The Strange "Anti-Fascists" rallying to Donetsk
UNDER strange banners, with strange comrades in arms. Donetsk "People's Governor" is member of Russian National Unity, above.
Aside from the fact that the International Brigade fought on the side of the Spanish Republic against General Franco's right-wing Nationalists, whereas Ukraine has more than one right-wing nationalist side, and these Italians were rallying to the side of the Russians in Donetsk, my immediate thought was that it was a pity they felt they had to travel so far to fight against fascism, when Italy itself has some nasty violent fascists to be fought against.
My next was to feel sorry for these young militants. If they thought they were going to join genuine anti-fascists, democrats and comrades on the Left, they would find themselves under peculiar flags and with some strange comrades in arms. We already know the antisemitic and anti-Roma Hungarian fascist party Jobbik supports the nationalist Russians, and besides the Polish group Falanja it seems the British National Party sympathises.
There have been genuine fears of Russian-speakers in the Ukraine, with bitter memories of World War II, seeing the rise of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists and fascists in Kiev. There is not unreasonable concern as to what the EU's promise of prosperity might really mean for the mining and steel industries of the Don Basin, with their Russian links, and for the public good. People have seen what was done to Greece.
The flames which murdered more than 40 people taking refuge in Odessa's house of trade unions, besieged by Ukrainian nationalists, on May 2, while police stood aside, must also have destroyed many people's hope for compromise, or faith in the protection they could expect from the 'moderate' Ukrainian state.
But the thuggish Russian chauvinist Vladimir Zhirinovsky has been one of several right-wing politicians out to exploit the conflict in Ukraine from the start. The well-armed separatist militias look more like trained professionals than ordinary people defending their rights, and reportedly include mercenaries fetched from afar as well as Russian regulars unsure why they are there but having their orders. As for the supposed 'anti-fascists' who have sprung to prominence in Donetsk,
Western observers have found them at least as easy to point out as any fascists in Kiev.
Pavel Gubarev, the self-styled "people's governor" of Donetsk, was a member of the ultranationalist group Russian National Unity, whose symbol bears a disturbing resemblance to a swastika.I first came across the Russian journal Zavtra when researching the career of Israel Shamir, the Russian-born Israeli "dissident" who appears to have doubled as an antisemite called Joran Jermas in Sweden, but was also employed by the BBC Russian service before writing for Zavtra. The British Holocaust revisionist David Irving says he turned down an offer of World War II documents from Shamir, acting for some Russian group, because he suspected they had been stolen. But Shamir has boasted former National Front leader Martin Webster as a friend.
The far-right paramilitary organization was founded in 1990 by nationalist leader Aleksandr Barkashov, and its members have been implicated in violent crimes against ethnic minorities and in the 2009 killings of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.
Aleksandr Borodai, a Russian citizen who is the "prime minister" of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, was an editor and remains a contributor to the far-right -- and often anti-Semitic -- newspaper "Zavtra," founded by ultranationalist Aleksandr Prokhanov in the 1990s. The newspaper's website now serves as a recruiting platform for mercenaries fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Prokhanov, a fringe figure in the 1990s, has enjoyed a resurgence with the Ukrainian crisis, with his articles appearing regularly in the mass-circulation pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia.'
The Donetsk People's Republic's self-styled "defense minister," Igor Girkin, aka "Strelkov," is also a contributor to "Zavtra" Girkin, who Ukrainian authorities claim is an agent with the Russian Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), also reportedly served as a mercenary in conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Transdniester, and Chechnya.
Prokhanov of the Zavtra journal was responsible for inviting American white supremacist David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, to visit Russia. There's a lovely bunch of friends and comrades in this game.
But then this might not come as much surprise to the Italian "anti-fascist" group Millenium, which is rallying to the cause of Donetsk. Because it seems they are not genuine anti-fascists themselves, even if they had some wishful thinking leftists elsewhere fooled.