Red-brown cesspit

Michael Pugliese debsian at
Sat Dec 25 13:41:05 MST 1999

Weekly Worker 317 - Thursday December 16
1999 cesspit
    From the British "Weekly Worker" of the CPGB.
                               Michael Pugliese

Red-brown cesspit
Michael Malkin examines the Great Russian chauvinism and anti-semitism of
the Communist Party of the Russian Federation
On December 19 Russia goes to the polls to elect a new state duma. To try
and predict the outcome of the election is futile. Practically nothing about
it has appeared in the western media, and even at home the campaign has been
totally overshadowed by the war in Chechnya and by next year’s much more
significant presidential election.
Whatever the outcome, however, it seems probable that the Communist Party of
the Russian Federation, at present the largest party in the duma, will
continue to occupy an important place in Russian politics. The purpose of
this article is to examine the ideology of the CPRF, not least because it is
the only major party in the contest that lays any claim - albeit a false
one - specifically to represent the interests of the Russian working class.
I hope to show that: first, the CPRF has nothing whatever in common with
Marxism or (apart from its name) communism; secondly, that it cannot even be
described as a social democratic party or a bourgeois party of the working
class; thirdly, though dressed up in the rhetoric of communism its politics
are thoroughly reactionary and chauvinist - in fact the category of
‘red-brown’ is, if anything, too generous: as we shall see, there has been a
substantial and continuing shift away from the ‘red’ towards the ‘brown’. In
order to demonstrate these propositions, it will be necessary to look in
some detail at the political and ideological evolution of the party in
recent years and to summarise the platform with which it is entering the
First, a few words about the party in general. With a claimed membership of
some 500,000 people and a nationwide infrastructure, the CPRF is Russia’s
only real mass party. In the almost complete absence of any organised
extra-parliamentary opposition among the working class, the CPRF has become
the focus for opposition to the Yeltsin regime and thus appears to be a
formidable political force. To some extent, however, this appearance is
deceptive. In the first place, it is an old party (average age of membership
is around 55) and its social class composition, far from consisting of
workers, is dominated by a narrow stratum of pensioners, war veterans, some
former members of the Soviet nomenklatura, and a heavy ballast of
lower-level former bureaucrats, once employed in the party and state
apparatus, many of them in the agrarian and military-industrial sectors.
What we are dealing with, therefore, is hardly a party of activists bent on
revolution - not even an organisation demanding radical, left social
democratic structural reforms of the economy and property relations, but a
‘clientele’ of the dispossessed, disaffected and despairing, for whom the
collapse of the USSR and the rape of Russia by foreign and domestic capital
under Yeltsin has meant not just a loss of status, but in many cases social
degradation and crushing poverty.
The history of the CPRF in its present form began in February 1993, with the
election of Gennadiy Andreyevich Zyuganov to the post of chairman of the
central executive committee, in the process beating Valentin Kuptsov, a left
social democrat candidate for the post. Born in June 1944, Zyuganov
graduated as a maths teacher and later took a doctorate of philosophy in
social sciences. His party career in the CPSU involved work in the Orlovsk
city committee of the party and culminated in his becoming one of the deputy
directors of the ideology department of the CPSU central committee. Prior to
the collapse of the USSR he was a political commentator on the daily
newspaper Sovietskaya Rossiya. To call him a hack party bureaucrat and
Soviet ideologist would not be unduly harsh.
In retrospect, we can see that Zyuganov began his leadership with two
strategic goals: to make the CPRF a strong parliamentarist opposition and to
supply it with an ideology to replace the (in his eyes) outmoded baggage of
Soviet Marxism-Leninism. His first task was to consolidate the CPRF’s
position by dealing with rival organisations on his left (the Russian
Communist Workers Party, headed by Viktor Anpilov) and on his right (the
Socialist Party of Workers, led by Lyudmila Vartazarova). In this he was
successful: Anpilov’s organisation, even then a Stalinist party masquerading
as revolutionary Leninists, lost many activists to the CPRF. A doggedly
Stalinist rump of the RCWP still exists, but is of only marginal
significance. The SPW, a moderate reformist organisation also lost much of
its passive, elderly membership, attracted by Zyuganov’s dynamism.
