Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 9, 2018

A Sniper’s War

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film,Kevin Coogan,Ukraine — louisproyect @ 5:48 pm

COUNTERPUNCH, February 9, 2018

“A Sniper’s War” just premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and will next be seen at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana on February 23rd. Although I doubt that many of my readers will be in Missoula for the festival—or for any other purpose—I still want to call attention to a film that should eventually and hopefully make it into theatrical distribution before too long. This is a first-time work by a young filmmaker that shows remarkable courage, talent and perseverance in painting a portrait of a Serb volunteer who came to the Donetsk People’s Republic to defend his socialist beliefs. Whether or not those beliefs were grounded in reality is not really a question the film sought to answer. Director Olya Schechter simply wanted to tell the story of a man nicknamed Deki who was poised on the razor’s edge between duty to a higher cause and murder.

Early on in her powerful documentary, we see Deki showing photographs on his smart phone of the devastation wrought by NATO in Belgrade. There are bombed out buildings that by any definition were the result of war crimes. Behind him on the wall is a banner from the former Soviet Union of a hammer and sickle poised above a red star. Later on, we hear him and fellow separatist fighters mourning over the loss of Communism that they blame on NATO and Western imperialism. Deki is nostalgic for a system that provided free health care and education in Yugoslavia, as the militia members nod in agreement. The men are not ultra-nationalist special forces “volunteers” hoping to reabsorb the whole of Ukraine into a new Russian empire. Instead, they are the salt of the earth of Eastern Ukraine: middle-aged schoolteachers and coal miners.

Continue reading


  1. I like that phrase, poised on the razor’s edge between duty to a hight cause and murder. Who in their right mind would volunteer for such a position in a conventional army? Those who only have a right mind. Yet those who do such a thing for say the Red Army Faction, or the Irish Republican Army, or the FARC have to be a least one tenth of one percent more sane than those who serve in a conventional army. Maybe even a whole one percent more sane.
    I saw part of a documentary today on German TV today about a man who was born in Germany in 1926 under the name Winfried Müller. He eventually ended up working for the Algerian Independence Forces in the Algerian War of the 1950s. He went by many aliases. The name that he died with was Si Mustafa Müller. The most important thing that he did was to run a program that convinced around 4,000 members of the French Foriegn Legion to desert the Legion during the Algerian War of Independence. Almost 3,000 of these were German speaking Legionaires. His organization then assisted these desserters to return to their homelands.
    He survived a number of assassination attempts on his life carried out by the French Secret Services. The only links that I found about him were in German so I have none to attach here.
    I mention his story as an example of someone doing good work in a non violent way. If I could have had even 2% of the success that he had I would consider myself blessed. But if there had not been people killing and dieing in a violent way he would not have had the opportunity to convince thousands to turn their back on imperialism, as he would not have had a relatively safe haven to operate from. I mention that to offset what I said earlier about snipers being insane. Anyways is not the fact that they were raised on planet earth, a virtual insane asylum, literally, not a mitigating factor to their insanity?

    Comment by Curt Kastens — February 10, 2018 @ 10:35 pm

  2. If these ‘salt of the earth’ types were asked what happened to MH17 , what would they say? No good can come of fighters who follow Putinist scripts. Russia invaded Ukraine. A Serb mercenary is there for some reason but it isnt for his ‘socialist beliefs’. Its probably more to do with great Russian/Serb chauvinism.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — February 11, 2018 @ 2:34 pm

  3. Si Mustafa Muller happened to be the son of Heinrich “Gestapo” Muller, the mysterious figure who played such an important role in the Third Reich and who vanished after World War II.

    The French Foreign Legion was filled with ex-Nazi and Wehrmacht types. (They were very much involved as well in the fighting in Vietnam for the French.) The French Secret Service set up an operation called “The Red Hand” to carry out targeted assassinations of German weapons dealers to the FLN. The French felt the BND was giving them a pass. Si Mustafa would have been most likely targeted by the Red Hand. The Red Hand network, or at least part of it (or so I would imagine) later most likely played a role in the OAS.

