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Communists’ Economic Platform Calls for Greater State Regulation

May 25, 1996

MOSCOW (AP) _ Revealing some of their plans for Russia if their candidate wins the presidency, Communists disclosed an economic platform today that calls for greater regulation but stops short of Soviet-style state planning.

While calling for banning imports and other protectionist trade policies, the platform says the Communists won’t infringe on private property or investors’ rights.

President Boris Yeltsin has been trying to scare voters away from Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov by warning that his rival would return the country to authoritarian rule if he wins the June 16 election.

Zyguvanov has been working hard to reassure moderate and undecided voters, and the platform published today in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper had little relation to Marxist economics.

The report starts by blasting Yeltsin’s free-market reforms, saying they have brought Russia to ``the verge of social explosion.″

``A change in economic policies or a national catastrophe _ that’s the choice,″ the Communists said.

The platform accuses Yeltsin’s government of aimlessly borrowing from the International Monetary Fund and other lenders, ``surrendering our independence and the right to manage our own home.″

It suggests that Russia close its market to foreign imports, subsidize the fuel and transportation industries to revive production in other industries, and heavily support agriculture.

It also calls for support of high-tech industries and large subsidies to science.

The document argues for more state regulation of prices, but doesn’t recommend restoration of all-embracing, Soviet-era price controls. The platform calls for cutting taxes to spur production, and even argues for faster devaluation of the ruble to keep pace with inflation.

It is also generous on promises for foreign investors, saying Russia should imitate China, trying to lure private investment instead of borrowing from international lenders.

``We must create conditions for foreign businessmen, give them guarantees, as they do everywhere in the world,″ it said, adding that foreign investors should be offered better legal protection as well.

Among other specific proposals for raising the state revenues needed for larger subsidies, the Communists call for tougher controls on capital flight and a strengthening of the state alcohol monopoly.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta commentators said Zyuganov had ``practically nothing left from the Marxist doctrine in his platform,″ and the document resembled Western concepts of economic growth dating from the 1950s and 1960s.

But they said the program was suspiciously vague on private property, which the Communists say could exist alongside state ownership.

Zyuganov has tried to cut a liberal image, but many other Communist leaders have spoken in favor of returning to a Soviet-style centralized economy.

Successfully playing on public fears of a Communist crackdown on private property and economic freedoms, Yeltsin has overtaken Zyuganov in many polls.

In a bid to reverse the trend, Zyuganov asked his team this week to avoid ``scary words.″

But the edict didn’t apply to Yeltsin, who told the people of the northern city of Arkhangelsk on Friday that the fate of generations of Russians would be in their hands on election day, according to the Interfax news agency.

``You will choose the path by which Russia will go: forward or back to the past that, thank God, we have had enough of,″ Yeltsin said.

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