Russian Communists looking to overturn privatization

The Communists proposes that the state returns businesses that were “unfairly” privatized (RIA Novosti / Andrey Rudakov)
Russia’s Communist Party faction has submitted a bill on nationalization to the lower house of parliament.

­The legislation concerns the nationalization of companies that were privatized during the 1990s. Communists have always condemned the process of giving the state assets to individuals, many of whom turned into so-called oligarchs.

Observers say the Communists are trying to use their populist “trump card” now as they have started preparations for parliamentary elections scheduled for December. At the same time, the government is now launching another large-scale privatization campaign.

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) proposes that the state returns businesses that were “unfairly” privatized. But they support compensation of expenses to current owners after “the assessment of assets at the moment of privatization.”   

In an explanatory note to the draft bill, 24 deputies of the CPRF faction in the State Duma wrote that during the first 10 years of privatization about 140,000 enterprises were given to private owners. The state budget gained only about $10 billion, while in other European countries this figure was six times higher.

In Russia, privatization revenues per person were $54, compared to $2560 in Australia and more than a thousand dollars in other countries. “This was a targeted plunder of national property rather than privatization,” the explanatory note reads.

Many politicians doubt that the legislation will be put to vote in the parliament. Privatization was carried out with numerous legal violations, but it is impossible “to turn back the wheel of history,” Sergey Markov, Duma deputy from the ruling United Russia party believes.

Unfair privatization and calls for returning “loot” are common CPRF’s slogans, Markov told RBC daily. “The emergence of such a bill is clearly connected with the forthcoming elections to the State Duma.”  

People in Russia tend to consider big property as “illegal,” although it has been formalized, the deputy said.  He predicted that the Communists will gain some electoral advantages after this move, but stressed the bill “surely will not be supported” in the parliament.