Globalizing Democracy, and a Pair of Murders?

By Beichman, Arnold | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 18, 1999 | Go to article overview

Globalizing Democracy, and a Pair of Murders?


Beichman, Arnold, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


In his scholarly treatise, Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation (Johns Hopkins University Press, $49.94, $17.95 paper, 362 pages) Larry Diamond offers a realistic description of the political discontents of our time and how these discontents are reduced (human nature precludes their eventual elimination) by the development of democratic practice.

Mr. Diamond (a colleague at the Hoover Institution) is a sociologist who has long studied the origins of 20th-century industrial democracies and how polities yoked to authoritarian regimes may achieve democratic freedoms. The author takes it as a given, as I do, that democracy is the best political vehicle for creating and protecting human liberty plus a sure way of avoiding violent conflict: Democracies have never fought each other in battle.

In modern times, democracies have come in "waves." The "wave" concept, developed by Samuel Huntington, the Harvard political philosopher, is defined as a group of democratic transitions occurring in a specified time period. The first wave came during 1828-1916, the second 1943-64. Each of the two waves ended, unfortunately, with a reverse wave of democratic breakdowns. The third wave, which seems to have subsided, began with the overthrow of the Portuguese dictatorship in 1974 and continued through the early 1990s with the fall of the USSR.

Mr. Diamond asks, Is there a fourth wave of global democratic expansion coming? There are still repressive governments in the world, the worst among the 53 "not free" states being Cuba, Iraq, North Korea and Syria. (The author does not include Iran, Vietnam and China in his "worst" category). In China he foresees "creeping democratization," despite periodic crackdowns by the PRC on dissidents.

The possibility of a fourth wave "rests most pivotally on the future of China," he writes. Therefore, he argues, trade should not be used "as a weapon to punish China for its reprehensible record on human rights." But he is realist enough to warn that democratic development is probabilistic, open-ended and reversible. In other words, there is no guarantee that even with a benign view about Sino-American trade relations that the PRC will become a democracy.

* * *

The importance of the memoir by Peter S. Deriabin with Joseph C. Evans Inside Stalin's Kremlin: An Eyewitness Account of Brutality, Duplicity, and Intrigue (Brassey, $27.50, 245 pages) is in the claim that Lavrenti Beria, KGB head, murdered Joseph Stalin on Feb. 27, 1953, that Georgi Malenkov was his accomplice and that Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin were accessories after the fact. If true, it is a reaffirmation of a rumor which has circulated since March 5, 1953, the day Moscow Radio announced Stalin's death.

No other Soviet official, dead or alive, has so much as hinted that Stalin was done in by the man closest to him for several years. The magisterial history of the Soviet Union, "Utopia in Power," by Mikhail Heller and Alexander M. Nekrich, states flatly, "Stalin died a natural death." Dmitri Volkugonov, Stalin's biographer, denies the murder story. Whom to believe?

Still Mr. Deriabin, a defecting official of the Soviet secret police, is not a man given to telling tall stories about his long service inside the Kremlin. He has written several books about his police past. His revelations led to his employment for several decades by the Central Intelligence Agency. And his co-author is a retired CIA officer. What Mr. Deriabin is telling us, however, is unverifiable; it is secondhand or even third-hand information and nobody is around to confirm the tale. …

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