Kyrgyzstan: Mass protests clear out corrupt neo-liberals

“I’m tired of this life. I just want to live quietly and well” was the comment of one pensioner taking part in the protests in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzia (Kyrgyzstan) last week.

Within just a few days of the start of the protests in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal Abad (Dzhalal-Abad) demonstrators had seized the main government buildings in those three cities and forced the President Askar Akayev to flee the country.

Following the overthrow of the Serbian Milosevic, Georgian Shevardnadze and Ukrainian Yanukovich, the Kyrgyzstan events have been dubbed either the “yellow” or “tulip” “revolution” mainly by the capitalist elite internationally, eager to manipulate these events for their own strategic interests and propaganda aims. But the events in this small Central Asian country with China to the east, Kazakhstan and Russia to the north and Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir to the south, whilst having characteristics in common with the previous upheavals also had important differences.

Even some of the Russian press have commented that the fuel that fired the protest movement was the extreme poverty to be found in the country. A recent IMF assessment of the country’s economy stated that the average monthly wage is less than US$30 – in other words below the official $1 a day subsistence rate. Only neighbouring Tajikistan, which suffered ethnic civil war in the early nineties is below Kyrgyzia in the poverty ranking of nations belonging to the UN. Such is the poverty, up to a million of the five million population are working abroad, mainly in Russia and Kazakhstan, where they can earn more and send some money home. However, unlike Georgia, the Ukraine or Serbia, where Western imperialism blames the outgoing leaders for blocking free market reforms, Akayev was the West’s best point of support in Central Asia.

Although Akayev was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the late eighties he was primarily, heading the Republic’s Academy of Science. He was a strong advocate of perestroika and a close ally of first Gorbachev and then Sakharov and Yeltsin. He became president of the newly independent Kyrgyzia in 1991 after the ruling elite was unable to find another candidate able to get support from across the country, where clan and ethnic ties have a big influence. During the August 1991 attempted coup in the then Soviet Union, Akayev was the only republican leader apart from Russia’s Yeltsin to openly oppose the coup, declaring that troops be mobilised to defend his capital.

“Original” neo-liberal

Akayev was the “original” neo-liberal. Under his tutelage the country joined the IMF in 1992 and the WTO in 1994. Several IMF programmes have been implemented. Kyrgyzia was the first former Soviet republic to introduce its own currency – the Som. From 1990-96 the economy collapsed by 49%. As a result industry, which was located in the northern, Russian-speaking, areas has been practically wiped out, now industrial output accounts for less than a quarter of GDP, and that takes into account the fact that over 40% of industrial production is due to the output of one gold mine! Over half the population, mainly in the mountain areas in the south, are engaged in subsistence farming. If, during Soviet times there were schools, clinics and even hospitals in some of the bigger villages, these have now collapsed and been abandoned. If in 1990 there was practically 100% literacy amongst the population with a large proportion able to speak not only their native language but Russian too, now illiteracy is returning.

Notwithstanding these catastrophic figures, both Akayev and the international organizations have created a mythology around Kyrgyzia. Until recently it was hailed by the West as an island of democracy in Central Asia. A 2003 IMF report stated that the institution’s Directors “commended the Kyrgyz authorities for their prudent monetary and fiscal policies and for meeting the current Poverty Reduction Growth Facility”. Akayev’s economic advisors speak of Kyrgyzia becoming “better than Austria”, indeed some of the demonstrators complained they had been promised “Switzerland”!

Whilst it is true that the economy has experienced growth rates of nearly 5% a year since 2000, this rate is significantly less than that experienced by neighbouring Kazakhstan and Russia, let alone that of China. The mass of the population have felt no benefits. Many, particularly in the South have gone back to living in the traditional Yurt (a large round tent) as they are considerably easier to keep warm and comfortable than the badly-built flats in the cities which are left without proper water supplies and heating.

