Ukraine: Mariupol workers refuse to surrender to occupiers

Interview with Docker, activist from Mariupol, on the eve of the September 10 strike.

Greetings comrade Docker. On behalf of the comrades of the International Socialist League and the Ukrainian Socialist League, I would like to convey words of admiration for the courage of the underground resistance in Mariupol. We are especially pleased and it is important that socialist and left anti-capitalist activists play an active role in this situation. In conditions of occupation by the Russian army and repression by the Russian special services, we socialists of the world admire your courage.

I would like to ask you some questions that will be of interest to our readers.

1. Tell us a little about how the resistance works in Mariupol, what are the main forms and methods of struggle? Are the inhabitants of occupied Mariupol involved in the struggle?

According to the collective decision of the council of our organization, I have no right to disclose the methods and mechanisms of work of our partisans. Except those that the Ukrainian authorities announce publicly. Public announcements are well known to all of you, from “bavovna” 1 to more local actions (poisoning of collaborators and occupants, burning of military bases of the occupants, attacks on soldiers-occupants, reconnaissance…). In conclusion, the question is probably rhetorical. We killed the occupiers and will continue to do so.

Although, of course, this is not our entire struggle. We also carry out forms of peaceful resistance, such as sabotage and boycott. We appeal to ordinary Ukrainian citizens in the occupied territory precisely for mass peaceful actions. I just feel that what I do for my hometown, Mariupol, and for our country is not enough. I want to do more.

2.  Tell us about your personal story – how did you end up in the resistance, did you manage to leave the city at the beginning of the war, what did you see during the defense of Mariupol and its subsequent occupation by Russian troops?

Every resistance activist in Mariupol is a partisan, I have no right to reveal personal stories, nor to feel pangs of conscience for talking about something unnecessary that harms my comrades. Therefore, whether I was leaked or went into hiding, whether I was in Mariupol or traveled out of town is not so important now. However, I can say that there are many people from the Ukrainian resistance in Russia and in the occupied territories. Among them are not only my comrades from Mariupol. There are many other Ukrainians and even Russians. Moreover, the number of such people is increasing.

In Mariupol I literally observed a real genocide. How the residents of the city, at the will of the Russian occupiers, died without food and medicine. Plus the deaths by shells and bullets.

3. Mariupol is a proletarian city with a huge segment of the working class with giant metallurgical enterprises. You became a left-wing activist even before the war. You are a socialist and anarcho-communist. Did you have a left-wing political group in Mariupol before the war? Are there links with the independent labor and trade union movement in the city?

I cannot talk about my political views in detail, because it is a bright sign for my identification. For sure I can say one thing, if I were a well-known Ukrainian left-wing activist, I would not have lived long. And if I were a known right-winger, I would have died even faster.

After the occupation, well-known activists and public figures were among the first people the Russians sought out. Moreover, these people, almost all of them, were liquidated. According to reports from close associates, during the so-called “filtration measures” people critical of the Russian Federation simply disappeared and no one saw them again. And these people were not even social activists.

In the resistance there are people with diverse opinions, including leftists. Our underground organization has not yet established a close connection with the independent labor and trade union movement in Mariupol. In any case, I have not heard of such a thing. In Mariupol absolutely everything was under the command of Akhmetov 2. In fact, there were no independent trade unions. Moreover, probably after the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works 3 was “squeezed out” from the “red director” Boyko 4, there was no information about any level of workers’ self-organization.

4.  The Mariupol resistance has become famous thanks to the call of the Mariupol workers for a mass strike on September 10, the day of the fake elections in the city, in protest against the non-payment of wages by the occupiers. Tell us how this idea came about and how it will be carried out.

This idea did not actually “appear”. We live without wages, people in the city are starving. They went on strike spontaneously even without us calling. In the underground resistance we thought: why not propose and, if possible, orient the strike and achieve something? To make life difficult for the occupier and to choose the right of our people to live. It is certain that the strike will eclipse the false elections, if not help to disrupt them.

What will be the consequences of the strike? Well, the occupiers’ businesses will be greatly affected. I have said before that, in fact, industrial actions are already taking place in our city. Mostly, as acts of sabotage. And they are going to get worse for them.

Will we be able to get our right to wages and our right to life? Will we be able to persuade the occupier to stop the lawlessness against the population of the city? We shall see. But I am convinced that their business and their plans will definitely be affected. It will also have a very negative effect on the morale of the occupiers.

Perhaps the logistics of the occupiers will also suffer. After all, we are also calling a strike of gas station attendants and car repairmen. It is quite possible that the occupiers will face a shortage of fuel and serviceable vehicles, which could directly affect military operations.

The administration officials in the occupied city are usually all locals. They live in this mess and many of them are thinking of returning to the Ukrainian side. Of course, as agents to avoid criminal prosecution for collaboration with the occupier. The upcoming problems in the municipal economy only push them to it.

5.  Your consistent struggle to link the national liberation struggle of the Ukrainian people against the Russian invaders with the social struggle of the Ukrainian workers against capitalism and social injustice is a matter of great respect. Obviously, this connection should become a leitmotif for the formation of a future left movement in Ukraine. Although a bit ahead of schedule, how do you see this process? What urgent problems and tasks will Ukrainian anti-capitalist activists face in the very near future?

I can’t say anything concrete yet, unfortunately, but it all sounds very good. I think I would approve of such processes and movements after the war, since we are already using such “leftist” forms and methods of struggle against the occupier as strikes. Otherwise it would be hypocrisy.

Yes, I will not hide my deep sympathy for the left, for the workers and intellectuals. I hope that our underground organization will develop even more strongly. I would be glad to see the emergence of trade unions independent of the bosses all over Ukraine. I would be glad to see the emergence, at last, of a really good “Labor Code” for the workers of Ukraine.  And many people in our organization share this view.

The radical right-wing hydra irritates me and I do not accept people from that milieu, even if some of them have stood up to Russian imperialist aggression. For my part, I will never support any advocate of corruption, social inequality and lawlessness. Supporters of violence against people have always irritated me.

Thank you very much, comrade Docker for this interview. A great number of socialists and left-wing activists from many countries of the world and from many continents of the planet will become familiar with it. I am convinced that this information about the heroic struggle of the Mariupol resistance is very important for the international proletarian solidarity. Victory for us! One for all!

Interviewed by Oleg Vernyk


1 “Bavovna”: in Ukrainian means cotton, but changing the accentuation, it refers to an explosion in Russia.

2 Rinat Akhmetov: Ukrainian billionaire oligarch.

3: Ilyich Mariupol Metallurgical Combine (IMMC) steel plant.

4 Volodymyr Boyko: late director of IMMC.