Fairbanks- Revolution Reconsidered.pdf

Fairbanks jr 55 rule but major violence may be more

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Charles H. Fairbanks, Jr. 55 rule, but major violence may be more attractive and thus a more likely outcome there than in other regions, and military rule is much more likely to result. In Latin America, Hugo Chávez illustrates the continu- ing dangers of the revolutionary tradition, but there is also danger in allowing populist protest to be confiscated by antidemocratic forces. Some of the pacted transitions, such as that in Ecuador, were not, in the long run, satisfying to their publics, possibly leaving some opening for democratic revolution. Where revolution has the greatest democratic potential is in former communist areas, perhaps including Russia (and one day Cuba and China). In such places, the greatest barrier to democracy is the people’s sense of helplessness and estrangement from everything public. The em- powerment that comes from vast demonstrations and other revolution- ary events can be tremendously salutary. The examples of Georgia and Ukraine show that the inevitable postrevolutionary disillusionment is not as crippling as we might have supposed. In these countries, the post- totalitarian allergy against violence dampens the potential of minor clashes to escalate and keeps the armed forces out of politics, at least for now, but it also heightens the risk that any higher level of violence will discredit popular mobilization. Kyrgyzstan vividly illustrates the dan- ger that revolutionary dynamics may be captured for selfish coups d’état, a danger endemic in places where the communist discrediting of the public world has turned politics into an opportunity for personal gain. In postcommunist authoritarian countries successful mass organization appears to be a prerequisite for democratic breakthroughs. Effective Regime Change? The question remains as to whether the “color revolutions” produced enduring regime changes. In all three countries, the new leaders are officials who split from the former governments; in Georgia, however, many figures from nongovernmental organizations were brought into government, a partial change of the ruling type of people. An even graver question is raised by the history of earlier presidents in all three countries. Kuchma in Ukraine, Gamsakhurdia and Shevardnadze in Geor- gia, and Akayev in Kyrgyzstan all appeared at one time to have accom- plished a shift to democratic rule, only to yield to authoritarian temptations. The chance of consolidated democracy in Kyrgyzstan is very low, because the “Tulip Revolution” only replaced one former communist apparatchik with a less sophisticated one, and the northern elite with a more parochial southern elite. In all three states, some im- portant features of democracy, such as genuine rule of law, have been almost wholly disregarded. Democratic consolidation confronts many problems both in Georgia and in Ukraine. To simplify vastly, the problem in Georgia is the au-
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Journal of Democracy 56 thoritarian temptation, while in Ukraine it is the lack of effective re- forms and the return of old forces. Yanukovich, the authoritarian candi-
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  • Spring '14
  • AnitaC.Pritchard
  • Democracy

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