Young communists build forbidden party

November 21, 1997

EUROPE. Young communists are building a new youth movement in Russia's universities despite laws forbidding political activity on campus.

Members of the youth wing of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the largest of the left-wing parties that emerged from the remnants of the old Soviet communists after the early 1990s ban on membership was lifted, claim 300 members in Moscow and say a nationwide structure will emerge within a year.

The CPRF's youth organisation, which recruits people aged 18 to 35, was established 18 months ago. Lack of money and official sanctions against openly recruiting in universities has hampered rapid development of the youth wing, its leaders say, but student members do not fail to proselytize when the opportunity presents.

"It's forbidden to have branches of any political party in Russian universities, but we have many members at institutes or universities and these people attract other students into the organisation," said Maxim Suraikin, a student at the Moscow State University of Railway Communication and member of the Moscow city committee of the CPRF.

Young communists are currently involved in electioneering for next month's local elections in Moscow, where 15 of the CP candidates standing for district council seats are drawn from the youth wing, he said. Developing regional youth and student party structures would begin in the new year.

"Provincial universities, towns and cities offer the greatest opportunity for increasing our membership because there young people are less affected by the propaganda the current regime pushes in Moscow and Leningrad (sic)," Mr Suraikin said.

"In the republic of Dagestan, for example, although the CPRF does not have a youth party there, the Russian Union of Communist Youth has 20,000 members."

Olga Samarina, 20, who is studying film industry finance and economics at VGIK, the All Russian State Film Institute, based in Moscow, and also a member of the city committee of the CPRF, said there are "hundreds of thousands" of potential young communists in Russia, but the effective destruction of the Soviet party makes its resurrection difficult.

"What does today's Russia offer young people?" she asked. "Increasing crime, drug abuse, prostitution and other effects of a wild and free life. Many young graduates today cannot find a good job; married couples cannot afford to have children and those that do can't pay for kindergartens.

The Russian population is dropping by 600,000 every year. What kind of a life is this for young people?"

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