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East European Perspectives: June 21, 2000


21 June 2000, Volume 2, Number 12
RADICAL POLITICS IN EAST CENTRAL EUROPE?????PART VI: Placing In Boxes: Radical Continuity
And Radical Return In Russia (A)



The time has come to turn our attention to those radical parties, movements, and leaders that fit, "with no ifs, ands, or buts" into the radical continuity/radical return taxonomy. In Russia, as has been emphasized in an earlier-published section of this study, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) is obviously the leading candidate in the former category. Under the leadership of Genadii Zyuganov, the KPRF openly embraced national communism. As I have earlier noted, Zyuganov's merger of traditional Russian values with those of the Leninist (and even Stalinist) legacy, proved electorally successful in 1995, thereby emptying much of the earlier appeal of nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky's formation. But in 1999, the KPRF appeal to nationalism was no longer sufficient, the party being beaten at the game by another Vladimir--Putin (see "East European Perspectives," Vol. 2, no. 10, 24 May 2000).

The KPFR's radical continuity profile was clearly reflected in its 1999 electoral program. Not by chance, that document was entitled "Wake Up, Great Country!," its subtitle being "Appeal to Russian Patriots." As Laura Belin observed, the language was reminiscent of that employed by Stalin during World War II. It spoke of a "struggle of national liberation" and brandished political adversaries as "occupants" and "traitors." The emblem appearing on the ballot next to the party's name in 1999 was that of the Order of Victory, awarded to WW II heroes, rather than (as in past electoral campaigns) the hammer and sickle alongside a book. Similarly, in his 2000 presidential campaign, Zyuganov time and again emphasized his own Russian ethnicity, explaining that "The [ethnic] Russian question is one of the most painful issues in current public life. Russians turned out to be the most oppressed people in their own country" (see Belin, 2000).

In the campaign for the 1999 parliamentary elections, the KPRF undertoned its economic radicalism, hoping to attract that part of the electorate dissatisfied with pro-government parties and fearful of radical reforms, yet also unwilling to see a restoration of the old command-economy structures. Reduced economic radicalism was, on the other hand, compensated for by an overemphasis on patriotic values. As a matter of fact, economic aspects were dealt with in one single paragraph, the gist of which was that property must be restored to the "people," who had been "robbed" of it. Also emphasized was the importance of state control over so-called "strategic sectors" of the economy, without, however, mentioning whether those "strategic" sectors that underwent privatization must return to state ownership or whether the state is to simply improve its system of controlling them. On the other hand, the traditional Russian values that had become part and parcel of the Zyuganov political formula, such as social justice ("spravedlivost"), etatism ("derzhavnost" or "gosudartvenost"), spirituality ("dukhovsnost"), and above all patriotism, received a great deal of attention (McFaul, et al., 1999, p. 78; Belin, 1999a; Shafir, 2000a). This may have been a mistake, as "patriotism" had been monopolized by Unity against the background of the Chechen war, as has already been discussed (Shafir, 2000a).

The KPRF paid the electoral price for that mistake. The same applies, by and large, to the April 2000 presidential ballot, and once more, this proved insufficient, with Putin's monopoly on Russian nationalism proving to be an insurmountable hurdle against the background of the Chechen war. Still, Zyuganov pulled a respectable second place and 29.08 percent of the vote, drawing most of the "protesting electorate" to his side ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 7 April 2000).

But the party was being faithful to the identity imbued by the Zyuganov course. The KPRF leader's options for national communism are unmistakable, as is his readiness to collaborate with the "Browns." That readiness pre-dates his leadership of the party, as his participation in the Russian National Council (Shafir, 2000b) amply demonstrated. But that was far from being the only instance. Alongside Eduard Volodin, Zyuganov was co-chairman of the Coordination Council of People's Patriotic Forces in Russia, a loose coalition of some 40 nationalist and communist organizations set up in 1991, which included prominent leaders of the anti-reform camp, from monarchists to communists (Pribylovsky, 1994, p. 29).

