Zyuganov’s address to the CPRF Congress

First published: July 97

In his political report for the Central Committee to the congress of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation on 19 April, party chair Gennady Zyuganov correctly pointed out that Russia remains ‘the main stumbling block in the path of the creators of the new world order’ – the United States and its allies. That is why the class struggle in Russia today is the most momentous in its historical consequences since the Second World War. As when Hitler came to power in Germany, no person in the world is going to be able to escape from the consequences of the outcome of the class struggle in Russia.

For that reason, Socialist Action believes that socialists everywhere in the world must do everything in their power to aid those who are fighting against capitalism in Russia. That requires breaking through the wall of disinformation in Western Europe regarding the left in Russia. The fundamental fact in this regard is that out of the dissolution of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, whose bureaucracy discredited socialism and led the USSR to the point of collapse, has emerged a centrist left Communist movement, axised around the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, which is leading the fight against capitalism in Russia today. A vigorous debate between the anti-capitalist communist left, social democratic right and patriotic/nationalist centre is taking place within that movement.

Zyuganov’s report, extracts of which we publish below, accurately conveys both the strengths and weaknesses of the present leadership of that movement. These are encapsulated in his formula ‘irreconcilable, but responsible, opposition’. This has involved the contradictory combination of, on the one hand, voting for the Yeltsin regime’s budget and, on the other hand, simultaneous advocacy and leadership of huge extra-parliamentary mobilisations up to and including the creation of soviet-type structures and the call for a national political general strike.

I. Key Questions of Party Strategy

Russia’s Communists are greatly in debt to the people. We failed to help them to defend their home against ruin, their family against humiliation. The priority task – to eliminate the anti-people regime and change the ruinous socio-economic course – has not yet been resolved.

The Main Question of Our Strategy

The CPRF, while remaining a class party, a party of the working people – workers, peasants, and intelligentsia – has consciously defined its main aim at the present stage: to unite and rally sound social and political forces to resolve the whole people’s tasks, the common democratic tasks of national and state salvation.

We are the heirs to that part of the CPSU that never counterposed the class principle to the principle of the whole people. This is our fundamental stance, enshrined in the party Programme. It is in line with this stance that we have in recent times defined our tactics and built our relationships with both allies and opponents…

With the most active participation of the CPRF, the People’s Patriotic Union of Russia was created, uniting more than 30 organisations on a federation-wide scale. This is a lot, but even more must be done. Even today many citizens of Russia are capable of uniting around the idea of national salvation. Our task is to turn that potential into real action and strive to eliminate the obstacles that exist on this path… It goes without saying that all the forces belonging to the people’s patriotic bloc preserve their political and ideological autonomy…

Is it possible today to be a true patriot and at the same time a supporter of rampant capitalism in Russia? Is it possible to be a true democrat and not be in opposition to such a regime?

We believe it is not possible…

The contemporary patriotic idea is a profoundly socialist idea. And we must convey that thought to everyone.

Let us ponder once again what the attempt to restore capitalism in Russia has already led to and where it will lead in the future…

The attempt at restoration has led to the destruction of production, basically the de-industrialisation of the country, the loss of more than half the economic potential, and the profound qualitative degeneration of the entire production structure… A distinctly colonial type of economy is developing.

The attempt at restoration has led to an unprecedented split in society… Society has been divided into a handful of rich and the vast mass of the destitute. The miner and the peasant, the teacher and the doctor, the scientist and the officer are humiliated…

The attempt at restoration has resulted in monstrous genocide of the people…The average life expectancy has fallen from 70 years to 64. And, for men, to 58 – that is to say, few survive to pension age. There are almost no villages left in Russia where there are more newborn children than funerals. Overall, the number of deaths is 60 per cent higher than the number of births.

