On recent remarks of Gennady Zyuganov, leader of
the Communist Party of the Russian Federation:

State-capitalist politics descends into
naked anti-Semitism

by Mark, Detroit
(from Communist Voice #20, Mach 28, 1999)


Zyuganov defends anti-Semitism
Playing into Yeltsin's hands
The CPRF's sordid alliances
Anti-Semitism and the overall policy of the CPRF
For an independent class trend!


. The Russian working masses have suffered greatly under the reign of Boris Yeltsin. His headlong dash to replace the former economy run by the old state-capitalist bureaucracy with a privatized, market capitalist economy has been an unqualified disaster. A good deal of the former economic base lies in ruin. Neo-liberalism has gone bankrupt in Russia, and Yeltsin's popularity among the people has sunk to near zero. Workers are going without food and pay, and protests are beginning to break out.

. In this situation, the so-called Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), led by Gennady Zyuganov, has put itself forward as the alternative. As Yeltsin's popularity plummets, the CPRF has been gaining strength. It has become the most powerful party in the Russian parliament, the Duma. The CPRF even has ministries in the Primakov government. Meanwhile, around the world various leftists are preaching faith in the CPRF. For them the growth of the CPRF means the workers will have a powerful champion. They are crossing their fingers and hoping that the CPRF's advances mean that socialism cannot be far behind. But these hopes are misplaced. The CPRF is rotten to the core. It is so politically bankrupt that its main source of notoriety in the past few months has been the virulent anti-Semitic outbursts of its legislative representatives in the Duma and the defense of these atrocities by the party's leader, Zyuganov. The CPRF leaders have reduced the critique of Yeltsin's neo-liberalism to disgusting chauvinist garbage scapegoating "the Jews" for the problems caused by market capitalism. Thus, Zyuganov and company are dragging Russian politics back to the days of the Czarist pogrom. True, the CPRF talks about certain demands of the workers, but this does not distinguish them from a host of outright fascist trends. The Nazis too talked about the needs of the workers and feigned anger at capitalists only to divert the workers' anger away from a real fight against the exploiters and into wild national chauvinism.

. How is it that a supposedly "socialist" party could descend to such depths? The trend that gave rise to the CPRF long ago betrayed the class interests of the workers. The CPRF was formed in 1993 from the tattered remnants of the so-called Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The CPSU was the ruling party of the former system which masqueraded as socialism while, in fact, the high government and party officials lorded over the workers, denied them their rights, and grew fat by treating the state economy as a treasure chest for the elite. Though the economy was controlled by the state, the state was run by a new class of parasites who ran this state-capitalist order for their own benefit. While under the old system the CPSU represented the rule of the state-capitalist plant managers and central bureaucracy, the growth of private interests among the rulers paved the way for converting state assets into privately-owned companies in the present market system. The present CPRF, like the former ruling CPSU, cloaks itself in the mantle of socialism and communism, but its leadership has no more to do with these things than the former ruling party. Today the CPRF does not oppose private capitalism per se, but merely wants to reform the present system of wanton exploitation a bit. They demagogically denounce the government while they themselves are in the government and their ministers merrily help shove pro-capitalist policies down the throats of the masses.

. The corrupt stands of Zyuganov thus flow from the corrupt former state-capitalist politics. And the efforts of those "leftists" who try to explain away the CPRF's anti-Semitism are connected to their inability to see the true class nature of the old Soviet order. After all, if one believes the former system was socialistic, this provides a strong motive to defend the CPRF heirs of the old ruling party at all costs.

Zyuganov defends anti-Semitism

. The CPRF has always tolerated national chauvinism in general, and anti-Semitism in particular, in its ranks. But this reached new heights when CPRF Duma deputy General Albert Makashov declared in his October 1998 article "Usurers of Russia" that the "yid" had taken over Russia to "drink the blood of the indigenous peoples [i.e., Russians -- Mark] of the state" and this was the reason for "usury, deceit, corruption and thievery" "flourishing in the country." Now if there CPRF had any concern for class solidarity or a real interest in pointing out the real causes of the crisis, they would not even allow the likes of Makashov in their party. But the CPRF, which is the dominant party in the Duma, resolutely opposed even a measure of censure against Makashov. Then, CPRF leader Zyuganov embarked on a campaign to apologize for Makashov.

. Zyuganov tried to give the appearance of disagreeing with Makashov by chiding him for some of his cruder formulations. He argued that Makashov should not have equated the political trend of zionism with Jewish people. But Zyuganov's essentially tried to justify Makashov's outburst and wound up spewing a more "refined" version of anti-Jewish hysteria. Soon after Makashov's outburst Zyuganov chided him for ignoring that the CPRF supposedly stands for "friendship of peoples." But he quickly added

". . . on the other hand, there is not a single audience today -- I emphasize, not a single one -- that does not ask questions about the subject of the Jews. . . It is no secret that the personnel policy pursued by Yeltsin violated the principle of national representation in all our country's enforcement agencies, the economy, finances, and journalism. . . . Today it is the Russian people themselves who feel encroached upon." (From Zyuganov's statements of Oct. 19, 1998 on the Russian TV program "Akuly Politpera".)

