Giovanni Cadioli wonders if the focus on Russia’s more liberal opposition currents is not misguided in light of reports which suggest that the Communists would be the main beneficiaries of free and fair elections.
Of all Marx’s voluminous work, the first sentence of The Communist Manifesto has become the most well-known. “A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism”. This ghost does not seem to be haunting western Europe anymore, but the former Soviet Union is a different case.
After the 1991 putsch and the attempted insurrection in 1993 were crushed, communists in the former USSR realised that re-communisation could be achieved only through democratic means. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), the most organised and electorally successful successor of the CPSU, has been very active in this sense. In the early 1990s it formed a “red-brown coalition” with ultra-nationalist forces and dominated the Duma until the early 2000s, coming very close to winning the 1996 Presidential election and in the December 2011 legislative elections receiving 19% of the votes.
But what if the communists had won in 1996?
The official OSCE report for the 1996 election is quite at odds with following years, which increasingly focus on mounting violations and electoral frauds. However, if you were to ask Michael Meadowcroft, head of that same 1996 OSCE mission, he would tell you about pressures on him and his team to whitewash the report and about how his opinions were ignored. An academic analysis of the available data can be found here.
Dmitri Medvedev – former President, current Prime Minister and surely no communist – has reportedly admitted that Gennadiy Zyuganov did win the 1996 elections. If he had been allowed to take up the role, much would have been different. Indeed, the “red-browns” had attempted to invalidate the decree that dissolved the Soviet Union in 1991 just a few weeks before the 1996 election, aiming t re-Sovietise Russia and persuade the former Socialist Republics to join a new Union voluntarily.
Of course, 1996 is gone and so is Yeltsin’s Russia. Now we are in the new millennium and the Russia we look at a different country in many respects. Yet, a report written by Stepan Sulakshin, of the Moscow-based Governance and Problem Analysis Center, seems to prove that the 2011 legislative elections witnessed widespread electoral frauds and that the KPRF did indeed take a plurality of the votes, scoring approximately 25-30%, against United Russia’s 20-25% – while official figures put the KPRF at 19% and United Russia at 49%. Many theories have been put forward to explain why precisely the Governance and Problem Analysis Center, chaired by the silovik Vladimir Yakunin, issued such a report.
What this report surely proves is that the Western press’ almost exclusive focus on the so-called “Liberal opposition” – albeit victims of the Russian electoral campaign’s distortions and legal manipulations in their own right – is seriously misleading. Indeed, the Liberal opposition’s electoral results prove that it never represented any sort of alternative to the ruling Putinist elite and instead, we are faced with the fact that the KPRF has been by far Russia’s most important opposition party.
The relationship between the KPRF and the Kremlin has been variously interpreted and often the communists are seen as part of that “systemic opposition” that the Kremlin tolerates. Often however, this Kremlin-systemic opposition informal alliance has been defined as a conventio ad excludendum, meant to contain the dangerous Liberal opposition.
If one assumes the truthfulness of these reports and therefore the fact that the KPRF has been the force that electoral frauds in Russia seem to have mostly contained so far, a question arises: how many of those who denounce Russian electoral frauds would be ready to see these frauds cease in exchange for a Communist President or a Communist-dominated Duma?