Break the silence on Azerbaijan oil workers’ deaths

August 4, 2016

Nine months after 31 workers drowned in Azerbaijan’s worst-ever oil industry disaster, the country’s authorities have still not said a word about how it happened or what mistakes could be avoided in future.

Most of the victims were thrown into the water when a lifeboat smashed against

An improvised memorial to the victims. Photo: OWRPO site

An improvised memorial to the victims. Photo: OWRPO site

the side of production platform no. 10 at the Guneshli oil field in the Caspian sea, as they tried to escape a fire during a force 10 gale on 4 December last year.

The Oil Workers Rights Protection Organisation (OWRPO), a campaign group, says state oil company managers broke safety laws for the sake of keeping production going, and that workers did not even have life jackets on during the attempt to evacuate the platform.

State officials lied to the media and the public during the emergency, and treated oil workers’ families with contempt, the OWRPO said in a report published in February.

The government was quick to dismiss the report – but its own 14-person commission, set up to deal with the disaster’s consequences, has not breathed a Read the rest of this entry »


It’s “oil first, people second”, just like in Soviet times

August 4, 2016

An interview with Mirvari Gahramanli, chairperson of Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Organization, about the disaster on the Guneshli no. 10 oil platform on 4 December last year. For an overview, read Break the silence on Azerbaijan oil workers’ deaths

Gabriel Levy: How did the company, and the workers, react to the tragedy as it happened?  

Mirvari Gahramanli: First I got phone calls from relatives of workers on platform no. 10. They asked for help. “It’s on fire”, they said. At first I didn’t speak directly to those on the platform. Pressure is put on workers [if they

Mirvari Gharamanli

Mirvari Gharamanli

communicate with non-government groups]. Then I began to write [on social media]; I called several news agencies.

I called [the national oil company] Socar. I told them, there’s a terrible situation there. People are dying. There’s a major fire. No reaction. … Then, every half hour, every hour, as I received information, I wrote it up on Facebook. The workers’ families began to correspond with me, began to find out what was going on. You know that in Soviet times they used to cover up Read the rest of this entry »


After the referendum: what we can do

June 25, 2016

Some early thoughts by EWA JASIEWICZ, an organiser with the Unite union’s hotel workers branch in London

Don’t come undone, people.

1) Don’t hate on leavers. Some voted for reactionary and racist reasons, some for good reasons. Reclaiming power and taking control are what most people want in and over their lives, but the obstacles to that, or the route to that, are highly contested and influenced by thirty years of neoliberal hegemony, underwritten by establishment media.

2) Don’t let the Right control the narrative and define reclamation – overcoming

A picket in London that helped win reinstatement for Hungarian union activist Robert Czegely. See "about the picture" at the end

A picket in London that helped win reinstatement for Hungarian union activist Robert Czegely. See “about the picture” at the end

dispossession means redefining what should be ours on inclusive deep democracy terms – housing, education, public and health services, transport, energy, control over our own labour.

3) Join a union – we need control over work and workplaces and right now we’re weak. And the raid on our rights is coming, as is division between workers including migrant, Read the rest of this entry »


Let’s look the Brexit dangers in the eye

June 25, 2016

The first danger is that the Leave vote in the UK referendum on EU membership has given voice to xenophobia and racism on a scale not seen in UK politics since the 1970s.

The empty promises that people could “get control of their country back” may have come from the demagogic liars of the Tory right. But the tone was set by the right-wing open-the-borderspopulist leaders of UKIP, with their racist poster and their dislike of anything “foreign”.

It is not, absolutely not, that the millions of people who voted Leave are racist. Many of them, in the former Labour strongholds across northern England and the Midlands, are
screaming their anger at a political establishment – Tory and Labour alike – that has slowly suffocated their communities with cuts in welfare, health and education, with unemployment, with the-rich-get-richer housing policies, and all the rest.

That establishment views those people with contempt. And the feeling is mutual. What is frightening is that the Tory right and UKIP have fashioned, out of that legitimate Read the rest of this entry »


Global warming in the Indian context

June 1, 2016

People and Nature is today publishing Global Warming in the Indian Context, a pamphlet by Nagraj Adve. The pamphlet’s detailed description of the effects of global warming in India should be of interest to readers not only in India but elsewhere too. It also includes a straightforward presentation of the causes of global warming, and proposals for collective action to combat it by communities and social and labour movements. Read the pamphlet here. 1 June 2016.

A huge statue of the god Shiva being washed away during the floods in Uttarakhand in 2013

A huge statue of the god Shiva being washed away during the floods in Uttarakhand in 2013


Kazakhstan: land protesters face police rampage

May 25, 2016

Street protests, against plans to step up land privatisation, were broken up by police in many of Kazakhstan’s largest cities on Saturday. The demonstrations were organised by informal on-line networks, rather than by any of the recognised opposition groups. Here are key points from a report by ANDREI GRISHIN, published here on the Fergana news site (in Russian):

Special rapid-reaction police detachments attacked small groups [of demonstrators] wherever they gathered. They grabbed everyone, regardless of gender, age and nationality. Dozens of journalists were arrested.

Kazakhstan had waited for the events of 21 May with bated breath. [Protesters had named that as a day of action after a previous wave of demonstrations had forced the government to pull back from planned land reforms. See an earlier report here.] The official media had railed against the protests. And it all ended – grgrgkazza3as it has so many times before – with the “slaughter of the innocents”, but this time more brutal than usual. The detention of dozens of journalists, including foreigners, was proof of that.

However, for the first time, people came out to protest all at once, in a number of cities and towns, without any leaders – because these leaders had either been arrested in advance, or had agreed to the authorities’ demands [after the previous demonstrations] and joined the [government’s] land commission.

[In Alma-ata in the south-east, the largest city in Kazakhstan and former capital, Read the rest of this entry »


Kazakhstan: land protests force president to back down

May 6, 2016

Here ANDREI GRISHIN reports on the mass movement that yesterday (5 May) forced Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to scrap plans to privatise swathes of land. This fierce defence of common access to land brings Kazakh people together with similar movements across the world; their defiance of a violent and bullying government is an inspiration. This is an edited version of a report published yesterday on the Ferghana.com web site in Russian.

Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev has announced a moratorium on land code regulations that were due to take effect on 1 July this year. The regulations […] that “called forth a reaction from society” will be put on hold until 2017, the president said. At the same time, the national economy minister Erbolat Dosayev was dismissed and the agriculture minister Asylzhan Mamybekov reprimanded.

The “reaction from society” that the president mentioned was a wave of protest meetings, held without permission on the squares of Kazakh cities. Many hundreds of people attended, to protest against the sale of land or its lease to foreign leaseholders.

[Here is the time-line over which the movement unfolded:]

24 April. The first demonstration against land sales took place in Atyrau in western Kazakhstan [in the heart of the main oil-producing region]. No-one expected it – least

Protesters in Atyrau on 24 April

Protesters in Atyrau on 24 April

of all two local activists, Max Bokayev and Talgat Ayan, who posted on Facebook that they would stage a picket at Isatay-Makhambet square, against the authorities’ plans to more than double the lengths of land leases to foreign entities. Two thousand people Read the rest of this entry »


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