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Pete Glatter

Not Much Class


From Historical Materialism, volume 11:1, 2003, pp.243-255.
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2003.
Used with kind permission of the editor.
Also available online –
Provided as a PDF by Sebastien Budgen.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Élites after State Socialism: Theories and Analysis
Edited by John Higley and György Lengyel
Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000

There is an extraordinary contrast between the confident, optimistic tone at the beginning of this book and the confusion and uncertainty at the end. The editors’ introduction presents a comprehensive pattern of élites and regimes and sums up the entire political development of Eastern Europe and Russia from the late 1980s to the late-1990s. A large part of the conclusion, it is true, follows this up by arguing that élite theory has eclipsed Marxism as a credible explanation of political change (p. 238). Actually, this boils down to little more than saying that the term ‘élite’ has become fashionable for the second time in a century, but the voluntary confessions which the authors themselves then make are much more damaging to their cause. The widespread use of the word ‘élite’, they admit, has not been the result of any revival or development of ideas about élites. On the contrary, there is ‘something like a theory void’. In other words, this is a theory which lacks any widely-accepted system of basic terms and concepts even among its own adherents. It is therefore extremely difficult to test and not much use as a criteria by which to select data.

The essays in this anthology do, however, share certain basic attitudes: élitism, for example. On the very first page, the editors put forward as the premise of the entire volume the view that the prospects for stability and democracy are crucially dependent on the ‘extent to which élites trust and cooperate with one another’ (p.1). This is echoed in the chapter on Slovakia, while the chapter on Poland declares: ‘After state socialism in East Central Europe, politics have become what the majority of politicians, or at least the dominant politicians, do’ (p.87). The contributors do not develop thought-out arguments to substantiate such points or support them with evidence, they are simply asserted. Another common attitude favours description rather than analysis. For instance, in the Introduction, the editors mention that in their model, reproduction (the occupation of élite positions in the new regime by the same type of people as in the old) ‘is associated with fragmented élites’ (p.11). However, they do not attempt an explanation as to why this should be so. In his essay on Serbia, which, while muddled, is a degree more thoughtful than the others, Mladen Lazić characterises élite theory as ‘trivial, descriptive, and non-analytical at the abstract level, though it has often spawned compelling empirical research’ (p.126). I thought this really hit the nail on the head when I first read it; however, upon further consideration, I found it over-generous. In my experience of the literature on Russia, it is more often the case that interesting research on élites dabs itself here and there with a touch of something fashionable from the world of ideas: it might be a touch of élite theory, or a hint of democratisation theory, or a soupçon of globalisation theory; it might not have much to do with the rest of the outfit. [1]

Then there is the light-minded attitude to issues of evidence and data. The essay on the Czech Republic claims that ‘an almost complete circulation of the political élite’ has taken place. However, the reader is referred to other publications for details of the research on which this claim is based. The authors of the essay confess in an aside that ‘methodological problems of sample selection and representativeness were substantial’. But there is no hint here of what these problems were. The last research exercise cited in the chapter appears to have been conducted in 1994, six years before this anthology was published (pp.28-9, 36). The chapter on Poland is rather more forthcoming, so we know that it is based on interviews in 1996 with 215 parliamentary deputies and with 61 runners-up. As the authors make clear, their research was about ‘political élite perceptions of how politics were being played and what the élite’s own roles were in Poland during the mid-1990s’: just the stated perceptions of politicians, nothing else. This is not uninteresting, but is clearly of limited significance and not a very firm basis for a confident prediction that there is little danger of ‘explosive political conflict ... because conflicting élite perceptions ... are substantially undercut by the common conviction ... about the overriding importance of continuing market reform and keeping democracy stable’ (pp.88-9, 101). The essay on East Germany, which argues that there has been an extensive circulation of the political élite, is based on a 1995 survey – again published elsewhere (pp.13-15,120, fn. 12). The nature of the élite samples in the essay on Serbia is not made clear. Nevertheless, they are interpreted to support the argument that the country has an entirely new class structure (pp.130, 133-5). The essay on business élites in four East European countries in 1993, seven years before this anthology was published, is very sketchy about methods, samples and some of its results (pp.220, 222).

