Is Russia on the Road to Dictatorship?
by Markus Mathyl
Editors’ note: This article explores the affiliations of self-styled Communist parties in Russia with parties of the nationalist and fascist right. These groups share a common opposition to the government and policies of Boris Yeltsin and together constitute the “national-patriotic opposition.” The article was published in the German anarchosyndicalist newspaper Direkte Aktion in September 1994, two months before the Russian war against Chechnya began. Although groupings and alliances in the current Russian parliamentary election campaigns may have different names and some different personnel from those described below, the basic ideological convergence of Communists and fascists remains unchanged—if anything, they have only drawn closer together in the past fourteen months.
Parties and Political Groupings
Agrarian Party of Russia
Confederation of Free Unions of Russia (CFUR)
Russian Communist Workers’ Party (RCWP)
Russian Federation Communist Party (RFCP)
All-Russian People’s Union (ARPU)
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR)
National Republican Party of Russia (NRPR)
National Salvation Front
National Social Movement
Russian People’s Assembly (RPA)
Russian National Unity (RNU)
Political developments in Russia are running so broadly toward the right that it is difficult to describe the process adequately and comprehensively with mere words.
So dramatic is the process that I am almost inclined to repeat something I recently said in connection with a young “nonconformist” whose political views are also shifting to the right: “I can understand better now how fascism developed in Germany.” My observation should not be misunderstood as an attempt to make a flat parallel between two historical events, but it nonetheless reflects the essential fact that the Russian national-patriotic movement, which at first glance seems diffuse, has recently become the political home for national bolshevists1 as well as fascists, whose influence is growing stronger all the time. These people consider themselves social revolutionaries, and a crazy anti-Semitism lies the core of their curiously truncated “anticapitalism,” which seeks to ally itself with the “healthy forces” among the people in order to weed out the “pests.”
“We understand the social revolution to be a synonym of the national revolution, and the national revolution to be a synonym of the social revolution,” write the signatories of the founding statement of the Revolutionary Opposition, a national-bolshevist front. National-patriotic or fascist groups like the National Radical Party, the Movement of the New Right, and the Front for National Revolutionary Action (this last group is financed by the American Garry Lauck, of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party outside Germany), on the one hand, together with Communist groups like the Russian Komsomol (the Communist youth organization, financed by the two large Communist parties, the RFCP and the RCWP) and the Movement for the Support of Cuba, on the other, have together signed the document. Garry Lauck meets Fidel Castro!
Still, if I closed my eyes, read no newspapers, and dropped my usual critical attitude—telling myself, “I’m in Russia, not in Germany, after all,” and “Everything’s very different here”—I could, as others have done, allow myself to become fascinated with the “Russian soul” and thereby miss seeing the political development in their entirety. The madness here expresses itself in a variety of ways, ranging from tolerance of this society’s militarism, imperialism, and fascism to support for it. It becomes most obvious from reading the slavering fascistoid patriotic newspapers—of which, according to the Moscow Antifascist Center, there are now 150 different ones, with a combined total print run of up to a million copies.
Even the publishers of the larger patriotic publications are moving in the direction of the fascists. I stopped by the editorial offices of the ultranationalistic newspaper Zavtra (weekly 100,000 copies) to ask them for some back issues. When I remarked that their newspaper is sometimes hard to get hold of, they asked me whether the Völkischer Beobachter [Hitler’s National Socialist party organ—trans.] is easy to get hold of in Germany.
Zavtra actually covers the whole spectrum of the national-patriotic opposition. Yet it is viewed in a rather peculiar way one Alexey Belyakov, who maintains that Zavtra “has turned out to be the most radical democratic media organ today.” The striking point is that the article where he wrote this (“Last Punks of the Empire”) was published not in a national-patriotic newspaper, where one might expect to find such a sentiment, but in the large Moscow weekly Stoliza, whose own political orientation is ostensibly radical democratic. This is just one of many examples of how Russian journalists are helping to whitewash and popularize extreme Russian nationalism.
In Moscow these days, and not only in political circles, the talk everywhere is of a possible new perevorot—the Russian name for a coup or putsch. On page one of its July 1994 issue, Zavtra ran a boldface headline: “A Month from Now Comes the Autumn of Coups and Social Tremors.” A more unequivocal battle cry could scarcely be formulated.
The various groups within the national-patriotic opposition have been moving closer together. They have brought in people like Yeltsin’s former vice president Aleksandr Rutskoi, the former chairman of the Constitutional Court V. D. Sorkin, and other formerly high-ranking politicians. The political spectrum of the national-patriotic opposition now ranges from avowed fascists, who hawk their hate-filled newspapers undisturbed in many places, to “moderate” Communists and the Agrarian Party.
I would like to present a chronological account of the most important events in the national-patriotic opposition as it emerged after Yeltsin defeated the parliamentarians in his attack on the Russian Parliament building (the “White House”) in October 1993, then describe the nationalistic tendencies outside the movement. These accounts will support my basic argument: that Russian society today is ripe for a right-wing dictatorship.
The December 1993 Elections
In October 1993 Boris Yeltsin succeeded in quashing his opposition—with the approval of Western governments—and drove the opposition leaders from the scene by imprisoning them. But two months later, the parliamentary elections showed that that opposition, which defines itself for the most part as national-patriotic, was still strong.
