Working people of Russia have been under relentless pressure of bourgeoisie since several years.
Federal law №350 increasing the age of retirement was adopted in 2018. According to the old rules that were in effect since Soviet times, men could go on retirement on reaching the age of 60, whereas women could retire on reaching 55. Now the age of retirement is 65 for men, and 60 for women. Bourgeois regime is in a hurry to introduce these “reforms”, to adopt as many anti workers laws as possible till the working people of Russia come to learn how to organize themselves and act jointly under the modern conditions. In the summer of 2018 there took place a number of protest activities across the country, still these actions (those were predominantly meetings and pickets) didn’t have enough participants, they were not properly organized and the demands were not radical enough to make the ruling circles give up their plans regarding their pension reform.
Russian bourgeoisie attacks some other rights of workers as well. Increase of salaries lags behind the inflation. In many enterprises extra working hours are not remunerated at a special increased rate as they should, many “employers” save on safety means.
Official politics aimed at “reforming” accessible, free of charge public healthcare represents yet another blow to the living conditions of workers. Medical staff is being cut, hospitals in smaller towns are closed. Everywhere working people have been denied the opportunity to get accessible quality medical care.
In a number of instances working class rejected to silently put up with the advance of the ruling class. Workers when showing organization managed to achieve partial fulfillment of their demands.
For example in 2019 in some regions of Russia ambulance crews staged “Italian strikes” because they have to work under conditions of salary delays, low wages, extra working hours, understaffed crews and outsourcing of drivers. In several towns of Russia, i.e.in Mozhaisk (Moscow Region), Togliatti (Samara Region), Gagarin (Smolensk Region) and some other towns, medics managed to defend their lawful rights for decent conditions of work and wages.
In July 2019 crane operators in Kazan carried out organized strike that resulted in their victory.
We can also recall some other successful actions by workers that can be used as an example for Russian proletariat.
Still workers in many other enterprises across the country haven’t yet realized the necessity of unity to struggle for their basic rights and they don’t react to the actions of bourgeoisie and the discriminatory politics of the state towards workers.
We can see that in other countries the desire of workers for unification to fight for their basic interests hasn’t yet reached the level when we can talk about a strategic victory over capitalism. Quit the opposite – we can see that across the border capitalists violated the rights of working people as well. Workers reacted with strikes and other forms of resistance. Some of those actions can serve good examples for proletariat across the world. The victory of Finnish postal service employees who held their strike in November 2019, was possible due to the wave of solidarity demonstrated by workers from other branches of industry. Workers in this case showed that when united they turn into a big force. Workers of Greece in the same year fought against yet another attack of multinational corporations, for example against anti workers initiatives of COSCO corporation and the Union of Greek industrialists – SEB. In the end of 2019 many thousands of working people of France carried out mass actions of protest all over the country and achieved that the government gave up some of the plans to deteriorate legislation on retirement. These are only few examples among hundreds and thousands of cases when capitalists were repelled by organized workers.
Nevertheless, modern struggle of workers both in Russia and in other countries is not yet directed at the basics of bourgeois rule. Meanwhile strikes and other mass actions by working people have not yet reached the level when the goal is not just an improvement of workers’ conditions within the framework of capitalism, but when the workers strive to overturn capitalist rule and establish socialism, even in the cases, when such actions demonstrate high degree of class organization. Bearing in mind class struggle, we can characterize modern period as the period of accumulation of powers by proletariat, the search for new ways and methods of association. There is no country in the world where resolute class battles have been fought now. Nowhere capitalism is being challenged radically as a social-political standing order. Even in those countries where the vanguard of working class has managed to establish strong and disciplined communist parties, e.g. in Greece and Turkey, they still have to involve into socialist struggle the majority of working masses and to persuade them that active actions are indispensable. In Russia and in many other countries worldwide the situation is as follows: communist parties, even those that exist long and even were not affected by the maladies of opportunism and revisionism, that correctly understand and reflect in their publications the current situation and that contribute a lot of effort into agitation and propaganda of Marxist ideas among workers, remain small and unfamiliar in the midst of their class. This situation shouldn’t be viewed as a defeat, but should demonstrate our understanding that communists have a lot of organizational and ideological work ahead of us that should take into account both international trends as well as local circumstances.