The first defining moment for the CPRF came in October 1993, when the
long-standing confrontation between Yeltsin and the duma culminated in the
shelling of the White House by tanks and the collapse of the opposition led
by Ruslan Khasbulatov and former Russian vice-president Aleksander Rutskoi.
As the crisis mounted during the summer, Zyuganov distanced the CPRF from
any involvement in the opposition’s attempt at igniting a popular
insurrection, making it clear that the party was embarked on an exclusively
parliamentary road. Having destroyed the last vestiges of rebellion, Yeltsin
lost no time in consolidating his victory: all leftwing organisations
(including the CPRF) were banned; new elections were called for December
1993, to take place simultaneously with a referendum on a new constitution
that endowed the presidency with dictatorial powers and more or less reduced
the duma to a toothless talking shop.
At this stage the CPRF’s left wing claimed that the only principled course
was to call for a boycott of the polls, since to do otherwise would have
meant giving post facto legitimacy to Yeltsin’s bloody outrage. For a while
Zyuganov followed this line, but as soon as the ban on the CPRF was lifted -
at the instigation of the Yeltsinite Russia’s Choice bloc, who knew a pliant
and ambitious politician when they saw one - Zyuganov changed course to
proposing a ‘no’ vote in the referendum. This set the CPRF apart from those
other left organisations, whose adherence to a boycottist position forced
them out of legal politics. Lacking the necessary cadres, resources and -
most of all - a coherent theory, they were unable to partake in serious
politics and to all intents and purposes fell apart.
Some might say that Zyuganov was saving the party - but saving it for what?
The answer, which like everything else about the CPRF is full of
contradictions, became clear after the 1993 elections and has remained
constant. It was not a love of democracy that motivated Zyuganov - the
internal workings of the CPRF make that abundantly clear. No, Zyuganov
wanted to save the CPRF so that it could, he hoped, become a party of
government committed not to the dismantling of Russia’s new ‘capitalist’
polity and economy, nor even to its structural reform along social
democratic lines, but to the creation of a strong Russian state on top of
the disintegrating economic infrastructure.
The CPRF’s record as the main party of opposition in the duma has also been
marked by contradiction: on the one hand, vitriolic condemnation of Yeltsin
and his successive prime ministers, but on the other, a marked degree of
cooperation particularly on the state budgets of 1994-96, in which the CPRF
acted essentially as a lobbyist for the sectional interests of its
clientele. During the long premiership of Viktor Chernomyrdin and even more
so that of Yevgeniy Primakov, the CPRF could point to some significant gains
in terms of increased subsidies for depressed sectors of the agro-industrial
and military industrial complexes. Under Primakov, the CPRF even had a
deputy prime minister in the person of Yuriy Maslyukov, the last head of
Gosplan and a full member of the central committee of the CPSU, who was
given charge of economic planning.
To be sure, there have been sharp confrontations between the CPRF duma
fraction and Yeltsin over confirming the president’s appointment of various
prime ministers. Latterly, of course, there was the CPRF’s unsuccessful
attempt earlier this year to impeach Yeltsin for, amongst other things, his
role in the “treasonable” dismantling of the USSR, his “criminal” war
against Chechnya in 1994-6, and “genocide of the Russian people”. The
pattern has, however, always been the same - confrontation, sometimes to the
brink of the duma’s dissolution, followed by climbdown. Under the current
premiership of VV Putin, whose standing has been dramatically enhanced by
the current war against Chechnya, the CPRF, like almost all the main party
blocs, has adopted a stance of unequivocal support for the government.
