Russia- One step forward, two steps back?

Narodin December 9, 2011

Presidential copy of the Russian Constitution. Image Credits:

It was on December 25,1991 that the red banner of the Soviet Union was lowered over the Kremlin for the last time. A nation and a system that posed the only credible challenge to the capitalist dream on global domination was slipping into history. The Soviet Union, protected by its massive Red Army, aided by its ruthless KGB security apparatus, abetted by its propaganda-fed labour unions, inhabited by a pension assured citizenry, guided by a largely geriatric leadership, imploded due to the inherent internal contradictions of Stalinism. The capitalist camp rejoiced and announced the commencement of a new era in global politics. Almost 20 years to the date, history seems to have come a full circle. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) has now emerged as a serious contender to Vladimir Putin's United Russia party. Along with the Liberal Democrats and the Just Russia party, the CPRF has garnered 212 seats in the 450 seat Russian Duma. There is jubilation in leftist quarters around the world and a hope amongst many that this may signal a decisive change in Russian politics. But is it time to rejoice?

There is one man whose name is inescapable in the midst of these developments – Yuri Vladimorovich Andropov. The bespectacled, white haired Andropov is the missing piece in the puzzle that is Putin's Russia. Andropov was Leonid Brezhnev's successor; the man chosen by the Politburo to clean up the mess that the stagnation of the Brezhnev era had gifted the USSR. What made him fundamentally different from all of his predecessors was his background- Andropov was also the former head of the KGB. His elevation to power was supported by both the aging Communist Party and the relatively younger KGB. It is no co-incidence that almost all of Putin's inner circle are former KGB men. All of them were invariably handpicked by Andropov's aides to implement his grand plan for the USSR-one that envisioned a series of controlled reforms. A lot of the decision makers in todays Russia look back at Yuri Andropov as the man who could have salvaged the Soviet system. There seems to be a widespread belief that, had he lived long enough, Andropov could have been the Soviet Union's Deng Xiaoping- initiating a Chinese style controlled 'free-market' experiment. However, sadly for all this planning, Andropov's ailing kidneys had other plans. When they stopped functioning on the evening of February 9, 1984, the Soviet Union's last prospective big brother was done for. He was succeeded by Konstantin Cherenko whose heart would betray him in less than a year. In a country that had known only four leaders in six decades, losing two in nearly two years was a catastrophe that the Soviet psyche could not withstand. The onus was thus on finding a younger and preferably more long-lasting leader. And the buck thus passed to Mikhail Gorbachev, whose credibility rested on the fact that he was one of Andropov's handpicked few. And the rest is history.

AndropovAndropov's official portrait from the begining 80's, produced by the Soviet government. Image Credits:

Putin's frequent nostalgia of the Soviet past, the renaming of Volgograd back to Stalingrad on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, resurrecting the music of the of the Soviet national anthem, restoring the Soviet red star as the official symbol of the Russian military are all logical if one understands the Andropov connection in all of these events. Andropov understood the flaws of the Soviet system. But he was prepared to go to any lengths to protect it. As Soviet ambassador to Hungary during the Hungarian uprising of 1956, he witnessed the fragility of Stalinism. When sections of the Hungarian armed forces and members of the Hungarian Communist Party joined forces with the protesters who were demanding more freedom for Hungary, an immediate collapse of the Stalinist system seemed inevitable. Only a swift and decisive crackdown by the Soviet Red Army prevented this scenario. And in his position as the Soviet ambassador, Andropov co-ordinated this crackdown. Andropov had witnessed in Budapest what was to happen in Moscow roughly three decades later. It is this realisation that drove him to be a reformist within the system. He was never really interested in fundamentally altering the nature of the Soviet state, but merely to enhance its shelf-life through cosmetic changes. When in 1964,the Czechoslovaks tried to reenact the Hungarian adventure, Andropov would aid Brezhnev in crushing the movement in a more sophisticated manner. As head of the KGB, he helped co-ordinate a pan-Warsaw Pact invasion, complete with an invitation from sections of the Czechoslavakian Communist Party, calling for 'fraternal intervention' from the Soviets. Putin, it seems, wants to be what Andropov never got the time to be: the iron-fisted authoritarian leader ushering in a state controlled 'free-market'. And it is the state-control aspect of the Soviet era that Putin and Co. are so nostalgic about.

