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Chapter V Tactics On How to Sell One's Craft
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Chapter V
Tactics On How to Sell One's Craft

The rules for guiding future democratic behavior are not chosen in a vacuum. Signals in a transition abound; in fact, there are so many that they get mixed, or they let the last one prevail briefly. Therefore, some signals—those that would make the choice of democratic rules worthwhile—must be made to flash more clearly. There are signals of evanescent, difficult-to-interpret qualities, such as declarations, promises, opinions, styles and demeanor, choices of words, dress, place, and circumstances. I will dispense with discussing them. Other signals are more concrete and precise and involve specific decisions, allocations, behaviors, as well as timing, a quality whose importance is never sufficiently stressed. Timing is important to all actors. I shall argue that an expeditious transition, where signals of material importance to political actors are communicated early (where, in sum, decisions and actions are prompt and reasonably linked), can often prove decisive in fostering acceptance of the democratic game.

Different actors, however, pay attention to somewhat different


signals. Mass political actors on one side and state/institutional or economic/functional actors on the other constitute one such example. The latter actors can be grouped in three categories. One comprises the state institutions that ran or served the dictatorship (the military and the single party above all) and whose recycling is at issue. Another is labor, whose consent to the accommodation of the other two categories seems crucial but demands a trade-off. The third (if the transition occurs in the national/international context of capitalist economies) is the economic bourgeoisie, whose interest that the new democracy will not purposely hamper the reproduction of capital requires accommodation. Mass political actors are more directly sensitive to signals of an explicitly political nature (those having to do with expediting free elections above all). Functional and institutional actors are not insensitive to political signals, including those pertaining to their own political representation. Yet as reconstruction impends, they evidently evaluate them in the light of signals that affect their corporate and professional interests more directly. To exemplify the contrast: the political left is more likely, on the one hand, to play along with secessionists if they either call for or accept early elections. On the other hand, the military's readiness to appreciate the stabilizing effects of early elections depends on the willingness of democrats and social reformers to recognize, at a minimum, the vital interests of the military as an impersonal nonpolitical institution.

As the example of the military implies, the distinction between mass political actors and other actors does not hold perfectly. Actors can wear two hats and be sensitive to political as well as functional/institutional decisions. Another, perhaps the best, example is that of labor. It can be sensitive to the reestablishment of democratic life as well as to socioeconomic


reforms. Thus, democratic transitions must balance mass political and functional/institutional demands. But how?

I shall argue in this chapter something that, in view of our treatment of the Portuguese case, should come as no surprise: to wit, because of the almost inescapable presence of nostalgics and secessionists in contemporary transitions and because their functional/institutional interests require a corporate identity, reforms in the economy or the state become very difficult to expedite. This may feed disenchantment among popular sectors of regime opposition, which attach great importance to those reforms. But the disenchantment may be alleviated by expeditiously strengthening the features of mass and competitive politics. Hence this chapter places special emphasis on political tactics to this effect—the kind of well-timed tactics and signals for selling democracy that were employed in the Spanish case. The chapter should lend additional support to the thesis that most contemporary transitions demand as a price for their success, especially in the beginning, sacrifices in some areas that are compensated by boldness in others.

These remarks apply quite well to transitions from right-wing authoritarian regimes. They demand adjustments, however, before they can be applied to post-totalitarian systems, where, plainly, reforms to accelerate political democratization cannot be used to offset the lack of other reforms. The reason is that, beyond a certain point, the political democratization of Communist systems cannot proceed without the other reforms. Democracy may be able to operate, and even to allay disenchantment, in a socially imperfect capitalist system. Indeed, keeping the system imperfect may be a temporary trade-off. But democracy cannot operate in a collective economy. It is not a conceivable trade-off. Only in the context of a liberalizing economy that frees political


potentials and permits political gains can a reemerging labor movement be asked to make sacrifices like those required by and recompensed in other transitions. But liberalizing a collective economy runs into obstacles. The very choice of economic liberalization brings the need for economic sacrifices—unpalatable and, for most, difficult to make. Liberalization also demands reforming and in large part dismantling party-bureaucratic apparats whose institutional interests are closely connected with the operation of collective economies. Nonetheless, some post-totalitarian systems have made less timid progress than others, and have done so without meeting the ostensibly insurmountable antagonism of the state apparats. The post-totalitarian conundrum will receive more attention toward the end of this chapter.

Much of what I said about the importance of early signals can be pared down to a simple assertion; that is, if you wish to set up an attractive democratic game, do not delay. The proof of the pudding, especially for those who have not yet developed a taste for it, is in the eating. The assertion has some critical implications for the use of pacts between the old regime and the opposition as tools for managing the transition. Pacts may be advisable and even necessary on some matters (most clearly those touching on functional and institutional interests). But is it advisable and necessary to extend them so as to incorporate political constraints (who participates, how soon, and how?) that would make the political game safer for some players? Such tactics may alienate an already reluctant left, in addition to democrats. They would freeze efficient resources, which are perhaps the only ones the regime opposition can rely on as its own.

But these assertions need to be justified in the face of some ostensibly sensible notions; for example, that democracy (like overeating for the starving) requires habituation, or that pressing through the transition can alienate many.


Time As A Tactical Resource

Regime opponents have good reasons to wish for a speedy transition. And frequently so do secessionists and, for that matter, unreconstructed nostalgics. The transition government is by definition a transitional, indeed provisional, government, falling, so to speak, between legitimacies. Whether a new government is assembled by the opposition or some extension of the old regime, a transition government takes power, as Juan Linz observes, with a specific and temporary mandate: to bring the transition to a close.[1] Assuming generously that the government and its mandate are generally viewed with favor, this favorable attitude is most unlikely to outlive a failure in executing the mandate. Nor can the government circumvent the predicament by neglecting to set up an agenda and a timetable, and appealing instead to the transition's unavoidable imponderables. A government tempted by failure to stretch its mandate into an open-ended or rescheduled future may soon lose credibility. Falling between legitimacies, and faltering, it can draw authority neither from the past regime nor from democratic elections. If the government is made up of secessionists, they will be at odds with unreconstructed nostalgics; if it is put together by regime opponents, it will precede legitimizing elections.