Within months of his election as leader, Zyuganov signalled a rearticulation
of the CPRF’s ideological past by promulgating his concept of ‘state
patriotism’ (gosudarstvenniy patriotizm), which we examine below. His tactic
was to produce a set of theses that marked a complete and unashamed embrace
of nationalism and then get the party to accept them. At first, there was
stiff resistance from such leftwing members as the veteran theoretician of
Soviet Marxism-Leninism, Richard Kosola-pov, and the head of the CPRF in the
Krasnodar region, Anatoliy Barykin, who complained that the new line had
ditched any reference to communism. The dispute reached its climax at the
April 1994 CPRF congress, but Zyuganov got his majority, even though he
conceded the omission of any reference to ‘state patriotism’ from the
platform for the 1995 duma elections, using instead the compromise formula
of “soviet state patriotism” and calling for the “unity of patriotic and
internationalist aims” (Documents of the CPRF’s 3rd Congress pp96-118).
The background to the 1995 duma poll, from which the CPRF emerged as the
strongest party, were particularly auspicious: there was yet another
economic crisis and the war in Chechnya had started to go badly for the
Russian army. Support for the CPRF rose markedly and Zyuganov scented the
possibility of power. Hence, he backtracked on the new line to some extent,
and larded the party’s programme with references to Marx and Lenin, in the
hope of harnessing the broadest possible support across the old left. At the
same time, the CPRF conducted its election campaign in such a way as to
guarantee that independent, revolutionary leftists were denied ant
possibility of success, even though that meant ensuring that Yeltsin and
Chernomyrdin supporters gained the victory in the constituencies concerned.
Under the new constitution, the CPRF’s power in the duma, strong on paper,
was actually meaningless. The approach of the presidential elections in
1996, in which Zyuganov was the CPRF’s candidate, marked the decisive
ideological shift. He succeeded in having all references to socialism
expunged from his platform - unless you include otiose references to the
CPRF’s desire to bring in a constitution based on “genuine - ie, Soviet -
people’s power”. Strenuous efforts were made to convince Russia’s embryonic
capitalists that their interests would be safe in Zyuganov’s hands.
Hence, CPRF specialists, under the leadership of Tatiana Koryagina, produced
an economic platform, This can be done today, that promised active state
support for privately-owned financial-industrial combines, making repeated
references to the example of China and Roosevelt’s New Deal. The 3rd
Congress’s commitment that “property acquired in defiance of the law, the
country’s interests and the rights of labour” would be expropriated.
Instead, the state’s central goal would be “collaboration with corporations
and their allies (financial-industrial groups, consortiums)”. The creation
of such groups would be encouraged by means of tax breaks, easy credit and
state investment. In short, a promise of support for capital, albeit with
the emphasis on Russian capital in the service of “Russia’s national-state
interests”. Nothing could more starkly illustrate the CPRF’s capitulation to
the New Russians.
The very phrase ‘state patriotism’ should by itself be enough to demonstrate
that Zyuganov’s politics have nothing in common with Marxism. Its practical
meaning became crystal clear during the 1994-96 Chechen war. At the time of
the invasion, the CPRF actually voted to condemn the Russian military
offensive - a sign that there were liberal voices which Zyuganov had yet to
silence. CPRF duma deputy Leonid Pokrovskiy went to Chechnya with human
rights commissioner Sergei Kovalev and worked alongside him trying to expose
the reality of the army’s war on Chechen civilians. Zyuganov was incensed,
accused Kovalev of “one-sidedly” supporting Chechen separatists and
intrigued to procure his dismissal.
When Russia’s application to join the Council of Europe was later being
considered, in January 1996, Kovalev addressed an open letter to Strasbourg
warning that Russia’s conduct in Chechnya made it ineligible for membership.
Zyuganov’s reaction? To side unequivocally with Yeltsin - his supposed sworn
enemy - and uphold the right of Russia to bomb civilians in order to defeat
“Chechen terrorists”, arguing that any weakness on Russia’s part - ie, any
respect for human rights and human lives - would “help the growth of
fundamentalism in the Caucasus” (Segodnya January 27 1996). The CPRF,
needless to say, said not a word in protest at the clampdown which then, as
recently, took place against Chechen and other Caucasian nationals living in
Moscow and other Russian cities.
Small wonder that Zyuganov has been a firm supporter of prime minister Putin
’s latest Chechen adventure - in 1996 and thereafter Zyuganov was by far the
most strident critic of Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin for surrendering. Somehow
he manages to square this with wanting to impeach Yeltsin on the grounds of
having conducted a “criminal” war in Chechnya. Perhaps the crime, in the
eyes of Zyuganov, the ‘state patriot’, is that Russia lost.