The attempt at restoration has brought forth an unprecedented crime wave in all spheres of life, has given rise to the total criminalisation of the economy, administration, daily life…

The attempt at restoration has destroyed the union state and the national unity of the Russian people and led to unprecedented Russophobia. It has done serious damage to Russia’s economic and political integrity. Many regions, particularly in the far east and the far north, are cut off from the country and their very survival is teetering on the brink. The confederalisation of the state has begun, and, with the effective secession of Chechnya, the break-up of Russia.

The overall result is obvious – the undermining of the country’s political, economic, and spiritual independence and its national-state security. In short, capitalism, not for the first time, has revealed its incompatibility with the peculiarities of the life of our people and state.

The attempt at its restoration is resulting in practice in the progressive colonisation of Russia. Or rather, it is a qualitatively new form of waging war against our country.

The dirty money, lies, and provocations with which the fifth column arms itself have proved no less devastating to Russia than the incursions of Batu, Napoleon, and Hitler put together. In essence, the Third Patriotic [War] is already raging in the wide territories of our country…

We will never become part of the ‘golden billion’, those who live by exploiting other peoples, by plundering others’ riches. Any form of capitalism – whether early, mature, or dying – is organically contra-indicated for us. Because our conscience will not allow us to grow fat by exploiting the weak…

Encircled by New Threats

However weak and drained Russia may be today, even after the destruction of the Soviet Union it remains the main stumbling block in the path of the creators of the ‘new world order’.

That is why yet another ‘cordon sanitaire’ is being erected around Russia. In the south they are trying to cut us off from our historical allies in the Balkans. In Central Europe, the question of NATO expansion has been decided. In the northwest, the Baltic region is being drawn into this cordon. That is the main external threat today.

The internal threat is the regime’s irresponsible and incompetent policy, which is leading to a spontaneous social explosion. This is not only a threat to the ruling regime, as it may seem at first glance. In view of the destitution of the population, the vastness of our territory, and the presence of nuclear powder kegs, this will be the ‘ninth wave’ which threatens the total destruction of society’s main vital structures, already weakened as they are. The total ‘Balkanisation’ of Russia and the sending of NATO ‘peacekeepers’ into its territory – that is the most probable outcome of such an explosion…

The latest plans of the so-called ‘young reformers’, headed by Chubais and Nemtsov, who have taken over the government are aimed specifically at exacerbating social tension.

Housing and municipal ‘reform’ will confront millions of families with the prospect of being left without a roof over their heads. Those who built the houses are deliberately being turned into vagrants.

Pension ‘reform’ will heap a new burden on the already strained family budgets of the working people.

The dismemberment of the natural monopolies will finally deprive the state of the opportunity to control such strategically important nationwide structures as transport, communications, electricity, and gas supplies.

The so-called ‘reorganisation of loss-making enterprises’, which became loss-makers through the fault of the ‘reformers’, will dump millions of new unemployed on the streets.

The free buying and selling of land will auction off the last asset of the whole people, turn the peasant into a hired hand in their native fields, and generate a mass of conflicts in the countryside.

The ‘new stage of reforms’ means, therefore, nothing less than an offensive against the vestiges of the working people’s socioeconomic rights – a cynical social provocation by the authorities…

The only way to change the situation is a change of course in state policy. The restoration of the people’s power and the rebirth of the ruined state. That is the basis for a true national consensus. And it can be done by embarking on the path of social justice, the path of socialism.

II. The Party in Responsible Opposition

Our party in its present form is only a few years old. But it already has an eventful history. And this can be divided into periods. The period of temporary retreat had ended by the time of the previous, third, congress. The period now under review can be called a period of building up strength and achieving a certain equilibrium between the opposition and the authorities. Now we are on the threshold of a new period and we believe it will be marked by a switch to the offensive.

Our Tactics Today

The period between congresses was, for the CPRF, one continuous election campaign… The number of voters supporting the party is steadily growing. In December 1995 2.5 times more voters voted for our party list than in December 1993. In the second round of the presidential elections twice as many votes were collected than voted for the CPRF in 1995.

The peoples’ constantly increasing support, which brought us, together with our allies, more than 45 per cent of the seats in the State Duma, the majority in a whole string of representative organs in the regions, and more than 30 governorships – such is our political potential today.