Thus, if the objective is a democratic transition, clear signals that the transition is being implemented—namely, a firm and speedy timetable of mass political reforms—would add credibility to a provisional government. It would also create conditions of greater mutual trust that would eventually alleviate recalcitrance caused by the uncertainty of the incipient democratic game. The most significant signal in that timetable is very likely the calling of free elections.

True, elections do not necessarily bring about democracy. They can be used for ulterior motives; they can be boycotted.


It can be said, for instance, that other, more explicit signals should be sent out before calling for freely contested elections. It can be said further that, in the absence of such signals, elections are of dubious effectiveness and purpose. Elections before liberalization—for example, elections before civil liberties, habeas corpus, curbs on state or oppositional violence, and a restored legal order—can be called to take advantage of a temporarily disorganized opposition. This suggests that elections should not be held until liberalization is in effect and that, therefore, prompt democratic reforms are not always possible or advisable. The suggestion is sensible, provided it is not used to justify slowing down liberalization. A slowdown would cause a loss of confidence among regime opponents (even if they happen to run the provisional government) greater than if elections had been called prematurely. For one thing, though liberalization may strike in some ways as more fundamental than elections, taken alone it does not constitute a sufficient signal that a transitional government stands ready to move toward full democratization. On this score—as even the semicompetitive elections held in Poland in 1989 testify—elections are still the least ambiguous signal in addition to being virtually necessary.[2] In other words, if the signal fails (we may think, as a case in point, of Central America), little else is left.

A speedy democratization seems in fact more than ever advisable when the transitional government is run by secessionists. In view of the known and special problems that secessionists have with lending credibility to their transitional plans, the case needs no lengthy restatement. In order to deal with the skepticism that surrounds their plans, secessionist governments often appeal to the advice and consultation of independent groups and individuals, who function as interpreters of the emerging civil society. They constitute drafting and consulting committees with claims to impartiality.


They impanel judicial bodies. All these measures, and liberalization in general, may alleviate, but not erase, some of that skepticism. On the contrary, hiding behind those measures to preach a gradual progress toward democracy, while postponing elections to some unknown, riper time, may well prove counterproductive.[3] For, whether a secessionist government recognizes it or not, liberalization mentally evokes democratization, and democratization is signaled by elections.[4] Therefore, liberalization without democratization only raises expectations and rekindles impatience.[5]

Transitions that place elections in a distant, possibly indeterminate, future, or surround them with restrictions and controls, are at times successful. Larry Diamond (whom I just cited in n. 5) mentions Brazil, Nigeria, Thailand, and Indonesia as countries where national elections either have been scheduled deliberately late or (the latter two cases) coexist with an executive still controlled by the military. One may add Taiwan, and Turkey in some ways, as countries at various stages of political change that is both deliberately slow and reined in by the old regime. A few months ago we may have added Hungary and Poland to the list, but their slow pace is already giving way to more daring and perhaps necessary impatience.

The point is that, in all these cases, slowness is not a virtue: it does not reflect some inherently superior and general understanding of how democratization is best pursued. It is a contingent response, prudent at best, to a real or perceived necessity. By and large, this necessity hides the unwillingness of secessionists, fearing backlashes or chaos, to surrender power fully. Even in Eastern Europe, where the search for a consensual exit seems to be the most determined one conducted since Spain, a speedier transition is prevented not by some lofty regime commitment to the virtues of democratic gradualism but by the tightly constructed post-totalitarian


Communist regimes themselves. Besides, slowness, even when accepted, has its costs. In Brazil, often cited as a successful example of democratization without full-fledged preliminary elections and under deliberate regime supervision, the slow pace of liberalization had protracted a pattern of elitist, often autocratic, local politics and constrained the already difficult emergence of a mass party system.[6]

Let us now assume that the transitional government is manned not by the old regime but by its opponents. Can the latter dispense with the early signals of democratization that the former so needs? This is hardly the case, despite the greater initial credit that regime opponents may seem to enjoy. We must not forget that a government of regime opponents must cope with constituencies of the old regime, that these constituencies fear that they will be substantially shortchanged in the democratic bargain, and that, paradoxically, this fear may lead them to agitate for their own democratic rights. Equally, we must not forget that if the opponents that run the government are moderates, they must cope with the impatience of comprehensive reformers who, while riding free, may distrust the moderates' ability to resist the constituencies of the old regime. And if the government is run by would-be comprehensive reformers, it may meet with the moderates' resistance to being dragged into substantive reforms by a government that underplays mutual guarantees.

Therefore, not unlike secessionist governments, governments headed by regime opponents should have a clear interest in sending out early signals of democratic intent. The signals serve to reabsorb and tame opposition. Far from plunging a transition into political chaos by being premature, early signals may introduce a measure of order by increasing everybody's stakes in an organized political game. For example, the calling of elections should have the effect of focusing the energies of political actors on the task of


winning seats—a specific task with specific returns. Energies previously devoted by the opposition to agitation, without clear rules and stakes, could now be turned to the more constructive business of building electoral machineries and broad winning coalitions.

