ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Georgi Yankov : « Voulons-nous bien une République populaire ? »
by Stéphane Aubouard
Translated Monday 15 June 2015, by
Georgi Yankov, the vice president of the miners’ union in the Donetsk People’s Republic, surveys the situation one year after the beginning of the conflict.
How do you analyze this resistance here in the Donbas, in which we see more and more miners taking up arms?
Georgi Yankov: A year ago, when the war began, it was a patriotic war. Today, we cannot yet say that it’s a workers’ revolution, but it could become one. The miners sense very well that their instrument of labor has been endangered since the Ukrainian army bombarded the mines. On average, a miner earns between 5,000 hrivnas (220 euros) and 8,000 hrivnas (350 euros) a month, depending on their job and their seniority. When they lose their job, some join up for the money as well, because the rebel army pays them a salary.
Are the Donbas miners guided by a political idea?
Georgi Yankov: The Communist Party has remained the biggest party in this region at all times. A large majority of the miners are leftists. Even though the Party of Regions of Yanukovich (the former Ukrainian president, who was deposed last year) wound up in the lead, everybody knows there was electoral fraud. The question that is posed to the miners today is to know what kind of republic we want to build. Is it really a people’s republic that we want? The constitution of the Donetsk Republic is modeled on the constitution of the Russian Federation. It’s not a constitution like that that’ll make it possible to build a workers and social republic. For the moment, it’s a free-trade republic. Alexander Zakharchenko (the president of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic) certainly has that socialist soul at bottom, but unfortunately must, in these times of war, compromise with a lot of outside elements, and notably, with a section of the people’s army that has religious and identity-politics tendencies.
How’re the mines doing in economic terms?
Georgi Yankov: In the Donetsk region, half of the mines are still operating. We’re extracting around 30,000 tons of coal a year, which is half the pre-war production. What’s important is the renationalization of the big companies, which must belong to the state. Zakharchenko has promised this and he’s right to do so. With a real public industrial policy, the workers and the miners are much better protected. Three months ago, a firedamp explosion in the privately-owned Zassiadko mine killed 32 miners. There weren’t any trade unions, no social protection, safety conditions were zero and the pursuit of profit was permanent. And there you have the terrible result. In a publicly-owned company, the trade unions can influence the decisions, but not in these privately-owned companies where money and the spirit of individualism predominate. It’s also on this point that the war against Kiev is situated.