„They hate us because we are communists“
Interview with Sergei Kirichuk by Andrej Hunko, 09.07.2014
Sergei Kirichuk is a founding member and coordinator of the Ukrainian left-wing organization Borotba (Struggle). He left Ukraine because of the repression against his organization. Borotba is discussed controversially due to accusations by anarchist organizations from Ukraine. I confronted Sergei Kirichuk with the accusations.
What are the current conditions for political work for Borotba members in Ukraine?
Our organization now is under strong attack by the Kiev regime. One of our comrades, Andrej Brajevsky, was killed during the massacre in Odessa on May 2nd, many of our leaders are on a wanted-list of the government's prosecution office, some leading comrades are still in Ukraine but they are working now under very dangerous conditions. Neo-Nazi gangs tried to kidnap Denis Levin and Svitlana Likht in Charkov.
All of our offices were destroyed and partly occupied by fascists. The so called National Guard, that was created from right-wing paramilitary forces from the Maidan and that is now the legal disguise for them, attacked our last office in Charkow.
A few days ago our fellow activist Maria Matushenko was kidnapped from her apartment in Dnipropetrovsk. She was kidnapped by the secret police, who took all electronic devices of her family (two laptops, four cell phones, one tablet PC). Later she was released and fled the country. Other comrades have been arrested and tortured by the police in Charkow. Police officers tried to receive information about the whereabouts of our leading comrades. Many comrades have left their apartments in order not to get arrested.
At the moment we have no political democracy in our country, instead we are confronted with a civil war in Ukraine.
Since the Maidan protests and the ousting of President Yanukovitch, the conflict in Ukraine has escalated into an armed conflict in the eastern parts of the country. What are Borotba’s proposals for a resolution of the conflict?
We are supporters of a peaceful solution and we sharply criticize the military hysteria inside Ukrainian society. We are part of the Minsk Declaration peace process, a declaration created and signed by Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russian left activists in order to build up pressure towards all governments involved in the conflict to stop the war.
The declaration of the left forces is calling for solidarity with the left forces in our countries: “We express our solidarity to all participants of the Ukrainian left-wing movements who are fighting against war, nationalism and xenophobia. We consider it necessary to provide them with all possible information, political and material support. We oppose the pressure, pogroms and reprisals by all participants of the conflict. We oppose the massacres, torture and abductions of Ukrainian leftists, anti-fascists and all Ukrainian citizens, regardless of their political views. We oppose political persecutions in the Crimea region as well.”
Of course this position is under attack by the mainstream media who are accusing us of supporting “terrorists” and “separatists”. But we strongly insist that a military solution is impossible in this conflict.
We are proposing a plan for the re-establishing of the Ukrainian state. That means that we are supporting the idea of a federal state with wide autonomies for the people of the South-East, furthermore the recognition of social, economical and cultural rights of the regions, recognition of language equality, and a neutral status of Ukraine in international relations. One important condition is to stop the glorification of Nazi collaborators.
In the German media, the forces of the so called “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk are portrayed as “pro Russian separatists”. How would you analyze the political actors and what is your relation to them?
We should keep in mind that the protests in the south-east developed in a way very similar to what happened at the Maidan. People organized large protests and demonstrations in the main cities, they were demanding rights and respect. When the government ignored their protest, they occupied administrative buildings. The answer of the “democratic” Maidan government were riot-police and special forces. Hundreds of activist have been arrested and imprisoned at a time when the Maidan protesters had still been occupying administrative buildings in Kiev. We are being confronted here with a government that is showing ugly double standards.
It is true that many people in the east feel pro-Russian. But this fact cannot be considered a crime! There are many different reasons for people to feel pro-Russian in this part of Ukraine. Some people feel very strong about the common language and history, some people feel strong about a common culture and religion, but a lot of people are also worried about their jobs.
The south-east regions are still producing many high-technology products like aviation-engines, space rockets, orbit satellites, airplanes, machinery equipment etc. These products are not allowed to be exported into the EU, they can be exported only to Russian and Asian markets. A lot of young high-qualified workers and engineers also want to work in the technological advanced industry sector and create something important.
