A shift to the left in Russia – Boris Litvinov
Boris Litvinov, first secretary of the Donetsk regional branch of the KPRF, gave an interview to the “Antifascist” news agency. (https://antifashist.com/)
– Boris Alekseevich, our previous interview was published on 11 February last year, in which you said that sooner or later Russia will recognise the Donbass republics, that there was no other solution. Ten days later, your prediction came true. What happened on a historical scale and how do you assess the role of the KPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation] in this matter, since it was your party that insisted from the beginning of the confrontation in 2014 that the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics be recognised?
– It was not a prediction, but rather a clear conviction of what was to be. For me, from a historical point of view, what happened is what is written in the programmes of the Russian Communist Party, the Ukrainian Communist Party and our party of the Donbass People’s Republic – we are all communists, fighting for the reunification of fraternal peoples into a restored state. This step is a step towards the goal of our programme. The name of the re-established state is not so important, although for communists, of course, it would be more acceptable to call it the Soviet Union, where “Soviet” comes from “soviets”, “councils”, the organs of power through which the people run the state. I think that sooner or later Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria will follow this path of reunification with Russia.
On a programme in 2014 – at that time I was a frequent guest on federal channels – I said that the architecture of the world was changing and that we should not be afraid of it. In the history of mankind, this has often happened, some states have collapsed and others have been created. We should not be afraid of this process, it is the course of history and the will of nations. There is no more Potsdam Agreement, no more Yalta Peace Agreement, no more Helsinki Act. All that is in the past, the whole post-war global architecture has collapsed. What happened to us in 2014, in Donbass, should be an example for the territories of the former USSR that have had enough of capitalism, that have understood that the world has gone wrong, that it has reached a historical dead end. Let us set a precedent – Russia, Belarus, the Donbass People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, Ossetia, Abkhazia and other countries – by saying that we no longer recognise the Belovej agreements. In 1996, the Russian State Duma had already decided to denounce the Belovezh agreements. [The treaty was signed on 8 December 1991 in the Belovej forest in Belarus. This document ratified the break-up of the Soviet Union and gave birth to the Commonwealth of Independent States.]
So let us denounce them now, let us admit that we were wrong 32 years ago, that in fact experience has shown that we should be together. Let all those who have understood this unite into one state. The fact that our recognition and, later, our attachment to Russia took place is the first step on this path. Historically, this is the only way for us to survive.
As for the role of the KPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation], the answer is already in your question. Indeed, the KPRF has been on the side of the Donbass since the very beginning, since 2014. Eight or nine times at Duma meetings, the KPRF has raised the issue of the need for Russia to recognise the DNR and LNR. Kazbek Taisaev told me that the KPRF had also raised the issue of recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia eight times, and he told me then that “until we raise it eight times, there will be no progress”. And that’s what happened: they raised it eight times, and finally it was voted on at the ninth session. Now, this question can only be raised once per session. The role of the communists in this issue is therefore very important, and the fact that the communists prepared the bill and that Taisaev submitted it to the Duma on 22 February shows the hard work and perseverance of the communist faction. By the way, not everyone, even within the ruling faction, agreed at the time. I remember that Zatulin started to oppose it, saying that we had to think about it, weigh everything up… But in the end common sense prevailed and this historic decision was taken.
We had no other choice: we were on the eve of a major military battle with the Ukrainian regime, and this decision, perhaps for a while, anticipated the fact that Ukraine was preparing an offensive against both Donetsk and Gorlovka. It then became the special military operation, but the first step was reconnaissance. In short, the recognition took place, we are now together, and a heavy task of restructuring our whole lives is imposed on us. We were living under the laws of Donetsk as we had imagined them, now we are entering the legislative field of Russia, and this in many ways changes our internal politics.
– What changes are needed in the Republic? The main thing that can be stressed is the urgent need for reforms.
