Lindsey German, Andrew Murray and members of ‘Workers Power’ at the last London meeting of Useful Idiots For Putin and His Fascist Friends
By Dale Street
In what is threatening to become an annual ritual, two conferences in solidarity with the Donetsk and Lugansk ‘People’s Republics’ (DPR/LPR) – one aimed at the far right, and one at the (Stalinist) ‘left’ – took place last month.
Last year two such conferences – one for the right, one for the ‘left’ – were staged by the same organisation (‘Novaya Rus’’) in the same hotel (Hotel Intourist) in the same place (Yalta) in a matter of weeks.
This left hapless organisations such as the British ‘Workers Power’ group trying to explain why they had teamed up with Russian chauvinists, Stalinists and homophobes in an event staged by an organisation which collaborated with fascists and the far right.
This year’s conferences were different. Although the rhetoric of the two conferences had much in common, they were not initiated by the same organisation.
The driving force behind the conference of the far right, held in Donetsk on 11th/12th May, was the French MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser. The conference had first been announced by Schaffhauser at a press conference held in March of this year.
Although never actually a member of the French National Front (FN), Schaffhauser has won local and Euro-elections as a candidate on FN slates.
He advocates lower business taxes, an anti-Muslim crackdown on multi-culturalism, workfare for the unemployed, and welfare benefits only for those who have lived in France “a long time” (code for: not immigrants).
Exploiting his longstanding links with Russian bankers and politicians, Schaffhauser played a central role in securing a loan for the FN from a Russian bank last September. Estimates of his commission on securing the loan – nearly 10 million euros – vary from 140,000 to 450,000 euros.
The three other speakers at Schaffhauser’s press conference – who also attended the Donetsk conference itself – were Manuel Ochsenreiter, Alessandro Musolino and Alain Fragny.
Ochsenreiter has a long record of involvement in German far-right politics. He is currently editor of the neo-Nazi magazine “Zuerst!”, which stands for “the preservation of German ethnic identity” and “the life and survival interests of the German people.”
The magazine attacks the legacy of denazification, carries interviews with the Russian fascist Alexander Dugin, and denounces “welfare immigrants” and “gypsy pickpockets”. Ochsenreiter also appears regularly on the pro-Putin “Russia Today” propaganda outlet.
Musolino is a prominent member of the right-wing Forza Italia party, originally founded by Silvio Berlusconi as a vehicle for his own personal political ambitions.
Musolino ‘monitored’ the Crimean ‘referendum’ of March of 2014 and the DPR/LPR ‘elections’ of last November. Despite the electoral irregularities manifest on both occasions, Musolino – and the other right-wingers and fascists who acted as ‘monitors’ – gave them a clean bill of health.
Until 2013 Fragny was a member and Provence organiser of the French far-right Bloc Identitaire (BI), which presents itself as a rallying point for “young French people and Europeans who are proud of their roots and heritage.”
Modelling itself on the Italian Lega Nord, the BI “opposes imperialism, whether it be American or Islamic”, and has staged protests against immigration, “the Islamisation of France”, and supposed discrimination against “white males”. Some BI members also practise ‘entryism’ into the FN.
Fragny runs the (nominal) charity “Urgence Enfants d’Ukraine” (UEU). The UEU website largely consists of uncritical repeats of DPR/LPR propaganda, including praise for their military activities. By contrast, the website page entitled “Current Missions” simply reads: “To be announced soon.”
Fragny runs the UEU in partnership with Emmanuel Leroy. The latter was not present at Shaffhauser’s press conference in March. But he did attend the Donetsk conference. His political biography is the history of French fascist thought over the past forty years.
He began political life as a member of the fascist think-tank ‘Research and Study Group for European Civilisation’, founded in the late 1960s. Then he was a member of the FN for 28 years, until the split of 1998 led by Bruno Megret.
But within a decade he had returned to the FN fold. He is now probably the most important political influence, adviser and speech-writer for FN leader Marine Le Pen.
Like Schaffhauser, Leroy has used his personal connections – family ties, involvement in Kremlin-funded ‘think-tanks’, and attending the “White Forum” conference in Moscow at which former Klan leader David Duke topped the bill – to promote closer ties between the FN and Russia.
In addition to Shaffhauser, Ochsenreiter, Musolino, Fragny and Leroy, another dozen or so international guests attended the Donetsk conference. These included:
Johan Backman: Finnish Stalinist, historical revisionist, and apologist for Russian imperialism. Has collaborated with Finnish neo-Nazi organisations (e.g. Risto Teinonen) and organised speaking tours for Russian fascists and chauvinists (e.g. Alexander Dugin and Alexander Prokhanov).
