“Hah, hah! Everybody is laughing at Borotba now!” read a comment posted beneath one of the articles translated below, after last November’s sham elections in the Lugansk and Donetsk ‘People’s Republics’ had reinforced right-wing control of the two ‘People’s Republics’.
In Britain, however, Borotba is still treated as a credible organisation and a reliable source of information – above all by the “Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance” (SARU) campaign and by the various organisations affiliated to it.
In fact, when four Borotba members were detained in Donetsk last December, “Socialist Fight” (an affiliate of SARU) likened this to the moment in the Spanish Civil War when Stalinists turned on anarchists and launched an armed attack on them. (1)
It didn’t even dawn on “Socialist Fight” that if Borotba had been active at the time of the Spanish Civil War they would have been on the side of the Stalinists, not the anarchists and Trotskyists.
Borotba members have suffered intimidation, arrest and physical assaults in Ukraine. They are entitled to the support of the left – in Ukraine and elsewhere – in defending themselves against such attacks.
When Borotba members were detained in Donetsk in December, they were equally entitled to the support of the left in securing the release of their members, even if the fact of the detentions was at odds with Borotba’s political assessment of the ‘People’s Republics’.
As one member of the Ukrainian Left Opposition put it in calling for their release: “It is a very pity that it happened with the comrades, I hope it will be sobering experience, and deliverance of illusions about the existence of the progressive forces in the Novorossiya.” (2)
While Borotba is entitled to support in defending itself against arrests and attacks, it is not entitled to freedom from political scrutiny and political accountability.
Its claims about a fascist terror stalking the streets of Ukrainian cities should not be accepted at face value, especially given that such claims are used to attach the label “anti-fascist resistance” to any political force, no matter how reactionary, engaged in a military conflict against the “Kiev junta”.
Borotba cannot be allowed, without further ado, to present itself as some kind of authentic voice of socialism in Ukraine, in contrast to the anarchist, Trotskyist and anti-fascist organisations who are the objects of its polemics and denunciations.
As long ago as March of last year organisations on the Ukrainian left and various grassroots initiatives issued a statement condemning the politics and actions of Borotba and calling on the European and Russian left to reconsider their attitude to Borotba. (3)
Borotba’s political trajectory since then has provided no reason to challenge the validity of that statement and that appeal. On the contrary, their validity has been reinforced by the organisation’s subsequent political trajectory.
This is confirmed by the translations of articles, and extracts from articles, provided below.
Where appropriate, footnotes have been included at the end of each translation in order to provide additional information and sources for the issues raised in the various articles
The Lies and Populism of Borotba (1)
Yesterday I happened to come across one of Borotba’s many texts about the fascist junta and the referendum. (2) I decided to subject the leaflet to some analysis.
I can’t say that I was overcome with happiness at the thought of doing so. But there is a need to compensate for the damage caused by Stalinists who have lost their senses as a result of getting involved in “real politics” – the damage they have inflicted on the left and the anti-fascist movement of Ukraine, thereby discrediting it for years to come.
“The new masters of Ukraine, who came to power after the bloody massacre in the centre of Kiev and then provoked the disintegration of the country, want to legitimise their illegal junta.”
An excellent start to the text – as if “the bloody massacre” had not been organised by Yanukovych and his trash but by the “junta which came to power.”
“They are holding elections on 25th May. These are an imitation of the free expression of the will of the electorate. They are lying to us – there is no real choice.”
You’re trying to tell me that there was a “real choice” before the Maidan?
“On the streets of Kiev, where neo-fascist paramilitaries hold sway, it is impossible today to agitate against the new regime – right-wing pogromists beat up opponents of the junta.”
For some reason or other we recently staged a protest against the ruling party [Fatherland]. (3) Some people came out of their offices, threw a few insults at us, and tried to provoke our comrades into a punch-up – but nothing more than this.
There are neo-Nazis on the streets, just as there were previously, but to identify them with the ruling authorities is a blatant lie. The new authorities shot dead Muzychno [prominent fascist paramilitary] and have already imprisoned a number of Nazis. But how many left-wingers have been arrested by the “fascist regime”?
In the case of Borotba, anti-fascist rhetoric is not the result of a real wish to oppose the ultra-right. It is nothing more than the latest electoral gimmick aimed at attracting the disappointed electorate of the Ukrainian Communist Party.
To measure the sincerity of Borotba’s “anti-fascism” you only need to remember that one of the authors of Borotba’s make-believe “anti-fascism” was Aleksei Blyuminov, (4) who has now left the party and become a rabid supporter of the Maidan, writing equally dishonest texts, only now they are “left-patriotic” rather than “anti-fascist”.
“The views of the south-east of the country will be openly ignored in this shameful spectacle. All we are allowed to do is vote for one of the odious nationalist billionaire-politicians who already rule Ukraine, plundering it to the core. As far as the problems and interests of the inhabitants of Kharkov are concerned, they spit on them”
A very interesting statement for a “left-wing radical” and, indeed, a “Marxist”. In fact, the situation described here is called “capitalism”. And nothing fundamental has changed since the times of Kuchma or even Kravchuk [when there were no calls for electoral boycotts or a referendum].
“To silence those who are dissatisfied with the current situation, we are being deprived of our democratic constitutional right to a referendum in which the inhabitants of Kharkov can freely express their demands – the right to popular self-determination and to decide the fate of their own region.”
Inhabitants of Kharkov? Popular self-determination? Kirichuk does not even attempt to present himself as a Marxist. When “people”, not “class”, is at the centre of discussion, then you can forget about left-wing politics. Instead of facilitating the formation of a “class for itself”, Kirichuk happily recycles bourgeois demagogy.
