“Lumpenizatsiya”

Sep 6 2010 @ 3:01pm

by Zoe Pollock

Scott Horton reports on the burgeoning democracy in the Kyrgyz Republic, after a revolution broke out in early April:

“We are witnessing the process of ‘lumpenizatsiya,’” one former president of the Kyrgyz bar, who had been aggressively critical of each of the prior governments, told me. When I asked what he meant by this curiously Marxist coinage, he explained, “It’s the process whereby the reins of government are seized by waves of people who are progressively less educated, less capable, and more brutish. Threats and intimidation take the place of moral suasion and law. Clan loyalties take the place of a sense of duty to the state.” In other words, a Hobbesian vision of the state in meltdown.

In a series of meetings in the former offices of parliament, now used as the headquarters of the government, I quickly got a sense of what he meant. Waiting for an appointment, I listened to one senior member of the government speaking in heated, animated terms with another—the topic, it turned out, was whether one man’s follower would be appointed as the principal of a secondary school in a remote village, replacing a career educator. “I already took his payment,” one said. “But he doesn’t know how to run a school,” came the rejoinder. Similar conversations, picked up in telephone intercepts, surfaced in YouTube segments (sometimes with polished English subtitles) that reverberated around the country. The nation’s civil-service postings seemed to be for sale to the highest bidder.

But one friend told me, “Look at the bright side: this petty corruption seems largely driven by democracy!”