About half of the representatives elected to the State Duma (the lower house of Parliament) in the December 1993 elections are members of national-patriotic parties. Many more representatives with patriotic and nationalistic sympathies were able to win, too, in the direct elections back in their districts. Among them was the fascist Nikolai Lysenko, who got elected even though his National Republican Party of Russia (NRPR) had been banned from the December elections despite submitting the 100,000 signatures required to qualify. In his electoral campaign Lysenko and his party concentrated on stirring up a frenzy of hatred against Caucasian peoples. One party flyer, of which 250,000 copies were printed, demanded, “Throw these black visitors out of Russia!” The demand was accompanied by a graphic supposedly showing how much better “blacks” (Caucasians) live than “poor” Russians in Moscow do. As for Chechnyans,
Today we Russians have no more choice. Either we smash the creeping hydra of the Turkish-Caucasian fraternity, or they will crush us with satanic mercilessness—fill our cities and villages with mafia, burn our souls, strip us of our dignity, pillage and banalize our entire Russian house! For us Russians, the Third World War has long since begun. It’s only cowards and idiots who can’t see that!
Lysenko could well be satisfied that he had expanded his party’s popularity with this flyer, for a deeply hate-filled mood against Caucasians soon became evident. Police discrimination against dark-skinned people became observable everywhere every day, while scenes of violent hatred took place in Moscow, as reported in Izvestiya on August 4 under the title, “Black Hundreds with Blue Berets.” In October, 10,000 Caucasians were forcibly deported—and in Moscow alone about 40,000 Russians volunteered to help the police out with the job. It would of course be absurd if the government under whose responsibility the deportation was carried out, were to bring to trial Representative Lysenko for his racist demagoguery. (The new constitution, however, clearly prescribes that such a case must be tried.)
Armed units of Lysenko’s NRPR have also participated in battles in the Dniester Republic and in Georgia, as leaders of the party confirmed in an interview in the patriotic Russian-Palestinian weekly Al Kods (no. 12, Apr. 1994).
More “respectable” patriotic parties than the NRPR also participate in making decisions in the Duma and thereby help determine the domestic and foreign policy of what, in surface area, is the largest country in the world and still the second superpower, at least militarily. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, whose importance is highly exaggerated in the West in comparison with the other patriotic forces, was able to win nearly a quarter of the votes in the December 1994 elections with its ultranationalistic slogans. The Russian Federation Communist Party (RFCP), together with the Agrarian Party, received some 20 percent of the votes. (It is legitimate to combine their vote totals this way because the Agrarian Party is more or less a branch of the RFCP: Agrarian Party leaders are simultaneously members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.)
At this point, some of my hardcore leftist readers are no doubt feeling offended (they should be!): How dare I speak of the Communist Party in the same paragraph as the national-patriots, lumping them all together? What is this anyway, some kind of anti-Communist conspiracy?
The Russian Federation Communist Party
The Russian Federation Communist Party (RFCP): What is it really, and what does it want? We can best let party chairman Gennadi Zyuganov (who is also co-chairman of the National Salvation Front) answer this question himself:
The absence of a unified patriotic outlook—a simple and understandable one—is a terrible misfortune for our homeland today, especially for the anti-Yeltsin opposition, with all its political failures. Russia is being carefully observed and analyzed, and step by step its enemies are planning to destroy it—not for the purpose of fighting socialism but in order to remove Russia from the geopolitical arena altogether. Yet we are the last power on this planet today that is capable of mounting a challenge to the New World Order—the global cosmopolitan dictatorship. We must therefore work against our would-be destroyers, using means that are just as carefully thought out and just as goal oriented as theirs are. The unity of the nationalist forces is as necessary to this end as the air we breathe is to life.
The historical challenge that our people now face is comparable in scale only to the troubles of the eighteenth century—to the invasion of Napoleon, and that of Hitler.
How are the nationalist forces are to be unified, in Zyuganov’s view? The front page of the Russian-Palestinian weekly Al Kods (no. 7, Mar. 1994) may give us an idea. The upper left section contains pictures of three people, one after the other. On the left is Gennadi Zyuganov, over the caption “Russia’s Leader 1994.” In the center is the leader of the Stalinistic RCWP, Viktor Anpilov. Finally, the third picture is captioned, “The Truth About Barkashov.”
Barkashov’s Russian National Unity
No plan to unify the national forces can omit Russian National Unity (RNU). This fascist organization, which controls a number of armed units, was the main force in the armed defense of the Parliament building in October 1993. According to various reports, it has up to 10,000 fighters across the whole country, not to speak of half a million supporters. These figures come from an Izvestiya article titled “Is Russia Becoming a Fascist State?” (Aug. 18, 1994). The basis of this article is an anonymous letter that was sent to the editors, apparently from a member of the RNU’s own secret service. Although the authenticity of this letter cannot be confirmed and although the numbers may be too high, the letter nonetheless confirms much that was previously suspected.
