Stop the new wave of repressions against workers in Kazakhstan!
From Vladimir Bilenkin, 26 Septeber 1999
Kazakhstan workers are waging a determined, if unequal, struggle for their human dignity against the police regime of Sultan Nazarbaev. We have received news reports about the brutal repression of recent labor protests and the regime's preparation for new repressions against labor activists.
On 20 August, the labor organizations of chemical workers in the city of Jambula (Taraza) opposed the humiliating decision of the regional governor banning their meeting within the city limits. After a battle with the riot police, two hundred workers managed to break through and have a short rally in front of the regional administration building. In response, the authorities began criminal proceedings against many activists. The chairman of the union committee of the plant "Khimprom", Chernogorov had to go in hiding. The head of the labor union Baiganov will be put on trial in mid-September. Also in the middle of the month workers disabled by their jobs in the chemical industry planned to go on an indefinite hunger strike demanding their disability checks.
On September 3, in the city of Chimkent the workers from the chemical plant "Phosphor" attempted to organize a march on Astana (the capital of Kazakhstan) after their two-month long hunger strike had failed to convince the authorities to pay many months worth of back wages. Immediately after the marchers had left the central square they were attacked and brutally beaten by a strong force of the riot police and the agents of the National Security Service (NSS). Many activists and union leaders were arrested and detained for 3-5 days. The authoritiesare now preparing severe reprisals against the chemical workers of Chimkent.
Since September 1 the workers of the Urals military plant "Metallist" have been on an indefinite strike and set up pickets around the plant gates. They have established a strike committee and a commission of workers' representatives to audit the balance sheets of the administration and its economic activities from 1997 to 1999. The workers' collective holds daily meetings which decided early on that workers should not enter the territory of the plant. They want to control and manage their enterprise. They do not allow any materiel, like non-ferrous metals, to leave the plant. The members of the strike committee are subjected to round o'clock surveillance by state agencies. The co-chairman of the strike committee Ainur Kurmanov has been summoned to the regional prosecutor to discuss his political activities.
Kazakhstan now serves as a testing ground for bourgeois regimes to develop methods of repression against those workers who refuse to die quietly. What is happening in Kazakhstan now will happen inRussia and the rest of the FSU tomorrow.
The puppet parliament has already passed, without debate, the new anti-workers labor code. This year Kazakhstan also adopted a new criminal code, containing a number of articles directed against labor activists.
Kazakhstan courts have already carried criminal trials of labor leaders. In 1997 the co-chairman of the Kazakhstan Labor Movement "Solidarity" Madel Ismailov served a one year sentence for the "defamation of the President." The first secretary of the Communist Youth League, the secretary of the western regional committee of CP Kazakhstan Ainur Kurmanov, and the League member Sergei Kolokolov, were all sentenced to one year of imprisonment (suspended). The latter died soon after his imprisonment because he was denied medical help while in custody. Only thanks to the powerful international protests of foreign labor organizations, Nazarbaev's court did not dare to prosecute these comrades for "organizing a criminal group," "involving children in criminal activities," and "terrorism."
The harshness of the state repressions can be explained by the fact that while privatization was conducted very fast in Kazakhstan, labor collectives had not yet been destroyed, as they were in Russia. As a result, in 1993-1994 Kazakhstan workers were able to put up a serious and successful resistance which halted the transfer of the energy sector and a number of large industrial enterprises into the hands of foreign corporations. The workers successfully used occupational strikes and in some instances even achieved administrative control over entire cities.
The stubbornness and the scope of industrial actions last August, the swiftness and brutality of reprisals by the state are such that we need to begin immediately developing a powerful international campaign in support of Kazakhstan workers. We should not wait until their labor leaders are again thrown behind bars. WE HAVE TO ACT PREVENTATIVELY RATHER THAN REACTING TO EVENTS. And only if our protests are broad and systematic will it be possible to stop the cycle of repressions.
The present moment is fortuitous for putting international pressure on Nazarbaev=D7's regime. Kazakhstan is in the midst of the campaign for parliamentary elections and spreading information about the anti-labor repressions may have a sobering effect on the authorities.
THE WORKERS OF KAZAKHSTAN ARE NOW IN THE VANGUARD OF THE WORLD LABOR MOVEMENT BECAUSE THEY ACT UNITED , IN THEIR OWN INTERESTS, FIGHTING ON TWO FRONTS, BOTH AGAINST THEIR OWN AND FOREIGN BOURGEOISIE, NOW UNITED.
This is why we have to do our best to help our comrades in Kazakhstan. The conditions of labor struggle in Russia will depend on the outcome of their struggle.
WE ASK LABOR AND DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATIONS, ALL HONEST PEOPLE TO JOIN THE CAMPAIGN OF PROTESTS AGAINST THE NEW ROUND OF REPRESSIONS IN KAZAKHSTAN.
1. To send telegrams, letters, faxes, demanding the payment of back wages and to stop the persecutions of labor activists by law enforcement agencies in the cities of Chimkent, Dzhambul, and Uralsk to
--the President of Kazakhstan Nazarbaev
--the embassy of Kazakhstan in your country (1)
--the governors of Chimkent, Dzhambul, Uralsk
2. To disseminate the information about these repressions in the mass media
3. Set up pickets in front of Kazakhstan embassies abroad
4. Send letters of solidarity to our comrades in Kazakhstan:
Dzhambul, 484000, ul. Schuseva, dom 78, Chernogorovu, M.I.
Support the labor movement of Kazakhstan!
The Strike Committee of Samara
(1) Diplomatic representation in US:
chief of mission:
telephone: (202) 333-4504, 333-4505, 333-4506, 333-4507