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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Left's Threat to the Left

As the presidential elections draw closer, the Russian news media are all the more urgently raising the question of how property will be affected if Communist Party head Gennady Zyuganov becomes the new Kremlin leader. Would the Communists try to return privatized industries to the state? The Communist candidate himself gives very evasive answers.

I am surprised, however, that fellow journalists who are interested in the property of others are not thinking more about their own fate. What would happen with the newspapers and television stations for which they work in such a case?

In my view, if the Communist Party leader wins, after the change of prime minister, one of the first officials to be stripped of his post will be the curator of the Russian news media, Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Ignatenko. The means for doing so are predictable. It is possible, for example, that the testimony of former KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, who was among the officials who plotted the 1991 coup, will come to light. He testified that when Ignatenko was an aide to former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, he took bribes from former journalists for organizing interviews with his boss.

Inevitably, there would be a change in the administration of the state-owned television channels. The editor of the government paper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Anatoly Yurkov, and of Rossiisky Vesti, Valeria Kucher -- papers of the current administration -- would also lose their positions. Of course, neither one would be forgiven for his pro-Yeltsin and anti-Communist stance.

But aren't I laying it on a bit thick? Isn't it possible that Zyuganov and those around him would let the television and newspaper heads stay at their jobs and would be as tolerant as Yeltsin, who allows for scores of opposition newspapers to have the last word? There is not a chance of this.

I have worked in the central press for almost 20 years, 10 of which were at Pravda, and I know the Central Committee public well. Both Zyuganov and Valentin Kuptsov are graduates of the Central Committee of the Communist Party apparatus, which did not tolerate heterodoxy and mercilessly punished those who did not agree with the Party's general line. Party grandees of all levels, from the regional committees to the Central Committee, always viewed those who worked at newspapers as second class, or as work horses who brought to the people their general plans.

In October 1987, I wrote an article on swindlers in the cooperative movement for Pravda. One of the article's subjects found a way of lodging a complaint against me to the Politburo member and architect of perestroika himself, Alexander Yakovlev. He saw to it that a commission was created that would have one task: to call the article in Pravda mistaken, propose that I undergo a brainwashing at the Central Committee Secretariat and declare me an "opponent of perestroika" before the entire country. Zyuganov worked during this period in the Central Committee apparatus and was a student of Yakovlev.

More recently, in 1990 the editor of Sovietskaya Rossia, Valentin Chukin, invited Nadezhda Garifullina from Almaty to join the paper with the promise of an apartment. With time she gained the reputation as one of the best journalists in the anti-Yeltsin opposition. She soon began writing articles for small communist papers, exposing the double-dealing character of the newly elected Communist Party leader. Zyuganov was offended. And since the head of Sovietskaya Rossia, Churkin, was also a member of the Russian Communist Party Central Committee and a Duma deputy, the journalist was quickly reprimanded: In the best of Soviet traditions, her duties were curtailed.

Thus, the Party functionaries, who call themselves communists and defenders of working people, threw a woman on the street who was left with no apartment and no residence permit to stay in Moscow.

It is not as easy now, however, to get rid of journalists from Pravda who also criticize Zyuganov for opportunism and "political prostitution." Since 1992, the owners of the paper are in fact a family of Greek industrialists who have no intention of repressing those journalists at Pravda who oppose Zyuganov.

Pravda remains a world paper that is read by tens of millions of people from the former Soviet republics. Thus, to gain control of Pravda is to affect the thinking of millions of people. This is why Zyuganov's people want the paper to be under the Party's authority. You must work within the walls of the paper to feel their pressure to establish a single-minded atmosphere and extol the gray figure of Zyuganov.

Zyuganov would first need to take the paper away from the Greek owners. How could he do this? If he were elected president, it would not be all that difficult. For example, he could issue a decree on the nationalization of papers that were formerly owned by the Communist Party. Such a law could also be adopted by the "red Duma."

I am convinced that if Zyuganov became president, many failures would await him. As a protege of the Party nomenklatura and its capital, he would first be required to satisfy its appetite. He would not be able to improve the lives of working people or fulfill his pre-election promises. His reforms would be criticized by Yeltsin supporters as well as the part of the Russian electorate that will feel betrayed. This is why I am convinced that the ideological pressure on politicians, journalists and writers who think differently would be increased. There were more than a few attempts by upper ranks of the Soviet Communist Party, to which Zyuganov belonged, to silence such people. The fire that burned Giordano Bruno to death for heresy is still not extinguished.

Alexander Golovenko, a Communist Party member from 1974 to 1986, is a correspondent for Pravda. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.