“Liberals, oligarchs and fascists have shown that they cannot lead the country out of the crisis created by their politics. Only we – the left – can save Ukraine, by nationalising the property stolen from the people, taking it out of the hands of the oligarchs, and setting course for the construction of a socialist society in which the people of Ukraine will be the real power.
We, members of Borotba, see in this the only possibility of returning to our country its former glory as a flourishing centre of production, education, science and culture.”
A few years ago Borotbists were very offended when they were exposed for their Soviet necro-patriotism. But now they have come out of the closet.
“Taking property away from the oligarchs” is the only thing in Kirichuk’s statement which, at a stretch, could be called left-wing. But you can find this kind of populism in any political force, up to and including the Right Sector. No-one likes oligarchs.
Note also that our post-Bolsheviks have even abandoned what I, as an anarchist, would regard as their dubious slogans about “nationalisation” and “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Now it is a matter of taking away the oligarchs’ property and handing power to the people.
1) April, 2014. Extracts from article at: http://nihilist.li/2014/04/02/lozh-i-populizm-borot-by/
2) The text in question was a leaflet, written by Borotba leader Sergei Kirichuk, calling for a boycott of the pending Ukrainian presidential elections unless Kharkov was allowed to hold a referendum on its constitutional status.
3) Report and pictures of protest at: http://avtonomia.net/2014/03/29/livi-aktivisti-piketuvali-bat-kivshhinu…
4) For more information about Blyuminov, see translation of following article.
From Small-time Fraudsters to Killers.
A Sketch of the Political Evolution of Stalinists, as Exemplified by Borotba (1)
The organisation Borotba officially declared its existence in May of 2011. But one of the authors of this article happened to be present at its conception in April 2010, at an event marking the anniversary of the founding of the Kiev Organisation of Marxists (OM).
In his contribution at the event Sergei Kirichuk spoke a lot about the need to create a left-wing party. Sergei, the future leader of Borotba, and his co-thinkers in the OM were very impressed by the success of the nationalists of Svoboda. They wanted to work on the same kind of party-building, in order to squeeze the Communist Party of Ukraine on its left flank.
That was also when the name Borotba was heard for the first time.
About a year after this speech by Kirichuk the OM split, although the split was really present in the organisation from the moment of its creation – it was not possible to keep together for any length of time Stalinists, Trotskyists, former members of the nomenklatura, leaders of the Communist Youth, and libertarian leftists.
Borotba was founded in 2011 by the fraction in the OM which was frequently characterised as Stalinist.
They certainly never wandered around with portraits of Stalin. They always call themselves exclusively Marxist-Leninists. And they can acknowledge their love for the moustached leader only in drunken company.
But any ideology is confirmed by political practice, not by declarations. And the Borotbists are a continuation of the “Stalinist” Soviet school of politics: The leaders of Borotba came from the Komsomol [Communist League of Youth] and some of them were active in the Ukrainian Communist Party.
This is reflected not just in their nostalgia for the USSR, which they actively exploit in their agitation, and not just in their positive evaluation of the Soviet regime, but also in their internal organisational structure, their tactics, strategy and goals.
Borotba actively attempted to lead a parasitic existence off the activism of the non-authoritarian left and to use anarchists as shock troops. The Ukrainian Stalinists attempted to claim for themselves the activity of the student syndicalist trade union “Direct Action”, declaring its actions as their own. (2)
When it was not possible to deceive the anarchists and win them over to the side of Borotba, they were subjected to political pressure. Lies and intrigues were set in motion, as well as threats and even open violence, which has now reached new levels.
During the clashes in Kharkov the Borotbists, together with Russian nationalists, broke into the offices of the Kharkov regional administration which had been occupied [by supporters of the Maidan] and beat up people in the occupation, including anarchists and anti-authoritarian left-wingers.
In order to legitimise their violence they accused their victims of belonging to the Right Sector, just as Stalinists in Spain called anarchists and Marxists in the POUM who were not loyal to them “fascists”. (3)
Borotba successfully adapts its rhetoric to its audience. This allows it to find a common language with Russian nationalists, with naïve western left-wingers, and with their not particularly honourable Ukrainian colleagues.
When Sergei Kirichuk spoke in Germany to libertarians at a congress of the “Hedonist International” (a congress of left activists and artists, where he turned up through deceiving the organisers) he criticised the “ultra-right-wingers and monarchists” in the eastern republics and maintained that Borotba fought on two fronts: against “Ukrainian and Russian Nazis”.
But when he has spoken to less critical listeners – such as members of the German “Die Linke” or “anti-imperialists” – he has called for support for the “anti-fascist people’s republics”, while Russian Nazis are transformed by him into people who are “slightly mistaken, but, in terms of ideology and class, close to being anti-fascists.”
Depending on who they are addressing, Borotba can be “fighters for peace” or “fighters against the illegitimate fascist junta in Kiev.” They can appeal for all parties to the conflict to lay down their weapons and yet delight in every micro-victory for the Donetsk People’s Republic.
In the space of just a few minutes they can issue texts supporting the “people’s republics” and then also publicly criticise the “conservative turn” which has been taken in them.
They can rejoice at Maidan supporters in Kharkov being beaten up and pass a motion condemning violence a couple of weeks later, and then take part in the organising of even more violent attacks on the Maidan in Odessa.
They can protest against Russian imperialism while also criticising Putin for “insufficient help” for the separatists and even demand that he send in troops!
Borotba can pretend to condemn sexism and homophobia in front of a left-intellectual audience, while attracting into its ranks conservatives who use homophobic, sexist and anti-semitic rhetoric.
