Latest development: The KPRF has nominated 57 year old Pavel Grudinin as its candidate.
This is the first time that the KPRF has gone with someone other than old warhorse Zyuganov since 2004, when Nikolay Kharitonov got an unimpressive 13.8% in the Presidential elections.
Coming from a blue-collar background, Grudinin graduated from an agricultural engineering college in 1982, and has since worked on the Lenin State Farm – as head of a mechanical workshop from 1982-89, deputy director from 1990-95, and director to today. During this period, the Lenin State Farm transitioned from state ownership to a cooperative owned by its workers, and successfully sells apples and strawberries to Moscow.
He has been involved in politics since 1997, when he was first elected deputy to the Moscow oblast Duma from 1997-2011. He was a “trusted man” of Vladimir Putin in the 2000 Presidential elections and a member of United Russia until 2010,
when he left and joined the KPRF instead he has been an independent ever since but consistently supported by the KPRF.
In 2011, he made the following comments in an interview with the magazine Russian Reporter:
Apartments in the Lenin State Farm are significantly cheaper than in Moscow, but not everyone can settle there. Grudinin, as the head of a state within a state, conducts a harsh national policy, closing the borders to migrants.
Grudinin: “Maybe this is nonsense, I never did this before, but now I do. I tell the investors who build apartments to look at ethnicity. If you sell apartments to the wrong people, I will not work with you. There is such an understanding – face control, where an investor, before buying the apartment, personally talks with everyone. Ivanov – great. Zagorulko – great. Lukashenko – okay. Arutyunyan – think again. Even if we get less money as a result. I am not Rogozin, I don’t think he’s right, but I can see we have a problem. We need to restrict entry. Why do we need so many Uzbeks? Buy machines, and they replace a dozen Uzbeks. There’s be ten times fewer janitors, but everyone will have a vacuum cleaner!”
Interviewer: “Why do you not like Uzbeks?”
Grudinin: “I understand that this is a problem. Ethnic conflict is the future of our country. It’s already clear. Children come to school, not knowing the Russian language. People from the entire aul arrive arrive here. When there is a fight on the playground a white and a black fight, the whites flee if the black wins. But if the white wins, then all the blacks gang up on the white. When there are two of them, it’s not so bad, but there’s a problem when there’s many of them.”
“We had one case a year ago when a ten year old boy crashed his bike into a girl and broke her lip. She got fixed up in hospital and her grandmother went to talk to the boy’s mother. She smashed her door closed. One would think that that would be the end of the incident, but no. The mother phoned her husband, who gathered twenty Azeris, found the girl’s father and grandfather. Afterwards they said that if there were any further problems with their children, they would kill them. On finding out about this, I looked at the CCTV footage, and discovered that the apartment where they live is rented out to one of our farm’s employees. I summoned him, and told him that he has a week to clear them all out – or I will fire you, and your problems won’t end there. And I then phoned the police chef and told him, “Strike up a criminal case and carry it through to the end. Do not take money.” Because this is a bad thing. If our people get drunk, they will go beat them up. And I will have have such a huge mess on my hands. Everyone will suffer.”
Unfortunately, Grudinin’s former colleagues in United Russia, perhaps unhappy with his defection, decided that this interview was extremist and filed a complaint. It’s worth noting that Grudinin didn’t stand by his words, insisting instead that the journalists had quoted him out of context. But that didn’t prevent him from being taken off the ballot box in the 2011 Moscow oblast Duma elections. An appeals court cleared him a couple of years later.
He failed to get into the State Duma as a KPRF deputy in the 2016 Duma elections.
Grudinin was nominated as the single candidate of the Left in a series of primaries organized by Sergey Udaltsov’s Left Front in November 2017. He was also recommend as Prime Minister of Russia by the Second Congress of the National-Patriotic Forces of Russia (NPSR), under President Yury Boldyrev, on December 22. Soon after, his candidacy won a secret vote in the KPRF, and he was officially nominated by Zyuganov and unanimously supported by the Central Committee of the KPRF.
Pavel Grudinin’s platform
On looking through his campaign advertising, one gets the impression that they are looking for some sort of Red/White reconciliation (or what some rather less flatteringly call the Red-Brown alliance).
For instance, here’s one of the images posted in a VK support group. Though they could do with a professional designer.
He seems to have normal relations with the LDPR. In 2012, Grudinin was photographed with LDPR leader Zhirinovsky at the 2012 strawberry harvest at the Lenin State Farm. This was, apparently, not a one-off.
But that’s about where this dallying with nationalists ends.
Writing today for the pro-Putin/patriotic but not really nationalist Vzglyad, Olga Tukhanina went so far as to compare him with Navalny and Boris Yeltsin, but with less rhetorical talent.
Paraphrasing his replies:
Where to get money? Nationalize big enterprises and introduce a progressive tax on the rich (but couldn’t clarify who counted as rich).
What is your economic program? Don’t know, but we’ll gather a team of the best economists, and they’ll write one.
How to get rid of corruption? Lee Kuan Yew managed, he even jailed two of his friends. Who are the two friends you’re going to jail? Do they know about this? My friends are all clean. Then the Singapore variant won’t work, jokes one of the hosts.
