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The class struggle cannot be denigrated - it is and will remain the ‘driving force’ of social development
The huge strikes and the mass labor-popular demonstrations, that shook Kazakhstan at the beginning of this year, demonstrated that even under conditions of counter-revolution, harsh persecution, draconian policies and trade union laws, the banning of 600 trade unions and the Communist Parties and organizations, the social contradictions permeate the developments, they can manifest when the right conditions are created, take on powerful characteristics and be transformed into a social conflict between the working class and the bourgeoise, confirming that “there are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” The class struggle as the driving force of social development has an objective base and expresses the irreconcilable conflict between the exploiters and those they exploit. That is what has taken place in Kazakhstan which is located in a region of great strategic importance, with an important role in the global economy, offering access to the Caspian Sea, the source of vast hydrocarbon reserves, producing 70% of the GDP of the Central Asian countries, possessing substantial wealth-producing resources, natural gas, petroleum, uranium, gold, and more.
The Kazakh monopolies exploit the working class together with the American monopolies e.g., “Chevron” and “ExxonMobil”, the European “Eni”, “Shell” and “Total”, the “China National Petroleum Corporation” (CNPC) and other Chinese, Russian, Dutch, Belgian, French large enterprises that have invested billions of dollars in the country.
The bourgeoisie of Kazakhstan follows a so-called “multi-dimensional policy”. It prioritizes relationships with Russia and maintains strong ties with China, the USA and other powerful capitalist states, to safeguard its own interests most effectively, to upgrade its status in the region.
It participates in The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Collective Security Treaty and has joined the “New Silk Road” promoted by China. At the same time, it participates in the so-called “Partnership for Peace” of NATO, in NATO exercises, has strengthened cooperation and a Partnership Relationship with the USA that, in fact, has established biological warfare laboratories there, as well as with the EU to which it directs the greater part of its energy wealth; it is in the “Organization of Turkish States”, promoted by NATO Turkey, etc.
The interest of the USA, Russia, China, powerful EU member states, Turkey etc. is intense; the intra-imperialist rivalries and intra-bourgeoise antagonisms are a given, but this cannot overshadow the importance of the popular mobilizations, of the class struggle, to diminish their importance. On the contrary, this fact highlights even more the great significance of the struggles that developed under these difficult conditions.
The popular mobilizations developed on specific terrain
In Kazakhstan, as in all the countries of the former Soviet Union, are indelible marks of the overthrow of socialism and the reinstatement of capitalism, with grave consequences for the working class and the popular strata. Capitalist power and capitalist ownership of the means of production, growth based on the criterion of profit and the anti-popular policies pursued by the Nazarbayev governments, after the counter-revolution, worsened living standards year by year. Unemployment and poverty have embraced broad popular forces, social services have been downgraded, the rate of exploitation has reached very high levels, wealth has filled the vaults of domestic and foreign capitalists who rushed into strategically important branches of the economy.
The working class reacted, and in 2011 in western Kazakhstan, in the city of Zhanaozen, month-long strike battles were organized in the oil industry that were met with harsh repression, with dead and wounded and a large number of arrests. The bourgeois state banned the CP and hundreds of trade unions.
This struggle became a legacy for the working class, and it had an effect on the next period. With Nazarbayev handing the “reins” over to his chosen successor President Tokayev and the alternation of bourgeois government in 2019, the anti-popular policies continued, social polarization between poverty and wealth took on huge dimensions, the capital-labor contradiction intensified.
The past 2 years saw new strike mobilizations by trade unions and strike committees who were not officially recognized by the authorities, and the more than doubling of the price of natural gas, announced at the start of the new year, that would objectively lead to more general price rises in food, in consumer products, was the spark that lit the fire of the new mass labor-popular struggles, the uprisings we witnessed at the beginning of January.
The demonstrations started in western Kazakhstan in the Mangystau region, in Aktau and Zhanaozen, on the initiative of workers in the oil extraction industry, who led the struggle. Various forms of self-organization appeared; workers’ councils were formed. This example served as a guide and sparked off generalized mobilizations, embracing key regional centers and then spreading throughout the country.
These struggles have significant, qualitative elements
The leading role was played by the industrial proletariat, which paralyzed the oil extraction industry, the metal mines, large sections of the coal mines, the heart of the economy. Petroleum workers from the company "Tengizchevr Oil" on the Caspian Sea, which is controlled by American capital, entered the struggle. Unemployed workers, people from the very poor popular strata, clashed with the police. Mass protests took place in large cities, in regional centers of northern and eastern Kazakhstan, buildings were occupied.