It is important to understand that such attitudes are not confined to this particular work. They are integral to élite theory and go right back to the founding fathers. The terms ‘élite theory’ and ‘élitist theory’ have been used interchangeably, and no wonder: [2] élitism sought to justify a prejudice as an idea and was fundamental to the intellectual reaction against Marxism. The originators of élite theory were predisposed to overestimate the innate abilities of élites who succeeded in remaining – or who came out – on top. Élites appeared in the work of Robert Michels, for example, ‘as the infallible architects and supreme beneficiaries of their own victories’. [3]

In the particular case of Eastern Europe, élite analyses, as Michael Burawoy has pointed out, ‘exclude subordinate classes which in effect become the bewildered -silent and silenced – spectators of transformations that engulf them’. [4] These are not real subordinate classes, of course. Burawoy is just describing the way the lower orders appear to the élite mind. The role of the masses and their relations with their masters and mistresses is a central issue to which we will return. For the moment, two aspects of it as regards élite theory are worth mentioning. One is the part mass action played in bringing about the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. Uprisings and workers’ movements were, for forty years, the main and most successful forms of opposition to local élites and their Soviet backers. Burawoy argues that their significance was not confined to the Soviet period. As it came to an end, ‘the compromises struck between dominant and subordinate classes set the prior conditions for alliances among the dominant classes’. In other words, the class struggle in Eastern Europe had a lot to do with the terms on which the transition from Communist rule took place and on the nature and extent of pacts among the élites. Since then, class divisions have deepened and the struggles they engender have continued into the new age. Indeed, in large parts of the former Soviet Union, the passing of the old order marked the beginning of open class struggle for the first time in over sixty years. [5] The second point is that élite theory frees its adherents from having to pay any attention to the actions of the vast bulk of the population. This certainly makes the job of the researcher a lot simpler. My own experience of élite research suggests that it is also very convenient for the élites themselves: the last thing any important Russians I spoke to wanted to admit was that anything any ordinary people did had influenced them in any way whatsoever. The omnipotence of the powerful and the impotence of the powerless are not tools of analysis: they are complementary aspects of élitist fantasy.

Similar points can be made about the weakness of classical élite theory in terms of analysis and evidence. Vilfredo Pareto, for example, was not much concerned with the factual basis of his ideas about élite circulation. His interpretation of history - harsh, vigorous élites alternating with mild, degenerating élites – derived from racist theory, and he limited his serious research to only one actual case: ancient Rome. [6]

But it is not just a question of the theoretical leftovers from some reactionary intellectuals of a bygone age. The contemporary study of post-Communist élites is heavily influenced by US literature of the 1980s about political evolution away from authoritarian political regimes in South America and southern Europe. This literature of ‘transition’, or ‘transitology’, depicts various scenarios in which arrangements for change or ‘pacting’ between élites (and counter-élites) take pride of place. Once such arrangements have been made, a liberalising regime can, if it keeps a cool head and a firm grip, expect an enthusiastic boost from certain social groups as they feel the chains of authoritarianism slacken. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, one of the basic texts of transition theory, looks with particular favour on the role of artists and intellectuals, ‘privileged sectors’, and ‘middle sectors’. You may like to know, by the way, that it describes the accumulated anger of the working class and its capacity for independent action as being likely to make it ‘the greatest challenge to the transitional regime’. [7]

Although regime change is its central issue, this key text has great difficulty in defining what a regime actually is. [8] Everything tends to be seen in terms of relationships between élites, rather than in terms of structures of power, whether these are formal or informal, or in terms of relationships between those who have power and those who do not. What might define such relationships is completely out of the picture. Instead, the authors make a virtue of necessity by touting the notion of the uncertainty of transitional outcomes. Looking at this idea in terms of workers’ experience of rationalisation and redundancy in Eastern Europe, Burawoy remarked: ‘Neoclassical sociologists may celebrate indeterminacy and uncertain futures, but for most this simply means insecurity’. In this conception, even the élites are agents of obscure origin in an uncertain universe: the political structures and socio-economic relationships through which they operate shift hazily in and out of focus in a thoroughly postmodern manner. The notion of uncertainty seems to apply most aptly to the theory itself, as a mid-1990s debate in a major US journal illustrates. [9]