By no means does the RNU limit its activities to “trifles” like street terror. Instead, it is training itself to prepare for a new power struggle. Its connections to military generals and to the highest ranks of the police are well known, and a high proportion of its own fighters are police and army members. After the bloody storming of the “White House” in October 1993, in fact, the RNU’s popularity surged sharply. A mythos presently surrounds the organization and especially its leader, one that was deliberately fostered by the two large patriotic weeklies, in articles like “The Truth About Barkashov” (Al Kods) and “Hail Russia” (Zavtra, no. 12, Mar. 1994). Meanwhile Barkashov himself, whose movement advocates exterminating Jews and gypsies as soon as possible after the seizure of power (“The Russian Order of Aleksandr Barkashov,” Moscow News, no. 15, 1994), has been elevated to the rank of respectable patriot, even as photographs show him variously in uniform giving the Hitler salute and standing with familiar politicians and military men like State Duma representative Sergey Baburin, whose own highly opportunistic, ultranationalistic All-Russian People’s Union (ARPU) was also not admitted into the December elections in spite of providing the necessary 100,000 signatures.
Another national-patriotic Duma representative is Alexey Nevzorov2 who, like Lysenko and Baburin, was elected in a race against prominent rivals in his local (St. Petersburg) district thanks to his great popularity. Nevzorov has started publishing a new newspaper called Inform 600 Seconds, and in the second issue he devoted the whole centerfold to an interview with Barkashov. Here we find some informative passages on RNU strategy:
I think an authentic political force should be ready for any situation that is amenable to a coup. It shouldn’t work with only one possibility. Those who are preparing themselves to decide the question through violence alone are dooming themselves to isolation. They’ll end up like the IRA, which never took possession of the minds of the people politically. Yet those who prepare only for peaceful change will be unable to act if the situation turns violent.
At the conclusion of the interview, Barkashov is counted as one of three possible leaders of Russia after the patriots seize power: the other two are Aman Tuleyev and the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg.
Blood and Soil
The Zyuganov interview from which I quoted before, the one with all the enlightening points on Communist Party ideology, was published not in the Communist press but in the fascist magazine Territory Tied by Blood (Rodnye Prostory, no. 4, 1993). My outraged Stalinist readers should know that this newspaper, the organ of a group called the Vedic League, regularly publishes the writings of Communist Party ideologists, and it tries to recruit members for the RFCP, since the Communists are the largest patriotic political party in the country. Those readers who are still unconvinced of a Communist-fascist alliance should take note: The editor of Territory Tied by Blood is a member not only of the Vedic League but of the Communist Party. (His, I may add, is not the only case of dual membership.)
What is the Vedic League? Its “Open Doctrine” was published in the magazine Narodnoye Delo3 (no. 2, 1992):
“Humanity” is a generic concept. The more specific types are “white people,” “yellow people,” “black people.” The last stage of human evolution gave rise to the white man, who has a more creative disposition, is energetically more active, and possesses a greater physiological immunity to illnesses—that is, he is healthier. To mix various kinds of people is contrary to nature and harmful. . . . The Communist Party of the Soviet Union turned away from the principles of class, which divide white people, and has crossed over to support the protection of the general-national interest.
A large picture of Zyuganov appears on the cover of the first issue of Territory Tied by Blood (1994), under the headline “The Vedic Idea—The Russian Idea—The Communist Idea—Is the Idea of Social Justice.” Next to his picture we read (referring to the RFCP): “The organized patriotic party with the most members in our country.” Actually the Communist Party has about 600,000 members in the whole country. The front page also bears a passage (republished from Komsomolskaya Pravda [Feb. 2, 1994]), in which Zyuganov reports on the twenty-eighth congress of the French Communist Party:
The 28th party congress was one of the largest social events for all left forces. It was the first forum in two or three years that representatives of leftist parties from the entire world attended–there were more than 110 delegations. . . . The whole leadership of these parties had been replaced in the interim–no one from the old guard remains, practically no one at all. The parties have been filled up with fresh faces, people who are able to carry out reforms and give expression to the demands of the working masses under modern conditions.
Which reforms, and which demands? “Comrade” Zyuganov gives the answer in the Territory Tied by Blood interview:
It must be understood that life today presents a clear but difficult challenge: Either we will take hold of the situation and mobilize all our resources for the struggle for our own survival, or else Russia as a self-standing state and the Russian people as a centuries-old spiritual community may well disappear from the face of the earth. . . The extraordinary situation demands extraordinary decisions. Such a thing happened back in 1941, when the Soviet leadership, after considering many ideological directions for a few months, recognized that holding to national values was essential to life. Today we must behave just as decisively.
The second major event after the October 1993 putsch attempt also resulted in a marked strengthening of the national-patriotic opposition. At the beginning of March 1994 all the opposition leaders who had been arrested because of the October events were amnestied. Among them were the former vice president, General Aleksandr Rutskoi; General Makashov of the Communist Workers’ Party, the RCWP; Viktor Anpilov, the leader of the RCWP and the group Working Russia; Ilya Konstantinov,4 chairman of the National Salvation Front; Terekhov, chairman of the League of Officers; and Barkashov, leader of the openly fascist RNU.