Borotba activist Darya Dushechkina was harassed by her colleagues, and threatened with violence and reprisals, as a result of which she even reported the matter to the police. At an organisational level this episode was cloaked in silence.
Discussion about this issue was not welcome. Victor Shapinov promised to “delete from the organisation’s e-mail list anyone who seriously discusses drunken nonsense.” The conflict ended with Dushechkina leaving the organisation. (4)
Homophobia is not a priority in Borotba but rather one of the attributes of the “left conservatives”. But there are exceptions, and a clear example of this is the Odessa Borotba activist Aleksei Albu (elected to the regional council on the list of the Communist Party of Ukraine).
Albu has called for LGBT activists to be driven off left-wing actions (5) and is even ready to co-operate with ultra-right-wingers to do so. Quite recently Borotba was spotted producing homophobic agitational material. In order to chime in with the Anti-Maidan, they actively joked and spread material about “the homo Lyashko” [leader of the Radical Party]. (6)
Borotbists actively co-operate with the Russian Nazis of “Slavic Unity” and the ultra-conservatives of “Motherland”. (7) Without batting an eyelid, they publish information about this on their website, and Aleksei himself has called for Russian troops to enter Odessa. (8)
Borotba has certainly never issued anti-semitic statements and has even carried out a couple of contrived and populist “anti-anti-semitic” actions. But the well-known anti-semite Aleksei Blyuminov was one of its members for a long time – former editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Evening Lugansk”, which published extracts from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (9)
This professional “political weathervane” left Borotba to support the Maidan, but now repents for his mistakes, supports the Lugansk People’s Republic, and is re-establishing links with his former colleagues.
The leaders of Borotba did not have a problem with being friends with Israel Shamir, a Russian-Orthodox fanatic who openly justifies the myth of the “blood libel”.
From time to time the Borotba website and social networks carry anti-semitic cartoons. They are quickly removed after someone or other who has no sympathies for Borotba expresses indignation, but the general direction is crystal-clear.
Whether it be the “Zionist-plotter” against a background of the Israeli flag (10), or the “bloody President Poroshenko” wearing a menorah on his head (11) – Borotba willingly reproduce the worst of the Black-Hundreds figures and symbols.
Readily and to their own benefit, Borotbists speak a lot about their “anti-fascism”. But, in fact, there has been a lot of fruitful co-operation with nationalist organisations, and not just of the pro-Russian variety.
In 2012 they lobbied for participation in the Kiev May Day demonstration by “Commune” and “Storm Committee”, both of which are loyal to the [Ukrainian] nationalists.
Today “Commune” activists are part of the Right Sector, and “Storm Committee”, according to Denis Levin a [member of Borotba], carries out attacks on Borotba events. In Odessa Borotba has actively worked with “Autonomous Resistance”
For Borotba, both “anti-fascism” and support for “the nationalism of liberation” are nothing more than an instrument of political manipulation. They are prepared to pay any price to win mass support. Convictions count for nothing for these parliamentary populists.
In one situation Borotbists can call themselves irreconcilable “anti-nationalists”, in another they can actively appeal to the national aspect in “Ukrainian Bolshevism”, interpreting the legacy of Skrypnik and Khvylevy in a way which benefits Borotba.
This is not surprising if one understands the political genesis of Borotba and the target audience it is trying to impact on.
This left alternative to the Communist Party of Ukraine lays claim first and foremost to conservative and often xenophobic electorate of the latter. They have renounced the open clericalism and Russian nationalism of their elder brothers, but they cannot renounce the toleration of “ideologically close” nationalists and conservatives.
In addition to his own party’s projects, one of the main ideologists of Borotba, Victor Shapinov, has worked as a political consultant [“polittechnolog”] for different political forces. The story of the elections in the town of Gus-Khrustalniy, where Shapinov worked for “United Russia” [Putin’s party] has become a cult story on the post-Soviet left. (12)
And these are by no means the only elections in which Borotbists have distinguished themselves – using their organisational resources, they have engaged in dirty PR work in elections in Transnistria [a breakaway from Moldova], working against the candidate Yevgeniy Shevchuk, who they accused of “pro-Europeanism.”
Not long before that Victor Shapinov had distinguished himself working in the Crimea for one of the leaders of the Communist Party of Ukraine, Leonid Grach, selling him “new-left” slogans such as “power to the millions, not the millionaires”
It should be noted that although Grach has demarcated himself from Simonenko [CP leader], accusing him of “deserting Marxism”, he himself hardly differs from the CPU mainstream when it comes to clericalism and pro-Russian attitudes.
As already pointed out above, the history of Borotba really dates from the spring of 2010. Around this time Kirichuk got actively involved in the work of the OM. Like many others, up until that time he was just another “dead soul”. (13)
But membership of a political circle which was mainly concerned with theoretical discussions and educational meetings did not measure up to Kirichuk’s ambitions. The idea of creating a party was proposed.
At that time an orientation to party-building was positively received by the OM as a whole. The Mandelite fraction was seduced by the hints at a “broad left party” and at “attracting left-liberal allies” which were tossed around by Kirichuk.
But, of course, [after the OM split] no unification of the forces of the left took place. Several microscopic Stalinist groups joined joined Borotba, which definitively gave it the character of a clone of the Communist Party of Ukraine, only without the overt fofudiya. (14)
Borotba adopted a bashful pro-Russian position long before the start of the Maidan. When its leaders wrote programmatic articles about economic integration, they spent three pages criticising the EU, followed by a couple of suggestions for criticism of the [Russian-initiated] Customs Union.
Borotba itself was joined by apologists for Lukashenko and Asad (like the above-mentioned Aleksei Blyuminov, who was not simply a rank-and-file member but one of the organisation’s ideologists). Support for the authoritarian-left opponents of Putin was successfully reconciled with friendship with the “Red Putinists”.
