There was no break – brief history of RCWP
Notes on the history of RCWP’s foundation written on the occasion of the 15th Anniversary of Russian Communist Workers Party and Revolutionary Party of Communists.
Russian Communist Workers Party was officially founded at the Constitutive Congress in Sverdlovsk on 23-24 November 1991, and Russian (Revolutionary) Party of Communists was founded on December 14th of the same year. Nevertheless, the history of both parties dates much earlier than that and is rooted in the times of internal struggle within CPSU that manifested itself in the confrontation between true communists and Gorbachev, in their opposition to the course of Gorbachev aimed at introduction of Capitalism and the corresponding transformation of the communist party itself.
In those years the resistance of communists within CPSU took a number of different forms. Those were in particular Marxist Platform and Bolshevik Platform formed in the party, whereas the most well-known form of resistance that attracted the biggest number of participants was a number of the Initiative Congresses of communists carried out in Leningrad. The participants of those congresses called themselves Communist Initiative Movement within CPSU. This movement specially stressed that they didn’t represent any separate platform within the party while representing in fact the communist trend in the CPSU. The representatives of both abovementioned platforms participated in the Communist Initiative Congresses together. At those congress used to meet all communists who understood that the so-called perestroyka would lead to the change of the social-economic order in the country, and there were elaborated the politics of resistance to the degradation of the party.
The process of communist resistance reached its culmination at the XXVIII Congress of CPSU where by the joined forces of our delegates, first of all by the representatives of the Communist Initiative Movement and of the Marxist Platform there was given a battle to the reformists – supporters of capitalism. In the Congress minority’s statement that has turned into a piece of history by now, there was a warning addressed both to the party and to the Soviet people that treatment of Socialism with capitalist measures would not lead to the growth of national economy and to the people’s well-being; quite the opposite — this would lead to the crash and to a sharp decline in living standards. It obviously makes sense to study this document word by word nowadays, as there is given both the analysis of the situation in early nineties as well as the forecast for the future developments.
A special attention should be paid to the forecast regarding the fate of the party itself. It’s said there that the party will not survive such a blow and cease to exist as a communist party – it’s not possible while implementing the program of bringing the country back to Capitalism, more than that: while doing this under the Red Banner. Unfortunately our history has fully proved the correctness of this forecast.
In those days, the days of Statutory Congress of the Communist Party of R.S.F.S.R (Russian Soviet Socialist Federal Republic) and the XXVIII Congress of CPSU, comrades from the Communist Initiative Movement (CIM) and the Marxist Platform did their best to set up the lines of defense. In particular we managed to enter a number of our comrades into the CC of CPSU as well as into CC of CO of R.S.F.S.R. Comrade Alexey Sergeev from MCI and also comrades Alexey Prigarin and Alexandr Buzgalin from Marxist Platform were elected to the CC of CPSU then. The Communist Initiative Movement paid more attention to the Russian (R.S.F.S.R) CP and the Russian CC. To start with, the strategy for the creation of Russian Communist Party developed and implemented by MCI was based on the fact that the number of true communists in the “Russian” part of CPSU was significantly higher than the average one. That was the reason why there was used the organizational form of establishing a separate republican party organization for R.S.F.S.R (which had never had a separate structure within CPSU before) to prevent the ideological degeneration of CPSU and to counteract the reformist-capitalist politics of Gorbachev first of all here, in Russia. This strategy required that we should focus our attention primarily on the Russian CC. That’s why we did our best then to help the following comrades from the Communist Initiative to be elected to the CC: Ivan Boltovsky, Aleksandr Zolotov, Yury Barygin, Igor Bratishchev, Anatoly Kryuchkov (Marxist Platform) and a number of other comrades.
There was no break in the struggle against the renegades after the XXVIII Congress of CPSU – the idea of the impossibility to stop the struggle to be specially highlighted. V.I. Lenin used to tell that the revolution can not stop and that a communist can not discontinue being a revolutionary. The struggle went on in the form of a struggle against the Gorbachev’s “big” CC on the level of the CC of RSFSR. Many comrades can recall the amount of dirty accusations and libel thrown at the communist detachment known as CP of RSFSR, at Poloskov, who headed CC of RSFSR CP then, at those orthodox communists who were sometimes portrayed almost as fascists, whereas there was no shortage in common charges and labels of narrow-mindedness and dogmatism.