The Andropov influence is not limited to the symbolic acts of restoring memories of Soviet rule. The handling of the Dubrovka and the Beslan hostage situations, the assassination of Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in 2004 and the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 are all testaments to this fact. Radioactive poisoning of dissidents was perfected almost to the level of an art by the KGB. But as of today, there is nothing illegal in any of these eliminations as a law passed in 2006 permits the killing of 'extremists' abroad. And as the Russian state's approach to oligarchs has conclusively proved, in Putin's Russia, standing against the state is not an option, even if you are a billionaire businessman. It is this feature of Russian capitalism which brings it in direct conflict with its western cousin and thus pits Putin's Russia against the west. Even the falsified portrayal of Putin as a Europeanised leader by the Kremlin propaganda machine bears an eerie resemblance to the then portrayal of Andropov as a Western-oriented man.

StalinPortrait of Joseph Stalin.

In the absence of any other commendable political force that can be termed an opposition, saying no to Putin and his charade of a democracy effectively means saying yes to the CPRF. To view this as a electoral victory of the CPRF due to its political programme is naivety. What is disturbing is the fact that the CPRF has had to make quite a few compromises to garner this victory. The Party has made a truce with the Russian Orthodox Church and constantly calls for a unity amongst 'patriotic' forces. There is criticism from some quarters that very often party statements sound more fascist than communist. It must be remembered here that the CPRF was not the only successor to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in Russia. Other factions and formations were snuffed out by the Kremlin in favour of Gennadi Zyuganov and his faction which went on to become the CPRF. And then there is the issue of the party's actual political programme. A 2008 poll conducted by a television station to find out the greatest Russian of all time led to some interesting outcomes. The most popular spot went to Aleksander Nevsky, who in 1242, defended what was then Rus against Swedish and German invasions. He was followed by the Tsarist era minister Pyotr Stolypin who initiated agrarian reforms and constituted fast-track courts to try his political opponents. Joseph Stalin was voted the third most popular Russian of all time. His supporters argue that the technicality that he was a Georgian was what cost Stalin the first place. After all, Stalin was Alexander Nevsky and Pyotr Stolypin combined. Stalin defended the USSR against a Nazi onslaught, initiated agrarian reforms, had his enemies tried by 'special courts' and converted the horse-cart riding peasant state he inherited into a formidable industrial superpower. However, the price that the Soviet population paid for this transformation was humongous and tragic. The rigid and monolithic system that Stalin created contradicted that fundamental tenet of Marxism - of change being the only constant. Yet, this is the man whose portrait, in Red Army fatigues, is omnipresent in almost all of the CPRF rallies and protests. Stalin has emerged as the poster-boy for the CPRF. The party leader, Gennadi Zyuganov, in an open letter to the Russian President, asked for the re-Stalinisation of Russia.

Stalin reminds the pensioners of the 'good old times' when life was more certain and the future more promising. To the younger generation of Russians, he is a reminder of their country's superpower past, when Russia stood up firmly against the west. To the CPRF, he represents a popular convergence point for their electorate. The electoral victory of the CPRF can also be attributed to the party's success in wooing the younger generation of Russians using everything from rap to Stalin, while maintaining its traditional pensioner vote-bank.