Dragana Trifkovic: Member of the Political Council of the right-wing nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia. Believes Serbia is under foreign occupation and only victory for Russia in ‘Novorossiya’ can end this. Cheerleader for Putin, and admirer of Ochsenreiter and “Zuerst!”.
Marcus Frohnmaier: Regional chair of the youth wing of the right-wing neo-liberal Alternative for Germany. Anti-immigration, anti-integration, anti-gender-quotas. Supports Russian foreign policy, more rights for parents, especially in matters of sex education, and regression of the EU to the European Economic Community.
Aleksei Zhuravlov: Homophobic Duma member of the ultra-nationalist, anti-semitic and xenophobic Rodina party. Rodina supports: “unity of the Russian world and defence of the traditional values of Russian civilization.” Rodina opposes: “illegal immigration, ethnic criminality, pro-western liberal-fascism, and traitors to the national interest.”
Simos Kedikoglou: Member of the right-wing New Democracy party, which imposed the Troika’s austerity policies on Greece in its last term of office, as well as carrying out its own witch-hunt of refugees and immigrants. Kedikoglou was the government spokesperson who loyally defended all its actions.
Among the names of lesser note attending the conference were: Luis Durnwalder (member of the South Tyrolean People’s Party and former governor of South Tyrol); Alessandro Bertoldi (member of Forza Italia); Stevisa Dedjanski (former member of the Serbian Radical Party); and Andreas Villotti (Italian economist).
Evgenia Ouzounidou (former member of the Greek Communist Party and now Syriza member of the Greek parliament) and Martin Dolzer (‘Die Linke’ member of the German parliament) also attended. Clearly, the politics of Stalinism is no obstacle to collaboration with the far right.
Finally – and bad news for all anti-Zionist supporters of the DPR and LPR – the conference was also attended by Michael Barkan, the Russian-émigré deputy mayor of the Israeli city of Afula and a former member of the Yisrael BaAliyah party which merged with Likud in 2003.
Entitled “International Forum – Donbas: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” and attended by some 400 people (overwhelmingly from the DPR/LPR), the Donetsk conference was officially supported – and hosted – by the DPR government.
The LPR government likewise officially supported the event and dispatched a large delegation, as well as giving the event wall-to-wall coverage on its official website. As LPR ‘head of state’ Plotnitsky explained in March:
“Yes, we have received an invitation to attend. And our representatives will be in Donetsk, we will work together in this meeting. What we have here is a war of two ideologies – fascist on the part of Ukraine, and ours.”
The so-called ‘Federation of Trade Unions of the LPR’ (a ‘trade union’ which lacks the independence needed to make it a genuine trade union organisation) also sent a delegation to the conference and carried enthusiastic reports of the event on its website.
Neither the DPR nor the LPR authorities could have claimed that they were unaware of the politics of their internationals guests.
Eight of them – Shaffhauser, Ochsenreiter, Musolino, Backman, Trifkovic, Zhuravlov, Bertoldi and Dedjanski – had been ‘monitors’ for the Crimean ‘referendum’ and/or last November’s ‘elections’ in the DPR/LPR. Their role as ‘monitors’ had been widely reported in the media internationally.
The DPR/LPR did not welcome their international guests in spite of their politics but because of them: anti-US, anti-EU, anti-liberal, ‘anti-imperialist’, pro-Putin, pro-Russia, pro-nationalism, and for a ‘multipolar’ new world order.
Their politics might have been – and were – reactionary through and through. But, for the DPR and the LPR (and their backers in Moscow), their far right politics made them natural allies of the DPR and LPR.
And it was precisely those far-right politics which found expression in contributions to the conference – not just from the international guests but also from the representatives of the DPR/LPR.
The conference began with a state-of-the-world session. Shaffhauser was in his element:
“My dream is not the dream of America. If Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Peking were to come together, then America would change into a small island. … We are now building a new Europe. After the fall of communism we now see the fall of liberalism, of the American model.
And we must build a new model together. Here, in the Donbas, the fate of the entire European world is being decided. Here we must engage with the creation of our world, a multipolar world, because there is a war going on here.”
Ochsenreiter agreed with Shaffhauser:
“This lack of European self-determination is dangerous not just for Europe itself but for the whole Eurasian continent. It prevents us from seeing our continent from Lisbon to Vladivostok as a community.
The most important European project of the future is the complete de-Americanisation of our continent. We are witnessing the first moments of the birth of a real multipolar world order and the end of unipolar Washington domination. The referendum in the Crimea and the unification with Russia gave an impressive example.”
The importance of the Crimea’s ‘unification’ with Russia was also stressed by Zhuravlov:
“In Washington, Brussels and Ukraine they must understand that the Crimea has returned to Russia forever, that the republics (DPR/LPR) have become independent and will be so for a long time, possibly forever.
