethical prescriptions, but of the existence of ethics.

        But all this talk about the classification as “ethical” or “nonethical” avoids my question: is your primary rationale for a communist mode of production social “fairness”?

      2. Unfortunately, you fall into the pupular trap of assuming that universal means singular. Universals – in science and mathematics – can and do operate as multiples. So your false universalism operates at both levels and thereby your question is invalid, since it perpetuates the attempted flanking movement I mentioned earlier. I operate with an unethical insurgency that would abolish the frame within which you operate.

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