    In any event, I suspect Si Mustafa was preaching to the Old Kameraden with remarkable success. After all, were not the Jews backing the French?

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — February 11, 2018 @ 9:16 pm

  4. Dear Hedgehog,
    You have the family tree totally wrong according to the documentary that I saw. According to a Vienna Austria Newspaper article from June of 2012, he was born in Wiesbaden to a Jewish forest worker by the name of Kurt Willie Müller and a Christian high school teacher by the name of Lotte Neelson. It further stated that after Hitler took power the parents divorced and the mother went with her son to live in Obertsdorf. He was arrested by the Gestapo for listening to the BBC in 1943 but that he created doubt in their minds by blaming it on someone else in the family that he was staying with. He was none the less sent in to the military. But, he deserted and made his way through the front lines to join up with Russian forces and was assigned to one of the units of communist German defectors that fought with the Russians.
    Things went good for a few years. He worked for socialists in Austria and then communists back in Wiesbaden until he was accused of being a Tito symphathizer in 1948 while in east Germany. He was then aledgeldly kicked out of the east in to west Germany where he was arrested by the Americans as a commy spy. The CiA tried to turn him. Did they have success? During the period of the early 50s it was hard to tell who he was working for. Anyways by 1954 he took a job with UNESCO in Paris at the behest of the CIA.
    Then the article says somethiing that is quite confusing. It says in accordance with the wishes of his “contractor” he made contact with the FLN. So who was the contractor? Was it the CIA or UNESCO?! If it was the CIA was he working as a CIA agent or a CIA double agent? In either case in 1956 the FLN asked him to translate between them and some German speaking Legionaires. From that work sprang the idea of creating a program to encourage members of the Legion to desert, especially German speaking members.
    The program was so successful that he was promoted to the rank of Major in the FLN. Immediately after independence was achieved he got a job in the Algerian government. But that is not the end of the story. He got mixed up in the internal power struggles of the area and his star fell and rose several times. The french secret service also tried to assassinate him. Did they fail because Mustafa was lucky? Or, did they fail because they were supposed to fail because the CIA wanted to keep him alive?
    It would be absurd that the son of a jewish father would have any symühathy for Nazis. On the other hand his expierence with Stalinism could have turned him to a committed CIA agent.
    On the other hand I am not comfortable with attacking someone’s charachter as a freedom fighter based on no evidence. WE KNOW that he did a good job for the FLN. We do not know that he did a good job for the CIA though we could certianly wonder about that. We could even wonder if the joke was on the CIA because what they thought was a loyal asset was actually fooling them the whole time.
    His life is certainly a very interesting and inspiring story. At the absolute minimum as a young person he took the huge risk of deserting his unit and defecting to the Russians in wartime.
    For that he certianly deserves our gratitude. Later in life he might have done things that any one of us might have been disappointed by. But he had to make the decisions that he did based on his experiences not any of ours.
    Best wishes from (near) Wiesbaden,
    Curt Kastens

    Comment by Curt Kastens — February 11, 2018 @ 10:58 pm

  5. As a footnote to the above: One reason why Angleton was bananas over the possibility that Muller was working for the Russians was that he feared that the Russians had penetrated at a high level the very old Nazi networks that the CIA embraced after World War II. One minor example of all this was the revelation that the head of General Gehlen’s BND counter-intelligence (the mirror position that Angleton held at CIA as CI head) himself turned out to be a top Soviet agent.

    One of Angleton’s close allies was Tennent “Pete” Bagley who was a top official in the Soviet/Eastern European desk at CIA. He allied with Angleton over the claim that Yuri Nosenko was a fake defector and he later wrote a really interesting book arguing this position, a view totally shunned by the CIA both then and today. Bagley was moved out of Soviet intelligence and made CIA station chief in Brussels where he was allowed to retire after wrecking his career by allying with Angleton over Nosenko.

    At the end of his life, Bagley got the Gestapo Muller bug and in his last book he included a chapter reportedly based on interviews with a former head of Czech intelligence (or one branch of it) where the guy said that Muller was working for the Soviets. But the chapter is so superficially documented it reads more like a story in the New York Post. That a well-educated guy like Bagley could write that chapter is astonishing in itself.