But this significantly increased potential is itself the seat of a serious contradiction which requires creative resolution. The question is, since we have strong parliamentary positions at federal level and real power in a number of regions, do we also have a responsibility for what is happening in the country?

According to the classical canons, it seems we do not. But that is not right, because the situation in Russia is far from typical. Furthermore, the country does not have the time to calmly await the next ‘rotation’ of power.

In recent years, through a desperate struggle, we have succeeded in winning a small morsel of power. At the same time we will never be reconciled to the present course. A situation has arisen which can no longer be appropriately described by terms like ‘systemic’, ‘constructive’, or ‘parliamentary’ opposition. This is a new phenomenon, and we call it responsible and intransigent opposition.

The tactics of this opposition are above all the tactics of squeezing the entire present mercenary clique out of Russia’s pores. It is the tactic of rigorous exposure of the ruling regime’s policy. It is the tactic of awakening and organising the masses and controlling the growing protests. It is the tactic of acquiring administrative experience, without which there can be no question of coming to power.

Take, for instance, our attitude to the budget for this year. It would have been possible not to adopt it at all, since it is not going to be fulfilled by the government anyway. But the question is, is it permissible to abandon the country’s last resources to final plundering? Have we a right to leave the activities of the executive free from all control?

The Communists and their allies in the State Duma set the government eleven well-known conditions for approving the federal budget and secured a change in the budget concept in the direction of protecting social production and meeting the working people’s needs…

In voting for the budget and setting certain conditions, the opposition reserved the right and the opportunity to demand from the government an account of its fulfilment of its commitments. And the time for such an account has now come.

Up until today, a great many other questions have had to be resolved in a similar way.

But the temporary compromises we have accepted do not take away from the fact that the party is not only a responsible, but also an intransigent opposition. I emphasise yet again, we will never be reconciled to the authorities’ general course and we will proceed on this basis in all our work both within parliament and outside its walls.

The Times Are Changing
And Tactics Too

Demands on the leadership to operate more boldly, resolutely, and energetically are increasing within the party. The Central Committee agrees with this approach; both the objective and the subjective prerequisites for this are coming to fruition.

In the past two months the situation in Russia has changed so significantly that there is every reason to speak of a new tactical stage in our activity. What is this associated with?

The president’s message [to the Federal Assembly], which was heard in March, and in its wake the reshaping of the government, left no room for illusions as to the possibility of achieving anything like a coalition in the government…

The newly formed government has already begun and will pursue – and there can be no doubt of this – a policy that is murderous for Russia. This is stage two of shock therapy, except that there is almost nobody and nothing left to cut. It only remains to destroy that ‘almost’, and with it Russia itself.

The logic of the actions of a patriotic opposition leaves no room for choice in the situation that has developed. Consent to what is happening or non-resistance to it would mean betrayal of our own voters, our own history, Russia as a whole.

It is the responsible nature of our opposition that forces us to be intransigent here.

However, that does not mean that it is necessary to act simplistically and hastily. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of taking unconsidered steps.

The fact is that a vote of no confidence in the government which we would fight for – taken in itself, in isolation from the struggle for the removal of the present regime – would most likely result not in the government’s resignation but in yet another even worse ‘mutation’ of the government, and the dissolution of the Duma.

That is not a tragedy in itself. Early elections could even be useful, but on one condition. Namely, the new Duma must not end up in the same constitutional impasse that we now face. When the representative and legislative organ is virtually powerless to exert real influence on the formation of the government and the shaping of socio-economic strategy. How is this to be avoided?