He played a leading role in communist-nationalist organizations, being associated with such figures as Valentin Rasputin and Vasilii Belov (Hanson and Williams, 1999, p. 266), the "Pamyat"--supporting "village writers" to whom Laqueur traces the roots of the reborn "National Bolshevism" (1994, pp. 85-90, 212). Rasputin was one of the 74 signatories of the letter addressed to the now defunct Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1990, alerting it against the machinations of Russia's enemies, who, the signatories said, were spreading the "lie" that fascism had been imported to Russia. Fascism, they wrote, had indeed been imported, but its purpose was that of destroying "the patriotic forces" and "destabilizing society." The importers were the Zionists, who "spread the lie" about "so-called" pogroms having taken place in pre-revolutionary Russia. Responsibility for the Holocaust, according to the signatories, rested with "Jewish Nazis" who had themselves organized the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, as well as set up the ghettos of Lviv and Vilnius, in order to "cut off the dry branches of the Jewish people" (cited in Laqueur, 1994, pp. 246-47). The late president of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, would eventually say much of the same (Shafir, 2000c).

Other close Zyuganov associates include "Zavtra's" editor in chief, Aleksandr Prokhanov, with whom he signed in July 1991 a manifesto calling for Gorbachev's ouster as party secretary-general and, in September 1992, a "Political Declaration of the Left and Right Opposition" that was perhaps the best illustration of the already functioning "Red-Brown Alliance." The declaration called for the overthrow, "by constitutional means," of Yeltsin's "anti-national" government. Prokhanov continues to be a leading Zyuganov adviser--all the while keeping close contacts with such radical return figures as the overtly National Socialist Aleksandr Barkashov (Hanson and Williams, 1999, pp. 266-67).

This is not guilt by associations. These (or close to these) are the positions Zyuganov would eventually embrace after becoming KPRF leader. Yet it is also clear that the KPRF under Zyuganov must continue to be distinguished from the parties of radical return. Zyuganov rejects those parties' anti-Bolshevism. But he does so from nationalist, rather than from communist positions. He argues, for example, that the Soviet Union had been the genuine historical continuation of the Russian imperial legacy (and he may have a point there!) and that the whole fabric of Soviet social culture underwent a change in that direction in 1941, when Stalin started to compromise with the Orthodox Church and to incorporate Russian patriotic themes in his speeches (Hanson and Williams, 1999, p. 267).

As has already been discussed, conspiracy theories are part and parcel of Zyuganov's world outlook. In that he is a Stalinist, but one who has lost even the primitive traces of dialectical thinking of the "Vozhd." For Stalin, class struggle intensified as one approached socialism. World imperialism, desperate in face of its pending final defeat, would now activate its last traitors and spies infiltrated in the leadership of the party. Zyuganov, on the other hand, does not bother with dialectics. To begin with, he sees nothing wrong in imperialism, provided it is a Russian one. Russia must restore its greatness, and this means re-establishing the Soviet Union as a start. Only then can the dream of the Russian "Third Rome" start being fulfilled (Hanson and Williams, 1999, p. 267).

Where Stalin and Zyuganov do meet on conspiracy theory grounds is in their approach to the "world Jewish conspiracy" (see Shafir, 2000b), the difference being that Zyuganov has yet to announce that he has uncovered a plot to poison him. That conspiracy, he reiterated in December 1998, was far more menacing than the Nazi one, for while the former openly acknowledged its quest to subjugate the world "Zionists," who "are blood relatives of fascism," act in secret, and "employ the hands of others." As for most anti-Semites, for Zyuganov it is far worse to have "sold out" to Jews than to be born Jewish. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, President Boris Yeltsin, and former Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin, he said, "have inflicted on Russia more harm that [inflicted by] the Jews Chubais, Gaidar, and Kozyrev" (cited in Gitelman, 1999, pp. 393-94). Anatolii Chubais, a deputy premier at the time Zyuganov made the statement, is reported to be of at least part Jewish origin, but former Premier Yegor Gaidar and then-Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev are not. Zyuganov was thus also indulging into that favorite past-time of anti-Semites: the "Judaization" of political adversaries (Shafir, 2000b).

