KPRF Faces a Serious and Divisive Choice about Its Future, Skobov Says

Russian State Duma Building file photo

(Paul Goble – Window On Eurasia – Staunton, Sept. 27, 2021)

The KPRF’s surprising success in the recent Duma elections does not presage any threat of a communist resurgence – Zyuganov’s party is as far from Lenin’s as Patriarch Kirill is from early Christianity – but it does mean that the party now is confronted by a serious choice, Aleksandr Skobov says.

It can either accept complete absorption by United Russia in some kind of “patriotic front” like the ones that existed in the GDR and Czechoslovakia, the commentator says; or it can resist the Kremlin and seek to become a genuine opposition, “with all the ensuing repressive consequences” (

Gennady Zyuganov and his “party nomenklatura” beyond doubt “will be inclined to the first of these, Skobov continues; but they are not the only people who matter as far as this choice is concerned. Below them are “a new generation of activists and functionaries who view the party above all as a career lift.”

The mummy that Zyuganov has turned the party into can’t serve their purposes. They are not Orthodox Stalinists but rather pragmatists, and “the logic of resistance to pressure from the dictatorship will push them in the direction of adopting an all-democratic agenda,” a direction they have already moved in as a result of the smart voting strategy of Aleksey Navalny.

“This doesn’t mean,” the Moscow commentator says, that these reformers will find it easy to break from the KPRF and its slavish loyalty to the Soviet past and the Kremlin today. “But they may attempt to turn away from the most odious and obscurantist forms of state worship.”

If that happens, then they could find themselves allies of the moderate-conservative branch of the democratic opposition, Skobov says. They might even move in the direction of the communists after the end of the Soviet bloc, increasingly becoming social democratic parties that accept democracy while promoting a left-of-center social agenda.

But while that doesn’t mean that a revived KPRF would pursue a revolutionary course, it does represent a sharp break from its current position which combines Stalinism and commitment to obscurantist Orthodoxy national and has become “an organic part of the system of Putin’s ‘new autocracy.’”

But the Putin regime which itself is evolving from “hybrid authoritarianism” to “’a new totalitarianism’ of a fascist type” will view any such move as a threat to its political base and will take active measures to prevent the KPRF from changing itself. Putin needs the communists to remain “anti-liberal, anti-Western and great power chauvinist.”

The Kremlin will not tolerate any moves that appear to shatter “the ceremonial picture of the broad unity of society around itself.” It requires certain rituals and arrangements including deference to the ruling party and the retention of the ruling party of an overwhelming majority of the voters.

Because that is the case, Skobov says, “if suddenly an exodus of votes from the party of power to the opposition, even to a loyal and imitation one” would compel the Kremlin to step up the pressure against it and possibly drive those trying to make that change “from the legal political field to the extra-systemic opposition.”

“The transformation of the KPRF into a magnet attracting the voices of all the dissatisfied is absolutely unacceptable for the Kremlin,” the commentator continues. As a result, the Kremlin will do whatever it thinks it has to do in order to block such an evolution of the country’s political order.

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