We should mention, that the situation within the CPSU had turned to be critical by the August of 1991. On the one hand the political weight of Gorbachov was so low, that wasn’t even likely to implement the task, that later in 1995 at the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the beginning of “Perestroyka” was described by Bakatin in the following words: “…unfortunately we were not able to replace smoothly the program goals of CPSU with completely social-democratic ones”.
The authority of Gorbachov was quite low. Despite the fact that one could hardly describe the majority of the CPSU’s members as consciously communist then, that party program, the theses of which had been published in the newspaper “Pravda” on behalf of the Program Commission of CC, was met with open hostility in the party ranks.
The social-economic situation in the country was getting worse. The resistance by communist within CPSU itself was growing – already then there had been created a special Committee in order to initiate the XXIX, extraordinary Congress of CPSU, i.e. the possibility of a communist coup within CPSU was taking shape. This threat to reformists was well understood by them. Exactly at this moment there took –place the events that are known under the title of “GKCHP” (Russian abbreviation of “State Committee on Extraordinary Situation”.
Those events were undoubtedly somehow planned and envisaged, this statement can be illustrated by the course of the Plenum of the CP RSFSR CC that took place 2 weeks before the GKCHP on the 6th of August 1991. Totally exhausted Poloskov resigns. The 1st Secretary on Ideology of CP RSFSR CC Gennady Zyganov claimed this position, and we supported his claim then. At the time he stood up against Aleksandr Yakovlev at least verbally, though the latter had been retired by that time – he didn’t have either authority or real influence and he was routinely criticized by anybody who cared. Still Zyuganov really had a chance to head the CC then and to organize the resistance… The circle of Gorbachev suggested a candidature of Valentin Kuptsov. Kuptsov wasn’t actually even a member of CC, nevertheless the habit of listening to the General Secretary of CPSU was so strong that Zyganov while sighing and blushing gave the place and withdrew his nomination/ He explained this move by the fact that he didn’t have enough experience, that he people in the industry didn’t know him well, the he didn’t have practical experience in organizing industrial production on a large scale etc. – i.e. that Kuptsov was better and more useful in all respects. To sum it up the detachment of communist was headed by the Gorbachev’s henchman V. Kuptsov in two weeks before the GKCHP coup — exactly in the time that was most decisive for the Perestroyka reformists.
Next came August the 19th of 1991. These are well known events: absolutely passive role of the party, totally stupid, even semi provocative when assessed based on contemporary knowledge actions by GKCHP that while proclaiming the same politics aimed at “Perestroyka” and market reforms as Gorbaqchev, tried to save the Soviet Union with some clumsy measures. All this allowed the reaction to advance terribly (or to be more exact — to retreat): CPSU was banned; they changed the national flag of the country and subsequently destroyed the USSR.
It’s clear that the activities of genuine communists can not be stopped by bans. History proved this on a number of occasions – in 1941-45 there were even more harsh attempts to ban communists if compared with Eltsyn. This means that the genuine communists from the Communist Initiative, Marxist Platform and other groups of communists within CPSU that had not surrendered, never stopped their struggle. Even before the ban was imposed on CPSU, there had been appointed the date (23-24 of November) for the Initiative Congress of communists in Sverdlovsk.
It was only natural that a there appeared an idea to use this congress to get together the forces of communists, to organize them and lead to the struggle. Member of CP RSFSR CC Viktor Tyulkin as well as other members of Communist Initiative came to Moscow to CC in order to try and persuade the said Kuptsov, Zyuganov, Ilyin and other CC Secretaries to take some actions. Anyway all the party Secretaries at that time regardless the level, even more the secretaries of CC, got their salaries from the party for the job of organizing people to perform various tasks – fulfillment of the plans, struggle. In case Eltsyn says: “unregistered party” – let’s go and register it. We must assemble the Congress of communists– the more so it’s already appointed.
