Strategic Control over a Bog

The fight for strategic control over the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) has entered a new phase. This is not a traditional struggle between groups within the party, but a clash of external forces which are trying to seize control of the political assets that go under the name of the “communist opposition”. The politicians at the top of the party hierarchy are of course far from indifferent to the outcome of this struggle. Each of the numerous groups has its own perspectives and goals, and victory for some of them could mean the end of the political careers of others.

The “party ranks” are a different matter altogether. This stagnant bog is completely apolitical. The ordinary party member, or even functionary, has not the slightest interest in politics. Such people know they belong to the opposition, and they are also aware that in place of the Russian Federation there once existed the great country, the USSR. Even earlier, before evil Jews and Masonic-Bolsheviks carried out the “catastrophic” revolution (to use the expression of Mr Zyuganov), there was the even greater Russian Empire. Once or twice a year, these people have to attend meetings, and once every two or three years, they have to take part in election campaigns. That’s all.

On people such as these, the article by A. Prohanov and V. Chikin “Operation Mole” had an effect like a meteorite striking a bog. Party members were urged to choose between Zyuganov’s group and his opponents, whom everyone now calls “moles”. No-one wants to make this choice. The situation is simply terrifying. You need to line up behind the winners, but who are they going to be?

The first to land a blow were the Zyuganovites. Immediately after the article appeared, organisational measures began to be taken. The party presidium discussed the developments and passed a resolution condemning the leaders of the Popular Patriotic Union (NPSR). It’s true that the vote was less than overwhelming – 9 to 6. In Stalin’s time a majority of one or two on the Politburo would turn into a two-to-one majority at a Central Committee plenum, and a crushing rejection of the “opposition” at a congress. This used to happen because the apparatus was firmly in the hands of the Stalinist “majority”. Now things are different. The party’s chief apparatchik Valentin Kuptsov, the leader of the Moscow party organisation Aleksandr Kuvaev, and a group of influential secretaries of provincial party committees have finished up among the “moles”. In the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union there was only one instance of open conflict between a majority of the politburo and “its” apparatus. This was when Molotov’s “anti-party group” (along with Shapilov, who had aligned himself with them) tried to remove Khrushchev from the leadership. The result was that all the conspirators were removed from their posts; not even Shapilov was spared. Now things are different. How can the opposition be smashed without the help of Kuptsov?

Meanwhile, the Executive Committee of the NPSR, controlled by the Semigin group, is about to discuss the situation. It is not hard to see that a resolution diametrically opposed to the one for which the KPRF Presidium voted will be adopted there without difficulty. Prokhanov and Chikin can be expelled from the NPSR (these are of course prominent people, but like other “pillars” of the NPSR, they lack their own organisational base). To expel Kuptsov and Kuvaev from the KPRF, however, will be far more difficult, and on the organisational level, more damaging.

A frightful situation, a complete dead-end. The dwellers in the bog are confused and scared. They would prefer to keep silent, but they are not being allowed to. The call has been issued: “Crawl out of your holes, leave your trenches, place your stakes, comrades!”

Meanwhile, another rock has plunged into the bog. On 16 January the website kreml.org published an “expert assessment”, signed by Kirill Yakimets, which told of an understanding between the KPRF leadership and the company Yukos. While Prokhanov and Chikin had described one plan for the privatisation of the party, the amazed public was now being told of the existence of an alternative proposal. The sum involved ($70 million) was specified, and the names were aired of the political experts who had been recruited. Strangely, this message began to be circulated throughout the internet, without comment and as indisputable fact.

The situation is becoming quite sordid. “You are accepting money from the presidential administration!” some people are screaming. “And you are selling the party off to Yukos and Norilsk Nickel!” others respond.

This is now like a rain of meteorites. Poor bog-dwellers!

Properly speaking, most of the facts were more or less familiar to experts even earlier. Until now, however, people have preferred not to air such things publicly, understanding what the consequences would be. It is clear, however, that the political plans of Yukos or Russian Aluminium are not being reported in the press so that readers can admire the sharpness of our oligarchs, but to make sure these plans do not succeed. All in all, it would be difficult for the oligarchs to divide up the country’s largest opposition party in the full gaze of the public.

A week ago, I wrote that Prokhanov and Chikin had “let the cat out of the bag”. This, however, is not the whole extent of it. Whole herds of cats are now leaping out of their bags, wailing and screeching. Skeletons, rattling their bones, are climbing out of all the closets. The comparison is irresistible with the battles between oligarchs for control of Krasnoyarsk province, or over disputed enterprises. Nevertheless, political parties (especially opposition ones) have their characteristic features. It is not just a matter of the damage that such a squabble does to the opposition, though this may also have entered into the plans of the Kremlin bosses. More important is the fact that the battle in the bog has not revealed any political differences between the participants. Mud-slinging is replacing theoretical discussion and the counterposing of principles.

Lenin, Martov, Trotsky and Plekhanov did not argue over how to divide up the money they received from Savva Morozov. Whatever one might think of the founders of the Russian left, there is no denying that these were people with clear, firm principles. Each of them had his views on how to develop the workers’ movement. They recruited supporters not by promising to slip them money or give them jobs in the State Duma, but through propagandising their ideas, including discussing their political differences. The main problem faced by today’s opposition is not a lack of money (obliging them to enter the service of the oligarchs), but precisely a lack of clear ideas to put before society. Ideas cannot be replaced either by Zyuganov’s dismal grumbling about the anti-popular regime, or by the formulae which Prokhanov has dreamt up concerning a “red-white alliance”, whose absurdity he himself publicly acknowledges. Nor are general utterances about a “social-democratic orientation” – something that is typical of the “moderate” wing of the opposition – of any help. The “social democracy” of such people amounts to obscure thoughts on how good it would be to get money from the capitalists, and also votes from the workers.

To tell the truth, watching a brawl in a bog is only interesting in the initial stages. The person who wins will not be the one who heaps more mud on his or her opponent, nor even the one who makes more effective use of organisational resources. The winner will be the person who puts forward a clear opposition program – a program capable of attracting real support in a society moving to the left. When this happens, the opposition will cease to be a bog, and before us will be a genuinely serious movement, able as in the West is able to attract young people, the intelligentsia, and trade unions. But are our heroes capable of such a thing? To be honest, I have grave doubts.

Someone, of course, will sooner or later seize the strategic hillock and take control of the bog. But it will hardly be possible to call this a victory. In any case, from the point of view of history such a victory is no different from a defeat.

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