The IMF complains that one of the problems is the large “grey” economy, estimated to be equivalent to 40% of GNP. This is mainly due to the fact that a large section of the population is so poor it has to barter and trade goods, mainly agricultural produce or household goods imported by “shuttle” traders from China. Naturally a significant part of these goods are traded without using cash registers. But on the other hand, Kyrgyzia has one of the most corrupt societies in the world.

Extortion rife

Even state television has reported that “almost all people in Kyrgyzstan encounter extortion at schools, universities, police offices, hospitals, customs offices, state motor-vehicle and customs inspectorates. Plants and factories encounter…bribery even more often than ordinary citizens.” And most of this corruption ends up in the hands of the Akayev family. As Dmitri Furman, head of the CIS Institute, explains: “Practically all of profitable industry is in the hands of the bureaucrats and, unlike in neighbouring Kazakhstan, there are no oligarchs in Kyrgyzia who are independent of the President’s family”.

Despite the occasional complaints about corruption and the lack of poverty reduction by international institutions, the IMF, World Bank and the Paris Club have continued to back Akayev. During his many visits to the West in the nineties, the IMF continued to open up more credit lines to his regime. By the beginning of this year Kyrgyzstan had accumulated an external debt of $1.92 billion. This is five times more than the annual tax revenue and practically equal to the country’s $2 billion GNP. Whilst in February the Paris Club wrote off $124 million and rescheduled a further $431 million debt, in March the IMF agreed to give further credit of $14 million “to fight poverty”! This is despite the fact that even IMF experts say that what the CIS countries now require is not more money but the writing off of those debts accumulated in the 1990s.

Despite his early “democratic” credentials Akayev soon found that neo-liberal economic policies and democratic rights were difficult to combine. To overcome resistance to a fractious parliament he moved towards the strengthening of presidential rule, pushing through referenda in 1996 and 2003. At the same time, in line with neighbouring leaders, he began the harassing and sometimes jailing, opposition figures, dominating the mass media and manipulating the electoral process. Increasingly he established an economic and political empire based on his family and spreading out in a network of regional and business connections.

Superficially the 2003 referendum that, according to the official results which are disputed by the opposition, saw a 75% vote in favour of a new constitution, appears to be an attempt to ease the presidential powers. Local authorities, according to the new plans, are to be elected every 4 years before they were appointed by central government. At the same time direct Presidential powers were reduced in favour of Parliament – Kyrgyzstan was to move from being a Presidential republic to a parliamentary republic, was the explanation given by the regime.

However rather than being an attempt to extend democratic rights, this constitution was interpreted by many as an attempt to enshrine Akayev’s family in power for the foreseeable future. In the Presidential election due later this year, Akayev would, according to the old constitution which limits Presidential rule to two terms, have been unable to stand. Although he denied that he would stand, Akayev’s supporters argued that the new constitution meant he could serve another two terms.

But more importantly, the transfer of powers to the Parliament was accompanied by a vigorous campaign to gain control of it. Leading figures such as Roza Otunbayeva was denied the right to stand on the grounds that she had not been resident in Kyrgyzstan in the previous five years. (She had in fact been serving as the country’s ambassador in various countries, including the Ukraine.) The election campaign was very one-sided with opposition access to the media severely restricted. At the same time, all stops were pulled out to ensure that Akayev’s son and daughter were elected. It was, of course, this open rigging of the election that sparked off the uprising.

On the other hand, the transfer of powers to local authorities was not what it seemed when viewed in the light of the conditions that currently exist in the economically ravaged Kyrgyzstan. The regime was, it seems, motivated by the idea that by making local councils responsible for city and regional administration, opposition leaders would have their hands tied and receive the blame for local problems and not be able to unite into a national opposition. Councils were even given the duty to resolve conflicts between clans and vested interests. The “reform” was accompanied by a decision to increase the salaries of local officials from $20 to $40 a month, financed by an increase in land taxation, the bulk of which is paid by the poor peasants of the south, and this fuelled further hatred of the government.

