A shift to the left in Russia – Boris Litvinov (Part 2)


Boris Litvinov, first secretary of the Donetsk regional branch of the KPRF, gave an interview to the “Antifascist” news agency. (https://antifashist.com/).  This is the second part of the interview. 

– What is happening in the Zaporozhie and Kherson regions in terms of party building? Is there a party group in these regions, and if not, how do you plan to attract activists? Is there a demand for communist ideology among the local population?

Yes, KPRF branches have been established in these territories and I visit them quite often, especially in the Zaporozhie region. They are preparing for the elections as we are. But of course it is much more difficult for them to work, because the population is still very wary of Russia. And the word “communist” is almost a dirty word there.

In fact it is the same here in our liberated territories. We recently set up an organisation in Volodarskoe – the village was liberated last spring – and people there told me that half, or more than half, of the schoolchildren on their return from school sit in front of a computer and listen to lessons broadcast online from Ukraine. These lessons are given by Ukrainian teachers, including people who have fled from here, and they tell them that “when we come back, if you don’t know our subjects, you won’t get into Ukrainian universities”. And if they study physics and mathematics in our schools, for the social sciences and humanities, which form their consciousness, they learn them “over there”. This is a big problem. And in the Zaporozhie and Kherson regions, this problem is even more acute. The brainwashing that has been going on for 30 years is very strong. That’s why I said it would take at least 15 years for attitudes to change, because we have to raise at least one generation, including new teachers, who will think differently from those who are currently working in schools. 

– What form does the protest of these people take? Is it a quiet boycott, or perhaps public demonstrations that are not publicised?

– It is mostly a quiet boycott. I was in a meeting with the head of the Zaporozhiye city administration and he told me that many teachers are just not going to work, especially the primary school teachers. They get their money, their salaries in Ukraine, they transfer them to cards, they cash them in, all the while talking to the children and brainwashing them, telling them about the imminent return of Ukraine. This is quiet, almost invisible, underground work, but it is directly against our government.

I think there are two reasons for this: first, again, the 30 years of brainwashing about the “great Ukrainian nation”, about its role in world history. Now, this is their belief, it comes from within, that is, it is not something superficial that can be easily erased, no, it is deep. With Russia, we have to show and prove by common positive practice that everything they have been told is not true, that we are not at all like that and that we have a different, normal, positive life – a life for the people. We bring them prosperity and goodness and we need an example of that. On the other hand, it’s fear. They are afraid that if they openly take our side, if they start to cooperate, the “brothers from the steppes” will come, start to destroy, to kill to make a show, to organise diversions. Sadly, they see that these are not empty threats. Of course, the withdrawal from the Kiev region, from Kharkov, from Kherson has done a very bad service, because people are afraid that if something goes wrong, they might be killed in the same way as those who cooperated and stayed in Kupiansk or Kherson, for example, after we left. These are the main reasons why they behave as they do. 

– The elections to the DPR People’s Council are scheduled for September this year. Who will be on the party lists?

– It is too early to say who will be on the lists. So far, we have established the principle that every fourth candidate is a military person. In addition, we are developing our activities according to the areas dealt with by the Parliament – social sphere, education, local medicine, housing and other areas, according to the committees that exist in the Parliament, in the local authorities, in these areas we are looking for our assets, not only communists, but also sympathisers who can share our views. We ask people to tell us “if you become an MP, what projects you will come with, what you want to change in this segment, what ideas do you have, where do you see problems and what are the solutions”. People prepare their programme, we see who is the best prepared and we take the best prepared of them as candidates for the deputation. Those who cannot become MPs, who are not admitted to the list of successful candidates, will become assistants to MPs if they wish. If not, we will recommend that they work in local executive authorities. In other words, we are creating a backbone of specialists who want to transform something. Secondly, we are reaching out to the working collectives by proposing that they nominate experienced and enterprising people from their ranks who are prepared to defend the interests of their collectives, and we, as a party, are prepared to nominate these people on our behalf.

– The party has been joined by a young man with a very famous surname – Sergei Zakharchenko, the son of the first head of the republic. How did he come to you and what is he doing in the party?

This story started in 2014. At that time, Alexander Vladimirovich appealed to Kazbek Taisaev and the party to help a number of people get a proper education. Because now there is war, but tomorrow there will be peace and we need specialists. Remember the Third Komsomol Congress in 1920, when Komsomol members were rushing to the front, and Lenin said his famous phrase “Learn, learn and learn again”, to get the knowledge to build a peaceful country. And Zakharchenko did the same thing, he came and said – help us, we need human resources. I also contributed, we sent 1,600 people to study in Russia, with the help of KPRF MPs, Valentina Ivanovna Matvienko and many others.

