March 8-14, 2001,
RED IS IN FASHION
A young generation of communists is gathering strength
Author: Maksim Glikin
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
MORE AND MORE YOUNG PEOPLE WITH GOOD JOBS AND EDUCATIONS ARE JOINING
RADICAL COMMUNIST AND SOCIALIST GROUPS. THEY ARE DOING SO IN PROTEST
AGAINST ECONOMIC INEQUALITY. THIS TREND IS VERY UNUSUAL, AND MAY
BECOME DANGEROUS IF THE SITUATION IN RUSSIA IS NOT CHANGED FOR THE
As we know, communism is a faith for the poor and uneducated. But
it is impossible to say that about those who call themselves "the new
left." Their leftism seems to be just a teenage vice, like smoking pot
in a school lavatory.
Yekaterina Skvortsova, aged 28, a biologist by profession, is a
member of the Union of Marxists.
Dmitry Nachin, aged 25, is a graduate of a pedagogical institute.
Now he works as a sales manager at a large company in Moscow. He is a
Trotskyite, a member of the International Workers' Committee.
Oleg Shein, aged 28, also has a higher education. He used to be
engaged in founding independent labor unions in Astrakhan. He does not
resemble a "victim of the system" at all: he has made a vertiginous
political career for his age and has even become a Duma deputy.
The aforementioned people led by Oleg Shein are now uniting "the
new left." Recently, about 30 left groups and independent labor unions
united into a bloc. It is planned to set up a strong Marxist party
based on this bloc.
It is not that easy to understand why these well-to-do people
have joined in the struggle for workers' happiness.
Yekaterina Skvortsova: What I dislike about this life is not that
someone else owns a luxury while I don't. I can't tolerate the fact
that I have to do what I don't like and I can't do what I like. I'm a
biologist, and I'd gladly study ecology. But I'm ashamed to say how
much specialists who still work in my laboratory earn.
Dmitry Nachin: I do have a good job. But I'm not an amoeba that
can just swallow some food and be happy. I never forget that my father
is an ordinary driver, who came to Moscow from the provinces in Soviet
times and now lives in a barracks in terrible conditions. My mother is
unemployed and my brother goes to school, where textbooks are
constantly lacking and where a teacher once died during a hunger
strike. Can this state of affairs be called fair?
The largest organization of the young left is the Union of
Communist Youth (UCY) which has about 38,000 members. The UCY is
larger than many current political parties. This organization is not
noted for any large-scale actions, and its official status is the
youth branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF).
So, members of this organization study communism by Zyuganov's
However, their teachers do not seem to trust them much. The UCY
does not have a right to political activity of its own. "Komsomol"
members cannot run for deputies and arrange their own actions. Many of
them are already not that young, but the Communists unwillingly accept
them to their party. Old bureaucrats of the party apparently fear that
"the young blood" may oust them from the top position and infect the
respectable party with radicalism of the youth.
However, devout Marxists consider Zyuganov's party and its
Komsomol degraded entities fortifying the bourgeois-criminal regime.
According to sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky, who is an expert on
the left movement, "new Communists" view the CPRF as a large decaying
corpse lying in their way. Kagarlitsky says, "They are right to some
extent. The CPRF is a monopoly for left viewpoints, whereas its own
viewpoints are far from opposition to the government.
In the opinion of Oleg Shein, this monopoly will soon collapse.
Supporters of Russia's capitalist future need not fear CPRF
conformists and clamorous old women from Anpilov's party. The most
dangerous are young Communists, who are actually enraged and full of
Being actually devout communists, the new left deify the working
class and believe that the cause of liberation of working people
should be started from launching the labor union movement.
This is a good idea, since talking to working people it is more
convenient to introduce oneself as a labor union activist than a
Trotskist. The new left are aware of he fact that it is impossible to
gain a large political capital by revolution agitation, whereas it is
easy to gain it by protesting against ungrounded dismissals, delays of
wages, and violations of the Labor Code.
Judging from our talks with the young left, they are not very
successful with their work with the working class.
While people are growing up to understand their young "teachers,"
the young left are growing their muscles in tiffs with other
applicants for the role of "people's pastors." For instance, not long
ago some left radicals quarreled with representatives of the UCY
during a picket near the Palestinian Diplomatic Representation in
Moscow. The left radicals were against the current disobedience
campaign against the Israeli government, whereas representatives of
the UCY tried to hinder them by chanting anti-Zionist slogans.
Another tiff between the left radicals and Barkashov's fascists
ended in involvement of knives.
The style of political shows of the left radicals is radical too.
For instance, picketing the Kazakh embassy in Moscow in December 2000,
Moscow Trotskists did not say a word: they were only whistling with
A youth art group led by artist Anatoly Osmolovsky has also
displayed unique forms of agitation. Its members once came to Red
Square and lay down stark naked in the shape of a three-letter taboo
Even Zyuganov himself has suffered from them. During a street
assembly Moscow extremists were throwing tomatoes at him. During a
picket in which Duma deputies took part extremists were throwing
bottles with red paint at them.
As a rule, such extraordinary escapades are punished as
infraction of the public order. However, left radicals have committed
a number of scandalous crimes too. For instance, the recent explosion
by the reception of the Federal Security Service was arranged by three
girls from the organization New Revolutionary Initiative. When the
girls are released from prison, the new left will have their own holy
This trend is not so threatening as AIDS or drug addiction so
far. However, it is impossible to guarantee that there will be no more
outbursts of the communist disease in the country that lived under the
communist yoke for over 70 years. Political analyst Alexander Tarasov,
an expert on extremist movements, believes that left radicals will not
be a serious social threat for the following several years. But it is
difficult to say what is in store for Russia in five or six years.
Everything depends on how rapidly the number of unsettled young people
will grow. So far, Russia's "protest contingent" consisted of old
people, who are unable to shatter social principles. However, they
will soon be substituted by a young generation.
Boris Kagarlitsky: It is known that all political movements start
in the most educated environment. At the end of the 1980's, young
people obtained a lot of new opportunities: they could make a career
by the age of 25. But now young people who were late for the division
of the pie are gaining power. Everything is divided already, all the
best jobs are occupied by people who can be called "the Gaidar
generation." What should those who are late do? It is not their fault
that they were not born on time. If young people from the working
class become gangsters or drug addicts, having failed any other
business, intellectuals become revolutionaries.
The ten years of Russia's reforms have spoiled the natural
succession of generations. Those who have occupied all social
vacancies will not be old yet when new applicants for their positions
will grow up. There will be no other influx of new vacancies. Thus,
the army of unemployed young people will grow year after year.
The attractive and educated young people who call themselves
Marxists now look harmless imitators who like to play "the heroic
past." But what if they will play "the communist future"? Russian
grown-up politicians are convinced for some reason that this will
never happen and that young people will always vote for Yavlinsky and
(Translated by Kirill Frolov)