‘State patriotism’ is of course just old-fashioned Great Russian chauvinism.
However, in attempting to put some theoretical flesh on the bare bones of
the concept, Zyuganov has concocted a poisonous mix of hysterical xenophobia
and a touch of paranoia. He starts by repudiating the idea of class
struggle, and dismisses the obvious contradiction between Marxist class
analysis and his “all-national world outlook” as more apparent then real: in
his vision, “The whole Russian people, overcoming schisms imposed on it from
without and within, will constitute itself as one unified conciliar
personality, one family.” The class approach must be “enriched by the
cultural-historical and social-psychological” (GA Zyuganov Derzhava Moscow
1994, p39).
These “schisms”, be it noted, are not the product of class society, but have
been “imposed” on the Russian “family”, in part by wicked foreigners. This
is bad enough, but in his book Russia - my homeland, published two years
later, Zyuganov goes much further, actually rejecting the idea of class
struggle altogether, and blaming it for Russia’s sorry plight: we are told
that the main contradiction in Russian society is not between classes, but
“between the ruling regime and the rest of the population”. What is more,
“The most powerful means for the suppression of Russian national
self-consciousness, the main weapons for its break-up and the cutting off of
its historical continuity, are the ceaseless attempts to antagonistically
counterpose in people’s minds the ‘white’ and ‘red’ national ideas” (GA
Zyuganov Rossiya - rodina maya Moscow 1996, p218).
In developing his concept of what he calls the ‘Russian idea’, Zyuganov
claims that it represents a synthesis between the ‘white’ and ‘red’ ideas:
“Unifying the ‘red’ idea of social justice, which takes shape as the worldly
hypostasis of the ‘heavenly’ truth that ‘all are equal before god’, and the
‘white’ idea of nationally comprehended statehood, perceived as the existent
form of the things that have been sacred to the people for centuries, Russia
has finally found its longed-for mutual agreement between estates and
classes, its might as a great power” (ibid p219). Without this uniquely
Russian synthesis, “national salvation” is impossible. To make it quite
clear just where his ideas are coming from, Zyuganov tells his readers to
study the works of Ivan Ilyin, the reactionary philosopher, whose
anti-Bolshevik writings were very popular in white émigré circles, and whose
tome On resisting evil by force - an incitement to counterrevolutionary
violence - Zyuganov describes as his “best book” (ibid p63).
That Zyuganov, far from being a communist, or even a social democrat, is in
fact a brazen counterrevolutionary and a propagator of virulent
anti-communism should by now be obvious. In the turgid ‘theorising’ of such
works as Russia - my homeland we discover a doctrine directed not towards
the liberation of humanity from alienation and oppression, but towards its
continued enslavement. In seeking to bolster his notion of Russian
statehood, Zyuganov is not content with ransacking the works of such people
as NA Berdyayev - the ‘legal Marxist’ turned mystic and god-seeking apostle
of social inequality, or the theocrat VS Solovyov. He goes back to such
reactionaries as S Uvarov, minister of education under tsar Nicholas I,
whose formula of nationality-autocracy-orthodoxy, employed in the 19th
century to underpin tsarism and serfdom, Zyuganov puts to a new use: this
trinity, rich in “cultural-historical meaning”, is adapted to the present
day, comprising the CPRF (popular unity), the rightwing nationalists
(Russian statehood) and the Russian orthodox church (ibid pp232-37). For
this former ideologist of the CPSU, writing in a pamphlet entitled Russia
and the world today, “Russian statehood grew and ascended from strength to
strength as imperial statehood” and the Soviet Union was the “historical and
geopolitical continuator of the Russian empire” (GA Zyuganov Rossiya i
sovremenniy mir Moscow 1995, p46).
In this pamphlet, Zyuganov treats us to a disquisition on the role of the
Russian state that bears the unmistakable imprint of Great Russian
messianism: Russia constitutes “a cultural-historical and moral tradition,
whose fundamental values are conciliatory, great-powerhood and a striving to
embody the highest ideals of kindness and justice”; as “a unique
ethno-political and spiritual-ideological unity”, it is the mission of a
strong Russian state to save civilisation from the consequences of western
dominance and the rise of islam (ibid pp65-6).
