Centre for Research on Globalisation
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Balance of social and political forces in Russia

The December Parliamentary Elections in Russia

by Vyacheslav Tetekin

www.globalresearch.ca   8 January 2004

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/TET401A.html

Results. The presidential "United Russia" (UR) party got 37% on the party lists (of which 225 out of 450 seats were contested), the Communist Party (CPRF) – 12.7%, Zhirinovski’s LDPR party – 11.6%, Mr.Glazyev’s "Rodina" (Motherland) election block – 9,02%. The results in the single mandate constituencies (where other 225 seats were contested) were even more in favour of the ruling party.

All in all the UR got 300 (out of 450) seats, CPRF – 52, LDPR and "Rodina" – 36 each, "independents" - 23. The proWestern Union of the Rightist forces and the "Apple" failed to pass the 5% barrier and are not represented in the parliament.

General assessment. The CPRF suffered a defeat. At the 1999 parliamentary elections we got 24% (15 million votes) as compared with 12% (7 million votes) in 2003. Part of the blame is on the CPRF itself. Being the largest party in Russia with the biggest parliamentary fraction in 1996 – 2003 it become complacent. We did not use our parliamentary strength to promote our aims. Shear inefficiency also played its role. Many voters supported "Rodina" as a display of dissatisfaction with the CPRF inefficiency.

But it is not a defeat for the Left ideas in Russia. Part of the Left constituency was "highjacked" by LDPR and "Rodina" that have widely and aggressively used CPRF’s slogans. The combined vote for the blocks that used Left-Patriotic slogans (CPRF – "Rodina" – LDPR) is about 32%. The Center-Right with its 37% has not increased its support as compared with 1999 elections. Moreover that the ruling party had to widely use social justice ideas also "borrowed" from the CPRF. It paradoxically means that the defeat of the CPRF has been accompanied by the expansion of support for its ideas.

It was not a catastrophe. It was a bucket of cold water that will help to put us to our senses.

To understand what happened lets look at objective and subjective factors of the Russian politics.

The balance of social and political forces.

The system change in Russia after 1991 led to major transformation of the society. The destruction of the large industry and collective farming resulted in marginalisation of the working class and peasantry. The declassed and petty bourgeois layers of the society grew considerably. The balance of social forces can approximately be assessed as 2-3% superrich, 12-13% of those who either improved or retained their level of life after 1991 and 75-80% of "losers".

The social structure of the society is still fluid. Class interests and class consciousness are in the process of formation. The civil society is very weak Trade unions subordinated themselves to the owners and the government. No viable system of community, women’s, youth and student organizations exists. Disoriented people become easy pray for media manipulations. All this makes CPRF mobilisation effort more difficult.

The ruling group expresses the interests of and relies on three main social layers: the State bureaucracy, the big business and the criminal\semi-criminal middle business (there is not much difference between the last two). Originally Yeltsin used the State machinery to enforce privatization. Then the quickly emerged oligarchic group nearly succeeded to privatize the state.

With Pres. Putin's access to power in 2000 the bureaucracy fought back. The rapid wealth creation was a result of State sponsored fraud. But now the State is closing its eyes on its role and emphasizes the criminal aspect. The arrest of top tycoon Mr. Khodarkovski was a signal of bureaucracy's readiness to use violence in the struggle for power.

The State widely uses Patriotic rhetoric and social demagogy to get public support. But it serves the interests of the bureaucracy as a social group while trying to convince the oligarchs that it will protect their interests as well. The "United Russia" is not a party in the usual sense of the word. It is a "political" structure designed to help the State to run the country.

The "UR" project is modeled after the CPSU that was one of the main pillars of the USSR. But the CPSU was a worker-friendly party, while the UR is clearly a worker-hostile project. It will not work.

The media is another tool to get the support of the marginalized sections. It seems that the media is nowadays a more effective tool to run the country than a party.

Having dealt with the power struggle in its ranks the ruling group proceeded to handle opposition in the Parliament. The Right originally lacked public support because of the criminal nature of privatization and as catastrophic results of "reforms" they promoted became obvious. The Right has collapsed after it was deprived of their usual access to mass media and after their big business sponsors lost power struggle to the bureaucracy.

The main obstacle to bureaucratic/oligarchic rule in Russia is the CRRF. At the elections the CPRF faced not the ruling party but the State itself that made maximum use of coercion, intimidation, bribing and manipulation. The elections were neither free nor fair. The international monitors registered this fact quite explicitly.