As events today demonstrate, there was no particular contradiction in this: in spite of the repression which they faced themselves, many members of the [Russian] “Left Front” actively supported the annexation of Crimea and Putin’s aggressive policies towards Ukraine.
The Borotbists were also close to pro-Russian right-wingers, such as the journalists Alexander Chalenko and Miroslava Berdnik. Their offices were the venue for a presentation by Oles Buzina of his book [“The Union of the Plough and the Trident. How They Invented Ukraine”] and for a meeting with Vladimir Kornilov, the ideologist of “Novorossiya”. (15)
As the conflict became more acute, any trace of bashfulness disappeared. Borotba even forgot its ritual criticism of Russian imperialism and fell into its arms instead.
The pro-Kremlin and ultra-patriotic mass media broadcast interviews with the leaders of Borotba, who told of how terrible fascists were mocking poor unarmed Berkut officers on the Maidan. Their openly pro-police position was justified by concerns about “the integrity of the country” and “preventing civil war”.
But after the defeat of Yanukovych, Borotba became one of those forces which actively encouraged war, in particular by joining in joint protests with “Oplot” (16) and its hirelings, and also through:
Support for the separatists in the Kharkov People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic (some Borotbists in Kharkov even proclaimed themselves “people’s deputies”). Calls for Russian intervention. Co-operation with Putinists from Russia and the West. Recognition of the “referendum” [in Lugansk and Donetsk regions in May]. Appeals to legalise the ultra-right-wing “militia” and recognise it as the regular army of the south-east.
Borotbists were directly involved in the beating of Maidan activists in Kharkov, including the left-wing poet Sergei Zhadan and anarchists, who had occupied the regional administration building. In a video-recording of the event Borotbist Alexander Fedorenko can be seen kicking unarmed people. (17)
Borotbists also supported the attack on Maidan protestors in Odessa which culminated in the tragedy in the House of Trade Unions.
It should be noted that the “left leader” Aleksei Albu who bears personal responsibility for this is now in hiding in Simferopol [in the Crimea], in the company of activists of “Motherland” and “Slavic Unity”, where he continues his fight against the “junta”, which will inevitably lead to further deaths.
Albu himself hardly suffered seriously – young left-wing leaders have a tendency to save themselves.
All this could have been avoided if the swamp of the left had not created fertile ground for the growth of Borotba. If the Stalinists had been fully boycotted in 2011 after attacking a female anarchist.
If Borotba had had to demonstrate on their own on May Day in 2012, without support from Trotskyists and quasi-anarchists. If Direct Action had banned Borotba from their events not in 2013 but two years earlier and had implemented that ban.
Unfortunately, we failed to do this and allowed a monster to be born – simple-minded, clumsy, and deadly dangerous – for its sympathisers even more than for its opponents. We have written this text to help those who follow us not to repeat our mistakes.
1) June, 2014. Extracts from article at: http://t.co/iulFLVoqMN
Some sections dealing with specific incidents have been omitted, along with a large section discussing the funding of Borotba and the fate of a grant to the OM by the International Left Forum in 2010, which members of the future Borotba appear to have syphoned off. A fuller English translation of the article is at: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/world/2014/09/517921.html
2) See e-mail to Borotba members, at: http://lj.rossia.org/users/left_unia/3362.html?nc=1 – “We have to use the contacts we have with the media … so that anything left-wing which occurs in the capital is associated exclusively with us. This means claiming other people’s actions, but we do not have a choice. Sorry for the bluntness, comrades. … This is a political struggle, and a political struggle is not about being sentimental.”
3) See screen-grab of Borotba webpage, referring to the building’s occupiers as the Right Sector, at: http://nihilist.li/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/boba_harkov.jpg
4) See e-mail thread at: http://lj.rossia.org/users/left_unia/2590.html?mode=reply
5) See e-mail from Albu at: http://lj.rossia.org/users/left_unia/1492.html?nc=5 – In fact, the e-mail calls for marching separately, as opposed to driving them away: “Let them march with gays, transvestites, members of the (Trotskyist) Left Opposition and druggies. That’s a fine gathering that’s being put together. Anyway, I propose marching separately from these pederasts (the physical ones and the moral ones) and other filth.”
6) See e-mail to Borotba members, at: http://lj.rossia.org/users/left_unia/1258.html?nc=1 – “Damage their placards with slogans such as ‘Nonsense’ or ‘Lyashko – Homo’.”
8) See e-mail from Albu at: http://lj.rossia.org/users/left_unia/2018.html?nc=1 – Albu does not quite actually advocate Russian occupation: “If Russian troops enter the territory of Odessa region, then we too will be able breathe more easily. … I do not agitate in favour of the Russian Federation, but I do not regard Russian soldiers as enemies. I do not hold dear the state of Ukraine. My native land is the Soviet Union.”
9) Publication in the newspaper of extracts from the Protocols is confirmed by reports at: http://chornogora.livejournal.com/459333.html and
10) Reproduced in the article of which this is a translation: http://t.co/iulFLVoqMN
11) See screengrab of Facebook post by Borotba leader Victor Shapinov: http://nihilist.li/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/shapinbaum.jpg Note also the Nazi swastika on the mace held by Poroshenko, evoking the old Stalinist anti-semitic amalgam of ‘Zionism’ and Nazism. Poroshenko’s alleged Jewish ancestry is a constant theme in far-right denunciations of him.
12) See exchange of e-mails at: http://lj.rossia.org/users/left_unia/5000.html?mode=reply
13) Title of a novel by Gogol.
