Rivalry between Russia’s Communist Party (KPRF) and the country’s biggest trade union organization, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITU), burst into the open this week as both organizations tried to assert their leadership of the industrial unrest sweeping the country. Leaders of both organizations face internal divisions and urgently need a cause to boost their prestige and authority. (Izvestia, August 8)
The KPRF held a meeting of its policymaking presidium yesterday to plan its strategy for the nationwide day of strikes that the FITU has scheduled for October. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said the party’s slogans for the event would be the same as before: “Boris Yeltsin’s resignation, a change in the country’s course and the formation of a government of national trust.” (RTR, NTV, August 10)
FITU’s Secretary General Aleksei Isaev reacted with anger to this attempt by the Communists to muscle in on the unions’ event. FITU has already been forced to respond to the Communist challenge by toughening up its own slogans, discarding wage demands for political calls for early presidential and parliamentary elections. Isaev angrily pointed out that, under Russian law, only a trade union, not a political party, has the right to call a strike. “We reject all attempts at harnessing this event,” Isaev declared. (RTR, August 10)
Both the KPRF and FITU face dissent within the ranks and both Zyuganov and Isaev need to be seen to be in control. “Under what color banners will the upcoming autumn pass?” Izvestia wondered this week. “The Communists’ red or the unions’ blue? This is a question of political survival.” Zyuganov has for years been struggling to prevent the KPRF from splitting into orthodox Marxist and Social-Democratic wings. FITU’s problem is that it has little control over the unions at local level and has lost the initiative to local leaders such as Chelyabinsk Oblast’s Eduard Kinstler (see Chelyabinsk story below) who do not belong to the FITU or take orders from it. The last thing the unions need, according to Izvestia, is to have to divert their energy to fight the Communists instead of their real opponents–the government and the local mavericks. (Izvestia, August 8) The threat to Zyuganov’s leadership was symbolized by the second item on the agenda of yesterday’s presidium meeting: what to do about Yuri Maslyukov, the Communist who has defied party orders and accepted the job of minister of industry and trade in the Yeltsin government. Zyuganov has already painted himself into a corner by threatening Maslyukov with expulsion, and his position was reportedly backed yesterday by some presidium members. Others pointed out, however, that since Zyuganov has for years been calling on Yeltsin to set up a coalition government, the KPRF will only make itself look silly if it expels Maslyukov for taking a cabinet post. What the presidium decides to do will provide a clue to Zyuganov’s authority within his party. (RTR, August 10)
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