Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ukraine: Red militia fighter 'Artem': 'We did not go to war, the war came to us!'

A militiaman with the call sign "Artem" is my old comrade from Union Borotba (Struggle). 
Before the war, he organized working-class youth of Donbass in the struggle against fascism and capitalism, and built a local cell organization. 
When the war started, he could not stand aside and joined the ranks of the militia. Now "Artem" is wounded in the hospital and I was able to talk to him. 

Comrade, tell me how you got into the militia? 

When the events began on Maidan Square, I had a feeling that this time the rightist opposition had reached a more dangerous stage. Compared with the "Orange" revolution in 2004, in 2014 there were already many organized, prepared nationalist youth with good financing. 
Ultra-nationalist groups had grown and matured. Therefore, it was a feeling brewing that this time things would reach the brink of civil war. The split in society existed before, but it was, so to speak, a moral civil war, and now the nationalists had a real opportunity to beat, maim and kill dissident people, and do it under the guise of the state. 

When I saw the death of innocent civilians, and the approving mood of a few local "pro-Ukrainian" patriots, I realized that we all had to choose. 

We were stuck with only one solution to deal with the situation. 

In this situation, I just went out and started helping the militia. 

In which militia formation do you fight? 

Joint Army of the South-East.

What kind of combat tasks have you performed?
Let it remain a military secret for now. 

Was it difficult to move from being a left activist in peaceful conditions to the life of a fighter? 

It was hard to understand what was happening and to build a system that explains the essence of the war. It became very easy when immediately in Lugansk I met communists who refused to obey the decisions of the Communist Party of Ukraine and boldly embarked on the path of struggle. 

And among some of the soldiers I felt the spirit of Donbass, which has always gravitated to the fight against the rich, toward socialism. 

In the Lugansk People’s Republic (LC) it is very noticeable. 
And the peaceful life was in fact not entirely peaceful. I have painful memories of the nationalists who roamed the streets of Donetsk and Lugansk (for example, football ultras) – how we struggled to open people's eyes to the looming threat of the establishment of the nationalist regime. 

The war was already going on, the prologue to the war, if you like. 

The people badly want to get back to a peaceful life, to create a new young country with their own hands. 

How were you injured? 

During the shelling of the hero-city of Lugansk by heavy artillery. The militia not only fight on the front lines, they also have a responsibility to protect the civilian population as much as possible during the shelling, even at the cost of their own lives. People are already largely used to it, but there is still confusion, disorganization. Previously, we did not think that punitive volleys in residential areas were random, and now there is no doubt. Therefore people in Lugansk have become more disciplined. 

How do you assess the prospects of military operations in the Donbass? 

If you look at the chronology of the conflict from the very beginning, you’ll see how the militias grew and got stronger. However, the forces are unequal so far. But we have one more ally, no less important and dangerous to the enemy. Bolsheviks understand the importance of this. This ally is agitation against the war among Ukrainian soldiers. 
The Bolsheviks campaigned this way against the imperialist war exactly 100 years ago. 
If more and more Ukrainians, who are fighting for the interests of the Ukrainian and Western capitalists, refuse to fight or organize their soldiers' committees against the war, the case will be decided. 
And this trend is already apparent.
There are two possibilities. Either Ukrainian troops will completely raze Donbass to the ground and spill its blood, or a radical change will happen, and we will overthrow the executioners outside the young republics. 
You see, peace is no longer possible in Donbass under the rule of the junta. If the militia is defeated, a period of reaction will begin, with direct genocide and terror against the population. 
And the local "snitches" help with this. 
Can you imagine a single state of Yugoslavia, after an all-out war? It's impossible. Only in comparison with the Yugoslav carnage, we have no hatred in relation to any particular nationality. 
If the executioners controlled Donbass, they would have to constantly keep military units here and sleep with their guns.
Because this is not a war of the Russians against the Ukrainians. 
This is civil war, where the junta is fighting against anti-fascists. 

The Ukrainian army is no longer as weak as at the beginning of the war. How do you see the morale "from the inside" -- whether the militia can do it? Will it be possible for the People’s Republics to resist? 

