Gorbachev ally fears resurgent right wing

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The Independent Online
ONE OF Mikhail Gorbachev's closest associates talked yesterday of the danger of resurgent nationalism and fascism in Russia in the near future. But Alexander Yakovlev refused to align himself with the former Soviet leader, in the latter's constant battles with Boris Yeltsin, the Russian President.

Mr Yakovlev told the Independent in London yesterday that he feared a vote of no confidence in the Russian government, at the next session of the Congress of People's Deputies, in December. 'If there were new elections - next year, say - who would people choose? Today, they would choose the right-wingers. There wouldn't be any Democratic Russia (the old liberal faction) in the parliament.'

He said that the danger of fascism, in alliance with the hardline Communists, was real. 'The danger is based not just on bad social circumstances - but also on the fact that for 70 years Russians feel that they have been humiliated.'

Mr Yakovlev, who was sent into diplomatic exile during the Brezhnev era for speaking out on the dangers of Russian nationalism, said that politicians, such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the neo-fascist, or equivalent figures who have not yet emerged, presented a serious danger to Russian democracy.

'Zhirinovsky's electorate is the lumpen: the people who were used to doing nothing, and still getting money. When these politicians make promises, the drunken lumpen - and they're rarely sober - applaud.'

At the same time, Mr Yakovlev distanced himself from Mr Gorbachev's sharpest disputes with Mr Yeltsin. Mr Gorbachev was recently banned from travelling outside Russia, because of his refusal to testify before the constitutional court on the activities of the Communist Party.

Mr Yakovlev, who resigned from the Communist Party just before the August coup, said Mr Gorbachev should not be so shy of testifying. 'He should have gone to the constitutional court. Maybe he feels embarrassed that he stayed in the party to the end. But he can explain that. What's the problem?'

Mr Yakovlev is vice-president of the Gorbachev Foundation in Moscow, which has had part of its premises confiscated as part of the continuing feud. But even this, he suggested, was 'not a drama'. He argued that Mr Gorbachev should not become involved in public attacks on President Yeltsin. 'He, as former president, shouldn't make these public speeches.' It was, he said, impossible to apportion blame between Mr Yeltsin and Mr Gorbachev.

'When you've got a quarrel, it's impossible to say who's more to blame. It's like the story where a man and his wife quarrel all the time, and somebody asks why. The answer comes: 'They're quarrelling, because they've forgotten why they're quarrelling.' It's pointless.'

Mr Yakovlev expressed support for the radical objectives of the Russian government, and said that the West should do more to prevent fascism from taking hold. 'Private business should be helped, and a private banking system should be created. We must work on that.'