of Workers' Leaders
The Classical Case of Oleg Shein, the Deputy
By Shamil Borodobaev
When three years ago Oleg Shein had won in the race for the seat in the State Duma, it was seen as a big victory for all those who stood to the left of CPRF. We all hoped that Shein would not only carry on the work begun by the previous left deputies Grigoriev and Avaliani, but that he would raise it to a new level of militancy. We can now say that our hopes have failed come true. And even worse.
One cannot say that Shein's tenure in the Duma was entirely useless for the left and labor movement in Russia. We should not belittle his role in the campaign against the World Bank-sponsored Labor code. Shein also helped a number of labor collectives. But that was all, no advancement to a new level of militancy has taken place or has been even attempted.
It seems that, instead, Shein has been much more interested in the advancement of his own career in the system of bourgeois government rather that advancing the left and labor movement in Russia. This may explain why Shein has been so eager to part with anything reminiscent of communism and embrace some sort of politically neutral "Laborism". (The founding documents of the Labor Party, recently established by Shein together with the notorious anticommunist and Yeltsinite Sergei Khramov, do not mention as little as the word "capitalism" or "class" - trans.). You see, not mentioning these words makes it easier to get in favor with the Kremlin and the government, doesn't it? Western social-imperialists too prefer dealing with a "pure Laborite" rather than a revolutionary and a communist. Having made this choice Shein will inevitably find himself on the other side of the barricades and will become enemy of the genuine Left, even if against his own will, because the very logic of his politics will push him into the fold of reactionary bourgeoisie. And we can already see this happening in Shein's recent vote in favor of banning referenda.
Who could ever imagine that some one, like Shein -- who loved talking about democracy and almost made the struggle for democratic liberties his political credo -- that that very Shein who criticized "Stalinism" for repressing "workers'democracy" would suddenly vote for the obscene piece of legislation curtailing democratic freedoms and rights in Russia?! And yet he did vote! Was it a betrayal, the act of treason? If it was it must have begun not at that voting but much earlier when Shein made a rotten deal with Khramov and let him to dictate the toothless, philistine Program of their Labor Party, from which they purged everything even remotely "red". It was a betrayal, because this was an attempt to lead labor movement away from communist influence, away from the struggle for common interests of the working class. After this betrayal we could expect anything from Shein, because that was his decisive step.
Oleg Shein's support for antidemocratic legislation, for the ban on referenda is specially poignant if we recall that this legislation was passed by only two votes! One of them was Shein's. From now on it's on the public record. Another saying detail is that the bill was passed on the third voting. Shein voted against it twice before. But he could not stand the pressure from Putin's henchmen the third time around and pushed the button the Kremlin wanted him to push. He has failed the test for becoming a leader of the working class.
Shein's attempt to "correct" himself
afterwards at the conference of his trade union alliance Zashchita was
nothing short of ridiculous. Striking the pose of a repentant sinner,
he asked that the delegates officially reprimanded him for his vote in
Yet there was a time when Shein tirelessly preached that it was necessary to promote workers for elections to public offices, that leadership should be under control of rank and file members and regularly replaced. Deputy Shein has long since forgotten about his good wishes, as well as he forgot everything he wrote in his brochure "The Communist Party of Russian Federation on the Reserve Tracks of Russian Capitalism". Shein himself is not controllable by any one and not replaceable.
It is unpleasant and disheartening to see the degeneration of the labor leader who only recently gave us so much hope. We have to acknowledge that Oleg Shein now stands firmly on the path that has been traveled before him by too many, including his former opponent Andrei Isayev (the renegade anarchist leader who became the chief ideologist of the procapitalist Federation of the Independent Trade Unions and helped the government to pass anti-labor legislation. - trans.). History knows many examples of this sort, and, alas, Oleg Shein will not be the last. There is a French saying about he who is "a revolutionary before 30 and a scoundrel afterwards". We may only wish that we have less occasions in Russia to recall this bon mot.
Translation by Ya. Dakushev