Such are the mystical and messianic vapourings of Gennadiy Andreyevich when
he dons the philosopher’s mantle. They reek of obscurantism and reaction and
are evidently the product of a third-rate, perhaps slightly hysterical and
paranoid intellect. Does that mean that we should dismiss them as mere
bunkum, or as opportunistic pandering to the nationalist sentiments of the
Russian electorate? Certainly not. To do so would be a serious mistake for
two reasons. First, it is the duty of communists to fight against
reactionary, proto-fascist ideology of this kind in all circumstances, but
especially when it is propagated by so-called ‘communists’ themselves.
Secondly, Zyuganov is not just a cranky Great Russian chauvinist - he is
also an anti-semite.
It can hardly be a coincidence, for example, that Zyuganov has sat on the
editorial board of Zavtra, a newspaper, edited by his close collaborator and
mentor Prokhanov, that regularly publishes anti-semitic articles. Zyuganov’s
own remarks about the baleful influence of Jews on the history of Russia are
well documented, as is the fact that, in a manner and tone worthy of the
Protocols of the elders of Zion, he attributes Russia’s catastrophic
economic state to the machinations of international Jewry. His close
colleague, Viktor Ilyukhin, chairman of one of the duma committees, states
quite openly: “If there were less Jews in the Russian government, then
Russia would not be in the state it is in today.”
In his writings, Zyuganov repeatedly maintains that there were in fact two
parties within the old CPSU: a patriotic, Russian party - “the party of
Sholokhov and Korolev, Zhukhov and Gagarin, Kurchatov and Stakhanov”; and
the anti-patriotic “party of Trotsky and Kaganovich, Beria and Mekhlis,
Gorbachev and Yeltsin, Yakovlev and Shevardnadze” (see Rossiya - rodina maya
p327). The list is revealing: of the ‘good guys’, all are, of course,
Russians and not a single one was a politician; on the other hand, Zyuganov’
s contemporary ‘villains’ are linked with the names of three prominent
Bolsheviks - LD Trotsky, MM Kaganovich and LZ Mekhlis - whose could hardly
have differed more from each other politically, but who just happen to have
been Jews.
Needless to say, the CPRF denies that it is remotely anti-semitic. For
example, on December 23 1998, the party’s website carried a statement by
Zyuganov intended to reassure us that in its ideology and composition the
party is “internationalist”. It states: “Any forms in which chauvinism and
national intolerance manifest themselves ... are incompatible with communist
convictions.” But the language he uses to defend himself actually
demonstrates his guilt. Accusations of anti-semitism are just “lies and
slander” put about by “Russophobic”, “non-national” and “anti-popular”
forces in the mass media. It just so happens that these epithets, like the
Stalinist code word ‘cosmopolitan’ - also much loved by Zyuganov - are
regularly employed in CPRF materials as euphemisms for ‘Jewish’.
In time-honoured fashion, Zyuganov seeks to dissociate himself and his party
from anti-semitism by drawing a sharp distinction between Zionism and what
he calls “the Jewish problem”. But the manner in which he attempts to do so
is hardly convincing: not only is Zionism part of an imperialist world
conspiracy, striving for “world supremacy”, but, he claims, it is also
actually worse than Hitler’s national socialism, for “Hitlerite Nazism acted
under the mask of German nationalism and strove for world supremacy openly,
while Zionism, when its appears under the mask of Jewish nationalism, acts
in a concealed manner ...”