It is true that transitional governments may be insensitive to the benefits of democratization. Especially for governments by secessionists or comprehensive reformers, democratization may significantly alter their starting goals. Nevertheless, acting in disregard of those benefits has at times irremediable costs and risks. One good example—not because the costs were irremediable, but because it involved a transitional government whose democratic objectives were actually not in question—is the transition in the Philippines. President Corazon Aquino's failure to call for early elections and a constitutional process entrusted to a nonelected provisional body with dubious credentials were significant drawbacks of the democratization process, on which left and right capitalized. A similar lesson can be drawn from the Portuguese transition. In Portugal, free elections and constitution making took place early on. Yet their effectiveness as signals was marred, with serious consequences for the transition and for the radical military that first guided it, by three contradictory signals issued by the radical military: (1) its stifling control over the government and its democratic partners in the government, (2) its dismissal of the elections as pseudodemocratic bourgeois exercises, and (3) its guidance of the constitutional process.

As for the (still limited) electoral experiments under way in Poland, Hungary, and the Soviet Union under the guidance of reforming regimes, there are two ways to look at them. One is to argue that given the socioeconomic crisis and ethnic tensions in these countries and given the added tensions and popular sacrifices necessitated by reforms bearing


on these problems, elections (lifting the lid) will increase political chaos. The other way is to argue that, without genuine elections, reforming governments may not be able to justify their calls for sacrifice. Hence elections can curb chaos. More to the point, in post-totalitarian systems elections are inescapable if other reforms must proceed and if reforming governments are serious about their reforms and are willing to face the consequences. The premise is still open to later investigation, but if we take it as demonstrated, its consequences are not.

Indeed, there is another, in some ways more poignant, indication of the power of elections. Even when variously thwarted, confined, manipulated, or just not in the cards, once they are called, elections can still energize and possibly protect democratization beyond the hopes or fears, and indeed beyond the understanding, of the principal actors.

In Portugal, the military's belief that they could dismiss the elections and their results proved a devastating miscalculation. For the elections subverted their project and marked the beginning of what may be considered a second transition, the logic of which the military finally found difficult to reverse.

In Chile, in a context that could not even be called transitional, Gen. Augusto Pinochet confidently called a referendum on his rule. The referendum produced unexpected effects similar to those of the Portuguese elections; it made it extremely difficult for the dictator to discount his defeat.

In South Korea, in yet another transitional context, unexpected presidential and parliamentary elections untangled a contentious regime crisis that had been developing without clear exits in sight. The elections bestowed a degree of legitimacy on a president who came from the ranks of the old regime, but also compelled him to come to terms with the parliamentary opposition.


Semicompetitive elections in Poland have, in the space of a few weeks, carried political change well beyond anybody's expectations. And even in Central American countries as diverse in regimes as Nicaragua and El Salvador, the mere fact of holding reasonably free elections, though insufficient to steer the countries toward jointly accepted competitive democracies, introduces principles of democratic legitimation that neither the regimes nor, for that matter, their most extreme enemies can easily exorcise.[7]

I take these examples to be a final testimony to the virtue of free elections, and of timing, as tactical signals of firm commitment to the democratic bargain. The next section will essay to show that these signals are also the most desirable among the few available.

Tactics: What Else Is Available?

In addition to timing, there is another way in which a firm commitment to the democratic bargain can be made explicit, and that way is through formal pacts. Formal pacts are an extension of the logic whereby informal cooperation in crafting the democratic bargain is beneficial. They have been employed in the older and, more sporadically, in the more recent Latin American transitions, as well in Spain's transition. They are emerging even in Eastern Europe. But there are key questions about what pacts can or should encompass.


As to their usefulness, pacts can circumvent in principle (I dare say deny) the prophecy that without habituation democracy is lame. If gradual transitions, which should favor habituation, belong today to a partially mythical past that cannot be recreated, if impatience marks the clock of most


transitions, if regime opponents look at gradualism as either meek or self-serving, then it is more advisable to find some "functional" equivalent of habituation that can nullify the prophecy of a lame democracy. Another reason to find equivalents is that, even if the prescription for gradual transitions hides no self-serving agenda, it is still rudderless.

Indeed, if there are no other agendas, then the prescription genuinely wishes to stress the importance of learning, practice, and time, without which tolerance and respect for mutual guarantees cannot get rooted and turned into habits. But the prescription cannot tell us how much time is required or even desirable to develop habits, so therefore it is a sensible but vague prescription at best. More seriously, it suggests at any rate that quite a long time is in order—enough for political institutions and perhaps primary agencies of political socialization to root those habits. More, in other words, than any reasonable time-bound transition can afford. Yet surely transitions are not meant to disseminate pervasive but intangible habits and attitudes, as the prescription implies. They are meant only to make concrete decisions about democratization. Furthermore, as we shall see in the next chapter, the commitment to these decisions may very well be sufficient to adjust subsequent behavior and attitudes accordingly, without the aid of time.[8]

If need be—if democratization takes place in a conflictridden context—decisions can be embodied in pacts that will signal a firmer and clearer collective commitment. In this sense, pacts can work as shortcuts to habituation. They can at the very least reduce the interest of any significant actor in "breakdown games"—that is, games designed to prevent or repeal democratization. But in exchange for what? There is no denying that political actors are often extremely reluctant to enter into pacts (which testifies to the importance of their content) and that pacts may have to be drawn with an


eye to those who opt to stay out. Reluctance stems from the very real concern with being caught in a lopsided outcome.

Pacts can be lopsided not only by what they do, but also by what they suppress, forbid, and postpone. A pact that results in the latter actions and thus postpones full democratization, is hardly a reassuring early signal. It can hardly be justified by demurrals that it takes time to develop democratic skills, so one needs to go one step at a time. We develop democratic skills only by exercising democracy, not by limiting and postponing it until some purportedly riper times. Chapter 4 deals at length with the virtues of garantismo as a set of constitutional rules that facilitate the transfer of loyalties to democracy. The patent implication of garantismo is that, if formal pacts are chosen to take the edge off a difficult transition, they should be politically open to participation, so that readiness to cooperate in the elaboration of garantista rules is signaled.