    But it illustrates the intensity of the fear by Angleton and others that the Russians caught out the CIA in yet another “Trust” type penetration operation only this time using “ex” Nazis like Bormann and Muller. Of course, the CIA prided itself on using ex-Nazis both directly and in services like the BND and if this were the case, it would have been shattering to CIA morale. So it’s even possible that there was no penetration and the Russians themselves concocted the story of a “notional” penetration to sow paranoia inside the CIA just for the fun of it.

    It’s even possible that the Russians are doing something similar today with Trump by even leaking fake documents to convince the CIA that Trump was allied with the Russians while on the other hand sending out other trails undercutting those very same claims.

    In any case, the Muller saga is one of those great Cold War Le Carre-style mysteries. If/how/why Si Mustafa fits into any of this is anyone’s guess. The CIA is one of those nutty agencies that has so many secrets that it has to conceal that even its own officers don’t have clues about what they actually were doing for the last 50 years on the black operations side of things because so much of it was hidden to its own historians. The Russians know a good deal about it but the CIA’s own people have not a clue. This is one reason why they have such a hard time today.

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — February 12, 2018 @ 6:52 am

  6. Hi Curt,

    One of my posts got lost in the wash so here ‘s the main post of which #5 was just an addition. In reality #5 should be post #6 because my earlier post didn’t go through. That said, here is the shorter version of it:

    There was a famous German-Jewish left journalist named Jurgen Corleis.


    Here’s his Wiki


    Corleis helped co-found Hamburg’s famous leftist journal konkret. For konkret, he covered the Algerian war in the late 1950s. His first stop was Morocco where he hooked up with Si Mustafa. Corleis writes about this in his memoir Always on the Other Side. You can search it here:


    The source that Si Mustafa is Gestapo Muller’s son is none other than Si Mustafa.

    Si Mustafa told this to Corleis. (page 141.) Corleis then says that it sounded incredible to him but it turned out it was true. So that’s the “no evidence” evidence.

    Also it is hard for me to believe that Si Mustafa convinced so many ex-SS, Waffen-SS, and Wehrmacht soldiers who just spent years fighting for the Foreign Legion against the Vietnamese communists to suddenly developed class consciousness and left the Foreign Legion because Si Mustafa convinced them using some leftist arguments.

    There was a network of post-war Nazi Arabists who supplied the FLN while the BND looked the other way. One famous guy involved in the financing of the FLN was a fellow from Switzerland named Francois Genoud, whom you can google yourself. Countless others come to mind including Johann von Leers in Egypt for starters.

    In any case, the French developed the Red Hand assassination network because they felt they were not being backed by the BND. But was this in part because the BND itself was told to ease off by the CIA, the same CIA who pulled the rug out from the French, Brits, and Israelis during the Suez Crisis?

    Now it’s possible that Si Mustafa LIED about being the son of Muller and his real father was Jewish. konkret did get STASI financing and maybe there was some weird Soviet bloc attempt to give him a right cover in Morocco to aid the FLN. But he must have been a very good liar because he clearly convinced many battle-tested Germans of his bona fides.

    He told Corleis that he hooked up with the FLN in Paris which also seems in line with your report from the Vienna paper. His connection seems to have been Mohamed Khemisti.


    Did he do this on the CIA payroll?

    (The CIA was doing a lot of weird things in those days including trying to keep Frantz Fanon alive.)

    This would mean that the CIA had on its payroll a guy who really was the son of Gestapo Muller or a guy who was pretending to be the son of Gestapo Muller. But if he were faking it, wouldn’t it have been easy for some agency like SDECE to expose him as a Jewish liar and thus sow division inside the FLN as well as the postwar version of the Afrika Korps?

    Anyway, as I’m keeping this short, I will end it here with the thought that this story is by no means as clear cut as presented in that paper. But one thing seems obvious: He was either Gestapo Muller’s son or somebody who created an elaborate legend that he was Muller’s son (but for what reason) when in reality his father was Jewish.