. So according to Zyuganov, it is understandable that "the Jews" are under scrutiny in Russia. After all, Zyuganov holds that it is the "national" composition of government bodies under Yeltsin that is a big problem. He goes on to say that the nationality of certain government members is linked to the justifiable feeling among Russians that they are being "encroached upon."

. For good measure, Zyuganov went on to attack other nationalities in general. He complains bitterly that since various non-Russian nationalities that used to be part of the Soviet Union have formed independent states, "there are 25 million Russians who have been left outside the borders of the Russian Federation." In the old Soviet Union, about 25 million Russians lived outside the Russian republic too, but Zyuganov doesn't have a problem with that because he regards that in the old system the Russians as the dominant nationality which got to boss the others around. But now the native bourgeois is dominant in the independent states, and the supremacy once enjoyed by the Russian state-capitalist bureaucrats over the non-Russian nationalities is no more. So Zyuganov is pissed off. He doesn't call for correct treatment of the national minorities either inside Russia today or in the countries dominated by other nationalities. Rather he declares war on Jews in Russia, and whips up sentiment for extending the borders of the Russian Federation to encompass the other countries where Russians live. He can't conceive of correct treatment of minorities, but only one nation oppressing another. Thus, in essence, Zyuganov denounces the right to self-determination of the former Soviet republics which broke away. Lenin rightly denounced Czarist Russia as a prison-house of nations. But Zyuganov actually hails the "thousand-year history" of the old Russian empire which enslaved other nations within its state borders. Thus, Zyuganov's "friendship of peoples" turns out to be nothing but anti-Semitic rot and the enslavement of nations.

. Lest anyone think that Zyuganov spoke this way out of haste, two months later he was continuing this chauvinist litany. After going through the obligatory rhetoric against "ill-considered statements about Jews," Zyuganov announced the fantastic discovery that

"the Zionization of Russian state power has been one of the reasons behind the current catastrophic state of the country, its mass impoverishment, and the extinction of its population." (Zyuganov's statement of December 24, 1998 entitled "On the National Pride of Patriots.") He argued that its people "rightly ask how it can be that key positions in a number of economic sectors were seized predominantly by representatives of one ethnic group in the course of privatization."

For Zyuganov, the problem is the wrong ethnic group allegedly rules, not that capitalist exploitation is being carried out by a handful of exploiters from different backgrounds. So much for his claims to distinguish between Zionism and people of Jewish ancestry. Only a lackey of capital could single out "zionism" as the main feature of the Russian ruling class and the explanation for the suffering in Russia.

. Of course, while blaming Zionism for the Russian crisis, Zyuganov himself proudly points to the long-standing support of his political trend for the expansionist and racist state of Israel, the centerpiece of Zionism. Oh yes, he makes sure to add that Israel does some bad things, but that doesn't make him give up overall support for the Israeli state whose entire existence is bound up with the perpetual oppression of the Palestinians and other Arab peoples. Zyuganov's "anti-zionist" rhetoric thus has little to do with support for the Palestinian cause but is a progressive-sounding cover for his campaign of anti-Jewish hysteria in Russia.

. Though Israel has annexed Palestinian and other Arab territories, to the best of our knowledge, the Israeli zionist leaders have not occupied Russia. Yet Zyuganov cries hysterically about a so-called Jewish (oops, zionist!) conspiracy for acting "on behalf of another state," presumably Israel. This shows that no absurdity is to big for Zyuganov's anti-Semitic witch hunt.

. Meanwhile, by reducing Russian foreign policy to subservience to Israel, Zyuganov distracts from the real way outside powers are affecting Russia. Yeltsin's wheeling and dealing with world capitalist powers is converted into a fairy tale about Russia being turned over to foreign zionists. Actually it is the IMF, dominated by the U.S. and other giant powers, which demands its policies be followed in Russia. Yeltsin is influenced by the neo-liberal dogmas because it has been the fashion of the bourgeoisie around the world, including the Russian business oligarchy, not because some Jewish conspiracy forced this on Russia. But it is indicative of the lunatic ravings of the anti-Semitic campaign that we must spend time explaining the most obvious facts.

. However, there is a method to this madness. By diverting attention from how the most powerful capitalist countries are imposing their will on Russia, Zyuganov can hide his own party's role in bowing down before the foreign capitalist powers. While he complains about how allegedly the Jewish conspiracy has sold out to foreign interests, it turns out that First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Masylukov, a CPRF member, has been representing the CPRF-backed Primakov government in Washington, D.C. as it tries to curry favor with the IMF and the World Bank. Masylukov has been begging for more money to pay off the old IMF loans by assuring the international financiers that

"there will be no de-privatizations, crazy nationalizations, uncontrolled monetary emissions and no extremism, in the economy or politics." (Reuters, Jan.22, 1999.)