Zyuganov has been an open advocate of radical continuity, tracing back the roots of Russia's troubles to the untimely, as it were, death of Stalin. Reiterating an argument he already made in his book "Beyond the Horizon," he told the Hungarian daily "Magyar Hirlap" in 1996 that "if Stalin had lived for five or six years longer, the Soviet Union would have been undefeatable for ages." Choosing to forget that Stalin himself was a Georgian (which Zhirinovsky never does!), Zyuganov pointed out on the occasion that "elements foreign to the [Russian] nation," such as Lavrenti Beria, Lev Mekhils, and Lazar Kaganovich, must be blamed for the crimes then committed. The mechanism of "guilt-externalization" is obviously at work here, though Zyuganov used the opportunity to come back to another favorite theme: the number of victims who perished in Stalinist camps, he said, is incomparably smaller than the victims made among Russians by imperialist "globalization" ("OMRI Daily Digest," 11 June 1996).

Nor is Zyuganov the only prominent spokesman of the KPRF to call for a return to Stalinist practices. In October 1998, General Albert Makashov, a deputy representing Zyuganov's party in the State Duma and one of the leaders of the October 1993 attempted coup against President Boris Yeltsin, recommended that quotas be set for the number of Jews allowed to hold government positions. In a later televised interview, Makashov advocated the "shipping off to another world" unnamed "kikes, shyloks, and bloodsuckers" (cited in Gitelman, 1999, p. 393; see also Belin, 1999a). The statements created an uproar both internally and internationally. The European Affairs Subcommittee of the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee held a special hearing on the case in February 1999 (Goble, 1999). On 15 October 1998, President Yeltsin ordered the government to put a stop to "national and political extremism" and Putin, at that time head of the Federal Security Services, announced the service was considering initiating a criminal case against Makashov.

But the service did not ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to examine Makashov's statements in light of the provisions of Article 282 in the Criminal Code, which prohibits incitement to racial hatred. Rather, it concluded in December that Makashov had not infringed on another article in the code, which prohibits public appeals to overthrow the existing constitutional order. The results of the investigation were sent to the Prosecutor-General's Office. In January 1999, Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov returned the investigation to the services, deeming its termination to be "illegal," and in March the office launched criminal proceedings against the deputy. But the case was dropped in April, after the Duma for a second time failed to censure Makashov. For the case to be successfully prosecuted, the Duma would have had to lift Makashov's parliamentary immunity, and it was obvious that the legislature had no intention to do so ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1998 and 29 March 1999; Union of Councils, 1999, p. 21).

Already in early November 1998, the Duma had rejected by a vote of 121 to 107 a resolution censuring Makashov, with the bulk of KPRF deputies (the only dissenting vote came from Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev) voting against it ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 November 1998; Goble, 1998c). It then went on to pass on 13 November a considerably milder resolution, failing to mention Makashov by name and deploring the fact that "some deputies, officials, and mass media outlets do not advance friendly relationships between persons of different nationalities with their statements." Zyuganov told the Israeli ambassador to Moscow that he had rebuked Makashov "in private" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 November 1998; Gitelman, 1999, p. 393).

Although the KPRF at that time shunned Makashov from censure by the Duma, he had become somewhat of an embarrassment in the run-up to the 1999 elections, the more so as Makashov's statements and the communist rally to his defense had led to calls to ban the KPRF itself. For both domestic--but mainly its foreign image--the KPRF was now trying to prove that it is but a mainstream party of leftist orientation functioning within the "democratic rules of the game." The murder on 20 November 1998 of Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova, who had led efforts to censure Makashov, and rumors linking the assassination with the communist deputy, might have also played a role in the communists' decision to seemingly part ways with him ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 November and 14 December 1998; Goble, 1998b).