In light of their experiences, the belief that even a flawed version of socialism is better than an efficient version of capitalism seems to be finding more acceptance amongst the Russian population. The promises of capitalism that hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union have been proven hollow. The Russian population has come to realise that its bargain with capitalism has been a Faustian one. One of the greatest achievements that Soviet communism claimed was its capability to place the Russian woman in orbit around the earth; the stellar achievement of Russian capitalism seems to be its capability to place her on pornographic magazines around the world. The disenchantment with capitalism, the rising corruption and the collapse of social services has led to an undeniable market for Soviet nostalgia. This nostalgia for the Soviet era explains why the red star is still atop the Spasskaya tower of the Kremlin and why Lenin still sleeps, undisturbed, in his tomb aside the Red Square. It also explains the CPRF's love for Stalin and Putin's admiration of Andropov. The increase in the CPRF must be understood as a discontent for Putin's regime and a nostalgia for the Soviet empire. Had this been a truly leftward swing in the Russian electorate, the CPRF campaigns should have seen placards of Lenin and other early Bolsheviks, not Stalin the empire builder. Moreover the CPRF has seen surges in its vote-share in the past, but at no instance could it be interpreted as a leftward swing in Russian politics. The only choice that the Russian people have today seems to be to opt for one of the two versions of Stalinism. Perhaps if a more credible and more left-leaning political formation is to emerge, upholding a new plan to build socialism in the 21st century, accepting the errors of the past, the scenario might have been a welcome one. As of now, the CPRF is well entrenched into the system that Putin has built up and thus does not possess a serious threat to Putin or his political setup. Thus the time for rejoicing is still afar.

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What is so called Stalinism?

Very Informative article on Russia. But the terminology "Stalinism" has been used a stand point for explaining different aspects and moreover it has been portrayed in negative.

Under Stalin's leadership, serious mistakes have been committed and a personality cult (dangerous to the principle of Democratic Centralism) has been developed. But the role of Joseph Stalin as the greatest Communist leader the world has ever seen can be accepted by the following points :- the extreme hostile international situation against USSR, rise and defeat of Fascism by the sacrifice of millions of USSR people, internal conflicts by the counter revolutionaries, kulaks and other class forces, the building of economy of a rural country, a large country with so many nationalities and conflicts from 2 warn torns situations after world war 1 and war2 etc. The list will go on.

There have been enough demonisation of Stalin by bourgeosie media and krushchev as done against any other Communist leaders. The following 2 articles by Grover Furr who had studied on Stalin mentions various aspects of Stalin and his struggle for democratic reforms within USSR and how the Krushchev section has stood as a obstacle.

I feel the author who seems to have a good knowledge on USSR should pen down an article in Bodhi on so called "Stalinism" he has referred to clear misconceptions and have more idea about USSR during Stalin.

Re-What is so called Stalinism?

Comrade Nidhin,
It is really heartening to see your detailed and informative comment on the article.

What was meant by 'Stalinism' in the article, was the programmes and policies that Joseph Stalin chose to build socialism in the USSR. I am glad that we agree that although 'Stlainism' did result in accelerated stages of development it also resulted in situations that were contrary to the spirit of Marxism.

Perhaps no mentioning of Stalin can be complete without mentioning the [Great Terror]( (1936-39). Although the West did exaggerate the facts and figures, the Great Terror was a great tragedy that befell Soviet society due to the inability of Stalinism to tolerate any form of dissent. Stalin's purges eliminated many leading figures of the Soviet Communist Party and the almost the entire top echelon of the Soviet Red Army . This included military geniuses like [Mikhail Tukhachevsky]( (originator of the deep battle strategy) who could have significantly contributed to the Soviet resistance against the Nazis, had he lived. The purges would lead to heavy Soviet losses of WW2.There is no denying that the resistance put up by the Soviet people against the Fascist aggressor was a heroic one. But there is also denying that in the initial stages, the Soviet Union had to rely on crude human wave strategies to fight the Nazis, thanks largely to the Great Terror. Moreover Stalin's direct interference in the planning and execution of the Soviet war effort was far from a great success, due to his limited understanding of military strategy. And even after the war, many of the Soviet war veterans who returned from the front found themselves in gulags. The existence of the gulags (forced labour camps) in the USSR was another hallmark of Stalinism, that perhaps outsurvived Stalin. I hope that you agree that the unjust show-trials and the undemocratic snuffing out of opposition cannot be the hallmarks of a socialist democracy.

