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FACADE DEMOCRACY OF LATVIA

Normunds Kozlovs, M.Soc.


After the fall of the Soviet regime, the newly-made labour market-based relationships institutionalising in Latvia and other transitional societies was of the mimetic type, i.e. adapting in jurisdiction often different, and even contrary, West European or American models of institutions. While the new-born state and its regime was in big need of legitimisation, the discourse battle of different ideologies and values played a crucial role. The more stable regime placed less importance on discourse-type legitimisation of authorities' decisions. Masses became de-politicised but not on the price of increasing welfare as it works in the core industrial countries.

In the time of the so-called "singing revolution", Latvia's independence and parliamentary democracy regime have received high legitimisation from Latvians and non-Latvians alike. As the result of nationalism trends in foreign and inner policies, one third of the population, non-Latvians, were considered "colonists" and did not get citizenship.

In the period of gaining legitimisation, two main political ideologies were established: western-oriented liberal capitalism and free market as the messiah that will bring welfare for everybody and shops full of mass consumption products; and from the other side, pro-Soviet oriented forces. Consequently, everything that did not fit in the vision of uprising liberal capitalist welfare was considered to be red and pro-Soviet. As an outcome, values such as solidarity and co-operation that were previously discredited by Soviet functionaries disappeared along with egalitarian collectives and communities -- the social cocooning process. Master and servant hierarchical relationships were considered to be the most efficient and proper, as history proves.

At the same time, those working and life forms that did not fit in the market relationship died. With the de-politicking of the masses, elections became about buying votes through the advanced manipulative technologies of advertising within the mass media. Those technologies developed in western societies together with the resistance forms and behaviour patterns cause people to become immune to the manipulation while they were completely new here in Latvia.

Modernisation of economy and society followed the same guidelines as in Latin American countries after WW2 when they tried to follow the industrial core countries' model. Only a small number of the population was able to adopt the behavioural standard of free initiative
entrepreneurs -- they became socially mobile and reached the spots in social hierarchy where they could share the national resources without control. That was the time of cheap credits and pyramid-type financial corporation growth.

Latvia made progress in stabilising its economy and pursuing market-oriented reforms. Its currency was strong enough to appreciate steadily in a free foreign currency market. A lot of industrial factories in the territory of Latvia were left without work. In the interest of capital, the administrative apparatus slowed the re-industrialisation and did not help to invest in the sphere of industrial production. In the meantime, it was easy to invest in oil, transit, and raw timber export. The so-called liberal and pro-European political forces were helping to accumulate primary national capital that would be possible to invest in industry in the future.

With the slowing of re-industrialisation, the growing labour market relationships, and unemployment of the wage-laboured population, there was an increase in the social tensions. To overcome those tensions, there were three ways to develop state policy making: growing of the administrative apparatus, de-ideologisation, and domestic nationalism and indoctrination of threats by inside/outside enemies, namely bordering Russia and the Russian speaking population.

Administrative system growth makes space for the products of passive proletarisation while the industry is shut down. The Latvian conscription-type army left with unchanged structure and officers serves the same function -- temporary exclusion out of the labour market. It is significant that in Latvia there is no counter culture form of neo-nazis (namely skinheads), while it's very common in other parts of Europe, especially in those transitional societies with destroyed industry and suburban ghetto life -- unemployment, crime, etc. This results in the same teenage gang street violence, while the continuous distrust in positive values and social ideals, plus the loss of social and geographical mobility results in the political de-ideologisation of youth counter culture groups.

The most organised basic structure for civil society is the non-governmental organisation (NGO), but they are isolated from the population as they share different living standards (imposed by western funds), lifestyles, and values. Besides, NGOs as part of the facade of democracy, have governmental support. Basically most NGOs in Latvia are so called "grey NGOs", i.e. they speak from the government point of view but aren't allowed to speak to the government itself. NGOs in Latvia mainly represent only formal local civic society. Masses are deprived of social problems and their possible solutions (i.e. ideologies) because the mechanisms of solving social problems - solidarity, uniting for collective action and self-governing - have been annihilated.

Within the process of coca-colonisation (imposing multinational corporate capital domain over the territory of Latvia), institutionalisation of the relationship between capitalist production and management of living conditions becomes very manipulative. Dominant power reached by those structures based in the sphere of technological manipulation colonises political discourse, communication and civic politics. As a result, people aren't able to decide upon their living conditions and the organisation of their communities.

