Institutional Analyses

  • Robert Desjardins
Part of the St Antony’s/Macmillan Series book series

Abstract

Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, whose analysis of the Soviet political system we shall discuss in a moment (to be followed by Castoriadis’s latest interpretation), once observed that ‘with regard to … the institutions … the studies in this field have been basically descriptive and the essential dynamics of the system have eluded the researcher’.1 In this particular respect it would be fair to say that French scholarly writings on Soviet political institutions appear, on the whole, to have confined themselves to a knowledgeable description and discussion of these structures. Descriptions of the mechanisms of the Soviet system (party, state organs, and so on), often set against an historical backdrop, have not generally been purely formalistic. None the less, the overwhelming impression which many works in this class of writing leaves is one of dryness; the treatment of the functioning of the political system and of the real decision-making process has remained at an unsatisfactory level.

Keywords

Permeability Europe Assure Social Stratification Expense 

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Notes and References

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    On this particular question of participation, see the interesting article of Georges Langrod, ‘Les formes de la participation des masses dans le gouvernement et l’administration de l’U.R.S.S.’, Annuaire de l’U.R.S.S. Droit-Economie-Sociologie-Politique-Culture, vol. I (1962) pp. 101–39.Google Scholar
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    As she explains, three elements of the 1977 Constitution appreciably weaken the significance of Soviet federalism: ‘First, the Constitution repeatedly asserts that the development of Soviet society leads to an ultimate rapprochement of nations and ethnic groups, and stresses the existence of the Soviet people. In addition, the Constitution of 1977 is much less precise than the 1936 Constitution with regard to federal and republican powers. … Finally, and this is the key point, by turning the Party — this unitary organisation, the vocation of which is to transcend national differences — into the central axis of the Soviet society of tomorrow, and by stressing democratic centralism, those in charge of the Constitution (constituants) have stressed the will for unity, and reopened the contents of Soviet federalism’. See also Carrère d’Encausse, ‘Lire la nouvelle Constitution’, p. 10. See also Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, ‘La Constitution de 1977: continuité et changement’, Problèmes politiques et sociaux, no. 326 (23 December 1977) p. 26.Google Scholar
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    In addition to its impact on the operations of some specific institutions such as universities, the clan/tribe structure influences the selection of cadres in local party or government organs. Also, as Bennigsen points out, ‘in some cases, these survivals of the clan/tribe system provide the basis for illegal religious organizations’. The writer refers here to the Sufi orders which he depicts as being violently hostile to the Soviet regime (these mystical brotherhoods represent the jihad or ‘holy war’ aspects of Islam). See Alexandre Bennigsen, ‘Several Nations or One People? Ethnic Consciousness among Soviet Central Asian Muslims’, Survey, vol. 24, no. 3 (Summer 1979) p. 52.Google Scholar
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    This particular viewpoint relating to the vitality and importance of both the subnational and supranational levels of consciousness is somewhat at variance with conclusions reached by Bennigsen in earlier writings. For instance, we read in a book published in 1967 that ‘ill-defined tribal on ethnic “subnational” consciousness has disappeared; supranational pan-Islamic or pan-Turkic consciousness … may have survived in the minds of a few but it is barely discernible on the surface’. See A. Bennigsen and C. Lemercier-Quelquejay, Islam in the Soviet Union (New York and Washington: Praeger, 1967) p. 224.Google Scholar
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    As remarked by J.-P. Brûlé, the Soviet Muslims ‘today play more the Communist than the Islamic game’. See Jean-Pierre Brûlé, ‘L’U.R.S.S. et ses musulmans’, Est et Ouest, no. 666 (September 1982) p. 30.Google Scholar
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    While writing about this idea of ‘Russian masters’, Bennigsen is indeed far too well-informed a specialist not to bear in mind the evolution towards greater participation and authority of native cadres in their republics’ national affairs. See Bennigsen and Broxup, The Islamic Threat to the Soviet State, p. 134.Google Scholar
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    When Castoriadis refers to the power of the stratocracy he does not mean the presence in the Politburo of a majority of military officers, nor that the latter’s signed intervention is necessary for the taking of any particular decision.Google Scholar
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    Castoriadis considers that his hypothesis of a separate military society is plainly confirmed by the very existence of the ‘closed enterprises’. Ibid., p. 122.Google Scholar
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    See Paul Thibaud, ‘Le plus dur et le plus fragile des régimes — Entretien avec Cornelius Castoriadis’, Esprit, no. 63 (March 1982) pp. 140–6.Google Scholar
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