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Russian Communist Party Congress

By Mike Davidow, People's Weekly World, 28 January 1995

The Third Congress of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) met in the historic Hall of Columns in Moscow Jan. 21 and 22. The 800 delegates and guests from 45 countries (including the U.S.) will discuss and adopt the Party program in a new situation where political, economic and national crises are all coming to a head.

The extent to which this was reflected in the deliberations and plans will determine the degree to which the largest political party in Russia will be able to play a leading role in saving Russia from collapse. Organizationally and politically, the CPRF is better equipped to meet the crisis than at its second Congress in 1993. Its 550,000 members are organized in 20,000 primary units in all 89 regions and republics. The Communists led in recent local parliamentary elections and, with their allies, they now lead many regions and some republics.

The Chechen crisis has pushed the question of early (1995) presidential and parliamentary elections to the forefront. The Party was thrust into the broad campaign for signatures demanding such elections. It gathered 3,106,000 (only a million is required to put the issue to a referendum).

This is no longer a demand only supported by Communists and patriotic forces. Support crosses all political lines.

The CPRF played a leading role in smashing the Yeltsin effort to undermine the traditional celebrations of the October Revolution. By the latest count, more than 10 million marched and demonstrated on Nov. 7 in hundreds of cities and towns throughout Russia and former Soviet republics.

On Oct. 27, 8.4 million people, led by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, marched against Yeltsin's shock therapy which has ruined Russia's economy. Over 40 percent of the demonstrations raised political demands, including resignation of the government. In the Chechen crisis, the CPRF, together with other CPs and Left forces, participated in mass demonstrations in Moscow protesting against Yeltsin's bloody military adventure.

The Communist fraction has been in the forefront of economic as well as political struggles, particularly against the IMF- dictated Chernomyrdin budget. It puts out a weekly bulletin together with the Agrarian Party and other opposition blocs.

But the CPRF recognizes serious weaknesses. It has not yet succeeded in overcoming the rupture between the Communists and the mass of workers. The Party is very weak in its influence and membership among the youth.

It is taking steps to overcome this weakness by its support of the Russian Komsomols and setting up a youth section in the Party. Its ideological work is particularly hampered by the absence of a central Party newspaper. The most serious weakness which holds back qualitative growth in both the influence and membership of the Communist movement is the failure to unite the five CPs into a single party.

All CPs in essence agree on basic principles: All are for socialism. All base themselves on Marxism-Leninism. All are for reestablishment of the Soviets and USSR. Differences exist on how to move toward socialism in the new historic situation when the former leading socialist state has descended to capitalism.

The CPRF is seriously handicapped by Yeltsin's robbery of its funds and assets. Despite the decision of Russia's Constitutional Court two years ago, providing for return of a large part of the Party's assets, very little has been done.

The Party's improved political status is reflected in the place where its Congress took place. For two years it was denied any centrally located hall, let alone one as prestigious as the Hall of Columns, while the "democrats" have the run of the place. This is a victory of far more than a meeting place.

The gathering of representatives from CPs of the world was the first such assembly in Russia since the collapse of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It provided a long-awaited opportunity for the exchange of views and can mark a step toward establishing greater international unity.

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