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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Key Ideologist Adrift After Left's Reshuffle




Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov, struggling to marshal the shifting forces of his leftist opposition, has left a key ideologist to search for new allies in upcoming parliamentary elections.


Duma Deputy Alexei Podberyozkin is a member of the Communist parliamentary faction but not the party. And the party's announcement that the party list for the December 1999 election will be members-only leaves him with little hope his small Spiritual Heritage organization will get the 5 percent of the vote he needs to make it back into the State Duma.


"I understand very well that our organization doesn't have enough resources and influence to win on its own," Podberyozkin said Thursday. Podberyozkin rode into the Duma, parliament's lower house, in 1995 elections in the 10th spot on the Communist Party list.


He has since been credited with pushing Zyuganov's hostile party into comfortable engagement with the government.


But it was partly this policy of accommodation that split the National Patriotic Union - a motley coalition of leftists and nationalists concocted in 1996 to oppose newly re-elected President Boris Yeltsin - along ideological lines.


The divisions have been made official in recent days with the announcement by Viktor Ilyukhin, a radical deputy whose main constituency is the military, that he would form his own bloc on the basis of his Movement in Support of the Military.


Ilyukhin and his allies have openly chafed at the Communists' newfound moderation. Podberyozkin, in his turn, says recent anti-Semitic statements made by Ilyukhin and his deputy in the movement, General Albert Makashov, have caused him to rule out any cooperation with the radicals.


"I have a narrow range of choices: either join someone - go to the Communists, or to the Agrarians, or to the radicals, theoretically - or go by ourselves," Podberyozkin said. "None of the first options was completely suitable, so we decided to go by ourselves."


But the only two allies to surface so far, he said, are Ivan Rybkin, who failed in a 1995 bid to raise a leftist coalition, and Vladimir Semago, a flamboyant Communist who analysts say has a healthy electoral base only in his home city of Nizhny Novgorod.


"This is a suicide club," said Boris Kagarlitsky of the Institute of Comparative Political Studies, an analyst who studies the left.


Podberyozkin said Spiritual Heritage would go it alone, regardless of whether it could gather allies. But with a limited field of possible allies, analysts are predicting he will take refuge with a more prominent socially oriented moderate nationalist, such as Communist Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov, who has been tipped as the possible leader of a moderate left wing, or Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, with whom Podberyozkin said a union was unlikely but an "agreement" was possible.


"You never say no," said Yevgeny Volk of the Heritage Foundation.


But the formidable Moscow mayor, who like Podberyozkin describes himself as "New Labour" in the vein of Britain's Tony Blair, is likely to ride roughshod over Podberyozkin's Duma bid if an agreement is not reached.


"Our program ... has in fact found expression with Luzhkov," Podberyozkin said. His program coincides "99 percent with our program. In terms of politics, of world view, it's difficult to argue with him. It's like arguing with ourselves. I can't say he's bad because he's not right, because I say the same things. It's a problem."