To be sure, as politically open as pacts should be, they are employed first of all to introduce restraint, a sense of civility, a curb on violence and aggression (whether by civilians or the state). They are used to provide some orderly exit from divisive times. There exists therefore a whole range of politically motivated behaviors that, though they constitute a resource in the typical arsenals of political and state actors, need to be controlled through pacts—as nearly a prerequisite of democratization. I have in mind behavior motivated by a spectrum of negative sentiments toward democratization—from outright rejection to fear of lopsided outcomes—and employed more to undermine than merely to direct, democratization. It clearly includes state violence and arbitrariness, political persecution, appeals to the military, armed rebellion, and orchestrated strife. Less clearly, it includes mass mobilization, strikes, street demonstrations, and nonviolent disobedience.[9] It makes little sense, for instance,


to enter point-blank into an agreement to hold supposedly free elections without a previous understanding, formal or informal, to curb aggressive behavior that would betray the intent of the elections. Similarly, we have already noticed the importance of liberalization before democratization. In this sense, a sequence of pacts may be required, whereby military pacts to stop armed violence and repression precede political ones to undertake democratization.[10]

Nonetheless, it is one thing to constrain politically motivated behavior that clearly undermines democratization. It is another, and much less advisable, to constrain the kind of generically unsettling behavior that accompanies the resurrection of civil society. If at all, constraints in the latter case should be strictly limited to the military pacts where the creation of a peaceful environment for mutual trust is the first and urgent order of business. But past this stage, curbing the ability of parties to operate freely, insisting on complex party licensing procedures, limiting access to political positions and resources, or restraining the parties' capacity for mobilization, and then encasing these controls in elite pacts that favor some actors, leaving others without a voice at crucial founding moments, can produce the unwanted. Those who are left out learn that behavior that disrupts democratization is the most valuable weapon in their political arsenal.

Arguably, no set of political actors—left, right, or center—can be entirely insensitive to the benefits of democratization pacts. But can pacts offer more , so as better to allay the reluctance of actors to enter the democratic game? Are pacts for democratization sufficient for all actors? Must they suffice? In addition to procedural guarantees, can and should pacts offer explicit and substantive policy commitments—a material base on which to build acceptance of the democratic game? Though democracy is about uncertainty, there is a minimum of corporate identities, vital to the functional


and institutional interests of some transitional actors, not easily subjected to uncertainty. They are not the object of a competitive game; rather, they define the boundaries of the game. Thus, in regard to these identities, procedural guarantees for an unbiased game are not sufficient, and substantive guarantees are invoked to protect corporate spaces. They are guarantees that—to be sure—may channel, indeed limit, a new democracy's future policy choices.

Earlier in the chapter I have signaled as many as three broad constituencies whose accommodation may be central to a successful transition. Though they tend to overlap with, or find representation through, mass political actors (conventionally, the right and left), they can also be identified as functional/institutional actors. They are labor, the state apparatus, and, when transitions occur in a capitalist context, the economic bourgeoisie. Though all three actors are extremely sensitive to substantive policy choices that directly affect their domain, there are reasons why policies accommodating the latter two constituencies may have to take precedence in the transition.

Accommodating Business

Even if the bourgeoisie does not sympathize with the political right to start with, contrary to conventional assumptions,[11] it is fairly intuitive to suggest that its support for democracy rests critically on evidence that the transition intends to protect an economic and public policy environment favorable to business. Without this evidence, the essential fact that the transition may open ample opportunities for democratic representation could still lose much of its appeal. Indeed, in response to its perceived marginalization, those opportunities would become another weapon in the bourgeoisie's arsenal of resistance.

Signs of marginalization and defenselessness are usually


not lacking, especially when transitions escape regime control. Long suppressed labor and economic demands by workers and sectors of the professional middle classes are likely to escalate, if left unchecked, while the regime's shaky economic legacy, international and domestic, leaves the economy in a postdictatorial downturn.[12] A general political climate of resentment or suspicion toward business, and the internal disagreements and external resistance the bourgeoisie may encounter in giving itself a new and effective political identity, may confirm feelings of marginalization.

In addition, entertaining and negotiating the demands of business need not be, and should not be construed as, merely acts of self-defense, unfortunate in their conservative implications, but necessary to secure democracy given the circumstances of most transitions. If, on one side, protecting a market economy may seem, and thus be treated as, a concession to the past, then on the other side such an economy seems a parameter of any operating democracy. No transition from dictatorship has successfully done away with the market without doing away with the prospects for democracy.

Still, what should the accommodation of market and business interests entail? It is fair to assume that political actors will disagree over what should be considered vital to these interests, and that at any rate corporate demands will exceed what is vital in an effort to impose restrictions on labor demands, if not on democratization itself.

Regarding, first, democratization, there is no reason to sacrifice it in the the name of prudent accommodations. Policies can accommodate inherited corporate interests not only by what they specifically contain but also by what they imply and signal: what the policies convey, clearly and in a timely fashion, about the attitude of democracy toward those interests; what they disclose about democracy's commitment to a climate of trust; what they portend about the central


role that the interests shall maintain. None of these signals requires placing business (or the state) outside the pale of democratic checks, or assigning either of them a privileged controlling role in the process of democratization beyond the one they can exercise through democratic channels. They largely require facilitating the specific functional and institutional roles of corporate interests; or perhaps they require more simply a hands-off posture toward the interests—one that can make them accept, in return, a counterbalancing (and as such much needed) mobilization of popular strata, focused mainly on the creation of an openly competitive political game.