So it turns out the CPRF leaders think it's just fine to grovel in front of the international organizations dominated by the biggest imperialist powers. Evidently Zyuganov's real complaint against the alleged Jewish conspiracy is that it supposedly is betraying Russia to Israel whereas the CPRF wants to grovel in front of the real world power-brokers! A great nation like Russia should only beg to other great nations!

Playing into Yeltsin's hands

. The CPRF leadership and its defenders try to fend off criticism by pointing out that Yeltsin and company are using Makashov's remarks and the CPRF reaction to them in order to isolate and possibly even ban the CPRF. Thus, they imply, to accuse the CPRF of anti-Semitism is to support Yeltsin and the neo-liberal agenda. Of course, the Yeltsin's criticism of the CPRF is completely hypocritical. After all, Yeltsin is himself a Russian chauvinist of the first order. It was he who a few years ago spearheaded the crushing of Chechnya, a territory inside the Russian Federation that sought independence. It was under Yeltsin that the Russian army laid waste to the Chechen city of Grozny. Yeltsin wants to take advantage of the present situation so he can promote the particular measures he wants to save Russian capitalism rather than the measures preferred by the CPRF. But it is the CPRF that has played right into Yeltsin's hands. What more could Yeltsin ask for than the chance to portray his rotten policies as necessary to prevent blatant anti-Semites from coming to power? Who, but the Makashov's and the Zyuganov's, could manage to chastise the butcher of Chechnya for allegedly discarding Russian nationalism? Who but the CPRF leaders could make Yeltsin look like Mr. Universal Brotherhood?

. The defenders of the CPRF leaders can see only one or the other variety of capitalist policy. For them, the only realistic politics is Zyuganov-style anti-Semitic populism or the neo-liberalism of Yeltsin. The idea that the workers must have their own independent stand opposed to both Yeltsin and the CPRF is foreign to them. They are incapable of understanding, or are opposed to, the idea that if the workers can't develop their own class stand, they will be reduced to helpless pawns at the hands of one or another section of the exploiters. But that task requires bucking the big established trends, it requires rebuilding the workers' movement on new foundations, and those who uphold the CPRF as the alternative lack the revolutionary spirit to do that.

The CPRF's sordid alliances

. The recent anti-Jewish tirades from Makashov and Zyuganov show that the various well-known alliances the CPRF has formed with various ultra-racist reactionaries like Vladimir Zhironovsky over the years were not only cynical political maneuvers but reflect certain underlying common views. Indeed, when Makashov shot himself in the foot, arch-nationalist and anti-Semite Zhironovsky came to Makashov's defense by declaring that anti-Semitism was non-existent in Russia. In this he echoes the stand of Zyuganov who declares that "the thesis about 'Russian fascism' and a 'brownshirt-Red' threat, and about 'anti-Semitism'" is a nothing but a campaign to "divert society's attention away from the country's catastrophic position and the real culprits for it" and "provoke anti-Jewish sentiment among the masses." In other words, Zyuganov holds that to raise that anti-Semitism exists is to incite anti-Jewish passions among the masses. Zyuganov sounds like the U.S. racists who complain that all is well in the U.S. and justify racist atrocities on the grounds that they were provoked by those who exposed racism.

. Recently, the CPRF has been trying to establish yet another sordid alliance. They are courting the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, who is often mentioned as a viable presidential candidate to replace Yeltsin. As we have seen, the CPRF attributes to a Jewish conspiracy the widescale corruption and criminality that exists among the Russian rulers. But Luzhkov is the very personification of corruption and criminality. He runs Moscow as his personal business fiefdom and has an army of thugs to deal with anyone who might challenge his power. Compared to him the old political machine of Boss Daley in Chicago, which organized the skull-cracking of anti-war protesters 1968, was a bunch of Sunday school teachers. But according to Zyuganov "Luzhkov is a well-known and authoritative man who knows the specifics of both the old and new systems." (Financial Times article carried in the Orange County Register of Oct. 22, 1998) Of course, it is indisputable that Luzhkov is an expert in milking the system for his personal fame and fortune, but somehow Zyuganov omits that little detail. But then again, in the same article, it is reported that Zyuganov counts as his heroes certain figures who ruled in an authoritative manner no matter to what end, including Charles de Gaulle, Stalin and Czar Alexander III (who executed Lenin's brother for being a revolutionary activist).

