Local elections and election campaigns in Estonia and, first of all, “travails” of the Centrist Party that is known to be pro-Russian mostly by misunderstanding, have denuded the country of its left-wing political forces.
We hardly need to mention how dangerous the powerful Russophobic right-wing forces are for the society and the government. Will any party or movement occupy that left “camp” so much hated by Estonian establishment?
Is Estonia, Russian parties have always been left-wing. One of such parties, United People’s Party of Estonia ran its course yet in early 2000s. For Estonian Russophobic Nationalists, the words “Russian” and “left-wing” were synonyms. After the government and the Centrist Party “cleaned up” the independent Russian political field, the idea “Russians” have become a synonym to the “Moscow’s hand” and “fifth column.” Removing Russian activists from their way, the Centrists have created an imitation of left-wing forces and did it with the help of the Russian-speaking colleagues.
As to the Social-Democratic Party that comes out as a left-wing force, it is a rose-beige, in fact, because a left-wing force in Estonia shall be a moderate social formation that does not irritate the Reformist Party dealing with big capital and finance. At the same time, they raise the “Russian issue” to the extent that Social Democrats do not face ostracism even by ultra-nationalist and openly Russophobic parliamentary parties (EKRE, Vabaerakond, IRL).
Leftism is neglected in Estonia
There was an Estonian-Russian Left Party of Estonia (LPE), though marginal, led by Tiit Toomsalu. It has been reorganized into a Russian-language United Left Party of Estonia (ULPE), which has turned even more marginal than it was before due to the Centrist “Russian” activists (it was hard to call them politicians), though it was backed by Mayor Maardu Georgy Bistrov with certain administrative resource.
That weakness is evident even despite the fact that in 2008 the party promised to follow the platform of Party of European Leftists (Die Linke). Until recently, the Party was more like a phantom, though it declared Democratic Socialism and Eco-Socialism its ideology.
The Party lacked intellectuals too, since progressive “Russians” and Russian-speaking politicians work for Centrists to get promotions.
Ideological uncertainty of the present-day United Left Party of Estonia is seen also in the efforts of the Centrist Party (that is wrongly considered to be a pro-Russian party) to take control over ULPE yet before it “matures.” Center-left political analyst Igor Rozenfeldt, a member of the Centrist party that is gradually turning a right-wing and anti-Russian, seeks to bring the United Left Party into the fold and gently presents the ideas of “third Marxism” to its political activists. Why? Judging from his own theses: ideas of the “third Marxism” originate “within the second Marxism” as “revisionism.” “What makes the approach of ‘revisionists’ different from Soviet Marxism? Criticism of the Soviet model of socialism does.”
Although awareness raising is good for party-men, but what they do now is forcing “the right leftism” upon ULPE. Considering that the West blames everything Soviet, they may soon start comparing Bolshevism with Nazism.
Efforts to regain its feet
A new hope for establishment of a true political force has emerged after activists of Russian School of Estonia non-profit organization joined ULPE. So far, there is little progress. The first serious testing for ULPE was the past elections. The Party has its election unions not only in Tallinn, but also in some other towns of Estonia. At the parliamentary elections in 2009, the Party received only 0.9% of votes. At the past local elections, the Party received just 0.2% of votes throughout Estonia and 0.3% of votes in Tallinn alone. No comment.
Will ULPE have any prospects, if there is public demand for leftism?
Inner-party factor. Despite its contacts with European Leftists, the party is like a political club rather than a political party. It appears that the party operates just for show. During the latest elections, even one of its leading members, Vladimir Vaingort publicly campaigned in mass media for Centrists. Nevertheless, the party has not drawn any conclusions from that.
The party lacks both financing and access to mainstream media of Estonia. Poor organization and work with the people (masses) have always been weak points of Russian politicians.
The Party ignores the work with the youth (trade unions have sold themselves to Social Democrats). Unfortunately, ULPE lacks resources and potential, though its future depends on the new generation of Russian leftist politicians. However, many, including veterans of the Russian parties that have got well-paid positions in Estonian parties, believe that leftism has no chances to success.
“Russian issue” has turned into an obstacle
One of the major problems of Estonia and the Estonian people is ethnic. It prevents establishment of leftism either. Look at the Left Party of Estonia (LPE) led by Tiit Toomsalu. The Party ceased to exist not only due to its marginality (anti-Communism became a cornerstone of the West’s Russophobia), but also because of different national mentality and political culture of Estonian and Russian-speaking leftists. Hence, different understanding of how Estonians perceive serious ethnic problems.
This has happened after unification of LPE and Constitutional Party when the new party (ULPE) comprised mostly Russian-speakers and “the Russian issue” (legitimized ethnic discrimination of the Russian population) was put on agenda. LPE believes that its attitude to the domestic policy cannot be considered from the national viewpoint. It is strange, since LPE believed that there is “Russian issue” in Estonia.
Such injustice comes from Russophobia in the Estonian public and mass media, especially in the government policy. Fighting ethnic discrimination has been equalized to serving the Kremlin.
Presently, ULPE’s attitude to the “Russian issue” is quite declarative. At first, activists of the Russian School of Estonia urged establishment of a Russian ethnic party. It would be something like the Latvian Russian Union of Latvia (co-chairs: Tatjana Ždanok, Miroslav Mitrofanov, Yuri Petropavlovsky).
Eventually, activists of the Russian School of Estonia decided to create the Party of the Peoples of Estonia and start fighting for inter-ethnic peace. However, that naïve idea was abandoned either. The reason is that leftism is linked to human rights defense in Estonia. For instance, during election campaign, one of ULPE members mocked co-chair of his own party and human rights defender Mstislav Rusakov for too long fight for the right of Estonian Russians to have their patronymic written in passport along with name and surname.
Government will not tolerate leftism
Estonian government prevents activity of any public organization fighting against ethnic discrimination, militarization and for normalization of relations with Russia i.e. everything that runs contrary to the government policy of creating a monoethnic state and the West’s Russophobia. During the last 25 years, political repressions against Russian political figures and organizations have become a usual thing.
In such situation, efforts of the left-wing forces and societies seeking inter-ethnic equality or friendship of Estonia and Russia have no chances to success. Police, mass media and Russophobic Nationalists call dissidents as “Moscow’s hand” and “the fifth column.” For instance, a local Estonian Parents NPO has faced mudslinging for fighting, thought together with Estonian organizations, against juvenile law and same-sex marriages.
This is what makes the local Russian and Russian-speaking population (one-third of total population) indifferent to the public and political life of Estonia and even to their ethnic discrimination. People, including the Russian-speaking population, perceive the word “leftist” as hostile and rebellious even applicable to Estonians. Leftism is compared with “a political suicide”.
The local Russians and Russian-speaking population are forced to engage in public and political activity meeting the interests of the Estonian government. This is a kind of “mental death camp.”
That is why, many politicians and new generation activists started joining Russophobic Estonian parties and organizations. The local Russians and Russian-speaking population is being forcefully Estonified and Westernized and willy-nilly de-Russified. They have to adopt Western values, including the rule of force and consumerism. They have to become either Russophobic or at least seem to be so, and avoid demonstrating even a neutral attitude towards Russia.