What, for example, is the ‘certain democracy’ these writers are implicitly contrasting transitional regimes with? Given their élitist predilections, it is likely to be some variety of the ‘democratic élitism’ so favoured by New Labour, in which so-called democracy ‘is more important as a method of generating effective and responsible government than as a means of providing significant power for the majority’. [10] The fiasco of the last US presidential election springs immediately to mind. A Russian joke of the time showed the narrowness of the East-West divide: ‘we know the result of our elections before the ballot starts – you don’t know it even after the votes are counted’. There is a connection here between Western élitism and the westernism of East European intellectuals like Lazić which comes out in odd remarks like this:

to anyone who has lived in a socialist country, the need for expertise in a political élite is self-evident; the individuals who successively ran state agencies in the fields of culture, manufacturing, defence, and elsewhere, obviously and woefully lacked the necessary expertise. (p.135)

Nothing like Railtrack, then, or Enron’s superb efficiency in disrupting the electricity supply to large parts of California. And, remember, these are among the highest levels of expertise (and democracy) the West has to offer.

The élitism of élite theory, its neglect of relations between the powerful and the powerless, the strength of its prejudices, the depth of its commitment to the status quo, its failure to develop explanations, and its weakness with empirical verification deeply mark this anthology. One result is confusion in the ranks; as this anthology’s conclusion could hardly avoid acknowledging. Not, at any rate, when the essay on the Czech Republic, the very first case study in the book, opens with a series of highly sceptical pronouncements about the idea that élites have played a central let alone exclusive role in regime change (p.26). Confusion and scepticism are symptomatic of the inadequacy of the élite school of thought. Most of the book subscribes unreservedly to what Colin Sparks and Anna Reading describe in their shrewdly acute survey of theories of change in Eastern Europe as the ‘total transformation’ thesis: ‘The dominant view in the West is that the revolutions involved profound changes at all levels of society from the spiritual to the economic’. [11] Some of the essays do contain elements of an alternative, but these are not developed. Yet these dissenting voices are worth listening to. The authors of the four-nation business élite study put their emphasis on continuity – not just with the Communist period but even with the one preceding it (pp.221-3).

A related pattern comes to light in a number of the other essays. The pattern is one in which there is a generally more significant degree of continuity in economic élites than in political élites. The claimed ‘almost complete circulation of the political élite’ in the Czech Republic is balanced by a much more sober assessment on the economic side:

It is obvious, in other words, that economic élite circulation has not been as comprehensive as political élite circulation. The economic élite’s composition has changed more slowly and has resulted partly from the normal life cycle (accelerated somewhat by political considerations), partly from ongoing structural change (mainly the increased size of the tertiary sector), and partly from changes in the occupational order itself (for example, the relative and absolute increases in the number of people working in information services with business, as opposed to technical training) (p.33).

Despite claiming that Serbia acquired a ‘new class structure’ during the 1990s (well before the overthrow of Milosevic), the data Lazić presents on Serbia suggests, according to his own evaluation, that about 60 per cent of the new entrepreneurial class of 1993 ‘gained their positions directly or indirectly through paternal or spousal linkages from the old ruling class’ (p.133).