Writing in Al Kods, which devoted a whole page to photographs of these “heroes,” congratulating them on their liberation, Terekhov called the amnesty a victory for the patriots. An accompanying article, titled “Russian Communists on the Right Path,” sheds light on the background of the amnesty and on the role of the Communist Party in the national-patriotic movement:
The Russian Federation Communist Party is a young party. Its leadership consists of smart, talented former members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. They’re honorable people, and their honesty can be seen every day. They haven’t had it easy, least of all during the events of October 3-4. After the October events, it wasn’t easy to decide what direction to take. In the end they decided to participate in the Duma elections. A few considered this step to be a betrayal of the victims of the attack on the “White House,” while others thought the Communists were going along with the president and the government in order to get close to power. But someone finally decided that this was the only possible path: It was an opportunity that offered some hope; it might be the last chance; and many people consider Communism to mean a just society and have a good relationship with the Communists.
Now that they are in the Duma, the Communists’ activities have had an important impact. They have developed themselves into a strong force, one that Russia couldn’t do without. Gennadi Zyuganov and Viktor Ilyukhin took a very active role in freeing the prisoners from jail, after which no one could contest the legitimacy of the amnesty—not the president, not the general state prosecutor. So all the prisoners were freed.
Now the process of reconciliation is continuing, and events will show who is working on behalf of the people and who is working against them. The Communists are going to attain power and stand at its summit. Russia will once again be a socialist state, because history has shown that the Russians have been a worthy people. Under the Soviet Union, the Russian people were an authority—the strongest, the most powerful, and the greatest people of all. To give birth once again to Russia—only the Communist Party, which will spare neither force nor energy, can reestablish a powerful Russia and the great Soviet Union.
By the way, Zhirinovsky, who is much-criticized within the patriotic movement, showed up at the amnesty of the October prisoners. At one of the evenings organized by Zavtra in honor of the amnestied leaders, he called for unity of the patriotic forces.
Agreement for the Sake of Russia
Only two weeks after the amnesty, the united patriotic opposition was advancing a new project, called Agreement for the Sake of Russia. It gained the support of many high-ranking personalities in Russian society. Izvestiya, which accurately characterized this coalition as a second National Salvation Front, dedicated its front page to the event, with the headline, “A Bolshevik Agreement Threatens Russia” (Mar. 19, 1994).
First let’s look at a few passages from the Agreement’s declaration, which was published in the newspaper of the popular democratic movement of Dagestan, For the Homeland, For Stalin (no. 7, 1994), under the title “Stalin Unites the Patriots, Saves Russia!”:
In our common Russian house, it is poverty and want that rule. We hear this talked about in families and on the streets, in the dying factories and in the cold schools, from the opposition and the government, from religious and political officials, from the federal assembly and the president. All have only one feeling in their hearts: People cannot live this way. We have to put a stop to it.
We have only one path to salvation: to come to our senses and reach out to each other in forgiveness for all our past mutual recriminations and indiscretions. In this meeting there will be no victors and no vanquished. Each new quarrel that arises between us only increases the danger that Russia will perish. Instead of ill-considered words and actions, we propose that we respect the law and lay the foundation for the homeland.
A social contract among all patriotic forces and movements, ideologies, and religions, one that rejects violence, racism, and nationalism and that considers public service to the homeland as the highest value—this is what can bring the catastrophe to an end. Our only freedom is the freedom that leads to the revivification of the fatherland and that strengthens its independence, which will guarantee security and faith in the future.
Despite our different views, despite all our different lifestyles and ways of thinking, each of which represents part of our diverse ideology and politics, we nonetheless announce the foundation of the Agreement for the Sake of Russia movement, in which all Russian patriots will be united as they have never been before in the hour of Russia’s misery, and for which we will pool our resources, our abilities, and our political experience.
We ask everyone who cherishes the destiny of Russia to support our initiative. The Agreement for the Sake of Russia is open to all citizens of our long-suffering country, whoever is in a position to help their fatherland during its severe ordeal in the years to come.
We make no distinction between liberals and Communists, entrepreneurs and workers, independent and collective farmers; we make no distinction between republicans and supporters of the presidential power. We are uniting to carry out urgent tasks:
- to avert the imminent final collapse of Russia and the destruction of all the cultural, economic, and political ties—constructed over centuries—among its peoples, who have equal rights;
- to reestablish the force and power of the Russian state, which guarantees its citizens security and the preconditions for economic prosperity and for the development of their personalities;
- to preserve our great country’s national expertise and its scientific-technical and defense potential;
- to end reforms that are made merely in the name of reform, to end the destruction of our national production, to defend the national market and national capital, and to guarantee conditions for Russia’s breakthrough to a postindustrial future;
- to erect a barrier against the unbridled criminality, the plunder of the wealth that several generations of our people created, and to protect state and private property through laws;
- to put a prompt end to unemployment and hunger, and to give each citizen a dignified way and standard of life;
- to restore to the people of our country a feeling of community, of belonging to a sovereign state, of pride in it, and a belief in justice, conscience, and the good.
We have on our side the creative experience and heroism of the Russian citizens, the patriots of their homeland; we have on our side the thousand-year experience of the Russian state. After a national agreement and consolidation of society, we will strive to mobilize all citizens—patriots—to reestablish Russia that has not only been ruined but has lost its way. (March 1994)
This declaration should be closely examined and reread several times. What is immediately striking about it is its conciliatory tone. It is no Lysenko or Barkashov who is writing here, but the representatives of the national bourgeoisie, whose interests are in economic production and who are themselves adopting patriotism now more frequently than ever.