And the NKVD (Soviet secret police) massacre of the Poles at [Katyn](, carried out with the knowledge and blessings of Stalin,sabotaged any hope of the the Soviet forces being seen as liberators of the Polish people, or any people for that matter. This single action raises serious doubt about the democratic nature of Stalinism and the effectiveness of its role as the champion of the oppressed. The secret police continued to play an important role in Soviet society till the very end, very often acting as the tools of oppression.

Grover Furr's reading of Stalin and of the period of his rule can hardly be termed as objective. It was never intended to criticise Stalin as an individual, but to highlight the dangers of succumbing to the belief that it is worthwhile to sacrifice democratic centralism for an accelerated development trajectory. As you rightly pointed out, the historical situations that precipitated Stalinism cannot be ignored. The encirclement of the USSR by hostile capitalist camps, the internal revolts by counter revolutionaries and Russia's long history of enforcing rule using the secret police perhaps contributed to the inevitable tragedy of paranoia and purges. A blind denial of the historical facts or a passionate defense of those misled actions would be counter productive to the cause of building socialism.

Thus I believe that when we place the demerits of Stalinism against its merits, the balance still tips against it.

"What was meant by

"What was meant by 'Stalinism' in the article, was the programmes and policies that Joseph Stalin chose to build socialism in the USSR" - What are the programs and policies that Stalin chose to build socialism in USSR different from Leninism?

Grover's articles may not be an objective one, but it has given facts of why democratic functioning of Party and hence its effect of State functioning also didnt happen. When CC of party is not able to meet for 1 year, what democratic functioning you can ensure? And it has detailed the efforts by Stalin for such functioning and how he was cornered in PB.

An objective analysis of a situation depends on studying the situation from all sides, the right and wrong is not absolute, its relative. Importance of Stalin's leadership is proved by how withstood the most adverse of conditions - internal and external. It would have been dismantled if the fight against any of these would have been weakened. If the internal conflicts would have been dealt liberally, that itself could have sound death knell.... The objective change in world political situation post the 2nd world war it self would have been entirely different. The fall of USSR and its effect on the people world over have been very much felt over past 20 years.....

In the process severe mistakes have been committed to dealing with internal conflicts, but how you can attribute all these to just one person. There have been mistakes done without leadership knowledge at ground levels, some of the death sentences were needed etc etc... But what is the net effect?

After Stalin how the revisionist section gained control and started the decay had to be seen decades after... The conditions during Stalin was perfect for dsmantling USSR if an ineffective leadership was there...

A dialectic approach should not be a idealist one where mistakes are seen as the sole priority to analyse the situation, you have to weigh both the positive and negative and the end effect... You have to see how the changes in objective conditions took place in USSR and in world due to its presence...

Re-"What was meant by

Comrade Nidhin,

There are numerous aspects of Stalinism such as the creation of a a bureaucratic dictatorship ruled with the help of political prisons and a secret police, forced displacement of ethnic minorities, mindless and senseless purges of anyone who pointed out the flaws of the system, support for non-progressive forces of other nations such as the Kuomitang, destroying a generation of Soviet scientists by supporting quacks like Lysenko over them, destroying the morale and fighting power of the Red Army by the purge of its commanders, and so on. And all these were disastrous for Soviet society and the Communist movement at large.

The inability of the CC to meet for a year cannot justify the existence of 37 years of Stalinism, can it?

The fact is that the USSR withstood; but the question is at what price? The USSR under Stalin degraded into a police state where the secret police ruled with the help of terror. If this is the alternative that we are to project as a counter to capitalism, I doubt if this is any alternative at all. As I explained in my previous reply, I do not blame Stalin as an individual for any of this. But what was Stalin as the General Secretary of the CPSU doing to correct these issues, if he was not responsible for them in the first place? Is it not better to accept the mistakes of the past and learn lessons from them, rather than project these mistakes as historical necessities?

