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#19 - JRL 7220
Moscow News
June 11-17, 2003
Red Banner Changing Hands?
Valery Vyzhutovich MN observer

Change of leader in the "popular patriotic" opposition, which has long been the subject of private talk among the Communists, may indeed occur after all. Sergei Galzyev, a member of the State Dumas Communist faction but not a member of the Communist Party, has committed himself to uniting the left forces. Last week he set about putting together a broad election coalition, which the Communists are free to join. But the party is in no hurry to join an election bloc with Glazyev at the helm.

Party leader Gennady Zyuganov thought that cleansing his party of "compromisers, opportunists and other underlings of the powers that be" would cement the opposition, himself being the central consolidating figure. He was wrong. No such unity has come about, because for a long time he had been inconsistent in his actions, indulging in hypocrisy and double standards. While proclaiming his partys renunciation of top posts in the Duma and punishing three dissenters as a warning to others, he seemed to overlook the fact that three more Communists - Zorkaltsev, Nikitin and Sevastyanov - continued to head the Duma committees entrusted to them, keeping a low profile.

Zyuganov points out that "two tendencies can be observed inside the party - those who are ready to align themselves with Putin, and those who are ready to resist the countrys policy of police-like liberal dictatorship." Yet he himself is a perfect embodiment of both. Ever since the new government took office two years ago, all he has been doing is support and fight it at the same time. His support for the government, moreover, has been more frequent and somehow more conspicuous. It turns out that his anti-government diatribes, his red-flag waving and irreconcilable stance against the powers that be were meant solely for the fast dwindling Communist electorate to hear and see. As for realpolitik and a constructive relationship with the authorities, all of that is worse than useless. So much so that the trade unions, which had previously participated in many mass actions organized by Communists, stopped joining CPRF rallies. No serious left-wing politician would nowadays think of attending these street protes t marches.

One after another, Gennady Seleznev, Aman Tuleyev, Mikhail Lapshin and many other prominent left-wingers have distanced themselves from Zyuganov. And not just because of their high posts, which are incompatible with attacks on the government. There is another reason for the incessant infighting within the Russian Peoples Patriotic Union: As soon as any of its leaders gains political weight and assumes an independent stance on certain issues, he will unfailingly enter into conflict with the CPRF leadership.

Glazyev, however, did not quarrel with Zyuganov. Moreover, his spectacular and unexpected success last September, when he took third place in the gubernatorial elections in Krasnoyarsk, was largely thanks to the CPRF leader. The Communists were quick to take credit for Glazyevs electoral performance, claiming it was natural and logical. It would seem that they were willing to gamble on Glazyevs success for a long time to come. In fact, it was just then that party members started pointing at Glazyev as a prospective replacement for Zyuganov! Indeed, for how long can one go on exploiting peoples nostalgia for the USSR with its free medical care and other amenities afforded by socialism?

The question of whether Zyuganov will put up with his 42-year-old rival, a scholar who is not overenthusiastic about communism, is of critical importance. The Communist chief pointedly stayed away from the conference of left patriotic forces conducted by Glazyev two weeks ago, shrugging off his slogan: "From conflict of interests to social responsibility." The CPRF leader also makes a show of failing to notice that Glazyev has lately become co-chairman of the Party of the Regions, and that two months before winning that post, he had headed the Congress of Russian Communities.

But conflicting with Glazyev openly could be perilous to the CPRF leader. The partys rank and file would see this as personal rivalry. Glazyev cannot possibly be pictured as an apostate, as he has never gone against the party leader. His political growth has largely been ensured by the partys resources. Although he is not a CPRF member, he carries authority inside the party. And what really counts is that if a personal conflict does break out, it would flare up against the backdrop of an election campaign that is in fact under way, and Zyuganov may be seen as a leader incapable of uniting the opposition.

Hence Zyuganovs attempt to gain the upper hand over Glazyev by purely organizational means. Glazyev has already been offered second place on the CPRF ticket, and he has been promised that he will head a deputies group in the next Duma, or perhaps in the present one.

That maneuver, however, has not made Zyuganov more secure. Having appointed Glazyev the No. 2 man in the leftist political hierarchy, he has virtually appointed him his successor. And this gladdens the hearts of some party functionaries and many voters: They see in the young but fairly experienced and well-educated political figure a proper new leader capable at last of rejuvenating the CPRF and leading the left forces to victory in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Which goes to show that the banner of the peoples patriotic opposition, that has been in the grip of the countrys chief Communist for more than a decade, could change hands before long.

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