Listening to Putin’s “Real” Opposition

However we might assess recent anti-war statements by Russian human rights activists, Anna Arutunyan assures us that they are not to be confused with the “real” opposition in Russia. For the more popular alternative party, Arutunyan suggests that we look to the The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF).

“After all,” writes Arutnyan, “the Communist Party functioned more like an opposition party than the liberals ever did.” Today the CPRF “stands for nationalizing the country’s natural resources, making the country’s stabilization fund available for social betterment, guaranteeing free medicine, housing, and education, and reviving the country’s scientific and industrial standing.”

For Americans who know very well how such an agenda would get you branded and run out of town quick, Arutunyan reminds us that in Russia, “the CPRF’s program is an honest reflection of what independent polls show. According to an ongoing study by the Levada Center, a steady 34-48% of respondents support a Soviet model of government — nearly twice as many as those that support a Western-style democracy.”

Arutunyan points to these features of Russian politics in order to caution Western hardliners against pushing Putin into a corner because, in the larger view, he is the leader who continues to prioritize “economic integration” over “democracy” and who, therefore, is the force most likely to deliver what the West most wants from Russia, all grade-school language about freedom aside.

Although Peter Charles Choharis can denounce “Kremlin Capitalism” in the August 16 Wall Street Journal, his blue-faced impatience seems not to consider the living alternative within a Russian context. If you don’t like “Kremlin Capitalism,” then join the crowd in Russia. Opt for Communism instead.

Taking a tip from Arutunyan, and getting some help from Google translate, I’ve been reading the freshly updated web pages of the CPRF ( What they demand as a consequence of the Caucasus war is nothing like a return to status quo. Russia has established its power in Georgia, and the CPRF leadership would like to see that power translated into real changes on the ground.

First of all, Communist leadership demands immediate recognition of independence for the breakaway states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

“After the Georgia regime’s attack on the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, the world should fully understand why Russia would recognize the independence of Ossetia and Abkhazia and enter into security alliances that would reliably guarantee the security of the long-suffering populations of these republics,” says Communist Party chief G. A. Zyuganov.

“The aggressor should be punished,” says Zyuganov. Yet, “We are encouraged to pretend that nothing happened.”

Yuri A. Kvitsinskim, first deputy chairman of the Committee on International Affairs of the State Duma (KPRF faction) echoes Zyuganov’s denunciation of any return to “status quo.” He says the French President is acting like the Uncle you send over in your behalf, and once he gets the best deal he can, you say, oh but I wanted even more. My Uncle doesn’t speak for me.

“Now everything should be done to break the aggressor, punish the guilty in an act of aggression, war crimes and crimes of genocide, provide effective assistance to victims, begin to rebuild South Ossetia,” says Kvitsinskim. ” We must immediately recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia and take them under their protection.”

As the Communist Party analysts see it, the Georgian incursion was based upon a gamble that the Geogian-led army could close the Roksky tunnel in time to prevent a Russian response.

“Not coincidentally Western media during the first night ‘didn’t notice’ the invasion of Georgian troops in South Ossetia and the UN Security Council refused to consider our appeal regarding aggression, ostensibly because it was too late and members of the Council very much like to sleep,” grumbles Kvitsinskim. “But the Council quickly awakened once Russian tanks went through the tunnel, and our aviation began to strike at Georgian aggressors.”

As for the threatening statements coming from the USA?

“They just need to make noise, otherwise the damage to U.S. prestige will be even more sensitive,” answers Kvitsinskim. “This is only an attempt to ‘save face’.”

Greg Moses is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and a member of the Texas Civil Rights Collective.. Read other articles by Greg, or visit Greg's website.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Michael Kenny said on August 17th, 2008 at 9:18am #

    Poor Mr Moses! He just can’t stop putting his foot in his mouth! The communists as opposition! That’s a laugh! The communists get about 20% of the vote in Russia and every time they hold a demonstration, you see a small group of elderly people waiving red flags but no young people! The communists are dying of old age!

