Stalinist Bureaucracy Fears Russian Workers Political Revolution


Workers of Ship-Repair Yard 178 in Vladivostok began a strike on June 3rd 2009, demanding their pay. The workers have not had any money since April.

The prosecutor’s office has made enquiries about the non-disbursement of pay.

The check showed that the general manager of the Labour Red-Banner Medal Ship-Repair Yard 178 corporation has not disbursed pay since January 1st 2009 while funds have been available in the checking account and accounts department of the enterprise.

The director has spent the money intended for pay on commercial activity.

The reserves of patience of the workers of Uralvagonzavod, the world’s biggest machine-building enterprise, at which it is planned in the very near future to lay off 24,000 persons, are exhausted.

A session of the chairmen of union cells of UVZ (Uralvagonzavod), at which a strongly-worded statement was adopted, was held on June 2nd.

It follows from the petition that UVZ employees are prepared for wholesale protest demonstrations.

The unions are concerned for the future not only of the UVZ workforce directly but also for the residents of the entire Nizhniy Tagil MO Dzerzhinskiy Rayon with a population of more than 130,000.

Their well-being and also the viability of this district’s small and medium-sized enterprises are in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, employees of the Baykal Pulp and Paper Works have declared a hunger-strike, demanding an end to the pay arrears.

The press office of the Irkutsk Unions Association reports that, according to updated information, 42 persons are taking part in the hunger-strike.

The wage arrears to date are in excess of 100 million roubles (R).

Also, approximately 100 Maritime seamen who have not been paid for over three months are demanding the impoundment of six foreign vessels in the port of Nakhodka, the money owed by foreign companies to the seamen being more than $700,000.

The Russian Seamen’s Union is at this time adopting all necessary measures for the impoundment of the vessels as a security claim according to the international convention.While various experts and politicians are arguing over how many years the economic downturn will last, the crisis continues to kill.

The latest victim of the crisis was a businessman from the city of Kem in Northern Karelia.

He hung himself in his apartment. The entrepreneur was ruined several months ago, after which he took to the bottle and binge drinking. He borrowed money and was unable to pay it back.

But an Omsk businessman, who also owed a substantial amount, had had no intention of squaring accounts with life because of this.

His creditors took out a contract on him.

An attempt was made on the life of the general manager of the Anekhel firm.

The gunman fired several shots at him and made off. Task-force officers were soon able to arrest the killer.

The motive for the slaying was a debt of R26 million.

The strike wave has prompted an article by Petr Bizyukov, a leading specialist on socioeconomic programmes, from the Social and Labour Rights Centre.

The article said: ‘The crisis is not only pushing workers outside the gates of enterprises. Ever more often, they are emerging from there organised.

‘According to data of Goskomstat (State Committee on Statistics), in 2008 there were four strikes.

‘It would be laughable and slightly awkward to comment on these data. Awkward because what can we expect of statistics, if they report only those work stoppages that are associated with lawful strikes?

‘First and foremost, the number of cases is laughable.

‘With the aid of a simple monitoring of announcements of strikes on the Internet, which I am conducting, last year I was able to record 93 cases of labour conflicts.

‘Surely, these are not exhaustive data: Some things were overlooked by journalists, and not everything was publicised on the Internet.’

It added that official data ‘does not include last year’s strike at the Ford plant, the strike of Moscow Oblast railroad workers, the Petersburg dock workers, the series of strikes at the Urals mines, and many others.

‘The reason is simple: These strikes were unlawful – i.e. they took place not according to the scheme proscribed by the Russian Labour Code, which provides for a long, complex and very contradictory procedure of organising a collective labour dispute, which may end in a strike.

‘If we examine the figure of the four strikes, we would like to understand why the events at Ford, at the Petersburg port and at “Krasnaya Shapochka” remain outside the scope of statistical attention.

‘After all, some of them had colossal repercussions. Hundreds of articles were written about the Ford strike, and the activity of the trade union and administration in this conflict became the subject not only of discussion, but even of study in the trade unions, and even in business schools.

‘Let us try to take a closer look at how many such cases there were and why worker protest actions have been happening in the last year or so.

