Russia: Hardline Communists take road to fascism: The Congress of People's Deputies today is billed as a showdown between 'Westernisers' and conservatives. Our Moscow staff consider life after Communism

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The Independent Online
'LOOK INTO these inspired faces', ran the ironic headline above an article in the New Times magazine about the leaders of Russia's 'red-brown' movement, so called by liberals because they believe its brand of extreme Communism shades into fascism.

There followed a rogues' gallery of photos and biographies of embittered men who regard President Boris Yeltsin as a 'criminal', and want to turn the clock back to the glorious days of Soviet Communism.

First in the gallery is Sergei Baburin, leader of the 'Russia' faction in parliament, which meets in full session today, who believes that his great country 'is on the eve of another Bolshevik Revolution'. Recently he attacked President Yeltsin and his government in a newspaper article, calling them 'agents of influence of the CIA'. Mr Baburin has just returned from a trip to Iraq where he found Saddam Hussein congenial company and he believes Russia would do well to revive its old alliance with Baghdad.

The next hardliner is General Albert Makashov, who ran unsuccessfully against Mr Yeltsin for the Russian presidency in 1991. Before that, the general was famous for having accused the former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, of 'handing Eastern Europe over to the enemy'. A member of the defunct Soviet parliament, General Makashov refused to accept reality and took part earlier this year in a farcical attempt to reconvene the assembly in, for want of a better venue, a candlelit cattle shed on a collective farm. His proposed solution to rising crime is public flogging.

General Alexander Lebed seemed a hero during the hardline coup attempt in August 1991 as he rallied his men to the defence of Mr Yeltsin's White House. But, as commander of the 14th Russian army in the Dnestr region, he has shown only nostalgia for the old empire. If it had not been for Moscow's restraining hand, Russia would probably have been at war with independent Moldova by now.

The group is completed by Gennady Zyuganov, a leader of the ultra-orthodox Russian Communist Party before it was banned by Mr Yeltsin in the wake of the coup attempt; Alexander Prokhanov, editor of the conservative Den newspaper which campaigns for the release of the coup plotters; and Viktor Anpilov, chairman of the new Russian Communist Workers' Party which organised mass demonstrations outside the Ostankino television centre earlier this year.

In addition to the 'red-browns' are the 'brown-blacks', real, Hitler-style fascists who had no place in the old Soviet political and military system and are virulently hostile to today's democrats. A couple of years ago, the black- shirted members of the anti-Semitic Pamyat group were the main bogeymen but less is heard of them these days. Since so many Russian Jews have emigrated, they have lost one of their favourite targets. No doubt they still dress up in uniforms and collect Tsarist flags and Russian Orthodox icons behind the metal doors that keep the curious out of their meeting places.

But fly-posters promoting Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the misleadingly called Liberal Democratic Party, are all over town. 'I am the Almighty. I am the tyrant. I will follow in Hitler's footsteps,' he proclaims. A recent opinion poll showed that if presidential elections were held today, he would be the third most favoured candidate after Mr Yeltsin and his deputy, Alexander Rutskoi.

Mr Zhirinovsky believes Russians are the master race and wants to revive the pre-1917 Russian empire, which would mean among other things invading Finland. He says he would deal with the troublesome Caucasians by napalming them and with the newly independent Balts by dumping nuclear waste on them.