Roman Kononenko, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Leninist Komsomol of the Russian Federation, explains the political situation in Russia during the COVID-19 Pandemic and the priorities of Russia’s communists.
The destruction of the socialist system as a result of the counter-revolution in Russia caused tremendous damage to the country’s economy and social sphere. Its result was that in the 1990s, national income declined by an average of 5.7% annually – more significantly than at the beginning of World War II. In the first two decades of the 21st century, our economy either continued to fall or showed “growth” that did not go beyond the statistical error. That means stagnation.
The liquidation of the USSR was followed by the destruction of industry and the almost complete retreat of the state from social obligations to citizens. Today millions of people are becoming rapidly impoverished and plunged into a debt hole. At the same time, two dozen major Russian billionaires are increasing their total fortune by 1.5 trillion roubles every six months, which amounts to almost 17.5 billion pounds. This data is published by Bloomberg.
The collapse of neoliberal politics
In 2020, a new round of crisis, for which Russia was not able to adequately prepare, led to the fact that the rapid economic decline resumed. The impoverishment of people has accelerated. Another blow was inflicted in the productive sphere, on small and medium enterprises, on millions of families. But only the oligarchy, which seized the people’s wealth, and the officials serving it are interested in maintaining the destructive system.
The development of the situation in the world and inside our country proves that the neoliberal policy pursued in Russia has completely exhausted itself and is close to collapse.
The boundary of two millennia was marked by the country’s endless concessions to Western imperialism. Russia was forced to reckon with external pressure. To touch its forelock in front of WTO. To accept the dominance of US dollar. To run rampant privatization. In fact, to abandon state regulation in economic and social spheres. To obey the dictate of the International Monetary Fund.
Even now, in the midst of an acute crisis, our financial authorities continue to refer to IMF recipes, which do not allow us to direct at least part of Russia’s gigantic reserves to support working people and those who are losing their jobs. To direct them to investments in the national economy, science, education and medicine. Although the situation with the dangerous virus that has hit the country has unconditionally proved that their funding must be doubled.
Unarmed in the face of the epidemic
The viciousness of market fundamentalism imposed on Russia is evident. Despite this, the dismantling of applied science, which is the basis of the economy, and the best Soviet education system continues. The authorities do not want to abandon further “optimization” of the medical sphere.
Only from 2017 to 2020 42% of medical staff were laid off in the country. The authorities do not want to admit how hard the total reduction in the number of hospitals and clinics has come back to us when we faced the coronavirus epidemic. They are silent about the dangerous consequences of the total dependence of domestic pharmaceuticals on imports. The fact that against the backdrop of the raging infection, the pogrom of the Russian light industry had the most negative effect on the medical sphere. There was an acute shortage of protective masks that had to be imported from abroad: there was no one to sew them in Russia. Operational testing of patients was difficult due to the lack of an elementary thing – rubber nozzles for pipettes: domestic manufacturers cannot cover the need of medical institutions even for such elementary products!
Such are the frankly shameful and, without exaggeration, monstrous realities generated by the system of wild capitalism, which reduces our economy to the level of a primitive raw materials appendage of imperialism.
Against the backdrop of the growing crisis, sharp criticism of the socioeconomic course being pursued in Russia is increasingly being heard from various sides. More and more there are those who recognize: embarking on the neoliberal path, acting under the diktat of the IMF and transnational capital, the authorities made choices that are destructive for the country and society.
But only a few dare to tell the full truth: this is not just because of a dead end socio-economic model, but a vicious capitalist path of development. Today, the authorities have a dual task: to nullify their obligations to citizens and at the same time relieve themselves of any legal responsibility for this. This principle applies to all socio-economic policies.
A direct reflection of this principle is the anti-people’s pension “reform” deployed in the country. It represents an outright robbery of those who honestly worked for many years for the good of the country and society. And are now deprived of the right to go on a well-deserved rest by receiving a legally earned pension.
In recent years, our oncological morbidity has increased by 20%. According to the World Health Organisation, Russia came out on top in Europe in terms of the spread of HIV. By the number of tuberculosis patients per 100 thousand people, we are now in the same group with the African states of Mali and Rwanda, 4 times surpassed by Japan, 8 times by Germany and almost 20 times by the United States. But the Soviet Union was the first country in the world to stop the mass spread of this disease!
The Academy of People’s Economy and Public Administration states that in Russia almost every fourth person is forced to choose: to buy the cheapest products or the cheapest medicines. They don’t have enough money for both.
There is no need to talk about serious dental treatment or complex high-tech operations: they are completely inaccessible to the vast majority of our citizens because of the prohibitively high cost.
Let us recall which clear and firm guarantees of the protection of life and health the Soviet Constitution gave to each citizen. Here is what was said in article 42 of the Constitution of the USSR, adopted in 1977:
“Citizens of the USSR have the right to protection of health. This right is ensured by free qualified medical care provided by state healthcare institutions; expanding the network of institutions for treating and promoting the health of citizens; development and improvement of safety measures and industrial sanitation; carrying out broad preventive measures; environmental health measures; special care for the health of the younger generation, including the prohibition of child labour unrelated to training and labour education; the development of scientific research aimed at preventing and reducing the incidence of disease, to ensure long-term active life of citizens”.
These are much stricter and broader guarantees than those promised by the current Constitution. They, unlike today, were carried out while Soviet power existed. And they were provided exclusively at the expense of the treasury, and not some abstract insurance and contributions.
