Luis Lázaro Tijerina
Dedicated to Natalia Volkova, head of the youth wing of the “Stronghold of Donbass," badly injured during this incidence of deplorable violence
Americans in general know nothing about the deeper historical consequences of death regarding great men and women, except, perhaps, individualistic death. The last time Americans understood the deeper understanding of death and a nation's national character was during the American Civil War. Americans are prone to the creation of a myth about their heroes or enemies, especially regarding their deaths.
And so, while millions of Americans were lamenting and eulogizing U.S. Senator John McCain, while millions of other Americans were gathering in memory of the late African American singer Aretha Franklin, a young head of state of the Donetsk People’s Republic was assassinated -- that is, murdered -- in his country. Most Americans, typically sentimentalists caring little about the details of history or their leaders’ actual moral character other than what social media spoon-feed them, would not likely know of Alexander Zakharchenko whose life was brutally snuffed out at age 44. If they did know he was a separatist and a communist in his politics, they would care even less about his death, let alone be interested in his qualities as a man.
And yet America's bourgeois leadership are not above using noble words borrowed from an Ernest Hemingway novel to speak about bravery, and courage, erroneously applying these glittering generalities to the craven and dangerous Senator McCain who supported the Kiev junta, despised the working people of Donetsk and Luhansk, and before his death was the main instigator in assuring the Kiev junta they would receive immense arms, aircraft and naval ordnance through the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. The Military Times, a conservative online news outlet, noted in June 2015, when the American senator visited the Ukraine and met with the President of the Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, “U.S. Sen. John McCain has said during a visit to Ukraine it is shameful Washington's European allies have not done more to assist Ukrainian forces in their quest to defeat Russian-backed separatists in the east.” [i]
As a historian, I must qualify my own ignorance of the actual personality of Mr. Zakharchenko: I cannot presume to know whether he was a stable or unstable leader in the Donbass region, whether he was arrogant or modest in his behavior holding such a high and even dangerous position, which eventually cost him his life. In the political sense, his death was not an individualistic death -- be was wedded to the common interests of the people in Donetsk and all of the Donbass region.
Thus, death, and the character of a great man who has died, are not a study of philosophy by the American people, but as the French historian Alexis De Tocqueville observed, “the unaided effort of his own individual reason.” That is, the American reason has no interest in history, nor interest in the facts of a man’s life, but instead, as more or less because they are of the same composition of identical character, they believe they can explain everything around them and about the world in general. They then are limited in their observations about existence and death. In the United States there has been no dynamic, democratic revolution where form and content of ideas and beliefs are creatively unified.
Obsessed with their religion, whatever that religion may be, Americans are fearful to define death except in the most metaphysical or romantic way. Fearing death as they do, Americans also fear defining a great man without discussion. Hence they are destroyed by their own narrow, subjective reasoning of what constitutes a great man. In modern times, Americans cannot understand a revolutionary like the Prime Minster of Donetsk who was killed in his favorite café by assassins.
We eulogize great men and women in our time. We voice a love for the American Republic as if it were taken from a chapter of Tacitus’ Annals. We as Americans pray and weep on national television for the world to see, while former American Presidents quote Hemingway, as if their lives and those of their countrymen depended on those words of an iconic literary figure to stabilize a divided and dying country. The irony is that Hemingway -- whom I read too much in my youth, and in old age care more for his short stories than his egotistical novels, other than For Whom The Bells Tolls, which was more of a romance of the Spanish Civil War than the harsh realities of civil war -- would have been more interested in the character of Alexander Zakharchenko than John McCain. In short, Alexander Zakharchenko was the Robert Jordan of our era.
Wikipedia, a source on the internet to find out about Mr. Zakharchenko’s life if you are a Westerner, begins with the cynical declaration, “.... The biography of Zakharchenko is as credible as the biography of other pro-Russian activists and soldiers of fortune… and based only on reports of Russian mass media of recent years. He supposedly graduated from technical college and then worked as a mine electrician. Zakharchenko successfully traded chicken legs and broilers in the market almost all his life until Russia began the operation of Novorossia in Donetsk… Since May 2014, Zakharchenko has played a major role in the insurgency against Ukraine's central government. On 24 July 2014, he was awarded the rank General Major in the DPR armed forces, shortly after he was wounded in the arm during fighting with Ukraine government forces. ” [ii]
What should not be lost is the phrase “as credible as the biography of other pro-Russian activists and soldiers of fortune." The skeptical and murderous tone of this alleged biographical entry seeks to discredit and diminish the death, indeed, the very life, of Alexander Zakharchenko amid the rubble of a blown-out café.
Even more ironically, the cafe was called the “Separ café” which means “separatist” in English. Sadly, Alexander Zakharchenko was finally separated from his country by violent means. He was Prime Minister of a socialist-inspired republic which based its constitution on some of the best intentions of the political principles of the Soviet Union. Mr. Zakharchenko was not a soldier of fortune, but a tested and seasoned revolutionary who grew up in humble circumstances, who worked hard for a living long before he gained fame on the battlefield, long before he became Prime Minister of his beloved Donetsk People’s Republic.
