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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Communists Are Useless, Not Extreme

Out of nowhere on Tuesday, Boris Yeltsin announced his disappointment with his loyal justice minister, Pavel Krasheninnikov. In a creepy bit of reasoning, Yeltsin noted that he had asked Krasheninnikov to look into possible violations of the law and the Constitution by the Communist Party f yet strangely, the president complained, Krasheninnikov has not reported any such violations.

This was yet another thinly veiled threat to outlaw the Communist Party as extremists. Yeltsin floats them from time to time.

Given the genocidal history of the Soviet Communist Party, one might assume that being a Russian Communist today would be an extreme position. But it's not. The new Communists are not fiery internationalists, but tired, conservative, petulantly xenophobic mediocrities.

Under Gennady Zyuganov this party has been cowardly and collaborationist. It's not dangerous; it's just sort of useless. It votes for Yeltsin's budgets and prime ministers and jealously guards its own meager perks f even as it fades into further irrelevance because its elderly electorate is steadily dying.

In fact, the best thing that can be said about the party is that it has actually helped dampen extremism. In October 1993, for example, Zyuganov refused to lead his followers onto the streets of Moscow. And in 1996, Zyuganov graciously conceded defeat at the polls to Yeltsin f even as he complained, correctly, that the fairness of the election was in doubt because Yeltsin's team exerted improper influence over media and spent well beyond the legal campaigning limits.

So why is Yeltsin supposedly now concerned about "extremism" among the Communists? Because they encouraged a few misguided individuals to volunteer to go commit atrocities in Kosovo? That was certainly an ugly moment, even for this ugly party. But if that was what had Yeltsin worried he would also be going after his other kept opposition, the LDPR.

No, Yeltsin is threatening the Communists because Yeltsin himself needs a political crisis (another one!). This latest Red-baiting has to do with Yeltsin's political extremism, not Zyuganov's.

Lately, some have dusted off claims that Yeltsin f having failed at so much else f sees his chance at historical glory in removing Lenin from Red Square and formally burying the Communist Party. Some argue hopefully that Yeltsin wants to resign and will do so f if only he can accomplish those goals.

But if that's so, a frustrated Yeltsin will surely find that he can't kill by decree the nation's most popular party. Burying Lenin and Zyuganov won't provide a reason to resign f more likely, it will be added to the laundry list of reasons why Yeltsin won't want to go.