However, as events proved, this turned out to be a very risky manoeuvre as it allowed local leaders to concentrate economic resources into their hands and, as happened in Osh, use the local authority as a base for mobilizing opposition to the regime.

Ethnic divisions

To a large degree the regional, clan and ethnic structure of Kyrgyz society has played a major role in these events. It is a condemnation of the former Stalinist system that, 70 years after the 1917 Revolution, the clan structure of Kyrgyz society still existed at the end of the 1980s and then strengthened during the period of capitalist restoration. Kyrgyzia as a country did not exist at the time of the October Revolution. In fact the area that became Kyrgyzia had only ever been visited by Europeans a handful of times, mainly as part of the so called ‘Great Game’ in which representatives of the British, Turkish, Russian and other empires tried to forge alliances with the various local tyrants and warlords in order to strengthen their imperialist ambitions in Asia.

However, the 1905 Russian Revolution acted as a spur to local groups of nationalists who began to agitate for Kyrgyz (which at that time was a term that included Kazakh) rights and independence from the tsarist empire. The 1917 Revolution saw a Tashkent (now in neighbouring Uzbekistan) Soviet established based mainly on Russian railway workers. This Soviet set itself the aim of creating a Soviet “Turkistan” covering the area that is now called Central Asia. It however managed to set itself against the local population by barring practising Muslims from participation in the Soviet. A Muslim congress in the Fergana valley (part of which extends into today’s Kyrgyzia) at the same time established an “autonomous Turkistan”, which was intended to exist “in union with a federal democratic Russian federation”. An armed clash between the two bodies saw the former’s victory but this opened up a period of conflict and confusion in the region where the Bashmaki, mainly bandits and raiders opposed to Soviet power, fought bloody battles for control. These lasted for more than a decade.

The clumsy approach of the Tashkent Soviet leadership was not unique at the time. Indeed, the dispute over the national question was a key factor in the opening of political divisions at the start of the 1920s in the Russian Bolshevik party between Lenin and Trotsky on the one hand and those who were later to become Stalinists on the other. Lenin and Trotsky argued for a flexible and sensitive approach to national groups to overcome national differences. The future Stalinists however believed that national groupings were a reflection of backwardness and that the more “progressive” Russians should dominate local governments, maybe in some cases in union with representatives of national groupings. In 1922, for example, a representative of the Turkmen communists complained that the Nationalities Ministry under Stalin was acting as a colonialist force.

As the Stalinists increased their domination of the national policy of the Soviet government they ignored local feelings and when the USSR was formed in the early 1920s, the Turkmen area was divided into four separate regions, which in the 1930s were then established as separate republics.

Under Soviet rule, despite the dictatorship of the Stalinist elite, the planned economy enabled huge steps forward to be made in economic, and to some degree, in cultural development. Cities such as Frunze grew from small peasant settlements into large industrial cities. Frunze is today Bishkek. The building of schools, clinics and hospitals raised the life expectancy and cultural levels of the peoples in the region to amongst the highest. The benefits of a state-owned planned economy (notwithstanding the huge distortions caused by the misrule of the Stalinist bureaucracy) can be clearly demonstrated when compared with the economic catastrophe that can be found today in Kyrgyzstan.

However the Stalinists, in a policy followed by Stalin’s successors up to Gorbachev, never gave the Turkmen peoples real control over their own lives. The local republic’s party was led by a local figurehead who was always shadowed and guided by a Moscow-nominated bureaucrat as deputy party leader. Just as bad is the fact that successive Soviet leaders enshrined the clan system into the party structure. In Kyrgyzia’s case the Moscow leadership tried to play off the northern clan against the southern, always giving precedence to the northern clan.

