Ciboski: On Politics

Apr 17, 2019

How often do you hear people say they hate politics, and that politics is a “dirty business?” 

I remember a student telling me he thought enrolling in a course studying American politics would be about the study of corruption, and he would not want to do that. Of course, this student was mistaken regarding what the study of politics is about. I would argue that instead, we should be praising the possibilities for politics, especially in a democratic country.

Politics is about a “politics of action.” It is not an ideology such as Communism, Socialism, or Fascism, though politics is related to each of these. For a democratic political system, we are talking about a “public politics,” as opposed to “palace politics” in nondemocratic regimes. In fact, some would say that when politics is maximized, it is about “ethics done in public.” In communist and fascist political systems, our attention in regard to politics would most likely focus on what happens within the top leadership circle.

As an academic Sovietologist for more than 60 years, I studied the top leadership of the Soviet Union. So, when Nikita Khrushchev was ousted in a “palace coup” as the top Soviet leader in 1964, I wondered what happened within the Politburo or top leadership. I was in the Soviet Union in the summer of 1968 during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. A Soviet staffperson rushed to tell me that Soviet administrators did not want to hear me say anything about the invasion. I knew I would be arrested, and the staffperson told me “they will put you on an airplane and send you home immediately.”

Politics is messy and complex, but with its compromises and power struggles, it is the one tested alternative to government by coercion. We must remember that we cannot have freedom without politics, and we cannot have politics without freedom.

Tags: