SI discusses development of social democracy in Russia, the CIS and the Caucasus in Moscow

19-20 May 2006

The Socialist International (SI) held a meeting of its Committee for the CIS and the Caucasus in Moscow on 19-20 May 2006 for an in-depth discussion on the prospects for social democracy in Russia, in the countries of the CIS and the Caucasus, building on its previous gathering in Kiev last December.

From the host country, participants included a delegation from the Social Democratic Party of Russia, SDPR, an SI member, headed by its leader Vladimir Kishenin, and numerous guests from other political organisations, among them, the Vice-Speaker of the State Duma (National Parliament) Serguei Babourine; Member of the State Duma and former presidential candidate Sergey Glaziev; Leader of the People's Party of Russia, Gennadi Gudkov; Deputy-Leader of the Party of Social Justice of Russia, Ilia Konstantinov; Member of the State Duma, Chair of the Group "International" in the Duma and Leader of the Trade Union Zaschita, Oleg Shein; and the Leader of the United Socialist Party of Russia, Vasili Shestakov. Other delegates at the meeting were the representatives of SI member parties and guests from CIS countries and the Caucasus and from member parties in other countries of Europe.

The meeting, which was chaired by Alexandra Dobolyi, from the Hungarian Socialist Party, MSzP, was opened with addresses by the SI Secretary General, Luis Ayala, and the leader of the SDPR. Ayala referred to the gathering in Moscow as a new moment with a new agenda in the relationship of the International with Russia. Russia should also have a strong social democratic force, he said, one that would evolve from the efforts and initiatives of those with whom we shared common ideals and values. He sensed the changing scenario in the country now offered new opportunities as politics and political parties needed to meet an electorate's expectations and demands that were increasingly similar to those in other countries. The International was looking forward to deepening partnerships with progressive forces in Russia, he said, to advance together the crucial work for a fairer globalisation, a more democratic global governance, for resolving conflicts, for securing a more sustainable world and for making democracy work for all. Kishenin spoke of a deep crisis in Russian society over the last fifteen years which had led to the weakening of civil society and to the strengthening of the State. Russia needed to be reanimated, he said, and in this regard there was an important role for the whole social democratic movement, and Russian social democracy had the task of giving a different direction to the "transition period", not yet overcome, in which the State should serve the people instead of the "new ruling class". Looking ahead to the State Duma elections in 2007, the country's parliamentary system needed to be strengthened, he said, with the further development of a real multi-party system, as did Russia's economy and social state, in line with true social democratic principles and values to which his party was committed.

The various guests from Russia contributed fully to the debate with key addresses from S. Babourine, S. Glaziev, G. Gudkov, O.Shein and I. Konstantinov, with further contributions from B. Guseletov and B. Orlov. Speakers highlighted the need for unity among the social democratic and progressive forces in advance of the 2007 elections; that social democrats in Russia had to find a way of implementing programmes which promoted social justice and protected human and labour rights in what was today a system that did not value these ideals; that Russian society and its social movements needed a social democratic voice which would speak for the many who had been left behind, while the powerful had been favoured mainly at their expense, and equally, that it was necessary, from the opposition, to develop a political alternative to the dominance of the single political force today sustaining power. The discussion on Russia concluded with the Russian participants welcoming the Socialist International's presence in Moscow and the fraternal contribution of its members towards the development and consolidation of social democracy in the country.

The situation in Belarus received particular attention in the discussions in Moscow, following the March presidential elections held in conditions which the International had condemned. The SI specially invited to Moscow representatives from a broad spectrum of the progressive opposition in Belarus, including its member party, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada) represented by a delegation headed by its Vice-Chair Oksana Bernatskaya; the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), whose delegation included Irina Kazulina; the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, represented by its leader and former President of the Republic of Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich; the Belarusian Labour Party, represented by its leader, Aliaksandr Bukhvosta; and from the Belarusian Communist Party, represented by its leader Siarhey Kaliakin. The discussion on Belarus underlined the view that international solidarity with the struggle of the Belarusian people for democratic change should continue as an urgent priority, and concluded with a strong message from the Socialist International in favour of all the social democratic and progressive forces in the country uniting into a single political party. A Declaration on Belarus, addressing these issues, was agreed by the Committee.

The Committee also received reports on national situations. With regard to future activities, the next meeting will take place in October in the Caucasus, the exact venue to be determined in consultation with SI members in that region. A specific initiative on the Caucasus region of Southern Russia was proposed by the SI Secretary General and agreed by the meeting. The question of energy, which arose in the debates in relation to Russia, will also be incorporated in a global initiative which will be discussed by the International. Regarding other SI activities in the region, the SI Secretary General announced that, in agreement with the SDP and DP of Moldova, a meeting of the SI Committee on Migrations would take place in Chisinau in July this year. It was also agreed that a further meeting of the CIS and Caucasus Committee will take place in Russia in advance of the elections in 2007.