Ironically Akayev, a member of the northern clan, was nominated to head the republic in 1991 when the Soviet authorities could not find another candidate who could gain enough support from the South, to maintain some unity within the republic. But as privatisation gained speed in the republic, increasingly the gains were seen to be made by Akayev’s clan, thus increasing the hostility from the South, where two thirds of the population live. And here there is a certain paradox. Despite the fact that the driving forces for the overthrow of Akayev came from the South, only one of those who has replaced him, Kurmanbek Bakiev, the acting President, is from a southern clan.

Southern riots

Bakiev is not a poor man. Not only is he getting financial backing from the leaders of the southern clans, in 1994 he was one of the few southerners in a government position – as head of the committee for privatisation. As in other CIS republics, particularly when corruption is so high, this position was a guaranteed money spinner. In 2000 he was made Premier of the republic. Unfortunately for him, riots broke out in the South over the agreement by the government to transfer part of a disputed, although largely unoccupied, region to China. The protests were fuelled by the arrest of one of the then opposition leaders, Azimbek Beknazarov. In his home city of Dzhalal-Abad, the riot police opened fire, killing five. Akayev then sacked Bakiev, blaming him for the violence. Now Bakiev and Beknazarov are “allies”! The remainder are northerners who have simple fallen out with Akayev.

Roza Otunbayeva is often called “Yushchenko in a skirt”. She is Kyrgyzstan’s most experienced diplomat, serving first in the USA, then Canada and the UK and was serving in Georgia during the Rose Revolution as a loyal supporter of Akayev until just 6 months ago. When she returned to Kyrgyzstan last year she was accused of being financed by the US to ferment a repeat of the Georgian-Ukrainian events, which she naturally denied. She established her own party “Ata-Zhurt” (Fatherland) and adopted a lemon and the colour yellow as her party’s emblem. She earned the wrath of Akayev, however, when she announced she would stand for parliament in the very seat which Akayev had lined up for his daughter. Reports indicate that she may not be very popular in the South where the majority of demonstrators are angry about living standards, corruption and election fraud, whilst Otunbayeva is forever talking about “European standards” echoing many of the words that Akayev first used at the beginning of the nineties. She is now acting foreign minister.

Felix Kulov has spent the last few years in jail, being released by the crowd as it took over Bishkek. As Interior Minister he refused to break up a demonstration opposing the continuing rule of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Bishkek in 1990, and as Vice-President was one of Akayev’s most loyal lieutenants. He later came to head the republic’s secret police and personally headed the police troops that broke up the anti-Chinese protests in Osh. Only later was he to resign complaining that, whilst he supported Akayev, he was opposed to the people around him. He demanded the speeding up of land privatization and announced he would run for the Presidency. Only after Akayev opened a full attack on him, accusing him of the misuse of power and corruption, did Kulov find himself in opposition, unfortunately for him also in prison. Now he has been appointed again as acting Minister of the Interior and quickly moved to use police methods to stop the looting of Bishkek.

By their own admission, these leaders did not expect to come to power. In reality they are there only because there is no other force in Kyrgyz society capable of mobilizing opposition. Yet even in the first days and even hours these new leaders started falling out among themselves. On the first working day the old and new parliaments tried to meet, each denying the legitimacy of the other; already new opposition protests organized by the “27th March” committee were being held. This group claims to be a block of the “second layer regional leaders” of the uprising and they accuse the new leadership of “having taken just three days to sell out”.

But if the clan divisions create hostility, the ethnic make-up of the republic is even more explosive and complex. There are big minorities of Tajiks and Uzbeks as well as a once large Russian population in the North. In addition there are up to a million Uighurs (Turkmen originating from China) either living in the south or engaged in shuttle trading. The region first gained notoriety when the Fergana Valley, one of most densely-populated areas of the former Soviet Union, exploded in ethnic conflict in the late eighties and beginning of the nineties. In Osh in 1990 there was a serious clash between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. Later research into the events showed that the main reason for the clash was the intense poverty of the region, in which up to 60,000 families were homeless.

