Yeltsin on the ropes

Czar Boris teeters as ‘left’ alliance takes shape

THE Morning Star of February 8 carried an article entitled, “Lurching on without hope”, dealing with the current political situation of Russia and its president, Boris Yeltsin. The article was written by Russian leftwing activist Boris Kagarlitsky, a leading figure in the Party of Labour there.

The article states that Yeltsin launched the attack on Chechnya in order to escape from crisis by means of a short sharp conflict, like the USA’s invasion of Grenada in 1983. “That obviously did not work and the war has been intensely unpopular,” writes Kagarlitsky. He adds, however, that despite the current weakness of Yeltsin’s government, no other force has yet come together to remove it from power.

Kagarlitsky says that the only realistic prospect for removing Yeltsin is the creation of a “strong left alliance”. This would include his own party, with other parties and trade unions as minor partners in a bloc headed by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. There are parliamentary elections scheduled for December 1995 in Russia and Kagarlitsky contends that the most likely result of this election is a majority for the left alliance whose creation he advocates.

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) is indeed a formidable political organisation. After its congress in January its leader, Gennady Zyuganov, said the party had 500,000 members. Even allowing for exaggeration, it is clear that this party has been the one most favoured by ex-members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union - and these number many millions. The pro-market Moscow newspaper, Kommersant Daily, said on February 14 that the CPRF would benefit if Russian electoral law was changed to create more single-seat constituencies, because the CPRF had the grass roots organisation to campaign effectively in such seats.

Kagarlitsky says the CPRF voted against the war in parliament. This is true, though the Moscow newspaper Kuranty reported in January that there was vacillation on the war question among communist deputies, and liberal groupings in the Russian Parliament were reported to have been more consistently opposed to the Chechen war than the CPRF was. Kagarlitsky says also that the CPRF “is moving to the left”. However, much of its electoral appeal and tactical orientation is nationalistic. After the January Congress, Zyuganov said the CPRF’s most urgent task is to create a “union of patriotic forces”, according to the Itar-Tass news agency on January 24. On some issues, CPRF deputies are reported to have cooperated in parliament with those deputies from Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s far right party, the Liberal Democrats, though the latter definitely supports the Chechen war. ‘Left’ and ‘right’ are very tricky concepts in Russia.

The CPRF is well placed in many ways to do well in the forthcoming elections - if they are actually held. The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets of Febuary 11 said Yeltin’s team expected to badly in the elections and would try to postpone them if at all possible.Yeltsin might even attempt a ban on elections, a sort of coup, but he is unpopular with the military now, partly because of the Chechen mess. A military coup against Yeltsin is more likely.  Nothing can be ruled out in the current situation in Russia.

Coal miners were once important allies of Yeltsin, but they are compounding his difficulties now. On February 8 there was a 24 hour warning strike which affected 200 Russian pits out of 228. The miners were protesting against government failure to pay wages. The CPRF has moved to express its support for their action.

The Yeltsin era is approaching its end. It is simply a matter of what replaces the hero of the White House’. It should not surprise us if it turns out to be Kagarlitsky’s ‘left alliance’. However, as elsewhere in Eastern Europe, former ‘official communists’ will not halt the process of capitalist restoration. There can be no return to the dead end of bureaucratic socialism. Workers need to reforge the party of Lenin, the party of world revolution.

Steve Kay