This pattern of differential continuity is not accounted for by schemes of change in which élites inevitably play the crucial role. There is a general assumption in élite theory that power is primarily about political position. It is implied that if old élites want to hang on to power then political office will be the primary focus of their resistance to change. At the same time, there is plenty of evidence that Communist-era élites were far more interested in grabbing assets and property than they were in maintaining the old political status quo. [12] Such issues go to the heart of the nature of change in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union (FSU). For, as Sparks and Reading point out, ‘total transformation’ necessarily implies ‘radical discontinuities of structures and personnel in all aspects of life, particularly in the most important economic, social and political organisations’. What Sparks and Reading found in the media in Eastern Europe was that the old institutional structures and personnel remained largely intact, despite the introduction of a market-oriented system comparable to that in the West. ‘The bulk of the senior staff remained comfortably in post’ and ‘retained control of the institutions’. They concluded that change was limited to political life in the narrow sense and that the social structure displayed a marked continuity: ‘Those views that stress discontinuity, and in particular the official Western version as promulgated by Fukuyama and others writers, bear no relationship whatsoever to what actually occurred’. The only exceptions were East Germany and, to a lesser extent, Czechoslovakia, where popular mobilisations broke through top-down control over transition and drove the Communists from power. [13]

The argument that political change in Eastern Europe and the FSU, important though it was, did not affect basic socio-economic power relations originated in the early 1990s, notably with Alex Callinicos. Marxists like Callinicos are often accused of being too rigid in their ideas – ironically, in this case, as one of the key features of his conception is its flexibility. A ‘substantial continuity in the core apparatuses of state power and in the personnel of the ruling class itself’ [14] is clearly central to this approach. But it does not exclude all kinds of changes in the political regime. On the contrary, it is precisely the combination of continuity and change which is characteristic of the experience all over the former Soviet bloc:

As she contemplated today’s recycled communists, who miraculously have discovered the virtues of pluralism, one Polish lady gave me the following definition of her erstwhile homeland’s governments throughout this century. ‘Same shit, different flies!’ [15]

The extent to which things altered depended largely on local circumstances, such as the extent to which people in the mass tried to go further than purely political change. A tad less monolithic than the ‘total transformation’ thesis, for which significant elements of continuity can mean theoretical overload and a flashing self-destruct button. An example of this is the work of David Lane, who is represented in this anthology only by a limited study of the Russian oil élite, Russia being otherwise largely excluded from the scope of the book. Lane is, in fact, a key member of the Western intellectual establishment, a leading sociologist both of the Soviet Union and of post-Soviet Russia. He is also one of the few specialists to have argued, together with Cameron Ross, that the new Russian political élite has hardly anything in common with the old Soviet élite (as usual, a slightly higher level of continuity was conceded in respect of the economic élite). [16] In order to produce this result, they were compelled to insist that only people who were in an élite position both before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union counted as evidence of continuity. By applying such breathtakingly narrow criteria to the interpretation of their research, Lane and Ross were able to boast that the biggest single grouping in the Yeltsin political élite, accounting for 45.7 per cent of the total, had no service in the government or Communist Party of the Soviet Union. But, even on their own figures, this leaves a majority of 54.3 per cent who had between one and forty years service of this kind. [17]

Lane and Ross are a good example of what can happen when a total transformation thesis is bulldozed through the evidence. Other Russian specialists have emphasised continuity, notably Olga Kryshtanovskaya, who produced the classic general study of élites in post-Soviet Russia, and James Hughes, who laid much of the groundwork for an understanding of Russia’s important regional élites. The problem here, as with O’Donnell, Schmitter and the other transitologists, was that they tended to overestimate the importance of direct relations between the élites and underestimate the role of the political regime. The result was that Kryshtanovskaya, in collaboration with Stephen White, could not decide whether the new Russian élite was bifurcated (into political and economic élites) or ‘trifurcated’ (once they added the security services). There followed what was in some ways a mercifully brief contest between Kryshtanovskaya’s ‘three-layered pie’ and the ‘marbled cake effect’ put forward by Hughes, who was trying to picture the highly integrated élites he had found in Siberia. [18]

