Ziuganov on Kazakhstan

The voice of the working people of Kazakhstan must be heard in spite of provocateurs! Statement by the Presidium of the Central Committee of the CPRF

Kazakhstan is experiencing difficult days. Long accumulated people’s discontent has resulted in formidable outbursts of mass indignation and protest.

Press service of the Central Committee of the CPRF 

2022-01-08 14:22

Gennady Zyuganov

Chairman of the Russian Communist Party Central Committee, head of Russian Duma fraction

Every broad movement has various components. The events in Kazakhstan combine social discontent, the activities of a “fifth column” and the actions of terrorist groups. At the same time, the “fifth column” here includes extremists committed to radical Islamism. And numerous NGOs incited by the West. And individual security officials seeking profits in troubled waters of instability. And oligarchic clans, ready to use mass protests in a struggle for redistribution of power.

The fraternal peoples of Russia and Kazakhstan are closely connected by centuries of shared history. We created the Soviet Union together, built and victorious, proud of outstanding economic and social achievements. Together, we revived integration processes by creating the EurAsEC, the SCO and the CSTO.

Today, our comrades and friends are going through a period of difficult trials. Mass protests erupted across Kazakhstan. There were bloody riots in the southern capital, Almaty, with many casualties and destruction.

An accurate and comprehensive analysis of the events must take many things into account. It is clear that the situation in Kazakhstan is a direct consequence of the tragedy that befell us all thirty years ago. The destruction of the USSR, the rejection of the socialist system and of Soviet power, laid numerous mines under the new “independent and democratic” states. The primitive capitalism into which the post-Soviet republics were thrown inevitably condemned workers to impoverishment and disenfranchisement and created glaring inequalities. At the same time, our nations found themselves extremely vulnerable to external threats.

Contrary to the promises of liberals, the new states did not become full members of the “civilised world”. Global capital has made them into commodity markets, sources of cheap labour and pawns in the geopolitical adventures of the imperialist powers.

Kazakhstan, too, has followed a shaky path. The advanced branches of production perished in the maelstrom of privatisation. The raw materials sector was given over to foreign capital. The corporations Chevron and Exxon Mobil (USA), Total (France), Royal Dutch Shell (Great Britain and the Netherlands) gained a foothold in the oil and gas sector. Arcelor Mittal, a multinational corporation, became the new owner of the steel industry.

The young bourgeoisie of Kazakhstan also profited from the exploitation of the labour and raw material resources of the republic in close connection with foreign capital. As well as in Russia or on Ukraine, it did not disdain anything in the process of “initial accumulation of capital”. Many of the richest people, in essence, merged with the political power. Like almost everywhere else on the post-Soviet space, in Kazakhstan an oligarchic-comprador system typical of wild capitalism has been created.

Inequality was steadily increasing in the republic. People received only crumbs from national incomes. Property divisions and social tensions were on the rise. In 2011, a months-long strike by oil workers in Zhanaozen ended in clashes and the death of 16 people. The authorities clearly demonstrated their attitude towards the people by raising the retirement age to 63 years for men and women.

The coronavirus pandemic has finally shattered the myth of ‘social peace’ in Kazakhstan. Even the official poverty rate has risen. If we take into account the world standard of minimum need of 5,5 dollars per day, every seventh inhabitant here is poor.

The percentage of those who do not have enough even for food has grown from 3 to 13 per cent, according to polls. Another 44 per cent admit they only have enough money for food. Meanwhile, the number of dollar billionaires in the first year of the pandemic has risen from four to seven, and their combined wealth has almost doubled.

Over the last two years there has been an unbroken series of strikes at enterprises in Kazakhstan. The most massive demonstrations took place in the western regions. As the main source of the country’s main export commodities – oil and gas – they also lead in the level of inequality in the country. Thousands of people protested against wage arrears and lay-offs, demanding pay rises as prices rose relentlessly. Even according to official figures, food inflation in the country was 20 per cent in two years.

The justified demands of disgruntled citizens were ignored by the authorities. Social assistance during the pandemic was clearly inadequate. Severe quarantine measures provoked the discontent of the population. Like Russia, Kazakhstan had gone through a disastrous ‘optimization’ of public health, which had a direct impact on pandemic preparedness.

Some of the steps taken by the authorities were perceived as mockery. For example, in autumn the president of the country promised the citizens that they could use a part of their pension savings. A few days before the new year, however, the “sufficiency threshold” – the minimum accumulated amount above which withdrawals are allowed – was sharply raised. For residents aged 59-62, it will be more than 9 million tenge, or 1.5 million rubles. But the number of owners of such “rich reserves” in Kazakhstan is minuscule.