Kiev needs to reconcile itself to living alongside of the DPR and LPR and to get used to the fact that the Crimea is Russian land. We are ready to fight for peace to the end, that is: until victory.”
Betraying his political origins in Alexander Dugin’s fascist Eurasian Youth Movement, the chair of the DPR People’s Soviet, Andrei Purgin, linked the resurgence of the Russian World to the emergence of a new world order:
“The Russian Spring which occurred a year ago laid the basis for significant changes. Here, now, the political discourse is being transformed. The Donbas is an experimental space for the Russian World.
It is possible that it will find a way of the cul-de-sac in which the entire world finds itself. New people now have the chance to build a new state. A change of elite is underway.
Instead of supporting Ukraine, which stands condemned and strives to return to the past, the west should understand what is happening here and join the process of restoring the health of the world organism.”
The second session of the conference dealt with rebuilding the economies of the DPR/LPR. The contributions from the DPR/LPR speakers should serve as a sobering wake-up call for the ‘left’ which sees something progressive in the DPR/LPR:
“In practically all contributions the creation of favourable conditions to conduct business was cited as the basic condition for economic growth. To achieve this, the DPR had already taken the decision to reduce the tax burden (on business).”
Some of the contributions were almost Thatcherite in emphasizing the ability of the DPR/LPR to stand on their own feet. According to the DPR ‘head of state’ Alexander Zakarchenko:
“Look at how Poroshenko goes to the countries of Europe: he cries, holds out his hand, and asks for money. We are not crying. What we are saying is: Let us build up our trading relations.
This allows them (Europeans) to understand what we want to build. We want to strengthen economic co-operation. In particular we want to reach agreement on the exports of metal.”
One potential trading partner cited at the conference was Russia. According to Backman: “What’s important for trade is to find partners and to agree who will work with whom. Support from Russia and trading links with Russia can help the new republics to stand on their own feet.”
Villotti and Durnwalder spoke positively of the experiences of the autonomous region of South Tyrol in Italy. But as one report of the conference noted, enthusiasm about their contribution suddenly waned when attendees learnt that South Tyrol has no control over the police or defence and foreign policy.
In another blow to the cause of ‘anti-Zionism’, one of the lessons of the conference summed up by the DPR Minister for Finances was:
“We learnt of the experiences of a series of countries and regions which, in one way or another, have found themselves in similar situations. The positive experience of South Tyrol, Israel and Serbia must be carefully studied. We must take the best and integrate it into our situation.”
Behind all the platform rhetoric, the conference pursued three goals:
– To end the diplomatic isolation faced by the DPR/LPR. Only two ‘states’ in the world – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – recognize the DPR/LPR. But neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia are recognized by the rest of the world.
– To mobilise European ‘public opinion’ to put pressure on EU governments, especially Germany and France, to pressurize Kiev into accepting the existence of the DPR/LPR on terms dictated by the DPR/LPR (i.e. by Moscow).
– To promote economic ties between the DPR/LPR and Europe. The economies of the DPR/LPR suffer from wartime damage, the economic dislocation caused by secession, the economic blockade imposed by Kiev, and the international non-recognition of the DPR/LPR.
And – reflecting their own politics in doing so – in pursuing such goals the DPR/LPR authorities saw as their natural allies the European far right, with old-time Stalinists from Syriza and Die Linke providing an extra helping hand.
The Donetsk conference involved political forces which, unfortunately, count for something in the real world. The same cannot be said of the other conference – held in the city of Alchevsk (LPR) three days earlier – in solidarity with the DPR/LPR.
By all accounts, it was a rather sad affair.
Entitled “International Solidarity Forum – Anti-Fascism, Internationalism and Solidarity”, the one-day conference had been initiated in early April by a meeting of the “Forum of Communist, Socialist, Workers, Environmental and Anti-Fascist Forces” held in Lugansk.
The April Forum had been organized by the Lugansk Communist Party (LCP). Most, if not all, of the thirty-one people who attended the event appear to have been in (or close to) the LCP as well. Their politics were reflected in a statement issued by the April Forum:
“The Red traditions of the region – from Kliment Voroshilov to the present day – have always been strong in our land, and just as in 1917, Lugansk should be a harbinger of the coming global left turn.”
Voroshilov was a military commander who played a central role in Stalin’s purges. He denounced his own colleagues and subordinates and wrote personally to exiled officers to lure them back to their death. He signed 185 execution lists – the fourth highest of the entire Stalinist leadership.
(Attendees at the International Solidarity Forum included a delegation from the British ‘Solidarity with the Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine’ campaign. That campaign includes members of the avowed Trotskyist organisations ‘Workers Power’ and ‘Socialist Appeal’.
If there had been members of those organisations in the Soviet Union of the 1930s, Voroshilov would have had them shot. Every last one of them.)