Uzbeks make up 13% of the population and are more numerous in the South, particularly in cities like Osh. Whilst there is huge dissatisfaction with their position, the Uzbeks tended to support Akayev in the election if for no other reason than that in the recent period the opposition has being raising a more openly Kyrgyz nationalist profile. Many Uzbeks are therefore concerned that if the opposition was to come to power, it would start to review ownership rights in the republic, thus increasing instability and raising the spectre of more ethnic pogroms.

Declining Russian population

At the same time there has been a huge outflow of the Russian population from the republic. For a number of reasons, including hostility from the government and because of economic collapse, the number of ethnic Russians living in the republic has dropped by half a million, falling from 22% to 11% of the population. This has created huge problems as factories and heavy industry were largely manned by Russians. Many skilled specialists are also from Russia as well. Increasingly, the Bishkek authorities have been concerned at this and taken steps to discourage Russians from leaving. Only recently Russian was given the status of official language. Whilst this has only recognized the reality that cities such as Bishkek are naturally Russian speaking, it has fuelled the demands of, for example, the Uzbeks to have their language recognised.

Even more problematic are the difficulties faced by the Uighurs, many of whom have fled from China’s nearby Muslim region, which like Tibet is subject to severe repression. Not wishing to upset its giant neighbour, the government has arrested leading activists of the Uighur population and assured China that no Uighur nationalist movement will be tolerated. But the nature of their lifestyles, based as it is on cross-border trade, drives them into natural conflict with the Uzbeks and Tajiks, who themselves rely on trade with Uzbekistan for a living. Clashes frequently occur.

The Russian press has raised the spectre of a strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism as a result of the recent events in Kyrgyzstan and, of course, they have reason to be worried. Since the ethnic conflicts of the eighties, the Fergana Valley has been a hotbed of Islamic radicalism and one of the major organisations responsible for the fighting in North Afghanistan is the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Up to now the authorities in the region have relied on strict repression to try and prevent the growth of these groups. Even wearing a beard in Uzbekistan is illegal, and a CWI supporter who recently visited Bishkek was stopped by police and questioned about his beard! In addition long stretches of the borders are frequently closed, supposedly to stop Islamists crossing. But according to the International Crisis Group, this repression is only leading to a radicalization and increasing cooperation between groups. The Kyrgyz police say they are concerned that the Islamic Movement of Kazakhstan and Uighur nationalists together with the home grown Hizb-ut-Tahrir will link up. Whilst these reports are probably exaggerated, there are certainly signs of a growth in support for Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The last two years has seen a wave of arrests of youth who are active in this group, mainly for the crime of handing out leaflets calling for the overthrow of the government. Police claim there are up to 2000 activists in this group in Kyrgyzstan.

What is interesting is the political position of this group. Unlike its larger competitor the Islamic Movement, Hizb-ut-Tahrir has specifically rejected terrorism, believing the murder of innocent bystanders to be a violation of Islamic law. This organisation, however, does call for the overthrow of existing governments in the region, it explicitly states it is opposed to capitalism and calls for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. The organization openly condemns corruption and poverty and even talks of the lack of a political alternative, and has thus been able to attract a layer of youth. While officially it boycotted the election campaign, its activists campaigned against attempts by Akayev to rig the election by banning other candidates.

On the one hand, the support for organizations such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir indicate the vacuum that exists and the potential for building a socialist alternative to neo-liberalism in Central Asia, but unfortunately its success also underlines the absence of a genuine workers’ alternative in the region. Until recently there were two competing communist parties in the country, representatives of both of which have had some discussion with the CWI. They, however, have inherited all the ideological baggage of Stalinism – leaders of one of the parties outlined to us their strategy – we have the means of organizing an armed insurrection, they stated, but unfortunately at this stage only the national bourgeoisie can take over and they are too weak! As a result, even though both parties had representatives in the previous parliament, neither proved capable of mobilizing the masses against extreme poverty or in support of democratic rights and, as a result, have been pushed into the sidelines.

