Russian Reds - Now Only Pink - Rise Again Communists Are Poised to Grab at Least a Share of Power. They Want More State Control, but Not a New Cold War

Article excerpt

Russia's Communists are bracing for a showdown with President Boris Yeltsin, sensing that with the financial crisis they can seize their biggest share of power since the Soviet Union collapsed seven years ago.

This is the Communists' big moment to gain political ground, with Russia poised on the abyss of financial collapse and drifting without a government since Mr. Yeltsin fired his Cabinet Aug. 23, analysts say.

They do not discount the possibility that the Communist-dominated Duma, the lower house of parliament, may block Yeltsin's choice for prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, three times and risk the dissolution of the Duma and new elections.

Suddenly analysts are talking seriously about a possible return to power of the Communists - or at least a greater say in governing. This could mean greater state control of the economy and the media, and more distance from the West. But the Communists have grown more moderate since Soviet days, and no one expects a return to the cold war.

The Communists of today are not the repressive, expansionist party of the Soviet era. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov's party no longer talks about class struggle and defending the proletariat, and he says it would not ban other parties or religions. Analysts liken Russia's Communists to the Indian National Congress or Argentina's Peronist movement.

"We have a different strategy and ideology now because the world has changed," says Yuri Petrakov, the Communist Party's deputy secretary of ideology. "Our main objective is to contribute to a multiparty society. We are concentrating more on patriotism."

Despite diminished military might, the implications of increased nationalism in this sprawling nuclear power are not pleasing to the West. A Communist government would likely be more isolationist and more anti-American. But even if there was more critical opposition to NATO expansion eastward, there is little Moscow would do except issue angry rhetoric.

More uncomfortable for the White House would be a strengthening of Russian ties with Iran, Iraq, and Libya. Technology transfers to pariah states are already a source of contention between Moscow and Washington.

On the domestic front, the Communists would probably develop closer coalition ties with ultranational politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky and seek a union with neighboring Belarus. Resurrecting the dissolved Soviet Union, however, is a notion everyone recognizes as unviable.

On economic policy, the Communists have faded from red to pink. …


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