Signals of an opinion and policy climate favorably disposed toward business are especially important because many transitions inherit a context of domestic and international economic difficulties. Most typical is the Latin American case, where runaway inflation and public and international indebtedness coincide with a crisis of economic development models supplied by regional dictatorships, and where international constraints (for instance, on refinancing debt) mark narrow and costly paths out of the crisis. When the crisis reaches such magnitudes, it is impossible for an emerging democracy to provide a quick fix, even through an illusory exit from the international economic community. Nor can an emerging democracy hope to avert its economic problems by blaming dictatorship, even assuming the blame will stick. Hence, given also that the path out of the economic crisis is narrow, long, uncertain, and invariably arduous, it is meanwhile more important for democrats to build business confidence by focusing on the few signals that are available.

Some of these signals are not actually policies but simply a commitment to avoid certain policies, such as unloading the costs of the economic crisis on business or, worse, holding business politically responsible together with regime


leaders for the crisis and its political roots. Whether or not the bourgeoisie as a class has had any role in the dictatorship, separate from the role of individuals, a sure way to confirm their reservations about democracy is to cast transition policies, economic or other, as a way to punish them for that alleged role.

Some policies, such as expropriation and nationalization, appear fundamentally punitive, especially in the industrial sector. They are difficult to justify in light of the economic creed that prevails domestically and internationally. Whether or not they have been cast as punitive, the policies are likely to strike a note unquestionably more threatening to corporate identities than, for instance, the banning of nostalgic political parties. By comparison, agrarian and fiscal-financial reforms, if properly presented, can count on at least a degree of economic justification. Moreover, care in the selection of economic measures that are costly to business must be accompanied by signs, not necessarily tangible, that economic recovery is receiving priority attention, that the costs will be shared by other constituencies, and that in any case the new democracy understands the central place of a free economy.

All these considerations suggest, finally, the advantage of timely economic pacts not only for sharing sacrifices but also for demonstrating an understanding of the priority of economic recovery. Though military and political pacts for the purpose of reconstituting an environment of civilized political dialogue often demand first attention, an exclusive and prolonged focus on negotiating these pacts, to the detriment of economic ones, may be read variously as a sign of self-centered and myopic powerplays, indecisiveness and ineffectiveness, politicking and unresolved contentiousness—all prejudicial to economic recovery.[13] The latter, for instance, cannot always be left waiting till elections and their manner are agreed upon, votes are counted, alliances are struck, and


a prudent assessment is conducted to find out what is politically feasible in dealing with the economic crisis. Instead, prompt attention to economic issues is a frequent way to make functional/institutional interests more accepting of democratic reforms. Further, because economic pacts are negotiated more effectively by cohesive partners, and because organized business may instead find itself in disarray, another useful signal is for democrats to encourage business associationism in a democratic context.[14]

Accommodating the State

Bourgeois reluctance, even disaffection, may not be sufficient to thwart a democratic transition. Yet inattention, real or perceived, to the vital corporate needs of business often coincides with a similar neglect of the corporate needs of the state apparatus, and the armed forces in particular. If democratization may not be stopped by the noncooperation of a broad social group, it may be stopped by a task-oriented state apparatus—one on whose performance society depends and which also masters the means of control and repression. Thus, the corporate concerns of such apparatus, in recycling itself from serving dictatorship to serving democracy, hardly need emphasis.

But paying attention to the concerns of the state need not mortgage democratization, any more than paying attention to business and the market does. The statement applies most clearly to transitions that occur in countries where past constitutional traditions construed the state as the impersonal carrier of specified public functions, indeed duties, in the continuous determination, allocation, and delivery of collective goods. Though the traditions may have been cast originally in an autocratic mold, though they may have assigned civil society and public opinion a narrow legal space, though they may have elevated the state and its armed forces to the


role of arbiters of "unnatural" societal conflict, they are still traditions anchored to notions of professionalism, legalism, impartiality, continuity of service, and institutional autonomy from partisan politics—that is, to notions that, whether myth or substance, are central to democracy as well.[15] To some extent, perhaps surreptitiously and willy-nilly, these notions may have lingered on under the dictatorship. Reviving these notions is thus one task of democratic transitions. But there should be no conflict here because the state apparatus may also have a stake in the revival.[16]

It follows that a democratic transition has much to gain if it shows a clear appreciation that armies, judiciaries, civil services—as institutions with legal-rational aspirations—can serve, and are needed to serve, democracy. I have mentioned military pacts as a first step toward reconstituting a peaceful dialogue. They can be extended into institutional pacts, designed to reassert the vital corporate role of those bodies. Assuming that, as likely, the transition is first controlled by the old regime, such reassertion can be decisive in persuading the regime to relinquish control. It can assist a process of secession from the dictatorship. Some state institutions may be tempted to secede in order to regain a legal-professional status stolen from them by a dictatorship that slid into erratic arbitrariness and fitful repression.

As in the case of business, reasserting the state's corporate interests may simply demand staying clear of certain policies: for example, policies that can be construed as retroactive punishment of state personnel qua class, rather than as punishment of individuals or necessary removal of specifically repressive legal features added by the dictatorship. There is no denying that, when a regime commits massive abuses, only an imperceptible line may separate individual from collective responsibility. Yet this line must be drawn in the interest of purging the abuses and recovering the state. Other


policies may have to be sacrificed to that double interest, such as policies intended to democratize the state apparatus by opening the army, the police, local government, and the judiciary to nonprofessional personnel representing the civilian and armed opposition. Such policies threaten a professional tenet central to the state apparatus: its internal self-rule, its right to enforce and verify, if not to set, criteria for institutional recruitment and advancement. It was a violation of this corporate tenet (the induction into the professional officer corps of nonprofessional milicianos because of the colonial wars) that triggered the Portuguese military revolt against the dictatorship.

