Letter from Moscow: Russians fight to restore democracy

MOSCOW – October 4th marked the 10th anniversary of the storming of the Russian White House, the building that used to house the Soviet parliament. On this day in 1993, the city of Moscow erupted as the working people retaliated against then-President Boris Yelstin’s police force and political cronies.

It was a scene of glory and horror, hope and despair, as more than 100 Communists and leftists were martyred while acting under their innate compulsion for freedom, solidarity, and survival. This violent culmination was reached nearly two weeks after Yeltsin’s decision to dissolve the parliament, which followed a yearlong controversy concerning his unconstitutional privatization plans.

Yeltsin initiated the battle by ordering the police to lay siege to the White House, where Communist and progressive legislators had barricaded themselves in to defend the Soviet government. Over 10,000 protestors supporting the legislators then broke through the police blockade in order to reclaim the White House. But, by brute force, Yeltsin’s troops prevailed as tanks shelled the parliament building.

Although the battle lasted for no more than two days, the impact of the event will never be forgotten. It was significant not only for Russians but for people around the world as well. Those men and women, young and old who bravely took up arms to defend their democratic rights on Oct. 4 shared a commitment against the capitalist system. Those who fought for the working people of the world on Oct. 4 will continue to be an inspiration to all of us.

For the 10th anniversary of the battle, the Russian Communists held a rally in October Park, which is located several kilometers from the White House. A crowd of 5,000 and several thousand observers arrived at the park around noon. Leaders of the Communist Party delivered inspiring speeches, under the vigilant eyes of a statue of V.I. Lenin. They elicited cheers from their audience, waving Communist flags as they shouted over and over again, “[Yeltsin’s government] was never democratic! It was never constitutional! They are not our government!”

I made my way through the crowd, over to the stage area. After a short conversation with the Red Guards, who were blocking the backstage entrance, I was granted passage. There, I met F.Kh. Galkin, a high-ranking Communist Party official. After discovering that I was an American, he commented, “Leftist groups and political parties in America have a difficult task, but they are necessary because American politicians are so malicious.” He then explained how the battle of Oct. 4, 1993, had not only affected the Communists, but had also impacted numerous Russian groups and parties, a good number of which were represented at the rally.

After several hours of speeches and songs, a march began from October Park to the White House. The crowd grew larger the closer we got to the White House. En route, I felt a breeze from 1917 as an elderly Russian woman worked to convince police and onlookers to join the procession. After the march, the commemoration concluded without a single reported incident of violence.

To better understand the significance of the Oct. 4 rally, one must be aware of the current condition of Russian society. Since the introduction of “free market” and “democratic liberal” capitalism, the living conditions of the Russian people have plunged to intolerable depths. Exploitation by both foreign and domestic businesses has left the elderly working to supplement their meager pensions, lured desperate young women into prostitution and young men into criminal syndicates, and turned the disabled into street beggars. The price of commodities continues to soar, and the privatization of education leaves a vast majority of the population without any sort of adequate schooling.

As one working class, we should not simply concern ourselves with our own, particular, immediate social situations, but with the state of the working class across the world. As the Russian people move further into an understanding of the perils of capitalism, why should the rest of the world wait, and allow the obvious threats of capitalism to fester into an insurmountable force? We should be inspired by the Communists in Russia today who defend the struggles and accomplishments of the Soviet system and condemn and expose the hypocrisies and injustices of the “new” Russia.

The author is a U.S. student in Moscow and can be reached at a1colecole@aol.com