A subsequently issued invitation to attend the International Solidarity Forum declared, rather confusingly:
“With the joint efforts of our organisations and movements, with the broad support of the masses, we will be able to achieve our main goal – to make the Lugansk region a socialist land. We are open to co-operation with all patriotic forces ready to join our struggle.”
According to conference organizer (and LCP Lugansk City First Secretary) Maxim Chalenko, over two hundred “Communist, socialist, left-patriotic and anti-fascist forces from around the world” were invited to attend the conference.
By late April Chalenko was boasting that 37 organisations from 16 countries had agreed to attend. In the event, 177 people from 31 organisations from 13 countries made it to the conference.
The conference report did not list the organisations. But there were some familiar faces at the event. Platform speakers included members of the ‘Lugansk Guards’ and the Ukrainian Stalinist organization ‘Borotba’ who had spoken at the first of the Yalta conferences organized last year by ‘Novaya Rus’’.
According to the final conference report, the event was attended by nationals of: Belarus, Britain, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Poland, Russia, the Basque Country, Turkey, Ukraine, France and Sweden.
The venue for the conference was to have been the city of Lugansk. But the LPR authorities banned it from the city. According to Chalenko, this was a decision by “a group of anti-communist officials who did not want to see Lugansk follow the socialist path of development.”
A new venue for the conference was found in Alchevsk, run as a virtual personal fiefdom by Aleksei Mozgovoy (commander of the ‘Ghost Brigade’). Mozgovoy said that he had been threatened with arrest, imprisonment and execution by LPR officials for allowing the conference to be held there.
(Someone was as good as their word. Mozgovoy was murdered in what was – even by DPR/LPR standards – a particularly brutal killing a fortnight later.)
Conditions in Alchevsk were less than welcoming. There was a power cut throughout the city when the attendees arrived. Planned hotel accommodation was replaced by accommodation in a former hostel for factory workers. And water is available in Alchevsk only for a couple of hours in the mornings.
The conference attendees were also unable to take part in a Second World War Victory Day parade on the day after their conference. They were unwelcome in Lugansk. And the parade planned for Alchevsk was cancelled at the insistence of the LPR authorities.
Further problems occurred even once the conference was underway. One participant wrote: “There were problems with the translator, and the contributions from the platform speakers were hardly serious scientific contributions.”
The conference opened with a speech from Mozgovoy himself, in which he appealed for unity in pursuit in their common goal: the struggle against fascism. “A free person, a free people,” he concluded, “cannot be banned from telling the truth.”
A fortnight later he was dead.
Mozgovoy was followed by a succession of speeches which largely consisted of little more than the words ‘imperialism’, ‘fascism’ ‘USA’, ‘junta’, ‘Kiev’, ‘anti-fascism’, ‘anti-imperialism’, internationalism, and ‘unity’ re-arranged in various combinations.
“All the misfortunes of the Greek people flow from the USA, the EU and NATO. The Kiev regime is a puppet of American imperialism,” explained one of the speakers from Greece.
According to an Italian speaker: “The Atlantic Pact sows chaos and is leading to the creation of open fascist regimes in Europe. The people of the Donbas are the first to raise their weapons against this.”
Another Italian speaker denounced non-governmental organisations for being “the Trojan Horse of Western imperialism” and for “playing a major role in what happened in Kiev – not a revolution but a state putsch.”
A representative of the People’s Front of Turkey – whose members had “already fought against the American aggressors in Iraq, and in Palestine” – explained that the world consisted of two sides: “the EU and the USA” and “the ordinary people who have to resist global enslavement.”
According to another speaker from Italy: “The neo-liberal empire of the EU cannot be reformed or democratized. It must be destroyed. And the countries of southern Europe must form a new and fair Union of the Mediterranean.”
There were warm words for Russia at the conference as well. “We are glad that we (the LPR) are Russia. Putin is the greatest individual,” enthused the Lugansk ‘Young Guards’ speaker.
Many – in fact: most – of the speeches would hardly have been out of place at the conference held in Donetsk three days later.
The invocations of ‘communism’ and ‘socialism’ would not have gone down very well. But the ritualistic stock-in-trade denunciations of the USA, the EU, NATO, globalisation, imperialism and ‘Ukrainian fascism’ – all invoked to justify support for ‘Novorossiya’ – would certainly have found a receptive audience.
However late in the day it might be, the overlap in the substance of the platform speeches at the Donetsk and Alchevsk conferences, and the political composition of the former, should provoke the pro-’Novorossiya’ left into asking itself a straightforward question:
Is there anything even vaguely socialist about its endless apologetics for the one-party puppet-‘states’ of the DPR and LPR which find their natural political allies in the European far right?