The truth is that there is a high level of continuity and integration within élite groupings in Russia, while their relations with each other are competitive and hostile, features which are quite new. The ruling class is more or less the same as in Soviet times. So how is it that relations between different parts of that class (and, by extension, between its top managers and officials) are so different? An important part of the answer lies in the impact on the ruling class of the unforeseen and unexpected way the political regime changed. This was a class whose internal relations had been structured into a hierarchy by Stalinist institutions, above all the Communist Party, since its inception. The unexpected collapse of the party in the course of marketisation and related political reforms predisposed the ruling class to disunity. The unforeseen collapse of half the economy provided a keen motivation for rivalry – competition over the few key assets which remained: raw materials, especially oil and gas, the processing of raw materials such as metals, and arms, the one significant branch of manufacturing which survived. The ruling class remains but its cohesion has been damaged by changes in the political regime, largely as a result of its own miscalculations. This is, of course, a very crude summary. [19] But it again emphasises the flexibility of the relationship between political and social power outlined by Callinicos. Actually, it is not just a question of Callinicos, or even of Marx. The sad truth is that you can find a more subtle understanding of the relationship between regime and social structure in Aristotle than in the rigid formulations of élite theory. [20]

Shorn of its intellectual pretensions, the basic message of élite theory is that the best you can hope for is what the élites give you. If you want something better, then you need better élites – not better in terms of some impossible, utopian ideal, but more like élites in nice places like the USA or the better parts of Islington (p.239). Marxist thought leads in exactly the opposite direction: from the great and the good to the despised and underestimated. Once one starts looking, the potential of anti-élite struggles soon becomes apparent, even in Russia, where movements from below hardly existed for sixty years, where the mobilisation against the old regime was relatively modest and where the difficulties of daily life are hardly to be exaggerated. [21]

To start with, tell-tale phrases like ‘the danger of a rise in social tension’, crop up even in the writings of the least radical Russian specialists. Here, for example, is a description of the dilemma faced by regional élites in oil- and gas-rich western Siberia in the mid-1990s: ‘Obviously, the territorial authorities are not ready to undertake additional expenditure, but, on the other hand, they cannot not do so on account of the danger of a rise in social tension in the territory’. [22] What was being said here? The central government was trying to keep as much revenue as possible flowing in to the centre. To a great extent, it did so by transferring obligations like welfare benefits to lower level authorities without a corresponding provision of funds. This pushed regional budgets into the red even in this comparatively prosperous region. But the cause of the dilemma was not pressure from the centre on its own. It was the fact that there was a simultaneous, countervailing pressure from the local population, which included, of course, the workers who kept the crucial oil and gas industries running.

If ‘the danger of a rise in social tension’ could have such an effect on élites, then what happens when there is an actual rise in social tension? In what became known the ‘railway war’ of 1998, miners who had not been paid for many months set up railway blockades all over Russia and were joined by other public sector workers with similar grievances. Political and economic élites at all levels were reported to be reacting rather sharply as soon as the action began to bite. Enterprise directors sent picked workers to plead with the blockades for raw materials and fuel. First deputy prime ministers were packed off to major trouble spots with crisis funds. Central and regional élites blamed each other for money which had ‘disappeared’ on its way to the coalfields. The extensive media coverage of the conflict, the heated denunciations of the miners by ministers and prominent journalists, not to speak of the parallels drawn with the British miners’ strike of 1984-5, indicated how serious an issue it was. There were even signs that some of the blockaders were beginning to identify themselves with ‘enemies of the state’ such as Chechen fighters, and an attempt by leading Communist MPs to foment a wave of anti-semitic attacks after the blockades had been lifted fell flat.

Those who are in thrall to élite theory dismiss such struggles as being the result of manipulation by one élite against another. Throughout the autumn and winter of 2000, thousands of parents and children in the Urals city of Ekaterinburg stopped general Latyshev, President Putin’s new regional representative, from occupying his designated residence – a building traditionally used by 4,000 children for a huge range of out-of-school activities. In the end, Latyshev had to go elsewhere. A leading information service (the Russian Regional Report) concluded that the whole thing was just about the local governor, Eduard Rossel, giving his new superior ‘a public relations black eye’. Of course, ordinary people are prone to manipulation by élites. But this does not mean that such struggles are not in their own interests. One man taking a building away from 4,000 children was not in the interest of the people of Ekaterinburg in 2000, just as being six months behind on pay was not in the interest of the rail warriors in 1998, and cuts in welfare benefits were not in the interests of claimants in 1995.