In 2015, this theme continued, Sergei entered this programme as a graduate of the school. He graduated from the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration and was followed throughout his studies. After graduation he worked for a while in other structures, but then he came to the KPRF in Moscow and said (and then repeated this sentence here in my office): ‘I want to continue my father’s mission, I want to build the Donetsk People’s Republic’. We asked him, “How do you want to build it?” He replied that as a lawyer he would help people and rebuild the country. He was told that if that was what he wanted, he should take power. When Sergei arrived in Donetsk, he came to see me, told me again that he wanted to continue his father’s cause and added that “if dad was alive, he would also join the communist party”. At least that is his conviction. I know that Aleksandr Vladimirovich had very good friendly relations with Kazbek Taisaev, that he met Zyuganov on many occasions and that our conversations had a certain colour. When Sergei said he wanted to follow this path, we accepted him into the party and Gennady Andreyevich gave him his party membership card in the column room of the House of Trade Unions. For the time being, he has been sent to the Higher Party School in Moscow, which is now called the Political Training Centre. With us, he will deal mainly with youth politics – Komsomol, pioneers, young communists. We want to create a group of young people around him, so that they, with their young initiative and enthusiasm, direct their energy towards the tasks we face. 

– The elections to the local parliament will be by party lists, there will be no majority elections. The deputies will then elect the head of the republic themselves. This measure has caused a stir among the population and there have been heated discussions on social networks: people are indignant that in a people’s republic they are being deprived of the possibility to choose their leader. What do you think about this? Do you intend to initiate a revision of this procedure?

– People have probably forgotten a little bit, but in 2014, in our Declaration of Sovereignty, and the people voted for this Declaration in the 2014 referendum, the political model of our republic was of the Soviet type, which, I remind you, comes from the word “Soviets”[councils]. We did not have a position of head of the republic. We were supposed to have a large degree of autonomy, as I said before – starting with the street and ending with the parliament, which was the supreme authority. The government, that is to say the executive power, was appointed by the parliament and responsible to it. In my view, this is the best possible model for our republic. This model lasted only six months, from 14 May to 14 November. We appointed the government, we had control over it, the government was accountable to the people through its representatives in parliament. If we had had a self-managing local government at that time, it would have been accountable to the people in the localities where it was elected.

In October and November 2014, some Russian political technologists, who have now disappeared, persuaded us that a single leadership was necessary in wartime. We reluctantly accepted that this would be the case throughout the war. This approach created a model in nine years in which the population had its own life and the authorities had their own life, with no feedback between them. Who among the population was aware during those years, for example, of our budget, of the government’s development plans, of the degree of influence of the head of state on the members of the cabinet? What is his vision of life? In fact, we have unbalanced governance. We are now part of Russia, and in a way, these mechanisms are starting to fall into place. In Russia, for example, in some of the constituent entities of the federation, this is what happens: the parliament elects the head of the region.

If anyone has read the new Constitution, the head of our republic will be in charge of the executive authority, i.e. he will be directly responsible for it. So far, that’s the way it is. But ideally, I am generally in favour of a parliamentary form of government. I would go back to the idea that we had from the beginning, when the government was responsible to the people. Today, for example, the head of state appoints the ministers. And to whom do the ministers report? Probably to the head, but that is not always the case, as we know. That is why our current Constitution is probably a step in the direction I mentioned. That is, the leader will be elected by a majority in parliament and that majority will be responsible for all policies – successes and failures. And the people will hold accountable the political force that will dominate our parliament and the leader they elect from their ranks. 

– What do you think of the call by Leonid Slutsky of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) [A nationalist party] to create a single party for the duration of the hostilities, the “victory party”, as he called it? How realistic is this call and how necessary is it in principle today?

– No, it is unrealistic and unworkable. We have a class society, which is divided into smaller strata, and there is a struggle within society anyway. Each political force proposes to society one or another model of state development, which it wishes to implement. Communists represent the interests of the workers, first and foremost those of the employees. We have our own vision of the proper development of our state. For 30 years, different political groups have been in charge of the state, and we ended up where we are today, and you can see for yourselves where we are. The first indicator is that the country has far fewer inhabitants. The level of industry, education and medicine has dropped significantly. Our state has been robbed – 300 billion has been frozen in the West and more than 200 billion has been siphoned off by the oligarchic structures in the past year. Whoever talks about a united party in such conditions works on emotions, but does not talk about the root of our problems, proposing in fact to leave everything as it is. If we had had a Soviet-style state, we would not have stood in front of Marinka, Ugledar, Avdeevka, Artiomovsk for months, and in some places for a year – we would have had enough shells, tanks, guns, planes, and most importantly, people would have understood that this is their state, which must be defended. Today, everything is different, more complicated and it is difficult to understand the meaning of the future. So it is necessary to unite for victory, yes. But if it were a different kind of state, the path to victory would be different. Today, the path to victory is thorny and very difficult. And I can’t say that victory is just around the corner, victory is still far away. But we will fight for it.

– In recent years, the KPRF has been practically considered the main opposition party in Russia – there is the presidential candidate Pavel Grudinin who has gathered a large number of supporters, there are opposition deputies in local parliaments who were on the party’s list or who were supported by the party. On the one hand, the party is quite conservative, but on the other hand, it is no stranger to bold statements and actions that border on opposition to the current government. What is happening in the KPRF today, what is the direction of the party in Russia?

