Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 11, 2015

Interview with a Ukrainian Marxist and soldier fighting in the Donbas

Filed under: Ukraine — louisproyect @ 8:32 pm



Andriy M. (the name was changed) is one of those Kiev white-collar leftists, who after some hesitations supported Maidan last winter and in spring took a decisive stand against the reaction in Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine. His stand finally led him to the Ukrainian army and now Andriy is taking part in the ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation) in the Donbas. Having known this, “Nihilist” [1] asked him a few questions.

Ukrainian soldiers

– How did you come to join the army? What unit is it?

– A very ordinary one, the 72nd Separate Mechanized Brigade. The one that was surrounded near Izvarino in July. In that time it was constantly being shot at, while suffering heavy personnel and equipment losses. Four hundred soldiers were even forced to withdraw to Russian territory, an outcome that generated a lot of media hype. Later the Ukrainian troops gained control of Savur-Mohyla barrow, liberated the surrounded brigade, and led it out of the ATO zone. In August-September near Melitopol the brigade was replenished with personnel and armored fighting vehicles. I then joined that brigade as a gunner and was mobilized in August. At the moment the brigade is again in the ATO zone.

– Could you have evaded military service?

– Technically yes, definitely I could. But already in March I went to the military commissariat and told the commander that the army can count on me. At that time Crimea was just annexed and the riots in the Donbas and Kharkov had begun. It was clear to me that a big war was coming. I was also convinced that Russian Army intrusion was a matter of a few weeks. For me the Putin regime, Russian occupation, and ideas of “Russian World” are absolutely unacceptable. Therefore it was impossible for me to remain a bystander. Then everything went a bit different than expected. Instead of regular army invasion, Putin began by using local paramilitary formations, but in reality it did not change the situation. Of course, lots of friends offered me “help” – shelter, leaving Kiev and going abroad, applying for a visa etc. I did not take such alternatives into consideration for reasons of principle.

– Do you characterize yourself as a leftist and a Marxist today?

– In respect of beliefs, a worldview – definitely yes. However, if one takes a point of view that sees Marxism as a political practice in the first place, I could be reproached that according to this criteria I am not a Marxist. I will not argue with that, but I just ask whether the Bolsheviks were Marxists when they were defending the Kerensky government from the Kornilov Revolt. As a Marxist, I am aware of the fact that today a Ukrainian state is an unpleasant thing. There are very strong rightist conservative and nationalist tendencies there, with the power in the hands of big capital – the same as before, a powerful offensive is launched against the social component of state spending and workers’ rights. You know, as in the “socialist realist” art, the priority was depiction of a conflict between the good and the better, today in the Donbas there is a conflict between the bad and the worse. In Russia right-wing conservatism and authoritarianism are not just a tendency but full reality. The new expansionism in the sauce of the “Russian World” is a disgusting reactionary ideology that in reality is translated into war, violence, lies and hatred. In the Donbas all of them are in full bloom and trying to expand themselves. In my opinion, the main task is to stop it. Referring to the Kornilovism analogy, I will mention that a good friend of mine, a socialist, says that this war takes place between Petliuraites [2] and White Guards. This analogy is a bit lame, but in the situation when at war there is no communist side, for me as a Marxist the choice between Petliuraites and White Guards is obvious: in favor of the latter. At the same time it is evident that we are not even allies but just fellow travellers and just to the first crossroad.

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  1. What a piece of shit, attacking people in East Ukraine who have been totally disenfranchised by the Junta.

    Comment by Simon Provertier — January 11, 2015 @ 8:46 pm

  2. I respect the man’s bravery in going into combat voluntarily. So apologies for a quick lecture on Marxism, b ut, “if one takes a point of view that sees Marxism as a political practice in the first place”, kinda identifies the problem. Marxism is not a political practice in the first place”, political practice is a *result*, not a cause.

    Marxism is both a specific philosophy of science, and a science of history, indeed the founder of the science of history. This, otherwise known as “theory”, is dialectically related to practice, in that theory informs and guides the practice, while practical experience demands theoretical correction as necessary (for example, the experience of the Russian Revolution and the whole era of that revolution that ended in 1991).

    In this way the comrade might have avoided the lesser evil choice. In face I think a modified form of revolutionary defeatism is appropriate here, even though Ukraine is not an imperialist country. It is however, a *multinational state*, and there is the question of the national oppression of “russians” in Ukraine to address.

    Comment by matthewrusso9 — January 12, 2015 @ 11:56 pm

  3. “fact”

    Comment by matthewrusso9 — January 12, 2015 @ 11:56 pm

  4. there is the question of the national oppression of “russians” in Ukraine to address.

    No, there isn’t.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 13, 2015 @ 12:11 am

  5. I came to this site as a part of class learning about US counter-intelligence propaganda dissemination. We were only really looking at the obviously transparent pro-US imperial view this author has on the Middle East. However, I decided to check out some of the Ukraine coverage and – WHOA! This is obviously what happens when a non-activist Marxist gets involved in sectarian debates and suddenly starts seeing Trots and Spartans everywhere. Then you end up supporting dudes who join armies and justify their decisions with incoherent ahistorical analogies. Lemme get this straight bro, you’re pro Kiev Junta?

    Comment by sillyobserver — January 14, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

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