Two of the signers of the declaration are Aleksandr Prokhanov and the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg. But if they are really calling for “a social contract among all patriotic forces and movements, ideologies, and religions, one that rejects violence, racism, and nationalism,” then they are doing so only out of Goebbels-style demagoguery. Prokhanov, with his copious “red-brown” effusions, is actually the central integrating figure among the Russian national-patriots; he publishes profiles of the fascist Barkashov in the pages of his newspaper, Zavtra, that call him an “honest Russian patriot”—articles like “Hail Russia.” He builds bridges between avowed fascists, nationalistically oriented entrepreneurs, Stalinists, the counterculture (which is moving ever more to the right), high-ranking military brass, national-patriotic artists and intellectuals, and the theoretical center of the national-patriots—the Arktogeya society, the group around the new right theoretical journal Elementy. As for the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg, he is an open anti-Semite and leader of the ultranationalistic parts of the Russian Orthodox Church. Named in the Barkashov interview, as we have seen, as one of the three possible leaders after the patriots take power, his writings are regularly featured in newspapers like Zavtra and Al Kods, in articles with titles like “Judaistic Extremism: A Threat to the World.”
“To defend the national market and national capital”—this indeed requires making “no distinction between entrepreneurs and workers,” to be sure. As for “reestablishing the force and power of the Russian state,” one may well ask, Within what borders will that power be reestablished? “Comrade” Zyuganov, chairman of “the largest organized patriotic party” and would-be redeemer of Russia, once again sheds some light:
First you have to be clear about what we mean by the concept of “Great Russia.” I understand by these words the Russian state, which definitely includes the territories where Russians or Russian-speaking people live. It would be a state based on the unbreakable fraternal bonds among great Russians, small Russians, and White Russians and, in fact, all tribes and peoples who voluntarily wish to adhere to such a union. I don’t think its borders would be much different from those of the Soviet Union.
Even “Comrade” Zyuganov should know that the Russian state was never precisely defined, let alone through such “voluntarism.” In fact, Russian and Soviet history consisted in great part of the subjection and colonialization of the Caucasian and Asian peoples, among others—a history of which many Russians are today unaware.
And how are we to understand the formulation “its peoples, who have equal rights,” when alongside this very declaration appears a big picture of Stalin, the Soviet leader who caused the deportation of entire peoples, a great many of whom died?
Much of the declaration reveals a nationalistic-corporatistic ideology—there is to be “no distinction between entrepreneurs and workers,” but the “national market and national capital” should be “defended.” Its political coloration limited to red and brown, Zyuganov enlarges upon its national socialistic components:
Q: As leader of the Communist party of Russia, your job is to analyze today’s events from a class standpoint. But you are emphasizing the nationalistic content of your political outlook. Is there a contradiction here?
A: No. Above all, I am a citizen of my fatherland, one small part of my people. As such, I am deeply convinced that the only forces in Russia that have a viable perspective are those that give first priority to the task of reviving the many-centuries-old values of the Russian state and Russian collectivism—that is, a social situation and self-consciousness in which the Russian people as a whole overcome the splits that have been forced on them, from both outside and inside, and reclaim themselves as a unitary family. (Territory Tied by Blood, no. 4, 1994)
Judging from the declaration, the Agreement for the Sake of Russia movement represents the “softer” style, a “peaceful” power takeover by those who stand to profit from the reestablishment of a deeply isolated Soviet Union, with forced collectivization and production oriented toward the military. Before we look at the other style of which Barkashov spoke (“I think an authentic political force should be ready for any situation that is amenable to a coup. . . . Those who prepare only for peaceful change will be unable to act if the situation turns violent”), let’s look at the the names and affiliations of those who signed the declaration of the Agreement for the Sake of Russia:
Sergey N. Baburin: chairman of the Russian Liberation Union (ROS) movement; a representative to the State Duma; connected to the New Right; with his ultranationalist All-Russian People’s Union, he collected more than 100,000 signatures but nonetheless was barred from the December 1993 elections.
Valentin Chikin: editor-in-chief of the Communist Party newspaper Sovietskaya Rossiya; a representative to the State Duma; a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party
S. I. Glasiev: a former minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin; the only minister who came out against Yeltsin’s dissolution of Parliament; a representative to the State Duma
Stanislav Govorukhin: a film director who in 1989-90 joined the right wing of the democratic movement. He has directed two openly nationalistic films, One May Not Live So and The Russia We Lost. He has worked actively with the national-patriotic opposition since October 1993.