Finally, democratic attention to the corporate needs of the state—and similarly of business—can be helped by one factor. Neither the state nor business is a cohesive whole. Just as state institutions trapped in the descending spiral of a fitfully repressive dictatorship can be divided by the lack of agreement on what to do, so can business lose whatever corporate coherence it possessed when fitful economic experiments (from import substitution to monetarism) fail to deliver the economic recovery on which a dictatorship, or a sequence of dictatorships, based their claim to power.

In both cases, attention to corporate needs can appeal and give leverage to the more daring secessionists; and this in turn can finally have bandwagon effects that help to convert their more cautious colleagues. These effects, the virtues of which we have repeatedly encountered, are another reason why corporate accommodations need not sacrifice political democratization. Corporate interests can better appreciate (better, perhaps, than prudent democrats dare to hope) the advantages of recombining, and ultimately rescuing, themselves in a democratic environment if they can only contrast these advantages with their predicament. The predicament is either to live in the present discomfort of their internal


disagreements or to embark in a chancy and costly effort to back out of secession in the vain hope of recovering a lost (or indeed mythical) cohesiveness.[17]

The comments in this section apply well to capitalist states. But what about Communist states? Because of the special problems with reconciling communism's post-totalitarian states (particularly the party apparats that run them) to reforms that would change their identities, the issue deserves, as I've already said, separate treatment later on in this book.

Accommodating Labor

I have argued that, in the interest of democratization, the corporate demands of business and the state may have to take precedence over those of labor, even when labor, after a long period of autocratic repression, may actually be escalating its demands. But what sacrifices are required of labor? What sacrifices can it tolerate without withholding confidence in democracy? Again, labor will be asked to make more sacrifices than are necessary, and labor will concede fewer than it can actually afford. Because declared preferences do not reveal the nonnegotiable bottom line, we need our own assessment of where to strike the bargain.

The assessment is that, from the perspective of labor, economic sacrifices, if called for, are more negotiable than political ones. This is so because there exists a sphere of political action which is central to the identity of labor; indeed, at its core, it is not renounceable. At the same time, from the perspective of a business class called to operate in a capitalist democracy, it is labor's economic restraint that counts more than labor's balancing political gains. Hence the tradeoff: labor's economic sacrifices must be compensated—and can be compensated—by democratic political gains.

There exists a significant point of difference between labor and business as collective political actors. Business finds


it convenient to organize itself as a collective political actor to protect its interest in profit and accumulation. Because profit is necessary for the successful operation of a capitalist system, the political organization of business, though not redundant, is simply expedient. Before becoming a political actor, business is a functional actor. Yet profit, though necessary in order to heed labor's demand for a more equitable share of the wealth it helps to produce, is not at all sufficient to guarantee that share.[18] Therefore, labor finds it necessary to organize itself politically. Labor is born a political actor. More simply put, because the material expectations of labor are not satisfied by concessions from the top (least of all in our dictatorships), it follows that labor has a prior paramount interest in its own political organization. It follows also that, for labor more than for business, democracy—as the organization of conflict over material interests—is an obvious and instinctive choice over dictatorship.

I would in fact tentatively extend this statement to labor in Eastern European regimes—where, so to speak, business and the state overlap—as these regimes undergo their own transitions. There is a great concern among political analysts and practitioners that Eastern European labor may not be willing to sacrifice its own "social contract" with those regimes for the sake of democracy and the market.[19] But is the concern overstated? There is no question that reforming Eastern European regimes are calling for unpalatable economic sacrifices. What is not at all clear, however, is whether, as some would have it, resentment at the sacrifices would turn labor into the odd bedfellow of those who defend the command economies of the region and resist wider political changes.

Would labor remain defensively attached to the penurious and leveling security of the social contract? Perhaps, but it is precisely the inability of the command economies to fulfill


the promises of the "social contract" that seems at issue in the region; just as the economic model proper of capitalist dictatorships is at issue in the transitions affecting most of the latter. From this may just as well come (one thinks of Solidarity in Poland) the impulse for labor to respond to sacrifices, not by returning to political models within which it has no influence, buy by reasserting, in all transitions, its competitive political autonomy. A different matter is whether and how the apparats that control Communist economies can come to accept the free organization of labor. If in a capitalist economy labor's economic restraint counts more than its political gains, the same does not hold in a collectivized economy.

But labor's vested interest in democracy must be nurtured and rewarded. Though democracy is usually reformist in the long run—having curbed, slowly over its history, business's sway over labor—such may not be the case in the short run. Yet the short run is decisive. We already know that economic reconstruction may require economic sacrifices from labor—the postponement of material demands to an uncertain future. But more generally, uncertainty is the very essence of the democratic game—especially when it comes to labor, whose material demands are made to depend on business profit. This means labor has an added interest—indeed, at its core, a nonrenouceable interest—in seeing that the democratic game is arranged so as to increase the probability of its own influence in the foreseeable future. And the greater the immediate material sacrifices demanded, the greater that interest will be. Plainly, labor has an interest in garantista reforms that foster its local and national reorganization, in its union and party components, as a full participant in the democratic game.

Again, because the point of this chapter is how to sell the democratic game before its constitutional design is actually


completed, commitment to garantismo should be signaled to labor early on. Many features of garantismo can be enforced provisionally before they are constitutionalized—just as it is often done, for example, with electoral laws. At the same time, recognition and organizational benefits can be bestowed on labor by transferring to it the resources of government-controlled unions and similar mass organizations operated by the dictatorship. Labor can also be made part of constitutional negotiations, not just on matters of direct labor relevance, but on matters that touch more widely on the distribution of power in society. True, some constitutional reforms favorable to labor may paradoxically not be put to immediate use: for example, the recognition of the right to strike may go together with a request to suspend strike action in the interest of economic reconstruction. But this is not a reason to withhold that recognition, but a reason to extend pacts to the economic sphere—to have labor negotiate its own sacrifices and call its own trade-offs.