Nevertheless a negative reply was given by the official party leadership. There were various explanations: “Oh, no, Eltsyn will not yet give his permission to any communist activities, we should keep low profile – with the name “communists” a sheer possibility of any actions is out of the question”. Gennady Zyganov told then Anatoly Kryuchkov and Yury Terent’ev (a representative of Leningrad party organization, Secretary of the party committee at “Arsenal” plant) even more plainly that the communist idea had been completely exhausted and that we should forget about it (at least for a while). We should also remember that at that time the whole so-called “liquidation apparatus” of the CC of CP RSFSR as well as of the “big” CC were busy preparing the handing over the proceedings and other documents to the Eltsyn’s administration and organizing new placements for the CC apparatus. It’s also important to mention that the said people were also busy organizing a party congress then, nevertheless it was not a founding congress of communists, no — that was a congress of another party – later it was given a name Socialist Party of Working People(SPWP).
Taking a retrospective view on the events a clearly defined chain of activities could be observed: everything was done to lead people away from the communist content, to replace it with as Gorbachev used to say a “quite social-democratic filling”. It’s also obvious that to spread protesting strata more evenly and to link them to some other movements of non-communist nature apart from SPWP, some people from apparatus were busy creating various patriotic and state-patriotic organizations even including monarchic ones. Gennady Zyuganov in particular was actively involved in this process of setting up Russian National Sobor (Congress), National Salvation Front and similar movements who carried out their rallies under the old banners of tsarist Russia. Genuine communists as it is known assembled at their congress in Sverdlovsk (including representatives of the Marxist Platform) and founded communist party which was named Russian Communist Workers Party. The new party adopted the already established program principles, the same principles that had been already established by that time in the struggle with the so called reformers within CPSU.
Unfortunately the members of either the Marxist or Bolshevik Platforms could not be included into the new united party at the congress, though we’d like to stress once again — they were present at the congress. The probable reasons were as follows: first, the official ruling bodies of CPSU didn’t contribute a lot, as the party leaders refused to take part in the process. That’s why the party discipline and the organizational potential of CPSU didn’t help properly. Second, we should also take into account certain personal attitudes: at that time many comrades didn’t think that the repressive-reactionary regime would last for so long time in Russia, and the struggle were perceived more as a theoretical one, rather than a practical bitter life-or-death struggle.
Nevertheless, soon after those events there were formed the Russian Party of Communists headed by Anatoliy Kryuchkov and the Union of Communists that was later transformed into RCP-CPSU of Alexey Prigarin. We should stress again that even then, on that extremely complicated stage there was no break in the struggle and the resistance wasn’t interrupted even for day. Genuine communists without hesitation ignored all the bans imposed by Eltsyn and the work went on. At that period the most important aspect of the struggle was the task to show people that the resistance had not been broken. The task was performed with some totally simple means then: a walking out into the street with the Red Banner was an action by itself. There were no specially organized structures deeply rooted in industrial enterprises then. The main aim of the actions that were carried out then and that were practically possible was to clearly demonstrate to people that communists were still there, and that Eltsyn lied when proclaiming that Communism had been put on its knees and would never get up again.
We should mention that people in Russia met those actions with understanding. Demonstrations and rallies carried out in Moscow and all across Russia under the Red Banner and headed by RCWP, Russian Party of Communists and by other parties of “ROSCOMSOYUZ” (VKPB, RCP-CPSU) as well as by the movement “Trudovaya Rossiya” (Labour Russia), were gathering momentum then. Certain events took place in February and June 92, May 93. Those were the first open battles with the regime fought in the course of the demonstrations in Moscow, where the authorities applied police truncheons (locally nicknamed “democratizers”), as well as other “democratic” means – that was the first time when armed forces were applied to suppress peaceful demonstrations.