Vacuum in region

As a result a political vacuum exists in this republic. Following the success of December’s so-called “Orange revolution” in the Ukraine, it is reported that Kyrgyzia has been flooded with NGO workers and Western embassy staff, attempting to repeat what they saw as a success in Central Asia. But whilst as in Georgia and the Ukraine poverty and corruption has provided fertile ground for a campaign to overthrow the government, a number of factors have made their job more complex. Firstly, there was no clear pro-Western anti-Russian opposition force that could push Akayev out. Secondly, and probably as significant, is the fear that Western imperialism has, in common with Russian imperialism, of an explosion of instability in Central Asia that would quickly spill over into neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan, Kashmir and Pakistan.

The reality is that, although most people have probably never heard of this country and very few could locate it on a map, Kyrgyzstan, a country half the size of France, is in one of the key strategic positions in the world. Following the September 11th attacks in New York, the US sought a strategic base for its air force in Central Asia and, in agreement with Akayev, built an airbase just a few kilometers from Bishkek. This was originally supposed to be temporary, but last year Rumsfeld announced in Uzbekistan that the US was considering turning the base, and another in Uzbekistan, into “lily pads”, permanent bases for the rapid deployment of mobile expeditionary forces. As one expert commented, this approach could only increase instability in the region as it forces China and Russia to step up their involvement and provides an impetus to Islamic radicals to step up their activity.

Indeed the responses of both Russia and China were not long in coming. Russia persuaded Akayev to allow them a base just 30 km from the Americans. Whilst Russia has relied on extending its military influence in the region and sending special ambassadors to strengthen relationships with the republican leaders, China has also reacted using both economic and political instruments. China’s interests are complex. It wants to open the region to supply China with oil and gas, thus reducing China’s reliance on Middle Eastern oil. At the same time, China is desperate to maintain Central Asia as a stable region as any unrest could quickly spill over into the Xinjiang province, which is where many Uighurs live.

China’s approach, although to some degree conflicting with Russian interests in the region, has also found some common ground with the latter. Thus the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, consisting of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, has stepped up its activities in the form of intelligence exchanges, police cooperation, training of police, training of military forces and the design of military operations targeting terrorist activities.

China has combined this approach with investment. At the SCO summit in Tashkent last July it announced an investment of $4,000 million in the Central Asian countries and agreed to pay the full cost of about $1.5 billion for the construction of a highway from China to Central Asia, via Kyrgyzstan.

But for now the region is in turmoil. It seems that upheaval and explosive movements could spread throughout Central Asia. Commentators on the BBC have argued that it is unlikely that Akayev’s fate will be shared by the other Central Asian leaders. Unlike Kyrgyzstan, they say, where Akayev was reluctant to use outright repression, in the other republics the dictatorships are much more prepared to resort to force. But they have not understood one thing. Such is the hatred of the masses for the poverty and the corruption that exists in the region and so weak is the social base of the regimes that are currently in power, even a slight breathe of opposition can blow away any of the structures that are used by these dictators to hang onto power. Throughout the region this was understood by the ruling elites as they demonstrated, within hours of the conflict spilling out into the open in Kyrgyzstan closing their borders and appealing to Akayev to find a peaceful solution.

Clashes flare up

Once again these events have demonstrated that the power of the people taking to the streets is sufficient to topple the corrupt and hated rulers currently heading the republics of the former Soviet Union. This lesson is being felt even in Russia itself, where the government was forced into a humiliating defeat by pensioners’ protests in January. Already, riot police have had to be used in the south Russian republic of Ingushetia as protesters, inspired by the Kyrgyzstan events, attempted to storm the local Parliament to force the local government to resign.

But whilst the “power of the street” is enough to topple governments, in itself it is not enough to establish an alternative government that will be capable of ending the corruption and poverty which grips this region. In Kyrgyzia, all that has happened is that Akayev has been forced to flee whilst his former loyal lieutenants have returned to power.