Tactics of the bourgeois regime
Calls for “social peace” were initially combined with attempts to defuse the situation, with promises to reduce the price of natural gas. President Tokayev ousted the Prime Minister and the government, removed Nazarbayev from the post of Chairman of the Security Council, but the insurgent workers persisted, the mobilizations continued with even greater intensity, with the strike as the main weapon. The effort to incriminate the forms of struggle failed, the working class cannot bow to bourgeois legitimacy, it follows the form of struggle that will make the struggle more effective.
This fact is of great importance because despite the difficulties in the development of the labor-popular struggle there were reflexes that defended the independence of the struggle, rejecting involvement in intra-bourgeois conflicts between the current and the previous presidential cliques that intensified during the events. The mobilizations were not caught up in the aspirations of the banker Ablyazov, who used interventions from abroad, as a representative of sections of the bourgeoisie, to liaise with the United States.
The bourgeois state found itself in a difficult position; it declared the country in a state of emergency, used savage repression, committed dozens of murders, and used provocateur groups in its plans. Under the pretext of being attacked by "terrorists", it called in the military apparatus of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) where Russia plays the leading role, which sent select military units to the side of the bourgeois government that was massacring the working class, the struggling people.
It has been proven once again that the united bourgeois classes and the imperialist alliances formed by the capitalist countries do not hesitate to come to the aid to safeguard bourgeois power and to consolidate their positions against their competitors.
The events are shocking and expose all of those who, with their stance, including some of the CPs, turned against the popular struggle, incriminated it, supported the bourgeois government’s claims, and gave support to Russia’s imperialist intervention, created pretexts for Euro-Atlantic interventions, at the service of the bourgeois classes.
The fact that there is experience from the so-called “color revolutions”, with the intervention of the Americans and the EU, as in Ukraine, the participation of provocateur mechanisms, that are actively involved in these cases, cannot lead to the denigration of the popular struggles, but to their support, with a more decisive expression of internationalist solidarity.
The class struggle is not waged in a “clear” environment, it is entangled in the complex web of intra-bourgeois oppositions and imperialist competitions. Communists have the obligation to distinguish what are the new elements each time and to take a stance based on class criteria, to express their support for the labor-popular struggle, to study its orientation, to reject stances that lead to entrapment at the side of one or another section of the bourgeois class, of one or another imperialist center, and this holds special importance for the events in Kazakhstan.
The members, the forces that rally in the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan, under conditions of illegality, in an environment with an extremely negative correlation of forces, were engaged in the battle, trying to intervene in the developments, especially in the Zhanaozen region. The outcry and rage were transformed into organized action. The demands for higher wages and pensions, price control, opposition to raising the age of retirement, privatizations, the demand for the government to resign, the demands for civil rights and freedoms and more, played a decisive role in the rallying and mobilization of labor forces.
The events in Kazakhstan raise very important issues
The plea on the part of the bourgeois regime for military support from its ally capitalist Russia was aimed at the actions of the “internal enemy”, the struggling people, it expressed their fears that the class struggle would escalate and the conditions for a revolutionary situation would be created. The bourgeois class defended its sovereignty and took its measures to maintain control, to not “create a rift” where unrest and the upsurge of the oppressed classes could penetrate”.
The problem that was highlighted, as in other cases where mass popular forces have come to the fore in recent years, is the level of the subjective factor, the state of the revolutionary movement, of the labor movement that did not have the strength and the orientation to
adapt the struggle goals and the escalation of the struggle, guiding it in a direction for total rupture with bourgeois power.
Consequently, the basic conclusion concerns the need for a powerful Communist Party with a revolutionary strategy and strong ties with the working class, so it can intervene in the class confrontation, to create and to make use of militant moods against bourgeois power, to exploit the rifts that are created by intra-bourgeois oppositions, to safeguard the struggle from the intervention of bourgeois and reformist forces, provocateur domestic and foreign mechanisms. To prepare the working class every single day for the overthrow of the exploitative system under revolutionary conditions, which is the major thorn for the capitalists and their political representatives.
The developments in Kazakhstan are a source of experience and lessons learned, adding new elements to the class struggle, to the clash between the working class and the bourgeoisie, but also to the struggle that is developing in the communist movement. The necessity for its revolutionary regroupment was clearly indicated and in this effort the KKE will continue to contribute with all its forces.
By Giorgos Marinos, Member of the PB of the CC of the KKE
Published in Rizospastis, Saturday 22 January – Sunday 23 January 2022