The revival of Russian communism


via John Rummel, December 8, 2011


It is fifty years since Yuri Gagarin took mankind to the heavens, and twenty since the collapse of the Soviet Union. These events played a decisive role in the fate of humanity.

So the revival of the fortunes of the Russian communists in the recent parliamentary election should be seen as an event of global significance. A horrified Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State, bemoans the continued strength of 'hardline communists', whose support is based on popular discontent with the consequences of the dissolution of the USSR.

The economic decline began in 1991 and it took ten years before the Russian economy returned to the same level of production. During this time the masses were impoverished, and the wealth produced by the blood and sweat of the Russian workers was swindled out of their hands by such means as voucher-based mass privatisation, which was followed by a wider transfer of state owned assets to private hands. This resulted in a tiny handful of oligarchs gaining personal ownership of the nation's natural resources and monopolies. The business class engaged in massive capital flight, laundering their money through Western markets.

The end of collectivism and the rise of capitalism acted like an epidemic stalking the nation, former communist countries underwent the world's worst peacetime mortality crisis in the past 50 years, resulting in millions of additional male deaths in the 1990s. To this day, life expectancy in Russia is below that of 1961, when Gagarin flew to space in the era of hope, collectivism and dignity.

In 1961, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union worked out plans to overtake the USA by 1980, laying the basis for a 6-hour working day, free housing, transport, energy and a society of abundance. The dreams of the early 1960s were not realised, due to the over-nationalisation of the economy, combined with corresponding bureaucratic structures of economic coordination, which generated lethargy and passivity instead of dynamism and innovation. Prices were unresponsive to market impulses, and the poor quality and quantity of consumer goods reinforced a tendency towards general social listlessness. When capitalism took power in the 1990s, the social benefits of the universal planning system in health, education, housing, and scientific development were systematically eradicated; the resistance against this destruction was minimal.

The government under President Yeltsin did all it could to assist the plunder of national resources, claiming that shock therapy was required to rapidly install a new ruling class, for fear that gradual change would provoke a Communist comeback. In the presidential elections of 1996, the oligarchic entourage mobilised their finance and resources to ensure that Yeltsin scraped to victory against the Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov. Widespread fraud was used assist this electoral victory, but Western leaders expressed no concerns about this and declared the vote to be 'free and fair'.

An economic collapse in 1998, connected with the Asian financial crisis, saw the Russian currency devalued and savings collapse. Yeltsin stepped down in 1999, handing the Presidency to Vladimir Putin, who presided over an era of booming state revenues. He reordered relations between political power and the oligarchs, demanding that the billionaires refrain from direct political opposition. Bolstered by a rise in energy prices, Russian GDP returned to 1991 levels in 2001 and then nearly doubled in size, before the world economic crisis hit in 2008. Economic growth brought real improvements in living standards, a reduction in unemployment and a halving of the number of those living in poverty.

The growth has nevertheless been grossly uneven, and the fruits of this growth unequally distributed. 22 oligarchs own $216 billion, while 80 percent of the workforce earns less than $250 per month. The provision of facilities in healthcare, education, transport and scientific research are a pale shadow of those in late Soviet times.

In the late 1980s, it appeared that the Soviet system simply did not work and that the high level of investment in social provision was economically unsustainable. Twenty years later, China has proven that a Communist Party in power can continuously develop the economy, modernise infrastructure and improve real living standards. The Russian masses and the leadership of the Russian Communist Party are well aware of this.

Even though the election on December 4th was rigged, the doubling of votes for the Communist Party to 20 percent indicates that an outright electoral victory is now a foreseeable prospect. The key to such a victory will lie in the Party's capacity to galvanise societal discontent and anchor itself in the everyday struggles of the masses.

To this end, the Communist Party should think big. Its task is not to continually laud the Soviet past or any of its leaders, but to draw up concrete plans for the reorganization of society by democratic and socialist means. In factories threatened with privatisation and cities needing regeneration, alternative developmental plans should be elaborated. Such plans can be worked out in detail by Communists, trade unionists and other democratically elected representatives of the masses, in cities, towns and regions throughout Russia. In this process, Chinese state enterprises and local and national government bodies should be contacted to help provide the skills and resources to elaborate a comprehensive Sino-Russian plan of collaboration, development and progress. Then the Communists can present these plans to the electorate as the foundation of a socialist economic strategy.