It is necessary to strive with all our might to secure the adoption of amendments to the constitution. Because the present constitution drives any Duma, no matter what majority the opposition may have in it, into a vicious circle of ‘war’ with a given cabinet. Postponing matters until the next presidential election and the victory of an opposition candidate would take too long. It is necessary to fight resolutely for a change in the constitution…

The strategy of constitutional changes must be that the government would be formed by the Federal Assembly and would be accountable to it…

The People Take the Floor

Obviously the struggle to change the constitution, by virtue of the complexity of the procedure, cannot be easy. In assessing the prospects for its success it is necessary to proceed on the basis that no parliamentary votes can solve the problem by themselves – they will run up against a brick wall of presidential vetoes, legal chicanery, and procrastination.

The process can only be accelerated by a mass people’s movement from below. And therefore, in the struggle to change the constitution, we must bring in and unite all possible sociopolitical forces on the basis of a single criterion – patriotism and the defence of national interests.

Not only political parties and movements, but also trade unions and youth, women’s, and veterans’ organisations should become our comrades in this nationwide cause. It is the logic of this joint struggle that should lead us to the formation of a patriotic government coalition.

Obviously the party’s first task is the organisation of the growing protests and the fusion of the masses’ economic struggle with the political struggle.

The 27 March Russia-wide protest action has already shown that the masses’ demands go considerably further than the purely economic slogans to which the FNPR [Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia] leadership wanted to confine them. Resolutions of a political nature were adopted everywhere, primarily calling for the resignation of the president and government.

There will soon be actions connected with the 1 and 9 May celebrations. The party calls on working people to attend rallies and demonstrations under the slogans: ‘Yeltsin – resign!’, ‘No confidence in the government!’, ‘We demand an immediate change of course!’, ‘We are with you, fraternal Belarus!’, ‘Hands off the State Duma!’, ‘National television for Russia!’

It is necessary to go into the thick of the struggle, making the forms of the struggle increasingly organised and conscious. The CPRF Central Committee deems it necessary immediately to begin a mass collection of signatures to demand the president’s resignation and a change to the constitution. This must be done at any picket, rally, hunger strike, or strike, at any protest action. The wider and more organised this movement, the more easily and organically it will develop into a Russia-wide strike, which we call on working people to engage in if the powers that be remain deaf to the people’s demands…

It is necessary to step up the propaganda of our concrete proposals for the country’s recovery from crisis. Not so that the government of radical liberals takes them up – it would be ridiculous to expect that – but with the aim of demonstrating to all the people that there is a real alternative…

The main question of today is whether ‘market forces’, or in reality a few banking groups, will determine the movement of our economy, exploiting state resources for their own selfish interests, or whether, on the contrary, the state will determine the spheres and areas of use of market competition in the interests of society.

We advocate the latter. The strategic heights of the economy and the main financial flows should be brought back under state control. Property in the course of whose privatisation criminal actions were committed should be returned by way of a corresponding legal mechanism.

Without state control society will not be able to ensure the necessary transparency of economic activity and confront the crime wave that has swept over it.

We attach particular significance to strengthening centralised state management and reducing tariffs in such key systems as the fuel and energy complex, railroad transport, and communications, which form the backbone of Russia’s single economic and political area and are the guarantors of its preservation.

At the same time, on the basis of past experience, we rule out bureaucratic overcentralisation. We advocate giving the economic system a flexibility based on the interaction of various systems, with ownership by the whole people taking priority.

The management of the economy should take place primarily on the basis of the interests of the internal market and domestic production. It is proposed to devote particular attention to those areas of production and the social sphere where the country’s future is shaped: machine building, hi-tech spheres, education, and science.

In order to implement this programme it is necessary to mobilise significant internal resources. Such resources exist. Let us enumerate their main sources:

• restoring production. In the first stage – in sectors with rapid circulation of capital. The sale of their output will provide resources for capital investments in the modernisation and development of hi-tech production sectors. The tax base will be widened;
• stopping the leakage of capital abroad and creating economic conditions that favour its return;
• attracting the population’s savings by means of strengthening savers’ confidence in the state savings system. Confidence will increase thanks to measures to compensate for savers’ losses as a result of price liberalisation;
• returning strategically important income-generating enterprises to state ownership;
• squeezing the dollar out of the economy and replacing it with the ruble. At present Russia is losing on the order of 10 trillion rubles of income per year through the dollarisation of the economy;
• striking resolutely at criminal structures and corruption, which will relieve the Russian producer of a double and triple squeeze;
• stepping up taxation of non-productive property while at the same time alleviating the tax burden on commodity producers;
• restoring the state monopoly of foreign trade in strategically important categories of goods;
• fully restoring the state alcohol and tobacco monopoly.