– In fact, it is not even a question of reforming, but of creating from scratch. We have a Donetsk People’s Republic, and I was the one who included the word ” People ” when I wrote the declaration on our sovereignty. But in nine years, our “People’s Republic” has not become a people’s Republic. And now we have to do a lot of work to make our citizens feel that this is their republic. It is necessary to involve as many people as possible in the governance of the Republic, from the street to the city, to our parliament. For nine years there was none of this, local government was completely absent – the government went its own way and the people went theirs. Yes, external threats – Ukrofascism, Anglo-Saxons, Americans, devastation and so on – are one thing, we all have to fight them together. But if people understand that this is their republic, in which everything depends on them, then the meaning of the struggle becomes clearer, the motivation to fight becomes quite different. That’s the main thing, and we are gradually getting there – the elections are coming. Yes, they are not yet comprehensive, they will not be organised in all councils, but it is nevertheless a first step in that direction.
Secondly. Russia is reconsidering its domestic policies, in the economy, the social sphere, education, culture, politics and other areas. Everyone wants to know what Russia’s ideology is. But there is no ideology, because it is written in the Constitution [that there is no ideology] and more and more people understand that it is not right, that it should not be like this, that something must be done. We also have to provide answers to these questions at our political and regional level, because we are now at the epicentre of the confrontation.
I think there will be a lot of work to understand the role of the Donbass in the Russian economic model. The Donbass, its industry, was originally created not only for our small region, but for the whole of the big country, for the whole of Russia, and maybe for some part of the world. And where to develop our industry in the new conditions? We are a country of heavy industry, huge world-class companies, but where to develop them given the sanctions and the fact that many companies in Russia itself have not yet found their niche. Russia has to decide what kind of economy it will build in the future, what kind of country it will be, and we also need certainty about that in the republic. Does it make sense to restore huge steel factories, without knowing where to source the raw materials and where to market the products? These are questions that need to be studied in depth, and I will sketch them out in broad strokes. Let’s take Mariupol – the Illich, Azovstal, Azovmash iron and steel combine – who needs it today, where to market their products? What sort of city to build depends on one’s understanding, because almost all the cities in Donbass were built for big companies. And what will happen now, what will the population be used for? To answer these questions, we need to change our political ideology and economic approach. Without a Gosplan [state plan], nothing will work.
But the most important thing, I repeat, is to involve the population in the management of the republic – that is the number one issue.
– Russia and Ukraine are in direct conflict. How do you see Ukraine’s fate in this context?
– Everyone sees things in their own way, but I have my own idea of what is necessary. From my point of view, the Ukrainian state as it is today cannot exist.
– Why not? Can you explain it?
– Yes, I can explain it. In 1917, during the fascist occupation, and in 1991, the Ukrainian state was created by the will of a small group of people, always relying on external support. On foreign troops, on foreign money, on foreign weapons, on corrupt Ukrainian politicians who are ready for their personal gain to sacrifice the ordinary people who inhabit this land. And it doesn’t exist as an independent entity, because someone always wants to use it, the Ukrainian state – it always has. Ukraine has been used as a springboard to attack Russia. Historians say that the modern separation of Ukraine from Russia was conceived during the Austro-Hungarian period at the end of the nineteenth century: it was a question of wresting Ukraine from Russia and creating a bridgehead against Russia on the subordinate Ukrainian territory. On the one hand, this is the reason why its existence as an independent state is impossible.
On the other hand, this possibility exists. Soviet practice has shown that Ukraine as a republic can only exist in the framework of an alliance and friendship with Russia. There could probably be some kind of national entity in this union, but only in the framework of an alliance with Russia. And this is possible within the Soviet model of existence of Russia and Ukraine. If we talk about a capitalist model, sooner or later Ukraine will be torn apart by more powerful neighbours anyway, and it will be forced to join one of them. More often than not, it is those who are against Russia that it has joined.
If Ukraine remains a state today, it will always be used as a factor of discord with Russia, a provoker of wars and instability on its borders. It is a permanent war zone. It might make sense to create several provinces on its territory, four or five, and this idea was considered at one point. But if you leave it as it is, it’s always a postponed conflict and it will have to be dealt with. That’s my view, but there are other views on the matter.
– Given the current realities, do you think that Ukraine will cease to exist?
