Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 12, 1995 · Page 20
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Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota · Page 20

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OUTLOOK PAGE A20 STAR TRIBUNE . SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12 1995 Communists on a roll to dominant role Russia's most despised party 5 years ago now its most popular By Michael Specter New York Times "MOSCOW As a man trained in philosophy, Gennadi Zyuganov loves to toss around the big words of the 20th century. lie is forever talking about the Social Democrats of Britain and the egalitarianism of Sweden. And about how liberalism changes when it travels from Germany to Italy to Spain. But there is one big word you almost never hear Zyuganov say: communism. For some people, particularly in Russia these days, that would be completely understandable. For the chairman of what is still called the Communist Party, it seems a bit strange. But it is hard to argue with success and in five short years Zyuganov, 51, has succeeded in taking a moribund, dishonest and uniformly despised political movement and turning it into the most popular party in Russia. As the Dec. 17 parliamentary elections draw near, there no longer seems any doubt that Communists will have a dominant role in a heavily divided legislature. The question is whether they will have the power to slow the reforms of President Boris Yeltsin. "You know that they cannot rule in the traditional sense," said Masha Volkenshtein, a sociologist and pollster. "The president rules Russia. But the Communists are the party that appeals to people who don't like the way things have turned out. And that's a lot of people." A different path Although Nov. 7 is still celebrated throughout the country as Revolution Day, the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, most Russians even Communists now understand that the old Soviet sys- . 0h - j J Associated Press Gennadi Zyuganov, chairman of Russia's resurgent Communist Party: "Look at all the world's religions. The message is love your neighbor. We have the same goals." tern the Bolsheviks created was a disaster. But many are just as appalled at the psychological and social turmoil caused by the free market. Like many people elsewhere in the former Soviet empire particularly in Eastern Europe countries where voters have reacted to the pain of economic reform by returning Communists to power Russians are trying to find a different path. And the Communists are doing everything they can to make that path their own. Yeltsin has already been pushed away from the liberal reformers by nationalists and Communists in the last three years. A Communist victory next month would only increase the pressure to turn back the clock. "We gathered 2 million signatures in 10 days," Zyuganov said, referring to the petitions from voters required of each party that seeks to run. "No party got half as many. Others paid for their support. We did n't spend a kopeck." So it is hard to blame Zyuganov if he goes easy on the terminology of Lenin and Marx and offers instead a vague vision of social fraternity and love of labor that might well be called Communist Lite. I Ie says he believes in a multiparty system, private property, freedom of religion and lots of choice. "Labels cause too many problems," Zyuganov said during an interview in which he did his best to sound more like a solid union man than a lifelong Communist and the political descendant of Stalin. "Two basic ideas compete in the world today," he said. "Light and dark. "Look at all the world's religions. The message is love your neighbor. We have the same goals. Communists never invented anything. Nobody said they did. They simply try to implement a vision of truth and justice that you can find in any fairy tale." Moved to the center Fairy tales have their problems, though. People are beginning to ponder seriously questions they until recently preferred to ignore: After five years of faltering reforms, could communism really return to the land it nearly destroyed? And what would happen if it did? Zyuganov tries to portray a future Communist Russia that caters to the needs of the many without offending the dreams of the few. But he also grew up within the unbending discipline of the party. When other party members broke off to support the reforms of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Zyuganov simply shook his head at their foolishness. But he knows that the old party line is not acceptable now and probably never will be again. So he has moved to the center, calling for orderly, restrained nationalization of some not all industries. He says the land ought to belong to the people, a platitude that is always good for votes in Russia. Knowing that the crime epidemic worries almost everyone, he has promised law and order, but always carefully pointing out that his people are not the same ones who for seven decades deprived a nation of its civil liberties and its self-respect. He says the Constitution which makes the Parliament he may control virtually toothless should be honored no matter what. But he also says it is time for a new type of reform, by which he means that it is time to end the ability of a few well-placed people to loot the considerable resources of one of the world's largest nations. And he almost never makes a speech without reminding people how much - - Russia's angry elderly hold the key to the resurgence of the Communist Party. he would do to welcome foreign investment. The pitch, larded with the call for a strong Russia that even liberals now realize is required of all parties here, certainly seems to have hit a spot with the voters. In almost every poll taken in the last three months, Communists receive more support, spread evenly across the country, than any other group. Much of that support comes from pensioners frustrated that the old world of cheap sausage, guaranteed employment and a comforting simplicity is gone for good. Some of it comes from people angry at the grabby, lawless state that the brazenly capitalist Russia has become. And the rest seems to come from people who just do not know what else to do. "For better or worse, these people are new kinds of Communists and they have a lot of support," said Igor Klyamkin, one of Russia's leading pollsters. "Zyuganov is flexible, modern and pragmatic. He understands his electorate and he understands Russia. He is a realist