The revival of production will be the basis of a strong social policy aimed primarily at preserving jobs and eliminating wage and pension arrears.

In the agriculture sphere the party proceeds on the basis of the impermissibility of the free buying, selling, and mortgaging of agricultural land, coupled with the preservation of mixed forms of land ownership and use…

Toward Russia’s Unity

A strong single union state cannot be revived without a strong and unified Russian Federation. The Russian Federation cannot be strong outside of a new Union.

How should the problems be resolved? Our general answer has long been known. Only nonviolently, only on a voluntary basis, only on the basis of the real common interests of all the peoples inhabiting the great Eurasian area. That is why we have supported and will support any steps to establish union relations with Belarus…

the people’s patriotic forces have gained control of the executive power in a whole string of regions… The new governors will need the masses’ help in the battle against bureaucracy. The specific forms are well known and have been tried out in practice in a number of places, not without success. They include committees of social salvation, councils of labour collectives, and public monitoring.

The process of Russia’s internal consolidation will become irreversible only provided that it is reliably protected against outside interference. This is not easy to ensure since all the Soviet Union’s international positions were surrendered practically without a fight and the country’s political independence and defence capability have declined sharply…

The aims of NATO expansion are obvious: to reinforce the positions of their supporters in Moscow with tank guns in Eastern Europe. And in the event of the advent of people’s power, to encircle Russia with a ‘cordon sanitaire’. Not to allow its traditional influence on the course of world affairs to be restored.

The patriotic forces’ strategy must be constructed in the light of this… in order to secure its foreign policy interests Russia needs a powerful economic and defence potential.

But the destructive processes have impacted most severely on the state of the Armed Forces. Evidently our rulers have completely forgotten that a state which refuses to feed its own army will end up feeding somebody else’s.

We have always demanded and will continue to demand of the government that the army gets everything necessary to ensure the reliable defence of the country. But here we must tell servicemen the unpalatable truth. No financial and material injections will count for anything unless the army re-acquires its moral backbone.

People in uniform have a duty to seriously ponder the lessons of the two state coups of 1991 and 1993. At that time the army passively watched the destruction of the state, to which they had sworn loyalty and service.

Is this not the root of the present authorities’ contemptuous attitude to the Armed Forces’ needs? The root of the endless ‘set-ups’ like the criminal Chechen adventure?…

III. The Party in the Struggle for the Masses

We are opposed here by a gigantic machine for stupefying minds and zombifying souls. The radio and electronic media have been transformed into a factor of filth, violence, and depravity…

Preparations are underway for a new wave of anti-patriotic hysteria designed to peak in the fall and called upon to distract attention from the looming disaster. They want to again portray our party as some kind of monster intent on destroying democracy and freedom of speech…

We must respond in a fitting way to the new campaign of lies and slander…

I wish to stress again and again: the CPRF is calling the people not back to socialism but forward to socialism. Reverting to a previous model would mean dooming ourselves to repeating the past…

The current catastrophic processes in no way just fell from the sky but are largely the continuation of the worst tendencies of the not so distant past.

The trend toward the domination of production by heavy industry and the bias toward a raw material type of economy started not five to ten years ago but at least in the seventies…

If there is no advantage in honest labour today, the roots of the loss of incentives for productive labour should be sought in the alienation of working people from the means of production and the imperfection of the forms for every citizen to exercise their right to common ownership.

When we are astounded at the passivity and equanimity with which the people reacted to predatory privatisation we have to remember that ‘big-scale privatisation’ was psychologically and morally primed by ‘small-scale privatisation’ – that is, the overt pilfering which flourished in our country for many years.