The real separatists are sitting in the Kiev government, they split the country with their decision to sign the free-trade zone agreement (not supported by half of the country), with the abolition of the language law (that had been giving some rights for Russian language speakers), and with the glorification of Nazi collaborators in the country, where one in five inhabitants were killed during the Nazi occupation.
For example in Charkow the protest movement started a campaign to protect the local Lenin monument. Thousands of people, men and women, young and old, workers, jobless, students and engineers were on duty near the monument day and night. Sometimes fascists attacked them with sticks and rubber bullets. For Borotba it was our duty to be with them and among them.
The protection of Lenin monuments was an important beginning of resistance. Then we had so called city meetings. Thousands of people were coming to the central Freedom Square and all of the political groups tried to promote their political line.
We openly spoke from the stage about socialism, internationalism, and the anti-capitalist struggle. At that time Russian nationalists were a small minority within a huge popular movement. They have become much more important now after the government and neo-Nazi gangs attacked and defeated left forces.
We have totally different political views from the nationalists, sometimes we had skirmishes with them. Russki Vostok (Russian East) made a statement later and blamed us for the defeat of popular movement in Charkow. Some pro-Russian forces said that it was a mistake to speak about an anti-oligarch struggle. But our position was always very strict: There is no anti-fascist struggle without fighting for socialism.
Some groups like the “Autonomous Worker’s Union” (AST) accuse Borotba, of being “pro Russian” as well and they claim that you cooperate with conservative, chauvinistic or even fascist organizations, like Kommuna, Schturmowoj Komitet or Avtonomnyj Opir. What do you answer those people?
The Autonomous Worker’s Union is small sect that is invisible in Ukraine but active on international scene. I would describe them as national liberals but they pretend to be anarchists. They supported the protests at the Maidan and tried to use their anti-communism as a tool to be tolerated by the far-right parts of the Maidan movement. On the Maidan they had placards that showed Lenin as a bloody butcher who killed revolutionaries and they were celebrating when Maidan activists destroyed the Lenin monument in Kiev.
As liberals they hate everything they consider left: They hate the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, the Cuban revolution, and in Germany they hate the communists from the DKP and at the same time they probably hate DIE LINKE because of its past in the GDR. They say that the Red Army, that liberated Europe from Fascism, was an army of occupation. For them Bolshevism is equal to Nazism.
So you can imagine what kind of people they are. One of their leaders was a member of the “civil council” of the Police ministry. Their only goal is to discredit other left groups. One should know that Kommuna, Schturmowoj Komitet, Avtonomnyj Opir were supporting the Maidan and attacked our activists in Kiev during an anti-war demonstration.
We hold a totally opposite political position from that of the AST, we think that we are already in a civil war in Ukraine, they think that there is a conflict between the government and “terrorists”. As I mentioned before, we are part of the Minsk Declaration process – they support the so called “anti-terrorist operation” (ATO) of the government in Kiew.
One of their main activists, Serhii Kutnii, said that he is supporting the anti-terrorist operation and supported the idea of a “small fire” in Donetsk like the massacre in Odessa:
“I will not go to a meeting that is opposing the ATO. Because I think that the conflict in Donbass is like an illness which only becomes worse if the illness is not cured. If the Ukrainian troops will withdraw, these fucking idiots from ‘People`s Republics’ will a) take control of the territory; b) mobilize their own army; c) decide that they win over Ukrainians and conquer all of the country now. Therefore if we listen to some naive citizens who think that it is possible to enclosure ourselves from the Donbass by a frontier line, we would obtain as a result a frontline and not a frontier. They will attack Kharkov, it’s for sure.
We all were shocked that the separatists in Zaporozhye were forced to run the gantlet in a ‘corridor of shame’. But after the events in Odessa, I think that these fucking idiots there would be alive if such a ‘corridor of shame’ had been created just in time. And I think, we will look at Odessa after ATO and understand that if such a little fire would be organized just in time in the administration house of Donetsk, it could be called small losses. And I don’t want that in the end we feel to regret that the ATO was not organized in proper time.”
