National Sections of the L5I:

Putin wins in first round of elections

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

Vladimir Putin won outright victory in the first round of the presidential elections on 26 March. The Communist Party leader came second. Meanwhile leftists who called for a no vote for Putin have been arrested and repressed.

Putin received 53 percent support, while his nearest rival, Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov got nealry 30 per cent.

Certainly it is not the attractiveness of his programme which has given Putin such a victory. Indeed Putin refused to even publish a detailed election platform. Instead he has delivered himself of a number of oracular statements, often pointing in diametrically opposite directions.

Each is aimed to rouse the hopes of a different sector of the electorate. So for the businessmen he states:

"The higher the degree of economic freedom of economic entities, the higher the development of the state. For the workers and the mangers of hard pressed loss making enterprises he stressed the need for "the restoration of a guiding and regulatory role of the state."

For the millions who hated the Yeltsin regime – with its wholesale corruption he promises:

"No clan or oligarch can be allowed to come close to either regional or federal power."

This crude mixture of demagogy and sheer deceit goes unchallenged, either in debate – which he has adamantly refused – or in the media. This is controlled either by the state or by the very oligarchs who lay behind Putin.

But his main claims to the presidency rested on – what the media presents as a successful war in Chechnya. He is a strong man – that is the message.

An unexpected bonus must be the warm support coming from Washington and London – despite a little tut-tutting over violations of human rights in Chechnya

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has called him a "model" Russian president, a "leading reformer." and that he " seems determined to move reform forward." Perhaps in return for such kindness Putin declared that Russia was open to the idea of joining NATO.

Tony Blair rushed to be first western leader to shake Putin’s hand – still red with the blood of Chechen civilians slaughtered in the Caucasus – on what they claimed was a "social visit". Blair was the first to congratulate Putin on his victory.

The New Labour premier, and Cherie Balir, doubtless enjoyed the opera, the champagne and caviar in a country where 50 million Russians are living below the poverty line according to official statistics. Russia – like Blair – is not bothered about such out of date concepts as social equality.

According to official figures, just ten per cent of the Russian population now possesses nearly a third of the country's riches while the poorest ten percent have just 2.4 per cent of the wealth

The idea that Mr. Putin will be – as western journalist’s surmise – a strongman who will take on the corrupt oligarchs is a joke. It is they who sponsored his meteoric rise.

This month Boris Berezovsky the eminence grise of the Yeltsin "family" plus another pro-Putin tycoon, Roman Abramovitch, gained control of 70 per cent of Russia's lucrative aluminum industry.

The War
Putin has presented the fighting in Chechnyaas mopping up operations. According to army spokesmen, the Russian forces control all of the republic's territory – except the southern mountains: there were only isolated groups of Chechen separatist fighters hiding out in the mountains. But in late February and early March, Chechen ambushes cost the Russians over 100 lives and decimated two elite commandos units.

On 29 Februuary, a Russian paratroop detachment from Pskov was taken by surprise by and wiped out – with a loss of 86 lives! the Russians then claimed that they had been officially attacked by 2,500 Chechen fighters.

Some isolated band! On 2 March a column of about 100 OMON élite Interior Ministry troops lost at least 20 men in an ambush while driving through a suburb of "pacified" Grozny.

It is clear that the Russians are now embroiled in a long term guerrilla war: that it will be impossible to withdraw the huge army of occupation. The cost in men and money will be a massive drain on the state.

Moreover the high rate of casualties is leading to vicious revenge attacks on the civilian population . The Russians have virtually no Chechen quislings through whom to really pacify and rule...

The Observer in London reported last week that on 4 February Russian forces killed 363 civilians in the village of Katyr-Yurt using "vacuum" bombs, fuel-air explosives banned by the 1980 Geneva Convention. Sergei Dorenko, the well-known news presenter on government-controlled ORT, said:

"If we were to recognise that there is no civilian population in Chechnya, we could finish the war in two weeks, instead of 20 years or more." Clearly the nature of the war will fuel genocidal temptations.

Gennady Zyuganov and the CPRF
On the 17 March 1996, GennadyY Andreevich Zyuganov announced his 10-point election program to the party leadership, and it was approved unanimously.