In his youth, Alexander Zakharchenko worked in the coal mines of Donetsk, and like other ordinary working men in his homeland, fell in love with a Donetsk woman and left four children behind in his violent death. But his violent death will have drastic consequences not only for Donetsk, but for all of Ukraine and Europe.
There is no such thing as "coincidence," it is simply Fate misnamed. Not by coincidence was Alexander Zakharchenko killed on the exact very same day as the first eulogies of John McCain were being held in Arizona. Other than the Russian intelligence services somehow being involved in the killing of the Donetsk Prime Minister in order to create a covert deception, as the Western newspapers and internet news outlets are quick to point out, then it leaves only the Kiev military leadership and the Ukrainian intelligence services that would have orchestrated the death of this promising leader. Certainly, internal divisions always exist in the struggle for power during the emergence of a revolutionary country, and that also cannot be discounted. However, if the killers, the assassins. were those from Kiev, then the United States military intelligence services -- in my personal opinion -- would have known of the perfidious plot, as nothing gets past them without their consent, especially since it is the United States regime, under the adventurous auspices of Donald Trump, who would likely have also known of the assassination plot. Since his own house is in disorder and capable of collapsing over his odious political body, Trump has much to gain from a political assassination abroad, even if that victory is a veiled threat against a separatist nation with the audacity to break away from a country like the Ukraine.
Although bitter adversaries, John McCain and Trump had one thing in common -- they both detested communism and any form of socialism, and they both were committed to giving arms to the Kiev junta in the Ukraine. Only two days after the murder of rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko, a report in The Guardian stated, “Washington is ready to expand arms supplies to Ukraine in order to build up the country’s naval and air defence forces in the face of continuing Russian support for eastern separatists, according to the US special envoy for Ukraine.” [iii]
The Guardian report went on to quote American diplomat Kurt Volker, presently serving as U. S. Special Representative for the Ukraine, who "argued time was not on Putin’s side. [Volker] insisted pro-western, anti-Russian sentiment was growing in Ukraine with every passing month. And he made clear that the Trump administration was 'absolutely' prepared to go further in supplying lethal weaponry to Ukrainian forces [besides] the anti-tank missiles it delivered in April.” [iv] [This is the Trump—a committed and murderous agent of US imperialism—that the deceiving and just as often imbecilic Democrats castigated for his entire term as an agent of Putin! —Ed]
Now Alexander Zakharchenko is dead, but the Donetsk People’s Republic is alive and a thorn in the side to military commanders of NATO and the oligarchs of the Ukraine and the Kiev junta. The young Alexander Zakharchenko did not die on a hilltop in Spain waiting for the fascist troops on horseback to cross over a bridge, where they would eventually see the American Robert Jordan waiting for them with his weapon, his heart beating strongly in that late afternoon. It is a different time in a different era, a different epic of soldiering and death. The young Alexander Zakharchenko was killed on the last day in August, as he walked into his favorite café. He was not on a hilltop, in a romantic way, awaiting the fascist enemy, he was walking into a café to have a meal and speak casually and frankly with his comrades. Unlike Hemingway's Robert Jordan, Alexander Zakharchenko had been a worker, he had survived wounds from battle. But he would not survive the last day of August nor the head wounds he received from the bomb blast.
For Alexander Zakharchenko, there would be no moment for the rest of his life to reflect upon, no moment to size up the enemy while adjusting the submachine gun, for he carried no submachine gun as he walked casually into the café, no time to say to himself that he was living now, that was he aware of where his enemies were coming from, as the heat of the August sun comes across his face, and then the loudness of a blast, and there is no heartbeat to hear, no pine needles or the romantic green slope of a meadow to cast a look upon the approaching enemy, only the hard concrete against his shattered face, only the death of the here and now, for death is not a literary event. Alexander Zakharchenko’s heart stopped beating without a place in the sun.
The Workers' World website also paid homage to A. Zacharchenko.
Warning sign to anti-war movement: Behind assassination of Donetsk leader
By Greg Butterfield posted on September 3, 2018
Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the anti-fascist Donetsk People’s Republic, was assassinated on Aug. 31 when an explosion ripped through the Separ restaurant in the capital city of Donetsk. Zakharchenko’s bodyguard, Vyacheslav Dotsenko, was also killed. Twelve other people were injured in the blast, four of them severely, including Finance Minister Alexander Timofeyev. Natalia Volkova, a youth activist, received third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body. (Donetsk News Agency, Sept. 1)
Denis Levin, a communist worker from Ukraine living in political exile in Donetsk, told Workers World that the restaurant was often frequented by families and children.
Twelve people were taken into custody on suspicion of participating in the planning and conduct of the bombing. According to DPR authorities, the terrorist act was carried out by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), through operatives trained by U.S. and NATO military and intelligence services. (Sputnik News, Aug. 31)
Zakharchenko, a small businessperson and the son of a coal miner, participated in the anti-fascist uprising and militia movement in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, following a right-wing coup in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in early 2014. The coup was backed to the hilt by the United States, which actively collaborated with local oligarchs and neo-Nazis.
