Clare Doyle, Committee for a Workers’ International
I spoke to Sergei, a worker who lives in Kemerovo, on Sunday 1 May. I asked him if there were any public demonstrations taking place to celebrate the day of international workers’ solidarity – the century-old tradition honoured in Russia for more than 100 years.
“It is very limited”, he says, “because of the war which is raging in Ukraine.” He admits that it’s possible that news is not reaching everyone, and the media is not giving out much information. Sergei thought there were some gatherings taking place, organised by lefts and trade unionists, and some by the ‘liberal’ opposition in Moscow. “But all participants risk arrest if they are critical of Putin’s ‘Special Military Operation’ against ‘fascists’ and ‘Bandera supporters’. Workers fear losing their jobs if they take any industrial action, even on wage claims, let alone against the war.”
“Some of the traditionally left forces in Russia have gone along with the idea of reuniting the USSR, even though Putin’s aims are clearly imperialist. The Russian Communist Workers’ Party (RKRP) has split into three on the issue. The whole section in Novosibirsk has gone. One of its leaders – an old stalwart and fighter against both Boris Yeltsin and Putin, Victor Tulkin, has gone over to support the war.”
“Most of the so-called Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) has remained loyal to Putin, and its MPs have voted in the Duma to support the bloodletting in Ukraine. A small but significant part of the KPRF has split away from the party. Some lefts have been flying the flag of the Soviet Union, others the red flag, but no one seems to take a clear position publicly on what needs to be done.”
“The atmosphere at my workplace is not too tense. You can talk about what is happening, but are forbidden to make any criticism of the army. These days there is a huge recruitment of mercenaries going on, locally, in the Caucasus, and elsewhere.”
“I have argued with colleagues that Putin is playing imperialist games. But they just don’t see the whole picture – that the top companies are the ones who hold power, and that in capitalist societies, war is a constant feature. I talk about Lenin’s emphasis on the need for world revolution, but now there is no great figure arguing the socialist case against war.”
“On both sides, there is a huge build-up of military forces and equipment going on – in Kaliningrad and in Belarus on the one side and in Nato’s East European member countries on the other. In Russia there are tests taking place of a new intercontinental ballistic missile called Sarmat. It is capable of reaching all the countries of Europe and the USA. If there’s a provocation from the ‘West’ and all that kind of power is unleashed, this could definitely become a world-wide conflict.”
Sergei (not his real name) wanted to say that he thinks many people are against the war, but are afraid. “And the saddest thing is that we, the first country in the world to take the communist road, have fallen so far back.
“The communist and left movement is extremely weak… Of course there are people who speak out for internationalism and a fight against the capitalists who have set two brotherly nations at war with each other and brought the world to the brink of a nuclear confrontation, but they are very few.”
To finish, Sergei insisted that he still retains the hope that some time Russia will become really free and that workers will again be in power. “I still see an oncoming socialist world!”