The new year began with massive protests in Kazakhstan over rising fuel prices. The government’s response has been brutal repression. Its President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, claims that order has been restored after 26 people have been “liquidated” and more than 3,000 detained.
The Western press tries to use these protests to further their propaganda war against Russia. In response, some elements of the left react and see the hand of America in stirring up the protests.
Both these views ignore how working people have the capacity to revolt by themselves. The protests are an expression of genuine anger and People Before Profit expresses its solidarity with those fighting a regime that has impoverished working people.
We are, therefore, printing this detailed statement from the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan.
Statement of the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan on the situation in the country
January 6, 2022
In Kazakhstan, there is now a real popular uprising and from the very beginning, the protests were of a social and class nature, since the doubling of the price of liquefied gas on the exchange was only the last straw in an overflowing cup of patience. After all, the demonstrations began precisely in Zhanaozen at the initiative of the oil workers, which became a kind of political headquarters of the entire protest movement.
And the dynamics of this movement is indicative since it began as a social protest, it then began to expand, and labour collectives used rallies to put forward their own demands for a 100% increase in wages, cancellation of optimization results, improvement of working conditions and freedom of trade union activity. As a result, on January 3, the entire Mangistau region was engulfed in a general strike, which spread to the neighbouring Atyrau region.
It is noteworthy that already on January 4, Tengizchevroil oil workers went on strike, where the participation of American companies reaches 75 per cent. It was there that in December last year, 40 thousand workers were laid off and a new series of layoffs were planned. They were subsequently supported during the day by the oilmen of the Aktobe and West Kazakhstan and Kyzylorda regions.
Moreover, in the evening of the same day, strikes of miners from the ArcelorMittal Temirtau company began in the Karaganda region and copper smelters and miners from the Kazakhmys corporation, which can already be regarded as a general strike in the entire mining industry of the country. And here they also put forward demands for higher wages, lowering the retirement age, the right to their own trade unions and strikes.
At the same time, indefinite rallies on Tuesday began already in Atyrau, Uralsk, Aktyubinsk, Kyzyl-Orda, Taraz, Taldykorgan, Turkestan, Shymkent, Ekibastuz, in the cities of the Almaty region and in Almaty itself, where the overlap of streets appeared on the night of January 4-5th in an open clash of demonstrators with the police, as a result of which the city akimat [Regional Governors Office] was temporarily seized. This gave rise to Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev to declare a state of emergency.
It should be noted that these performances in Almaty were attended mainly by unemployed youth and internal migrants living in the suburbs of the metropolis and working in temporary or low-paid jobs. Attempts to calm them down with promises by reducing the gas price to 50 tenge [0.10c], separately for the Mangistau region and Almaty, have not satisfied anyone.
The decision of Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev to dismiss the government, and then removing Nursultan Nazarbayev from the post of chairman of the Security Council, also did not stop the protests, since on January 5th, mass protest rallies began in those regional centres of Northern and Eastern Kazakhstan, where they had not previously existed- in Petropavlovsk, Pavlodar, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Semipalatinsk. At the same time, attempts were made to storm the buildings of regional akimats in Aktobe, Taldykorgan, Shymkent and Almaty.
In Zhanaozen itself, at their indefinite rally, workers formulated new demands – the resignation of the incumbent president and all Nazarbayev officials, the restoration of the 1993 Constitution and the associated freedoms to create parties, trade unions, release political prisoners and end repression. A Council of aksakals was immediately created, which became an informal authority.
Thus, the demands and slogans that are now used in different cities and regions were broadcast to the entire movement, and the struggle received a political content. Attempts are also being made on the ground to create committees and councils to coordinate the struggle.
At the same time, troops were pulled together in Almaty, Aktau and Zhanaozen, and if everything went peacefully in the Mangistau region and the soldiers refused to disperse the protesters, then shootings began in the southern capital, and on the night of January 5-6, special forces were introduced, which began clean up of the airport and neighbourhoods captured by the rebels. According to various sources, there are already dozens of those killed by the demonstrators.
In this situation, there is a danger of violent suppression of all protests and strikes, and here it is necessary to completely paralyze the country with a general strike. Therefore, it is urgent to form unified action committees on a territorial and production basis in order to provide organized resistance to military and police terror.
In this regard, the support of the entire international workers’ and communist movement, leftist associations is also necessary in order to organize a large-scale campaign in the world.
The socialist movement of Kazakhstan demands:
- An immediate cessation of hostilities against its people and the withdrawal of troops from the cities!
- Immediate resignation of all Nazarbayev officials, including President Tokayev!
- Release of all political prisoners and detainees!
- Ensuring the right to create their own trade unions, political parties, to hold strikes and meetings!
- Legalization of the activities of the banned Communist Party of Kazakhstan and the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan!
- We call on all the workers and working people of the country to implement in practice the demand of the executed oil workers of Zhanaozen – to nationalize, under the control of labour collectives, the entire extractive and large-scale industry of the country!