The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) has no illusions about the European Union as a predatory, expansionist, anti-working class alliance. Together, the EU and the US are seen as "a single bloc of imperialist powers" with Nato as their "military stick."

Chairman Gennady Zyuganov condemns President Putin and ex-president Yeltsin for accepting the expansion of Nato 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) eastwards to the borders of Russia, establishing military bases not only in eastern Europe but in the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan as well.

This belief that national security has been undermined, together with admiration for the historic role of the Soviet Red Army, leads the CPRF to attach great importance to Russia’s armed forces.

Indeed, a contingent of young communists in their military uniform took part in the banner processions that opened the party’s 16th congress in Moscow last month.

According to Russia’s communists, the general crisis of capitalism is now reasserting itself after two decades of temporary stabilisation resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.

Capitalism’s fundamental contradiction remains that between the social character of production, on the one side, and economic private ownership on the other.

But this is now aggravated by the predominance of "financial speculative capital" in the US and other leading capitalist economies. Speculation has created "fictitious money" and the latest financial crisis. At the same time, the export of capital and production to countries where raw materials are abundant and labour is cheaper help drive what the Russian Marxists call "globalism."

The political power of financial and other transnational corporations grows. Exploitation intensifies everywhere. The international division of labour reinforces social inequality on a world scale. New global power structures advance as national governments lose control over economic processes. Science, technology and culture are utilised to enrich the wealthy minority and the main imperialist powers turn more readily to the use of non-economic coercion and military force.

The CPRF sees imperialism’s chief objectives as the geostrategic encirclement of China, control over the greater Middle East region from Morocco to India, the neocolonial enslavement of Africa, preventative treatment for Latin America and the incorporation of the former Soviet Union into the West’s orbit.

Creating global instability and trampling on the rights of nations is "pushing the world towards a global military conflict," Zyuganov warned his party’s congress.

"In this context, nation states and their co-operation can be an important instrument of counteracting imperialist globalisation," he reported to the 1,500 delegates and visitors in Moscow.

Noting the importance of Cuba, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea as states following socialist paths of development, Zyuganov praised China for becoming the workshop of the world and increasing its political clout.

The CPRF chairman attached special importance to the potential of the Brics coalition (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to emerge as an alternative world centre of influence.

Russia’s communists also welcome the advances being made by progressive and anti-imperialist movements in Latin America, believing that this, too, could also help shift the balance of forces within the United Nations.

The CPRF advocates a new foreign policy which prioritises Russia’s national security, the reduction of external debt, rearmament and comprehensive state support for military personnel and their families.

In particular, it proposes union with Belarus and the restoration of a Union of Soviet Socialist States. This perspective is not as unrealistic as it may seem in the West.

Despite widespread privatisation across the former Soviet Union – except in Belarus – many of the economic specialisms and relationships built up over more than 40 years still persist.

As well as political, administrative and security collaboration in the Commonwealth of Independent States, five member countries have more recently created the Eurasian Economic Community.

Domestically, the CPRF proposes a New Economic Policy which calls for nationalisation of key sectors and enterprises, notably in the extractive industries, power, metallurgy, aircraft construction, machine building, aviation and railways, reindustrialisation, the revival of agriculture, the replacement of speculative banking by new state banks, progressive taxation in place of the 13 per cent flat tax and state-directed application of science to economic production.

A new social policy would guarantee housing and free education for all, wide-ranging support for parents, children and young people, the abolition of house evictions and unemployment, free health care and a revival of state and public support for culture and the arts.

The communists also promise a relentless struggle against crime and corruption. Electoral fraud would be smashed and full civil and democratic liberties restored, with the election of judges and other top officials who would be subject to recall by the electors.

According to the party’s 16th congress, "the implementation of this programme calls for active involvement of the popular masses," leading to genuine people’s rule.

An alliance of left and progressive patriotic forces is proposed to challenge Putin and his coalition of bureaucrats and oligarchs.

While basing itself on the ideas and principles of Marxism-Leninism, the CPRF characterises its strategy as one which combines the social class struggle against capitalist exploitation with a national liberation struggle against imperialist globalisation.

Its emphasis on patriotism is greater than that found in most communist parties in the developed West. The Russian party’s social conservatism – notably its recent support in the Duma for ambiguous measures against the "promotion of homosexuality among minors" – would not find much favour on the left in Britain, where we have seen how such policies have provided cover for promoting prejudice against gays and lesbians.

Nonetheless, the CPRF is strongly committed to strengthening the international communist movement. It attaches special importance to its participation in the Union of Communist Parties-CPSU, especially its links with those in Belarus and Ukraine.

Since its legalisation in 1993, the CPRF has been steadily rebuilding its apparatus and support.

Over the past four years, 30,000 young people have joined the party. Membership now stands at 158,000, of whom 10 per cent are aged under 30 and 34 per cent are women.

This influx of new members has led to an upsurge in communist youth and sporting clubs and – backed by many more books and films – in political education.

In addition to Pravda as a national newspaper (published three times a week), party organisations produce around 200 different local papers.

The CPRF remains the only political force organised throughout Russia in between elections. It believes it has no more than seven to 10 years to save the country as a modern, sustainable society.

Its programme does not rule out any particular scenario for the communists and their allies to take power. No matter how often the ruling alliance of oligarchs and bureaucrats changes its mask, the communists believe that Putin and his cronies can be exposed and defeated.

The CPRF declares its readiness to form an alternative government of popular trust and reopen the road to socialism.

Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain

March 26, 2013