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REMARKS BY YEVGENY YASIN AT THE CONFERENCE "GOVERNMENT REFORM IN RUSSIA: WHAT IS TO BE DONE?"
[NOVOTEL MOSCOW CENTER, OCTOBER 7, 2004]
SOURCE: FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE (http://www.fednews.ru/)
Yasin: Actually, I was not going to speak on economic topics for one simple reason. Because the economy is all right and as long as oil prices are high, nothing will change there. But I have the information that foreign investments are flowing into Russia; this has not yet been reflected in statistical data, but the investors are looking around for somewhere to invest their money.
As I was coming to this meeting I was reading a large article by the president of General Electric. And we should understand that business will never miss an opportunity to make more money. And to expect that things will begin to change soon because there will be an economic crisis -- an economic crisis does not create any opportunities. But even if it had occurred, it wouldn't provide an immediate impetus for an about face. Because an economic crisis agitates the masses; the masses if they did not get the right kind of leaders in time, will not work in a constructive way.
So, the economy is in good shape. I can tell you much more: that the reforms are stalled, that nothing is happening, but if the economy is fine as it is, why should anything happen. And speaking about the economy, positive and negative developments are being determined strategically 30 or 40 years ahead. It is now that we are making the choice whether to follow the path of Asiope or not. If we choose that road, we will always be like Asia. I don't know when another revolution will happen in Russia. I'd rather it never happened.
So, if a change is brought about in the situation, then we will have a chance to gradually change our system of institutions, our system of values. This is a great and complicated effort that will go in waves, with ebb and flow and so on. But this will not happen over a short period of time. What is in store, is the period of instability and what we observe in our life today is one manifestation of these ups and downs.
Now I will turn to my vision of the importance of political issues. In the economy, even thinking 30 years ahead, nothing can be changed without a change of policy.
Today all the economic issues are resolved politically. In politics, in the legal environment, in legislation, in my view, in Russia the adoption of even an excellent law means absolutely nothing because after it is adopted, you discover that there a thousand ways of making that law work in a different direction. I can assure you that Vladimir Vladimirovich can do whatever he likes under the democratic constitution adopted in 1993.
One may argue about the rationale for this or that article. I agree with Mikhail Alexandrovich Krasnov, but because the Constitution is so worded that you can interpret it whichever which way, he can always prove his point to you, and who will be the arbiter? Krasnov will not be the arbiter, the arbiters will be sitting in the Supreme Court, etc. And in the Constitutional Court we have Valery Dmitriyevich who is an ardent democrat. So, we should take a sober view of all this.
In my opinion, if we talk about the political situation, we must be aware that the country has taken a serious turn. The change consists in this, that previously the main political cleavage was between the left and the right. Now that axis has changed. And the division now is between those who for democracy and those who are for dictatorship. And there is no getting away from it.
So, I don't know how we will build alliances, etc., I may feel a bit uncomfortable having to be friends with Gennady Andreyevich or with someone else. I think that at present I have much common ground on economic issues with United Russia. But I don't think it is even proper to say so because they are a weapon in fighting against democracy.
The future of Russia without democracy is impossible. We will lose the race for a position in the post-industrial society. This should be obvious to all except those who today, having already seized all power, are seeking to create a further "margin of strength" as Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov put it. This is very remarkable. As a former engineer, I can tell you that when they build a structure, the engineer always provides for margin of strength, in the Soviet times the coefficient was 3-4 times, that's where they sought a higher quality, or 1.5-2 and so on.
Irina Khakamada is right: they have already accomplished everything that could be accomplished. Everything is in their hands. But they feel that this is not enough and that they need a margin of strength. All the actions taken recently -- regarding the law courts and elections and regarding governors -- are not life-or-death matters for the authorities. And this is part of their weakness, they are open to criticism for this.
What is the distinctive feature of the current situation? The authorities tell us: why do we act as we do? Because we have that kind of society, that kind of people, we have no civil society, nobody cares about anything and nobody will ever do anything in this country until the boss bawls you out and swings a stick and order you to work. And it is hard to challenge these views because we ourselves were saying the same thing for a long time. And there are serious grounds for such ideas.
So, let me just tell you that this is a lie. However true the claims may be about the passivity of our society and so on, I should say that a tiny issue of people being stripped of their right to choose their regional bosses has changed the situation because for the first time people's rights have been truly affected. It is one thing to bash the oligarchs -- Gusinsky and Berezovsky. Of course, it was disgusting when they seized "Namedni" program and before that seized "Itogi" and some other popular programs. Well, he probably enjoys soap operas more.
Well, he didn't feel very strongly about the changes on federal TV channels and what was being done to business. But now, and I proceed from the data from Levada's center: before the elections, the share of the voters who were prepared to vote for democratic parties was 15 percent; and now it is 30 percent. I am not claiming that this is a situation that will remain, that it is a permanent change.
But, dear colleagues, it depends on us. This is a moment when we can catch the mood of the people and translate this mood into certain sentiments. People, young people come to me and say, something has to be done. You are sitting here and talking; give us an organization so that we could do something real, make our views known and so on.
I think it is our duty. So, I support the proposal on calling a civil congress, or you can think of some other name. What is needed is a major demonstration of democratic forces that would be difficult to disperse. No matter that Surkov will not like it, let them slander us. But nothing doing. It is necessary.
Secondly, organization issues should be solved. I don't think we will be able to unite all the parties. In general, unification of all the pro-democracy parties is no more possible today than ever. Everyone has his own feelings. But I think that some kind of bloc or front, some kind of association in the fight for democracy are absolutely necessary. There should be a program of action in defense of democracy. And we will sort things out as we go along.
And the last thing. In my view we should now target independent non-governmental organizations. It is I think the last line of defense. We have no other independent forces, not to speak about political organizations which are vanishing. And the last thing. We witness an arrogant attempt in a very perfidious way, through taxation and so on to block the possibility for people to get grants from anyone but the state and surely nobody would bite the hand that feeds him.
So, I simply suggest -- and we are asking ourselves what concrete actions we will choose. Let us agree that we will form a united front to defend non-governmental, independent civilian organizations. I think it will be a test cast that will show what we can do. Thank you.