Main weapons used against the CPRF

1.Media terror, in fact - special psychological warfare. The emphasis was not that "Communism is bad" (as was the main propaganda line in 1991– 1996) but that ‘Communists leaders are bad" (corrupt, inefficient, etc). The aim was to discredit the leaders of the Left personally.

The CPRF leader G.Zyuganov was accused of owning a woodcutting plant in Jordan (why Jordan with no wood?) and three hotels in Cuba (there are no private hotels in Cuba). Up to 50 covert operations were part of smear campaign. For instance, faked demonstrations of "disenchanted Party members" (unaware pensioners were bussed to such "demonstrations); alleged "links with oligarchs" including notorious Mr.Berezovski. The ridiculous part of it is that Berezovski created the "Unity" fraction – the "United Russia's" predecessor. But the massive propaganda created an image of CRPF leadership selling out to class enemy.

2.Administrative pressure. Local officials were made responsible for "positive election results". They in turn used coercion (threat of dismissal in conditions of unemployment) to ensure the vote for the UR especially in rural area where the residents depend on local authorities far more than in urban centers. Top managers were charged to ensure that their workforce voted "correctly". The governors of major regions were forced into the UR election list. It ensured that their machineries were effectively used to guarantee the victory of the UR. 56 top officials of the Governor – Minister rank were included into the UR party list. Non of them moved to the Parliament after the elections. It was a fraud.

3. Harassment of the activists and of sponsors using law enforcement agencies. Anybody suspected of donating to the CPRF immediately became subject of investigation damaging to the business.

4. Vote rigging. The UR average result being about 31-33%, in some regions, including Chechnya, the UR received unexplainable 40, 50, 60, and even 70% while the CPRF got there 1-3%. In one region 91% "voted" for the ruling party. There are innumerable registered cases of vote rigging. But the local courts refuse of handle the cases or adopt the delaying tactic

5. The most damaging tactic was creation of false alternatives to the CPRF. About ten of them were created (including Pensioners’ Party and Agrarian party) that got about 7% of the protest vote. Mr.Glazyev’s "ultra-nationalist" "Rodina" was created just two months before the elections. It claimed to be an “opposition block”. But its origin as "a Kremlin project" is obvious as Mr.Rogozin - № 2 person in this block - is a foreign policy adviser to Pres.Putin.

Zhirinovski with his false "ultra-nationalist" rhetoric is another "Kremlin project" specializing on faked Patriotism. This absolutely corrupt person is an outright puppet of the ruling group. But he is extremely efficient in pretending to "defend the people".

"Rodina" with no apparent sources of finance had an election fund of 92 million rubles (3 million USD) Zhirinovski ’s election fund was as big while the CPRF fund was the 10th with only 48 million rubles (1,5 million USD). An unofficial estimate is that "Rodina" had up to 20 million USD for its campaign. Was the Kremlin involved in the funding of this "opposition"?

Both Mr.Zhirinovski and Mr.Glazyev had practically unlimited access to the TV thought they used Left-Patriotic slogans and ideas in more radical form than the CPRF. Obviously there was a political decision to give them as much TV coverage as possible. It both cases the coverage was invariably positive, while the CPRF TV coverage was absolutely negative.

6. Undermining Party unity and to privatize it through…the concept of the United Front. A wealthy businessman was infiltrated into the Front leadership on the commitment to finance Party activities. Instead he started to bribe the Party machinery…

Immediate prospects

It will take a bit of time for the dust to settle down. But the CPRF remains optimistic. Major reassessment of the Party strategy and tactics is underway. As was mentioned earlier a bucket of cold water is useful for Party’s health. The mass support is there. We managed to mobilize nearly 200 thousand activists to serve as local election commissions’ members and as monitors at the polling stations. A unique alternative counting system was created to prove that nearly 60 thousand out of 94 thousand protocols contained various mistakes. This enabled us to challenge the elections results.

The March, 14 presidential elections will be a mockery of democracy. It is clear that Putin will be given 60-65%. Hence major political groups both Right and Left are reluctant to participate. The ruling group will faces a problem of ensuring 50% attendance. More than that it will have to fulfill its lavish promises to the electorate. With the state coffers empty and most profitable businesses in the hands of Western-controlled oligarchs even to maintain stability will not be easy. Wasn't the election victory a Phirric one?

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