The following two articles report on the working class upsurge in eastern Ukraine that is accompanying the struggle for political autonomy for the region from Ukraine’s governing regime in Kyiv. The articles are translated from Russian by Renfrey Clarke of Australia.
1. The miners of Yenakievo have seized a plant belonging to the oligarch Renat Akhmetov and have burnt the flag of the Right Sector
Published on the Russian-language, anti-fascist website Russian Spring, May 4, 2014 (English page of the site here).
Yenakievo is an industrial city about 60 km (37 miles) east of Donetsk in Ukraine. It is home to the Yenakievo Iron and Steel Works, as well as to coal mines and a coke and chemical plant. PrivatBank is owned mainly by the billionaire oligarch Igor Kolomoysky, reportedly a large-scale financial backer of the far-right groups Svoboda and the Right Sector.
Today, 4 May, miners gathered in front of the municipal administration building in the city of Yenakiev (population 85,000) in Donetsk Province. Taking into account recent events in the country -- the deaths in Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Odessa -- our compatriots decided to hold a demonstration to defend their small homeland from aggressors.
The workers seized control of the metallurgical plant. Shouting the slogan “We shall not forgive them for Odessa!”, they demanded that the director of the plant, which is part of the Metinvest group of companies owned by Rinat Akhmetov and Vadim Novinsky, come out and meet with them. The workers then entered the plant management building and began clearing it of office staff. The enterprise director said he did not forbid the workers from taking part in demonstrations, but the workers declared a strike, demanding a written undertaking that they would not be dismissed from the plant for participating in the Donbass popular militia. Over the management building, they raised the flag of the Donetsk Peoples Republic.
After seizing the plant, the supporters of resistance to the regime of the Kiev junta moved to the square next to the city administration building, also setting off for the coke and chemical works. The flag of the Peoples Republic is flying over the city administration, and eyewitnesses report that about a thousand people are gathered at the building. The workers are demanding a referendum either for the unification of Donetsk Province with Russia, or for its autonomy within the structure of Ukraine. The demonstrators are organising the defence of the city administration. For the present, the situation is relatively calm. Another thousand or so people are at the Privat Bank branch, which self-defence militants have ransacked.
The demonstrators on the square in front of the building of the Yenakiev City Council lit candles in memory of the Odessa resistance activists who perished, and set fire to the red-and-black official flag of the Banderist movement. This flag is also used by the right-wing extremist group Right Sector.
The workers in the heroic profession stated that for the time being, they were declaring an indefinite demonstration. But if the miners’ demands are not heeded, work in the coal enterprises will cease. There is one single goal: to force the Kiev regime to withdraw its forces from the Donbass. The miners have been joined by steelworkers and coke and chemical workers.
"How much can we put up with?" asked the coal-face worker Maksim."We aren’t trash, as the self-proclaimed Kiev regime calls us. We’re simple working people. But the time has now come for us to act, not to sit around at home hoping someone will do everything for us."
"Our whole brigade is here, we came after the end of our shift. We’re going to defend the city. And if anyone is scared of getting the sack, let them remember that our strength is in our unity. Just let them try to touch a single rank-and-file mineworker!"
Speakers voiced the desire for the demonstrators to organise themselves to help their neighbours in Kramatorsk and Slavyansk, and also to strengthen the defence of Gorlovka. "Dear friends," came the message from the improvised platform, "thank you, thank you for getting up off your knees, for coming here today to defend your families, your city, and the whole Donbass from disorders!"
Those at the demonstration observed a minute of silence for the victims of the civil war, for the activists of the anti-Maidan burnt to death in Odessa and for the militia members killed in Kramatorsk and Slavyansk. Many people had tears in their eyes.
But if these sacrifices by our compatriots are not to be in vain, the efforts to stop the holding of the referendum set for 11 May have to be defeated. People of Yenakiev, take part in the referendum! Our future and that of our children depends on the vote of every citizen!
2. Factory occupations and strikes in south-eastern Ukraine are taking on a massive character
Published on the Russia website Rabkor (‘Worker Correspondent’), May 5, 2014, www.rabkor.ru.
Since at least the end of April, strikes in the mines and factories of south-eastern Ukraine have become a massive phenomenon. Yesterday, taking their lead from the miners’ strikes that had begun in Yenakievo, workers spontaneously posed the question of an all-national political strike. Simultaneously, the idea of a boycott of enterprises and banks belonging to oligarchs is becoming increasingly popular.
In the first instance, this relates to Igor Kolomoysky, who is known for his financing of the Right Sector. Hence, in Lugansk ,supporters of federalisation have been spreading the following appeal: "Workers for PrivatBank -- quit your jobs! Clients of PrivatBank -- withdraw your deposits! A fascist bank will not be allowed to exist on the territory of Lugansk."
In a number of cases, the strikes have led to the occupation of enterprises by workers. The flag of the Donetsk Peoples Republic has been raised over the plant of the corporation Metinvest, belonging to the group of RinatAkhmetov. For the present, the steelworkers have declared an indefinite demonstration, but if their demands do not get a hearing, work in the coal enterprises will come to a halt.
There is a single aim: to force the Kiev authorities to withdraw their forces from the Donbass. Meanwhile, miners and coke and chemical workers have been acting in a united front with the steelworkers, and virtually the entire cycle of metallurgical production has thus stopped.