To use the peculiarity of the situation
Against the background of such a socio-economic collapse in the country, the government launched a constitutional reform. Despite the depressing indicator of the incidence of COVID-19 infection, the authorities appointed a popular vote on constitutional amendments on 1 July 2020. By announcing this reform, the ruling classes are certainly resolving their utilitarian tasks. Those are the questions of the so-called “transition of power” and the need to regain the political initiative lost after the launch of the pension reform.
But what, then, is the meaning of the activities of communists and communist youth in this situation? The task of organizing the proletariat and all working people is certainly not to powerlessly grumble over the upcoming fraud of the government. What is there, in fact, to be surprised? What should we complain about here? In politics, everyone goes towards their goals. The goal of the Communists is known – the socialist reorganization of society. Everything else are our intermediate tasks.
One of the most important tasks is to strengthen the party and Komsomol and to build up their influence. In order to solve this problem, you need to be able to use all peculiarities of the current situation.
What are the features of the political moment today?
Firstly, in the process of discussing changes to the current constitution, we obtained visible evidence of its inferiority in comparison to the Soviet constitution. The authorities, of course, are not talking about this. But they recognised this fact by starting the reform. This is already a circumstance of significant revelatory power. Secondly, depending on the real extent of constitutional changes, we have to build a new stage in our ideological, political, agitation and propaganda work.
Today on the left flank there is a quite logical discussion about the attitude to amendments to the Constitution. And there is enough of talking about the scam of the authorities. There are a lot of those who declare: since the slyness of the initiators is evident – down with the very idea of constitutional changes.
But let’s reason sensibly. It would be strange for people of progressive views to oppose the abolition of serf slavery in 1861 on the sole ground that the liberation of the peasants was carried out under difficult conditions. By the way, Karl Marx met peasant reform in Russia exclusively positively.
Exposing the hypocrisy of the government is one thing. Not using the fact of debate about the Constitution is quite another. It must be understood that to communists this reform has opened up new propaganda opportunities.
The inevitable happened: changes to the Constitution sharpened the question of how its own provision on the social character of the Russian state is being implemented. Naturally, comparisons arose with the Soviet Constitution. And in this comparison, the Yeltsin’s bourgeois constitution is clearly losing.
The position of the communists here is simple and understandable. We insist on a decisive expansion of social guarantees and the democratisation of the political system. All these measures, of course, are not purely socialist. Strictly speaking, they are bourgeois-democratic. But they serve the cause of the realisation by the working people of their economic, political and social rights.
Work for the society and the youth
If we distract a little from the general situation in the socio-economic sphere of the country, we can talk about the current campaigns of the Leninist Komsomol with general touches. First we need to make a reservation: under the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government banned all public events in the country. Therefore, the arsenal of protest activity of the Komsomol organisation is very limited.
Therefore, in March 2020, the Central Committee of the Komsomol launched the campaign “We don’t leave our people alone!”, which is designed to provide support to elderly people in the conditions of self-isolation – veterans of war and labour, of the Armed Forces and the Communist Party. These people built a great country, successfully fought with outbreaks of cholera, plague, smallpox. Even now, despite their advanced years, they remain real fighters, mentors and assistants for young people.
The coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed the life of the older generation. Due to the fact that older people are most vulnerable to COVID-19, it is especially important for them to observe the regime of self-isolation, avoid visiting crowded places and limit social contact. In these conditions, they, as never before, need support and care.
Activists of the Leninist Komsomol have shown that they are ready to help: deliver groceries, fresh newspapers and necessary medicines, support the elderly with a kind word – this is the least that Komsomol members can do for older comrades.
The action takes place throughout the country: from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. Every day, dozens of activists of the Komsomol of the Russian Federation visit the elderly, deliver them the necessary products and basic necessities. Headquarters have been set up in most regions to monitor the situation and provide prompt assistance to the population. Komsomol members of many regions have opened special hotlines through which those in need can seek help, including legal assistance. Komsomol activists in many regions provide support not only to elderly people, but also to poor, large and single-parent families, as well as families with children with special needs – in the face of rising unemployment and rising food prices, this category of population has actually been on the verge of survival. The coronavirus pandemic showed that the capitalist Russian state is not able to provide the population with basic personal protective equipment. In this regard, Komsomol members also conduct free distribution of medical masks to the population.
Despite all the difficulties, Komsomol members are sure that together we are stronger than the virus. In the conditions when bourgeois authorities have actually left citizens to their fate, only comradely mutual assistance can help. This campaign of the Central Committee of the Komsomol will continue further.
Ready to give the shirt off your back for education?
It is obvious that today the state is obliged to provide support to socially vulnerable groups of the population. This category also includes students. However, instead, big business receives government support.
Considering the appeals of students of various educational institutions of secondary and higher education in our country – from Kaliningrad to Sakhalin, the Leninist Komsomol began collecting signatures and sent a letter to the Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation demanding support measures for students in the context of the spread of coronavirus infection. In addition, a petition to the President of the Russian Federation with similar requirements was drawn up in conjunction with the independent student union “Discourse”. In today’s environment, it will be difficult for many parents to return to normal life and pay for the education of their children. Many will have to give up training. We propose to provide support measures for such categories of students as those who are studying on a paid basis. Almost the entire second semester, students studied in distance tuition, and not in full-time, which they paid initially. I think there is no need to explain how much the size of the fee for full-time tuition differs from distance tuition. One of our requirements: recalculate tuition fees at universities and colleges.
In any case, the Communists insist in their program: in order to save our education and medicine, we need to return to Soviet constitutional norms. A state should be built that once again guarantees their implementation. And this can only be a state of socialism, capable of putting an end to the system of annihilation, whose main target are the working people and youth as its integral part.
Secretary of the Central Committee of the Leninist Komsomol of the Russian Federation