Kazakhstan 2023: The struggle for democratic rights and socialist policies must go on

One of last year's mass protests in Kazakhstan, 4 January, 2022 (Photo: Esetok/CC)

The year 2022 started with big hopes for future changes not only in Kazakhstan but for the entire world. At the very beginning of January, the protest mood of the population took an almost revolutionary form in terms of the will to overthrow the government of the country. But without proper leadership and organization, the protests were violently suppressed. Many people were injured or died.

In order to prevent an overturn of the government, President Tokayev asked president Putin for help. They brought in troops – mostly Russian – to suppress the uprising. Tokayev made up a fairytale about “twenty thousand terrorists” from outside. In reality, the protesters were average citizens of Kazakhstan. Not a single so-called terrorist was captured. All the murdered and injured were just angry people.

Death toll

At the beginning of this year – 2023 – the figure is given of 243 known to have been murdered, including children. Thousands were injured. The true count of victims remains unknown because the government still tries to hide the information. The army and police continued the bloody massacre for days, and there are probably far more victims. There is one notorious case of soldiers shooting at a car with a family inside with two kids. A four-year-old girl named Aikorkem was shot right in the head. Later, the Kazakh government justified this murder and classified the case as legitimate.

Many protesters are still held in jail, awaiting a trial in court. Many received jail terms. No police officer or soldier, who murdered innocent people, has been held accountable. Tokayev has amnestied every one of them. Only those police and military were arrested who showed “excessive negligence”, and insufficient cruelty. Some had refused to shoot at unarmed citizens of their country, left their posts, and laid down their arms or went over to the side of the people. They were the ones who were arrested, albeit such cases were rare.

President Tokayev, a lifelong friend and collaborator of Nazarbayev, will never engage in reforms. When Nazarbayev resigned in 2019 to enjoy in peace the money he stole from the people, he led Tokayev by the hand. Through fraud and pressure, he became the new president. With his first decree the next day, Tokayev did not dissolve the government and parliament, did not announce reforms, but renamed Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, Nursultan – the city of Nazarbayev. The next day in all the country’s cities, the central streets began to be named after the ‘leader of the nation’. The street, named after the Bolshevik and revolutionary Dmitry Furmanov, also began to bear the name of the leader of the nation, Nazarbayev.

That is all that needs to be known. Three and half years of Tokayev’s presidency changed nothing, except a redistribution of spoils amongst Nazarbaev’s clan and their avoidance of all responsibility. Right now, Nazarbaev is living a great life in the UAE with all his stolen wealth. He is a well-loved guest down there. Maybe they just do not know that the money he is using is stolen from the people, but they probably do.

Tokayev and Russia

Tokayev tacitly supports Putin in the war in Ukraine in order to avoid sanctions. He cannot do otherwise. The president’s entire family – wife and children – live in Moscow, in Rublyovka, an elite district built for local oligarchs with very high-priced real estate.

In Kazakhstan, even in the predominantly Russian areas of the north, almost nobody supports the war in Ukraine. The citizens of Kazakhstan mostly support Ukraine. But Russian propaganda channels work around the clock, where they openly call for the destruction of Ukraine and Ukrainians. The entire economy of Kazakhstan is now working for the Putin regime to the detriment of the people of Kazakhstan. Everyone sees it. And a new revolution is brewing.


Recently, Tokayev has tried to fool people by changing the constitution and again rigging elections. Only 37% of the residents of Almaty participated in the referendum on amending the Constitution, which the electoral committee fraudulently made out to be 43.7%. The total turnout in the election in November was only 68.44%.

The workers’ party we are trying to create has been denied registration, as well as other parties that are not loyal to the ruling party and Tokayev, personally. In the presidential election, brought forward to November 20th, the Amanat trade union supported a candidate with a programme to nationalise enterprises and destroy the oligarchy. Tokayev became president through falsifications and administrative resources. And it could not be otherwise in the elections appointed ahead of schedule, with the absence of any opposition forces with powerful resources, crushed by the Nazarbayev-Tokayev totalitarian government. No one was ready for the elections; no one except the ruling party.

Nevertheless, more than 220,000 voters voted for our candidate.  The parliamentary elections, which were supposed to take place in 2024, have now also been brought forward, as was always done in Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan, and re-scheduled for March 19, 2023. The suppression of all opposition parties tells us that the elections will again be falsified and meaningless in principle. The first thing that Tokayev did after his presidential victory, by the way, proudly reported on all government TV channels, was renamed the capital back to Astana! That did look ridiculous, but now he is preparing for further repression.

Battles ahead

At the end of December, a large organisation of oil workers from the west of Kazakhstan joined our registered independent union, Amanat, and our work is going on. But President Tokayev now continues to enforce laws that hinder trade union activity. Their wording is staggering.

Immediately after the New Year celebrations for 2023, Tokayev’s initiative was introduced that rallies and strikes should take place “without harm to business owners”! Like Putin, Tokayev raised pensions but not for all pensioners. In fact, only for those whose pension is already beggarly and only for single pensioners who are very few. If a person of retirement age has a family, then no additional payments are due to him. The maintenance of elderly parents falls on the shoulders of workers who, with increased inflation, spend more than 55% of their salary only on food. The main electorate of Tokayev, like Putin, is pensioners and people over 50 years old. But Kassym-Jomart Kemelevich prefers to save money on them too.

The new budget legislation introduced by Tokayev after the events of 2022 freezes social payments at a fixed amount until 2025. People who are physically unable to pay for health insurance are practically left without access to medical care. They will be treated only in an emergency, in the event of a threat to life; they simply will not be able to receive other treatment. Free medicine with Tokayev’s regulations is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Medical institutions are constantly short of staff. Inequalities and injustices With the arrival of Tokayev in power and after the events of January 2022, and the bloody suppression of the uprising, the country’s inequality coefficient began to rise sharply.

From 0.291 (official figures), the Ginny coefficient immediately went to 0.332 as of 2021-2022. After investigating the events of January 2022, and when the inequality coefficient in Kazakhstan began to approach the levels of Algeria and Albania, the Ministry of Finance of Kazakhstan simply stopped publishing fresh data on inequality and continues to give out the 2021 figures. It is impossible to say what the level of inequality is now in Kazakhstan and these figures are greatly underestimated, according to opposition economists. Some experts say that inequality in Kazakhstan is approaching the indicators of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (one of the most depressed regions) in Russia and is about 0.421. Only the richest – the oligarchs, and so on, possess almost half of all wealth.

In Kazakhstan, in 2023, the pressure on democracy continues. Kassym-Jomart Kemelevich Tokayev is the most anti-democratic president, even compared with Nazarbayev. There are constant arrests of opposition journalists.

It seems that the leadership of modern Kazakhstan is trying to completely abolish democracy, replacing it with meritocracy in the worst bourgeois sense.   Independent and opposition parties are consistently denied registration, even though procedures have been simplified.  Since the suppression of the uprising, only two parties – Respublika and Baitak – have been registered. Their leaders – Beibit Alibekov, the former son-in-law of the Minister of Labor under Nazarbayev, and Azamatkhan Amirtaev, an employee of Putin’s Skolkovo School of Management in Russia – fully support the course of the Nazarbayev-Tokayev totalitarian-meritocratic police regime. As in Russia, the police and security forces have had increased salaries and improved supplies.

The struggle for democratic rights and socialist policies must go on. The more the screw is tightened; the bigger the explosion will be. In our vast country and neighbouring areas, including China, big class conflicts can break out. The Central Asian region could soon become the scene of significant geopolitical events. Wars, upheavals, and revolutions will demand workers’ organisations and socialist policies on a grand scale.



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February 2023