(pages 8, 245, 336-337, 348, 382-3)
In the summer of 1987 I ran into the next stage in the development of these clubs. This time the focus was openly political, and the tone was increasingly directed to action, not just discussion. About 500 representatives of 47 political, cultural and ecological groups met for a three-day conference in a factory's 'House of Culture' to draft a ringing manifesto for change. Boris Yeltsin, the Communist party chief in
The conference organizers let me break the story only after the first guarded but supportive report appeared in the Soviet press in the journal Ogonyok more than a fortnight after the event. The Ogonyok piece did not report the proposal by the most radical group, known as Democracy and Humanism, for an end to the one-party system (which was rejected by a majority of participants). It suppressed the call for a monument to be built to the victims of Stalin and did not mention that two of the organizers had been imprisoned under Brezhnev. Gleb Pavlovsky was arrested in 1982 for editing the first seven issues of a left-wing samizdat journal, Poiski (Searches). Boris Kagarlitsky published a samizdat paper, Levi Povorot (Left Turn) and spent thirteen months in prison.
One purpose of the conference, which was organized by the 'Club of Social Initiatives', was to unite the new informal groups round a common platform. The most contentious issue was whether it would be explicitly labelled 'socialist'. The conference split on the point. One group, led by Oleg Rumyantsev (who later went on to found the Social-Democratic party of Russia and, as a member of the Russian Supreme Soviet, was in charge of rewriting Russia's constitution) favoured a relatively loose 'Circle of Social Initiatives'. The other group, led by Kagarlitsky (who later became a member of the
Both groups agreed on what they called the 'Three Nyets': No to violence and the propagation of violence; no to ideas of racial or national exclusiveness; and no to claims to a monopoly on the truth in detriment to people's right to search for it independently themselves. The manifesto of the Federation of Socialist Clubs, adopted at the conference, acknowledged the constitutional role of the Communist party of the Soviet Union, but said the party was not united: 'Its ranks include people who bear responsibility for the abuses and miscalculations of the past, and who formed that mass of bureaucrats and officials who cut themselves off from the hopes and needs of their people. Our aim is to support the healthy and progressive forces in the party's leadership and the rank and file'.'
Many of the manifesto's proposals echoed what dissidents had been saying in underground bulletins and appeals in the 1960s and 1970S. Now, amazingly, they were being outlined at an officially permitted conference. But this was still 1987, and glasnost - what some critics called 'a licence to speak' - had some way to go. The Soviet press's failure to publish the manifesto suggested it was still considered too radical, and that the party leadership was not willing to be overtaken by independent groups 'from below'. But these first political 'informals' would soon infiltrate their ideas into the mainstream, via the democratic reform groups which were to emerge inside the Communist party. The Komsomol, the Young Communist League, was the first official organization to be infected with the spirit of change. One Soviet paper reported that 60 per cent of the informals were members of the Young Communist League.2 Some of their ideas were later to be adopted by Gorbachev, whose speeches in 1988 and 1989 often sounded like the dissident tracts of the 1970s.
The summer of 1987 saw the first public demonstrations in
The rest of his programme was radical. He called for a law on land, to give private peasants greater rights. He wanted an end to nuclear testing on Russian territory. He proposed legislation to bring the various security organs under a single minister responsible to parliament. The KGB should no longer be at the service of a single political party. He advocated a gradual move to a professional army, and the provision in the meantime of alternative service for conscripts with conscientious or religious objections. He suggested the formation of a Council of Economic Advisers to work out a transition to a market economy. He called for a law on Russian sovereignty, a new Russian constitution and direct elections to a new executive presidency for
Within two weeks Yeltsin had fulfilled his promise and brought to the Congress a declaration of Russian sovereignty, which was passed by an overwhelming 98 per cent of the deputies. Yet even with this declaration Yeltsin showed no sign of wanting to undermine the
that breaking up the monopolies should have preceded the freeing of prices. He said the transfer to the market should be administered by a strong centre which would gradually dismantle the monopolies and promote competition and labour discipline. While he supported foreign investment, he was suspicious of foreign loans administered by the International Monetary Fund, which were tied to Western monetarist prescriptions - 'free cheese in a mousetrap', as he phrased it once.
Rutskoi's views put him firmly in the camp of
Rutskoi drew a distinction in early 1992 between 'enlightened patriotism' and 'primitive patriotism'. It struck a powerful chord, and his popularity ratings rose steadily thereafter. The phrase made the notion of patriotism respectable to those who had previously seen such appeals as a cynical device by the old nomenklatura to maintain their positions. Rutskoi's views were increasingly echoed by other politicians of the new generation with impeccable democratic positions. Two, in particular, could not be labelled conservatives, or ignorant of the West.