and realistic Communists are new to this country. What he would be like as a leader, however, nobody can say." Upcoming November 12 to 19 Sunday The most comprehensive exhibit on Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer opens at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The exhibit, which features 20 of Vermeer's 35 known paintings, will be displayed until Feb. 1 1 , 1996. Monday The International Peacekeeping '95 conference is held in Washington. Speakers from around the world will address such issues as the plight of refugees, the global land-mine crisis and regional peacekeeping operations. The conference is sponsored by Baxter Publishing, the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies and the Lester Pearson Peacekeeping Training Center. Tuesday Two boys, ages 1 1 and 12, are scheduled to In-sentenced in Chicago for the October 1994 murder of a 5-year-old boy who was dropped from a 14th-floor window because he would not steal candy for the two youths. Wednesday A court hearing is scheduled in Los Angeles on whether to keep secret the pretrial depositions in the civil suits against O.J. Simpson. Thursday The House Oversight Committee holds a hearing on campaign finance reform and methods to revise rules governing political action committees. Algeria is scheduled to hold its presidential election. The election is being boycotted by the Islamic Salvation Front, whose likely victory in January 1992 parliamentary elections was prevented when the government canceled elections. Friday Florida's Republican Party holds its 1995 Presidency III straw poll convention in Orlando, through Saturday. All lORepublican presidential candidates are scheduled to attend and participate in a nationally televised debate, Saturday Louisiana holds a runoff election for governor. Republican state Sen. Mike Foster, who received 26 percent of thevote in tlieOct.21 election, faces Democratic Rep. Cleo Fields, who had 19 percent of the vote. Sunday Polish President Lech Walesa faces Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Communist, in a run-off presidential election. !" .'. '-.lkJ -.5'r".""" Milium r? . : a.. jaw, j,?- -..II 1.1. II. I.. - l n hi "-' UuMuaft "Off . ".'J!.-. . ,ilU ITA'HL1,,liliUW A " I ' & I- ' ' Powell could be America's lost chance Views as to how differ, but he would have altered the '96 race New York Times Looking for a few good men and women, Sgt. Charlie Pomykaj, a Marine Corps recruiter, strolls outside Ottumwa High School as he tries to fill his annual goal of signing up at least 24 new Marines. Bosnia is a hard sell for military recruiters New York Times OTTUMWA, IOWA Sgt. Charlie Pomykaj, burly in his khaki shirt and blue trousers with a red stripe , looks every ounce the Marine Corps recruiter as he works a crowd of high school students on lunch break outside class in Ottumwa, offering college tuition, technical skills and exotic foreign adventures to anyone who enlists. But one adventure Pomykaj is not mentioning is Bosnia. Most people in Ottumwa arc opposed lo President Clinton's proposal to send 20,000 American troops to help keep peace in Bosnia and recruiters say they fear their sales pitches may fall on deaf ears if teenagers or their parents think a recruit will end up in the middle of ethnic bloodshed that seems to go on forever. "If it's seen as senseless, like Somalia, and if it's not supported in the community, then of course it'll trickle down to the kids," said Pomykaj, 2fi, who was a weather technician in the Persian Gulf War. The prospect of American troops in Bosnia has not hurt recruiting so far, military officials say. But recruiting is a volatile business in the best of times. In the Gulf War, young men and women flocked to recruiting centers. But the debacle in Somalia, where 1 8 U.S soldiers were killed while fightingin Mogadishu on Oct. 3, 1993, had the opposite effect. It is not just Marine Corps recruiters who express concern over a potential Bosnia mission. "If we go over there and there are casualties, we'll be hurting in recruiting, " said Capt. Harry Meyer, who heads the Army's recruiting efforts in south-central Iowa. Residents of Ottumwa, a city of 25,000 people 75 miles southeast of Des Moines, say they favor the military and are very patriotic. Bosnia, though, is different. "The calls are 95 percent against our going into Bosnia," said Dave Michaelsof radio station KIllIi-AM. "Lots of people arc comparing it to Vietnam." To help remedy these problems, the Pentagon has increased its advertising budget for recruiting this year to $207 million from $112.5 million in 1993. By Steve Berg National Correspondent "I cannot go forward," Colin Powell said on Wednesday. Absorbing those words, an already dispirited electorate began to grasp the reality that the 1996 presidential campaign seems unlikely to rise above the ordinary and that most everyone will be poorer for it. Before last week's denouement, the retired general's non-candidacy had been this campaign's most significant development. In some ways, it remains so. Perhaps the expectations for Powell were too high. Maybe they would have been quickly dashed had he entered the race and exposed himself to what is politely called "the process." Maybe the Republican right, heady with the scent of certitude, would have ground him to dog meat by the end of the primaries. But even so, there had been an enormous reservoir of hope that somehow, some way, Powell could have made things better. Indeed, he seemed to prove it, standing there Wednesday at the podium, in clear command of the room, using a quiet voice and simple phrases and flashes of soft humor and yet emitting a sense of authority that more strident politicians could only envy. The irony was obvious. If it is "fire in the belly" that one must have to be president, then perhaps what the country needs is a leader without it. Perhaps it is the fire itself, the excessive ambition, that sets in motion all the other demons that makes "the process" so hellish, that makes candidates so desperate to turn themselves over to slick handlers and to the whims of public opinion so that they become a mere product, a "Man from Hope." Or, as Bob Dole, without a trace of embarrassment, confessed to fellow Republicans last summer: "I'm willing to be another Ronald Reagan, if that's what you want." And so as Powell strode from the room and as the historians and pundits began to puff on and on about what it all meant, the voting public was left to absorb