"Russia's revolutionary days are not over."

On Wednesday May 8, Alan Woods interviewed Alexander Kuvaev, member of the Duma, and leader of the Moscow City Committee of the CPRF. There are several interesting features in the replies. In particular, the phrase we have cited in the title is a reply to Zyuganov who has stated publicly that, in his opinion, "Russia's Revolutionary days are over." Unfortunately, there was little time to develop the points raised, as the CPRF were busy with preparations for the big demonstration on May 9 (the anniversary of the victory of the USSR over Nazi Germany).

Q: How do you see the present situation in Russia?

A: Our country is now passing through a decisive phase. The general situation is very bad. 80% of the population is in extreme difficulties, but the present government has no solutions to offer. Moreover, the situation is going to get even worse before the parliamentary and presidential elections [due in 2003 and 2004].

Q: What is the position of the Putin government?

A: The present government will carry out all kind of manoeuvres to increase the number of right wing MPs in the Duma. The tendency is towards a presidential type of government and the aim is to reduce the presence of the Communists in the Duma. However, I can say that there will be all kinds of struggles between different groups within the oligarchy - fights between Putin, Chubais, Kasyanov, and so on...

Q: So the regime is still very unstable?

A: The whole situation is completely unstable - both from the economic and the political point of view.

Q: But in the West, the impression is being given that everything in Russia is going splendidly. The economy is growing, so everything will be OK.

A: This is not the case at all. In fact, there is no real growth in the economy, apart from in certain sectors like oil, gas and coal. However, the basic sectors of industry - machine-tools, steel and so on, are not growing. They do not even publish any statistics about these sectors. And as far as agriculture is concerned, there is no development at all. We are completely dependent on food imports from the West. This includes even basic food items.

Q: And how is this reflected in living standards?

A: Living standards are falling here. Prices are rising steeply, especially the price of basic products like food and medicine. On top of all this, there is the so-called "reform" of rents, which means that the people will have to pay more for rent, gas, electricity and central heating. And wages are falling behind prices all the time. As a result we have an extreme polarisation between rich and poor. 5.7% of the population are very rich and 90% find it hard to make ends meet. In fact, 80% are living near the official poverty level. Of course, the situation is uneven. The situation is getting worse all the time. But in Moscow things are different. There is a lot of money around here... Mosow is the most expensive capital after Tokyo. But it is not at all typical of the rest of Russia.

Q: This must mean a growth in the class struggle.

A: Well, for example, you saw what happened in Voronezh. That was a serious uprising. The immediate issue was the increase in rents. And this is only the beginning. In Smolensk a similar situation is being prepared.

Q: I understand the CPRF participated in organising the demonstration in Voronezh.

A: Yes, we were among the organisers. There were also other forces. But we participated actively, and not only there. In Moscow also in some factories where the workers were threatened with the sack, the CPRF is actively supporting the workers. We will be at the head of the protests - including in Moscow.

Q: What about Russia's external policies?

A: The oligarchy are dependent on the West, and are firmly linked to the West. Bush came here to try to weaken Russia's defence capacity. He would like to get his hands on Russia's resources, oil and so on. Therefore he would like to weaken Russia.

Q: In your speech on May Day, you said that the CPRF must not collaborate with Putin but provide a left opposition. What did you mean?

A: I believe the CPRF must have a more radical position. It must come out far more decisively in the interests of wage labour. The working class is not only those who work in industry. It also includes the white-collar workers, the working intellectuals, many of whom support the Party. We must also defend people like small shopkeepers etc.

Q: What is the situation of the CPRF?

The CPRF is the only party that has been built up from the bottom. All the others were either founded by the government or by special interest groups. They existed for a short time and then disappeared. They are financed by the government or by these groups.

Of course, the CPRF has its own problems. A lot of our members are old people. But now many youngsters are joining us. Also many middle aged people. We have about 34% of the votes. In Moscow, though, we are relatively weak, as this is an anti-Communist city. But Putin only has 20% of the vote. And we have over 500,000 members throughout Russia.

Q: The crisis of world capitalism must affect Russia.

A: That is right. Everywhere we see there is a movement to the left - in France for example. And in Russia capitalism exists in a particularly savage form.

Q: And what do you think about the war in Chechnya?

A: This is a senseless war. It was deliberately created to divert the attention of the people from the real problems. This problem cannot be solved by military means. They tried that in Tsarist times, and the war went on for a long time. But this government has not got the will to solve the political problem by political means. They set it up themselves. Now every day 20-25 Russian soldiers are killed or wounded. The country is destroyed and the money that was supposed to be used to rebuild Chechnya never arrives. Of course, there are powerful interests involved here, oil for example. But it is inadmissible to send young lads to their deaths in this way. We must find a political solution through negotiations with the Chechen people.

Q: In your May Day speech you spoke of proletarian internationalism, which I completely agree with. But some people say that the CPRF is a chauvinist party, and even that it supports or at least tolerates anti-semitism. What do you say to these people?

A: The CPRF is not a nationalist party. We stand for internationalism. We are opposed to fascism and all forms of aggressive nationalism. We consider that Zionism is one of these aggressive nationalist ideologies and we are opposed to it. But this has nothing to do with anti-semitism.

Fascism is an inhuman ideology. How can we support that? Communism is internationalism. Fascism and communism are mutually exclusive ideologies.

Q: What about Russia's support for the so-called war on terrorism?

A: Russia has been dragged into this after September 11. But these events were very obscure. Who was responsible? Terrorists or was it some kind of provocation? Either way, Russia should not support the so-called war against terrorism - although we are opposed to terrorism of any kind.

Q: US imperialism is utilising this to strengthen its position on a world scale.

A: Yes. Don't forget it was the CIA that helped set up the Taliban. Now the Americans are trying to install themselves in Tajikistan and other parts of Central Asia, setting up bases.

Q: To conclude, the last decade have been a catastrophe for Russia.

A: They have destroyed Russia. The USSR was a strong country, and just look at the situation now.

Q: So is the CPRF against capitalism?

A: Of course, we are against capitalism. That is written in our programme. We stand for socialism. Our aim is to build a socialist society.

Q: How is that to be achieved?

A: The central question is the question of power. In Russia today, genuine elections are impossible. The state will use all the administrative levers in its hands to hold onto power. The elections will be rigged. The judicial system likewise. Everything is rigged to ensure the continuation of the present system.

Q: So there will be a revolution in Russia?

A: I believe so. I believe that Russia's revolutionary days are not over.

Q: Do you think the conditions for revolution exist?

A: Not yet, but they will soon.