14) For the meaning of fofudiya, see: http://enc.tfode.com/Fofudya
16) “Oplot” is a martial-arts club in Kharkov. Its members backed the Anti-Maidan protests and clashed with supporters of the Maidan.
The allegations against Albu are that he was with the Anti-Maidan protestors who, in collaboration with the police, attacked the Maidan protestors, and that it was his idea that members of the anti-Maidan camp should retreat into the Trade Union Building.
Albu has also been criticised for the fact that the Borotba member who was killed in the Trade Union Building had, in line with Borotba instructions, joined the Odessa Druzhina (Militia), although it was an organisation of the far right and led by a member of Slavic Unity.
It was the Odessa Druzhina which ran the Anti-Maidan camp in front of the Trade Union Building. Members of the Odessa Druzhina also joined in the attack on the Maidan marchers.
Red on the Outside – White on the Inside:
A Few More Things About Borotba and its Allies (1)
The Stalinist sect Borotba continues to try to save its reputation with the help of its friends in Europe.
“Die Linke” MP Andrei Hunko has attempted to whitewash the likes of Sergei Kirichuk and his party. Now he has conducted an interview with the leader of Borotba in which the latter again regurgitates a flood of slogans which are utterly meaningless but sound appealing to anyone on the left prone to Soviet fetishism. (2)
Anyone who knows Ukrainian reality from within can only laugh at the headline above the interview: “They Hate Us Because We’re Communists”. “Hate” should read: “Despise”. And “Communists” should read “Borotba”.
Kirichuk begins with an attempt to provoke sympathy by talking about the repression of which Borotbists are the victims.
But fact is fact: Not one member of the organisation is imprisoned. The “repression” goes no further than a summons to an appointment with the security services or the police. No Borotbist has even been detained for any length of time. (3)
Despite the close collaboration of Borotba with pro-Russian nationalists, in spite of its open support for armed paramilitaries, the authorities simply don’t even notice this garrulous Stalinist sect.
The death of Andrei Brazhevsky [in the Odessa Trade Union Building on 2nd May] is a fact, and certainly a tragic fact. But the people responsible for his death include those who pushed him into a provocation in the course of which gunfire was opened on a pro-Ukrainian rally.
Aleksei Albu is personally responsible for this death. It was Albu who called for participation in meetings with Russian nationalists and who collaborated with right-wing organisations such as Slavic Unity and Motherland within the framework of the Odessa People’s Druzhina [Militia].
The senseless aggression of the Russian ultra-right-wingers provoked the escalation of violence, and the fact that “left-wingers” were in its epicentre is the result of the criminal irresponsibility of their leaders, who are ready to build their careers on the corpses of their comrades.
Then Andrei Hunko asks Kirichuk about how the conflict in Ukraine can be resolved. Kirichuk refers to the “Minsk Declaration”. (4) But he keeps quiet about how Borotba interprets this essentially meaningless document: in the spirit of unambiguous support for recognition of the regimes of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.
This is how the document is interpreted in an article on the Borotba website. (5)
Then there is a flood of empty but pompous phrases to the effect of: “We are for everything that is good, and against everything that is evil.”
It is easy to stand up against “the torture and kidnapping of left-wing activists and anti-fascists” at a time when no left-wing activist or anti-fascist in Ukraine has been kidnapped and tortured, unless of course you count as “anti-fascists” pro-Russian chauvinists who organise anti-Roma pogroms and racist attacks on African students who are then portrayed as “American mercenaries”. (6)
Even war criminals should not be tortured. But Borotba skilfully substitutes one concept for another, by calling chauvinists and killers “anti-fascists”.
Hilariously, in addressing a western audience Borotba speaks of its opposition to repression in the Crimea. But at the same time many activists of this organisation are in hiding in the Crimea [i.e.having left Ukraine, not in hiding from the Russian authorities] and have not made the slightest effort to support the anti-fascist Alexander Kolchenko. (7)
Kirichuk also tries to prove to his naïve audience that the Anti-Maidan and the pro-Russian “republics” which emerged from it were a grassroots movement.
He keeps quiet about the fact that a large proportion of the Anti-Maidan militants were former cops who were mixed up in crimes (including the torture, abduction and killing of people on the Maidan) or were paid for their involvement in the anti-Maidan. (8)
He also keeps quiet about the fact that practically all the leading positions were held by individuals who were either openly operatives of the Russian security services or who did not hide their links with them.
The south-east of Ukraine also became a place of pilgrimage for Russian ultra-right-wingers who created there their “Russian-Orthodox battalions”.
There were certainly not a few deceived people who, under the impact of propaganda, sincerely believed that they were engaged in an anti-fascist struggle. But they were in auxiliary and subordinate roles and were used as cannon fodder. From the outset the initiative was in the hands of a small group of professionals.
Kirichuk tries to prove to western left-wingers that the Anti-Maidan was a response to the fact that the EU Association Agreement threatened jobs in the east of Ukraine. He keeps quiet about the fact that most supporters of the Anti-Maidan support signing an agreement to join the [Russian-initiated] Customs Union, although coalmines in the Rostov region which borders the Donbas were shut down by Russia a long time ago.
The choice between the Customs Union and the European Union is not a choice for the Ukrainian working class but one for the bourgeoisie. Geo-politics is no concern of the working class.
In fact, the criticism of the EU by the Anti-Maidan and subsequently by the separatists (who it would be more correct to call “supporters of unification with Russia”) is of an exclusively ultra-right-wing and conservative character.
It involves homophobic criticism of the “destruction of the institution of the family”, openly racist fears about “black-skinned emigrants and Arabs”, and ridiculous rumours that “incest is taught in European schools.” All these have been actively promoted by Russian propaganda in recent years.
