[Marxism] Russian CP in disarray

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 5 07:01:28 MDT 2004

NY Times July 5, 2004
Communists' Slide Weakens Checks on Putin's Power

Moscow, July 4 - When Russia's Communist Party convened what might have 
been its grand party congress this weekend, the setting could hardly 
have been more bleak. The concert hall booked for the occasion was 
nearly half empty. And somehow - the leadership called it sabotage - 
there was no electricity.

Minutes after the singing of Russia's national anthem, even the 
emergency lights went out.

"War has been waged against the Communist Party," its leader, Gennadi A. 
Zyuganov, boomed into the darkened hall. An aide held a flashlight so 
the party leader could read his notes. "War without rules."


Beset by internal strife and outmaneuvered by President Vladimir V. 
Putin, the Communists in Russia are at their weakest point since they 
returned in 1993 after a two-year ban.

With great nostalgia if not doctrinal loyalty, Russia's Communist Party 
still rallies around Lenin, but has been trying to convert its founder's 
socialist ideals into something of modern political use.

Andrei Karelin, who leads a party youth group, described the task as 
"creatively developing Marxism and Leninism within the practical 
realities of the current time."

What this means depends on who is speaking, but some concessions clearly 
do not square with Lenin's way. Chief among them: the party recognizes 
private property and religion. "We guarantee freedom of consciousness," 
Mr. Zyuganov said Saturday.

But a certain dissonance emerged minutes later, when he proclaimed 
fidelity to the international socialist revolution, which among other 
things struggled for redistribution of private property and elimination 
of religious faith.

Mr. Karelin expressed a more mainstream goal - social guarantees for the 
poor, and resistance to Mr. Putin's administration, which he described 
as "old guard bourgeoisie."

Boris Kagarlitsky, director of the Institute of Globalization Studies, a 
nongovernment organization here, said: "Its ideology is totally unclear. 
The party keeps getting more and more confused."

The incoherence has not been lost on the public. A poll in May by the 
All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Studies found that 76 percent of 
Russians think support for the Communists is slipping. The main reason 
for the decline was that "Communist ideology is in the past," the 
respondents said.

Still, analysts also say much in the party's fall stems from Mr. Putin's 
climb, and the tactics he has used to appropriate the party's issues.

Last year, the Kremlin encouraged the founding of a nationalist party, 
Motherland, with a strong appeal to a patriotic part of the electorate 
that has traditionally identified with the Communist Party.

Furthermore, Mr. Putin's pursuit of criminal charges against Mikhail B. 
Khodorkovsky, the billionaire founder of the Yukos Oil Company, and a 
civil tax case against the company itself, have publicly positioned him 
against those who many Russians believe looted state resources after the 
Soviet Union's collapse.

More broadly, Mr. Putin's administration emanates confidence and 
stability, attractive qualities for voters longing for times when Moscow 
was regarded as strong.

Taken together, analysts say, Mr. Putin's successes and shrewdness have 
lured constituencies away from the Communists' ranks.

One result is that where there once was a capable opposition in the 
Parliament, now there is Mr. Putin and his majority bloc. Bills often 
move through the Parliament with barely any resistance at all. "So much 
in this country now depends on the good will of one man," said a Western 
diplomat posted here.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/05/international/europe/05russ.html

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