Mikhail Lapshin: chairman of the Agrarian Party and at the same time a member of the Central Committee of the RFCP; a representative to the State Duma
V. S. Lipitski: former close adviser to Rutskoi and his party, Free Russia
Aleksandr Prokhanov: editor-in-chief of Zavtra; closely allied with the United Opposition; one of the central figures of the national-patriots
Peter Romanov: director of a large Siberian industry; a member of the Russian People’s Assembly; deputy to the Federation Council (the upper house of Parliament)
Aleksandr Rutskoi: former vice president of Russia, who named himself president in October 1993, after Yeltsin ordered the dissolution of Parliament
G. N. Selesnev: editor of Pravda
A. M. Shilev: a nationalistic right-wing artist; a monarchist and extreme conservative
V. D. Sorkin: former chairman of the Constitutional Court of Russia, who in October 1993 declared the attack on Parliament to be illegal. Because of this, Yeltsin removed him from office, and he more or less went over to the United Opposition
Aman Tuleyev: a presidential candidate in the 1991 elections
A. S. Zipko: one of the leading party ideologists during the perestroika period, 1985-1991. He wrote many articles, especially against Marx; today he criticizes the government of Yeltsin and works with the United Opposition.
Gennadi Zyuganov: chairman of the Central Committee of the RFCP; co-chairman of the National Salvation Front; a member of the Russian People’s Assembly; a representative in the State Duma and leader of the second-largest political group there.
The Metropolitan of St. Petersburg: an avowed nationalist; the highest clergyman of the Russian Orthodox Church and the de facto leader of the nationally oriented Russian priests; a xenophobe and anti-Semite; works actively with the United Opposition
The National Social Movement
In March 1994 a second drumbeat began to pound. Only a week after the Agreement for the Sake of Russia was founded, Barkashov’s RNU merged with the independent unions’ Confederation of Free Unions of Russia (CFUR) to form a National Social Movement:
The RNU and the CFUR maintain that the antistate policies of the ruling regime, which are directed against the people, have brought about a critical situation in Russia today. At any moment, the destruction of Russia may reach a point where the potential of our economy falls below the level that is absolutely necessary even for industrialization. The reforms proposed and implemented by the IMF are the main factor in the disorganization of the Russian economy, and hence in the growth of national, social, and religious-denominational tensions.
As the federal power weakens, and as the economic realm and the state system of government slowly collapse, whole regions—especially those rich in petroleum, natural gas, precious metals, coal, and other strategic commodities that bring high profits—have fallen into the hands of antinational forces.
In terms of numbers, the workers are the strongest social group in Russia. It is on their labor that the well-being of the whole nation is based. The workers are the most unified, organized, and active sector of the Russian people. At present, only they can bring an end to the economic chaos that prevails in our country, once they have taken the organization and defense of production into their own hands. The economic crisis can be ended only when the nation has understood itself to be unitary, recognizing that the notion of an irreconcilable class struggle between employers and wage labor is a cruel Marxist-Zionist invention.
The interests of employers and workers should not collide in class struggle. On the contrary, the two groups should further the development of production together, on the basis of general national interests.
The social movement embodies the living fraternity of man, and for that reason it will also become the basis of spiritual life as decreed by God. . . . Hail Russia! (Zavtra, no. 12, Mar. 1994)
The founding of this National Social Movement came as something of a surprise to those few people in Russia who are paying attention to the growing fascism of Russian society. In retrospect, however, it appears to have been a logical step. For one thing, the coalition allowed the militantly fascist RNU to considerably broaden its social base—the CFUR has by its own accounts some 80,000 members. Not only that, it also stands to ease “Comrade” Zyuganov’s worries about the “absence of a unified patriotic outlook.” For what the National Social Movement presented in its founding declaration is an ideology of national-corporative socialism, freed of “destructive,” “Jewish”—presumably, foreign, “non-Russian”—”ideas of class struggle.”
In such a society, the “parasitical strata that are profiting from democracy during the collapse of the state” (as the head of the CFUR, Alexiev, puts it) would no longer exist. Instead, “good Russian” capitalists would produce for the welfare of the nation. The workers would not wage class struggle against those capitalists but would cooperate with them, or so says Alexiev. In fact, the CFUR chief went so far as to say: “It is a social duty of each person to work for the use of the nation. Usefulness to the nation is the only criterion to determine the national utility of individuals as well as various social groups.” But what happens if I don’t want to work for the nation?
At first glance, one might think Alexiev’s statement was published in a fascist paper like Territory Tied by Blood, but one would be making a mistake. Actually, it was published without further comment in Russian Labor Review, a newspaper that considers itself left-labor.
Here is how the CFUR-RNU merger works in practical terms. The city of Cherepovets is a CFUR stronghold, and workers organized in the union there were able to win many of their demands through strikes. While on strike, these workers have been and continue to be confronted by factory security units that have no qualms about shooting at unarmed workers. In such a situation, the workers have grown ever more ready to let themselves be defended by armed RNU units. Meanwhile, the RNU has been founding its own workers’ groups, not only in Cherepovets (Express Kronika, no. 23, Jun. 10, 1994) but in factories in the large Moscow industries. According to RNU ideology, these RNU troops could be used to intervene not only on behalf of strikers but also against them—namely, when a strike endangers the “well-being of the nation.” Hopefully the workers will become aware of this possibility before they feel the barrel of a rifle on their necks.