The militia can handle it, because now the militia is not only the fighters, but also the rest of the nation. Subconsciously, almost everyone has mobilized themselves to fight. Any little thing can be an invaluable help, every detail is a common struggle of the people. Without people’s support, nothing would have happened. People no longer want to live in the old way. People really want peace and tranquility, but all of them are starting to realize that the Ukrainian government will offer nothing but terror and poverty. 

Is it possible to go on the offensive?

There will be a counterattack, but not as soon as everyone wants it. We also want it. The defensive tactic angers many. We need more time. 

You were an active participant in the AntiMaidan movement, a member of the leftist organization Borotba, which is de facto outlawed by the Ukrainian authorities. Now the city where you lived with your family is occupied by the troops of the Kiev junta. Is there any danger to your relatives and friends? Have they stayed there or left? 

Naturally, I moved my relative earlier. My uncle stayed and helps the common struggle. Some comrades left, but many remained. 

In the media there are quite a few stories about how the locals in Donbass think badly of the militia and do not support it. Allegedly, most of the militias are foreign fighters from Russia, Chechens, Ossetians, etc. What do you think, is there any truth to these claims? 

On this subject, I would like to give a more detailed response. For residents of Donbass it’s different. It's a civil war. 

The vast majority, of course, offer all possible help, or passively support us. 

An example is the reaction of the population to the appearance of LC columns in a particular city. 

People wave their hands and shout words of gratitude to the militia, and so on. 

Many grandmother baptize passing militias. In general, there is a sense of unity with the people. It’s all for one and one for all. But there is a small number of "protsentik", those who are waiting for their chance to pass their neighbors into the hands of the Ukrainian secret police, as they do in Mariupol.

There are also "protsentik" who simply do not care, as long as someone has already opened an ATM in the village. 
Generally, the mood of people in Donbass is radicalized. People are eager to punish informers. But the militia, of course, attempts to thwart any vigilante justice. 

About international's in the militia. Yes, there are different people. Ossetians, Chechens, Russians and Ukrainians. 
We are all internationalists and we are very proud of it. Because if, god forbid, one of the brothers was in trouble at home, the same Russians, Ukrainians, Serbs and Ossetians, for example, would come to help him. This is the essence of internationalism. 
The backbone of the militia are local youths and men. 
Even my grandfather, a veteran of the war, wanted to join. We have always been very peaceful people in the Donbass. In the course of this war, many have become warriors, who know how to defend their land and their ideas. 

Therefore the Donbass people will not surrender, even in the capitals are taken. 

The fight will not end until the Donbass wins its independence. 

Yes, there are internationalists, not mercenaries. They are at home. ‘How is this?’ you ask. Simple. Donbass is a cradle of nations. There are many nationalities here. 

For the Serbs, there are only a few areas historically inhabited by them. 

Whoever comes from anywhere in the world will find a home here. 

After that, they would never be able to forget the Donbass. 

We are all donbassovtsy. As we sometimes say -- we are all different, but we are all red. [smiles]

What prevents residents of Donbass from joining the militia en masse and protecting their land? 

In my opinion, it is the lack of a clear ideological line that people would understand. This and fear of losing a mug of beer in the evenings or perishing under the fire of "Grad" artillery. 

But there is a clear idea of how the Bolsheviks, for example, would be different. Well, people used to live from election to election, to choose between the Eastern and Western oligarchs. 
Nobody expected the war, and there were no organizations that have the type of combat committees in each village that would be ready for such an eventuality.
 We are not living at the beginning of the 20th century, but at the beginning of the 21st century. Therefore, to meet the challenges of the time, we need another way. It is important to find this answer, to be sure it is correct.  

The recent “Communist militiamen” statement fully responds to many questions and, I think, reflects the opinions of the majority of the militia fighters.
Yes, from the very beginning we were fighting against the raging "Ukrainian nationalists” and neo-Nazism. 

Moreover, I understand it is the ideology of a notorious group, which is led by puppeteers, and not by ordinary Ukrainians -- our brothers and sisters. Ukrainians who oppose the junta are many, but they are afraid and they do not have self-organization. 

