Kazakhstan – On the mass protests

“Unprecedented” - from Moscow to Washington the, the biggest uprising in the recent history of Kazakhstan have been the focus of the news reports in the last three weeks. These protests were a sharp confrontation between the imperialists and the popular masses of the country.


The official numbers of losses have been published: 164 casualties have been claimed in the recent clashes between the popular masses and the so-called “security forces” of the old state. Over one thousand were injured. During the ongoing protests information was published about 400 hospitalizations. To summarize - the Kazakh rulers have made a bloodbath in repressing the uprising.


The “western” monopoly media paints the story of protests that were mainly directed “against dictatorship” and “authoritarianism”, directed solely against the Kazakh ruling clique and against Russia’s “influence”. But this is just one side. Mainly, this uprising happened because of the bad social and political situation of the working class, under the bureaucratic capitalist regime installed by the imperialists. The most talked about example here is the sharp increase in fuel prices. The government abolished the regulation for liquefied gas prices, since from the beginning of the new year, gas trade is solely organized over the energy stock market. In no time the prices for liquefied gas (that most Kazakhs use instead of petrol because it is cheaper) have doubled!


But this was only the last straw. A whole collection of other problems and demands led the masses to protest. This can be seen right from the beginning. The protests started in the South-Western city of Zhanaozen (Janaozen) in the region of Mangistau. On the initiative of oil workers from this city, they demanded a 100% raise in wages, better working conditions and the freedom to organize in independent unions. These demands have developed organically, and stand in continuation to the nationwide wild strikes of the oil workers in December 2020/January 2021. The demands of a 50% increase in wages and the freedom to organize in independent unions were already formulated back then. In the summer, the Zhanaozen workers went on a wild strike by themselves. This can be seen as a reason why on the 3rd of January a general strike took place in the whole region of Mangistau.


The wave of protests spread to other industrial cities. Already the next day, the 4th of January oil workers in Aktobe (in the north-west), Kyzyl-Orda (in the south), mineral workers in ArmelorMittal Temirtau in the Region Karaganda (east) and copper and mineral workers of the Kazakhmys-enterprise joined the workers in western Kazakhstan. Already by that time it can be seen as a national general strike of the mineral oil branch.

Also later, when the protests reached Almaty, the biggest city of Kazakhstan that became the main center of the protests, this did not change. In Almaty the centers of the protests were mainly the ghettos where the unemployed youth and internally immigrated workers live. They are among the lowest strata of the Kazakh proletariat, and they were the main basis for the protests in Almaty.


So the protests developed following the sharpened contradictions in Kazakhstan, between the proletariat and the popular masses on the one hand, and the rulers and their masters – the imperialists – on the other hand. They formed around the demands for higher wages and the right to organize in unions, as well as against the inflation of gas prices. They were directed against the political elites, especially the very hated ex-president Nursultan Naramajew, who has been now been removed from his position as the head of the secret service and charged with treason. But it is not at all, like the “western” monopoly media portrayed, an issue that could be resolved if Kazakhstan would become “westernized”, and a more liberal society. It is an issue of the poverty and the exploitation of the Kazakh proletariat and the popular masses.


As soon that the protests spread over the country, the Kazakh president Kassym-Schomart Tokajew called for military support from Russia, and Russia intervened. Interventions like this were already prepared with the military alliance Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) which is lead by Russia and includes many countries that were semi-colonies of social imperialism. In this alliance, Russia and it’s semi-colonies like Armenia, Kirghistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan have promised mutual military aid, in the case of an aggression by the west, but also in the case of “internal” security threats. So 2500 troops, amongst them Russian pratroopers were sent to Kazakhstan to repress the uprising. This goes to show that what is meant with an “internal” threat is a justified rebellion of the people and that this contract is a means for Russian imperialism to intervene in it’s semi-colony as if it was it’s national territory, to protect the interests of Russian financial capital. The Kazakh rulers with their representatives like Tokajew have proven that they are lackeys to the imperialists, selling out their country. Met with a justified rebellion of the people, they cast aside all illusions of national sovereignty to protect the system that feeds them.