what amounted to a single phrase: A lost chance. A lost c hance to prove that politics could rise above its cur- Analysis rent level. A lost chance to restore a measure of civility and respectability not only to presidential politics but to the country. When, for example, Powell mentioned a need to restore a "sense of shame," the impression was that he was taking aim at society's broad spectrum from street thuggery to corporate greed. A lost chance at moderation, especially in a Republican Party that seems incapable of erecting a larger tent. A lost chance to soothe racial polarization and to discuss racial matters in quieter, more reasoned tones. A lost chance to demonstrate 130 years after the Civil War and a generation after the civil rights struggles that a mostly white country could seriously consider electing a black as president. A lost chance to show an alienated black underclass that traditional values and bootstraps can work, that there may be an alternative to profound hopelessness and government dependence. Not everyone, of course, viewed Powell's demurral as a minus. Many conservatives saw him as a potent threat to the Republican revolution, someone who could split the party and ensure an encore by Bill Clinton. Likewise, many blacks were suspicious that Powell might not be, in the words of one student, "our leader" but rather "white America's leader for us." Then there's the view that Powell, only 56, was simply making a cold political calculation: that his chances would be better at the millennium. Here's a sampler of other views from across the country (and in some cases from across the sea): New York Times editorial: "Now the campaign ahead has a more plodding feel to it. Dole looks more and more like a Republican Mondale, the candidate of habit rather than of passion. As for Clinton, who can find a 1992 supporter who does not seem shorn of illusions? Gone with Powell's announcement is the chance for a campaign that offered excitement beyond the egodriven twistings of Ross Perot." Los Angeles Times editorial: "A public that has grown weary of the dodges, the cynicism, the contextual evasiveness, the increasing nastiness of conventional politics sensed Powell's qualities early on. Simply by offering himself as a can -didate in next year's primaries and by being himself, Colin Powell may have raised the moral and intellectual tone of the campaign. Let no one doubt the American voter's continued yearning for such a change." Roger Wilkins, historian and former civil rights leader: "It's remarkable to see a lot of white Americans gloomy because this blackmail wouldn't run Having an enormously respected black American vying for the nomination would have been a wonderful thing for the country in general and for black people in particular. It would have forced us to talk about race in a way we never have before. Now that probably won't happen in our lifetimes." Michael Beschloss, historian: "He could have been one of the great figures of American history. Now we have to entertain the possibility that he may be a little more like Mario Cuomo, someone who was seen at the moment as an important figure politically. . . but turned out to be a minor figure." Maureen Dowd, New York Times: "He was causing people to discuss race in serious ways. I Ie had exposed the Christian right as a panicked sectarian phenomenon. I Ie had shown howshallow the support for Bob Dole is. He had scared Democrats who are trying to fashion a centrist position that dodges affirmative action He had made it possible to imagine a campaign without scandal. He had shown signs that he might have been an exemplar of the most important ingredient missing in politics: moral authority But we'll always have . . . his elegant press conference in which he showed why Americans are right to be famished for something finer than they have." Molly Ivins, Fort Worth StarTelegram: "When we (the media and the political consultants drive the best away, we are stuck with the rest. And don't feed me any of that crud about how politics ain't bean ball and you need killer instincts or you have to be 'hungry' and all that self-justifying bull. The ends do not justify the means, period. At the end of his life, even Lee Atwatcr, who prided himself on being a hardball player, came to recognize that he had been wrong. It shouldn't take the rest of us that long." George Will, Washington Post Writers Group: "Those conservatives who were in a semi-swoon about the therapeutic potential of a Powell candidacy for a nation in need of the ointment of Powell's rhetoric resembled teenage girls at a Bon Jovi concert. And those conservatives who recently held a press conference to find fault with Powell's character revealed their own, and would have forfeited their reputations for wisdom if they had such." Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council: "I continue to believe his views are not the winning formula for the Republican Party, and 1 think his candidacy would have ended up lessening his stature because that's the nature of American politics." Mario Cuomo, former Democratic governor of New York: "It would have helped, I think, this country to have a black who was a candidate by popular demand, even if he didn't win. I lere is a black man who becomes a candidate because the country was demanding it. That by itself is good . . . not an antidote by itself, but certainly would have been a curative experience." David Bositis, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies: ... to look at things having to do with family values, the role of government, where the country is headed and whether they wanted to continue to be ent irely wedded to the Democratic Party and the agenda of the Democratic Party. "Powell would have pushed white Americans to confront racial biases they hold, consciously or unconsciously. It would have confronted them with a black man who has had a life of hard work and accomplishment and working collaboratively with both races to try to achieve desired goals." The Economist: "In the end, the candidate who may benefit most from Powell's decision is not any Republican, but Clinton. A Powell candidacy would have been a nightmare for the president. Now he faces an underwhelming clutch of Republicans, plus the (for him) welcome prospect of a vote-splitting candidate backed by Ross Perot's nascent third party. The chances of a second Clinton term have rarely looked brighter." t ' J i

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