We continue to meet some of the men who serve in Prilepin’s Battalion in the Donbass. They were interviewed up close and personal by reporter Andrei Veselov in this interesting piece from Ria. Journalists and even ordinary non-trained-in-journalism bloggers like myself have to make editorial decisions what to call these men: Rebels? Separatists? Freedom fighters? The other side, the fascist junta in Kiev, call these guys Terrorists. And launched the so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) against them. Which failed spectacularly, leading to the current stalemate.
They say that one man’s terrorist is another man’s hero. And unless a man is actually wearing a suicide vest and blatantly walking into a crowd of completely ordinary, innocent people, with murderous intent, then one should curb one’s tongue before uttering the word “terrorist”. The act of taking up a gun is not necessarily the act of becoming a terrorist. It’s all relative, as Einstein might say.
But the Ukrainian government’s harsh appraisal of these men is backed by the full might of Western governments, armies, NATO, and their various propaganda machines who crank out deceptions and lies every minute of every day. With their cartoonish portrayals of anybody they consider to be geopolitical enemies, be it Arabs, Persians, Koreans, Venezuelans, or, in this case, Russians. In their comic-book interpretation of the world, Russia has no legitimate geopolitical interests, and all Russians are just plain evil. As Goldfinger might have said: “I want you to die!”
But some Russians refuse to lie down and die. The next fellow we meet is a Russian volunteer named Sergei, who goes by the call-sign “Shaman”. Sergei is an actual Russian and hails from the Moscow area. He is the type the pro-Ukrainians point to, when they claim that the Donbass rebels are actually an invading army from Russia. Sergei even served in police/military type units in Russia, for example he was a Special officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and also served in Narcotics Enforcement units. If this were a Hollywood movie, then Sergei would be the grizzled and cynical, yet wise-cracking counter-intelligence guy in this motley unit.
Despite his police/military background, Sergei is not a rah-rah supporter of the current Russian government, which he regards with skepticism. It was the May 2014 events in Odessa which radicalized him and sent him off to war: “I decided to head for Donbass after the mass killings in the Odessa Trade Union building. That was a turning point for me.”
Sergei initially served in the personal bodyguard of Luhansk leader Igor Plotnitsky, who actually looks like a Hollywood stock Russian villain, jowls and all.
Later, leveraging his former skills as a Narco-cop, Sergei joined a unit that engaged in anti-smuggler operations. “Our unit fought against contraband throughout the entire Luhansk Republic. I was wounded [in the course of these operations] and went off on medical leave. I was back in Russia for about a year, then I received an invitation to return and serve here, and I agreed.”
The next man we meet has a very interesting ethnic and political biography. Handsome and photogenic, Beness Aijo is Ugandan on his father’s side, and Russian on his mother’s. He was born in 1979 in Rēzekne, Latvia, hence a Soviet citizen. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Aijo presumably became a Latvian citizen.
[The rest of today’s installment, discussing ideological issues, are not in the Ria piece, they are my own insertions, from wiki and other sources, with the purpose of providing more background to Aijo’s evolution – yalensis]
Aijo is a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary who was arrested in 2005 for protesting the visit to Latvia of American President George W. Bush. Accused of attempting to overthrow the Latvian government, Aijo emigrated to Great Britain, where he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), a hard-line fraction that split from the Labour Party in 2004. CPGB-ML is led by Harpal Brar, a retired law professor and Chairman of the Party since 2004. Indian-born Marxist Brar published a book called Social Democracy: The Enemy Within. In which he rightfully castigates the British Labour Party, whose sell-outs of the British working class would certainly fill up more than just one volume.
I quote in full this paragraph from the wiki, as it sheds light on why a man like Aijo would decide to join the Donbass rebels:
The CPGB-ML supports governments around the world which it perceives to be socialist or anti-imperialist. Some examples are Venezuela, Russia, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Syria, Iran, and People’s Republic of China. Delegations from the Chinese embassy have attended meetings of the CPGB-ML and members of the CPGB-ML and Red Youth (the youth wing of the CPGB-ML) have made visits to Ecuador. The party also supports the struggle of the Palestinian people against Zionism in Israel, which it characterises as an apartheid state. It called for a defeat of British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and a movement of direct action and non-cooperation among British working people in order to exert political influence. It was one of many anti-war parties to oppose NATO actions in Libya and Syria and support the governments of Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad. In 2011, the CPGB-ML party chairman Harpal Brar visited Libya during the war to express solidarity with the Libyan people in their fight against NATO. However, the Stop the War Coalition expelled the CPGB-ML for its defence of the Libyan and Syrian governments.
Given these geo-political foundations and an anti-imperialist position which regards the Russian government as also “anti-imperialist” [highly dubious proposition, IMHO, except that the role assigned to Russia by the West sort of throws it into the anti-American camp willy-nilly], it is not surprising that Aijo chose to join up with the Donbass rebels. The description of CPGB-ML ideology shows them to be surprisingly consistent and principled in their platform of international issues. For example, calling for the defeat of their own nation (=Great Britain) in Iraq is not only principled and courageous, but even laudatory. This comes straight out of the Lenin playbook. Recall that Lenin called for the defeat of “his own country”, e.g., Russia, in the imperialist wars of 1904 (against Japan) and 1914 (against Germany). It takes guts and balls to do this, especially in the middle of a war frenzy. The only similar example I can think of in recent American history is those courageois left-wing college students circa 1968 who chanted: “Ho Ho Ho-Chi Minh – NFL is gonna win!”
Aijo’s membership in the CPGB-ML took him to many places, many demonstrations, many militant actions. All of this seemingly, like the Invisible Hand of History, preparing him for Crimea and Donbass. On 14 September, 2013, in Moscow, Aijo participated in the congress of the political party The Other Russia, whose founder is — you guessed it! — Eduard Limonov! In case you forgot, from Part I, Zakhar Prilepin himself, the founder of the Battalion in which Aijo currently serves, also emerged from the Limonovite crucible.
And who knows, maybe 100 years from now, historians will write that Eduard Limonov was one of the most influential political figures of the 21st century – wouldn’t that be something!?
[to be continued]