    Mr Moses doesn’t tell who the lady with the Armenian name is, so I googled her. She spent her childhood, and went to school, in the US, and had to learn Russia when she returned to Russia (sic!). Nowadays, she appears to work for an NGO in Russia (The Russian Institute) and all of those NGOs should be treated with caution, since they mainly specialise in trying to undermine Russian democracy.

    As for the Levada Institute polls she refers to, I can find no trace of them! (Why am I not surprised?) Aberdeen University (UK) has a lot of Levada polls on line (I found this via Wikipedia) and I find the following. 5 – 10 October 2007: Q: On the whole, do you like or dislike the idea of returning to the Soviet political system? Like: 35%, Dislike: 44%, Don’t know: 21% and 18 – 21 January 2008: Q: What type of state would you want to see in Russia in the future? 1.State as in the West, with democratic system and market economy: 32%, 2.State with a unique system and own path of development: 39%, 3.Socialist state like the USSR: 17%, Don’t know: 11%. I can find no question anywhere about support, or otherwise, for a “Western” (i.e. American-style, as distinct from European-style) democracy, but the answers to those questions certainly give the communists a drubbing! Ms Arutunyan’s claims in that regard seem to be utterly false and probably come from manipulating the statistics. (Why am I not surprised?) You’ve been bamboozled, Mr Moses!

    As for the precise comments of the communist grandpas, what do they say that the rest of the world hasn’t already been saying for a week? So Russia’s rump communists agree with everybody else! Boy, that’s sensational! Thanks for telling us Mr Moses!

  2. Greg Moses said on August 17th, 2008 at 11:11am #

    And thank you, Michael, for your careful reply.

    I agree that the alleged Levada tracking poll is not to be found, and there appears to be some question as to what “Soviet” vs “Western” means. The Levada polls at do NOT support the claim that “Soviet” is preferred to the present govt. However, a report at (July 10, 2006) does show that Russian citizens prefer (44 percent to 33 percent) a strong central govt vs a US-style liberal democracy.

    So I think this is the defensible meaning of Arutnyan’s claim: that Russians prefer “centralized” democracy to “liberal” American models. In American usage, “centralized” is very often equated with “Soviet.” So I’m guessing that Arutnyan used the term that way. Thanks for sharing the additional resources.

    As for the claim about who counts as the “real” opposition, your figure of 20 percent looks to be at the high end of public support for the CPRF/KPRF. What you say about the age of supporters is helpful. The point is, however, that the party is the most popular opposition.

    Michael thinks it is not news that the Russian Communists agree with everybody else. Clearly he knows them better than I do. In the end, with all of Michael’s helpful qualifications and clarifications accepted, it appears that Arutnyan’s main points holds up: the Communists are the leading opposition in Russia, and Westerners who think “liberal democracy” is best for Russia should stop to consider that a plurality of Russians prefer a “centralized” model.

    Contrary to the position taken in the Wall Street Journal, this is hardly a time to be lecturing Russian leadership on the need for less centralization.

    Finally, did you notice the Aug. 12 poll on the Georgia conflict? Eighty percent of Russians polled think that South Ossetia should either be incorporated into Russia or given independent status. Only four percent say that it should remain a part of Georgia.

    Thanks again.

  3. bozhidar balkas said on August 17th, 2008 at 12:24pm #

    since i insist on the desirable priniciple that no land has the right to attack another under any known circumstance, i’m unhappy about russian threat to attack poland if missiles are placed on its soil.
    russia can sipmly point own missiles at polish missile sites.
    thererafter, it can appeal to UN and world court.
    perhaps, poland might reconsider.
    i hope so.

  4. Sankar Ray said on August 19th, 2008 at 4:22am #

    As a veteran journalist in India, I find the media is tendentiously biased in favour of the US neocons. The US has no right to move against Russia, as it attacked Iraq when Saddam regime captured Kuwait which originally belonged to Iraq. If US were right, so is Russia.
    Although I am as cynical to ‘Kremlin capitalism’ as to the false communists of CP of China, as vividly narrated by Naomi Klein and Christian Parenti - the jingoistic foreign policy of USA must be halted. Why should the rest of the planet dance to the neo-liberal tune. I agree with the KPRF chief, Genady Zyuganov.