Sunday, 29 July 2018

The politics of retreat: Soviet Union/ Ethiopia

The politics of retreat by Prof. John Keane, a 1990 article on the process of dismantling of the Soviet Union by Gorbachov.

The politics of retreat of the totalitarian state:

The politics of retreat is an article that was written by John Keane (a Professor of Politics at the Polytechnic of Central London) in 1990. The article analysed the changes that were taking place in Soviet Union under Gorbachew. The writer addressed the retreat of the totalitarian state. Though Ethiopia and the Soviet Union are different to compare and 2018 is not 1990; the changes taking place in Ethiopia look similar to those that took place in the Soviet Union, then. The Gobachew phenomenon looks like the ‘Abiy’ phenomenon. Does Abiy intend to dismantle the EPRDF totalitarian state? This makes the article an interesting read.

The politicians of retreat are a new specie of political animal. Although schooled in the arts of conventional politics; politicians of retreat always begin their careers in the corridors and committee rooms of state power-they are not driven by lust for power or visions of grand victories through conquest. They are instead skilled in the art of unscrewing the lids of despotism by forming new compromises and withdrawing and retreating from unworkable positions.

The politics of retreat is naturally a delicate and a dangerous process. Its leaders  are trapped within the quicksands of politics. They risk their lives at every step, and they are always surrounded by enemies operating in the shadowy corners of state power. The legitimacy problem confronting politicians is partly due to the fact that they hasten the disintegration of the existing despotic regime, thereby threatening certain individuals and groups whose power base lie within the system. Politicians of retreat help dramatically to widen the political spectrum. They tend to speak of future gains. They know one thing best: the despotic regimes can die of of swallowing their own lies and arrogance, and that fear and demorilisation can not govern forever. Their actions often have unintended consequences of fostering the growth of social power groups acting at a distance from which they help to dismantle. The politicians typically sow the seeds of their own downfall.
The politics of retreat is a dangerous bussiness. There comes a point when it intensifies the crisis it is supposed to resolve. Events become pregnant with unforseen consequences. Many  subjects become active citizens who are no longer impatient. Controlled retreat begins to turn in choas.

Thanks to Niels Harbitz for making aware of the article