Certain authoritarian-left “populists” – the Communist Party of Ukraine, and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation – attempt to employ a similar critique in pursuit of their own goals. They have been joined by the not unknown left publicist Boris Kagarlitsky (9), and now by Borotba as well.
According to Kirichuk, “Nazis and the government have attacked and defeated the forces of the left” – a phrase which is devoid of sense and very far from reality.
The left has been having regular skirmishes with Nazis for years and nothing particular has changed in this. Perhaps what Kirichuk means by “defeat of the forces of the left” is the trashing of the Borotba offices which served as a shelter for pro-Russian nationalists. But the Borotba office was never a focus for “the forces of the left”.
Kirichuk tries to avoid the theme of collaboration with “Commune”, “Storm Committee” and “Autonomous Resistance” by saying that these groups “supported the Maidan and even attacked Borotba.”
This is true, but the one does not exclude the other. These groups, which are similar in some ways to the German “national-autonomists”, supported the Maidan in the autumn of 2013 but from the spring of 2012 they did a lot of productive joint work with Borotba. And at that time the nationalism of their fellow-travellers did not embarrass the Stalinists.
When engaging with its western comrades Borotba strives to demarcate itself from Russian nationalism. In fact, Russian and Ukrainian nationalism are both instruments in the hands of Borotba for the conquest of influence and power. Like all populists they change their ideology to suit the needs of the political moment.
In 2012 they marched under Ukrainian flags together with “Commune” (a left-nationalist group, built around the cult of the “left Ukrainian Insurgent Army”) and discussed the merits of Ukrainian “national communism”. Today they support chauvinistic “Russian liberation movements”.
In general, Kirichuk constantly goes round in circles in the interview, repeating the same lie and the same half truth, and periodically contradicting himself.
He refuses to acknowledge the violence of Borotbists against unarmed supporters of the Maidan in Kharkov which has been caught on video – at the same time as justifying this violence on the basis that they were confronted by the Right Sector. In fact, people were simply beaten up one after another, including left-wingers and anarchists.
Kirichuk openly lies when he says that he did not know who Stanislav Byshok and Andrei Kochetkov were – Russian Nazis from the former Russian National Unity organisation, invited by Borotba with the participation of “Die Linke” in Berlin to make a public presentation of their book. (10)
Kochetkov is very well-known in the “commercial” left scene and was exposed some time ago by Borotbists themselves as a sponsor of their competitors in the “Zakhista Pratsi” initiative. Kirichuk must have known him and could not have regarded him as “simply a journalist”.
The leader of Borotba lies, and Andrei Hunko, out of stupidity or out of malice, helps him to lie.
Then Kirichuk distances himself from contact with the anti-semite Israel Shamir. (11)
But anyone capable of opening the Borotba website will find there a recently published article by Shamir. (12) Anyone capable of using a google search-engine will see Kirichuk and Shamir taking part in a discussion with the right-wing journalist Chalenko. (13) Co-operation between Kirichuk and Shamir is much deeper and more systematic than a chance meeting.
In the interview Kirichenko also distances himself from collaboration with Chalenko, although it was Chalenko himself who guided Borotba into the mainstream Ukrainian media.
Kirichuk responds to concrete accusations with a flood of slogans only vaguely connected to reality: “We defend Marx, Lenin and socialism.” We are not sure that Marx and Lenin need to be defended by Mr. Kirichuk.
In fact, Borotba defends the monarchists of Strelkov and Gubarev, defends Russian-Orthodox fanatics, defends functionaries of the Communist Party of Ukraine and the Party of the Regions. What kind of socialism is defended by Borotba is not entirely clear. To all appearances: a national one.
It is worth saying something separately about the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU).
The CPU is a conservative party with the basic function of making propaganda about the “canons of orthodoxy”, a party which has advocated the introduction of the death penalty and the criminalisation of homosexuality, a party which supported the shooting of workers in Zhanaozen and the repressive [anti-Maidan] laws of 16th January. (14)
Such a party does not deserve to be called “communist”. Nor does it deserve any solidarity from the left.
Borotba is closely linked with the CPU at an organisational and personal level and came out of the same political tradition. It is significant that in extreme conditions Borotba turned out to be inseparable from its elder ally, whereas previously it had attempted to subject the CPU to brutal criticism.
But at the decisive moment the conservatives, the homophobes, and the supporters of censorship and the death penalty turned out to be closer to the bashful Stalinists than did the rest of the Ukrainian left.
If collecting money to help Borotba and organising meetings for them could previously be excused by ignorance, now that excuse has disappeared. Any person who seriously wants to understand the issues can check them out by using original sources.
The question is what is more important for the German left – bowing down to flags bearing the hammer and sickle and bowing down to lumps of stone [i.e. statues] or the real interests of the Ukrainian proletariat, now dying under bombs and artillery shells because of the politicians’ games, games in which Borotba, among others, is embroiled.
1) August, 2014. Extracts from article at: http://nihilist.li/2014/08/08/krasny-e-snaruzhi-bely-e-vnutri-eshhe-nem…
2) In early July Andrej Hunko (a “Die Linke” member of the German parliament) had conducted a particularly unchallenging interview with Borotba leader Sergei Kirichuk. The interview, entitled “They Hate Us Because We’re Communists”, is at:
3) The article was written in August, prior to the detention of Vladislav Wojciechowski (12th September to 26th December).
4) A declaration issued by a conference of left-wingers from Ukraine, Russia and Belorussia, held in Minsk in early June.
5) The article has since been taken down, but was at:
6) Attacks on Roma and African students took place in separatist-controlled areas.