Parallel developments took place in the Ukrainian Donbass, where struggling miners had organized violent strikes in 1989, 1991, and 1993. In the 1993 strike they came out clearly against nationalism when they booed the representative of a moderate nationalistic organization when he came to speak. But the very next year, the ultranationalistic UNSO (whose motto is “Traitors to the Stakes!”) was able to create armed fighting units among these miners (members of the Anarchist Federation of the Donbass have confirmed this), since many of the miners, whom the Ukrainian government has treated in the dirtiest ways, are now threatened with layoff and social annihilation.
Declaration of the Revolutionary Opposition [June 1994]
In the political situation that has followed upon the December 1993 elections, several processes are clearly identifiable:
1. Neither the tragedy of October 3-4 nor the Duma elections advanced the health of this country. The nine-year-old capitalist-bourgeois revolution that is masked under the names “perestroika” and “reform” has been transformed into a tragedy of self-destruction. The agony of Russia continues.
2. Those in power are experiencing an observable crisis, and so is their opposition. Two equally incompetent forces are fighting for power, and they are corrupting themselves at a galloping pace at all levels of society. The representatives of the nomenklatura class and the provincial leaders are equally incompetent, whether they are in power or in the opposition. The dividing line between reformers and opposition is fast disappearing, yet the patriotism of the opposition is grounded not in an ideology but on emotions and feelings.
3. In our view, it is inevitable that the opposition will come to power, whether it be Rutskoi, Zhirinovsky, or a coalition government. This shift will do nothing to alter the tragedy of the country, however, for such a government will once again carry out a coup from above. Yet Russia can be revived from its deathbed only by the enthusiasm of the masses.
On the basis of these symptoms, we, the representatives of the radical political forces of Russia, have drawn up a diagnosis and are suggesting ways to fight the illness. It will be a hard and severe course, but it alone can be effective.
The opposition of 1991-1993, which was merely emotional and only happened to be patriotic, has run its course. They made two attempts to seize power from above through conspiracies of leaders [in the putsches of August 1991 and October 1993–M.M.]. But these attempts came to nothing because they were inappropriate. The period of their vague and superficial patriotism, grounded in banal solutions, is over. The time has come to open a new ideological as well as class-based opposition: a massive popular national revolutionary movement. There are only two basic ideas that can arouse the authentic, unfalsified enthusiasm of the masses: the great nation and social justice.
No national and socially just society is being constructed today in situations where national and social minorities are flourishing at the expense of the exploited national majority (Russians) and social majority (workers). In contrast to pseudodemocracy (which is non-Russian) and the current vanishing patriotism (in which a patriot means only an opponent of Yeltsin and thus embraces any alternative power, even the unprincipled pragmatist Zhirinovsky), we propose the idea of a Russian revolution, one that is at the same time social and national.
The destructive anti-Russian capitalist revolution and all its consequences can be overcome only by a countervailing Russian revolution. We demand neither restoration nor conservatism but revolution!
The Russian revolution must solve the following important tasks:
1. Russia, instead of being a reservation that is exploited and colonialized by West and East alike, should become a proud national state.
2. The new Russia should be a land of social justice, where it is workers and producers who are in a privileged situation, not merchants, thieves, and speculators.
3. The new popular elite should arise from the soil freshly plowed by the revolution, replacing the old rotten, traitorous intelligentsia and nomenklatura, who have destroyed our country.
To carry out the great deeds of this Russian revolution, a new kind of people will be needed. Its social basis will be hard, uncompromising people of direct action. Some of the defenders of Parliament in October can serve as a model, the ones who preferred attack to defense. But today we can also find people oriented toward direct action in the radical political wings and in those who are committed to fighting for national and social justice among the youth movement, rock fans, anarchists, national revolutionaries, social revolutionaries, and other opponents of the entire system.
We are announcing the entrance onto the political stage of newly decisive forces in the Russian national revolutionary movement. The radical Communists and the radical nationalists have a common enemy: cosmopolitan world capitalism, which has a stranglehold on Russia’s throat. If no one tries to disturb us, we will carry out this Russian revolution from below: in every city and in every village, on a peaceful path through the social mobilization of all the masses. If attempts are made to stop us, conflict will be unavoidable, but we will win. Our victory is written into the historical logic of our great people’s Being and their holy traditions. We have therefore not the slightest doubt. The will of the nation toward its own greatness and freedom is stronger than its enemies–and stronger than all the dollars in the world.
We call upon all strong people to revoke their trust in the pseudodemocracy. Enough of the pink-hued parliamentary pseudocommunism, which is champing at the bit to leap into petty-bourgeois social democracy. Enough of supporting the centralistic-political blocs of the nomenklatura, ministers, and directors who merely play with patriotism. The authentic Russians are committed to leaving the LDPR, that dishonest undertaking of the former Zionist Zhirinovsky/Eidelstein.
We call on you, young men and women, students and soldiers, workers and farmers, and youth, to prepare yourselves for the Russian revolution in the localites, in the cities and villages. Form revolutionary committees, cells, spontaneous unions, amalgamations.
Be radical and uncompromising–demand the impossible! Yes, it is a matter of fulfilling the Great Russian dream, the old, still-living longing of our chosen people. We will a create a general national-revolutionary electoral list, and we call on you give us your vote. When the hour strikes, be ready.
Hail the national Russian revolution!
