Death of a Mastodon like a Prehistoric Beast Whose Time Passed, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Is Sinking into Oblivion despite Its Thrashing Efforts to Survive

By Maxim Kniazkov. Maxim Kniazkov is a former foreign correspondent with the Soviet news agency Tass. He now edits a business newsletter . | The Christian Science Monitor, July 16, 1991 | Go to article overview

Death of a Mastodon like a Prehistoric Beast Whose Time Passed, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Is Sinking into Oblivion despite Its Thrashing Efforts to Survive


Maxim Kniazkov. Maxim Kniazkov is a former foreign correspondent with the Soviet news agency Tass. He now edits a business newsletter ., The Christian Science Monitor


IT is something both unusual and ironic: The Soviet communists are complaining about violations of their human rights and appealing to international law.

Speaking at a meeting of the party Secretariat in the middle of June, Vladimir Ivashkov, the deputy general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, lamented the reformers' attempts to throw party organizers out of industrial and agricultural enterprises. In his opinion, such attempts "contradict international pacts on human rights."

Almost simultaneously, a member of the Politburo, Oleg Shenin, called on the state law- enforcement agencies to protect "the legitimate rights of all individuals, including those of communist convictions."

The irony of this unexpected development is that these complaints come from the members of the same Politburo that had ordered the execution of tens of millions of innocent people in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, persecuted dissidents in the 1960s, invaded Afghanistan in the 1970s, and kept Nobel peace-prize winner Andrei Sakharov in exile in the 1980s.

But the mere fact that the complaints have been voiced is a clear indication that the giant Communist Party of the Soviet Union is in its death throes. The resignation from its ranks of Eduard Shevardnadze, a former member of the Politburo and foreign minister of the USSR, has dealt it another severe blow. Mr. Shevardnadze's resignation showed that even people of restraint and moderation, who had waited for a long time for the party to embark on the path of radical change, had run out of patience.

Shevardnadze quit the party a few weeks after the impressive election victory by Boris Yeltsin, who had campaigned for the Russian presidency on a largely anti-communist platform. It is highly unlikely that Shevardnadze did it for personal advancement. But if anticommunism is the buzzword in today's Russia, the party should brace itself for other high-level defectors who certainly nourish political ambitions.

There are indications that Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet president and an utmost pragmatic, is considering his present party comrades as his major political liability and looking for a good excuse to part with them. In fact, bearing in mind that he may have to face a direct presidential election as early as the second part of 1992, Gorbachev may be artificially creating such an excuse for himself.

In a highly unusual move, he gave his blessing to the creation of a large noncommunist democratic party, an effort spearheaded by Shevardnadze, Gorbachev's chief adviser Alexander Yakovlev, and a number of well-known reformers. The president has thus implicitly associated himself with this process.

On the other hand, as the general secretary of the Communist Party, Gorbachev was ordered to write a new party program that would encompass private property, free enterprise, and many other concepts that are anathema to orthodox communists. …

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