The 2nd Leningrad Affair

The fact that Saturday's congress of Russia's Communist Party was its 13th did not augur well. Superstitious patriots saw in that number something vaguely reminiscent of a Masonic plot -- or at least something deeply disturbing to any true Russian Orthodox believer. With these anxieties hanging over them, party members prepared for their latest congress, crossing themselves and lighting extra candles in the church for protection.

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But there was another, more serious cause for concern. The St. Petersburg branch of the party was hit with a big scandal. It seemed the they had chosen the wrong delegates to attend the St. Petersburg congress, and to make matters worse they elected Vladimir Fyodorov as their local leader.

The main problem with Fyodorov was that throughout his party career he had not battled fiercely enough against one of the Communists' main enemies -- the Zionist and Masonic conspirators. In addition, he was far too reserved in renouncing Marx. Although during the Soviet era Marx had generally been recognized as one of the "founding fathers" of communism, the post-Soviet Communist Party has taken an active stance of denouncing Marx -- mainly because of his Jewish roots.

The leading "patriotic" Communist in St. Petersburg, Yury Belov, received only 40 percent of the vote in the election for head of the local party branch, but he refused to admit defeat. On the instructions of the party's presidium, a Moscow delegation was dispatched to St. Petersburg to put an end to the latest ideological deviations and breakdown in party discipline.

What was the result? The renegade, "anti-patriotic" faction was immediately purged when it lost its delegates and leader. The event was immediately termed "The Second Leningrad Affair," referring to Stalin's purges of that city in the 1940s.

Some party supporters and even functionaries felt the Communist leadership went too far this time. It is one thing when members disseminate "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" on the street or when they invite leaders of the ultranationalist Movement Against Illegal Immigration to May Day celebrations as brothers-in-arms. But it is quite another thing to destroy one of the most important branches of the party.

Communist Party presidium member Boris Kashin spoke for the opposing faction when he said, "Any attempt by the party to impose its decisions from above should be unequivocally condemned. To the credit of most regional party organizations, this unauthorized campaign has failed, although it has managed to damage the party's authority." Some regional branches of the Communist Party (in Karelia for example) denounced the actions of the Moscow leadership -- not so much on ideological grounds as out of fear that they could set a negative precedent.

Even with all of these problems, the patriots within the St. Petersburg branch of the Communist Party took up a worthwhile cause: convincing the Russian Orthodox Church to canonize Stalin. It's a shame the Orthodox hierarchy has not given the proper attention to this proposal.

The 13th Communist Party congress ended as any major party event should. Accompanied by enthusiastic applause, Gennady Zyuganov was once again re-elected to the top leadership position. Presidium members who had dared to side with their St. Petersburg renegade colleagues in the dispute were demoted, while Belov's zeal was rewarded by being appointed to the Central Committee.

Only one question remains unanswered: What will the party leadership do once it has purged all its branch organizations by kicking out every member who disagrees with the party line?

Boris Kagarlitsky is the director of the Institute of Globalization Studies.