8) See article by anarchist based in Donetsk, written in May: http://nihilist.li/2014/05/08/anarhist-iz-donetska-zayavlyat-o-sebe-v-a…
9) A reference to Boris Kagarlitsky’s article of 2011, “The Fruits of Tolerance - The Constant Humiliation and Insulting of the Majority Is Becoming the Norm of ‘Politically Correct’ Culture”, at http://kagarlitsky.ru/node/220
10) For the full background to the debacle, see: https://linksunten.indymedia.org/de/node/117549
11) In the interview with Hunko, Kirichuk had claimed that it was pure coincidence that he had been photographed with Shamir at a press conference to launch the film about Julian Assange.
12) The article has since been taken down, but was at:
13) See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGghB4bHUlw The date of the discussion is November 2013 – nine months prior to the interview with Hunko.
The Elections in Novorossiya and the Defeat of Left-Wingers (1)
The elections in the Lugansk and Donetsk “People’s Republics” have become a genuine humiliation for the left adepts of ‘Novorossiya’.
“In Ukraine after the Maidan left-wing agitation became impossible,” they claimed, whereas at the same time everything was different in the new ‘republics’: the proletarian popular masses, Soviet nostalgia, everyone hates the oligarchs and calls themselves anti-fascists. Clean away the rust a bit from the hammer and sickle, and there it is – the social revolution!
And freedom for the rebels and for helpful left-wingers: you could fire from a gun, go and agitate amongst the narod [the people], get involved in “real politics” about which so many could only dream, and build a social state from the materials at hand.
But what do we see today?
The left Novorossiyans do not have a single fully-fledged military unit. Not a single “left-wing” party and not a single left-wing candidate managed to be elected to the organs of the power in the “people’s republics”. In fact, not a single left-wing party or candidate was even allowed to stand for election.
Not a single “left-wing” force plays a role of any significance in the political life of the new republics. The few trade union and social meetings which have taken place were not organised by supporters of the “Novorossiya” project.
Now as in the past Ukrainian libertarians and social-democrats use the relative political freedom provided by bourgeois democracy [in Ukraine]. Public events are organised. Organisations are created and grow. They gradually find new supporters.
Of course, the Maidan was not the start of a social revolution. But at least it preserved for us the possibility of wallowing in the swamp of grassroots politics.
But those left-wingers [i.e. Borotba] who first solidarised with the defenders of the police state [i.e. the Communist Party and the Party of the Regions, who both voted for the “laws of dictatorship” on 16th January], and who then departed for occupied territories [i.e. the Crimea], hiding there from a “fascist junta” which they had dreamt up themselves, have committed suicide.
And they have done so with their own hands. The “Russian world” does not want class war.
1) November, 2014. Extracts from article at: http://nihilist.li/2014/11/04/o-vy-borah-v-novorossii-i-porazhenii-levy…
Andrej Hunko – An Accomplice of the Imperialist Politics of the Kremlin, and an Enemy of the Workers’ Movement (1)
For a long time Andrej Hunko has been convincing European left-wingers to support the Ukrainian conservative-Stalinist organisation Borotba.
It is largely thanks to the efforts of Hunko and his party-comrades in “Die Linke” that the political shyster Kirichuk was able to obtain political asylum in Germany and secure major opportunities to influence the left in Germany and other European countries.
This is how the organisation Borotba achieved the status of “persecuted anti-fascists” and secured a level of help and financial support hitherto unheard of for the Ukrainian left.
But Borotba has co-operated with the ultra-right (“Motherland” and “Slavic Unity”) and has accepted them into its ranks (Aleksei Blyuminov, well-known throughout Ukraine as an anti-semite, was one of the organisation’s leading ideologists for over a year).
Borotba has also co-operated with the secret services (Aleksei Albu, leader of Borotba in Odessa, has repeatedly referred to his contacts with the Ukrainian secret service).
With the active support of Andrej Hunko, Borotba is currently cultivating the following myths in Europe:
- Russian-speaking citizens in Ukraine are oppressed. (In fact, the rights of Russian-speaking citizens have not suffered in the least after the Maidan: Russian is used in social life as freely as previously – in many regions more widely and more frequently than Ukrainian.)
- The protests in the east of Ukraine began as a class uprising with a left agenda. (In fact, this was an attempted putsch by representatives of the existing authorities and the old bureaucracy, supported by ultra-right-wing armed militants and clerical radicals, and in certain areas under the leadership of persons from the ranks of the Russian secret services.)
- After the Maidan, power in Ukraine is in the hands of fascists. (In fact, a liberal [in the economic, not social, sense] regime was established in Ukraine, in which the percentage of the ultra-right-wingers is even lower than in most European countries, and after the last elections [in October] the ultra-right has less places in parliament then in 2012.)
Borotba was, and is, one of the loudest mouthpieces for the “separatist” uprising of Russian nationalists and paramilitaries, an advocate for the “people’s republics” (more exactly: ultra-right-wing juntas) which have been established, and an agitator for the war against the “fascist junta” (the new Ukrainian government).
Using its channels of communication, Borotba has spread straightforward lies, translating them into English and other languages. This means that to finance and support Borotba is to finance and support Russian fascists and the war in the east of Ukraine.
After he had turned up in Germany Sergei Kirichuk took part in one of the right-populist “Monday demonstrations” in Munich – rallies which are condemned even by “Die Linke”.
At the initiative of Borotba, members of the ultra-right-wing neo-fascist organisation “Motherland” were brought from Odessa to Germany in the guise of “anti-fascists”.
Under the patronage of Kirichuk a meeting was to have taken place in the office of the “left-wing” paper “Neues Deutschland” with the Russian neo-Nazi Aleksei Kochetkov, the former press secretary of Russian National Unity, and Stanislav Byshok, a veteran of “Russian Way”.
