People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 19

May 13, 2012


Pravda At Hundred:

Alive and Fighting


Rajendra Sharma


PRAVDA is hundred years old. The powerful communist newspaper, that remained one of the most powerful voices of the workers world over through much of 20th century and continues to be central organ of Communist Party of Russian Federation (CPRF), marked this occasion through two-day celebrations in Moscow. On invitation of Pravda and CPRF, representatives from fraternal communist press from different countries also participated in the celebrations. In all 24 fraternal delegations participated, including from socialist China, Vietnam, Cuba and Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Rajendra Sharma, associate editor of Loklahar represented CPI(M) central committee organs, People's Democracy and Loklahar.


Pravda (the truth) was started by V I Lenin on May 5 (April 22 by old Russian Calendar) 1912, from St Petersburg. As the first legal working class daily newspaper in Russia, started according to its editorial proclamation 'to carry out the demand of the Russian proletariat', Pravda had to continuously face persecution at the hands of Tsarist regime. In the first two years of its publication, it was closed down eight times but continued to come out under different names till the final closing down on July 21, 1914. Pravda resumed its publication on March 18, 1917 and again had to face persecution at hands of the then provisional government but continued once again under different names, till becoming central organ of the victorious Russian Socialist revolution. With the victory of counter-revolution in the then Soviet Union, Pravda had to again face persecution and repeated discontinuation from the beginning of 1990s till April 1997, when it became the organ of CPRF (Russian Federation Communist Party) which was confirmed by a special decree of the Party’s IV Congress.


Naturally in this context, the centenary celebrations of Pravda were more about rededication than nostalgia and celebrating. Not surprisingly, the two-day celebrations began in Moscow on the morning of May 5 on a distinctly solemn note, with representatives from fraternal communist press visiting and paying tributes at Unknown Soldiers tomb. Here they were joined by hundreds of Red flag carrying people, both young and old, led by Gennady Zyuganov, the president of Communist Party of Russian Federation. Communist members in Duma were also present in dozens. Gennady Zyuganov led paying tribute at the memorial of legendary Marshal Zhukov, who is considered to be the main military architect of the then Soviet Union's victory over fascist hordes in the Great Patriotic War. Subsequently, the delegations of communist press paid tribute at Unknown Soldiers tomb. These memorials are situated in the heart of Moscow, very close to Red Square and Lenin's mausoleum. Unknown Soldiers tomb salutes sacrifices of those soldiers in the Great Patriotic War, whose names may remain unrecorded otherwise.


An interactive meeting with Pravda editorial board, before the first day's main celebratory event, at House of Unions (also called House of Pillars) brought out significant aspects of situation prevailing in Russia today and the role that Pravda is playing as an instrument of communist movement, to give challenge to and change present circumstances in Russian Federation. Boris O Komotsky, editor in chief of Pravda, welcoming the delegations and expressing gratitude for this demonstration of international solidarity, said 'it appears that days of 20 years back have arrived again.' One very senior comrade working at Pravda for more than five decades also told about the physical resistance that comrades had to put in order to defend Pravda office from vandal mobs organised and protected by current rulers in the early and middle 1990s. He also lamented the fact that the editorial office is now squeezed into a very small part of its own building, that party and comrades had built through their money and voluntary physical labour. Still worse Pravda has to pay a huge rent for using this space to the government, as Pravda House is now declared a property owned by president of the State. Only mercy being the street housing Pravda office still bears name Pravda street. Researcher and known author, Yuiry Yemelianov also contributed to the interaction lasting two and half hours. He spoke in some detail about his research on events of 1936-37 that throw new light on so-called Stalin era killings. Comrades from fraternal press were also taken around current curtailed Pravda editorial office, including its famed library that also houses now some of very precious memorabilia, like Lenin's editorial desk and typewriter. The programme ended with cutting of a special cake with 'Pravda hundred years' inscribed on it.     


The first day's celebrations climaxed in a huge celebratory function organised at the House of Unions. More than the big turnout that overfilled the huge hall and the spectacular performance by various artists and specially enthralling performance by Song and Dance ensemble of Ministry of Internal affairs, it was participation of very large number of renowned artists expressing their open support to Pravda that underlined the fact of special place it still holds in hearts and minds of so many generations of Russians. The same was also confirmed by the huge number of solidarity and greetings massages Pravda had received from different corners of the world and especially from different former Soviet republics. It was also underlined by the fact of entire hall paying homage to six correspondent martyrs of Pravda who laid down their lives in the war trenches while covering the Great Patriotic War. CPRF president Gennady Zyuganov's decorating of some of senior most members of Pravda editorial team, by pinning on their chests special centenary medals, was an act that in a way also underlined the fact of Pravda at 100 years having even more onerous responsibilities on its shoulders. Editor in chief of Pravda Boris O Komotsky in his very brief speech told how the daily is being on front lines in all opposition demonstrations.He promised a 'stronger Pravda'. A gala two and half hour show that followed also included a short documentary film on history of struggles of Pravda.


The second day of celebrations was focussed on role of communist press and the challenges facing them. This was the main theme of the day-long discussion. This discussion was organised in two parts. The first part, on the morning of May 6 had representatives of around 200 Left publications of different types and 100 websites participating, besides 24 fraternal communist press delegations. While giving mass character to the discussion on the role of communist press, this session also underlined the leadership role that Pravda may play in the ranks of Leftist press in Russia. Gennady Zyuganov, as main speaker in this session, gave a brief understanding of world and Russian situation and underlined the role that party press can play in saving Russia and humanity.  This session was also addressed by Kazimir P Yurot from Belarus, Alfred Rubiks from Latvia and Nguen Dien Tam from Vietnam. During the same session, Ibrahim Shirin, related with Iranian Communist Party, presented to Gennady Zyuganov a copy of Persian translation of his (Zyuganov's) book on reassessing Stalin. The session ended with CPRF president honouring foreign delegations by awarding them with commemorative medals.


The next sessions had separate discussion by Russian Communist Press and Media, while 24 fraternal delegations from communist press sat separately for a round table discussion on "Party Press and struggle of communists in present day situation". The round table discussion was chaired by Kalashnikov Ivanovich, who in his introductory remarks gave an overview of experience of communist press in present day Russia. In the day long discussion, 17 more representatives of communist press in their contributions brought in their own experiences and tentative conclusions. An overwhelming majority of speakers underlined the urgency and need of more interactions and sharing of news and views between communist press. 


The two-day centenary celebrations of Pravda have unmistakably underlined the fact of paper started by Lenin resuming its pre-1917 role. They also highlighted both conviction and confidence of Pravda playing a role that it played in pre-1917 Russia under direct guidance of V I Lenin — tell the truth to the working masses about their condition and bring ideas of socialism to their search for alternative.