I totally agree with your view on the need for a dialectical approach in analysing such issues. But then a dialectic approach cannot not be an idealist one where short-term successes are seen as the sole priority to analyse the situation, and the price for this short term success and the long term implications of this success are ignored, can it?

And as far as the changes that the USSR brought about on the international front, there are numerous non-Stalinist Communists who were killed by the NKVD on Stalin's direct orders. The history of the Spanish civil war and the role of the USSR in it is a case point to the same. This seriously hampered localised resistance to fascist-capitalist regimes. On the long run, this created a leadership that took orders from Moscow and seriously hampered the legitimacy of local Communist movements. How can that be justified?

I am not justifying anything

I am not justifying anything at 1 point. I am saying there should be a dialectic approach in making conclusions of the so called purges, at what was the situations that caused to do that and what was the priority. There are no absolute wrongs or rights. The times were turbulent and so was the enormous tasks in front of a young socialist building state. The one way conclusion made above about Stalin era lack such broad view. Obviously fight against Imperialist was the biggest priority which can be seen its attitude to the de-colonisation process in other countries as well. maintaining a secret police cannot be criticised at a 1 point moral side of freedom of expression when the Society structure had ensured democratic participation of the workers and farmers from the bottom - though in practise this was far from executed is another aspect. Similarly the international stands it had taken on different issues also cannot be considered at 1 stand point of right or wrong rather from the objective international conditions that existed.

The effective importance of Stalin's era is definitely about the long term benefits and effects of Soviet Union rather than short term grave mistakes. The mistakes committed obviously is not forgotten or mentioned as mild...But the charecterisation of Stalinism as negative portray soemthing which Krushevists also wanted to undermine the high significance of Stalin's era...

Comrade Nidhin,This is

Comrade Nidhin,
This is turning out to be a very interesting discussion has really been a revelation in many regards.

My counter arguments to your points:

To me the situation seems to be the paranoia of a leader and the priority seems to be the elimination of anyone who possessed a challenge to his leadership. Maybe there are historical justifications for this paranoia. But as it was the matter of building a young socialist state, a mature and more thought out approach was needed. Comrade Joseph Stalin could not take the privilege of behaving like a autocratic dictator from a militarised police state when claiming to head the worlds first socialist state. Yet invariable, this is exactly what he did.

This is not a one way conclusion.Yes, lets think about the long term 'benefits' that Stalin bequeathed on the USSR- thanks to the purges he left behind an array of incapable and incompetent yes-men comfortable at compromising ideals, he left behind a bureaucratic system which could not tolerate any serious change and was thus was doomed to collapse,he left behind a society that lived in constant fear and paranoia, he left behind a world Communist movement that acted as puppets of Moscow. The fact that Khrushchev was wrong does not make Stalin right, does it? In fact Khrushchevists are the very products of Stalinism, are they not comrade?

I completely disagree with

I completely disagree with the last para. All the comrades close to Stalin were slowly and slowly removed from all positions by krushchev.. During Stalin era, he tried his maximum as Grover pointed out to increase the democratic functioning but how he was in minority in PB. Then how can you term these as Stalin legacies... Stalin always stressed the need for implementation of Democratic Centralism and efficient working of Party members, the need for showing less tolerance then cannot be equated with any other time in their history.. Krishchev tried to officially bring about so called de-Stalinistaion and have peaceful co-existence with Imperialism.... Stalin never left "ineffective leaders who were responsible for future bureaucratic and corrupted leadership violating all principles of Democratic Centralism and the process of Political education of the workers, farmers, students etc... It was his absence that paved way for such a course in USSR.