Instead of solving social problems, the ruling class preferred to split the society by provoking the Russophobia and ethnic hatred. From school textbooks young Kazakhstani learn about “Russian colonialism” and “bloody Soviet totalitarianism”. A campaign to fully rehabilitate all “victims of repressions”, including those who defected to Hitler’s side, has been officially launched. Monuments were erected to such figures as Mustafa Shokai, who collaborated with the Nazis. Streets and schools were named after them. The authorities increasingly speculated on the subject of the “Kazakh Holodomor”, grossly distorting the historical facts. Nationalist forces close to the government directly demanded recognition of the famine as “genocide” and “final decommunization”.

Under the destructive hysteria, the last monuments to Lenin were demolished in the country and streets, districts, villages and entire towns were renamed. A new wave of this political nastiness swept across the republic at the end of last year. Dozens of streets were renamed in Uralsk, Semey (former Semipalatinsk) and other cities. In Karaganda the October district was named after Alikhan Bukeykhanov, leader of the bourgeois Alash party, who had allied with Kolchak and the ataman Dutov to fight against Soviet power.

Despite the officially proclaimed friendship of peoples, Kazakhstan’s leadership has consistently narrowed the scope of the Russian language and discriminated against Russian-speaking citizens. At the end of last year, parliament approved a draft law allowing visual information to be posted exclusively in the Kazakh language. A complete conversion of the Kazakh alphabet from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet is planned by 2025.

This kind of policy led to a mass exodus of the population. The share of Russians in the republic has fallen from 38 percent to 18 percent in the post-Soviet period. Thus, 45,000 people left the country in 2019, 85 percent of whom are Russians, Ukrainians, and Germans. Kazakhstan has a state programme to resettle citizens of the titular nationality to the northern, predominantly Russian-speaking regions.

The “language patrols” have become a disgusting phenomenon. Humiliating the inhabitants of the “non-titular” nation, their participants demanded “on camera” an apology for not knowing the Kazakh language. The authorities turned a blind eye to this for a long time. Sluggish condemnation of such actions followed only after a wide echo in the Russian media.

Such a policy was welcomed by numerous pro-Western NGOs entrenched in the republic. The authorities themselves, while supporting Eurasian integration, were at the same time flirting with Western capitals. Relations with the U.S. have reached the level of an “expanded strategic partnership”. Joint military exercises with NATO, Steppe Eagle, are held in the republic every year. Several bio-laboratories have been built with the participation of the Americans, whose research raises many questions from local and foreign experts.

In fact, by pandering to nationalists, the government of Kazakhstan is methodically destroying the left-wing opposition. Both communists and independent trade unions have come under severe pressure.

Against this background there was a social upheaval in the country. The sharp doubling of the price of liquefied gas became a direct cause. – The cost of liquefied natural gas had risen sharply – twice at once! Before this, the authorities had announced a transition to “market pricing” and a complete withdrawal of subsidies. The focal point of discontent was western Kazakhstan. Firstly, liquefied gas is particularly widely used there, serving for heating homes and filling up cars. Secondly, the fuel is produced in that region, through the efforts of many of its inhabitants, but people were told to forget about it, “submit to the free market”. And thirdly, the previous waves of the crisis hit western Kazakhstan hardest, turning it into a centre of protest activity.

Within days the indignation had spread to other regions of the republic. Initially the protests were peaceful. Participants in the rallies demanded lower prices, higher wages and benefits, and insisted on a return to the previous retirement age. Workers at several oil fields went on strike in solidarity with the protesters.

However, the situation quickly changed and spiralled out of control. The first acts of terror and vandalism took place in the cities of Zhanaozen and Aktau in the Mangistau region in south-western Kazakhstan. Unrest then escalated into violent clashes in Almaty and other cities. In particular, Aktobe, Aktau and Almaty airports were paralysed. The security of the Baikonur Cosmodrome was threatened. Groups of armed youths attacked security forces, seized and smashed up buildings, and attacked doctors, firefighters and civilians. A wave of looting swept through the cities.

It is clear that the destructive actions have been committed by those who have nothing to do with the bulk of the protesters. Criminal groups are using the popular uprisings in Kazakhstan to achieve their own ends. First of all, these are radical Islamist cells. Their activity is indicated by demonstrative brutality against security forces. It came to the point of cutting off the heads of men in uniform. Agents of external forces have also become active. First of all, in Almaty, which is traditionally considered to be a bastion of liberal influence. Offices of significant number of pro-Western NGOs are located here. Criminals associated with nationalist groups have finally become violent. This is confirmed by targeted attacks on prosecutor’s offices and special services, arson attacks, seizure of weapons, pogroms in shops and other public places.