In April 2014, with U.S.-NATO support, the Ukrainian regime opened up a brutal war against the people of Donbass. The war has so far cost more than 10,000 lives, according to the United Nations. That May, popular referenda established Donetsk and Lugansk as independent people’s republics.
Zakharchenko became prime minister of the DPR in August 2014. As a respected militia fighter without strong political ties, he was seen as a compromise figure between the left-leaning and anti-establishment forces that led the Donbass uprising and the more conservative, pro-capitalist forces backed by the government of the Russian Federation.
Donbass desperately needed the support of neighboring Russia, then and now, as it is cut off from food, medicine, equipment and other basic needs by a Western blockade.
Zakharchenko was closely identified with the Minsk accords, a set of agreements he signed in early 2015 with the participation of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine, to end the war and bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict. However, the Western-backed government in Kiev, headed by President Petro Poroshenko, has never respected the accords. The Ukrainian side continues to shell residential areas along the line of conflict, including the outskirts of the Donetsk capital.
Despite popular disenchantment with the Minsk accords and the difficulties caused by the blockade, Zakharchenko remained personally popular as a symbol of the united front against the Ukrainian regime.
Zakharchenko usually wore his militia fatigues, emphasizing the state of siege of the republic, and was frequently seen at the front among the soldiers defending against the Ukrainian Armed Forces and neo-Nazi battalions. In February 2015, he was wounded in action during one of the last battles that successfully turned back a Ukrainian military offensive.
He had a down-to-earth style modeled after one of his heroes, Fidel Castro, and frequently went among the residents of the republic to listen to their problems. He established an online video dialogue with residents of Ukraine and areas of Donbass under Ukrainian occupation. His style was credited with bringing a sense of daily normalcy back to the war-battered capital city.
Zakharchenko’s assassination was condemned by the governments of the Russian Federation and the Syrian Arab Republic. (SANA, Sept. 1) Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his personal condolences to the people of Donetsk. (TASS, Aug. 31)
On Sept. 2 tens of thousands of people came to the Donetsk Opera House, where Zakharchenko lay in state, to pay their final respects. Some 200,000 people lined the streets for his funeral procession. (Novorossia News, Sept. 2)
Other assassinations have been carried out by the SBU in Donetsk, notably of two popular militia commanders close to Zakharchenko, known by their military call-signs Givi and Motorola.
There were also earlier attempts on Zakharchenko’s life, most involving car bombs and sniper attacks.
However, the assassination of the prime minister through a terror attack on a civilian target in central Donetsk is at a whole other level. Such an act could not have been carried out by a politically, economically and militarily dependent regime like Ukraine’s without high-level U.S. approval.
As if to underline the U.S. role in the murder, the following day Ukrainian President Poroshenko stood side by side with NATO head Jens Stoltenberg at the Washington funeral of war criminal Sen. John McCain, who was part of the bipartisan bloc that helped bring the Ukrainian junta to power during the Barack Obama administration. (Interfax-Ukraine, Sept. 3) McCain famously shared a platform with Ukrainian fascist Oleh Tyanybok in Kiev before the 2014 coup.
So it’s important to ask: Why was Zakharchenko assassinated now, and in this way?
Of course, an attack like this is meant to sow fear in the residents of Donbass and shake confidence in the government of the anti-fascist republic. In this respect it failed, as shown by the defiant mass outpouring for Zakharchenko’s funeral.
But the attack must also be seen in an international context.
Zakharchenko’s assassination came as the Syrian Army, with support from its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies, moves to retake Idlib province, one of the last strongholds of the Western-backed contra armies in Syria. (See article by Karin Leukefeld in Junge Welt Aug. 30 / workers.org Sept. 1)
Just days before, the Russian military warned that U.S.-backed forces could stage another “false flag” chemical weapons attack in Idlib, of the sort used so frequently to justify prolonged Western intervention in Syria. Syria’s representative then presented evidence of such a plan to the United Nations. (FARS News Agency, Aug. 29)
Was the assassination of Zakharchenko a warning to Moscow and its allies, an act of retaliation for their exposure of the planned provocation in Idlib?
Throughout the long imperialist war to dismember Syria, Ukraine has frequently been used by the West as a looming threat against Damascus’ ally — the threat of a second front on Russia’s Western border that could flare up at any moment.
It also comes amidst the deepening internal struggle inside the U.S. ruling-class political establishment over which direction the Pentagon war machine and CIA is to take: further toward war with Russia, as advocated by Democratic Party and establishment Republican Party leaders, or toward other targets, including Iran and China, as prefered by Trump.
Anti-imperialists and anti-war activists must not disregard the assassination of the Donetsk leader as a local event of limited significance. Instead they should see it as a warning sign of the need to redouble efforts to reach out to poor and working people here, to counter the anti-Russia witch hunt, and to mobilize to stop U.S. intervention everywhere!
This is the best tribute we can pay to fallen anti-fascist Alexander Zakharchenko.
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