One of the best pieces of evidence against the élitist view comes right from the top. The latest volume of Boris Yeltsin’s memoirs records the shudders with which he and his cronies recall the railway war. Some of them wanted to take a hard line but the strength to do so was lacking. The mood in the corridors of power bordered on panic, and the head of the federal security service (the re-branded KGB) had to be replaced by the more reliable Vladimir Putin, a crucial step on his road to the presidency. But Putin did not make much difference at the time. One deputy prime minister, Yeltsin recalls, ‘raced from one coal district to another, signing agreements almost without looking at them – anything to come to terms’. The regime muddled through, largely because the miners and their supporters were politically unclear about how to take advantage of the government’s weakness. The rouble crash in the summer of 1998 added to their difficulties and hardships. Yet the memory remained to haunt the most powerful, most élite people in the country. Anatolii Chubais, the architect of privatisation and currently the head of the electricity monopoly, is one of those people. Two years later in the summer of 2000, a worried Chubais warned Yeltsin about the danger of replacing the then prime minister with Putin – the fourth such change in little more than two years. What worried Chubais was not personal ability or the detail of élite arrangements, it was that ordinary people might not stand for it. ‘Remember the railway wars?’, he said, ‘This is something you want to face only once.’ [23]

One of the appeals of élitism is that it invites complicity. I remember some time in the late 1970s seeing a couple of National Front members trying to persuade some young men from West Indian backgrounds that they were not against all black people, just Asians. This kind of thing was so common that a militant bus workers’ paper I was involved in printed an anti-Nazi poem called something like ‘It’s not you – it’s the other bloke over there’. Nazism is an extreme example, admittedly. There are less extreme, more sophisticated variants. At least one of them has a direct bearing on the subject of this review. Slavoj Žižek’s answer to the question ‘Where do the Balkans begin?’ is simple: ‘the Balkans are always somewhere else, a little bit more towards the southeast ...’ But his exploration of this simple answer in terms of specific national perceptions in Europe leaves none of these identities unquestioned:

For the Serbs, they begin down there, in Kosovo or in Bosnia, and they defend the Christian civilization against this Europe’s Other; for the Croats, they begin in orthodox, despotic and Byzantine Serbia, against which Croatia safeguards Western democratic values; for Slovenes they begin in Croatia, and we are the last bulwark of the peaceful Mitteleuropa; for many Italians and Austrians they begin in Slovenia, the Western outpost of the Slavic hordes; for many Germans, Austria itself, because of its historical links, is already tainted with Balkan corruption and inefficiency; for many North Germans, Bavaria, with its Catholic provincial flair, is not free of a Balkan contamination; many arrogant Frenchmen associate Germany itself with an Eastern Balkan brutality entirely foreign to French finesse; and this brings us to the last link in this chain: to some conservative British opponents of the European Union, for whom – implicitly, at least – the whole of continental Europe functions today as a new version of the Balkan Turkish Empire, with Brussels as the new Istanbul, a voracious despotic centre which threatens British freedom and sovereignty ... [24]

The élitist attraction of the westernising intellectual tradition in Eastern Europe is just as false as the less subtle blandishments of Nazism. You always run the risk of becoming someone else’s Balkans, someone else’s alien, someone else’s ‘unproductive capitalist’, someone else’s ‘other bloke over there’.