The KPRF therefore chose to encourage Makashov and his fellow communist ultranationalist, Viktor Ilyukhin, to switch over to the Movement in Support of the Army, Defense Industry, and Military Science (DPA). Like Zyuganov, during the Duma hearings of December 1998 on Yeltsin's possible impeachment, Ilyukhin said that the "large-scale genocide" against the Russian people would have been less serious if the president's entourage and the government included representatives of other ethnic groups and "did not consist exclusively of Jews" (Goble, 1998a, Belin, 1999a).

One of the 1999 electoral campaign booklets of the DPA denied that Makashov was out to "destroy all Jews," explaining that "Kike is not a nationality--kike is a profession. Those who read Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Gogol and Shevchenko, know no other word to designate a destroyer, a bloodsucker who fattens himself on the misfortunes of other people" (cited in Belin, 1999b). In a speech to a DPA conference in Novocherkassk, in February 1999, Makashov said one should take into consideration changing the DPA's name into the "Movement Against Kikes." If the "kikes" are "bold and so impudent," he explained, this was "because we are asleep...because none of us have knocked on their doors and pissed on their windows so far." That statement led to the second attempt to censure Makashov in the Duma, but, like the first attempt, the motion was defeated by a vote of 133 to 104. When a complaint was launched by Jewish activists, a prosecutor in Rostov Oblast (to which the town of Novocherkassk belongs) refused to bring charges against Makashov, arguing that "kike" ("zhid") was not a word inciting to ethnic hatred, having been used by the flower of Russian writers, such as Pushkin. The argument, as noted above, would eventually be used by the DPA in its electoral campaign ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 and 23 March 1999; Union of Councils, 1999, p. 134). In May 1999, during a campaign rally of his supporters, Makashov urged them to attack television reporter Pavel Lobkov, who was covering the event, explaining that "he is no Lobkov, but Lobkovich." Once more, the "Judaization" of political adversaries (Lobkov belongs to the so-called "Judaized" liberal media) was at work. The reporter barely escaped a serious beating (Union of Councils, 1999, p. 63). But this was still miles away from what would happen under the new Putin presidency to media magnate Vladimir Gusinskii, whose criticism of the president would lead him into detention. The detained oligarch's Jewishness does not appear to have played any role in the decision to arrest him. But it was certainly not likely to contribute to a loss of popularity for the new president. On the other hand, it did lead to some international embarrassment, with 52 U.S. congressmen, in a letter to President Bill Clinton, stating that "considering the history of anti-Semitism in Russia, we fear that the targeting of Mr. Gusinskii, who is president of the Russian Jewish Congress, may be a threat to the Russian Jewish community at large" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 June 2000).

Back in September 1998, Makashov vowed during a political rally that "In the event of my death or the death of my comrades-in arms, we will take 10 of those kikes to the next world" (cited in Union of Councils, 1999. p. 20). There undoubtedly is a note of the "victimized majority" complex in this statement. But there is more than that. "Self-martyrology" is another trait that partisans of radical continuity share with their radical return mates. In the latter case, however, one can trace those tones back to the fanaticism of interwar fascism, with its cultivation of the self-sacrifice theme. Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party is in tune with its radical return predecessors when it describes itself as "the party of death, the party of revolt, the Russian equivalent of Hezbollah" (cited in Union of Councils, 1999, p. 135). Among partisans of radical continuity, to which Makashov undoubtedly belongs, the note is off. But that is on the level of ideological discourse. On the level of "praxis,"--to employ a Marxist distinction--the DPA has been reported to have links with, and support the activity of, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas, both of which practice terrorist self-martyrdom ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 1999). Be that as it may, Makashov is not the only radical continuity politician to indulge in the exercise. In Romania, the Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor on several occasions told his followers that he has "put on the shirt of death," thus echoing a favorite Iron Guard slogan (Shafir, 1994, p. 355).