Let the conclusion of his extraordinary tirade speak for itself:
“Zionisation of the governmental authorities of Russia was one of the causes
of the country’s present-day catastrophic situation, of the mass
impoverishment and extinction of its population. They cannot close their
eyes to the aggressive and destructive role of Zionist capital in the
disruption of the economy of Russia and in the misappropriation of its
national property. They are right when they ask the question as to how it
could happen that the key positions in several branches of the economy were
seized during privatisation mainly by the representatives of one
nationality. They see that control over most of the electronic mass media,
which wage a destructive struggle against our motherland, morality,
language, culture and beliefs, is concentrated in the hands of the same
persons.” And these are the words of a man trying to prove that he is not an
However painful it may be for some, we have no choice but to acknowledge
that the ideological roots of Zyuganov’s approach to the “Jewish problem” go
deep into the history of the CPSU. It is a matter of plain historical fact
that in the post-war years Stalin was planning a wide-scale purge of Jews.
The ZIS case (November 1950) was a precursor - a number of doctors,
executives and bureaucrats working at the Stalin Automobile Factory in
Moscow were arrested and shot. They were all Jews. On January 13 1953 Tass
issued a communiqué concerning the discovery of a “terrorist group of
poisoning doctors” and the arrest of prominent Jews began. The February 8
Pravda article ‘Simpletons and scoundrels’ contained a long list of names -
the ‘scoundrels’ (Jews) against whom the ‘simpletons’ (Russians) had relaxed
their vigilance. Only Stalin’s death prevented the purge, which reportedly
included plans for the mass deportation of Jews to Siberia, from going
In this connection, it should come as no surprise that Zyuganov’s reading of
post-revolutionary Russian history is thoroughly Stalinist. He speaks of the
“ideological Russophobia of the radical-cosmopolitan [ie, Jewish - MM] wing
of the party” having been “seduced” by the idea of world revolution, and
incidentally blames the “radical-cosmopolitans” for the “dekulakisation” and
mass repressions of the 1930s. Stalin, however, “like no one else”
understood the need for the revival of the “Russian idea” and in the
post-war years initiated an “ideological reconstruction”, with the patriotic
teaching of Russian history and a new approach to religion and relations
with the orthodox church (Rossiya - rodina maya pp141-143; p327).
Some might ask why I have devoted so much space to the question of the CPRF’
s anti-semitism. Because this vile and perverse aspect of the party’s
ideology should alone be enough to condemn it in the eyes of anyone calling
themselves Marxist or communist.
Lenin’s attitude to the question was absolutely clear: “Only the utterly
ignorant and cowed can believe the lies and slanders against Jews ... It is
not Jews who are the enemies of the workers. The enemies of the workers are
the capitalists of all countries. The majority of Jews are toilers. They are
our brothers as victims of capitalist oppression, our comrades in the
struggle for socialism. Amongst the Jews there are kulaks, exploiters and
capitalists, just as there are among Russians, just as there are in all
nations ... the capitalists attempt to sow and to inflame hostility between
workers of different religions, different nations and different races ...
Rich Jews, like rich Russians, like rich people throughout the world, ally
with each other and crush, oppress, rob and divide the workers ... Shame on
those who sow hostility towards Jews, who sow hatred of other nations!” (VI
Lenin, ‘On the pogromist persecution of Jews’, quoted in Perspektiva,
journal of the Union of Marxists, Moscow February 1999).
On this occasion there is not sufficient space to deal in detail with the
CPRF’s programme - in every sense a heavy document - but the main planks of
the platform on which the party will fight the December 19 duma election
were clearly set out in an interview which Zyuganov gave earlier this year
to Pravda correspondent Vladimir Bolshakov.
The party’s campaign will be fought under the central slogan of ‘Victory to
the patriots of Russia’, reflecting the fact that, while standing in its own
right, the CPRF is also part of a block of more than 200 organisations
comprising the People’s Patriotic Union of Russia, a broad coalition of
nationalist forces that came into being after the 1996 presidential
elections, and of which Zyuganov was unanimously elected chairman. According
to Zyuganov, the PPUR can be likened to “the resistance movement operating
in France during World War II: it includes communists, agrarians,
social-democrats, and rightwingers who have all united on the basis of
patriotism ... Our motto is ‘Order in the land - prosperity in our homes’
... We are all united above all by a common concern for our native land
[and] share the same views about the protection of Russia’s national
interests and restoration of a unified federal state.” Just in case this
sounds rather too rightwing, Zyuganov adds that “Our primary concern is
about social justice and the protection of the interests of the working
people” (‘When my country is in danger’ Pravda February 9-10 1999).
