From Republic.ru, May 18, 2023, https://republic.ru/posts/108285. Condensed text:
Some time ago, a manifesto, fascinating in its simpleminded stupidity, which (who could have imagined?) brought to an end the historic Civil War in Russia, was signed in the State Duma. Yes, yes! The very same war that ended more than 100 years ago without it. Signatures on the manifesto were added by little-known citizens who represent, at least nominally, absolutely incompatible trends of public thought – from monarchists to Communists, Socialists and even Makhnovist anarchists.1 Notably, it was signed on behalf of the last by Vladlen Tatarsky, an ultraright [Russian Christian] Orthodox imperialist and Russian chauvinist who recently joined his Maker [see Vol. 75, No. 14, pp. 3‑7].
Of course, one could speculate a little on what batka [Ukrainian for “papa”] Makhno, an internationalist and vigorous opponent of any state, would have done to such a “follower” of his. Or, for instance, what Marx and Lenin would have done to the present-day “Communists,” loyal supporters of dear Russian imperialism, but in this case I would like to focus on something else.
To wit: If monarchists, Communists and anarchists unite (and this manifesto is evidence of political unification), this speaks to the fact that some of them are clearly not what they say they are. Either monarchists have shifted to the left (we can reject this theory out of hand, since they are usually true only to themselves: With them, everything is simple. They are for the Father-Tsar!), or the leftists have shifted to the right and on this ideological basis have joined hands with monarchists and national patriots. Something tells me that this is exactly the case. And it clearly did not happen today.
I remember how amazed I was by the presence of strange individuals at Communist demonstrations in the early 1990s carrying religious banners with an image of Jesus Christ, imperial flags, and posters showing an equal sign between a swastika and the Star of David. Later, I learned that some young Communists and Komsomol [Young Communist League] members participated in Russian Marches [nationalist rallies known as Russky Marsh – Trans.]. The apogee of this apparently strange symbiosis of Communists and national patriots was of course 2014, when the majority of Russia’s Communist and Socialist parties and associations moved under the banners of Putin’s great-power chauvinism together with outright Nazis from the Russian National Unity [party].
However, this sounds oxymoronic only at first glance.
The process of leftists shifting to the right has been going on for about 100 years. We can see evidence of Third Reich officials complimenting the late 1930s Stalinist USSR on Soviet propaganda’s turn from internationalism to traditions of imperial history and Russian great-power nationalism, as we read diplomatic correspondence between the Soviet People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs and Nazi Germany’s Foreign Ministry in 1939-1941.
In particular, in a secret memorandum of the Third Reich’s Foreign Ministry dated July 27, 1939: “Communism in Germany has been eradicated. The Comintern has already been replaced with the Politburo (of the VKP(b) [the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks)]), which is currently following an entirely different policy from the policy that was pursued when the Comintern was calling the shots. The merging of Bolshevism and Russia’s national history, which manifests itself in the glorification of the great Russian people and their feats (celebrations of the anniversaries of the Battle of Poltava, the Battle on the Ice and Aleksandr Nevsky), has changed the international character of Bolshevism as we see it, especially since Stalin postponed a world revolution indefinitely. In this situation, right now we are seeing opportunities that we have not seen before” (see the book “Subject to Disclosure: USSR-Germany. 1939-1941: Documents and Materials” [Oglasheniyu podlezhit: SSSR-Germania. 1939-1941: Dokumenty i materialy], Moskovsky rabochy, 1991). . . .
Granted, the visible manifestations of Russian great-power chauvinism in the Soviet Union’s cultural and education policy that the Nazi German leadership noted with satisfaction in the late 1930s became manifestations of the processes that had been latently unfolding in the Soviet system since the early 1920s.
For example, in 1922, Vladimir Lenin, in his article “On the Question of Nationalities or Autonomization,” wrote on the newly minted USSR: “ ‘The freedom to secede from the union’ by which we justify ourselves (in creating the Soviet Union – Ed.) will be a mere scrap of paper, unable to defend the non-Russians from the onslaught of that truly Russian man, the Great-Russian chauvinist, in substance a rascal and a tyrant, such as the typical Russian bureaucrat is. There is no doubt that the infinitesimal percentage of Soviet and sovietized workers will drown in that tide of chauvinistic Great-Russian riffraff like a fly in milk.”