At that moment, after they had come to realize that their attempt to put communists on their knees failed, and that something should be undertaken to counteract the red initiative, the regime made a very effective, one could even describe it as ingenious move – they initiated the so called “CPSU trial” to be tried in the Constitutional Court. Outwardly everything looked to some extent noble: the protection of honor and dignity of the party was performed by respectable clever people with a good command of speaking skills — doctors of law, secretaries of the CPSU Central Committee. On the other hand we should remember that for a year the trial kept many communists glued to the TV screen and guessing whether the party would be banned or not. That is they would sit idly exactly at that moment when the structures were being ruined, the ties were being lost, as well as the hopes, soles and people themselves. At the same time there was increasing the layer of parasites – aggressive layer that fixed the division of people into masters and slaves. After a year of such a prolonged idleness and absence of initiative the Constitutional Court, that under no circumstances can be considered as a more or less independent body (everything had been under control of Eltsyn, of course), took a dodgy decision to allow the “obedient communists” the things that were not banned as they were, i.e. to allow them to organize themselves similar to RCWP, while not giving them back anything from the former material resources.
Exactly then, in 1993 there was convened the constituent congress of the “cautious” communists. It was quite natural that the members of the “cautious” nomenclature leadership of CPRF belonged to those “cautious” communists who patiently waited till the end of the “CPSU trial”. The organizational committee was headed by the said Kuptsov, it also included Ivan Rybkin who headed the fraction of communists at the Congress of People’s Representatives of Russia and some others from their colleagues belonging to the “Socialist Party of Working People”. There was an acute and emotional, but still a substantive discussion within RCWP regarding the issue of the attitude towards the new party. Some of the comrades would say that there should be undoubtedly a strong influence of Opportunism in the new party and that the quality of the so-called leaders was well known, still that was going to be quite a big structure that would incorporate all the communists who had not dared to protest openly. As soon as that was going to be a big organization, one must go there and try and “steer the wheel” to the left. In line with those perceptions many comrades from RCWP at the time of the highest sharpening of the struggle had come over to the newly founded CPRF. In particular those were R. Kosolapov, T. Avaliany, A. Makashov, I. Bratishchev and many others that subsequently became members of CPRF CC and deputies of the State Duma. Subsequent events showed that their attempts “to steer to the left” in the end of day turned them into “Left Opposition” within CPRF, and that they were gradually expelled both from Central Committee and Duma.
Meanwhile the majority of RCWP members (the issue was considered at the party Congress then) came to the following conclusions: “we have already been in the minority within CPSU and tried to steer there to the left. We know too well how that was organized by the apparatus of CPSU. Unfortunately we must also admit that the composition of CPSU even if we forget about such obvious anticommunist blackguards as Yakovlev, Gaidar, Latsis, Shatalin, Bunich, Sobchak etc., that composition couldn’t be basically considered a communist one. At their best those were people of faith and not people of knowledge and views. Over years they’ve got accustomed to rely on the nomenclature opinion of their leaders, and to assemble such people under the leadership of the old nomenclature from the “small” and the “big” Central Committees would bring at the very best nothing but an honest opportunistic composition and the continuation of the Gorbachev’s line. That’s why it was decided to continue the work under the banner of RCWP in alliance with our comrades from the Marxist Platform that had transformed itself into Russian Party of Communists (RPC) as well as with the Union of Communists.
Now, the struggle wasn’t interrupted and the next turning point occurred in October 1993 – that was the well known conflict between the Supreme Soviet of Russian Federation and Eltsyn that took place in Moscow.
We are perfectly aware that those events can not be considered even as an attempt for a socialist coup, and that it was a conflict between bourgeois democracy and the advancing dictatorship. Nevertheless communists could not stand aside and stood up in defense of the constitutional order, in defense of bourgeois democracy, they came to the side of resistance. The third of RCWP Central Committee together with our comrades from RPC directly took part in the defense of the House of Soviets. There were recorded fatal casualties and wounded people in both parties.