Enemies of the working class for several decades have been trying to explain this worldwide trend by stipulating that communism has been finished, that those ideas were just a fad of the XX Century and wouldn’t be able to conquer masses again. Nevertheless, communists understand that history evolves by cycles and its trajectory is spiral shaped.
We are sure that the temporary retreat of communist ideas in the minds of proletariat is rooted in the changing economical processes. In the countries of USSR and Eastern Europe this process has been moving for 30 years in the direction of deindustrialization and adaptation to the requirements of the worldwide market. This in turn, has changed both composition and structure of the working class.
For example in Russia in the beginning of 90-ies there came to power forces that rejected collective property on the means of production and cancelled the state monopoly on international trade. Multinational corporations were given unlimited access to all local markets. Production ties between enterprises were severed. All this led to shrinking of production, to closure and to conversion of thousands of enterprises. Millions of qualified workers found themselves not demanded by the market and had to find other jobs. Modern plants went broke and their newly redundant labour force filled in positions in many small enterprises in the fields of service, trade, transport. A whole army of unemployed appeared. As early as in 1992 70% of Russian population were below the poverty level. The processes of enterprises’ privatization and their constant tuning to the requirements of global markets the processes that had stretched over decades, led workers to the lack of confidence. Many citizens of formerly developed industrial regions in search of jobs had to move to other locations, like megacities and even abroad. Similar trends could be observed then in all the republics of USSR and in Eastern Europe.
By now, these countries have integrated into the global market, while acquiring economic dependence on dominating centers of imperialism.
Russia has also become partially dependent and lost whole branches of industry (manufacturing of electronics, pharmaceuticals and other hi-tech branches) while adopting the role of carbohydrates’ supplier.
Thus, in Russia and in many of its neighbours there took place the change of economics to suite the requirements of the global market, this process taking place along with the transfer of industry to less developed countries with cheaper labour. This process contributed to the fact that the formerly united, qualified and experienced proletariat was disorganized and demoralized. The flows of migrants started. In modern Russia for example, there can be observed outflow of labour force to Europe and North America, whereas simultaneously there is an influx of workers from Central Asia, Ukraine, Moldova and Caucasus republics. Statistics tells us that only in the first half of 2019 there arrived in Russia some 2,4 million migrant workers. According to our data Russian working class counts around 77 million people, 10% of this labour force is represented by migrants.
Changing of social production in a number of Russian regions to integrate it into the global market led to the annihilation of local agriculture as a branch. As the result of dismantling socialism and introducing private property (privatization) many enterprises were either closed down, or changed their specialization and output volume. Due to these and some other factors internal migration has increased to colossal proportions. This could be understood by observing the death of remote regions accompanied by booming metropolises. These processes have led to a significant mixture of nationalities in the cities and in working enterprises that in turn has been accompanied by conflicts between different nationalities, as national “elites” started to compete for the resources. Workers also compete between each other whereas nationalistic feelings of native-born workers are manifested when the migrant workers are ready to work for lower wages.
For example in 2013 in Moscow district of Biryulevo-West a crime (murder) gave start to mass pogroms of migrants organized by nationalists. There were several such accidents in the last years.
Such events were possible because proletariat is disunited and doesn’t have modern experience in its confrontation with bourgeoisie. Workers haven’t yet understood that only the unity of workers of all nations will bring forward the victory over capitalism.
The complexity of workers’ class unification in each case can be conditioned by the presence of various national groups involved in public production, whereas there is not yet established contacts, necessary for successful joint class struggle.
Under these circumstances traditional organizations of working class that could channel the protest of workers against their real enemy, the capital, proved to be incapable to act in modern conditions. Trade union movement in modern Russia as well as in some other countries has to establish itself once again as in the beginning of the XX century.
National issue turns actual again also due to aggravation of the contradictions within the old unresolved national conflicts.
Capitalists of different nations are united within their corporations against workers and they try to introduce dissent among workers based on national grounds. Still, similar to the last century in cases of serious conflicts the society is polarized based on its class structure and not according to its national composition. Capital has to go out of its way and to use uninterrupted brainwashing by mainstream media to ensure constant flow of nationalistic propaganda and civilizational approach aimed at workers and intended to limit their struggle within said limits.
Thus, National issue turns actual again also due to aggravation of the contradictions within the old unresolved national conflicts.
We should also add that Russian Communist Workers Party and Russian United Labour Front always provide both organizational and information support to struggling workers regardless their origin.