Now the Kazakh rulers blame foreign powers and “terrorist” groups inside the country to have planned a “coup d’etat”. So far, they have failed to produce any evidence. Still, with the current world situation in which contradictions are sharpening, it is very certain that the “western” imperialists have at least tried in some way to destabilize the semi-colony of Russian imperialism and infiltrate the current protests. They have tried the same tactic of “regime change” in Venezuela, Hong Kong and Belarus, to name just a few recent examples.


But from what we know now, it can be said that the protests did not followed a plan for regime change of the “western” imperialists. Like we have shown above, the demands of the protests were mainly social demands. This can also be seen that to appease the people, Tokajew announced to implement social measures. The protests started with demands organically developed in the Kazakh workers movement. The city of Zhanaozen has been the center of unrest already in 2011. The protests of the oil workers that took place back then were the longest in recent Kazakh history. During a protest in Zhanaozen on December 16th, the police opened fire against a sit-in by the workers, killing at least 16 people. It was a great success that Zhanaozen became an active center of in the workers protests again last year which was preparation for the protests now.


The “west” has continuously brought up the Zhanaozen massacre for the last eleven years to discredit the Kazakh rulers and in a double-tongued manner announced solidarity with the workers protests. But the current protests have shown that they failed to build up any “opposition” leaders in the movement. In every other case of “regime change” they tried to popularize certain leading figures, with the puppet Guaido in Venezuela, the many “opposition leaders” in Belarus and various “activists” in Hong Kong. But no pro-western “oppositionists” could be shown in Kazakhstan, and actual organizations were not even named. The city of Zhanaozen has been in the eye of the “western” monopoly press on Kazakhstan since eleven years did not even appear in the recent reports, even though it was the starting point for the protests.


Also, the demands of the protests were not particularly pro-western. A certain anti-Russian sentiment was present in the protests, and this is also expressed in the installation of the new minister Askar Umarov, who is said to be more anti-Russian. This is mainly a move to calm the masses justified anger against the Russian intervention. While the “western” imperialists will try to make use of this, it is not part of a pro-western program.


The justified demands of the protests are on the contrary opposed to the interests of the financial capital of the US and the European imperialists. The “Socialist Movement Kazakhstan” gives a very good example of this: “Already on the 4th of January the oil workers in Tengizchevroil, where there are 75% american shareholders went on strike. 40 000 workers were laid of there and a new round of firings was planned.” The Kazakh economy is centered around the export of raw natural resources like oil, coal and uranium. While the most important trade partners of Kazakhstan are Russia and China, Kazakhstan for example is the most important source of oil for the European Union. The Kazakh industry is in the hand of the imperialists, it is bureaucratic capital installed in order to exploit the productive forces and the resources of the country. So the demands of the workers movement are also directed against US-imperialism and the European imperialists, who all profit from the over-exploitation of the Kazakh workers.“The policy of open doors for foreign direct investments will remain a central strategy of Kazakhstan” Tokajew stated after the protests. It was the imperialists’ interests that were “secured” when the military opened fire at the protests.


The uprising show the deep crisis of bureaucratic capitalism, economically and politically, as part of the deepening of the general crisis of imperialism. Increasing uprisings like that are a sign that we are wittnessing the begin of a new wave of proletarian world revolution. The Kazakh people in their justified struggle have proven that they want an end of imperialist exploitation and real national liberation instead.


This is a problem that cannot be resolved with a “social reform” but only through the capture of state power, for the people and for the proletariat. The past three weeks have shown the determination and the force of the masses, and a increasing self-organization, like independent workers organization. This is good, but this is not enough. In order to struggle successfully, and for the protests to not fall under the hegemony of one or the other imperialist there is a need for proletarian leadership.