From the perspective of business, or the old state apparatus, political reforms may be more than they wished to bargain for. Yet, taken alone, the reforms may not be sufficient to harden their reluctance toward democracy—not unless, in concomitance with or because of some economic faux pas, the reforms signal a special desire to punish and expropriate those corporate interests.

From the perspective of labor, in contrast, political reforms are something more than means to an ultimately material end. They establish the identity of labor as a free political agent. They are its citizenship, indeed its birth right. When they come after years of enforced labor silence, they confer a new sense of collective worth. They also recreate those organizational ties between leaders and followers that, after years of diaspora, labor needs in order to become a cohesive and influential, as well as responsible and legitimate,


actor. Therefore, for both labor leaders and followers, the value of newly acquired political rights goes beyond what, in the immediate run, leaders and followers can materially purchase with them. The involvement of labor in democratic affairs, the recovery of its collective voice, can become ends unto themselves, and their material returns do not need immediate verification.

To put it plainly, political democracy can be (and can be made) as attractive for labor, in the short run, as economic equality and social justice.

Tactics And Their Costs

Two questions can be raised concerning the trade-off tactics analyzed in the second part of this chapter. The questions reflect legitimate doubts about that analysis. The first one is about the range of cases to which the tactics apply: Are the trade-offs promising and attractive in any or all cases of transition, or are there not limits? The second question is about their possible side-effects: Assuming that the trade-offs obtain a successful transition, are there not lingering costs for the new democracy?

Trade-offs Everywhere?

The answer to the first question is that indeed trade-offs apply to a limited range of cases. Although these limits are not as numerous or as firm as we may think. The suggested trade-offs are part of our ongoing exercise in pushing outward the boundaries of what is possible/plausible. But we have already seen scenarios where the outer boundaries seem to have been reached and where the trade-offs get to be more and more strained.[20] Let us restate these scenarios—with the promise, however, that, being less than totally convinced on


the location of the boundaries, we will continue to poke at them until the last chapter.

I have suggested that parasitic state apparatuses should be uninterested in the offer of legal-rational autonomy in exchange for their tolerance of resurrected democratic freedoms: both democratic freedoms and legal-rational autonomy are direct threats to the logic of patrimonial appropriation typical of the apparatuses.

Similarly, in a traditional agrarian state, dominated by highly authoritarian and exploitive agrarian relations, land-owners are most unlikely to accept the political reorganization of labor. Given the nature of the predominant agrarian relations, labor reorganization would alter much more than the distribution of future profits; it would alter, economically and culturally, those very relations. Further, in states such as these, labor may well reciprocate the lack of interest in trade-offs. The notion of trading immediate material gains against the less tangible advantages of political reorganization loses meaning. For one thing, as just pointed out, labor may well encounter sustained opposition to its political reorganization. For another, in point of fact, there may be little to reorganize, not just because of previous specific repression by the dictatorship, but because traditional economic and social relations work against the associability of labor. Finally, therefore, the political reorganization of labor cannot be pursued in the presence of the traditional corporate interests, but demands a degree of feared transformation of the same.

Leaving aside systemic features of politics and society, trade-offs may also lose attractiveness in extreme transitional scenarios. If something resembling our third, Portuguese scenario were to occur—the old regime is in disarray, comprehensive social reformers are in control of the transition, they inherit in addition a crisis of the dictatorship's


economic model that falls on a society scarred by glaring social injustice—we can expect (to restate that scenario) that the temptation will be very strong to jettison as unnecessary the restraints of a democracy with pacts, in fact, of a competitive democracy plain and simple. The temptation will also be to push for radical reforms, and to make the old regime interests pay the bill. At the other extreme, a Brazilian-style transition—slow, without clear signs of underlying crisis, carefully controlled by the old regime in a climate of demobilization that is not conducive to popular pressures—also presents, unfortunately, no clear incentives for trade-offs. Why accommodate labor? Why offer it a special role in the transition? Why indeed change the pace of the transition by calling early elections? Why travel all the way to garantismo when the pressures are apparently not there?[21]

Finally, we must remember, that, even aside from the extreme transitional and systemic scenarios just discussed, accommodating corporate interests is not that easy. A case in point is contemporary Latin America, where the total political and moral discredit accompanying the collapse of most military regimes (the exception is Brazil) has left the terms (perhaps even the matter) of the military's accommodation to democracy still open. When the line between the individual and collective responsibilities of the military is difficult to draw, and when there is popular clamor for purges and political reforms, it is difficult for civilian authorities to justify negotiations with the military institutions. It is also difficult for the military to fathom what convenient shape their corporate identity might assume in a democratic context. Similarly, Latin American transitions have been marked by a general failure of business, labor, and government to strike social pacts, especially pacts that would address not only impending economic issues but also the long-range problem of interest organization. While wavering between populist


and orthodox policies for dealing with debt and inflation and occasionally making material concessions, now to labor and now to business, the new democratic governments (with the possible exception of Bolivia) have largely failed to bring business and labor together on a broader model of interest intermediation.

