[Marxism] Millionaire Russian Communists

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 22 08:47:28 MST 2003

The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
November 22, 2003
Oligarchs take a Left turn on the road to Duma

Of the top 18 candidates on the Russian Communist Party lists, no fewer than
five are millionaires. Julius Strauss reports on how Russia's oligarchs are
turning red

Alexei Kondaurov is hardly a typical communist agitator. He drives an Audi
A8, is a dollar millionaire, has a dacha in a fashionable part of the Moscow
suburbs and a flat in town. His manners are polished, his voice soft and
honeyed and his sartorial tastes are expensive and under-stated - a charcoal
grey woollen suit and a silk tie in dark shades.

Yet when Russians go to the polls to vote in a new parliament next month, Mr
Kondaurov, 54, will be riding the communist ticket. He is one of dozens of
millionaires for Marx, a caste of Russians who have signed up to the
communist cause. "I was in the Soviet Communist Party for 15 years and my
convictions haven't changed with the size of my wallet," he said yesterday
as he sat in an expensive leather chair in his pine-panelled office.

"There's no contradiction. Engels was an oligarch and Lenin hardly a
vagabond," said Mr Kondaurov, who served in the KGB anti-terrorism
directorate and now works for the billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky's
company, Yukos.

Of the top 18 candidates on the Communist Party lists, who under the
proportional representation element of the Russian electoral system are
almost certain to enter the next parliament, no fewer than five are

The change in tactics marks a significant break with socialist tradition in
a country where communist activists traditionally rose from the ranks of the
proletariat and the peasantry. Now the Communist Party has come full circle,
welcoming the country's top capitalists with open arms and promising a raft
of new, business-friendly policies.

One of their new role models is Mr Khodorkovsky, who amassed a £5 billion
fortune by playing the privatisation game only to fall foul of President
Vladimir Putin and end up in prison.

"There is no doubt that the communists are now more business-friendly than
the government," said Mr Kondaurov. "We are also for more social justice,
but socialism based on good economics, the sort of socialism that Mr
Khodorkovsky advocates."

For many traditional communist voters, mostly the poor and the elderly, and
some party officials, such talk is heresy. They loathe Mr Khodorkovsky and
the other billionaires who they say stripped the country of its wealth.

This week Leonid Mayevsky, a Communist Party official, spoke for many when
he said: "First big capital bought up all the property, impoverishing us
materially. Now they want to buy up our party, impoverish us spiritually.

"How can these people run on behalf of the workers? What do they have in
common with them? The Communist Party leaders are simply betraying the
people who voted for them."

Lilia Shevtsova, a political analyst, said: "They are in danger of
alienating part of the traditional electorate. But at the same time they can
get other people from the pink electorate who are more democratically

At the offices of Moscow committee of the Russian Communist Party, Vasily
Ponomaryov, the secretary for ideological issues, was at pains yesterday to
express a sense of historical continuity. He said: "If we look to Russian
history the Decembrists who fought to overthrow the Tsar were all well-to-do
people. Engels was a well-off manufacturer."

But a regional party official said: "We'll take the oligarchs' money. It's
the people's money. When we come to power we'll remember the help they have
given us and we'll reward them. They'll end up on the sunny side of the

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

More information about the Marxism mailing list