The sycophantic Bolshakov is too polite to ask Zyuganov how the latter
assertion about the interests of the working people, coming from a
‘communist’, can be squared with an economic platform that is almost
unreservedly committed to stabilising the hybrid semi-capitalist,
semi-bureaucratic socialist relations of production and circulation which at
present characterise Russia. As Zyuganov puts it, “I’m for the market ... We
have discarded many of the dogmas that used to be as untouchable as the
sacred cows in India ... If we come to power, we will not move towards
all-out nationalisation and egalitarianism. We are now in favour of state
ownership and various other forms of ownership” (ibid).
According to the assessment of Mikhail Dimitriev of the Carnegie Centre in
Moscow, this markedly understates the reality of the CPRF’s volte face: “In
1995 a major aim of the CPRF was to alter the outcome of privatisation,
including the long-run goal of renationalisation of major industries ... The
CPRF is now talking about how to enforce property rights. In unambiguous
terms it accepts that, where competition exists, private property should be
the dominant form of ownership. Although the CPRF continues to support
collective ownership, it now defines this term as it is defined in western
economies, meaning private, employee-owned firms. The CPRF’s economic
programme supports state ownership only for natural monopolies and
enterprises in need of long-term restructuring” (Russian and Eurasian issue
brief October 28 1999).
When it comes to answering questions about the CPRF’s relationship to its
communist and Soviet inheritance, Zyuganov is necessarily ambiguous, because
he needs somehow to reconcile the glaringly contradictory forces both within
the CPRF and the broader PPUR.
On the one hand, he tells us that “the Soviet era was the heyday of Russia’s
prosperity and greatness, the acme of its history”. When rather pathetically
depicting himself and the CPRF as possible victims of future persecution by
rightwing extremist oligarchs such as Berezovsky, he has the gall to claim
that such persecution will be on account of the fact that Zyuganov and his
comrades have “never renounced our credo and have remained communists.”
Asked why he has always resisted changing the party’s name, he replies
candidly: “We are using it to present our party as a political force capable
of returning to the Russians all those social gains, social protection, the
prosperity, greatness and power of our country which have been taken away
from us by the ‘democratic’ traitors (Pravda February 9-10)”.
On the other hand, “It’s time we stopped dividing the left into true
believers and infidels. Social democracy and the communist movement
represent one political trend in the struggle for social justice, democracy
and human rights. Today’s communists should take and apply the best of the
international experience of leftist movements. And not only leftist” (ibid).
What, we might ask finally, do “today’s communists” in the CPRF actually
represent? Despite the plethora of contradictions and absurdities in their
writings and statements, the answer seems unequivocal: rank opportunism,
counterrevolution and a poisonous brew of the most reactionary Great Russian
chauvinism and anti-semitism. That is the reality.
It could be argued with some justification that Zyuganov is a true son of
Stalin, that his ‘state patriotism’ is the natural continuation of that
‘Soviet’ - ie, Russian - patriotism which characterised Stalinism. Stalin,
of course, however sweeping his power, was still obliged by the political
character of the Soviet regime and its ideology of Marxism-Leninism to
continue claiming adherence to the ideas of revolution, class struggle and
proletarian socialist internationalism. Zyuganov is under no such
constraint, and has repudiated the lot. Stalin turned Marx, Engels and Lenin
into icons in the temple of Soviet state power and nationhood. Zyuganov has
discarded the old icons and replaced them with the icons of Russian
Whatever its precise origins in the realm of the history of ideas, ‘state
patriotism’, like all ideologies, did not spring up from nowhere, but arose
out of a complex of politico-economic circumstances, namely the vacuum
created by the collapse of the USSR. It reflects not the interests of the
working class of Russia, but the dashed hopes of that stratum of the Soviet
bureaucracy that dreamt that the old system could work and would sooner or
later dominate the world.
Either way, born of disillusionment, humiliation and despair, maturing in a
climate of nationalism, xenophobia and racism, Zyuganov and his party
represent the negation of every value which Marxists and revolutionary
internationalists hold dear.

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