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — February 12, 2018 @ 12:06 pm

  7. There is believe it or not an alleged Trotskyist connection to Si Mustafa (Si Mustapha).

    There is a book called West Germany, Cold War Europe and Algeria by Matilde von Bulow. In it, she makes clear the origin of the other Si Mustapha story about his Jewish background. It comes straight out of an interview Winfried Muller gave to Der Spiegel on 2 September 1959. In 2006 a German academic publication called Comparativ ran an article on him so I’m guessing that Bulow may have used the 2006 article that was based on Muller’s 1959 interview in Spiegel. In that 1959 article as summarized by Bulow on pages 116-17 of her book, Muller did claim not only that he was Jewish but that he was a Trotskyist. He said he was kicked out of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany after he was accused of being a Trotskyist.

    He said that in 1955, while living in Paris, his Trotskyist friends (Pablo?) put him into contact with the FLN. He then became a courier for the FLN as did other Trotskyists. Fearing arrest, he then fled to Morocco. He then decided to convert to Islam and he became Si Mustapha/Si Mustafa. He then recruited two aspiring German journalists, one in Hamburg and one in Berlin, to work with him to discredit the Foreign Legion and try to convince Germans to leave it. Von Bulow says that while the claim that they got 4,000 Germans to leave the Foreign Legion was a fantasy, they did have a real impact on some Germans inside the Legion.

    So the question is whether or not when Muller/Mustafa gave his interview to Der Spiegel was he lying about his background to make him look acceptable to German postwar public opinion and to appeal to left neutralism? Or was he lying when he later met Corleis and told him that he was Gestapo Muller’s son a year later. Recall that Corleis actually met him in Morocco and he may have really questioned him on his murky background and Si Mustafa simply admitted to Corleis his real identity and not the one he concocted for Spiegel. Or, again, he may have been telling the truth to Spiegel and lied to Corleis and Corleis fell for it.

    But the next obvious question would be why did Mullter make up one story for Spiegel and another directly opposite one when Corleis met him in Morocco? Corleis most likely would have known the Spiegel interview before he left Germany for Morocco or if the Corleis story came first, why did Muller change lanes.

    In any case, the Vienna 2012 story seems to be based on the 1959 interview most likely as filtered via the 2006 academic article.

    For me the other big question is whether or not Corleis suppressed the story in 1959 not to hurt the FLN but only told it in his memoir decades later when he was a very old man. Or did he as an old man make up such a fantastic tale?

    My own sense is that Corleis was telling the truth when he wrote that Si Mustafa said what he said about his real father but it’s impossible to know for sure.

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — February 12, 2018 @ 12:39 pm

  8. One of my posts got lost in the wash

    Hedgehog, this probably was the result of it being treated as spam since it had 4 links. Anything more than 3 gets handled as spam. I am going to see if I can change that parameter to 6.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 12, 2018 @ 12:53 pm

  9. Thanks for the explanation.

    I’m trying to track down the Comparativ article and if it adds new stuff, I can add another updated note as well.

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — February 12, 2018 @ 1:04 pm

  10. As might be expected, the saga of Winfried Muller gets more and more weird.

    Turns out that Klaus Polkehn, the author of “Die Mission des Si Mustapha – ein Deutscher kämpft für Algerien” in the second issue of the 2006 volume of Comparativ, was no academic. He was a leading figure for decades in the East Berlin paper Wochenpost and he became an “Arabist” who wrote extensively on Middle East matters (including a book on the collaboration of Zionism and fascism, etc.)

    Polkehn knew Si Mustapha very well and visited him in Algeria, Berlin, and Morocco. Yet for his partial history of Si Mustapha (SM from now on) a/k/a Winfried Muller he draws heavily on book by a well-known West German academic named Claus Leggewie and his book Kofferträger. Das Aigerien-Projekt der Linken im AdenauerDeutschland, Berlin 1984, for key background on SM. But Leggewie himself stresses that we know little about what SM was up to.