At that time we had to solve such routine problems as what should be done with the wounded comrades: how to call a doctor in case they were at home, or what should be done in case it was too late for a doctor: how to bury the corpses, how to advise relatives, what should follow next… To put it brief — our party comrades were on the barricades in those days. It was only natural that after the bloody massacre of the insurrection we took a decision not to take part in the elections organized by Eltsyn and boycott them as those elections were in fact a dirty game, an attempt by the regime to pretend in front of the World that we had a democracy and that in the elections took part all political forces starting from monarchists and ending with communists. Unfortunately that attempt by Eltsyn succeeded, first of all due to the help of CPRF that took an active part in the elections. In particular it was with their assistance that Eltsyn managed to introduce the antinational constitution through the so-called “referendum”, the whole procedure being obviously illegal and carried out “at a stretch”. Even according to the data by the regime the turnout of the voters exceeded the necessary minimum of 50% by 1,5%, whereas the number of people who voted in favour of the new constitution was slightly above 50%, i.e. the total number of people who gave their voices for the new constitution didn’t represent more than a quarter of the population at best. It’s not for nothing that actually in year after those elections and the “referendum” had taken place, the voting ballots with the results were destroyed and the former head of the Election Committee Ryabov was conveniently granted a cozy position of ambassador. Both our parties didn’t take part in those elections as matter of principle.
It’s obvious that the regime who organized those elections and that made a corresponding deal with the “responsible”, manageable opposition headed by that time by Zyuganov, granted CPRF the right to assign themselves the title of “the main communists” in Russia, all these in return for their conciliatory position both in the parliament and outside it.
As early as on the 7th of November RCWP and RPC already headed demonstrations in the cities of Russia again, thus showing that the struggle went on. Zyganov ordered his party to OBSTAIN then.
Even in those times when the continuers of the Gorbachev’s case made pretense of resistance in the parliament, in the focus of our party’s attention there were organization of workers movement’s structures, organization of people’s resistance outside the parliament, creation of workers’ Soviets, strike committees – the work that subsequently manifested itself in such well known centers of resistance as Vyborg pulp and paper mill, Tutaev motor building plant, “Zarya” plant in Ryazan, as well as in the so called “railway war” in 1998 etc.
After the elections and referendum of 93 RCWP was the only political organization that attempted to challenge in the Supreme Court of Russian Federation the adoption of Eltsyn’s constitution. The trial clearly revealed that the new constitution was not valid and that it had been adopted illegally, nevertheless it was only natural that official ruling of the court was in favour of the president and his constitution.
In the elections of 1995 our party did take part. It was not due to the fact that we allegedly recognized our mistakes, as some of the CPRF leaders like to explain, no – we did it because the situation had hanged by that time and there was no sharpening of the struggle then. It was possible to use elements of parliamentary democracy to develop conditions to intensify the struggle again, to promote communist program. In those elections we took part within the block “Communists-Labour Russia – for the Soviet Union!” The core of the block was represented by RCWP and RPC with participation of RCP-CPSU. That was the only workers’ election block both in respect of its program and composition – we had more workers in our candidates’ lists than in the remaining 46 blocks put together. According to the official data our block got 4,53% of votes then or 3,5 million people. Nevertheless, judging by the studies of political analysts from abroad as well as by our contemporary information we passed the threshold of 5%. The real figures were artificially decreased — our block was stolen voices in order to prevent from getting into Duma genuine left forces capable of organizing extra parliamentary workers’ resistance from within the parliament.
In 1998 once again there could be observed in real politics the difference in positions of communist forces and the parliamentary opposition – the biggest party calling itself communist. We are talking about the default of Russia in 1998, when the government was headed by Kirienko – whose appointment had been approved in particular by the votes of CPRF MPs.
Local currency — Rouble had been devalued and the social economic situation in Russia had drastically deteriorated. The whole theory and practice of communist struggle indicates that at such times communists must take steps to further exacerbate the situation, use it to turn the masses in the direction of resistance. Opportunists move to quite the opposite direction under such circumstances: they try to smooth the situation out, to come to reconciliation and to stop the wave of people’s anger.