People that support the idea of a “small fire” in Odessa cannot be taken serious as left-wing critics of left movements.
Regarding the accusation against us: We are not a “pro-Russian” organization, we are fighting for the rights of the working class, youth and women. Neither Russian nor Ukrainian nationalism is acceptable for us. Our ideology is proletarian internationalism. So we hate oligarchs of Russia and Ukraine. Our partner in Russia is the Left Front, many of their activists are in prisons now and we are showing our solidarity with them.
At the same time we support democratic rights for Russian citizens of Ukraine. They have the right to use their language and to protect their cultural values. We support the idea of language equality and resist the idea of a Ukrainian ethnical state. We support the idea of a democratic federation for Russians and Ukrainians with wide autonomy for regions. We also support the idea to guarantee the rights for Romanian, Moldovan, Greek, Bulgarian, Roma and other minorities.
But Borotba did participate in public events with right-wing organizations? For example, in one article you were accused of attacking pro Maidan protesters in the city of Charkow together with “Russian nationalists” on March 1st.
We always had clashes with Maidan right-wing supporters. They always tried to attack us. Some of our comrades were on the streets during the clashes of March 1st, but our members did not commit violence. Later we made a statement condemning political violence by any side. But the Right sector and neo-Nazi gangs proceeded with their political terror against us. Not we started this war, but we had the right to defend ourselves!
Another supposed public event was together with the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU), accused by critics as being “anti-Semitic, clerical, and racist”. What is your relation to them?
We do not have relations with the PSPU. I don't think they are racist or anti-Semitic, they are very religious. They were a powerful force, now they are just a small sect. Their political views are close to the views of Brigitte Queck. Like her, who is sometimes coming to public meetings of DIE LINKE, activists of the PSPU are sometimes coming to meetings to share their materials. But we don’t work with them on a political basis.
Is it true that you have contacts to Alexander Chalenko who is by your critics characterized as “in favor of Russian Great Power chauvinism”?
Alexander Chalenko is one of the most famous journalists in Ukraine. As a member of presidential press pool he was connected with most important journalists in Ukraine (pro-government and opposition). There are many photographs of him with ministers of the Yanukovich government and also with some of the future Maidan leaders. He made hundreds of interviews with politicians of all political views. We had many debates with him. Usually he criticized us very sharply. But Borotba doesn’t maintain relations with him that go beyond that kind of debates.
In regard to political alliances in Ukraine, Borotba was accused to cooperate with the “militant separatist organization” Oplot which they say is “homophobic and anti-Semitic”. Who are they and what is Borotba’s relation to them?
We have not had any cooperation or connections to Oplot. I am not sure if this organization still exists nowadays. Regarding the homophobic reproaches against us, everyone familiar with the left in Ukraine knows that Borotba criticized such conservative positions, also in the Communist Party.
In Berlin, you invited two Russian authors Stanislav Byshok and Aleksey Kochetkov to present their book about “Neonazis & Euromaidan”. It turned out that they have been organized or cooperated with Russian neo-Nazis in the past, which is why the presentation has been canceled. Why did you invite those people and why didn’t you notice where they come from politically?
Actually I did not invite them. They called me, told me that they were on a tour through Europe to present their book and asked me to help to promote it. I asked them to send me a copy, which they did. It is a really professional investigation about the role of neo-Nazis during the Maidan protests.
When I received the letter with the accusations that they have a neo-Nazi past, I canceled the book presentation. Later some activist made their own investigation about the authors. They published an explanation that one of the authors had connections to right-wing organizations in the past.
When we confronted them with the accusations, they said that they broke with those political views and dedicated their knowledge, conversational experience and energy to investigate neo-Nazi structures in a scientific way.
I am very sorry that I did not investigate the past of the authors. It was my mistake, but I did not expect something like that. I am not anymore involved in this book presentation.
There is a photo of you aside a group of people including Israel Shamir. It was argued that the picture proofs your ties to this anti-Semite and a famous denier of the Holocaust. Do you work with him politically?