    For example, Leggwie says SM was born in Wiesbaden in 1926. But was SM’s father really Jewish as he apparently claimed? Turns out no one knows for sure. From Leggewie:

    “Winfried Müller wurde 1926 in Wiesbaden geboren, sein Vater war angeblich Jude, aber schon diese Feststellung ist umstritten. Leggewie schrieb, der jüdische Vater sei “während der NS-Zeit an einen unbekannten Aufenthaltsort verschwunden; ob seine Eltern im Widerstandgearbeitet haben, lässt sich heute nicht mehr rekonstmieren”.

    In short no one knows anything about his real father.

    Yet Polkehn has to cite Leggewie rather than his own conversations with SM.

    In any case, SM and his mother relocated the Austrian Tirol in 1941. (Not too far from Hitler’s retreat one might imagine.) Supposedly under the influence of his neighbors who were Austrian monarchists, he became anti-Nazi. (So before that he was pro-Nazi?) He began listening the the BBC but was denounced by a neighbor and got in trouble. The Innsbruck Gestapo gave the 16-year old a hard time and a year later he was arrested for putting up anti-Nazi posters and wound up in Mauthausen. A kindly SS man helped him out and prevented him from being sent in a punishment battalion to the East Front.

    (Again, keep in mind that the source for all this is what SM told people.)

    SM then organizes more resistance and is scheduled to be shot but he flees to the Russian lines where he encounters the National Committee for a Free Germany, which is backed by the Soviets. Again for this background, Polkehn cites Leggewie’s book and not his personal conversations. He does add that SM’s accent when he spoke to him had something of an Austrian undertone and his knowledge of the Tirol (Tyrol) was excellent.

    In 1949 SM reportedly returns from the USSR to Austria. The Austrian CP sends him immediately to the SED cadre school in Berlin in Klein-Machnow near Berlin. Here he takes the name “Winfried Mauser.” He participated in a film under that name.

    Leggwie, however, says that SM was a member of “Groupe Ulbricht” and was sent to Austria but then relocated to Wiesbaden in the West. At that time it was still legal to have the FDJ Verband operate in the West. Then from the Verband, he was sent to Klein-Machnow.

    Whatever the case, he wound up in Klein-Machnow. Everyone agrees at least on this. There is no doubt that he had intimate knowledge of the milieu of SED leaders.

    No one knows when SM went into West Berlin. Leggwie says that he was a defender of those persecuted under Stalin and he was an idealist and got kicked out of the SED for a Titoist orientation. SM, however, told Polkehn an entirely different version of events. He was walking and discovered a badly injured bird. He took the bird home and nursed it back to health. He paid much more attention to the bird than to studying the collected works of J.V. Stalin.

    In any case he wound up saying something wrong at a Party meeting that convinced SM to leave Klein-Machnow and head for West Berlin.

    Leggwie writes that in West Berlin between 1949 and 1953 little is known of SM’s actions. He seems, however, to have been pulled into the spy demi-world. The Frankfurter Rundshau interviewed him in July 1960. SM said during this period he worked in Berlin for anti-communist groups under the name “Michael Muller-Samson.” Polkehn writes that SM told him that he worked with a CIA and/or military backed famous anti-communist group at the time and was very close to its once famous leader Rainer Hildenbrandt:

    “Mir hat Mustapha von seiner Mitwirkung in der “Kampfgruppe gegen Unmenschlichkeit”, einer von USA-Geheimdiensten geförderten und finanzierten antikommunistischen Untergrundorganisation, erzählt und von seiner engen Bekanntschaft mit deren Gründer und Leiter Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt.”

    He said that his experience in the world of espionage helped prepare him for his work in Algeria.

    After getting married and having a son, SM now became involved in the independent Left and Trotskyist groups in particular. From the circle of the
    “Splittergruppe Unabhängige Arbeiterpartei, bewegte sich im Umkreis der trotzkistischen Bewegung. Durch sie kam er 1955 in Paris in Kontakt zur algerischen Nationalen Befreiungsfront (FLN).”

    Here he became involved in dangerous courier work for the FLN until in the fall of 1956 the FLN moves him to Morocco. Because he knew German, he now worked as an interpreter for the FLN for German Foreign Legion types who were FLN prisoners. That launches him on his anti-Foreign Legion crusade. By October 1956 he declares he has converted to Islam and he now takes the name Mustapha Muller. (“Si” is the equivalent of “Heer.”)

