Discussion in the press is taking place over the draft of a constitution of the Donetsk People’s Republic. After analysing the text of this document, the lawyer and activist of [the Russian left organisation] ROT-Front, Mikhail Balbus, shared his thoughts with Rabkor.
“Judging from the way the normative material is drawn up, the juridical methods and the content, the basis employed was the 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation that is in force at present. Many of the provisions were obviously copied without any particular thought being given to them, especially the fifth article that sets out property rights. I have the impression that this document is still going to be reworked, so any criticism here is extremely important.”
Among the first to criticise the draft constitution were activists of the [Ukrainian left] alliance Borotba Union (“Struggle”).
“The Borotba alliance protests categorically against the establishing of a state religion in a republic founded by the people. We insist that the constitution of the Donetsk People’s Republic should include norms of freedom of conscience and religion, and should provide for separation of the church and state and for separation of schools from the church. This democratic norm represents the outcome of struggle by many generations of our forebears against reactionary clerical regimes. It was incorporated in the laws of the Donetsk-Krivoy-Rog Republic, which the DPR regards as its ancestor, and also in the constitutions of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the USSR.
“We consider that a state founded by the people should not give its backing to the cause of clerical elements and compel the population to embrace a particular religion.
“We find further cause for concern in the fact that the draft constitution provides for the equality of all forms of property, and that when these forms are listed, private property is assigned first place. Does it not flow from the experience of our struggle that it is precisely large-scale private property (oligarchy) that has brought our country to catastrophe and collapse? Was it not the largest owners of private property who financed and organised the neo-Nazi gangs and other formations that are now terrorising the south-east?
“In our view, priority in the new states should be given to state property under the control of workers and the people. Only the dominant role of people’s property in the economy can prevent the emergence of a parasitic oligarchy.
“The Donetsk People’s Republic should in fact become a social state. Otherwise, it will be merely a second edition of Ukraine as we have known it since 1991, except with Russian nationalism substituted for Ukrainian. The Borotba alliance calls on the DPR not to aid the cause of conservative clerical forces supported by a minority of the population. This road leads into a dead-end; it is a road to defeat.”
One of the activists of the DPR resistance movement, going under the name of Viktor, notes that this is by no means the only draft constitution. “Four drafts for a constitution have been presented. One is a variant of the Crimean constitution, and one is ‘red’, with no private property envisaged except on a small scale. The two others, roughly speaking, are somewhere in between. Since there’s now a significant political struggle underway, an individual who describes himself as the boss of the Donbass has entered the ring, and there’s been a danger that the protest will be diverted in his direction.
On the basis that the inhabitants of the Donbass want to join Russia, a variant closer to the Russian one has been adopted. Naturally, as a ‘red’ I find this variant repellent, but since there isn’t yet the strength to resist the oligarchy, and the Russian Federation hasn’t yet stated definitely that it won’t admit us, in current circumstances I regard this version as acceptable. If the Russian Federation replies with a definite ‘no’, then the question of our survival will hang on the nationalisation of at least the large enterprises. In thosecircumstances the draft constitution will be reviewed.”
Boris Kagarlitsky, director of the Institute of Globalisation and Social Movements (IGSO), has commented on the debates surrounding the constitution. “My comment here is that the revolutionary process is still in its very early stages. Everything is still going to change repeatedly. New people, brought to the forefront by the logic and development of the struggle, will appear in the leadership of the republic. But it’s very important that the ideology and views of these people should be progressive, democratic and left-wing. This will depend in no small degree on the contribution that the Russian and Ukrainian left make to the development of the process.”
Another IGSO associate, Ivan Shchegolev, who has already raised the issue of the clericalisation of Russian society more than once in his articles, adds, “Idealisation of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is part of the idealisation of Russia that characterises many leaders of the resistance in south-eastern Ukraine. They need to realise that the Orthodox Church in Russia is not only a reactionary institution that cultivates obscurantism, pseudo-science and chauvinism, but also a large oligarchic business structure. The fact that ordinary priests might be unselfish and might even have progressive views means nothing.
“In any case, the Orthodox Church will unfortunately never be able to play the same kind of progressive, liberating role as the theology of liberation in Latin America. I hope that the ninth article of the draft constitution of the DPR was included in the text more from thoughtlessness than from conviction.”