Tragic events in Russia

Tragic events in Russia

Exactly a week after Putin’s “landslide” victory in the Russian Presidential election (March 18) a terrible fire broke out in the “Winter Cherry” shopping and entertainment centre of the Siberian city of Kemerovo. It killed more than 80 people, at least 40 of whom are children. Some are still missing. Appalling though Kemerovo was, it was not an isolated incident.

Beyond the Kemerovo Tragedy

Whilst the world’s media is transfixed by the Russian spy scandal, the fire shone a light into the conditions under which the Russian working class live. Whilst the world’s main TV channels showed Putin laying flowers in the main square and condemning the “criminal negligence” of the authorities in the city, it did not show what happened later. On March 27 in the same Kemerovo square a mass meeting of more than three thousand people took place. The people chanted: "Let’s have the Truth!”, "Putin resign!", "Governor resign!".

We know now that the fire doors were locked by security guards because they had insufficient numbers to prevent people entering them to get a free view of the cinema. Fire systems had not been maintained as the owners of the centre sought to save money to boost their profits.

Appalling though Kemerovo was, it was not an isolated incident. A few days earlier there were protests in the city of Volokolamsk in the Moscow region. Hydrogen sulphide gas had leaked from a controversial experimental landfill site of Yadrovo, more than 100 children at a nearby school needed medical help in one week. By March 26 222 children and 93 adults required hospital treatment. This led to mass pickets at the city administration building and at the test site where the police initially failed to remove protestors from the Novorizhskoe highway leading to the site so that bin lorries could not get in. Here one of their leaders, Artem Lyubimov, was detained by the police.

At the city hall people chanted "Shame!" and "Fascists!" at the authorities and the Governor of the Moscow region, Andrei Vorobyev, had to be bundled away from the angry crowd by his security staff.

The leader of the Volokolamsk district authority was sacked but this was not enough for the protestors. After two more toxic nights when hydrogen sulphide emissions engulfed the town they again demonstrated outside the city administration building on April 1. They demanded the sacking of Vorobyev and the release of Lyubimov as well as the closure of the landfill. So far the authorities have only promised to significantly reduce the number of garbage trucks entering the site, and carry out work to eliminate the unpleasant odour from which the townspeople suffer. These infrastructural catastrophes are the result of years of underinvestment from a system which reels from one economic catastrophe to another punctuated with short periods of improvement.

The Crisis in Russia

Just before the March 18 election the World Bank and other international bodies announced after 5 years of decline the Russian economy would recover a little (1.7%) this year. Standard and Poor raised Russia’s credit rating a notch from junk to investment status. For the average Russian this is hardly a cause for celebration.

Russia had not suffered so badly in the 2007-8 financial crash so that, until 2012, Putin was credited with restoring Russian economic wellbeing after the virtual collapse of the economy in 1998. However the halving of oil and gas prices (which account for 60% of Russia’s exports and 50% of government revenue) that year led to another collapse which hit the population almost as hard as that of 1998.

The reality for Russians is that since 2005, more than 35,000 large and medium-sized factories have been closed which works out at 8 a day. In the last 2 decades Russia has lost 38,000 large collective farms and 39% of those that remain are unprofitable. In the same period 23,000 towns and villages have just disappeared taking with them 15600 clubs, 4,300 libraries, 22,000 kindergartens, and 14,000 schools.

Of the 10,700 hospitals that were operating in 2000, there were 4,400 in 2015, and of 21,500 health centres in 2000 there were only 16,500 in 2015.

Officially, 16% of the country's population has an income below the subsistence level but most observers think it is much more than this. The state claims unemployment is only about 5 or 6% but this does not include 5 million rural residents who because they have a household plot are considered as employed. And whilst inflation remains, wages have not compensated for it. Little wonder then that the Russian economy shrank from 2014 onwards and the price has been paid by the working class. Per capita GDP has been halved and stands at the level of 2008.

It is no secret that Putin heads an oligarchic regime in which "Putin's friends" have concentrated in their hands the colossal wealth obtained for the sale of natural resources and weapons, stored largely abroad, offshore and in American securities. According to the most conservative estimates, more than a trillion dollars of Russian citizens and their companies - 60% of the country's GDP - are located offshore. Last year Russia had the highest number of new millionaires in the world.