It is difficult to find any real policy differences between Akayev and his successors. If anything they are slightly more “neo-liberal”. Felix Kulov, for example, demands the privatization of land. But whatever these new leaders do, it is clear there will be no fundamental improvement in the economic position faced by the masses. The US and European capitalists have already mobilised to try to contain the masses’ anger; and under the banner of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) they are trying to establish a government that will protect both capitalism and their own interests.

So what is needed? It is almost incredible that, at the turn of the twentieth century, in the conditions of feudal barbarity that then existed in the region that became Kyrgyzsia, people were far sighted enough to realize that not only was it necessary to struggle for a national identity, for liberation from the yoke of the Russian Empire but that it was also possible to fight for a socialist society. But such people did exist. And within twenty years they were part of the revolutionary movement led by the Bolshevik Party that not only ended feudalism but drove capitalism from a country covering one sixth of the earth’s land mass.

Now at the beginning of the twenty-first century, with all the experience of the last hundred years and the new technology that has broken down national isolation, once again it needs people, convinced of the ideas of genuine socialism and conscious of their tasks to begin the work of providing a real alternative to the horrors of twenty-first century capitalism, with its wars, ethnic disputes, poverty and dictatorships.

In Kyrgyzstan, as in all the republics of Central Asia, working people need mass independent working-class organisations that can lead the struggle beyond the overthrow of the Akayev regime and fight for a workers’ government that genuinely represents the interests of urban and rural workers and the poor. Immediate steps need to be taken to create democratically-elected committees of workers and poor to establish popular control over the economy and society. Such organisations must put no trust in any capitalist politicians or new found “democratic” “friends” from the US and EU. At the same time socialists should strive to unite workers, peasants and youth of all nationalities in a workers’ party that would fight for:

  • An end to privatization of industry and land.
  • For wages and pensions to be immediately increased to above subsistence level.
  • For a programme of financial support for small-scale farmers.
  • The mafia and chinovniks to be driven out of industry, trade and agriculture – for factories, markets and farms to be controlled and managed by those who work in them.
  • The cancellation of international debts.
  • The nationalisation of industry, banks and natural resources such as the gold mines.
  • For the economy to be controlled and managed by democratically-elected committees of workers and poor peasants.
  • For equal rights for all nationalities, with the recognition of the Uzbek language as an official language.
  • For the mass media to be under workers’ control with access granted to all groups and sections in proportion to their weight in society.
  • The closure of the US and Russian military bases in the country. No foreign bases.
  • Annulment of agreements with all international organisations such as NATO, the World Bank, IMF, the Shanghai Group and CIS.
  • The abolition of the Security Police and the release of all political prisoners. A review of all those arrested for belonging to “terrorist organisations” and the release of all those who have not been involved in sectarian violence.
  • The creation of “self-defence” units of all nationalities under the control of democratically-elected committees representing workers and the poor.
  • The abolition of the institution of President. For the establishment of a constituent assembly comprising of democratically-elected representatives of working people of all nationalities on a proportional basis to decide how the country will be run in the future.
  • The formation of a genuine workers’ and poor peasants’ government.

But, just as the promise by Akayev and his cronies at the beginning of the 1990s to build an “island of democracy” in Central Asia proved to be an illusion, the establishment of a just and democratic society under workers’ control and management in Kyrgyzstan alone is not possible in isolation. The workers and poor peasants of Kyrgyzia need to link up their struggle with that in other countries, for an end to dictatorship and capitalism – in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, in Russia and China – and of course in the countries of the so-called developed world, whose ruling classes like their predecessors in the nineteenth century view Central Asia as a “strategic” area for furthering their individual imperialist ambitions. Only by establishing a genuine, free and democratic federation of socialist states of Central Asia as part of an international socialist federation can the problems of the region be resolved.

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March 2005