By GERRY FOLEY
Russian public opinion polls had given the Russian president Boris Yeltsin only a 2 percent approval rating, surely a record for electoral politics. The main successor organization of the old ruling party, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), denounced him for betraying the Slavic peoples by not coming to the aid of “our brother Serbs.”
Then, on May 13, the CPRF appealed to the parliament that it dominates to remove Yeltsin from office on charges of (1) treason; (2) forcible seizing and holding power and misusing it; (3) exceeding his authority and misusing it; (4) mass murder; and (5) genocide, “that is the creation of conditions designed to physically exterminate a people.” (Pravda Rossii, May 19-26, the organ of the CPRF.)
On the most popular specific charge, that Yeltsin was responsible for an illegal war in Chechnya, the CPRF-dominated bloc managed to muster 284 of the 300 votes needed to impeach. Only 386 out of a total of 450 deputies were present for the vote on May 15.
Only four days later, Yeltsin’s hand-picked new premier, Sergei Stepashin, got more votes than the motion to impeach the president for the Chechen war. Some 293 deputies voted for him on the first roll call. Five deputies then cast belated votes for him, and then another three handed in written votes giving him a total of 301.
That was only 16 less votes than received by Yevgenii Primakov in August, who was supposedly a candidate of reconciliation between Yeltsin and the CPRF opposition.
The CPRF organ, Pravda Rossii (May 19-26), had published a ringing defense of Primakov’s economic record before the May 19 vote, despite the fact that his tenure did not mark any change whatever in the basic economic policy of capitalist restoration. Nonetheless, the appointment of Stepashin has been hailed in the Western capitalist press as a relaunching of the capitalist “reforms.”
Pravda Rossii proclaimed that the campaign to impeach Yeltsin had been a great success and that the CPRF would now take its campaign against the “betrayer of the great nation of Russia” into the streets.
But after the way that the bedraggled and besieged Yeltsin rescued all his stakes in the parliamentary battle, it seems unlikely that much will come from the post-Stalinists’ “mass uprising.”
In fact, the attempt to impeach Yeltsin seems to have collapsed precisely because he threatened to dissolve the parliament and force the CPRF to go to the people in a snap election.
In short, the Communist Party’s loud denunciations of Yeltsin’s “genocide” and “betrayal of the nation” have been exposed as nothing more than demagogic hot air.
The defenders of the Stalinist heritage and “great power Russia” have shown no more stomach for confronting the imperialist powers and financial institutions than the “democrats” they affect to despise. They offer no alternative to the restoration of capitalism but empty nationalistic slogans that lack any reality or even sincerity.
The “democrats” are quite as ready to emit nationalistic hot air as the CPRF and its ilk. The liberal press, such as Nezavisimaya Gazeta, is as full of pan-Slavic rhetoric as Pravda Rossii. And Stepashin has reportedly pledged to maintain the fantastical scheme of a formal union of Byelorussia, Russia, and Serbia.
Il Manifesto’s correspondent noted in the May 20 issue of the Italian left daily that “the pledge to support the defense industries and increase military spending has to be seen entirely in a political context. The Kosovo war has shown clearly that the once powerful Soviet army is only a memory, and that Russia’s military capacity today is virtually nil.”
In reality, the collapse of the Russian military mirrors the collapse of the country’s industry as a result of the attempt to restore capitalism. It was only the planned economy that enabled Russia to industrialize in a world dominated economically by the big capitalist combines.
The dismantling of the planned economy has gone hand in hand with the dismantling of industry. There is no way to rebuild Russia’s military capacity without building a planned economy. But that means rejecting capitalist restoration and breaking from the world capitalist financial institutions, for which the CPRF, which claims to defend the “socialist heritage” of the USSR, lacks the courage, the honesty, and the program.
Yeltsin’s mid-May “miracle in the Duma” shows the uselessness of the CPRF and other such neo-Stalinist forces to resist capitalist restoration and the subordination to imperialism that it involves.
Hopefully, out of this experience, sincere defenders of the gains of the Russian Revolution will begin to draw the conclusions necessary to build a real socialist alternative to capitalist restoration.