Victory to the International Brigades!

You know, I bet there were a few of those men and women in the 1930s who’s families said they were crazy. I bet there were people who laughed at them, or stared confused at their intention. I bet there were people who ridiculed and mocked, and told them it was pointless. 

I bet a lot of people didn’t really understand what it was all about, and what’s Spain got to do with us anyway? I bet it was hard leaving their children and families behind. I bet it was difficult to explain to them what was going on, and why they had to go. 

Because they did, have to go. It was not an option. The ugly head of fascism was reared in Spain and the call was sent out. These men and women understood that the struggle was international. That there must be international solidarity and action if it was to be defeated. The courage of their convictions was born, and from it came a most beautiful thing. 

They understood that win or lose, to fight and die was better than to lie down and allow the wheels of such a monster to smother them in the dirt. They knew that if they did not go to Spain and slam the door in its face it would be on their doorstep next. 

“They went because their open eyes could see no other way.” And there was no other way, than to put their lives on the front line in solidarity with the people of Spain and to declare, loudly, for the world to hear – NO PASARAN! 

They were heroes, and we remember them – in our hearts, on our memorials, in our songs and in our stories. They are a part of this struggle which can never be erased or sullied. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for the greatest cause ever known – the freedom of mankind.

The Spanish Civil War ended in 1939 – but the war against fascism rages on, and is perhaps now more terrifying than ever before. In Syria and Iraq, the fascist hordes of ISIS have amassed to pour their boiling poison into the world. 

Who stands in the face of such terror? Who holds back the night from our doorstep? Who stands, boldly, their very life in hand, ready to give it gladly in this war against evil? Who are the men and women who have already given so much, sacrificed all, for the greatest cause ever known? 

The brave heroes of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the International Freedom Battalion (IFB). Men and women who are not conscripts, who have no duty in this fight other than that which blooms inside of them. The burning passion to eradicate this blackness from the earth, and replace it with the liberation of all humanity. 

They pound that pavement to glory that the earlier brigadiers paved for them. They fight, as they did in Spain in the 1930s, because they know there is no other way. They are the sword in the darkness, they are the beacon light in a world black as pitch. They too, have left behind families, children, spouses, whole lives to offer up their entire existence to the cause of socialism.

British and Irish Men of the Bob Crow Brigade, IFB – we salute you, and send to you our deepest love and solidarity. You are an inspiration to us all, you are the bedtime story I tell my son. You are the hope of a generation. 

As James Connolly spoke to his daughter Nora for the last time ahead of his execution – she said to him, “daddy – do we really have to fight?”

He said to Nora, “If we don’t fight, we can only hope for a great earthquake to come and swallow us and our shame.”

This is true now, as it was then, for all who would consider themselves socialist. We are bound by our morals, by the debt owed to those brigadiers in Spain, and by the blood of the martyrs which soaks every Corner of the red flag we hold so proudly aloft. 

Fascism runs rampant on the global stage. 

The international brigades burn brightly, a beacon of hope for all the world to see. 

The call is in all of us, and we must answer. We must.

Morning Star Article 12/03/16 – Alexey Markov Interview

The ghost battalion are proving they are much more than just soldiers in the war-torn districts of Lugansk and Donetsk as they strive to bring aid and hope to the local area through a variety of social projects designed to aid in the rebuilding of the community. 

Despite the Minsk II ceasefire declared on February 15 2015 the situation in Ukraine remains unstable. Human Rights Watch claim that as of Autumn 2015 five million people in Eastern Ukraine are in need of humanitarian aid, with three million classed as “most vulnerable.” 

A United Nations report on the Ukraine conflict dated February 2016 reported that just 57,300 of those in need were assisted this winter, with UNICEF also claiming that up to 1.3 million people have little or no access to clean water. 

Commander Alexey Markov, a volunteer of Prizrak (ghost) brigade, has been based in Lugansk, the Russian-speaking industrial region of Eastern Ukraine since September 2014. 

“I had never been to Ukraine before 2014. After seeing the terrible scenes in Odessa of crowds cheering behind piles of charred bodies, I realised that fascism had been revived. As a Communist, I could not accept the fact that Nazis were again slaughtering innocent people, so I left my home and job in Moscow and went to fight in the Donbass.”

“When I first arrived, the city was dead. There was no electricity, no people on the streets and no traffic. All the shops were closed and there was no public transport. People were living in fear for their lives, under constant attack from the Ukrainian side. The destruction was clearly visible on all the main streets of the city.”

“Over the past year the situation has improved, and although many people’s homes, schools and hospitals were destroyed, life in the city is getting better. The city looks almost peaceful. Almost.”

The brigade which has its headquarters in Alchevsk has a strong social dimension, and has from its inception organised free meals through canteens sustained by the volunteers for large families and those on low income in the area. 

They have also provided products for schools and hospitals, as well as ensuring that the children of Alchevsk received gifts from the brigade at Christmas.

Although the work done by the brigade in the local community is invaluable, Markov is under no illusions as to the importance of international solidarity. 
“It’s very important that the local people understand that they are not alone in the struggle against fascism. Help from abroad may not be materially significant, but it is very important in terms of morale. 

Citizens are, however, in immediate need of medical supplies and equipment for the restoration of hospitals. It is also important that the reality of the war in Donbass is reported accurately in the West. It is imperative that European governments are encouraged to reassess their support for the Kiev regime.” 
 

Despite the volatile situation in Eastern Ukraine, which has seen in the past year ceasefire violations from both sides, Markov still holds hope for the future.
“Unfortunately, it is impossible to reach an agreement short of a military victory. I hate war, but the alternative is even worse.”

“I hope the children of Lugansk will soon live in a free, independent and socialist republic where nobody will ever again dare to kill or harm them, or compare them to ‘beetle larvae’ as the Ukrainian nationalists do. They will have a chance to become full-fledged citizens, and not ‘occupiers’ in their own land.” 

A spokesperson for the Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) said: 

“We are a labour movement campaign organised to pressure the government to withdraw diplomatic, financial and military support for the Kiev regime, and to help bring about an end to the civil war which has seen the death of over 10,000 civilians and the displacement of over a million people.”

“Since the Kiev government has also frozen all social security payments to the east, including those to pensioners, the unemployed and  the disabled, it is vitally important that we confront this humanitarian crisis.”

Those wishing to show solidarity to the people of Lugansk can do so by contacting Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) via sarucampaign@gmail.com.