Zyuganov’sprogramme is based on two themes: the need for a far reaching programme of social reform and state-supervised economic reconstruction the need to restore Russia as a great state and military power. The first is directly related second to the according to Zyuganov. The misery of the Russian people stems back to the "illegal" dissolution of the Soviet Union, he claims.

He would raise the minimum wage and increase salaries for teachers and doctors. He would cut costs for health care, housing, transport and fuel. He would cut personal taxes, increase spending on the weapons industry, science and culture.

To pay for this he promises the renationalization of the oil and gas industry, stopping capital flight, which he puts at $1.5 billion a month, and nationalising the vodka industry. His programme contains the pledge:

"We will return strategically important sectors of the Russian economy to state control." He also promises to introduce price controls, guarantee work to each Russian within the space of two years and to bring about the birth of "renewed Soviet power".

Zyuganov however insists that the CPRF is not hostile to the market or private property per se. Indeed he promises it will lead to :

"developing market relations, and the state will provide support for the weak and guarantees for the strong, in order to let them work normally and competently. We are ready to support small and mid-sized businesses, trade, services enterprises." If the state controls the strategic, basic industries: "then all forms of property will supplement each other and stimulate the positive development of the country,".

Zyuganov promises women that they would be freed from heavy and dangerous labour, receive proper time off for children, and families and would receive greater support from the state. Russian production would be boosted to replace foreign imports by tax incentives.

Agriculture would also be boosted by state subsidy and land exempted from purchase or sale. The military-scientific-industrial complex would receive increased grants. The export of gas, oil and natural resources – stimulated by deals with the IMF will be restricted.

Zyuganov denounces the 1991 decree which liquidated the Soviet Union. He promises to work for a common governmental structure for the Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan - the most "Slavic" of the independent republics.

He is against the expansion of NATO, and has promised to strengthen the Russian Army to counter this. Lastly, Zyuganov and the KPRF would make the parliament - and not the president- the most powerful force in the country.

But alongside the reformist programme goes a repeated emphasis on the need to strengthen Russia and restore it to the status of a great power. There are elements of chauvinism, though no overt anti-semitic phrases beyond the ambiguous remark about the "oligarchs and their lackeys who have no roots in Russia."

Likewise Zyuganov’s notorious appeals for a fusing of the Red and the White traditions is not overtly mentioned but there is an incredible pledge to support the official place of Orthodoxy in state life.

"In the coming century the lasting alliance between state and church, all traditional Russian denominations -- with the recognition of Russian Orthodoxy's special role in the people's life -- will be able to ensure our Fatherland's high morality and spirituality."

Likwise the more conservative interpretation of bourgeois and clerical-feudal morality is hymned. "The moral anarchy that has reigned in Russia over the past few years has begun to threaten the very existence of our people, their spiritual principles, age-old traditions, and distinctive culture."

Whilst there is talk of harmony between the peoples, the only sufferings mentioned are those of the Great Russians. A more or less open threat is levelled at the autonomy of the national minorities:

" I will not allow Russian people to be humiliated any more by local princelings who have developed a passion for nationalism. Ethnic Russians will occupy a place and position in the Russian state that accord with their status as a great people, the custodian of our distinctive character and the uniter of the fraternal peoples."

"My most important concern will be to strengthen the country's defence capability,/ pay close attention to our glorious Army and Navy, and /boost the combat readiness of the Armed Forces"

Despite the name "Communist Party of the Russian Federation," the KPRF has dropped all references to Marxism-Leninism from its vocabulary. The word socialism does not occur in the programme nor does the word planning. The terms capitalism or class are scarcely used

The point of reference is the great power status of the USSR from 1945-85 and the victory of the Soviet Union in WW and Russian patriotism is the central validating ideology. Also astonishing is the fact that the ongoing war in Chechnya is not mentioned – though Zyuganov has elsewhere made clear his complete support for Putin’s war.

The Russian workers at present have no national political party willing and able to expose the chauvinistic lies of the about the war – one willing and able to oppose it on Marx’s principle that no nation which oppresses another can itself be free.

Under conditions of a genocidal war waged against the Chechen people Zyuganov – even with his promises of social reform – can no rallying pole for the working class and did not deserve a single worker's vote.

All healthy elements within the working class will have to devote all their energy to creating such a party in the years ahead. Years that will be marked by intense struggles as Putin’s strengthened bonapartist regime sets out to speed up the expropriation of the land and the factories from them who work in and on them.