Last week was not the best one for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). The State Duma, which has been the KPRF’s de facto headquarters for almost a decade, voted to take away the party’s chairmanship of seven committees, effectively undoing the agreement it reached in early 2000 with Unity and other pro-Kremlin factions to divvy up the chamber’s top positions. In protest, two KPRF deputies stepped down from their posts as chairmen of the last committees under the party’s control (the committee on culture and tourism and committee on public organizations and religious groups, both of them rather inconsequential). Meanwhile the party’s leader, Gennady Zyuganov, vowed it would shift from a stance of constructive engagement with the government and the Kremlin to one of “stiff opposition,” possibly including mass protests. Zyuganov also delivered what amounted to an ultimatum to his party comrade, Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev: any self-respecting left-wing leader had not business heading a Duma that was carrying out “a destructive rightist policy,” Zyuganov declared, adding he was sure that Seleznev, as “a responsible person,” would do the right thing and resign as speaker. The implicit threat was that Seleznev would be bounced out of the KPRF’s ranks if he failed to do so.
Predictably, Zyuganov’s threats turned out to be sound and fury, signifying nothing. Duma sources reported that the KPRF’s leadership had decided that Seleznev could both keep his party card and his post as Duma speaker. And while the Moscow authorities yesterday (April 9) stationed riot police around government buildings in response to rumors that the Communists were planning to provoke “disturbances” in the capital, nary a single brick-wielding Communist was spotted, and a KPRF spokesman told the Gazeta.ru website that the party had no plans to incite riots, at least up through April 30. And, if the past is any guide, the KPRF’s geriatric legions will be boisterous but otherwise well behaved when they converge on the capital on May 1 for the annual International Worker’s Day demonstration against “the anti-people’s regime.”