Sergei Skripnikov (Democratic Union), 1990

Democratic Union; interviewed Feb 21, 1990
Interviewer: Gwynne Dyer

What would you do with 18 million communists if you had them?

There are actually twenty million and we wouldn’t do anything to them. Democratic Union was set up in May 1988 in Moscow. There were delegates from 33 places in the SU and on the 3rd day, all of the outsiders were sent away; they didn’t have permission to be there.(Nobody from outside is allowed to stay in Moscow for more than 3 days.)

For the first year they were persecuted a lot on the job. Afterwards it was a little different but there has not yet been a single demonstration of D.U. that was allowed by the authorities. They continue anyhow, and are boycotting the coming election. They thought Gorbachev was using this mass movement to oust the middle level bureaucrats for his own purposes. Now he may give some positions to these guys but basically the effort would be playing into his hand, or giving people the illusion that they could change the anti-democratic system just by putting a ballot in a box. They don’t want to participate in the state structure in this way. They want to create parallel institutions, as Solidarnosc did. Instead of tear down the old trade unions, they just ignored it and started their own and people came out of it and joined them, and it collapsed by itself without anybody trying to make it collapse. What is going on now is that Gorbachev had tried to combine two things that are completely antithetical, a market economy and state run system, and they don’t work. He knows better and the only reason he hasn’t done anything more by way of reform is that within 2 weeks the public would overthrow it because the reforms would be too painful and difficult. Gorbachev is trying to turn people against the apparat by stirring up feelings against the bureaucrats in Sverdlovsk and somewhere else.

There will be a split in the CPSU between progressives and conversatives and you have to see the progressives trying to get support now. Polls show that the liberal party, which is a part of the CPSU, has gained a lot of popularity and that it is just a wonderful manoeuvre to keep the CP in power. We think that it is the only way for Gorbachev to save the CP.

If Brouzowskas in Lithuania is trying to save the CP by placing himself as a nationalist. But in Russia, the conservatives have the Russian nationalist issue, so there is no way for Gorbachev to take the nationalists with him. In certain places like the Caucasus, nationalistic movements first and in priority I guess they were connected, whereas here in Russia nationalism is not with democracy but is chauvinistic. Maybe what happened here in 1917 was a revolution against the citizens. All civil society was destroyed. The only organizations that exist are statist.

Skripnikov came to Moscow to study and he was in an institute where, of 600 students, 400 were from E. Europe and he met Poles and when things happened in Poland he became conscious of conversations with them. Now they shook his brains and now he works for liberalism.

What makes us different from other political organizations is that we are trying not to be in opposition to the CPSU, but to be in opposition to the system itself.

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books