We should be friends with the Ukraine. But what if the Ukraine doesn’t want to be friends with us? Then he’ll consult with the Communists and think of something. (My friendly note for Grudinin: The Ukraine banned its Communist Party).
Yes, Crimea is Russia. But what to do with those in the West who think otherwise? Don’t know, I’ll have a Foreign Minister for this.
Russia should end with its imperial ambitions. Better to produce things instead.
We should bring back the Politburo.
In fairness, he has been personally involved in helping with humanitarian supplies to the LDNR, and says he will continue with them indefinitely.
However, his stances on the Ukraine are if anything even more schizophrenic than the Kremlin’s:
- We will continue being friends with the Ukraine
- The Ukrainians are a brotherly people
- The drunk Poroshenko is not the Ukrainian people
- Even a bad peace is better than any war
- If the Russian Federation gets busy with its own problems and improves itself, then its neighbors will want to be friends with it
He might want to be friends with the Ukraine, but they certainly don’t want to be friends with him. Not least since he intends to continue economically supporting the LDNR. At least the liberals’ position on unequivocally pulling all support for the Donbass make sense. The idea of “brotherly peoples” is a fading Soviet trope – either they are a subset of the Russian nation, as Russian nationalists insist, and even Putin has at times said; or they are just another neighboring nation, as liberals and the West insist. Of course Poroshenko is not the Ukrainian people – he is about 25% of them; another 25% support the overtly nationalist Tymoshenko, perhaps 10% are hardcore ultranationalists, 15%-20% are genuine Europeanist liberals. The more relevant information is that only 15% can be considered Russia sympathizers.
This is what Pavel Grudinin’s platform essentially boils down to:
- Political and foreign policy illiteracy at the highest level. “That’s what my Foreign Minister is for.”
- Doesn’t even have a platform yet (unlike Zhirinovsky, Navalny).
- The Venezualization of the Russian economy.
- Strong position on immigration, but with no credible assurance that he’ll actually stand by his words if things get inconvenient.
- No indication on his stance on freedom of speech. The KPRF formally opposes the removal of Article 282. Perhaps Grudinin has a different opinion since he was actually the subject of a politically motivated prosecution under “anti-extremism” legislation, but that’s not something to count on until and unless he clarifies his position.
- Communist rhetoric against Russian imperialism converging with liberal talking points, just as Egor Kholmogorov had predicted.*
- Muh unitary anti-fascist Ukraine.
- The restoration of the Politburo to cap it all off and mark the Communist Party’s final descent into complete and utter farce.
Response of Russian nationalists: Thanks but no thanks. As one of them noted in the comments to one of Egor Kholmogorov’s posts, he “offers the worst of both Communism and Russophobic liberalism (sovok + betrayal of Russians, and the permanent consolidation of Russia’s dismemberment)”. I think it’s safe to say that any Red-Brown alliance is dead in the water.
What is the electoral context?
People are already making comparisons with Alexander Lukashenko, who rose from collective farm director to President for Life in 1990’s Belarus.
This sort of “tough manager” (krepky hozyistvennik) shtick may have played well in 1990s Russia. But we’re approaching 2018. It isn’t going to fly now.**
Here’s one of the strongest trends in Russian politics: Communist voters are dying out.
As of the 2016 Duma elections, the KPRF was 2x popular as the LDPR amongst 60+ yo’s, whereas the exact reverse is true amongst 18-35 yo’s.***
It is also hard to see how heading a farm named specifically the founder of the Soviet state is going to be relevant in a country where the percentage of people saying Lenin was the “greatest man in history” has dropped from 72% in 1991 to 32% by 2017.
1. The KPRF, led by a tired Zyuganov who clearly wants to retire, is making a last hail mary to remain relevant in a Russia whose youth doesn’t care a fig for Marxism-Leninism or the world anti-imperialist struggle. Grudinin appeals to both its core voters, and potentially, to some of the LDPR’s as well.
2. Considering that LDPR/Zhirinovsky has become the main locus of discontented voters it is quite possible that Grudinin’s candidacy was approved or even requested by the Presidential Administration.
Or both could be true, I suppose.
I don’t see Grudinin getting much more than Zyuganov would have got (i.e. around 7%).
Much will depend on the results of his debates with Zhirinovsky and Sobchak, but as was confirmed today, both of them are far better versed at rhetoric and performing on TV.
* From 12 Myths of the Bolshevik Revolution: “In reality, regardless of which question we consider, appeals to the Soviet experience are block brakes on our future progress. It is either a false alternative to the liberal solution, or it is the liberal solution. Therefore, it is of no surprise that we are hearing increasingly Bolshevik overtones in the rhetoric of our liberal cliques, for example, in the matter of anti-clericalism. The Zyuganov era of traditionalist-friendly Communism is coming to its inevitable end, and is becoming displaced by a new era of Communist liberalism, which is hostile to the Russian traditional values that are held in equal contempt by both liberals and conventional Communists.”
** No matter how much Israel Shamir might wish it were otherwise.
*** As I have noted on several occasions, this developments in Western countries, such as the United States and France, where the elderly vote conservatives (Cruz/Jeb!, Fillon) but their grandchildren vote nationalist (Trump, Marine Le Pen). Adjust for Russia’s “conservatives” being Communists, are it all slides into place.