Communists gain popularity in Russia
by John Bachtell Sentiments for a return to socialism continue to grow in the former socialist countries and in the former republics of the Soviet Union. The popularity of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) has grown in recent months as capitalism continues to experience crisis conditions. According to a recent poll reported by the Russian Information Service (RIS), if parliamentary (Duma) elections were held today, the CPRF would be the leading party, with 39 per cent of the vote. This is an increase of three per cent since February. This is related to the results of another recent survey, which revealed that 80 per cent of Russians have nostalgia for the Soviet Union. The growing popularity of the CPRF has prompted a new political realignment in the country in anticipation of parliamentary elections next year. Russian President Vladimir Putin's Unity Party is in the process of merging with former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov's Fatherland Party to form a new centre-right alliance that will be the biggest faction in the Russian Parliament. Nine right-wing parties, including that of Yegor Gaidar, are joining together into the Union of Right Forces. The social democratic forces, including the group headed by former Soviet President Gorbachev, are also in discussions on merger. The pro-capitalist parties have been losing strength since the presidential elections of March 2000. The Fatherland-Unity alliance would get just 22 per cent, according to the same poll. The CPRF, at its February Central Committee meeting, took note of the new alliances and harshly criticised Putin. CPRF Deputy Chairman Valentin Kuptsov claimed that the Putin Government had set a course for the capitalisation of society that defends the interests of the oligarchs rather than the interests of the people. In response, Kuptsov said, "The Party must head a new wave of citizens' protest, infuse it with organisation". The RIS reported the meeting "was devoted to the personnel strengthening of the CPRF and a search for new methods of work in a changed political environment. The communists in effect declared that they were withdrawing into irreconcilable opposition to Putin". "All masks are off", said a CPRF leader. "It is now clear that under the pretext of external debt deliberations the government will force through parliament a decision allowing the final sale of all state property. During the last year and a half 13,000 enterprises were liquidated". The CPRF also has a majority in coalition governments in 40 of the 89 regional and territorial Dumas. The strongest presence is in the so-called "Red Belt", the industrial region south of Moscow. In April, CPRF candidate Vasily Starodubtsev won 71 per cent in the governor's election in the Tula region. Starodubtsev had been part of the group of party and military leaders who tried to arrest Gorbachev in August 1991 for anti-socialist counter-revolution. Another ally of the CPRF, Aman Tuleyev, won 93 per cent of the vote for governor in the Kemerovo region. In the former Soviet Republic of Moldavia, the left coalition led by the Moldavian Communist Party won a landslide vote of 55 per cent in the parliamentary elections in February. The Party holds 71 of 101 seats. The new parliament subsequently elected the chair of the Moldavian Communist Party, Vladimir Voronin, as President. Capitalism was an absolute failure in Moldavia with some 80 per cent of the people living on $1 a day and the economy having declined by two-thirds since 1991. In Belarus, another former republic, a left-centre pro-socialist government was elected to power in 1994. The banks and key sectors of the economy have been renationalised. "The capitalists stole all my money", one pensioner said. "The new government gave it back to me."
* * *People's Weekly World, paper of Communist Party USA