It cannot be ruled out that the actions of all these forces were co-ordinated from a single centre that wanted to destabilise Kazakhstan. But the republic’s leadership cannot be absolved of responsibility for the fact that officials condoned the activities of pro-Western forces and took a conciliatory stance towards the Islamists. The National Security Committee has rejected numerous requests to ban Salafism (Wahhabism). Preachers trained in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries operated in Kazakhstan.

It is incumbent on our country to place the entire course of events in a broad international context. In recent months, the politico-military situation near Russia’s western borders has clearly deteriorated. Economic, information, diplomatic and military pressure on our Power has only intensified. Western media, diplomats, politicians and NATO representatives have more than once loudly expressed their ostensible “concern” over plans to “attack Ukraine” and threatened Moscow with “comprehensive preventive measures”.

Against the backdrop of the escalating situation around our country, we have received a blow on our southern borders. With the onset of the new year, Russia’s adversaries on the world stage sharply raised the stakes in the game on the “big chess board”. On January 2, the population of Kazakhstan got a shock from the authorities’ “New Year present” – a gas price hike. The terrorist underground, whose leadership drew on the combat experience of jihadists in Syria and Iraq, immediately took advantage of the outrage. Large-scale acts of destabilisation were organised. On the one hand, the underground managed to merge with the masses of protesters and, on the other hand, to rely on  criminal elements.

Thousands of people have so far been affected by criminal actions. Hundreds of people have been hospitalized, dozens are in intensive care, some have been killed. Rioters are obstructing the work of ambulances and medical facilities, using firearms, intimidating the population and looting shops. The nature of their actions is evidence of planned steps, coordinated and financed from abroad.

The president of Kazakhstan has declared a state of emergency in the country and dismissed the government. Given the scale of the events and the intervention of external forces, the republic’s authorities have turned to partners for help. The CSTO Collective Security Council decided to provide such assistance to stabilise the situation in Kazakhstan.  

In the CPRF’s view, the deployment of CSTO peacekeepers is a forced, but appropriate and timely measure designed to douse the flames of yet another ‘colour revolution’. The Communist Party of Russia resolutely condemns the actions of international reaction and criminal elements. We consider completely unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Kazakhstan and attempts to destabilize Central Asia which pose a direct threat to our country.  

The CPRF is in favour of the return of Kazakhstan to peace. We believe that the primary task of the peacekeeping contingent is the protection of strategic facilities designed to ensure the normal life of the citizens. The population of the republic must be protected from terrorist attacks by jihadists who have resorted to “scare tactics”.

We are confident that a CSTO peace mission will help to stabilise the situation in the Central Asian region. At the same time, we believe that the peacekeeping contingent should be used only for its stated purposes. It is inadmissible to involve peacekeepers in the internal clashes of clans and factions.

It would be a mistake for the leadership of Kazakhstan to take the path of persecuting peaceful protesters, classifying everyone as “terrorists” and “militants”. We believe that the government should immediately enter into a dialogue with the workers and local politicians. Immediately meet their just demands to improve the socio-economic situation.

The CPRF notes that the time has come to nip in the bud the manifestations of Russophobe and anti-Soviet policies in the republic. A thorough analysis of the activities of pro-Western organisations and media is urgently needed. All this has for years turned Kazakhstan into an arena of activity for anti-Russian forces and has turned the population against friendship with our country.

The time has come for an honest discussion and the eradication of the fundamental causes of the pernicious social divide not only in Kazakhstan, but also in Russia. For our country has sounded yet another formidable signal that the policies of division, inequality and poverty inevitably overflow the cup of the people’s patience. By working in the interests of the oligarchs, by just allowing “crumbs from the table” for the working people, any government will inevitably face demands to answer for its actions. Then neither hard repressions, nor evil of nationalism, nor lies of anti-Sovietism and Russophobia followers will help any more.

The most important conclusion from the Kazakhstan events is that the attempts of the national bourgeoisie to integrate their peoples into the world of global capitalism make them puppets of the world oligarchy. The root interests of the peoples of Russia, Kazakhstan and all other states are to abandon this ruinous policy. Today, more than ever, our program “Ten Steps to Decent Life” and the unique experience of popular enterprises are in demand. Not foreign or “homegrown” capital, but the working masses must become the masters of their countries!