By Theo Russell
SUPPORTERS of Solidarity with the Anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) met at the Marx Memorial Library in central London last week to hear a report from members of an international delegation to the Donbas, organised by the Italian punk/skinhead group Banda Bassotti.
The 107 delegates from all over the world delivered medicines and other supplies, took part in the Donbas International Forum under the slogan “Anti-Racism – Internationalism – Solidarity,” a conference of Novorossiya left forces, and attended the Victory Day events in Alchevsk, an industrial centre in Lugansk on 9th May.
Much of their time was spent with Alexei Mozgovoy, the charismatic and hugely popular commander of the 3,000-strong Ghost Battalion, who was one of the organisers of the forum and the opening speaker.
But only days after returning to Britain, they heard that Mozgovoy had died on 23rd May in an ambush in Lugansk. His funeral drew enormous crowds of supporters.
One of the delegates, Eddie Dempsey, said Mozgovoy was greatly respected for his “implacable opposition to oligarchy, demanding the restoration of all wealth stolen from the people since the fall of the Soviet Union, and a return to the days of free healthcare and education”.
He declared his allegiance to the cause of building a “people’s and socialist Novorossiya”, the federation of the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics in the Donbas.
“Born and bred in Lugansk, Commander Mozgovoy’s background exposed claims by western politicians and their puppets in Kiev that the Novorossiyan resistance is no more than a Russian invasion,” Dempsey said.
He said they were told that the Ukraine anti-fascist solidarity movements in Greece and Britain are the largest in Europe.
An extended Skype interview was also held at the meeting with Alexei Markov, political commissar of the Ghost Battalion, who provided a detailed analysis of the current situation and future prospects for Novorossiya.
He said Mozgovoy and others wanted to extend Novorossiya as far as Odessa, but this lacked support as most in the Donbas were happy with the gains made so far and didn’t want to risk them.
“The majority in Donbas are happy with holding local power independent of Kiev. While there is little money, their future is clear, and they don’t want to fight for things like ‘freedom’ or ‘democracy’.”
“There is a need to rebuild, develop agriculture and create jobs, but sooner or later the war will and end, and the need for political power to change life for ordinary people will become the priority.”
Markov said that Mozgovoy was extremely popular and huge crowds came to his funeral “to say farewell,” and said “elements in the Lugansk government were afraid of this popularity”.
Markov said: “Socialism is the main goal in our struggle, because I’m absolutely sure that capitalism is not the right way for civilisation. Only socialism offers a better life for ordinary people.
“The Government of Lugansk is trying not to speak about the future, because it is very close to the Russian government, and the Russian government doesn’t like socialism. Socialism is very popular among the ordinary people, but not in the government.
“Socialism is possible, but that way would be very hard for us because we wouldn’t have Russia’s support. That’s why we need support from the people of the world.
“It is also possible Novorossiya could become part of Russia. This could be a good future, because it is a very small country and needs allies. They have to friends in the east or west, like Ossetia or Abkhazia. Russia is not the best country in the world, but Novorossiya doesn’t have resources like Russia.
“We understand that the war is important, but it is not a solution, and we have to decide why we are fighting and what we are fighting for. We know we have the support of a lot of people abroad, and our people have mostly supported us.
“There is much talk of aid from Russia, such as weapons and ammunition and also food and medical supplies, but this is very little, and what there is goes directly to the governments of Donetsk and Lugansk and is used by them as a bargaining tool with favoured groups. The general feeling is that Russia gives some support, but not nearly enough.”
Markov said the Ghost Battalion was completely independent, with most of its supplies bought from corrupt elements in the Ukraine armed forces. “A popular saying is that we get American aid twice – once when we capture it in battle, and then what is bought, so people here say ‘thanks, Obama’!”
The Ghost Battalion has a number of political commissars, and all its fighters are taught Marxism-Leninism among other topics. “There are some right wing and even fascist elements, and the rank and file are not developed politically. They see the priorities as ensuring that democracy is safe and protecting our state, and then social and political issues can be dealt with.”
He said the Lugansk trade unions are affiliated to the World Federation of Trade Unions, and spoke about the Metro workers’ strike in Kiev after receiving no pay for six months. “When they marched in Kiev they carried plain red flags, but also Ukrainian flags, not for patriotic reasons but to avoid the fate of many in Ukraine who have been arrested, beaten, tortured or worse.”
This can happen to anyone accused of promoting “communist slogans”, or criticising the government or the war effort.
Markov said there were various theories that the Novorossiya governments, and possibly the communist parties in those republics realised that it would not look good if they took all the seats in last November’s elections, so their candidates had to register as individuals. But he stressed that they were completely legal parties in both republics.
One of the delegates also spoke about his visit to the Crimea, which he described as “a very powerful experience”. He said red and communist flags were flown everywhere on the streets and ships, and was repeatedly told by Crimeans: “Please tell everyone in Britain how happy everyone is with the situation here.”