This doesn't in anyway to ignore the grave mistakes he committed... Stalin has committed grave mistakes, so had the great Mao.....But I feel a separate article if you could write in Bodhi to detail about the secret police, counter revolutionary purges, involving in sovereignty of other independent countries etc... to make things clearer and to have an objective analysis it would be good..

You can list down the issues, the adverse conditions USSR faced - external and internal etc./.... it could be good to have a more objective analysis with help of such facts....

A disagreement on the disagreement

Comrade Nidhin,
You seem to forget that Khrushchev himself was a protégé of Stalin. The purges that were carried out when Stalin was the General Secretary of the CPSU eliminated quite a good number of young and capable leaders of the CPSU. It is this action that paved the way for hare-brained men like Khrushchev and corrupt bureaucrats like Brezhnev to consolidate their power. The fact that Khrushchev eliminated his fellow Stalinists from power could be nothing more than a move of political survival. These are Stalin legacies in the sense that these developments were reactions to an action that occurred during Stalin's time -the Great Purge. My point being that the purge ensured that only ineffective officials of the CPSU survived.

I am now seriously thinking about an article on the lines that you have suggested.

Looking forward for your

Looking forward for your article....

Good article and very

Good article and very informative discussion. Unfortunately there is a tendency to justify the deeds of Stalin citing the circumstances USSR was in. If such circumstances mandates the acts of Stalin, then that would mean that similar circumstances in future too would bring in similar deeds - great terror is a possibility in future???. Communism is the ultimate form of democracy, but the reasoning that during the transition to communism - butchering of democracy is permitted or curtailment of workers right is permitted - defeats the very idea of communism. History has proved that. Undemocratic regimes have always been thrown out. Stalin has done such and such good things, well and good. But never justify his cruel side - citing brushnev/circumstances etc.

A reply

Thank you for your comments.

I honestly doubt if the article has a tendency to justify Stalin. The comments from other readers seem to point out otherwise. However,whether we agree or disagree on this, there is no escaping the fact that the USSR was built on Stalinism. Yes, I believe,there is a definite risk that similar circumstances may force a repetition of the errors of the past. There has been no attempt, on my part or on the part of Bodhi, to justify any of the excesses of the time. What transpired in the discussion with Nidhin was that there was a need to revisit those troubled times again, in greater detail and objectivity. If you will be kind enough to go through the replies to the previous comments, you will note that numerous instances have been mentioned where I felt Stalin's policies violated the principles of Marxist-Leninism.

There are some questions that these discussions bring up. I agree with you that undemocratic regimes are eventually thrown out, but is it not a fact that the material progress that they attain remain long after they are gone?Can we deny that Russia's current industrial base is but an organic growth of its Stalinist past? Would the USSR have survived the fascist advance of 1942, had it been more democratic? Is it possible that the achievements of Stalinism were impossible without its inherent 'cruel side'? The previous comments strengthen my belief that it wuld be ill-adviced to make simplistic conclusions about those intriguing, complicated times.

First of all I would like to

First of all I would like to point out that Communism is a long stage ahead, Socialism is the 1st stage towards the transition towards Communism. The stage of Socialism is where the fundamental institutions of capitalism are broken down with an overhaul of the production and distribution and the state. It is a stage where the working class (in alliance with other intermediatary exploited classes mainly peasant classes) becomes the ruling class through a protracted struggle against teh boourgeosie and imeprialists. Its a long process as we know bourgeosie would not relish their power so easily and try to revert back the revolution in different and numeorus ways. USSR was in the very primary stage of building Socialism under an extreme hostile international and national situation with lots of difficulties and newer scenarios thrown in front of them.

This in no way is intended to justify any of the wrongs committed nor cover the shortcomings in the process, the point was only to have an objective analysis of the situation - terming Stalinism in negative is equal to justifying the wrongs.
The departure from the basic tenets of Marxism and revisionist approach of peaceful co-existence with Imperialism, deparure from the principle of democratic centralism and increased bureacraism, corruption and nepotism by the leasers, and replacing "dictatorship fo proleteriat" with "dictatorship of Party", lack of unity of Communist Parties at International level (especially between the 2 biggest contingents USSR & China)all contributed to the collapse of the "Socialist building process"...........