Comrades from CPRF acted exactly so. They came to terms with the regime and ascribed the crisis to the “inability to manage things” by Kirienko. More than that — they gave their support to the new Prime Minister Primakov calling his government a government of people’s trust and allocated their people to take part, in particular this was a member of CPRF Central Committee Y. Maslykov. This way they helped the regime to suppress the people’s protests that were on the rise then. In other words they helped to perform the second in scope (if compared with the so called reforms of Gaydar) robbery of Russian people. We should also add that Russia has managed to reach the social economic level of 1998 again just recently.
In 1999 both our parties – RCWP and PRC took part in the elections within the block “Communists, working people of Russia — for the Soviet Union”. The regime managed to considerably “blur” the left forces – all that with the help of the “system” or “responsible” opposition (“responsible” to the regime?) who assisted in adoption of changes in the election laws, i.e. the introduction of money deposits. Certain movements who preferred to get money for the said deposits from bourgeoisie, rather than to try and get necessary signatures (250 thousand votes) had actually played a role of spoilers. Those were “Stalin’s Block” by Anpilov, Umalatova with her “Party of Peace and Unity”, “Movement in Support of the Army” by Ilyukhin, “Fatherland” by Tarasov, movement “Peace, Labour, May”, Party of Pensioners.
Still our election block won 4-5 times more votes then any of the above mentioned movements, whereas the number of votes we got exceeded the total number of the votes won by all the said parties put together. Some 1,5 million people voted for us and our block was the first among those who didn’t cross the 5% mark. Both our parties – RCWP and RPC once again demonstrated that we essentially represented the same party – a party of class avant-garde, regardless the fact of separate legal registration.
Over all those years there have been losses and splits, some of them serious ones. One of the splits was already mentioned above – i.e. when in 93 a group of comrades came over to CPRF to “taxi to the left”. We can remember yet another loss – in the hot days of October 93 a group of comrades called “RCWP-2” (Russian Peasant-Workers Party) who decided to disguise themselves and to drop the word “communist” from the mane of the party, split from us. Nevertheless we retained comradely relationships and mutual understanding with that group.
We had irrecoverable losses as well. We should remember Anpilov who when being inclined to self admiration and petty-bourgeois fluctuations of his attitudes, finally reached the limits. It proved out that Anpilov had worked not in order to achieve goals of the movement, but for the sake of seeing himself in the center of this movement. He used both the party, Moscow party organization and his comrades in arms for that purpose, used them to “service” his person as subordinate elements in the background. Hence the final result of his transformation was obvious – consciously or unconsciously he started to perform a provocative role of splitting and discrediting the movement.
On the 27th of October 2001 there took place a unique event – the Unification Congress of RCWP and RPC which we consider to be a turning point in our history. The situation with the positioning of left forces in Russia had taken clear shape by then, the more so that CPRF had also acquired new features: if earlier they had played a role of honest opportunists, now they came over to a direct revision, to actual emasculation of the revolutionary teaching and took undisguised renegade positions. It’s not for nothing that President Putin advised the comrades to rename their party and to start calling themselves social-democrats.
The situation to the left of CPRF had been also clarified: on the one hand there had been revealed provocateurs, on the other hand there had been determined those who recognized both themselves and each other communists and had proved that over many years of common struggle. Under such circumstances there was taken a timely decision to unite both parties. We couldn’t postpone the process any more, as the fate of the communist element in the political spectrum of Russia was at stake then. The main effect we hoped to achieve then was a political one; we wanted to show an example.
RCWP-RPC addressed all the left groups that didn’t “use up the limit for revolutions” with a suggestion to join the process of unification. It was stressed again: we came to the point when those who were not with us damaged the movement. It’s also very important to reiterate that here we don’t mean primarily taking part in various elections (parliamentary, presidential) or referendums – the unification should be aimed at the development and intensification of the class struggle and workers’ movement, so that this common struggle should overthrow all the theories on the “limits for revolutions”. Nowadays we can proudly stress again that there have been no breaks in our struggle, that the function has never interrupted and that we’d like to assure comrades that we are going to move this way on. We shall continue our struggle regardless the circumstances, while increasing its scope.