Anti-Semitism and the overall policy of the CPRF

. The scapegoating of Jews by the CPRF shows just how far it will go in order to hide the real causes of the crisis afflicting Russia. Zyuganov and his cronies are "communists" who want to divert the workers from targeting capitalism. The CPRF leaders want to confine the workers' struggle to the most piddling reforms and keep its potential strength from developing, lest it sweep away not only Yeltsin, but all those who would defend the system of exploitation, albeit with a few reforms. It talks about relieving the burden on the masses, but has thrown its support behind the Primakov government. After all, the Primakov government has given the CPRF some posts and promises to throw a few crumbs to the masses.

. Zyuganov's conception of the economy differs from Yeltsin's mainly in that he would like to see the state sector expanded. Thus, Zyuganov argues that "The state must have a controlling stake in all the strategic industries which include energy, the military-industrial complex and scientific enterprises. Otherwise they will serve the interest of certain people rather than the whole country." (Financial Times article carried in The Orange Country Register, Oct. 22, 1998.) Zyuganov tries to give his nationalization plans a socialist tinge. But nationalization by itself is not socialism. Socialism also requires that the workers administer the economy. The old Soviet Union had the most extensive nationalization but not socialism because the workers were not the masters of the economy but became a subjugated class under the rule of a new state-bourgeois elite. Under the present market capitalist order, an expanded state sector would still be under the control of the bourgeois ruling class as a whole, not the workers. Nationalizing certain key economic sectors has long been commonplace in the capitalist world. Zyuganov's nationalized energy sector would be no more under the control of the masses than the state-run PEMEX oil monopoly has been in Mexico or the state sector of heavy industry in South Korea.

. While the idea of expanding the state sector has nothing to do with socialism, nationalizations might be useful as one part of an emergency program to bring some immediate relief for the masses from the total economic chaos now engulfing Russia. But in practice the CPRF has balked at nationalizing particular enterprises out of fear of offending the private oligarchs. And as we have seen above, the "communist" minister Masylukov is guaranteeing the Western imperialist financiers that they have no intention of any extensive nationalization.

. Given this program, it is not surprising that the CPRF is not really trying to develop the initiative of the exploited masses. True, the CPRF has been associated with certain demonstrations. But it does not strengthen the independent class organization and consciousness of the toilers, but undermines it. For instance, it is reported that since entering the Primakov government, the CPRF has been especially keen to eliminate slogans in demonstrations which denounce the entire government in favor of those targeting Yeltsin alone. Indeed, with its pronounced Russian chauvinism and anti-Semitism, it cannot even draw clear lines between itself and the ultra-reactionary groupings it often unites with in demonstrations. The CPRF leadership is trying to stave off mass anger with promises of minor relief from the crushing burden of the economic crisis while using virulent national chauvinism to deflect their thoughts from the class struggle against Russian capitalism. In short, these "communists" have no vision beyond bailing out the capitalist oligarchy.

For a independent class trend!

. Neither Yeltsin's neo-liberal capitalism nor the capitalism with more state intervention of Zyuganov offer salvation to the workers. The workers don't need one or another variety of capitalist politics, but politics which serve their class interests. The Russian masses are being ground down, but neither Yeltsin nor the CPRF is interested in doing anything serious about it. Only if the workers can start mobilizing in their own behalf will they be able to wage a real fight for relief from the economic crisis. Today, the Russian workers do not suffer from a lack of bitterness toward those who rule them, but a lack of clarity and organization to direct that anger into a concerted force that can target the class enemy and sort out the role being played by the different oppositional trends.

. The development of a workers' trend also involves more than just the immediate fight for relief, however. So long as capitalism exists, whether with more or less state intervention, the will of the profit-mad exploiters will reign over the workers. In order for the workers to chart a course beyond capitalism requires also that they understand the true nature of the former Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, from Stalin to Gorbachev, represented not an alternative to capitalism, but was the most thorough form of state-capitalism the world has seen. Moreover, it was the development of private interests among the state bureaucrats and managers within the old system of state property which paved the way for the transformation to private capitalism. So long as the Russian workers feel that the old Soviet society was the socialist or communist alternative, they will not be able to see what real revolutionary change means. The workers hatred of Yeltsin's neo-liberalism will be channeled towards the state-capitalist system of the past, and the memories of the oppression of the past system will push the workers back towards private capitalism. Either the workers will be trapped in this vicious circle, or they will simply despair of any solution. This is why it is important to analyze the distinction between state-capitalist oppression and a society moving toward socialism.

. The state-capitalist oppression of the past cannot inspire a revolutionary outlook among the workers. To grasp what a real revolutionary alternative is, the workers need to be able to distinguish between the revisionist conception of socialism and the Marxist-Leninist view. The task of developing this critique is not simply repeating the correct views of the past, but further developing these views by learning the workings of the societies that laid claim to socialism while consolidating a state-capitalist system. For the workers to liberate themselves from capitalism, they must free themselves from the dead weight of the revisionist state-capitalism of the past.

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