With foreign inward investment falling by 30% as a result of sanctions the Russian central bank has recently bailed out two of the country’s main banks. It has now copied the rest of the world economy and set up a “bad bank” to hoover up the debt in the banking system. And the ones who will pay for this are the working who will see a further collapse of the infrastructure around them.

The mass protests in Volokolamsk and Kemerovo show that the population are not so ready to accept this, whatever Putin’s nationalist boasts about making the country strong again. In Russia, a lot of social contradictions have accumulated. It remains to be seen if this can be translated into real grassroots opposition and ultimately organisation.

Ivan

For views of the demonstrations see the following:

Additional information from leftcom.org and financialobserver.eu

We also received the following leaflet from a group of workers near to Kemerovo

Appeal of the Krasnoyarsk Marxist Workers’ group 'International Proletarian Union' about the tragedy in Kemerovo.

Our dear comrades, Kemerovo residents, citizens! On this day, we mourn with you.

We blame capitalism for this tragedy!

Judging by the speed of fire and the spread of fire during the construction and decoration of the shopping center, flammable materials were used.

The practice of using substandard and inadequate materials in modern Russian construction is so widespread that a huge number of buildings built around the country have burned down in the last 10-20 years, due to the rapid ignition of the walls, insulation or interiors.

This is the logic of capitalism. The combustible material is cheaper than non-flammable. Plastic is cheaper than bricks. Vinyl is cheaper than metal. By choosing cheaper materials the bourgeoisie may save a couple of millions on the cost of the entire construction. And maybe even more.

Construction companies cannot be satisfied with the hundreds of millions that they already earn on selling a house or a shopping centre. They must aim for one hundred and one million. And if it works out, one hundred and two. And even better – one hundred and ten.

The principle of modern business is to squeeze the maximum profit out of everything. Screw more. Save on everything, on anything you can. And when you have saved on everything you can, you start saving on something that you cannot.

Changing from one material to another saves a million. The selected material is forbidden, therefore, a million buys off a hundred thousand inspectors. Or pays for forged documents. Or some other way.

Those businessmen who operate fire-hazardous premises, not burdening themselves with the costs of modern fire safety equipment endanger the lives of our citizens. Again it turns out that it is more profitable to give the inspector a backhander than to ensure the safety of people.

This favours the bourgeois and saves on the qualified protection of such institutions. The cinema doors in the "Winter Cherry" shopping mall were closed, and remained closed until the last person died. None of the fire exits functioned.

One bastard paid another bastard and so we get thousands of time bombs in our attractions, cinemas and shops. This is the whole rotten essence of capitalism.

Each trip with a family to one of these centres may be your last, the doors to the cinema hall may be locked, the fire extinguishing system will not be set up, and the Ministry of Emergency Situations is not prepared to save your lives.

Comrades, you must not remain silent! You can no longer endure endless bullying. We must raise our voice on the street during rallies and demonstrations. But this is not enough.

We can only find real security for ourselves and our children only through the revolutionary overthrow of the rotten power of this oligarchic state. This is the task of the working class – no-one else will do it for us.

This will require a long and hard work on the self-organisation of the working class. Comrades, wake up! Comrades unite! Comrades, create your own working organisations at your place of work to protect your labour and civil rights!

Unite with other working groups! Join the international working-class movement!

If we remain inactive, then this tragedy will not be the last! Sooner or later, the power of the capitalists will destroy society. If we want a happy future for our children, we have no other way but to fight for communism!

PROLETARIANS OF ALL COUNTRIES UNITE!

28 March 2018

Machine translated

The International Proletarian Union can be found at vk.com and can be contacted through that page.

The photo is from the demonstration in the main square of Kemerovo.

Comments

Spikymike
Apr 8 2018 14:11

Thanks for this. The video is not embedded here but at least one of them is still up and accessible on the leftcom site and worth a view.

Dyjbas
Apr 8 2018 14:16

They work for me, but only once you allow "unsafe scripts" in the browser. I think libcom's had a problem with embedded videos for a while now.

Here are the YouTube links for those who can't see them:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFWuvIfW__I
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIpORZem0mo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOTUffAw6EE