All this also happened under the patronage of “Die Linke”, and not without the involvement of Hunko, who even wrote a special press release explaining that the contacts of his protégé with a neo-Nazi were a “misunderstanding”.
Andrej Hunko writes morose articles on his website about meetings with the parents of people who died in the fire in the Trade Union Building in Odessa. Of course, the grief of parents is always touching.
But Hunko does not mention at all that a significant proportion of the pro-Russian militants on the square in front of the building and in the building itself were ultra-right-wingers belonging to “Motherland” and “Slavic Unity” who were given cover by the police: they opened fire on the Euro-Maidan demonstration which cost people their lives.
Hunko lies or repeats someone else’s lies when he speaks of dozens of killed “left-wingers and anti-fascists”, given that the Odessa Anti-Maidan was a united red-brown front involving Stalinists and pro-Russian neo-Nazis who had abandoned their swastikas only to hide their politics.
Hunko and his colleagues speak of the strong influence exerted by the west and of the direct involvement of NATO in the Ukrainian conflict, but they say nothing about the role of Russia, which is directly linked to the leadership of the “people’s republics” and provides them with military and political support.
Russian equipment and Russian military specialists play a role in the military clashes. Conscript soldiers from Russia are used as cannon fodder in the bloodbath, and often do not even know their destination. Far-right paramilitaries and mercenaries are given unrestricted access to Ukrainian territory.
No tolerance of the bourgeoisie and its satraps who have stoked the fires of war and are responsible for the deaths of thousands of people! No war but the class war!
1) November, 2014. Extracts from article at: http://nihilist.li/2014/11/17/andrej-gun-ko-posobnik-imperialistichesko… The article is the text of a leaflet distributed at a meeting addressed by Hunko.
We Do Not Need This ‘Support’!
A Statement by Ukrainian Left-Wingers About the Behaviour of Red Aid (1)
Introduction from Nihilist Editorial Board: We wish to stress that this statement suffered a massive loss in sharpness as it was being pulled together. Some signatories probably want to keep open the possibility of future dialogue with the red-brown ‘Querfront’ [‘united front’ of political opponents]. We reject the possibility of any such dialogue.
In the spring support for Borotba and other pro-Russian red-brown ‘Querfront’ representatives could still be dismissed as a mistake due to a lack of information. Today, however, such support constitutes a defined political position, and one for which responsibility must be taken.
One of the most difficult experiences which we, Ukrainian left-wingers, had in 2014 was the reaction of broad layers of the western left to events in our country. For many of you the situation was pretty unambiguous.
It was a matter of a coup d’etat, backed by the west, in the course of which an extreme-right-wing or even a “fascist junta” came to power, which promptly set about repressing left and progressive forces and the Russian-speaking minority.
According to this interpretation, this triggered a justified reaction by Russia in the Crimea, and an ‘anti-fascist uprising’ in the Donbas. From this bird’s eye view of things it was a matter of a ‘geo-political conflict’ between NATO and the EU on the one side, and Russia on the other.
In this conflict the western powers played an unambiguously negative role, given their unjustified and even exaggerated demands, and further given the devastating consequences of their “aggression” against Russia.
People themselves, the people who actually inhabit the country, appear in this perspective only as the object of geo-political intrigues. They are deemed acceptable if they are satisfied with belonging to the ‘correct’ sphere of influence. But in the worst-case-scenario they are manipulated from outside and create something like the Maidan.
In this framework people are not recognized as fully-fledged political subjects, capable of their own collective action, and are denied their right to be recognized as such.
The purpose of this statement is twofold.
We would gladly communicate with those willing to listen to us. But on the basis of our experiences with the western left which we have had in the meantime, we are no longer so naïve to believe that we can really convince many of you.
We wish to distance ourselves from the latter clearly and explicitly. We forbid those on the German left who, in the words of Zbiegniew Kowaleski, have gone over “to the side of Russian imperialism with weapons and baggage” to speak for us and in our name. You can stand for what you want to, but you can save yourselves the trouble of making decisions for us.
The reaction to the Maidan and the subsequent events was a particular catastrophe on the German left. Unfortunately, Red Aid was no exception.
In the summer of this year Red Aid organized a speaking tour for “anti-fascists from Ukraine and Russia”: dozens of meetings involving propaganda which consisted of blatant lies in order to justify the Russian invasion and appeals for “international solidarity” with the very clearly right-wing ‘people’s republics’.
Since then Red Aid has boasted of a “five-figure sum” which has been placed at the disposal of the “anti-fascists in Ukraine”.
In spite of the length of time during which it has been criticised, Red Aid continues to claim that the “solidarity money raised from the astonishingly high level of donations has already benefited several individuals from various(!) left spectrums.”
To our knowledge, this information is not true. We have never heard of anyone outside of the pro-Russian and authoritarian Borotba being supported by Red Aid. At most, it may have involved some Russian nationalists who are not even red-coated and who have been passed on by Borotba.
Red Aid has never attempted to make contact with us, and we have never sought to make contact with Red Aid. In fact: any possibility of working with organisations such as Red Aid is out of the question for us.
We appeal to all left-wingers abroad not to allow themselves to be misused for an information war, and to adopt as nuanced a view as possible of events in Ukraine. To that end, we, the signatories to this statement, are always ready to help you.
1) December, 2014. Extracts from article at: http://nihilist.li/2014/12/16/nam-ne-potribna-vasha-pidtrimka-wir-brauc…
The statement has been signed by Ukrainian anarchist and feminist organisations, and by individual activists. “Red Aid” is a longstanding German organisation which supports left-wing political prisoners and their dependants.