[Marxism] On the Russian CP

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 9 12:18:20 MDT 2004

Counterpunch, July 9, 2004

The Death of the Russian Communist Party
Two Congresses and a Funeral

The Communist Party's leaders have always been prone to optimism. When 
they were told of an impending crisis in their ranks, they confidently 
replied that nothing of the kind was possible. When forecasts suggested 
they would lose numerous seats in the State Duma elections, they just 
laughed. And when certain pundits ventured to speculate on a possible 
schism in the party, its leaders replied that such a development was 
absolutely out of the question.

Now, one by one, the grim predictions are starting to come true. 
Following the fiasco in the December State Duma elections, in which the 
Communists lost more than half their seats, the party could no longer 
deny that it was in the throes of crisis. Rival factions began openly 
fighting. Supporters of former Duma deputy speaker Gennady Semigin 
blamed the Communists' failures on Gennady Zyuganov, who had led the 
party to its fourth straight election defeat. The party bosses, however, 
called on their comrades to rally around the leader in order to get 
through the hard times.

Since neither side presented anything remotely resembling a coherent 
program or ideology, the battle between them took on the appearance of a 
street brawl, in which the public trading of personal insults alternated 
with behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

In the run-up to the July 3 party congress, events unfolded at breakneck 
speed. Without waiting for the majority of party members to have their 
say, the Communist leaders started ousting their opponents from the 
party. However, as it later transpired, they hadn't ousted everybody: 
Above all, the expulsion of Semigin did not prevent him and his 
supporters from preparing their own scenario for the congress.

With less than two days to go to the congress, Semigin's faction 
convened a Central Committee plenum. Of 156 active members, 96 attended 
(80 are needed for a quorum). The plenum removed Zyuganov as leader of 
the party and replaced him with Ivanovo Governor Vladimir Tikhonov, a 
decision the Justice Ministry seemed in a hurry to uphold.

The Zyuganov camp fired back with a plenum of their own, registering 91 
participants, which resulted in the removal of Semigin's allies. Since 
the second meeting also assembled a quorum, the two plenums yielded two 
mutually exclusive, but equally valid, resolutions. Moreover, quite a 
number of party comrades managed to show up at both events and lend 
their support to both of the warring factions.

In the end, two party congresses were held instead of one. Semigin's 
supporters walked out of the meeting chaired by Zyuganov and organized 
one of their own in a different venue. And, lo and behold, both 
congresses claimed to have a quorum. The Zyuganov-led congress descended 
into an endless stream of paeans to the party leader, steeped in the 
best totalitarian tradition; while the parallel congress was just as 
uncompromising in its denunciation of Zyuganov.

Now the two competing factions face many months of legal wrangling to 
determine whose party is the real one. It remains unclear whose side the 
Russian justice system will take, but it isn't all that important. The 
Communist Party is finished. The party brand at the heart of the current 
legal battle is rapidly losing all appeal for anyone except those 
directly involved in the fight.

It would be wrong to call these events a schism -- the right word is 

Unlike the Soviet Communist Party, whose history combines horrifying and 
disgraceful episodes with tragic and heroic ones, the Communist Party of 
the Russian Federation has been going for 11 years without accomplishing 
anything of any note. Paradoxically and, in a way, logically, the 
party's collapse comes at a time when "red" ideas are becoming 
fashionable again. However, this could not help the party, long bereft 
of any ideas or principles.

Neither of the congresses made room for representatives of Communist 
youth groups, who have made their voices heard in recent protests, or 
for labor activists. The post-Soviet Communist Party is entering the 
history books along with the Yeltsin epoch -- indeed, as one of the most 
monstrous products of that period. This party did not find a niche for 
itself in Putin's Russia. It neither fit into the new system being built 
by Kremlin functionaries nor did it pluck up the courage to go into real 

The disappearance of this party is no great loss. And as for the 
communist idea, there is no need to worry: It will find new, much more 
capable, heirs.

Boris Kagarlitsky is director of the Institute of Globalization Studies.


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