Kazakhstan: Instability underlines need for bold workers’ opposition

Several developments have taken place in Kazakhstan over the last few months. In the political sphere, relations between Kazakhstan and Russia have become strained.

The main reason for this is the agreement signed by Nursultan Nazarbayev with Trump regarding the building and use of USA military bases on the Caspian shore of Kazakhstan. The aim of these bases is to transport cargo to Afghanistan in order to fight with radical Islamists. What caused criticism from Russia was not only that they were not consulted but that they were not made aware that this agreement was taking place. The Russian side is convinced that Kazakhstan’s coast will be used by the USA to threaten Russia – in no way linked to the transportation of cargo but aimed at expanding the military contingent of NATO into the Caspian Sea. 

Kazakh authorities are trying to convince Russia that there is nothing sinister going on and that the two nations remain friends. They also pointed out that Russia itself in the past offered the use of a base in Ulyanovsk for the transportation of cargo up until the relationship with the USA worsened. Kazakhstan’s ‘multi-vector’ policy in relation to Russia has meant trying to maintain good relations with the countries of the former Soviet Union but not allowing Russia to dominate. However, its arguments have not convinced Russia on this issue.

In addition to that, the Americans have earlier built a bacteriological laboratory in the south of Kazakhstan. Such laboratories already exist in Georgia and recently in Armenia. This will certainly arouse worries in Russia. Just before that, Kazakhstan announced a transition from the Cyrillic script and alphabet used in Russia to the Latin script. This generally provoked a negative reaction in Russia and amongst a large part of the Russian-speaking population living in Kazakhstan. These developments are greatly supported by Kazakh ‘patriotic’ nationalists.

All these questions are being discussed at a diplomatic level. However, it looks as if relations have got worse and the Russian side is convinced that Kazakhstan is distancing itself from Russia towards Western partners and China. Furthermore, the recent meeting of Nazarbayev with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, ended with Kazakhstan being granted multi-billions worth of credit and the confirmation of agreements reached earlier regarding the renting of land and the building of Chinese factories on Kazakh territories.


At this moment, the internal debt of Kazakhstan is almost equal to all Kazakhstan’s reserves and this very much reflects itself on the socio-political sphere. In Kazakhstan, some activists have found themselves thrown in jail for protesting against the leasing of land to the Chinese. The nationalist patriots are using this situation to promote their right-wing agenda by calling on everyone to defend Kazakh land from foreign occupation and, with it, they are trying to push the idea of a mono-national state. This, of course, leads to national conflict in society and is very worrying.

It is worth noting that two years ago, within the confines of cabinet rooms and without much publicity, Vladimir Putin signed a law regarding “the future development of territories”. The law concerns the renting out of land to the Chinese on 49 year leases with a clause giving full control over the rented territory. The only workforce to be used is Chinese, who are given the right to build homes and displace local residents if the development of production requires.

At the moment, there is an intense deforestation of the Baikal area in Eastern Siberia by Chinese companies. The vast majority of Russian s live in the western part of the country and have no knowledge of such a law. With this in mind, one can see there is definitely a basis for the worries of the Kazakh people.

Along with this, Nazarbayev and Putin appear to be racing towards becoming hostages of China. This is due to their oligarchic regimes not being able to cope with the tasks of government and providing social welfare which is being cut every year. However, if Putin is looking for Chinese support, not only in the economic but the political sphere, then Nazarbayev, who is bogged down in economic problems, is trying to become a puppet of all masters. This of course, bearing in mind the current state of the world, will lead to the most catastrophic consequences.


Today, we see a sharp rise in the activity of various unregistered political movements, the leaders of which currently live abroad. One of these leaders is Mukhtar Ablyazov, an ex-banker convicted of theft. Now he is calling on the people to go against the government and walk out onto the streets in protest. However, he does not answer questions from citizens regarding his motives.

The people are asking: “Ablyazov, why did you not call for this when you were a banker?” and “Why are you now promising to give credit at under 2% as one of your policies, although you never mentioned this when you were the owner of a bank?… You fleeced the people, just like all bankers! What’s more, you were friends with Nazarbayev. And now, you and Nazarbayev have had a conflict of interest; a thief has robbed a thief! And you are trying to use ordinary people to come to power?”

These questions Ablyazov does not answer. Instead, he calls on the masses to overthrow the Nazarbayev regime by promising a brighter future. However, we in the workers’ movement are trying to explain to the people that a capitalist banker will never care about them. His goal is to replace Nazarbayev by the spilling of the people’s blood and install a new capitalist regime, just the way it has happened in many other post-Soviet nations. There is a belief that this is the game being played out by factions within Nazarbayev’s own regime. A struggle for power and behind the back of the dictator himself.

A fighting force

How workers see the struggle to end the regime is important. Not only is it impossible for a banker to organise from abroad, it is impossible to achieve a workers’ revolution from abroad, using the internet, websites etc. It requires the painstaking building of forces on the ground.

The trade union federation, Amanat, that we have been building for well over a year now,has recently come under attack from the state. The government has begun much closer checks and monitoring of our union activities. Across all regions, government agents are demanding documentation and checks from our members. But we will not be deterred from building our forces.
At the end of last year, Amanat received much support and written protests against the harassment of medical staff for joining Amanat so the government began using different methods. They formed a new state trade union and with the help of local government authorities and education representatives, they forced Amanat members to move into government trade unions. However, according to the law, there are no government trade unions.

This is what the authorities were trying to prove to a delegation from the International Labour Organisation that visited Kazakhstan this year. They were unable to convince the representatives of this. According to the Geneva Convention, Kazakhstan was among eight disadvantaged nations which did not comply with the ILO convention no. 87along with Algeria, Bangladesh, Botswana, Cambodia, Ecuador, Egypt and Guatemala).

Amanat makes its mark

There was a meeting of the Tripartite Commission on the 11th of June in which we were legally accepted participants since we have achieved the status of a national organisation (with affiliated organisations in more than seven regions ). In attendance were a number of important representatives of the state. The deputy prime minister chaired the conference. The assistant secretary of state was there along with the ministersof health, of social development, of labour and the deputy minister of internal affairs. The representatives of Amanatbeing there had broken the usual set of proceedings where everyone was more or less satisfied with everything before the meeting took place.By video link, there were also all the heads of the regional authorities.

As president of Amanat, I was the first to speak, criticising the employers, corrupt trade unions, and the government. Following this, representatives of medical workers made their complaints against government interference in their trade union business. This caused panic amongst the local authority leaders and the ministers. This had never happened before.

As a result of this, we are unlikely to be invited to the conference again, even though we have the right to be there. We will see. However, we had spoken in front of the whole country and said what everyone had kept silent about in the past. We know that many officials got into trouble for allowing us to speak out in such a way. However, afterward on the sidelines, many had shaken our hands and congratulated us!

We are determined to carry on the fight. Whatever the cost. All our material is on our Facebook page (Association of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan – Amanat). While others can carry on their work of trying to destroy our trade union, they cannot succeed. We are already 34,000 strong and growing!

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July 2018