One of the fundamental misconceptions about Vladimir Putin – and one shared by many of his erstwhile admirers – is that he is an anti-Communist.
An equally widespread misconception is that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation is in unrelenting opposition to Putin and his government.
In reality Putin – who was a member of the Communist Party until it was effectively (though temporarily) dissolved by Boris Yeltsin in August 1991 – has always recognised the Communist Party as an integral element of Russia’s history and political scene.
He has also valued it as a ‘loyal opposition’ to the government, which though often highly critical of the government, has never since the USSR’s fall pursued a revolutionary course outside the state’s legal structures.
Indeed as long ago as following his first election victory in 2000 I remember Putin commending Gennady Zyuganov, the Russian Communist Party’s veteran leader, as a stabilising factor in Russia’s fraught political life.
All these sentiments were on full display in a fulsome message of greetings Putin sent to the Communist Party as it convened for its 17th Party Congress
My greetings to the delegates and guests of the 17th Congress of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.
One of our country’s oldest parties, the Communist Party is by right proud of its history, keeping true to the ideals of many generations of its predecessors. The party continues to show great responsibility and is widely represented in legislatures, executive bodies and local government bodies to serve the interests of its millions of voters.
It is important that the party adheres to a balanced and professional approach when discussing the key issues of Russia’s development, and puts forward concrete programmes and initiatives. I would like to highlight your great and much needed work that aims to protect citizens’ social and labour rights, support the military-industrial complex, industrial production and agriculture, education and science, as well as your efforts in the patriotic education of young people.
I am certain that the congress will be held in a positive atmosphere to become a real venue for open and fruitful discussions.
I wish you all the best in your endeavours. I am counting on the constructive partnership and substantial dialogue to continue for the benefit of Russia and in the interest of its people.
As Putin’s message quite clearly says, there is actually considerable overlap between Putin’s policies and those of the Communist Party. though he is certainly not a Communist. Note in particular these specific words in Putin’s message
I would like to highlight your great and much needed work that aims to protect citizens’ social and labour rights, support the military-industrial complex, industrial production and agriculture, education and science, as well as your efforts in the patriotic education of young people.
The Communist Party’s leaders for their part would never publicly address Putin in quite such a fulsome way. Moreover despite the overlap in their policies, the Communist Party’s leaders advocate a far more controlled economy than Putin would find acceptable, and most of the Party’s membership would certainly want a more forceful approach to foreign policy – and to relations with Ukraine especially – than Putin is currently following.
Having said this, under Putin – as his words show – the Communist Party has become an accepted and to a very great degree a respected part of Russia’s political landscape, which was certainly not the case in Boris Yeltsin’s time.
Though they would never publicly admit it, the leaders of Russia’s Communist Party are fully aware of this fact, and it undoubtedly influences their view of Putin too.