Socialism is a transition of society to anew phase and it is not scientific to assume to happen within matter of few decades or even few centuries... The main capitalist countries able to overcome the cyclical economic crisis with stronger imeprialism policies or through social-democratic governments and inability of the vanguard of the proleteriat to utilise these situations in those countries is another obstacle for the existence of the Socialist building process in other countries also....

The article is really not an

The article is really not an informed attempt to analyze the Russian Duma elections.On one hand the author argues that there is no leftward swing and on the other hand says that "In light of their experiences, the belief that even a flawed version of socialism is better than an efficient version of capitalism seems to be finding more acceptance amongst the Russian population".So what characterizes the leftward swing?Certainly not the presence or absence of Lenin's portraits in KPRF rallies,as argued further by the author!

The assertions like "Other factions and formations were snuffed out by the Kremlin in favour of Gennadi Zyuganov and his faction which went on to become the CPRF" are totally flawed,there were so many break away groups from KPRF bolstered by Kremlin and even the Just Russia party is a Kremlin proxy to woo left leaning voters(Just Russia was able to garner 13% of popular votes).KPRF has purged many chauvinists as well over the years(New Bolshevik Party etc) and had played a resilient role in keeping its organizational base intact.Of late they were able to expand the base to new regions(far east) and new sections of Russian society(the youth,intellectuals et al).The advance of KPRF is certainly an encouraging sign and is not something that should be dismissed and branded as bolstering of Stalinist variant.

Re-The article is really not an

Thank you Unni for taking time to read the article and posting your views.

"*The article is really not an informed attempt to analyze the Russian Duma elections.On one hand the author argues that there is no leftward swing and on the other hand says that "In light of their experiences, the belief that even a flawed version of socialism is better than an efficient version of capitalism seems to be finding more acceptance amongst the Russian population"*"

Well, I for one, believe that there is a difference between political swing and nostalgia. Whenever things seem to be going wrong in Russia,the Russian population has shown a tendency to switch onto a Soviet-era-nostalgia mode. This directly translates into a spike in the votes of the CPRF. The CPRF had a 22% share in the votes in 1995, which grew to 24% in 1999, only to crash to 13% in the 2003 elections. I believe that this is the historical data from which the CPRF's current vote share must be understood. Just as the disillusionment with the Yeltsin regime led to spikes in the CPRF's vote share, the disillusionment with Putin's promised economic miracles has resulted in another spike. This cannot be termed as a permanent 'swing' for the simple reason that the CPRF has no concrete programme to offer for a post-Putin alternative in Russia. Their [political programme]( is a dish that is almost completely recycled from the Soviet era and then garnished with populist measures. There is no programme to build socialism in the 21st century, perhaps because the CPRF does not plan to.

Coming to the second part; yes there is undeniable Soviet nostalgia. There is a quote attributed to Putin: 'Whoever doesn't miss the Soviet Union has no heart, whoever wants it back has no brain.' I think the ex-KGB man has managed to capture the emotions of the Russian population in this quote. It is perhaps this skill that politically sustains him for so long. There is no contradiction in this. Throughout its existence,to many in the outside world, the USSR was a model for an alternative to capitalism. But many Russians, tend to look back at it as the closest thing to an empire that they had. The nostalgia is for a time when Russia (as the largest constituent of the USSR) was taken seriously on the global stage and had a dominating if not dictating role in global politics. This is the nostalgia for Stalin's empire, which was built on a skewed interpretation of socialism, not for Marxist-Leninism.