When we are outraged by the current decline in morals and the ideological impoverishment of society we should acknowledge that this calamity did not start yesterday either. The formalism of ‘ideological education work’ and disparity between word and deed sowed the seeds of scepticism and mistrust, which have now produced their poisonous blooms.

Finally, when we link all our troubles with the activity of the ‘party of power’, we must not disregard the fact that this party consists to a considerable extent of former nomenklatura members and is a direct successor to it. Are the rottenness of the party-state apparatus and its corruption and merging with the criminal world an exclusively present-day phenomenon?

It was precisely that bureaucratised section of the CPSU that spawned the treachery and spawned Gorbachev and Yeltsin, who are the real custodians and augmenters of the dirty legacy. It is precisely this still-flourishing ‘party of power’ that is seeking to deviously offload its sins onto genuine communists.

So we resolutely reject that kind of legacy and bear responsibility for it only to the extent that we representatives of the other, patriotic wing of the party did not manage to purge the party of crooks and parvenus in time.

The Kind of Legacy to Which We Remain Loyal

We are taking a different legacy with us into the future: the ideal of social justice, the ideal of state patriotism, the ideal of Soviet people’s power, which alone can ensure the realisation of human rights in the full sense…

We are also carrying with us the legacy of the soviets. Soviets as an organ of statehood are the product of the people’s creativity, were created by the people, and matched perfectly age-old national notions about the organisation of power.

What advantages do soviets have over a parliament and municipalities? First, soviets are closer in name to people’s representation than parliaments. To the accompaniment of talk about the need for members of parliament to be professional, parliament is turning into a corporation of lawyers, economists, and journalists.

Second, soviets create a more effective barrier to the penetration of organs of power by demagogues and adventurists. This barrier is provided by the actual principle of election. A labour collective nominates its own representative to a soviet. So people know the candidates well.

Third, the soviet principle makes it possible to organise real control of the activity of the people’s elected representative.

Fourth, soviets eliminate the fatal separation of legislative and executive powers. They protect society against a struggle among the branches of power. They shape unity of action among power structures…

On Allies

We will allow a strategic alliance based on a common ideological foundation only with those political forces which are struggling for ultimate objectives shared with the CPRF – that is, for Russia’s rebirth on a the basis of socialism. Such an alliance could include all communist movements, the Agrarian Party, and the Agro-Industrial Union… Close cooperation with the communist parties of the CIS countries – a guarantee of the revival of a union of fraternal peoples – is particularly important.

A strong tactical alliance capable of developing in the long term into a strategic alliance is also possible with left-socialist and left-patriotic organisations.

It is also important to strive for tactical agreements with certain social democratic organisations or individual representatives of such organisations.

Right-wing bourgeois parties will not become allies of the CPRF in any circumstances. But some of them could play the role of associates [poputchiki] in solving national security problems, establishing democratic institutions, boosting the economy and culture, and so forth…

[With regard to] Zhirinovsky, Yavlinsky, Lebed, and their ilk… Our task is to persistently disclose the profoundly anti-people essence concealed behind the surface gloss.

IV. Our Prospects


Enormous gratitude is due to the thousands of ordinary party activists who, despite their leaders’ treachery, the mass defections by careerists and turncoats, the prohibition and terror, did everything possible and impossible at a difficult time to restore and strengthen the party ranks…

It is proposed that a number of amendments be made to the party Programme… It is proposed that the very first paragraph, which talks about a return to capitalism, be supplemented with the words: ‘This is the path of political reaction and social regression, the path of national disaster leading to the demise of Russian civilisation’.

The second paragraph notes that Russia is being turned into a target for the next redivision of the world. Later on in the preamble there is a fundamental addition concerning the need to merge the socio-class and national liberation movement into a single mass resistance movement…

We are confident – Russia will be great and socialist!

(translated from Sovetskaya Rossiya, 22 April, 1997)