The DPA is but one more radical continuity formation. It was set up in 1997 by General Lev Rokhlin, a "hero" of the 1994-1996 Chechen war, and immediately turned into one of the most radical opponents of Yeltsin and his policies, while at the same time being ideologically close to the KPRF. Rokhlin's murder by his wife in autumn 1998 provided Ilyukhin (who became DPA leader) and Makashov with an opportunity to take over an organization where they could be less restrained in making provocative ultranationalist statements. Besides, they believed Zyuganov was too accommodating and cooperative with the Yeltsin regime. Apart from Makashov and Ilyukhin, two other former members of the KPRF faction in the Duma, Aleksandr Pomorov and Igor Bratischev, also ran on the DPA lists in 1999 (McFaul et al., 1999, pp. 125-26). But Makashov was barred by an okrug-level electoral commission from running in a single-constituency mandate in Samara Oblast. The move has been motivated by his having paid cash for his electoral campaign materials, whereas under the law he should have paid from a special bank account. Ruling on Makashov's appeal, the Russian Supreme Court on 15 February 2000 overturned the decision and sent the case back for reconsideration by the Samara Oblast court ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 December 1999 and 16 February 2000). That court's ruling, however, became irrelevant, as Makashov decided to run for a single-constituency seat in Sverdlovsk Oblast in the elections to the Duma that had to be repeated in that district. His bid, however, failed ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January and 27 March 2000). Ilyukhin on the other hand, had managed to get elected in a single-mandate constituency in December 1999, as did one more DPA candidate. On party lists, however, the DPA did poorly in 1999--as already mentioned.

Makashov and Ilyukhin's departure from the KPRF lists, it must be emphasized, was not tantamount to their departure from the KPRF itself, since they remained members of the party. Zyuganov was, in fact, surprisingly genuine when he admitted that the step was merely an improved division of electoral labor. In an interview printed in a KPRF campaign booklet, he said that Makashov and Ilyukhin are "patriots" who will now "work among that seething, radical section of the population for whom the [ethnic] Russian question is extremely acute" (cited in Belin, 1999a). Unidentified deputies from the KPFR's Duma faction in April 1999 told Interfax that the party's strategy for the upcoming elections was to run in "three columns," in which Makashov and Ilyukhin would make up the most "radical" wing and Aleksei Podberezkin, head of Spiritual Heritage, would head another (apparently also radical) KPRF wing, with Zyuganov leading the largest, third group ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 1999). Thus, the departure of Makashov and Ilyukhin by no means altered the KPFR's radical continuity character. Indeed, not only did the KPRF, as indicated, foil the attempt to censure Makashov, but in Vladimir Oblast, which is dominated by the communists, the regional legislature in November 1998 passed a special resolution supporting his anti-Semitic statements (Union of Councils, 1999, p. 80).

The small-sized DPA presence in the Duma elected in 1999 may well become a repetition of the All-People's Union of Russia (ROS) story. Led by Baburin, that party was set up in 1991 in the Russian Congress of People's Deputies, with Nikolai Pavlov (more of a staunch nationalist than Baburin) as its co-chairman (Pribylovsky, 1994, p. 33). It was Baburin, however, who acquired notoriety and the respect of fellow nationalists as one of the defenders of the Supreme Soviet building in Moscow during the September-October 1993 showdown (for the same reasons, radical return leader Barkashov, wounded during those clashes, has also been turned into a hero of the ultranationalists). Partisans of radical return were placing high hopes on Baburin by 1994, as ultranationalists were becoming more and more disenchanted with Zhirinovsky. They had some reason to do so, as ROS, at its inception, called for "one history, one nation, one Russia" (Belin, 1995). But instead of responding to their hopes, Baburin steered the ROS towards radical continuity postures, combining ultranationalism with leftist ideological postures. In the 1995 elections, Baburin's ROS combined its forces with the bloc led by former Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov. The alliance (Power to the People) did not cross the 5 percent threshold, but it was nonetheless represented in the Duma by nine deputies elected on single-constituency districts, and had its own separate faction, since the KPRF "lent" some of its deputies to it. It ran again in 1999, but without Ryzhkov, who had returned to the fold of the KPRF (Orttung, 1996, p. 7; McFaul et al, 1999, p. 96). Its party lists did poorly, enlisting the support of a mere 0.59 percent of the vote, and its representation in the Duma was thus reduced to two deputies elected from single-constituencies, with Baburin failing to win the single constituency seat he ran for.