The material circumstances of reproduction, i.e. governing class control upon the wage labourers makes it necessary to politically regulate who is and who is not a wage labourer, otherwise the system won't work. Control is possible by immobilising those segments of the population that have got extra hold on the life and self maintenance beyond the labour market and who are temporarily or permanently exempt from selling their labour on the wage market. Other life forms - family, school, the health insurance system, etc. - are sanctioned by the state policy only if they facilitate labour transition into wage labour.

Farmers and the agricultural type of independent nation ideology (slightly similar to Qadafi's Libyan model) has a special role in Latvia's situation as an opposition to Soviet industrial colonisation from 40-ties to 80-ties. A Russification policy via planned immigration of industrial workers was executed. Latvia regained its independence in 1991 after 50 years of Soviet rule. In June, Latvia, a parliamentary democracy, held its first free and fair elections in over 60 years and reinstated its 1922 Constitution. In July, the Parliament Saeima elected Guntis
Ulmanis of the Farmers' Union as President/head of state. He was a totally unknown person and became the president just because he had the same surname as an authoritarian leader in Latvia's pre-Soviet independence. In the early period of Latvia's independence, it was a highly recommended ideal to be a self-maintenance farmer. At the same time, the ruling class was not very interested in getting taxes or other state incomes because they were busy building their own capital from western donations and state property. Therefore, the proud self-sustained farmer's ideology helped to destroy the collective farming system, which allowed those communal properties to go to a very limited range of the population - mainly the high rank functionaries who first got into the legal procedures of privatisation. They have a monopoly on information and some other resources. The self-sustained farmer's ideal helped to build local patriotism for successful militarism.

The same scheme worked for de-nationalisation. Latvia became the only transition state where de-nationalisation on the basis of kinship was not restricted at all. Such legislative order was lobbied by high rank functionaries who had western origins from immigrants' families of the new administration. As a result, the main privatised property was going to the westerners who knew not only how to operate within the legal system but also had the resources to hire professional lawyers.

Starting in 1995, politicians spoke about reducing the population employed in agriculture, aligning it with the European model: that is the right and proper way of organising the economy. The state is no longer efficiently governing the agricultural sector of the national economy. The large cities with a booming economy is in harsh contrast to the rest of the farmland with a destroyed infrastructure of communications, roads, and so on. The municipalities with annual reduced budgets are led by women. The ones earning from harbours and transit money are headed by big strong bosses -- men. The Russian-speaking population is dominant in these urban environments while Latvian-speaking inhabitants remain on the farmlands. Currently, there is a growing rate of child illiteracy, which was never experienced under Soviet rule. Parents can't afford to send their kids to school, local schools are shut down. And the only strikes experienced since independence were those of school teachers. The choice between the existence of wage labourers and other living maintenance forms that exist out of the labour market is no longer in the hands of the labour owner. It became easier to regulate the administration of people's lives after the de-collectivisation. Technological invasion is serving this function: even the social sector is administrated from the perspective of prison. It is IT-based overseeing and control of ghettos instead of structural re-arrangement of those under-social environments.

Post-socialism countries like Latvia have very appropriate labour resources for the development of industry. People are still well-educated and deprived of production forces and administration, plus there is a lack of labour self-organising forms. There are no real trade unions as the political representation of labour. It causes a facade-type of democracy -- the social reforms and legislative changes are made by the outside pressure of European standards, as joining the European Union became the state's primary foreign policy task aside from longing for the virtual NATO nuclear umbrella. Without inner social pressure, this legislation did not end up efficiently implemented.

Latvia saw almost no strikes even in the harshest years of 1992/3. Although many state-owned factories were on the verge of bankruptcy and seriously behind in wage payments, workers feared dismissal if they went on strike, and non-citizens feared that their participation in strikes might affect their residency status. Now after the total collapse of local industries, they formed a large sector of grey economy of small and medium sized enterprises, while Latvians are expanding the growing state and municipal administrative apparatus. But still both sub-societies lack the experience and formal procedures to influence the decision-making process. That causes widespread corruption. The state power centres are outside of country borders: the economic power the national economy is dependant upon is Moscow's controlled oil and gas transit pipes, but the legislation is dependant on Brussels' imposed EU normatives aside from the cures for the social sector proposed by the international financial monsters IMF and WB. If the whole population of Latvia would die in one night it almost wouldn't affect the country; the state machinery is not dependant on neither its citizen nor non-citizen inhabitants. That is the loss of civil participation.