Barred From Plants, Communist Cells Vow to Rent Nearby Offices : Russia: But Yeltsin’s decree is expected to seriously weaken the party’s privileged position.
On the first working day since Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin’s decree banning political party organizations from workplaces went into effect, leaders of Communist Party cells at Moscow factories said Monday that they will move their offices off the grounds but will not disband.
“Most likely, we will rent out a place right across the street from the factory and continue our work from there,” said Viktor I. Danilin, head of the party committee at Moscow’s Automatic Calculating Machine Plant, which makes electronic musical instruments as well as electronic equipment for military use.
“You can’t split the party from the plant,” he continued. “Communists have been actively participating in every aspect of this enterprise for decades, and the influence of Communists will continue.”
Not far away, at the Hammer and Sickle metal works, the administration was looking for a good location just outside the plant grounds to resettle its party organization, which has played a leadership role at the mill since the early years of Soviet power.
“Our party committee will continue to exist,” said its head, Tatyana V. Koshkareva. “I think the party committees at most enterprises will do what we’re doing--just find a new office nearby.
“It’s not a big problem if I no longer have my office in the plant,” Koshkareva continued. “I’ve worked at this plant for 27 years, and I know everyone. No one would ever prevent me from coming into the plant. I’ll still be here working with the people every day.”
Despite party leaders’ optimism, Yeltsin’s decree, which went into effect Sunday throughout the giant Russian Federation, was expected to seriously undermine the privileged position of the Communist Party, which for decades has organized its supporters at their workplaces.
Party organizations had the final say on factories’ production, institutes’ curricula, promotions at all workplaces and the distribution of perks and privilege.
These committees lost some of their power after the national Soviet Parliament revoked the Communist Party’s constitutionally guaranteed monopoly on power more than a year ago.
Many factories, mines and other businesses had already given the boot to their Communist Party organizations before Yeltsin’s decree was announced. Other enterprises reacted immediately. According to the official Soviet news agency Tass, 10% of Leningrad’s factory managers have ordered their party committees to close down.
In the Tyumen oil region of Siberia, even the KGB security and espionage agency has agreed to dissolve its party organization, the Communist Party newspaper Pravda reported.
Grass-roots party organizations are worried that Yeltsin’s decree will further diminish their party’s position in society.
“Of course, it’s a serious blow to the Communist Party,” said Anatoly P. Anashikin, Communist Party secretary of Moscow’s industrial Baumansky region. “The party is going through a difficult time. We have to struggle for power for the first time in seven decades. It will hurt us to have to use our time and resources to set up new party committees outside workplaces, when we should be using our time and resources for the political battle.
“We do not exclude that many of our members will use the decree as an excuse to leave the party,” he added.
For decades, it was nearly impossible to climb the career ladder in the Soviet Union without belonging to the Communist Party, and many people who joined merely for pragmatic reasons are now quitting.
In the last 18 months, Communist Party membership nationwide has fallen by 4.2 million to 15 million.
Although Yeltsin’s decree took effect Sunday, two weeks after it was issued, directors of many enterprises decided to wait for the results of a study of the decree by the Constitutional Compliance Committee, a quasi-judicial constitutional watchdog, before they make any decisions.
Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party, has strongly opposed the decree and threatened to nullify it with a decree of his own.
Government officials of the Russian Federation, the largest of the Soviet Union’s 15 constituent republics, said that if managers fail to order the closure of party committees, they could be fined 10,000 rubles, or $5,555 at the inflated official commercial-exchange rate, from their personal funds.
They added, however, that enterprises will be given some time to dismantle their party organizations and did not specify when the penalties would be levied. A Politburo member said Saturday that, with Yeltsin’s consent, dissolving the entire network of party cells at the workplace could take more than half a year.
During the midday break at the Automatic Calculating Machine Plant, workers who did not belong to the Communist Party were cheering Yeltsin’s decision to kick the party committees off factory property.
“It was an excellent decision,” said Shamil Kharidinov, 41, a driver. “What do we need them for?”
Alla, a 47-year-old assembly worker, who refrained from giving her last name, said it is high time that party members lose their power and perks.
“The party committee has always had too much influence, and we workers have always resented it,” Alla said. “We’ll be a lot better off without them.”
But party members said that just because their headquarters will move across the street--to a building that belongs to the local government--the party will not be any less felt at the plant.
“Our authority does not depend on the location of our office space,” said Galina S. Beuryakova, the editor of the in-house newspaper at the calculating machine plant and a longtime Communist. “The party will still have a big role in solving the important problems at this plant.”