"*So what characterizes the leftward swing?Certainly not the presence or absence of Lenin's portraits in KPRF rallies,as argued further by the author!*"

Continuing off from the previous point, the presence or absence of Lenin's portrait thus does characterize the nature of this 'Communist' opposition to Putin. Its presence would have definitely indicated an interest on the part of the CPRF and it's supporters to go back to the ideals of pre-Stalinist Bolshevism. It would have symbolised a break with Russian nationalism and an association with Marxist-Leninism. Lets be clear here:Lenin was the ideologue, Stalin was the empire builder. And thus whose portrait is present in the CPRF rallies and protests does convey some information as to the mood of the people and the nature of their nostalgia. And as for the 'leftward swing', I fail to see any such swing.

"*The assertions like "Other factions and formations were snuffed out by the Kremlin in favour of Gennadi Zyuganov and his faction which went on to become the CPRF" are totally flawed,there were so many break away groups from KPRF bolstered by Kremlin and even the Just Russia party is a Kremlin proxy to woo left leaning voters(Just Russia was able to garner 13% of popular votes).*"

The snuffing out that I mentioned occurred in the Yeltsin era.The CPRF was not the only claimant to the CPSU's legacy. But right before the 1993 election, virtually all other claimants were conveniently snuffed out. A few chose not to contest the elections, claiming it to be unfair and rigged. And almost all of the serious competitors to the CPRF, who conveyed their willingness to contest were dubbed illegal by the Kremlin. This raises serious doubts about the Kremlin's interests in the CPRF. The Kremlin,as you pointed out, has a tendency to float fake oppositions. For any dictatorial regime wishing to create a facade of democratic legitimacy, to have an opposition that protests against the government yet is incapable/unwilling to occupy power would be a dream come true.Putin, in true KGB style, has perhaps gone one step further.Floating an openly fake opposition(Just Russia) to a fake opposition(CPRF) would add more legitimacy to the fake opposition, yet still maintain the rein of power in the hands of Putin.

"*KPRF has purged many chauvinists as well over the years(New Bolshevik Party etc) and had played a resilient role in keeping its organizational base intact.*"

This is a really interesting statement from your side. The purge was something that the Stalinist regime often used, often on very flimsy charges, to silence out any opposition to it's policies. I agree to the observation that there has been purges in the CPRF (or as you prefer to call it by the Russian acronym, KPRF). You assert that it has purged many chauvinists. Should not we be asking ourselves as to what these chauvinists were doing in a 'Communist' Party in the first place? And coming to the effectiveness of these purges, is it not troubling that these purges are ordered by a man (Gennadi Zyuganov) who has called for [re-Stalinising Russia]( and '[greater unity amongst nationalist and leftist forces]('. To me that serves as proof of the Zyuganov's fascist tendencies and his bolstering of Stalinism.

"*Of late they were able to expand the base to new regions(far east) and new sections of Russian society(the youth,intellectuals et al).The advance of KPRF is certainly an encouraging sign and is not something that should be dismissed and branded as bolstering of Stalinist variant.*"

I do not have data about the CPRF's vote increase in Siberia (I hope that is what you mean by the far east) for 2011. If you mean the scientific cities (that the Russians call *naukograds*) this is an understandable development. The *naukograds* were a creation of the Soviet state and have lost their pride and privilege in post Soviet Russia. These are bound to be cities where nostalgia for the Soviet empire is a powerful factor. Once the inhabitants of these cities have understood that Putin does not intend to use Russia's petro-dollars to restore their lost glory, they were bound to turn anti-Putin. That naturally has resulted in votes for the CPRF.

On the youth front, yes, the CPRF has put in some serious effort. But I still feel that nostalgia for the Soviet empire is a more dominant factor than the CPRF's rap song in wooing in the young crowd.

I am not an informed scholar on Russian politics but I do earnestly believe,for the above reasons,that to attribute the CPRF's vote spike as a 'leftward swing' is to stretch things a bit too far, perhaps into the realm of fantasy.


#11. Looking forward for your article...., Nidhin, 5 years ago