– I don’t quite agree with the term “conservative”. The party has a very long history, but it is not a conservative party, on the contrary, it is a very modern party. It is a party of historical progress, of the future of humanity. Socialism in our country, which was the first to embark on this path among all the other countries of the world, has not lost, it has regressed. In life, there are victories, there are setbacks. But the socialist idea has not disappeared, it is not dead. All the countries that are on this path today are achieving the best results, both in life in general and in the economy.

As far as the KPRF is concerned, we bring a certain sense to people, we have a scientifically sound and practically proven idea. Putin said that capitalism is in a dead end. But if capitalism has reached an impasse, what is the next step? Only a socialist path of development – yes, it will be new, it will be 21st century socialism. Perhaps there will be some reminiscences of the NEP, perhaps even elements of convergence at one time, such a theory existed. But it will probably happen when people are in power, when they exercise that power in the elections, and not as it is now in Russia: falsifications, electronic voting, three-day voting – all these things do not help to convince people that the electoral system is fair. That’s the first thing to do.

Secondly, the people do not own the property, the natural wealth of our country. According to our communist doctrine, natural wealth should belong to the state. In today’s Russia, the natural wealth belongs to the capitalists and all the surplus value is abroad. We also need a national Plan, because without a Plan, nothing works. Today, we see that even the military industry, which is largely in private hands, is struggling. Now they are trying to put everything in place, but it is still very difficult.

Some people wonder what is happening with private initiative. Let’s take the example of China, where private initiative is flourishing and helping the state to develop. Under Stalin, 15-20% of consumer goods even during the war were produced by cooperatives, i.e. private enterprises. When private initiative helps the state to develop, the socialist state wins twice. Saturating the market with the goods you need, where the state cannot get its hands on, where it cannot keep up. This is exactly the kind of state we are in favour of. The union of small and medium-sized enterprises in the DNR came to us and said, “We want to be with you, tell us where we can be useful to the whole state, to the republic”. I gave them two directions: transformation and development of the cooperative movement in different areas. We had a very developed cooperative movement in the Donbass, when small producers got together and created products that were demanded by the population.

That’s why, today, the communist party gives perspectives, a meaning to life. And more and more people understand that without a meaning, without an ideology, which we do not have according to the Constitution, it is impossible to develop, to move towards the future. That is why we carry an ideology, we carry meanings. And what do the other parties carry? And what are the meanings of United Russia, for example, of the LDPR and other parties? If you ask people in the street, I think that 95% of them will not answer you anything. They don’t bring any meaning. We put meanings in people’s minds. It is important for us that people know everything, that they understand, that they have their own judgement, that they are aware of what is happening around them. That they consciously come to the protection of the state, that they understand that it is their state, that they consciously engage in its development – then the result will be good. And when people are in ideological darkness, when they don’t understand where the country is going, why it is going, it is very difficult to live in such a country. 

– In an interview, as I said at the beginning of our conversation, you made a prediction that came true very quickly. Today, Russia is on a path of forced change – the break with the West, the SMO [Special Military Operation], it is clear that things will not be the same as they were before. But how will it happen now, can you predict?

– There will be a shift to the left. Either the current authorities in Russia will understand that these ideas, these meanings proposed by the Communist Party must be developed, or the state will have a very difficult time. Because the current world struggle is not towards life, but towards rupture, submission and destruction. The world is global, it has nowhere to expand. You have to either devour your fellow human beings or develop according to another paradigm. Our paradigm is socialist, it follows the ideas of the communist party. This is the historical process. We must unite with those countries that follow this path. This is primarily China, and also Vietnam. Many people say with disdain – yes, Vietnam! Vietnam has 100 million inhabitants and its economy is twice as strong as that of Ukraine before the conflict started. It is these countries that want to get rid of the Anglo-Saxon diktat. It is with these countries that we will build a cohabitation. The world will be divided into several parts. Yes, there are a lot of questions here – what will be the monetary system, how will trade be organised. I think the role of the UN in the world will gradually diminish and eventually be reduced to nothing, except for some decorative functions. At least two world political systems will be created. The abandonment of the ultra-classical capitalist model is the path that Russia and other countries that do not want to live according to the Anglo-Saxon world will follow. We have enough resources. We need these resources to belong to the people, to the people’s state. We are not poor cousins, nature has endowed us with rich resources, we must now use them rationally. This is the path that our state will follow. I think there will be a radical change in the next 2-3 years. There will be presidential elections in 2024, which will depend very much on how events unfold on the frontline, and then there will be parliamentary elections. When the parliamentary elections take place, I hope that the forces of the left – the communists and those who will form an alliance with us, there are 53 of them today – will take the majority and lead the country to the left, on the road to democracy and socialism.

– And if not?

– If the country does not follow this path, it can end up with what is happening in Ukraine now: dictatorship and fascism.


Previous articles on Ukraine:

by Pat Walsh Ukraine and the World

From Special Military Operation to War for the World

by Brendan Clifford: How we got to where we are today

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