The spectre of social unrest is haunting Putin’s Russia

December 17, 2014

On Russia’s “Black Tuesday” yesterday (16 December), the Central Bank tried to stop the ruble’s value falling by hiking interest rates. It didn’t work. The bankers and corporations panicked; the ruble kept falling. It has now lost half its value in six months. The main cause is the falling price of oil, on which the Russian economy is heavily dependent.

Now Russian people are likely to pay the price, with inflation, unemployment and falling living standards. More than at any time since president Vladimir Putin became the Moscow elite’s dominant figure 15 years ago, he is likely to face a population troubled by serious economic hardship.

Putin’s government has shown that, to deal with social unrest, it is prepared to use tools ranging from

moscow demo

“Doctors good – government bad”. Socialists on the Moscow demonstration against health service cuts last month. Photo: www,openleft.ru

beatings and jailings (used against the Bolotnaya anti-government marches in Moscow in 2012) to incitement of military conflict that wrecks cities and divides communities (used in response to the protests and overthrow of government in Ukraine).

Here are some points that might contribute to an analysis.

Q. What are the underlying causes of Russia’s economic problem?

A. Russia has become a subordinate player in the world economy, relying overwhelmingly on the export of oil, gas and metals. During the oil boom of 2002-08, numerous plans to diversify the economy away from these export commodities were drawn up, but none were successfully implemented. So Russia emerged from the boom more dependent on these exports than ever. In 2012, the energy sector (oil, gas, coal and power) Read the rest of this entry »


Zhanaozen: the unknown tragedy

December 15, 2014

To commemorate the third anniversary of the Zhanaozen killings of 16 December 2011 – when Kazakh police opened fire on oil workers

Police advancing on demonstrators, Zhanaozen, 16 December 2011

Police advancing on demonstrators, Zhanaozen, 16 December 2011

and their supporters, killing at least 16 and wounding 60 – the film Zhanaozen: the unknown tragedy (directed by Yulia Mazurova) has today been put on line.

English language version here.

Original version in Russian here.

The 30-minute documentary includes film of the police attack that the authorities wanted to hide, interviews with oil workers whose strike was ended by the massacre and scenes from the court in which activists were jailed. The film makers have asked supporters to distribute the link widely. Denis Bilunov, who worked on the film, said: “Thank you for the efforts you have made before. Since March 2013 screenings with public discussions took place in important venues: Helsinki, Berlin, Moscow, Warsaw, Kiev, Brussels, London, Geneva and Milan.”

For more on Zhanaozen and the Kazakh oil workers, see here.


Kazakh oil workers: the fight for justice goes on

December 10, 2014

The labour movement in Kazakhstan will on 16 December mark the third anniversary of the state murder of at least 17 demonstrators in 2011. The shootings, at Zhanaozen in the west of the country, put an end to a seven-month strike by several thousand oil workers.

The Zhanaozen massacre was followed by the arrest, torture and jailing of activists in 2012. The biggest strike in post-Soviet Kazakhstan’s history gave way to the harshest wave of repression.

Almost all of those jailed are now free. But trade unionists and human rights campaigners continue to

Defendants at the trial of the 37. Photo: Civic Solidarity Platform

Defendants at the trial of the 37. Photo: Civic Solidarity Platform

demand justice for those murdered and tortured, an investigation of the inhuman and illegal state repression, and the reversal of fraudulent trial verdicts.

The jail sentences, of up to six years, were handed down in June 2012, at the end of a trial of 37 oil workers and others on charges arising from the clash with the police on 16 December 2011. The judge ignored lawyers’ protests that defendants had been tortured in pre-trial detention.

Roza Tuletaeva, a union activist who received one of the longest sentences, was last year transferred from prison to an open penal colony, and last month (November 2014) released early, following an international protest campaign. Two workers from Zhanaozen – Kanat Zhusipbaev and Shabdal Utkilov – are reportedly still behind bars. Three more, from the nearby settlement of Shetpe, are presumed to be in prison and are due for release this year or next.

The multiple breaches by the state forces of human rights principles and of Kazakh law are summarised in this article by ERLAN KALIEV, a human rights activist who took part in the civil society commission formed to negotiate a settlement to the strike in November 2011, was an observer at the oil workers’ trial, and has campaigned on legal issues arising from the Zhanaozen events.

After the tragedy of 16 December 2011 in Zhanaozen the general prosecutor’s office of Kazakhstan made various declarations. For example, it was stated that “the instigators of the disorder have Read the rest of this entry »


Ukraine: war as a means of social control

October 19, 2014

In Ukraine the tumultuous social movement of last winter has been overtaken, divided, and almost silenced, by military conflict. It is a sobering contrast to those times in history, for example at the end of the first and

The “anti militarist coalition” on the Moscow march on 21 September. (See "about photo", below.)

The “anti militarist coalition” on the Moscow march on 21 September. (See “about photo”, below.)

second world wars, when military conflict produced social revolts. This article attempts to consider the historical parallels and what they mean for socialists.

Expressions of discontent around social issues continued to spread across Ukraine – including in the eastern regions – after the overthrow of the government Viktor Yanukovich in Kyiv in February. Some of these protests fed into the so-called “anti Maidan” movement. that actually mirrored the Maidan movement in many ways. But on both sides, corrosive nationalism took its toll. In the Read the rest of this entry »


Ukraine: truce the least bad option, but it gave space to fascists on all sides

October 19, 2014

This guest post, outlining the current political situation in Ukraine, is by DENIS from the Autonomous Workers Union of Ukraine. It is based on a talk he gave at the Anarchist Book Fair in London on 18 October

In terms of class theory, the Maidan protests [that overthrew president Viktor Yanukovych in February] can be defined as a bourgeois democratic movement. aiming at restoring the liberal political and individual rights and Read the rest of this entry »


Social protest and repression in Donbass

October 19, 2014

News about social protests is coming out of Donbass, the region controlled by separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. The protesters have faced violent repression and threats from the separatist governments whose policies they are challenging.

On 4 October, local people in Sverdlovsk (in Luhansk region, in separatist-controlled territory) protested at the headquarters of the security service of Ukraine (SBU) about the shortage of wage payments and of food, the collapse of the banking system, and against plunder and robberies by the paramilitaries. That night, protesters’ houses were attacked with hand grenades. On 5 October, the protesters went out again, demanding the Read the rest of this entry »


Scotland: fight against austerity, against established politics

October 10, 2014

People in Scotland need to organise themselves on social issues and transcend the political status quo – not join the SNP – argues CATHERINE MILLIGAN, a socialist and community activist on the Castlemilk housing scheme in Glasgow.

Where do we go from here, after the Scottish independence referendum? The essence of the “Yes” campaign, for independence, was a drive against the

demo against bedroom tax

Demonstrating against the bedroom tax, Glasgow, September 2013

status quo, against established politics. It was a fight against unfairness, inequality and poverty.

It brought to light the very undemocratic way our country is run. It created a vehicle, via the referendum, for ideas on how to change it – ideas such as the nationalisation of the banks and oil industry; the promotion of renewable energy, with wealth redistributed by the creation of jobs, for example by reinvesting into the building of houses; support for the NHS; and fairer representation of our communities in the political arena. These were some of ideas that were being advocated.

After the referendum decided against independence, why step back and advocate for the Scottish National Party (SNP)? This is a downright travesty – a road to frustration and heartache.

Those advocating a vote for the SNP lack vision, and only serve to tie the working class further into the status quo. A vote for the SNP is no way Read the rest of this entry »


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