The Communist faction in Russia’s Duma is facing a rebellion by backbenchers threatening to break away to found a new centrist faction, to be called the Russian Industrial Union (RIU). (Interfax, RTR, February 5-6) The creation of the new faction would threaten the Communists’ parliamentary dominance, which at present allows the Communists to "lend" the members who help fill the ranks of its sister-factions, the agrarians and the nationalist "People’s Power" faction. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov has threatened to expel from the party any Communist party member defecting to the new faction. He has also accused the new faction of being a Kremlin plot, hatched by the Yeltsin team to undermine the Communists’ parliamentary position.
Zyuganov’s allegations that deputies are being offered substantial bribes to join the new faction (allegedly, monthly payments of between $1,000 and $5,000, plus free apartments for those who do not live in Moscow) have been supported by parliamentarian Stepan Sulakshin, who says he rejected a cash offer to join the group. (Vek, February 14) But the newspaper Izvestia writes that, while the Yeltsin leadership would welcome a weakening of the Communist ranks, conspiracy theories are out of place. There is enough discontent in the Communist ranks to fuel a split without outside interference. Backbenchers are angry at what they say are Zyuganov’s efforts to build a "cult of personality" and at his willingness to cooperate with the government. Radicals are particularly upset over the Communist leadership’s support of the government’s 1997 federal budget, and say the Communist party is forgetting its proletarian roots. (Izvestia, February 12) In other words, attempts to form a breakaway faction in the Duma are a symptom of a deeper malaise on the Russian left and may presage a split in the Russian Communist party itself.
Russian TV Journalists Released.