Strikes in the Donbass on both sides of the front point to an alternative to war

19 April, 2021

Russia mobilizes its troops on the Ukrainian border and launches with the US and EU a new exchange of armed threats. Meanwhile, strikes break out in the Donbass on both sides of the front. The only real alternative to a new slaughter will not come from a Putin-Biden deal to share out plunder, but from extending and uniting struggles across borders and armed fronts. Strikes in the Donbass lead the the way.

In this article

Company-republics dedicated to exploiting and plundering the workers to the maximum

In blue the area occupied by the "republics" created by Russia on territories of Donetsk and Lugansk provinces, the two provinces forming the Donets basin (tributary of the Don). The majority Russian-speaking region of Ukraine would include these two entire provinces and the neighboring province of Kharkiv, in addition to Crimea, now occupied by Russia. Strikes in the Donbass have occurred on both sides of the front line.
In blue the area occupied by the “republics” created by Russia on territories of Donetsk and Lugansk provinces, the two provinces forming the Donets basin (tributary of the Don). The majority Russian-speaking region of Ukraine would include these two entire provinces and the neighboring province of Kharkiv, in addition to Crimea, now occupied by Russia. Strikes in the Donbass have occurred on both sides of the front line.

The situation in the Russian-backed republics in the Donbass has not improved since the strike wave in the mines last June. Mine and steel mill workers remain unpaid for months while the large Russian-Ossetian company Vneshtorgservice keeps restructuring in order to extract more profits from the ever-shrinking Donetsk and Lugansk industrial base.

Donetsk is governed by Vneshtorgservice through its managers, who sit interchangeably on the company’s management board and in the government of the Putinian republic, and the situation in Lugansk is no better.

Last year, the head of Vneshtorgservice – Vladimir Pashkov – was introduced as acting prime minister of the Donetsk republic, bypassing the supposed prime minister Pushilin, whose political existence becomes thinner everyday.

Pashkov is himself a vivid image of the current situation in the Donbass. A former Russian governor of Irkutsk, he left his political office in 2014 – the year the Russia-Ukraine war began – to run the businesses of his Ukrainian businessmen friends linked to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

A mafia terror regime against workers

After strikes in the Donbass under the rule of the republics controlled by the Vneshtorgservice company, billboards appeared inviting workers to emigrate to "sunny" Yakutia (in Siberia).
After strikes in the Donbass under the rule of the republics controlled by the Vneshtorgservice company, billboards appeared inviting workers to emigrate to “sunny” Yakutia (in Siberia).

Today, Donetsk is run by Vneshtorgservice through its managers, who sit interchangeably on the company’s board of directors and in the Putinian republic’s government, and the situation in Lugansk is no better.

Since 2014, half of the mines and industries in the Donbass have closed after being nationalized and put immediately under the control of Vneshtorgservice or its predecessor companies, workers are surviving badly and strikers are abducted and threatened as happened in June last year. Insulting advertisements appear on the streets of Donbass inviting miners to go to work in sunny Yakutia, while the prices of the basic basket are at the level of Moscow with much lower wages.

The strikes in the Donbass never stopped

Entrance of the "Komsomolskaya" mine, symbol of the strikes in the Donbass.
Entrance of the “Komsomolskaya” mine, symbol of the strikes in the Donbass.

But workers are not intimidated by repression, and the strikes in the Donbass haven’t really stopped since summer… or after the new year. In early February, workers at Rudnika 4-21 mine stopped work:

For the past two weeks, miners have gone on strike and are not going to work, demanding payment of wages. The director of the mine Momot Vadim Viktorovich directly refuses to pay the miners. When they go to tender their resignation, the director threatens the workers by assuring them that they will receive neither the debt nor the severance pay and tells them to go to court.

В ОРДО шахтеры объявили забастовку, 2/2

These were not the only strikes in the Donbass earlier this year, workers at the Yasinovsky coking plant, owned by Vneshtorgservice and supplying the coking coal needs of the large Alchevsk steel mill, striked until the blast furnaces were almost stopped while workers at the Yenakiieve steelworks held demonstrations of the entire workforce and their families.

Later in February, workers at Stakhanov in Lugansk, also controlled by Vneshtorgservice, got tired of management’s ever-unfulfilled promises:

At subsidiary no. 13 of the Stakhanov Ferroalloy Plant (SPF) today they refused to ship products and unload raw materials. Last week there was a similar attempt, but the workers trusted the subsequent promises of the company’s management, which assured that on Saturday the workers would be paid back wages for October. But in the end, as usual, only 17% of the wages were paid. Today the management made the usual promises, but this time the trick didn’t work.

На одном из предприятий “Внешторгсервиса” в ЛНР назревает забастовка,16/2

The whole business of the Russian bourgeoisie is to dismantle the industry and not even pay the contracted misery wages

Although the Russian bourgeoisie makes handsome profits from the dismantling of the Donbass industry through the aforementioned Vneshtorgservice company, which is registered in South Ossetia – a ghost state only recognized by Russia on territory conquered during the war with Georgia – and linked to the Russian interior ministry, this year the messages from the Kremlin have been negative.

Due to the sanctions, the crisis and – most notably – the drop in fuel prices, Russian investments will be even lower and the company will have to seek funding of its own, more than likely through unpaid salaries and uncompensated personnel layoffs.

On the Ukrainian side of the front, workers are also struggling

Krivoy Rog miners on strike
Krivoy Rog miners on strike

On the other side of the front lines, workers have also continued to fight and strike, from the Krivoy Rog mines to strike waves at several uranium and coal mines in late December.

These are not just industrial workers nor exclusively strikes in the Donbass ruled by Kiev, in March this year railway workers announced an Italian strike. This type of strike consists of working following official safety rules. Anyone who has traveled by train in Ukraine understands that such a mobilization threatens to put most trains crossing the country out of service.

That is, on both sides of the front, even under vicious repression and despite the threat of war, the workers continue to stand up on their own ground against the ruling class that threatens to lead them to a new slaughter. More than ever the need to extend and unify strikes in the Donbass and beyond, across borders and imperialist fronts, is becoming a matter of life and death.