Guest article by Ukrainian Marxist Alexey Albu, Nov 23, 2016, reporting on his visit to Syria in October 2016. Published originally in Russian in Novorossiya News on Nov 2, 2016. Translated to English by Greg Butterfield on his blog Red Star Over Donbass, text here below. An abridged version of the translation is published in Workers World, Nov 21, 2016.
Alexey Albu is a coordinator of the banned Ukrainian Marxist organization Union Borotba (Struggle). He participated in a recent international solidarity delegation to Syria. Albu is a former regional deputy of the Odessa region assembly and a survivor of the May 2, 2014, neo-Nazi massacre at the Odessa House of Trade Unions. He is currently living in political exile in Russia and the Lugansk People’s Republic.
The movement of people adhering to communist views around the world is vast. But the political spectrum within this movement is also vast. The construction of a new, more just society without war, destruction, poverty and exploitation is the dream of hundreds of millions of people around the world. However, views on how to build this new society are all very different.
I would like to make my views clear. I support any attempt to make progressive social changes in society, and I support any political, social and government initiative, if the alternative to it serves reaction, regression and rollback to a lower stage of human development. That is why I support the young People’s Republics of Donbass, because their antipode is Ukrainian fascism, which kills innocent people, destroys cities and villages, and arranges massacres as it did in Odessa on May 2, 2014, the horrors of which I experienced myself.
I am a supporter of the ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin, and the political practice of the Bolsheviks. And I would like to make this clear for the general left movement, so that I am not confused with the anarchists, social democrats, the New Left, libertarians or representatives of other political currents, and also that I am not associated with the opportunists of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation or much of the Turkish communist movement.
In my opinion, today’s world is experiencing the second birth of the Red movement. By studying contemporary political events, global processes and trends, and participating in a variety of left-wing and communist groups, I have increasingly come to the conclusion that their political line is wrong on many issues.
In the second half of the 20th century, the vast majority of communist parties, organizations and movements degenerated, made many concessions and compromises, or revised their political perspective after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s and 2000s, there appeared around the world small, new organizations and people who were not involved in the political orbit of the “old left” and were trying to create new structures for political struggle.
One such organization was Borotba, which emerged in 2011 in Ukraine. From the inception of the organization, we were looking for like-minded people in other countries and continents. In this, we were helped by the political crisis in Ukraine and the subsequent civil war. These events forever separated us from the “old left communist organizations” as well as from reformists who preferred to operate using old methods in the new political environment. I don’t need to remind you that their political practice led to their complete defeat.
It was therefore extremely important for us to find like-minded people who share our views on events in the world and in Ukraine in particular, as well as the methods of struggle to be used in the new political reality. And we found these comrades.
Today, the Red organizations have no influence on the global economic and political processes. Yes, there are parties which call themselves communist or left that are very strong; for example, the Communist Party of China. But in fact, these parties embrace a bourgeois policy, which is why I would like to be differentiated from such parties and their members. No, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t interact with the old left, but still, there must be a clear understanding that we are not them. In the words of Comrade Lenin: “In order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation.”
If you look at what is happening from the outside, it appears that we are not many, we are all scattered, we have no body that can coordinate our actions, and very often we do not even have relations with each other.
This situation in the Red movement binds our hands, constrains our actions, and pulls us to the bottom. To solve this problem, we urgently need to unite into a single a worldwide structure.
One such attempt toward the unification of the Red forces was made by the Turkish comrades, who in 2009 created an “Anti-Imperialist Front.” Today, it already includes dozens of Red organizations, and we are pleased to have found comrades among them. It is a kind of a nascent International for the 21st century. Today, in the struggle against imperialism (a pity that some uneducated people confuse this term, which they often use to mean “imperial” or “imperial ambitions,” and not a phase of the capitalist system) — Syria takes the main place. Close to it are Donbass, Kurdistan, Chiapas, half of Colombia. The struggle is also carried out in other regions of the world. It was therefore very important for us to establish a relationship with all progressive forces challenging the U.S. as the main center of world imperialism, including the government of the Syrian Arab Republic. It was important for us to see the situation from within the region, the lives of the people in the frontline towns and refugee camps. It was important to meet with senior officials of the government, religious and community leaders in Syria, for me — and for the other comrades from Italy, Morocco, Lebanon, Scotland and Greece who participated in the delegation.