‘First, about the overall number: We already said that, in 2008, we were able to find mention of 93 labour conflicts – i.e. worker actions aimed at protecting their social-labour rights.

‘And in 2009, 99 conflicts were recorded for the first 5 months of the year – more than in the entire preceding year.’

The article added: ‘Work stoppages and strikes are dangerous, primarily because they are the most powerful detonators of political explosions.

‘Khrushchev’s rejection of Stalinism was evoked, among other things, by the uprisings in the camps, which threatened to spill out beyond the boundaries of the GULAGs.

‘And the miners’ strike of 1989 had much greater influence on weakening the positions of the party nomenklatura than the First Congress of USSR People’s Deputies that raged in May-June, where the super-activist democrats unsuccessfully tried to overcome the resistance of the “aggressively-obedient majority”.

It went on to ask: ‘What is a labour conflict of the 2008-2009 type? Most often, it is equated to the concept of a strike – i.e. a full or partial stoppage of work at an enterprise.

‘In fact, 57 per cent of the conflicts recorded over the past 16 months were associated with strikes.

‘However, if we take the pre-crisis months (January -August 2008), then the relative share of such actions comprised almost two-thirds. Under conditions of crisis, the relative share of conflicts-strikes began to decline, but the number of actions associated with demonstration of protest, demands and problems began to increase.

‘The number of such actions as rallies, pickets or protests outside the boundaries of the enterprise – near the walkway, on a square, in front of the mayor’s office – is increasing.

‘This means only one thing: The conflicts are going outside the bounds of the enterprises. Why? Why, because there is no opportunity for dialogue of the workers with employers, or this dialogue is not yielding any results.

‘Therefore, workers take the labour conflicts outside the boundaries of the enterprise and present their demands at a more significant social level.’

It noted that workers ‘unite, presenting similar, and then also general demands.

‘Then, the degree of demonstrativeness increases and changes into a form of aggression, directed towards themselves – hunger strikes, strikes under extreme conditions (underground strike of miners), demonstrative suicides (there were also such cases).

‘But if even these measures did not help, the aggression was already directed to the outside: Holding directors hostage, taking over company offices and mayoralities, closing roads and railroads.

‘Except that now the motive was the following: “If things are bad for us, then they will not be good for others either!”

‘The next stage was to have been campaigns of civil disobedience, but fortunately it did not come to that.

‘After 1998, the authorities gave a clear signal to employers about the need to cooperate with workers, and the economic situation also began to change for the better. . .

‘The present-day situation differs from the former one in that there is no gradual increase in the level of conflict. In May and the beginning of June alone, we witnessed almost everything with the aid of which one could express one’s protest.

‘Work stoppages at enterprises go right ahead, from the car wash attendants in Magnitogorsk to the ‘Detskiy Mir’ (‘Children’s World’) salesgirls in Moscow.

‘Rallies near enterprises were organised by Ivanovo textile workers and Vsevolozhsk automotive builders.

‘Hunger strikes were staged by Krasnoyarsk stewardesses and the Baykal TsBK (Cellulose Paper Combine).

‘Suicides: A Khabarovsk stewardess and a Kras noyarsk aircraft technician.

‘Finally, there was Pikalevo, which passed through all stages, from presentation of demands to road closures.

‘That was the limit. It is no accident that the prime minister, who does not give in to any pressure, was forced to come here and achieve satisfaction of all the worker demands.

‘The only trouble is that he cannot go everywhere, while the pendulum of conflict is beginning to swing simultaneously in several places throughout the country.’

The article said: ‘The main reason for the present-day Russian labour conflicts is wage delays and non-payments.’

It went on to warn that ‘the situation is spinning out of control.’

It recommended: ‘The authorities must give a clear signal that labour conflicts must be resolved at the enterprises. . .

‘The employers must become more responsible and open to their workers.

‘And the workers and trade unions must learn to be organised and literate, so as to conduct a full-fledged dialogue with the employers, and not demand the impossible and miss out on what they are entitled to.

‘Unfortunately, much time has been lost. The wave must be stopped now.

‘Yet the culture of dialogue does not arise all at once – time and effort are needed.

‘But perhaps, that is what hard times are for – to change something, and to learn something.’