The pro-capitalist regime in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan has rolled out the royal carpet for U.S. oil monopolies. The growth of U.S. investment in the Central Asian country has been accompanied by the banning of unions, strikes and picket lines and the jailing, beating and firing of labor activists.
But the regime of Nursultan Nazarbaev has been unable to crush a growing strike movement that is challenging privatization and "market reform."
According to Pyotr Khalov, a leader of the Workers Solidarity Movement (RDS), the strikers raise clear political demands: an end to privatization and the return of property to the people, political power to be in the hands of workers' soviets and the restoration of the USSR.
The financial columns of U.S. newspapers carry glowing reports of the huge profits to be made off of Kazakhstan's vast oil reserves. But the attacks on the rights of labor have been ignored by the corporate news media, which so diligently seek out "human rights violations" in countries less subservient to U.S. monopoly capital.
The regime launched its anti-labor offensive after mass demonstrations erupted across Kazakhstan March 17. That was the anniversary of the 1991 referendum in which a great majority of people in all Soviet republics voted to "preserve the Soviet Union as a socialist state," a popular mandate the Gorbachev-Yeltsin regime disregarded.
May 1 International Workers Day rallies were banned. On June 8, police commandos attacked a congress of the Workers Solidarity Movement (RDS) at a mine near the industrial center of Ust-Kamenogorsk.
The workers later reassembled in secret but the RDS was banned. RDS activists D. Danielevski, A. Medvedev and Kazakhstan Workers Movement leader Islamov were fired from their jobs and jailed repeatedly.
Medvedev, an elected deputy from Ust-Kamenogorsk, was expelled from parliament on the pretext he had met with voters from outside his district. Svintsov, a workers' leader in the Karaganda coal mines, was framed on charges of extorting money from businessmen.
Medvedev and Danielevski are strike committee leaders in Ust-Kamenogorsk and members of the All-Union Communist Party-Bolshevik (AUCP-B).
The regime banned celebrations of the Nov. 7 anniversary of the 1917 socialist revolution. On Nov. 17, police attacked a protest in the capital of Alma-Ata against the extension of Nazarbaev's term to the year 2000. After that, a new wave of arrests was launched against leaders of the RDS, the Kazakhstan Workers Movement and the labor movement Azamat.
All this is fine with the bosses at Mobil and Chevron, who dominate a consortium now building a $1.5-billion pipeline from Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil fields to a new port to be built on the Russian Black Sea. British, Italian and Russian oil companies are also involved in the deal.
Chevron alone hopes to pump 700,000 barrels of crude a day out of Tengiz by the year 2000. Incidentally, Mobil and Chevron between them have eliminated tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. during the past decade.
Capitalist restoration threatens to destroy all that was built in Kazakhstan when it was part of the USSR. While Western firms get richer off Kazakhstan's oil wealth, the republic's industrial production has dropped 44 percent since the USSR was destroyed.
Soviet-built industrial cities now stand silent, their workers left with no income. Collective and state farms have been forcibly privatized and half the country's cattle have died.
Socialism brought electrification and central heating to Kazakhstan. In mid-November, cuts in electricity, gas and telephone service led to a three-day rebellion in the city of Chimkent. Youths broke windows, older people blocked traffic and thousands took to the streets, according to news reports. Spontaneous uprisings have also broken out in Alma Ata.
All the former Soviet republics are in deep social crisis. In a Nov. 27 letter to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, Russia's Economics Minister Yevgeni Yasin warned that Russia faced the "abyss of a long depression." He said the collapse of Russia's tax base is caused not by companies refusing to pay taxes but by a massive drop in production.
The International Monetary Fund demands that Russia raise money by selling its gold reserves. A Nov. 26 poll taken by the newspaper Izvestia found that only 22 percent of Russia's workers are getting paid in full and on time. Sixteen percent are not working at all.
On Dec. 3, some 400,000 Russian coal miners walked out nationally to protest not having been paid since June.
[Messages of protest against the suppression of the labor movement in Kazakhstan should be faxed to President of the Republic Nursultan Nazarbaev at 7 327 63 76 33. Some of the information for this article was provided by the Information and Method Center of the Russian Communist Workers Party.]
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