I have no contacts with Israel Shamir. This picture was made during a press-presentation of a movie about Julian Assange. Israel, me and few hundreds of people were invited by the organizers. Very pro-Maidan journalists were also invited. So I think that you can find pictures of me with representatives throughout the political spectrum of the Ukraine.
I think that it is not ethical to use pictures to create imaginations about the political views of a person in any given photograph. If somebody is really interested in my political views he or she can ask me and I will answer in a very open manner.
Speaking of anti-Semitism, Borotba has also been accused of tolerating the anti-Semite Aleksej Bljuminow who is an editor of Wechernij Lugansk. What is Borotba’s relation to him?
Aleksej Bljuminow created problems also in other political parties. He was in our organization for a short time, then he supported the Maidan protests and left our movement, now he supports the “separatists”. During staying with us and later on I never heard any kind of anti-Semitic statements by him. We have zero tolerance to anti-Semitism and xenophobia in our organization and we organized a lot of political protests against anti-Semitism.
We have a few comrades that have had a nationalist subculture past, but now they are dedicated to ideas of communism and internationalism. We will always follow proletarian political lines. Anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and sexism are not acceptable for us.
We face accusations from the government, the media, and liberal-nationalists. They hate us because we are communists, because we are protecting Marx and Lenin – and socialism! We stand together with the working class and the youth against racism and fascism. Even in terror conditions we organized actions to support workers Unions.
What is Borotba’s analysis of the Maidan movement?
We said that this movement was very reactionary from the very beginning. We were totally against the free-trade zone with the EU because it leads directly towards a Greek scenario. The Maidan protests created a cult of individual success, they had no left-wing ideas there.
Of course not the whole movement was fascist, but it was very anti-communist, they destroyed Lenin monuments all over the country. One of the main problems is that the Maidan protesters claimed that the announced “soviet mentality” did not give us any possibility to become free and rich. On the Maidan they even have a symbolical border, when you are entering the Maidan you can see an announcement that you are leaving the Soviet Union and are entering European Union.
But they had a very specific understanding of European values. The fascists on the Maidan were a minority in the beginning, but they were tolerated by the majority of the protesters. Then they became an active minority and put their political agenda into the whole movement. This movement was sponsored by the richest people of Ukraine and the victory on the Maidan was very beneficial to them.
They called it a revolution of dignity but now the supporters of the Euromaidan in Charkow created a web-site to collect the personal data of anti-government activists, including their home address and their place of work.
The result of the victory of this movement are the private armies of the oligarchs, an oligarch-president, oligarchs and fascists in government, oligarch-governors, economy collapse and civil war in Ukraine.
 From the statement: “As for the recent events in Kharkiv (March 1, 2014) we should highlight the following facts. There was a mass rally of different forces opposing Euromaidan. People decided to free the building of Kharkiv Regional State Administration earlier seized by Euromaidan supporters. After negotiations most Euromaidan supporters agreed to leave the building. Some militants (mostly from the Right Sector but some liberals too) rejected to obey the decision of Euromaidan majority and decided to stay in. Activists of ‘Borotba’ participated in the mass rally near the building carrying on agitation of internationalist and anti-fascist stance (and were criticized for that by some pro-Russian citizens). The mass rally rushed to storm the seized building after somebody has thrown into the crowd the flash-bang grenade. A crowd burst into building and captured some of the militants from Right Sector and a group of liberals that stayed with them (including poet Serhiy Zhadan). Then followed attempts of lynching made by excited crowd. Activists of ‘Borotba’ tried to stop by all possible means the lynching of captured Euromaidan supporters. So, the accusation of ‘Borotba’ is not only irrelevant but looks like a sheer hypocrisy from those who tried to ignore the practice of lynching dissenters regularly made by far-right Euromaidan supporters in Kiev and other cities. All the accusations of ‘Borotba’ union are sheer slander of some pro-nationalists groups or individuals.” http://borotba.org/statement_of_the_union_borotba_over_recent_smear_campaign_against_anti-fascists_in_ukraine1.html