In 1995, Power to the People was also joined by Fatherland, a movement headed by Krasnodar Governor (and ex-officio member of the parliament's upper house) Nikolai Kondratenko (Union of Councils, 1999, p. 30). In 1999, however, Kondratenko and his movement, which was set up with the help of the KPRF, openly endorsed Zyuganov ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 10 November 1999). In many ways, Kondratenko's alliance with the KPRF resembles the case of the DPA under Ilyukhin and Makashov. Such alliances go well beyond what I have termed as "utilitarian anti-Semitism" (Shafir, 2000b), for the KPRF not only condones, but in fact encourages the likes of Makashov and Kondratenko, providing logistic organizational aid to them. Elected in 1996, Kondratenko became an international celebrity due to his frequent anti-Semitic outbursts and racist speeches exhalting the Kuban Cossacks and Russian traditions. Kondratenko has been made the ataman of the Kuban Cossacks and Deputy Governor Boris Gromov has given local Cossacks the right to bear arms along with a wide range of police powers, which are often used against "undesirable" ethnic minorities (Union of Councils, 1999 p. 124).

As soon as he was elected to office, Kondratenko began attacking "that dirty cosmopolitan brotherhood" that should, in his view, leave for Israel or America (Union of Councils, 1999, p. 124). A speech he delivered in early March 1998 to a Krasnodar forum of youth included no less than 61 references to "kikes," "kike-masons," or simply "Zionists" who have imposed "brutal policies" on Russia since August 1991. Stalin, according to the same speech by Kondratenko, deserved praise for having fenced off the Zionist offensive, but since the August 1991 dismemberment of the Soviet Union the "Zionists" had sought to appoint only Jews and members of other ethnic minorities to influential positions in the government. Furthermore, the Jews were said to "disguise" themselves as Russians in order to facilitate their penetration and takeover of Russian government positions. They would encourage their women to marry into Russian families, knowing that "the children would be ours," he said, obviously ignorant of Judaic marital proscriptions. These were all rather banal variations on conspiracy theory themes. But Kondratenko went one step further in his speech. The "Zionists," he said, were also guilty of having brought homosexuality to Russia. The "demonstration" was obvious for all to see: "Homosexuality is not characteristic of Slavic people. Only a perfidious Zionist could have a hit on this." That remark did not hinder Zyuganov from naming Kondratenko as the likely minister of the economy in a planned "shadow cabinet" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March and 10 April 1998; Union of Councils, 1999, p. 125).

Under Kondratenko, Krasnodar Krai has been placed on a watchlist by international human rights organizations for the frequent anti-minority incidents occurring there. But rather than diminish the frequency of those incidents, this led to their intensification. In December 1998, dozens of residents received leaflets in their mailboxes calling for the extermination of all Jews living on "Kuban soil" and appealing to Kondratenko to run for president in 2000. At the same time, an anti-Semitic textbook financed from krai budget funds, "The Secret History of 20th Century Russia," was published and distributed in local schools ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 December 1998; Union of Councils, 1999, p. 127). Kondratenko also rallied to the support of Makashov's anti-Semitic remarks. Like Makashov, the Krasnodar governor did not have to face justice for his remarks. A group calling itself the Congress of Russian Intelligentsia launched a complaint against him on the grounds of fomenting ethnic hatred, but the krai's Prosecutor-General's Office in April 1998 announced that it has found no grounds justifying the launching of a criminal case. The office accepted Kondratenko's "explanation" that he had "only criticized Zionism" and not the Jews. Nothing seemed to have changed in Krasnodar since the Soviet regime's propaganda used the "Zionist" cliche to indulge into anti-Semitic incitement. One month later, the office also dismissed a complaint against Kondratenko, this time launched by the local Jewish community. Again, the decision was justified on grounds that Kondratenko had "only" denounced Zionism, which, it was now added, in what smacked of Brezhnevite nostalgia, has been defined by the UN in 1975 as a "racist ideology." No mention was made, of course, that the UN had since revised that decision ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April 1998; Union of Councils, 1999, p. 125).

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