The program of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the speeches and writings of its leader Gennady Zyuganov, call for the nationalisation of the banks and all strategic industries, and for the restoration of universal and world quality, free education, health care and scientific research. The declining authority of Russian capitalism's political representatives provides Russian Communists with the opportunity to ride on the wave of discontent, cracking the image of invincibility that Vladimir Putin and his entourage try to cultivate. If the Communists are seen to be more democratic, closer to the masses, and capable of emulating Chinese rates of economic growth, their support will rise and a modern and successful Soviet Russia can be born.

The author is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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  • Comrade Khoo's piece shows that communism is still a relevant force in the 21st century.

    In my view, part of the machinery of modern capitalism can be adapted for a revitalized Soviet state.

    Think of Walmart and its ilk, able to track consumer demand, correctly gauge economies of scale, and source its products on a global scale.

    Now, replace the word Walmart with the phrase Soviet Union. The Internet, technological advances in tracking supply and demand, and other tools can address inefficiencies in a planned economy. It's something Soviet planners could only dream of, the tools available to today's me-first corporate giants.

    Key to a revived Soviet Union is a politically engaged workforce able to rely on secure social benefits, unlike their capitalist counterparts.

    Today’s Russian communists offer a positive and achievable alternative to Putinism, one that retains the best of the old Soviet system and gives certain useful elements of the capitalist economy a proletariat spin.

    The global elites have been given a free rein to wreck national economies and trample human aspirations. They do this without fear of consequences, for there are few, if any.

    Given that brutal fact, the Russian Communist Party’s call to nationalize the banking system is rational, prudent and far from radical. They are the common-sense voice of the Russian people.

    Their continuing rise in Russian politics is a hopeful sign.

    Posted by Kelly Sinclair, 04/22/2013 3:11pm (4 years ago)

  • What I know about the dissolution of the USSR is that it was very sudden. The United Republics weren't prepared for that. It was a shock for economies, nations and millions of minds got used to the regime and conditions to live in. I wish they could have made some dissolution preparations - to make this process less painful and not pushing all those great countries 10-12 years back in their political and economical development.
    As for the Russia these days, Putin and Medvedev Reigns look more like monarchy or even ochlocracy.

    Posted by William Miller, 04/11/2013 9:37am (4 years ago)

  • Any Marxist should know that the Communist party was responsible for over 100 million murders in the 20th century, and only armchair psychopaths would gloss over that number of twisted skeletons.

    Posted by Kevin, 08/06/2012 6:29pm (5 years ago)

  • The Communist Party of the Russian Federation won the election after Yeltsin's second coup. Yeltsin's violence against the parliament exposed the political bankruptcy of the new Russian democracy. Zyuganov et al. should have planned to take power immediately after the elections.

    That was their golden opportunity. Why should we think these people have a better chance now? Really, why should we even think they have more spine now than then? The Russian democracy is a bourgeois democracy. The bourgeoisie will rarely even surrender to their fellow bourgeois of another country in return for a junior partnership (like the Dutch and Czech.) But they will never surrender to the proletariat of Russia. Never.

    As for the mirage of Sino-Soviet decentralized non-planning or whatever you might call it, the real question is whether the Chinese leadership's collaboration with domestic capitalists hasn't gravely weakened the Chinese state? The growing capitalist elements are not really providing greater strength to China, they are tearing it apart, from the ever increasing attacks on the restive working class to the supine inability to fact the imperialist threat. As of now, isn't China heading toward a crackup of gigantic proportions, when its increasingly unstable economy, deranged by the anarchy of production promoted by the leadership, collides with the exigencies of imperialist encirclement?

    Posted by steven johnson, 02/03/2012 6:25pm (5 years ago)

  • The Chinese author has some good advice for the CPRF, but I'm not sure they will be able to stop lauding the Soviet past or past leaders and become a more forward-looking party.

    Posted by C.J., 01/31/2012 11:09pm (5 years ago)

  • It wasn't until 2007 that GDP reached the same levels of the USSR. Furthermore, that number was inflated with debt-driven growth, particularly housing and record high oil prices (through Wallstreet speculation). Any Marxist should know that GDP is a loaded term and just because nominal GDP was equivalent in 2007, production, both in diversity of goods and quantative production were still not at Soviet levels. The only former East Bloc nation that reached it's communist levels of production was Poland, from my recollection.

    Posted by nampa1, 01/12/2012 2:17pm (5 years ago)

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