Solidarity with the Kazakh Working Class!

On the massacre of the Zhanaozen strikers

For decades the working class has been largely ignored by the media as a fringe element in society. However, it still frightens the ruling class, so much so it speaks of its existence and its struggles as little as possible. When it does acknowledge its existence it does so in ways that reduce our "subversive", ie, anti-capitalist potential, to harmless short bursts confined to world of the working class. The "cordon sanitaire" out around this world is so tight that at times it becomes almost unbreachable.

And this is what happened on Friday, 16 December, in one of the territories of the former "evil empire", in Kazakhstan and more precisely in the oil city of Zhanaozen, in the western part of the country. Nazarbayev has reigned for twenty years in this state, one of the world's largest producers of oil and gas. He is one of the many who were already in the upper echelons of the former CPSU and who, after contributing to the liquidation of the USSR and after a quick and slick change of political clothes, have remained, still doing what they did before. In fact, more than before, since he does not have to share power with a Politburo. Of course, the fact that in Kazakhstan bourgeois democracy itself is more or less a caricature of that in force elsewhere, does not bother at all Western oil and gas multinationals (not least Italy’s ENI and Royal Dutch Shell) (1), whose countries of origin have brought the war to the four corners of the world to defend, so they say, their own notorious democracy. In the area around the Caspian Sea, there are not only very interesting deposits (as they put it), but another not insignificant factor, is that the working class in general get wages well below the "Western " average.

In order to get higher wages and better working conditions, last spring a strike started which then extended to involve workers in other sectors. In particular, the workers of the semi-private oil enterprise OzenMunaiGas set up a permanent garrison (with tents, banners, etc.) in Zhanaozen’s main square.

The provocations, the violent assaults by unidentified "civilians" and the police - who killed two workers - and even the dismissal of more than two thousand workers did not end the struggle, because, despite the total censorship of information by the government, something was also leaking out, triggering, as mentioned above, active solidarity (strikes) in other cities throughout the country.

After all the provocations, the arrests and the sackings, we thus came to 16 December, when Nazarbayev decided on the use of force, intended to finish off the strikers. It is not clear how it started, but the police attacked the camp shooting to kill workers, so that, eventually, official sources speak of thirteen dead and several hundred wounded. According to other sources however, at least seventy workers were massacred. We do not know what happened next: it seems that the news of the massacre prompted workers in other locations to trigger wildcat strikes and sabotage railway lines that carry the oil, there are even rumours of urban riots. Sure enough, Nazarbayev ordered the deportation of over two thousand workers already laid off in retaliation, to state-owned companies in other cities, where they have to work for reduced wages it seems. However, "the workers refused, preferring the risk of a continuation of the struggle instead of the idea of being exiled to places far from home ."

This is what we know so far on 25 December, as is reported by Astrit Dakla Blog , from which we took the news and the only one, to our knowledge, to have spoken out.

We are not moralists, we know what the propaganda function of the bourgeois media is, but the deathly silence about the massacre of the Kazakh workers makes us sick. A few days later, there was not a news channel that that did not "shout" about the ferocity of the mass murder carried out by ultra-reactionary Islamic fundamentalists in Nigeria. That’s fine, but the massacre of oil workers in Zhanaozen? Better not talk about it, better not to awaken the "sleeping giant" - the proletariat - an aim which the bourgeoisie has no qualms about since its profits, and its power, are at stake.


(1) According to Reuters “the Kashagan project is operated by the North Caspian Operating Co. (NCOC), which includes units of ENI and Royal Dutch Shell. Also involved in the project are units of Total SA, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, according to an industry report published this month.” After Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan is reported to have the largest reserves of oil in the world and the Tengiz field (not yet operational) has the potential to yield very light (easily refinable) crude.


Thanks for this important, informative and yes exciting article: though the massacre makes us sick! But this is only what we have come to expect from a murderous bourgeoisie determined internationally to maintain its power. Likewise it's clamp down on news about most if not all of any fights back by workers. But what's exciting about this particular struggle in Kazakhstan is that the workers ARE continuing the fight and refuse to be browbeaten into exile by tbe vicious ruling class. But how many workers have to die before we achieve sufficient international solidarity to put the fear of god in our exploiters, and finally crush them? Wake up sleeping giant! We have a world to win.