– It’s hard to say for sure. On the one hand, I would like Ukraine to remain an economically, socially and politically friendly territory [with Russia]. On the other hand, it could become a neutral country, but in that case the political regime must be changed without any ambiguity. Today, there are no such forces that can do this, at least not in sight. I think that by the end of the year we will have a war of attrition, and after that, the Ukrainian people, despite 30 years of brainwashing – I am confronted with it now, it is frightening what is going on in their heads – but I still believe in the wisdom of the deep Ukrainian people and I think they will eventually understand that they have to live amicably with Russia. I hope that there will be administrators capable of expressing this idea, who will gradually start to be drawn into Russia’s political and economic orbit. It will be a long process, at least 15 years, until a new generation comes of age and does not remember all that has happened in recent years. It must be understood that Ukraine simply has no other choice, it has already been sacrificed by the Western world. Reason must prevail, sooner or later.
– Donbass is now part of Russia, your party has been officially registered and has become the representative of a parliamentary party in the DPR. What do you intend to do, how will you fight politically, what interests will you pursue?
– The process of legal recognition was long overdue, it should have been achieved in 2014. We were registered in 2014 as the Communist Party of the DPR, but the problem is that the law on political parties has not been adopted for nine years, and we were outside the legal framework of the republic, although we continued to work as best we could.
After joining Russia, we held a conference on 4 December and established a regional branch of the KPRF, but we were not registered until 3 March. The local authorities dragged their feet on registration, and I understand why. The elections are coming up and the sooner the party as a legal entity gets involved in the process, the more it can do and the better its chances. The United Russia branch, for example, was registered immediately, but not here, not in the DNR. Moreover, Russian legislation on the matter stipulates that regional branches of parties are registered according to the location of the party organs, i.e. in the jurisdiction of Donetsk, in the DNR. I do not know where the certificate was registered for the regional branch of United Russia, but it was brought to them and solemnly handed over in front of the TV cameras. This is probably a manifestation of an arrangement among friends.
We also started the registration process at the beginning of December. I went to Rostov three times, they looked at the documents and said that everything was fine, but there was still no registration in Donetsk. Then I went twice to Moscow, where I was also told that everything was fine, but there was still no local registration! The “United Russia” party is already in the middle of a campaign, and we are running around to get a document, as it is impossible to start work on a legal level without registration. Finally, at the beginning of March, we were issued a certificate. And here (he shows – L.R.) look, we have the number of our registration certificate 001, which means that we are the first. I have a question, but what is written for the regional branch of “United Russia” then, if we are the first? And this is how they worked, while we were waiting for the document… But now that we have received the document, we have also started to work intensively.
The local elections will be held in 20 of the 30 administrative and territorial units, that’s what is planned for the moment. To start the process of participation in the elections, we have to reorganise the local party organisations, which takes a lot of time. We go to the area two or three times a week, we create structures, we have to register party members, choose the leadership, invite observers and local authorities to the meeting, but without that we cannot nominate candidates for the deputation, form district electoral commissions. This is organisational work that takes time 24/7.
We have taken the first step in the electoral process – the fight for the appointment of our representative to the Republican Electoral Commission. On three occasions we were refused the appointment of our person to this commission, although we have the legal right to have a representative there.
They tried to suggest three people from the authorities, from different bodies: ‘Boris Alekseevich, take someone from our side!’ Why do I need someone from you when we have our own party representative? In the end, we won the case, our candidate was admitted, he joined the commission for five years. Now, before 10 April, we have to submit our nominations to the 20 territorial commissions and then to the constituency commissions. We have created a pre-election staff that is already working, but we are joined by new people every day. One of the most problematic issues is the press and media coverage of our work. We are trying to set up our own agency to deal with these issues, but we need money to attract good professionals and we are currently working on both issues – media and funds.
As far as joining the party is concerned, it is underway, we have created several pages on social networks in just a week and people are already calling us to ask how to join. Many military people are joining now, both soldiers and officers, as well as intellectuals. The business community has turned to us these days, they also want to join. In general, the organisational work is in full swing.