    The rest of the article is too much to summarize here. But SM develops ties to the West German left and demands that the Adenauer government stop supporting France. The US had a very ambivalent view of Algeria. One the one hand France was an ally; on the other it was oil-rich. For example, the US was very upset by a French air strike in February on a border town in Tunisia and tried to insert itself into the crisis as a “mediator.”
    In the middle of all the Algerian conflict, SM gets very favorable coverage in various West German journals including Spiegel.

    “Nun sicherte er sich die Unterstützung bekannter westdeutscher Journalisten, darunter Bernt Engelmann und Gert von Paczensky. Dank solcher Kontakte berichtete das Nachrichtenmagazin “Der Spiegel,, und gab ihm später die Möglichkeit, selbst ausführlich in einem langen Artikel Anliegen und Methoden – natürlich nicht alle – des Rückfuhrungsdienstes darzulegen.”

    (The Ruckfuhringsdienst was to repatriate Germans out of the Foreign Legion.)

    In September 1959, SM even holds a press conference in Aachen. Meanwhile the French are out to kill him via the Red Hand. He was almost killed in March 1960. And later he was almost killed by a French mail bomb in Morocco.

    As for East Germany, SM had strong contacts there as well. The Wochenpost that Polkhein worked for gave his efforts strong support and publicity. His stuff was used by East German radio (RBI) that reached the Middle East. Still, he made the DDR leadership nervous. In 1960 SM came to East Berlin as part of an FLN delegation. When Algeria obtained independence, his operations were folded into Algerian intelligence. He got caught up in the clan and intelligence wars in Algeria but survived and died in the Sahara in a national park in 1993. For most of his life in Algeria he was concerned with tourism, developing the ski industry, protecting animals and developing parks.

    In short, his life remains utterly murky and that includes the question of his real father.

    Now for some reason, yet another famous leftist journalist, Corleis decides to publish in HIS memoir his own discussions with SM in Morocco and Corleis claims that SM told him he was the son of Gestapo Muller. Did Corleis sit on this information until the Polkehn article? Did the Polkehn article influence Corleis? Was Corleis lying? Was SM lying?

    One thing is true: the saga of Si Mustafa remains very mysterious. On that point, Polkehn, Corleis and Leggwie all agree.

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — February 12, 2018 @ 7:24 pm

  11. There is one reason that I do have to say that the story of SM’s father being Jewish sounds somewhat fishy. The Gesapo had quite good records about who had any Jewsih ancestory. The Gestapo questioned SM supposedly because he had listened to the BBC. I find it hard to believe that if he had had a Jewish father that the Gestapo wouid not have known about it. Really he should not have even lived long enough to listen to BBC because I bet most half Jewish boys his age were being worked to death somewhere in the Reich by 1943. But because so much about the past is unknown I keep in mind that there could be an explination of why the Gestapo in Austria or Bavaria did not know even though the Gestapo in Wiesbaden or somewhere else did.
    But if he was lying about having a Jewish father which really would not have been neccessary. He story could of after all just as easily have been, my parents got divorced in 1934 or 35 or 36 and my mother moved to the south and took me with her. But adding in a Jewish father would be a detail that would show an attempt to cover something up that you really would not want people to question. In this case any symphathy for the Nazis. Historians might not even be able to discover the truth because I doubt that it would have been difficult for the Gestapo to insert fake records at any Wiesbaden institution where records would have been kept that would have clarifeid his past.
    On the other (red) hand a son is not his father. Even if he had been the son of a Gestapo man he still could have been a committed anti facist. If his father was the Gestapo man, his father might have been a mysoginistic wife beater who set an example that his son wished to rebel against. Therefore I will remember SM as an idealistic and competent, anti facist, anti imperialist, socialist, freedom fighter.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — February 13, 2018 @ 12:14 am

  12. He may well have been an idealistic good guy although I’m not personally ready to make that call myself. But someone really should do a more in-depth study of him both before, during, and after Algeria achieved independence.

    Comment by Hylozoic Hedgehog — February 13, 2018 @ 3:14 am

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