This criticism by Lenin of manifestations of Russian great-power chauvinism in the Bolshevik Party leadership was primarily directed against the architect of the Soviet nationalities policy, Stalin, who, as we know, subsequently became the leader of the VKP(b) and the country. However, amid Stalin’s single-party personalist dictatorship that had evolved by the 1930s, criticism of [Stalin] in any area, especially nationalities policy, was already precluded.
Thus, the evolution of Soviet Communism toward national socialism clearly did not happen today. What’s more, such ideological evolution of parties is nothing new. Back in the 19th century, [Friedrich] Engels wrote: “Parties change, names remain.”
Granted, the evolution of Soviet ideology from international communism to Russian great-power chauvinism can be explained not only by the ideological struggle within the ruling Bolshevik Party and ultimately the victory of Russian nationalists within it. The course toward building socialism “in one country,” proclaimed by Lenin himself (true, in the hope for a revolution in Europe and assistance to Russia from more developed countries), was bound to eventually result in national isolation and a corresponding adjustment of ideological guidelines in the direction of Russian nationalism.
So it is not a matter of name, let alone the symbology of political parties and movements, but their specific political position. You can wave red flags, sit under a portrait of Lenin, and at the same time be a Russian imperialist and nationalist.
If the present-day Russian “leftists” support the policies of the president, who expresses and protects the interests of big capital, then clearly they are not leftists but rightists.
Suffice it to recall, for example, how fervently Putin defended his friend, oligarch Arkady Rotenberg, on whose son he bestowed, off the tsar’s shoulder,2 an opportunity to milk Russian long-haul truckers for all they’re worth [see Vol. 67, No. 49, p. 14]. Or how he made Rotenberg’s company, without any tenders, the main contractor commissioned to build the Crimean Bridge and the Sila Sibiri [Siberian Might] gas pipeline. According to oil and gas industry analyst Mikhail Krutikhin, the latter will never recoup its costs. At the same time, both projects were financed mainly from the state budget – in other words, with hundreds of billions of public funds that Putin simply poured into the pockets of a crony oligarch.
Here is another example that shows whose interests Putin actually expresses. When world oil prices crashed in 2015 and the ruble lost half its value, which resulted in a 50% jump in consumer prices and the corresponding impoverishment of the greater portion of the Russian population, Putin abandoned foreign currency interventions on the domestic market, which could have improved the situation. His priority was [to protect] Russian oil company owners close to him, who benefited from the crash of the national currency, since they earned profits in euros and dollars but paid taxes in rubles. After the 2015 devaluation, they had twice as many rubles.
In this case, Putin’s class-oriented position manifested itself especially clearly, but certainly not for the “leftist” heirs of Stalin’s national socialism.
The absolute majority of Russian “leftists” today supports the criminal war against Ukraine that Putin unleashed solely to perpetuate his rule, and therefore to perpetuate the system where he and a bunch of oligarchs and high-ranking officials close to him will always be at the top. Meanwhile, the vast majority of people serving their interests, who are prone to degradation and physical demise, are doomed to drag out a miserable existence.
When all is said and done, this is the choice of those “leftists” themselves, but in reality this means that they are not “communists,” “socialists” or “anarchists, but “socialists in words, social chauvinists in deeds,” to use Lenin’s terminology.
In the late 1990s, in the Akuly politpera [Sharks of the Political Quill] show on the TV‑6 channel, I suggested that Russian Federation Communist Party (RFCP) leader Gennady Zyuganov bring his party’s ideology in line with its name. Specifically, to rename it from Communist to National Socialist. Gennady Andreyevich [Zyuganov] took absolutely no offense at that proposal, nor did he raise any serious objections. He smiled warmly and said: “Well, you see, everyone is already used to this name (RFCP).”
In other words, this is the only reason why the party’s signboard remains the same.
We understand. “Parties change, names remain.” Be that as it may, as a result of long, drawn-out political and ideological evolution, most of Russia’s organizations today are essentially ultraright. In this respect, support for them from an equally ultraright president is quite logical. As for their names and symbols, they can be anything.
1[Reference to Nestor Makhno, a Ukrainian anarchist guerrilla leader with a large peasant following during the Russian Civil War (1918-1921). – Trans.]
2[Reference to Russian tsars’ tradition of bestowing gifts on devoted supporters of the empire. In Russia, service was rewarded in a variety of ways, from golden coins to the proverbial fur coat bestowed from the Tsar’s shoulder. – Trans.]