The frightening event in Odessa on May 2 that killed my comrades temporarily helped the junta smother protests outside the Donbass. 

My answer is the closing words of the “Communist militiamen”: "If we raise the red banner, we will win this war." 

And, I might add, help our Ukrainian brothers strangle the fascist vermin, by giving them inspiration to build a Ukraine without fascism. I

f they now feel that they can fight the war machine, we now understand not only what we are fighting against, but also what we are fighting for. 

This is the key that will open the minds of many of our countrymen, who will rise to fight, I'm sure. 

How do you see the future of Ukraine if Donbass wins? 

I believe that Ukraine must come to socialism without Donbass. We can be strong allies. But Ukrainians will only be able to eradicate Bandera ideology and find a way to socialism when they stop scapegoating Donbass as a "Soviet monster" which "occupied the whole country." 

Banderaist hysteria is always a heated incitement to hatred between East and West. 

Without Donbass, the Banderaists will quickly eat themselves, because they cannot do anything for the "prosperity of the nation," and they will not be able to point at “outsiders” to blame. 

Then in Western Ukraine may arise a “Lviv movement," then the Banderaists will die. 

The right to self-determination -- this is a common right of the people, the same as the right to choose one or another city to live in. 

Many people say that the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and LC is a "white project," led by monarchists, Russian nationalists and similar forces. You, as a communist and internationalist, stayed in the People’s Republic. Do you think there is any reason for the left to support Novorossya? Does the left have a strong position in the leadership of the republic? Are there many leftists in the militia among the rank-and-file fighters and commanders? 

This is probably the central question. At the beginning, the men went to defend their homes and families, without thinking seriously about ideology. Moreover, then it was virtually impossible to raise the struggle for power to the Soviets with people.
Even though almost all are, internally, at least, socialists. I mean as an "ideal" of Donbass residents, which they would like to bring to everyday life. 
Even at the level of conversation at the bar. 

In the LC, there are many militia fighters who consider themselves communists and internationalists. 
I also note the role of the Workers' Front of Lugansk (formerly the regional committee of the Communist Party), whose members refused to obey the “official leadership” of the Party and openly supported the Republic.
Therefore, they were renamed. There are anarcho-communists who were upset that their "brothers" in Kiev colluded with neo-Nazi and excitedly began to help them kill our compatriots. Many are not in organizations, but simply position themselves as communists and internationalists. Here in the cauldron, no one even thinks of what each person’s organization is – you are a Communist and that’s it. 
There’s no nationalism in the LC. Don Cossacks are collaborating with Communists. 
Most of the Cossacks I have met are more like those who fought for the Don Soviet Republic. 
Some who call themselves Antifa can only remember the presence of the Russian tricolor. This episode explains a lot. 

People rose up against the threat of Ukrainian nationalism, and sought allies against armed radicals. Russia has always been a "mother" here, like it or not. 
Therefore, the Russian flag was raised. But the anti-fascist label symbolizes a second side, the inner essence of the peoples of Donbass -- not any form of nationalism but internationalism and anti-fascism. 

Among the commanders, none has openly stated “I am a Communist.” But they often talk about their internationalist convictions and anti-fascist views. For example, Alexander Mozgovoi, the "Ghost" battalion commander who has repeatedly spoken openly about the struggle against the oligarchs for the interests of the people, proved his words with deeds. 
There is no "white project" because it would be totally disastrous for Donbass. 
Historically the workers fought against the whites and fully supported the Soviet power. Mentally, all are "red" and not "white.” 

War brings the people together, awakens their historical memory, and then class interests. 

In conclusion I would like to say that it is not sectarianism, but the dialectic, that helps internationalists understand the essence of the situation, to see beyond bizarre forms to the true content, and to make the right choice, even if it’s tough. 
And I might add: Comrades, compatriots -- Remember that your ancestors shed blood on this earth for the victory of the proletariat, remember that modern Donbass was built by incredible efforts of the working class, remember the victory over the Nazis. 

Donbass is a real monument to socialist construction. Remember who you are. 
Stay true to yourselves Glory to the Donbass and international solidarity of the workers!

Interview by Victor Shapinov 


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