Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Who's Afraid Of the Big Red Wolves?

To listen to Gennady Zyuganov addressing the world's leading political and business figures in Davos over the weekend, he is no communist.

Zyuganov made a point of distancing himself from the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which he said was not a political organization but a tool for monopoly state control. He emphasized his commitment to democracy, a multi-party system, a mixed economy and stable conditions for domestic and foreign business.

So, what is there to be afraid of?

A few things. First of all, Gennady Zyuganov's views do not necessarily reflect those of his entire party, many of whose members would favor precisely the kind of clock-turning-back that he appeared to rule out. Second, Zyuganov -- adroit politician that he is -- adjusts his words according to his audience. Pensioners in his home town of Oryol get a very different story.

And even taken at his word, there were some disturbing aspects to Zyuganov's remarks in Davos. While he said he was opposed to restoring the old Soviet Union, he also talked about the need to rebuild old links between Russia and Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan and to protect the interests of Russians living outside Russia in the former Soviet republics. How the Communists would set about doing this he left unclear, but such words from a President Zyuganov would set air-raid sirens wailing from Kiev to the Baltic Sea.

Similarly, Zyuganov said he would only renationalize those industries that were "not working" under private ownership, but who is to decide what is or is not working? Given the catastrophic state of Russia's industry as a whole, "not working" could be interpreted to fit just about everything.

But then, perhaps the intentions of Zyuganov, or even of his party, are not what counts. It is hard to envisage, for example, how any government could find the money that would be needed to take back responsibility for the very same enterprises whose fundamental bankruptcy did so much to bring down the Soviet system -- especially the ones that are "not working." And, at least for now, the Russian Army does not -- witness Chechnya -- seem to be in any condition to risk an empire builder's war.

There is only one problem with this rather reassuring scenario, one that Zyuganov helpfully pointed out in Davos: The very attempt to turn back, however vain or even well-intentioned, could cause shooting from Murmansk to Vladivostok. So far, no Communist Party official has given any guarantees that they would not try such a return. And modern history suggests that these are not people who should be granted the benefit of the doubt.