I first heard of Oleg Rumyantsev in 1987 when he was a young researcher at the Institute of the Economics of the World Socialist System, and a founder of the Club for Democratic Perestroika. He played a key role at the first conference of political clubs that August (see Chapter i). A specialist on
Sergei Stankevich, another prominent young politician, also entered public life through the grass-roots clubs, in his case the Moscow Popular Front. Inspired by perestroika, he joined the Communist party under Gorbachev to try to increase the power of the reformers. He was elected to the Soviet parliament and the
If Rutskoi was the politician who first raised the banner of enlightened patriotism, the man who carried it most prominently on the economic front was Arkady Volsky. He, too, was primarily a politician rather than an economist, but he was not a member of the
enough for the court to start work. The judges chose one of their number to be the chairman. Some deputies were unhappy with the speed of the selection process. They had only five minutes to question each candidate. Other deputies complained there were not enough representatives of ethnic minorities, and only one woman.
What remained obscure at the end of the Communist party case was why the court had taken so long to decide to hear the Communists' petition against Yeltsin's ban. There were strong suspicions that Valery Zorkin, the chairman, was delaying it so as not to embarrass the president. The court was 'saved' in May when Oleg Rumyantsev, the executive secretary of the Russian Congress's constitutional commission, brought his petition questioning the party's constitutionality throughout its time in power. This second petition muddied the waters, and meant that when the case opened both sides were on the defensive. Rumyantsev had only just managed to get the Russian Congress of People's Deputies to pass an amendment to the constitution one month earlier allowing the court to rule on the constitutionality of parties. He did not explain his purpose at the time. Had the second petition been worked out with the government's lawyers? I asked Rumyantsev later. 'No,' he replied. 'It was my personal initiative, which I worked out after consultations with Zorkin. He headed a group of experts working with our constitutional commission and I knew him well.'
It was an astonishing disclosure, since in any system with a true separation of powers such a move by the country's top constitutional judge would be inadmissible. Moreover, the law establishing the court forbids judges from giving opinions on executive decisions before a case is brought. But, according to Rumyantsev, he only 'consulted' Zorkin. Zorkin decided that while
police, but this alone does not explain their abandonment of the cordon round the White House. Lieutenant General Kulikov himself admitted it was a policy decision.
The second argument against the notion of a 'provocation' is that President Yeltsin had left
The argument is weak, since anyone running a 'dirty trick' of the kind which appears to have been perpetrated on 3 October would hardly bring more than a handful of senior people into the plot. Those who did not know of it would quite likely have panicked. As for Yeltsin's absence from
Many of the details of the assault on the White House are as obscure as what went on the day before. Endless arguments erupted afterwards over the casualty figures. The official death toll at the White House was put at 46, but eyewitnesses said that when they left the building they had seen corpses lining the corridors, and claimed that several hundred were killed. Deputies who surrendered were treated arbitrarily. Some were escorted out by government forces and allowed to go home unharmed. Others suffered beatings in a nearby stadium or in the entrances and darkened courtyards of ordinary blocks of flats. Oleg Rumyantsev, the young executive secretary of the Constitutional Commission (see Chapter Thirteen), had one of the worst ordeals. He was led by a group of men from the former KGB's Alpha unit to a nearby building. 'They left, but from the doorway an "Omonovets" - a member of the special police troops - jumped out with an automatic rifle and shouted "Lie down, you bastard,",' Rumyantsev recounted later. 'They pushed me into the entrance-hall. A drunken face grabbed me by the beard: "Come here, Jewish shit." They hit me tree times in the face. Then they searched me. I had no money, only a small Sony radio. They hit me again in the ribs and the stomach. Then they pushed me out again. An officer whispered to me, "They're shooting in the yard. Run over to that entrance." We ran there. I was with an artist I had met in the White House. It was the same picture in the next entrance, the same hell, just a different group. The police were beating two young kids, not more than seventeen-year-olds, who were stripped to the waist for some reason. The police grabbed me and beat me several times in the testicles. For a week afterwards I was urniating blood. They used their rifle butts to push us into the courtyard. There was indeed shooting going on there. It was not clear who they were shooting at, but we heard single shots'.
Rumyantsev's fearful experience went on a further ten minutes. Another policeman accosted him. 'Imagine it. A drunken man with a rifle, his eyes with nothing human left in them, at his feet someone's corpse. "It's all over, you bastard, say goodbye to life," he told me. He spat twice in my face, then shouted, "Turn round." I turned round. "Kneel." Then he fired over my head. I lay there, without the strength to get up.' Eventually, he managed to run into another entrance, and dashed upstairs. He rang a doorbell, and told the woman who opened it, 'I'm a deputy, Rumyanstev.' 'We recognize you. Come in,' she said. It was a one-room flat with a family of three. Rumyantsev stayed there for several days, slowly recovering.
Flushed by victory, Yeltsin also allowed euphoria to overcome better judgement, just as it had overwhelmed the hardline defenders