Which brings me, finally, to Machiavelli’s smile. You can see it in the portrait on the front cover of the Penguin edition of The Prince. Actually, it is more like a faint smirk, and the lips are tightly pressed together. I have often wondered in recent years whether Putin’s team has not been studying Machiavelli, especially his warning that ‘there is nothing more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating changes in a state’s constitution’. Certainly, they have avoided making any formal changes in the constitution at all, despite introducing some important alterations in Russian federal arrangements and in the composition of the upper house of parliament. I imagine, too, that few Russians could read this phrase without thinking of Gorbachev’s ill-judged tinkering with a Soviet structure in which deep cracks had already appeared. Machiavelli’s warning comes in a passage extensively quoted by Isaac Deutscher at the beginning of his classic three-volume biography of Trotsky: The Prophet Armed, The Prophet Unarmed, and The Prophet Outcast. [25 ]The gist of the passage is that unarmed prophets who rely on popular support are doomed since ‘the populace is by nature fickle’. Only armed prophets have the means ‘to urgently arrange matters so that when they no longer believe they can be made to believe by force’. [26] I sense the same faint smirk, the same knowing, superior tone in these words as in the lesser writings of élite studies today.

This tone is singularly absent from Machiavelli’s dedicatory letter to his real prince, ‘the Magnificent Lorenzo de Medici’. On the contrary, Lorenzo was blessed with Machiavelli’s most elegant grovelling. Despite many differences of detail, it is curiously reminiscent of the style in which modern intellectuals apply for funding. At the letter’s climactic conclusion, Machiavelli pictures Lorenzo, on the high peak of his achievement, letting his glance drop to its foot, where ‘undeservedly, I have to endure the great and unremitting malice of fortune’. [27] So, the faint smirk. And the lips pressed tightly together. If, like Machiavelli, one is a believer in élites as well as a student of them, then it makes sense to depict them as if they inhabited a lofty region too remote from the mob to be sullied by it. If not, then the sullying bears the promise of liberation.


Aristotle 1996, The Politics and the Constitution of Athens, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Beetham, David 1981, Michels and His Critics, Archives Européenes de Sociologie, 23, 1: 81-99.

Bottomore, Tom 1987, Sociology: A Guide to Problems and Literature, London: Allen & Unwin.

Bunce, Valerie 1995, Should Transitologists Be Grounded?, Slavic Review, 54, 1, Spring: 111-27.

Burawoy, Michael 2001, Neoclassical Sociology: From the End of Communism to the End of Classes’, <>, accessed 21 August 2001.

Callinicos, Alex 1991, The Revenge of History: Marxism and the East European Revolutions, Cambridge: Polity.

Finocchiaro, Maurice A. 1999, Beyond Right and Left: Democratic Élitism in Mosca and Gramsci, New Haven: Yale University Press.

Giddens, Anthony 1990, Sociology, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Glatter, Pete 1999, Federalization, Fragmentation, and the West Siberian Oil and Gas Province, in The Political Economy of Russian Oil, edited by David Lane, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.

Glatter, Pete 2001a, Russian Regional Élites: Continuity and Change, PhD thesis, University of Wolverhampton.

Glatter, Pete 2001b, Russian Informals, Russian élites, paper presented at the British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) conference, 9 April 2001.

Glatter, Pete 2003, Continuity and Change in the Tyumen Regional Élite 1991-2001, Europe-Asia Studies, forthcoming May 2003.

Haynes, Mike 2001, Russia and Eastern Europe, in Anti-Capitalism: A Guide to the Movement, edited by Emma Bircham and John Charlton, London: Bookmarks.

Haynes, Mike 2002, Russia: Class and Power 1917-2000, London: Bookmarks.

Hughes, James 1994, Regionalism in Russia: the Rise and Fall of Siberian Agreement, Europe-Asia Studies, 46, 7: 1133-61.

Hughes, James 1997, Sub-National Élites and Post-Communist Transformation in Russia: A Reply to Kryshtanovskaia and White, Europe-Asia Studies, 49, 6:1017-36.

Karl, Terry Lyn and Philippe C. Schmitter 1995, From an Iron Curtain to a Paper Curtain: Grounding Transitologists or Students of Postcommunism?, Slavic Review, 54, 4, Winter: 965-87.

Kriukov, V., Sevast’ianova, A., and V. Shmat 1995, Neftegazovye territorii: Kak rasporiadit’sia bogatstvom?, Novosibirsk: Rossiiskaia akademiia nauk, sibirskoe otdelenie.