Is something objectively inescapable, however, about the latter predicament? In part, the failure to seek agreement may reflect the magnitude and inevitability of the economic crisis, which distract the government from seeking long-range solutions. In part, it may reflect the state of disarray of corporate interests—an understandable one in view of the repression of free interest associationism by the old regimes, and further that during the transition, interest associations may be internally divided, organizationally dispersed, and therefore insensitive to accommodations.[22] In part, however, blame for the predicament is subjectively placed by corporate interests at their governments' doorsteps. For they perceive their governments as unwilling to enter into anything but narrowly reactive, instrumental, and self-serving agreements.[23] And whether or not this diagnosis is fair, given the objective circumstances, it does work as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But all of this suggests that economic crisis and disorganization of interests should not be seen as insurmountable obstacles to social pacts. On the contrary, crisis and disorganization could just as well convince a government to make the reorganization of corporate interests, and of the structures and rules through which they interact, the object of priority negotiation. If not from Latin America, a good illustration comes actually from a more unexpected quarter. I am referring to the negotiations conducted by the Polish regime and Solidarity in early 1989. The negotiations pursued merely a balance between labor's relative and often implicit


restraint on wage-earner and consumer demands and the explicit recognition of labor's institutional role as a union and political movement. Central to the negotiations was, on one side, the desire to move cautiously on both economic and democratic reforms so as to avoid backlashes, but on the other side the recognition that only a politically reconstituted and secure labor movement could carry along its otherwise fragmented followers, reabsorb its intransigent fringes, and thus negotiate sacrifices.

But there is more that is interesting in the Polish case. There is a suggestion that the outer boundaries of what is usually considered as possible/plausible in regard to democratization can be moved further—even beyond where I have been placing them so far. Only months before it started, the Polish dialogue would have been exceedingly hazardous to predict. It would seem logical to argue, for instance, that for a Communist regime, where the party overshadows, or overlaps with, the state, the promise of corporate autonomy for the state holds insufficient appeal to push the regime toward full democratization.[24] And so it may be. Competitive democracy was not exactly what the Polish regime had in mind.[25] I leave for the last chapter the issue of how a reigning (but ruling?) Communist party can be, so to say, negotiated out of its preferences.

Meanwhile, a dialogue is in place, regime and opposition regret the time wasted in years past, and the border between liberalization and democratization is often trespassed. So, if on one side gradualism is emphasized and we may fret that full democracy is not around the corner for Poland, on the other side the desire to negotiate future moves acknowledges, in an unexpected place, the finally discovered importance of pacts and negotiations. Indeed, Spain and its transition through pacts have become a constant point of reference, a code name, in the Polish dialogue, as they are


in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. At the same time, emphasis on maintaining the pace of negotiations indirectly ackowledges that gradualism is not without costs. In fact, in the short interval between the time I first wrote these lines and the time I revised them, Solidarity has won elections designed to limit its wins and one of its members has been designated prime minister by a Communist president and confirmed with Communist votes.

Are Trade-offs Too Costly?

Let us return finally to the second question of these conclusions: assuming that prudent trade-off tactics obtain a competitive political democracy for us, are there costs relating to that prudence, and if so, how lingering are they? In fact, given the conservatism that usually accompanies most contemporary transitions to democracy, are the costs typical of all transitions, whether or not they are softened by explicit compromises? The answer is that there are social costs, and perhaps costs in performance—especially in some cases. Whether they are lingering, however, and whether therefore there are also costs in stability, perhaps in legitimacy, is uncertain enough to deserve attention in the next two chapters.

Given the thrust of these pages, there is little doubt that immediate social costs are high when "conservative" transitions—that is, transitions in which reforms are limited to the adoption of the rules for political competition—occur in a society long scarred by social injustice and by a defunct economic model that buttresses that injustice. The social costs become greater when these political transitions, as a reflection of their social conservatism, also call for pacts that impose further social restraint and economic sacrifices on the popular sector. And the costs are even greater when the material sacrifices required by the pacts are not compensated


by official support for the political reorganization of the popular sector.

The implication would seem to be that conservative transitions should produce conservative democracies: their future performance presumably being confined by the starting conditions. And this should have negative consequences for the life of those democracies. There are indeed a number of good reasons why this may be so; but there are also good reasons why it does not have to.

On the side of pessimism, we can expect that resistance to significant alterations in society's authoritarian relations would continue under a conservative democracy, both because those relations are regarded by some dominant groups as vital to their life-styles and because the expectation that those relations will be preserved is part of those groups' acceptance of political democracy.[26] We can expect, in turn, that democratic governments confronted with such expectations would, out of fear, move very cautiously on social reforms, and would in fact invite backsliding. We can expect a corresponding disenchantment with democracy in the popular sector. We can expect a poor environment for democratic growth, for democracy fares better if society provides greater areas for civic participation and communal interaction. We can expect, finally, that these strands will converge to place democracy, stilted and precarious in its performance, at serious risk. The chain of argument is familiar; it is a variation on the theme that democracy does not grow in the soil of social inequalities, even if we manage to plant it there.

But does it have to be so? Let me broaden the question. Let me move from conservative transitions to any transition that, for any reason, has experienced difficulties. In some cases the difficulties may be linked to inauspicious social


conditions, in other cases to the very circumstances of the transition. In some transitions the difficulties may reside in their conservatism; in others, dominated by comprehensive social reformers, they may reside in excessively ambitious radicalism; in yet other transitions, neither clearly conservative nor radical, the difficulties may reside in the generic problem of finding a mutually agreeable balance in constitutional or social choices. Whatever the case may be, the broader question is whether transitions that experience difficulties mortgage future performance so heavily that democracy is caught in a vicious circle. Is there a vicious circle, or can the difficulties be dealt with, in the life of a democracy?

The essay's emphasis on garantismo and this chapter's emphasis on pacts strong on mass/political overtures are meant to stress that the democratic game is not foreclosed, that it can be played to greater advantage as democratic life unfolds, and that at any rate it is the only reformist game; the only one able to protect the waging of social conflict for the purpose of altering social relations. If democracy does not guarantee that the relations shall be altered, it does not guarantee their preservation either.

If we can argue convincingly that a democracy is not entirely doomed by a difficult birth, there is then more than a gleam of hope for its future performance. The argument is part of the next chapter.


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