Delegation to Syria
We were well met in Beirut. The first impressions of our delegation were very good. To be honest, I didn’t know what the format of our upcoming trip would be, or what conditions we would encounter. But I was very surprised by the high level reception which was given to us. Very pleasantly surprised and grateful.
Everything was at the highest level — ranging from living conditions to the security provided for our delegation. I saw lessons for our Slavic countries, when I recalled the conditions in which our comrades had to live on the territory of the LPR and DPR during their travels in support of Donbass. There is a lot to learn.
I have a good impression of our conversation with Bashar Assad’s deputy Hilal al-Hilal [Assistant Regional Secretary of al-Baath Arab Socialist Party] which took place behind closed doors, in a small circle. I said then that Syria and Donbass are two sections of a united front against American hegemony, U.S. imperialism. And now, being back in Donbass, I can’t stop thinking about how we can expand this front, as we help each other to survive in this difficult struggle.
It was very interesting to see the work of the Syrian government in the area of basic necessities of the common people – repairing housing destroyed by militants, water, electricity, medical care. Speaking of health care, during our visit to wounded soldiers in the hospital, I saw excellent conditions, which often do not exist in Ukraine or Donbass. Yes, perhaps we were shown one of the best medical facilities. But it is comparable to the best hospitals in Ukraine.
During the trip, I realized that the social burden the state carries is huge. This policy is the antithesis of the policy of the new Ukrainian authorities. And for the people it is not empty words — I met a family who named their newborn son after President Bashar al-Assad. In Shama, on the one hand, I saw smiles on the faces of women, free education and health care, and on the other, I saw the poverty that accompanies war, heard stories about life under the rule of ISIL, viewed photos of executions, and driving on the highway – could even smell dead bodies. Syria is a country of contrasts, where progress fights against regression, where freedom fights against inhuman violence.
It so happens that as a result of my political activities, I’ve met a lot of comrades from Kurdistan, who told me about the struggle of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for a free, socialist Kurdistan, and how they resisted the troops of the Turkish government on one hand and the U.S. puppet Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) on the other. Of course, I believe the Kurdish liberation movement is progressive, and for me it was very important to learn about the relationship between the Syrian government and the young Kurdish state of Rojava arising in the north. The fact is that we do not always get unbiased information through the lens of the media. Very often the media contrasts Rojava and the Syrian government, saying that Assad bombed peaceful Kurdish villages and violated the agreement granting autonomy to the Kurds. After the trip to Syria, I realized that this is not quite true. The political landscape of the region is extremely difficult. Within the same area there are many different forces and groups that are under the influence of large political centers — united, separated, fighting with each other … Without going into the details of the political situation, I realized that the Syrian government intends to respect the agreement and give the Syrian Kurds their long-awaited autonomy. This was very important to me. That is, for now the union of progressive forces continues to operate against the Islamists, and inside this union there is no war. I really hope that mutual understanding will continue within the progressive camp.
Once upon a time, I added a guy from Syria to my friends list on social media. He told me about the various horrors taking place in the country, about the murders of the opposition, sent me various videos, and then disappeared. Without knowing the situation in the Middle East, I took it as the truth, and I formed a very negative opinion on the Baath and al-Assad. Only now do I realize that this was preparation for a major war in Syria, with the help of such “friends” on social media, to create public opinion in different countries against the legitimate government. I realized that this technology was used for scandalous political PR. As a result of this trip, seeing everything with my own eyes, I have changed my opinion on the government of Syria and Bashar al-Assad.
In September 2013, when we carried out actions against U.S. intervention in the war in Syria, I couldn’t imagine that the United States would soon unleash a civil war in my home country. Today we have a common enemy, and the only solution is a united struggle and mutual aid. If we organize — we will win!