Kryshtanovskaya, Olga, and Stephen White 1996, From Soviet Nomenklatura to Russian Élite, Europe-Asia Studies, 48, 5: 711-33.

Lane, David & Cameron Ross 1999, The Transition from Communism to Capitalism: Ruling Élites from Gorbachev to Yeltsin, Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Machiavelli, Niccolo 1999, The Prince, London: Penguin.

Meisel, James Hans 1958, The Myth of the Ruling Class: Gaetano Mosca and the élite, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Melvin, Neil J. 1998, The Consolidation of a New Regional Élite: The Case of Omsk 1987-1995, Europe-Asia Studies, 50, 4: 619-50.

Munck, Gerardo L. 1997, Bringing Postcommunist Societies into Democratization Studies, Slavic Review, 56, 3, Fall: 542-50.

O’Donnell, Guillermo and Philippe C. Schmitter 1986, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Schmitter, Philippe C. and Terry Lyn Karl 1994, The Conceptual Travails of Transitologists and Consolidologists: How Far to the East Should They Attempt to Go?, Slavic Review, 53, 1, Spring: 173-85.

Solnick, Steven L. 1998, Stealing the State: Control and Collapse in Soviet Institutions, New Haven: Harvard University Press.

Sparks, Colin and Anna Reading 1998, Communism, Capitalism and the Mass Media, London: Sage Publications.

Yeltsin, Boris 2000, Midnight Dairies, London: Phoenix.

Žižek, Slavoj 2000, The Fragile Absolute, London: Verso.


1. See, for example: Hughes 1994, p.1133; Melvin 1998, pp.619, 643.

2. See, for example, Meisel 1958, p.10.

3. Beetham 1981, p.99.

4. Burawoy, 2001.

5. See, for example, Haynes 2001; Haynes 2002, pp.182-8, 214-17.

6. Bottomore 1987, p.275.

7. O’Donnell & Schmitter 1986, p.52.

8. O’Donnell & Schmitter 1986, pp.6, 65, 73 (fn.1).

9. Schmitter & Karl 1994; Bunce 1995; Karl & Schmitter 1995; see also: Munck 1997, pp.542-50.

10. Giddens 1990, p.310; for a related, more recent and more pretentious exposition see Finocchiaro, 1999; Finocchiaro, who approvingly cites Dahl (pp.208-13) and Giddens (p.214) claims that democracy for both Mosca and Gramsti consists of a special relationship between élites and masses in which the élites are ‘open to renewal through the influx of elements from the masses’ (p.206).

11. Sparks & Reading 1998, p.80.

12. See, for example, the fascinating study of the dismemberment of the Komsomol, the official Communist youth movement in the USSR, by its own officials in Solnick 1998, pp.60-124.

13. Sparks & Reading 1999, pp.86, 96-105.

14. Callinicos 1991, p.58.

15. The Independent on Sunday (letter), 6 May 1990.

16. Lane & Ross 1999, pp.160, 202-3.

17. Lane & Ross 1999, p.155.

18. Kryshtanovskaya & White 1996, pp.713, 721-3; Hughes 1997, p.1031.

19. A longer version can be found in Glatter 1999 and Glatter 2001a.

20. See, for example, Aristotle 1996, pp.94-7.

21. Further details of the following three examples can be found in Glatter 1999, 2001a, 2001b, 2003.

22. Kriukov, Sevast’ianova & Shmat 1995, p.219.

23. Yeltsin 2000, pp.169-70, 326-8, 333. Quoted in Haynes 2002, p.218.

24. Žižek 2000, pp.3-4.

25. The fact that Deutscher quotes the passage without comment may hold a clue to his own capitulation to Stalinism.

26. Machiavelli 1999, pp.19, 20. Not only Putin’s team: one of the leading Russian companies specialising in ‘black PR’ and ‘dirty technology’, especially in elections, goes by the name of Nikkolo M.

27. Machiavelli 1999, p.2.

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