The Revolutionary Opposition
The next important event took place at the beginning of June 1994, when the New Right journal Elementy sponsored an event where the popular Siberian punk rock band Grashdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense) performed; the fascistic RNU helped organize it. At this event the formation of the Revolutionary Opposition, a general national revolutionary or national-bolshevist movement, was announced. (See “Declaration of the Revolutionary Opposition,” p. 9; this text was published in Zavtra, no. 25 [June 1994], along with a picture of Nestor Makhno.)5
The names of the signatories are quite interesting. Eduard Limonov is a well-known Russian underground author, who in 1974 was expelled from the Soviet Union and in 1989 returned as a Russian nationalist. He fought on the side of the Serbs in Yugoslavia and strongly advanced their position through his journalism. Another signer is Igor Letov, a singer in Grashdanskaya Oborona, which before the 1990s sang anarchistic, anti-Soviet-state, and antimilitarist songs; in the mid-1980s Letov was imprisoned in a mental hospital for these songs. Still another signer is Aleksandr Dugin, the leading ideologist of the national-patriots and editor-in-chief of Elementy, to whose editorial board Alain de Benoist and other leaders of the European New Right also belong.
Another interesting point about this event is an article by Aleksandr Dugin published on the same page in Zavtra as the declaration. In this article, called “Anpilov, Our Red Brother,” Dugin paid tribute to Viktor Anpilov, the leader of the Communist Workers’ Party, with the obvious intention of winning him over to the new national-bolshevist front. [Anpilov is considered a “far left” Communist, in contrast to Zyuganov.—trans.] That the national bolsheviks are making overtures to Anpilov and his Stalinistic organization at all speaks volumes about how they see themselves.
Actually, unofficial conversations between Anpilov and the rest of the national-bolshevist movement seem to have been taking place for some time. I say this because I have in my possession a copy of a statement ordering the creation of a national-bolshevist front as long ago as 1993. The document (which was signed not by individuals but by organizations) was signed not only by the National Radical Party, the Movement of the New Right, and the Front for National Revolutionary Action (supported by Garry Lauck) but also by the Russian Komsomol (the former youth organization of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which is now financed by Anpilov and Zyuganov), and the Movement to Support Cuba.
How has Anpilov responded to this courtship? The lead article that subsequently appeared in the Communist Workers’ Party newspaper Molniya (no. 1, July 1994), titled “We Will Save Russia,” tells us how:
Throughout Russia a wave of strikes is rising, demanding that the president be removed and that the organizers of the enormous experiments in colonialization that have been perpetrated on the Russian people be brought to accountability. In the wake of the October 1993 atrocity against the people and the Constitution, social resistance has intensified, and the opposition leaders are demanding unity and still more unity. No one of us, in isolation, can prevail even by legal means over our foe, who has a monopoly on television, radio, and the largest newspapers.
After years of unequal struggle against this antipopular regime, a group of fighters has come forth from the midst of the people, selflessly ready to serve the national interests of Russia . . . Let us join together on the path to victory. We ask the voters, the social and political organizations, to respond to our call, to suggest candidates for a common electoral list, and to prepare for the votes in the largest Russian cities in September. We believe in the wisdom and power of the working people. Together we will win!
In the light of a social situation approaching bankruptcy, it seems cynical to say, let’s wait and see what happens. The absence of an antifascist movement in Russia itself leaves me with no recourse but to write about developments in the national-patriotic movement. ¤
Markus Mathyl lives in Hamburg, Germany, where he works with the Hamburg Libertarian Center. He has often traveled to Russia and writes extensively on contemporary Russian radicalism for the anarchist press in Europe.
Translated by Janet Biehl. Originally published in Direkte Aktion, September 1994. For more information: Direkte Aktion, Bismarckstrasse 41a, 47443 Moers, Germany.
1 National bolshevism is a political tendency dating from Weimar Germany that tried to intermingle nationalism, specifically the image of Germany as an oppressed nation as a result of the Versailles treaty, with Bolshevik social goals—trans.
2 “Of all the new-style Russian nationalistis Nevzorov is undoubtedly the best-known, the most popular, and at the same time the most despised. His St. Petersburg television show, 600 Seconds, is watched by seventy million viewers. It was initially a local chronicle, mainly of crime, in which Nevzorov figured as a courageous, unpolitical, anti-establishment figure, voicing the concerns of the man in the street, attacking the Communist bureaucrats and the “Mafia.” . . . However, within a year the program became highly politicized—favoring a strong, united Russia, defending the interests of Russians outside Russsia. Nevzorov dropped his erstwhile monarchism and rabid anticommunism and moved closer to a National Bolshevik stance.” Walter Laqueur, Black Hundred: The Rise of the Extreme Right in Russia (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), p. 269.
3 Organ of the Popular Socialist Party—trans.
4 “Ilya Konstantinov, a native of Leningrad . . . made his debut in the Russian Christian movement and was instrumental in drawing some of the striking workers in the Siberian coal mines to the cause of the right.” Walter Laqueur, Black Hundred, p. 268.
5 The declaration later led to the founding of the National Bolshevik Party at the end of 1994, which is chaired by Eduard Limonov. It also formed the core of a Communist-fascist youth movement, which is very active and is now considered the strongest explicitly political tendency among Russian youth. -M.M.