Darya Dugina, fascist daughter of fascist father Aleksandr Dugin, was killed by a car bomb the other day. The probable target was Dugin himself but his fascist daughter will not be missed by any socialist the world over.
Putin & Co. claim that it was agents of the Ukraine government who did it. Specifically, Putin’s secret police, the FSB, are claiming that a Ukrainian secret service agent, Natalia Vovk, snuck into Russia under a false name, moved into the building where Dugina lived, and planted the bomb in the car. Naturally, Zelensky flat out denies this.
Then there is the former Russian politician, Ilya Ponomarev, who is now in exile. Ponomarev claims he has been in touch with an underground group inside Russia called the National Republican Army (NRA) and that this group claims responsibility for the assassination.
On Aug. 21, the alleged NRA issued an alleged statement claiming responsibility for the assassination. This statement starts by condemning the invasion of Ukraine. “We declare President Putin a usurper of power and a war criminal who amended the Constitution, unleashed a fratricidal war between the Slavic peoples, and sent Russian soldiers to certain and senseless death. Putin will be brought down and destroyed by us!” they write.
The statement also speaks in vague class terms: “We announce businessmen who earn their money on corruption and connections with officials – traitors to the Motherland and accomplices of the usurper,” they say.
They also speak in vaguely anti-capitalist terms, calling for “a society in which everyone is rewarded according to their work… without wars and violence… in which power will belong to the people…. in which the rulers will not be able to sacrifice human lives for their own greatness….”
“Long live free Russia!” they conclude.
Whether the National Republican Army actually exists and whether they really are responsible for this act and whether they actually exist beyond just one or two people nobody knows but they, themselves.
Another Wing of the State?
Another possibility is that another wing of the state did this. Some in the top of the military are known to be opposed to the war, for strategic (rather than principled) reasons. Russia’s top general, Leonid Ivashov, openly opposed the invasion at its start. He was speaking on behalf of the All Russian Retired Officers Assembly. Many top oligarchs also oppose the war but cannot speak out because Putin would confiscate their wealth, their freedom and possibly their lives.
There is also some speculation that the assassination may have been carried out by the Putin regime itself. Along with the rest of the far right, Dugin has been pressing for stepping up the war effort, including a general mobilization for the war. (Putin resists this because he fears it would make the invasion unpopular.) The Putin regime certainly has not hesitated to assassinate opponents in the past. Others claim that the assassination is a “false flag” operation, meant to be an excuse to step up both the war and the internal repression. That seems to be extremely risky and, anyway, Putin really doesn’t need such an excuse for that. However, it can’t be ruled out.
A Socialist Assessment of Political Assassinations
This all leads to the question of how socialists assess this act. Does it help or weaken the resistance to Putin and to the invasion? The method of individual terrorism and political assassination has been used for a long time, including in Tsarist Russia. “The People’s Will” was one such group that used these methods at that time. Marxists correctly opposed those methods, which sought to substitute the actions of a small group for the action of the masses of workers and their allies – the Russian peasantry. That is usually true worldwide.
Example of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
But there are other cases of individual assassination. For example, at the start of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, those courageous heroes and heroines first assassinated the “Judenrat”. These were the Jewish agents of the Nazis who maintained order in the Jewish ghetto. It was necessary to kill them first.
Not only that, but that uprising shows that there is no iron law about the use of violence and whether it can succeed. The participants in the uprising knew it was doomed to failure, but they understood that they were all going to be killed in Hitler’s concentration camps anyway. So, better to go down fighting and, while at it, weaken Hitler’s war effort. (The history of this uprising was told by one of its very few survivors, Marek Edelman, whose book is reviewed here.)
There is also another question: Will such a strategy further distance opponents of a regime from the working class?
Secrecy in Nazi Germany
In some cases, it’s necessary to operate in total secrecy. “Every Man Dies Alone” for example is a novel based on actual Gestapo files. In this excellent book, a middle age couple turn against Hitler and simply leaves anonymous notes denouncing him and his regime throughout Berlin. The book describes a situation in which everybody must turn in anybody who does anything in the least suspicious. In Nazi Germany it was impossible to organize openly and it didn’t matter whether one left an anti-Nazi note somewhere or assassinated a Nazi official; the result if caught would be execution. So total secrecy was necessary.
The “Weather Underground”
In other cases, that was not true. In the US, for example, we had the “Weather Underground” in the 1970s. They were a left wing group opposed to the Vietnam War and they carried out a series of bombings. While most others campaigned openly against the war, this group had to act in complete secrecy.
Political Assassinations in Russia Today
To return to the assassination of Dugina: If it was some left opposition to Putin, the question is whether they can do any sort of anti-war agitation at all. For example, most of the recruits to fight in Ukraine seem to be coming from some of the national minority groups in Russia. That is mainly because poverty is greater among them and some young men are allegedly joining for the money. Is it possible to do any sort of semi-open agitation among these potential recruits? In fact, is it possible to join and agitate for troop rebellion within the Russian military?
Obviously, we here in the United States don’t have enough information to answer those questions clearly. But if it is possible, then this would likely be more effective than assassinating one or two top people in and around the regime. And if a group is going to carry out such assassinations, then it must not do anything to attract attention to itself. It must not say anything openly that even hints at opposition to the invasion.
Nor is this issue confined to Russia alone. A New York Times article reports on “partisan” activity against the invasion within Ukraine. “They sneak down darkened alleys to set explosives. They identify Russian targets for Ukrainian artillery and long-range rockets provided by the United States. They blow up rail lines and assassinate officials they consider collaborators with the Russians. Slipping back and forth across the front lines, the guerrilla fighters are known in Ukraine as partisans, and in recent weeks they have taken an ever more prominent role in the war…” the Times writes.
There is a danger here in that, according to the article, some if not most of these partisans are right wing members of the Azov brigade. In the future, Azov may use these methods against any independent organizing by the Ukrainian working class. However, these methods are necessary under the present conditions. The question is which class will control the actions and will those actions increase the will and the understanding of the working class or will it accomplish the opposite?
That is the question of the hour for violence, including sabotage and similar actions in general. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. We should note, however, that in many cases of similar assassinations (or sabotage) it’s impossible to know if far left or far right sources committed the act. That seems to be true in this case and that, in itself, should tell us a lot.