Liberation News report from Moscow.

On Feb. 23, more than five thousand people joined a rally near Red Square in Moscow to recognize the day formerly known as Red Army Day during Soviet times commemorating the formation of the Red Army in 1918. Under the nationalist Vladimir Putin/Dmitry Medvedev government, this day has been renamed the “Defender of the Fatherland Day” and is a national holiday in the Russian Federation.

A large procession started from Bolshoi Theater Square and ended at a pre-arranged stage arena in front of the historic Metropol Hotel. U.S.  journalist and communist John Reed stayed in the Metropol while covering the 1917 revolution, and the building has witnessed much of the twentieth century history of Moscow. The rally was organized by the Communist Party of Russian Federation (CPRF), and several other communist and socialist groups also joined the march.

This rally was not a mere commemoration of the past but rather the political expression of the socialists and communists organizing under the present capitalist system. At the rally, people chanted slogans such as “Fight fascism, fight capitalism.” One banner roughly translated to “Our idea is right, victory will be upon us.” Participants held photos of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin.

But it was not only the older people who grew up during Soviet times who joined the rally. There was a significant presence of younger demonstrators, approximately one third of the crowd. One man, Vitaly, in his twenties, described how his decision to join the Communist Party was based on seeing the suffering of his parents’ generation after the collapse of the Soviet system. Another woman, Jiri, in her thirties, who supports the party from outside, described how young people in Russia are realizing the problems with capitalism and are joining or supporting the Communist Party.

There were several housing activist groups present at the event who described how under the new capitalist system ordinary people have been deprived of their housing rights that were guaranteed by the Soviet system. One woman in her fifties, Hellen, belonging to CPRF, described how the current Russian government is only for the oligarchs — Russian and foreign — and how the current system has created severe unemployment. She elaborated that in accordance with the world capitalist system, in Russia low-paid migrant labor is pitted against domestic labor, exploiting both. She categorically rejected any nationalist chauvinism. She stressed that under the Soviet system, work was guaranteed according to skill throughout all Soviet republics; hence workers did not have to become economic migrants, such as it is happening under capitalism now. For the people in the United States, she expressed a goodwill message while wishing power to the struggling workers. Later in the rally she was delighted to find an old Soviet-era book about strong communist women, a book which is now rare to find in Russian bookstores.

Communists rally in Moscow, Feb. 23, 2019. Liberation Photo: Satya Mohapatra

Communists rally in Moscow, Feb. 23. Liberation photo: Satya Mohapatra

There were a few other parties present in the event. Maria Donchenka, in her twenties, representing Vanguard of Red Youth Party,  said that she was flying to Venezuela that night to support the Venezuelan people against U.S. aggression by taking part in the People’s Assembly.

At the stage arena, the event had speeches from Red Army veterans. There were speeches from many younger people, many of them women, representing current problems. One woman in her twenties from the Donbas region of Ukraine gave an impassioned speech about the utter danger of fascism in Ukraine and need for proactively fighting it. In between rousing political speeches, there were singers playing Soviet-era songs, both popular and military. In between cheering and shouting slogans, the crowd fell into a collective singing chorus. Small vendors sold Soviet memorabilia and books.

Demonstrators distribute propaganda at a rally in Moscow, Feb. 23, 2019. Liberation Photo: Satya Mohapatra

Demonstrators distribute literature at a rally in Moscow, Feb. 23. Liberation photo: Satya Mohapatra

In addition to the hammer and sickle flags, Cuban flags were also displayed. There were a group of ten people who identified themselves both as communists and supporters of the former Libyan government established by Muammar Gaddafi. One of them named Sher, a member of CPRF, identified the urgency to end imperialism.

The event had a few detractors too. A group numbering about 50 belonged to a monarchist group with white, yellow, and black colored flags. They were there to protest the communists’ march and to counter the Red Army commemoration by making it about Russian nationalism and patriotism. With the larger crowd of socialists and communists, the monarchists mostly fizzled out and disappeared by the end of the event.

When the event ended sharply at 2:00 p.m., the police escorted people out of the arena and did not allow the demonstrators to return. But several veteran groups reconvened at the Revolutionary Square metro stop and at the Theater metro stop to continue speeches and singing in smaller groups.

Unlike the perception outside in the Western corporate media, the communists in Russia are organizing in their communities and advocating for restoration of their socialist state.