Communist or capitalist?

Zyuganov, who might replace
Yeltsin, said to have 2 faces

February 7, 1996
Web posted at: 12 a.m. EST (0500 GMT)

From Correspondent Eileen O'Connor

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov is tipped by some to dislodge Boris Yeltsin in the coming elections and become Russia's next president. But his critics say Zyuganov, like the Roman God Janus, has two faces: one private, one public; one capitalist, one communist.

Until now, Zyuganov has artfully managed to walk an ideological tightrope, one some call new communism. He privately supports a market economy and woos Western business groups, but in public, he slams capitalists.

"They tear down our basic means of production," he told a group of Russians, "and subordinate our raw and human resources to their Western American interests."


His words are eagerly embraced by many a disillusioned Russian for whom communism is the only alternative to what they perceive as a failed democracy -- an idea which promised so much, but delivered so little.

Indeed, many believe Russia's market reforms have benefited just a fraction of its people.

"The people were expecting something to come which would improve their lives," said political analyst Viktor Kremenyuk. "What they received was growing misery ... That, unfortunately, has substantiated the decades-long Communist propaganda: capitalism is misery. They say now, yes we have capitalism, and we have misery."

But Zyuganov's opponents point out that behind this presidential aspirant stands the old Russian Communist Party, not exactly famous for providing benevolent leadership.

Some say they think the party wants to assuage Western fears by promoting someone like Zyuganov. One of Zyuganov's strongest critics and Russian member of Parliament, Grigory Yavlinsky, says part of Zyuganov's appeal lies in that he "looks like a social democrat." But that facade, says Yavlinsky, is misleading.

"In some audiences, like CNN for example, he is a social democrat ... but when he is speaking to the Russian people he is extremely nationalistic." (111K AIFF sound or 111K WAV sound)

But to those rooting for Zyuganov, his hypocrisy seems less of an issue partly because they are looking to Zyuganov to fulfill short-term, basic goals like helping them put food on their tables.

The Communist resurgence in Russia has been seen as a pointed rebuke at President Boris Yeltsin's leadership. In December, Communists captured a third of parliament, and they are hoping to capitalize on those gains in the presidential elections, scheduled for June.

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