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Donbass miners strike of 2020

Donbass miners strike of 2020

zondag 18 juni 2023 22:35
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Three years ago today a landmark victory was achieved by striking miners of the Komsomolskaya mine in the Luhansk People’s Republic, the largest mine of Donbass. With the inter-imperialist war raging for its second year in Ukraine, and unlike the petit-bourgeois “socialists” supported by the National Endowment for Democracy and its Solidarity Center or the so-called “anarchists” who collaborate with the Russian and Ukrainian neo-nazi movements, we prefer to stick to the class struggle and not let ourselves be dragged along with bourgeois nationalism no matter where it comes from. As such we decided to publish this account of the miners strike of 2020, as an exemplary struggle demonstrating that with courage and the will to fight the working class can achieve victories even in the face of an at first glance insurmountable situation.

The Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR/LPR) were declared as a result of an insurrection which broke out in the Donbass region of Ukraine in 2014, after the US-led and financed coup spearheaded by the far-right overthrew the government in Kiev. Soviet structures were built by the initial wave of insurgents, who engaged in a flurry of expropriations of factories and mines, with the Supreme Soviet of the DPR at the head. However it didn’t take long before the bourgeois reaction regained control over the insurgent regions of Donbass, crushing the newly found soviets and forcing the Supreme Soviet underground, as well as imprisoning significant parts of the initial militias on trumped up accusations, many of whom remain in prison to this day. On top of that martial law was declared by the bourgeois authorities which included a ban on strikes, a martial law which has continuously been in effect ever since. By the autumn of 2014, mere months after the initial insurgency, this process was effectively completed. The Supreme Soviet of the DPR would however continue its work underground, further organizing and building the class struggle through initiatives such as the Independent Trade Union of Miners NPSh. Born out of these conditions a strike would erupt in June 2020.

It was on the evening of the 5th of June 2020 when the strike broke out at the Komsomolskaya mine in the city of Antratsyt of the LPR. After their wages for the previous two months had not been paid, the second shift at the mine refused to resurface and went on strike, occupying the mine. In the evening of the same day, the director, Yuri Dyuba, rushed to the mine, with stories about the “difficult” situation, but was sent away by the miners who saw through his fables. At night, Vladimir Shatokhin, head of the LPR state enterprise Votok-Coal, came to the mine. Shatokhin tried to deceive the miners, convincing them that the existing wage arrears had nothing to do with the Vostok-Coal state enterprise, since it was the debt of the Anthracite state enterprise. The miners stood firm and sent Shatokhin the same way as Dyuba.

The next day, the 6th of June, the minister of “state” enterprises of the LPR, Kozlov, also arrived. Noticing the determination of the striking miners, they tried to increase the pressure on the miners by forbidding HCMC (a subdivision of the Ministry of Emergency Situations) to lower food into the mine – trying to force the striking miners to the surface through starvation. By this point news of the strike had begun to spread throughout the republic, helped along by an information campaign coordinated by Alexander Vaskovsky, Acting Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the DPR and spokesperson of the Independent Miners Union. For example the mothers and wives of the striking miners had made a video appeal which was spread through social networks:

By June 7 the miners of 5 more mines were preparing to go on strike. Realizing that they were losing control of the situation the leadership of the LPR, together with the head of Vostok-Coal, the fascist Shatokhin, decided to organize a blockade of the striking mine in order to deprive the 124 miners who remained underground of their livelihoods and communications with the strikers on the surface. As an excuse for the blockade they used information about the Corona virus even though the virus wasn’t present in the city of Antratsyt. The “people’s” militia, following the orders of the Nazis from Luhansk, blocked all approaches to the mine, but the shops were not closed, the entrances and exits to the city were not blocked. Such a selective “quarantine”-genocide was organized by the “people’s” authorities. Telephone communications in the city were also blocked, as well as access to VK (the Russian equivalent of Facebook). The MGB (State Security service of the LPR) proceeded to abduct 14 miners who were preparing strikes in other mines. Arrests took place in the cities of Krasnodon, Antratsyt, Rovenki and Belorechensk.

By the next day on the 8th of June, 7 more people had been kidnapped, including one pregnant woman. The kidnapped were tortured in order to find out all those involved in the labour movement. Information about the abductees started coming out, which included the brothers Igor and Vitaly Efanov, electricians at the Komsomolskaya mine. Ventilation and water drainage were cut off to the mine, but was quickly restored after the information got out. The resolve of the miners had, however, not been broken.

Igor and Vitaly Efanov

On the 9th of June, 7 of the arrested miners had been released, and the miners had put forward additional demands, next to the payment of wage arrears:

1. Until the Ministry of State Security of the LPR releases all the kidnapped miners, the strike will not end.

2. Until the head of the LPR Pasechnik speaks on television with guarantees of the immunity of the miners and their families, the strike will not be stopped.

At 19:32 a post appeared in the group “Donbass. Workers Party of Russia” on the social network VK from Igor Efanov’s account, who was still held by the MGB. In the post, a certain Anna Lunok claimed that the stoppage of work at the Komsomolskaya mine was an alleged sabotage by the SBU (State Security service of Ukraine), which was carried out for a fee by the co-chairman of the NPSh Alexander Vaskovsky. The post was accompanied by an obviously faked screenshot of purported communications between Vaskovsky and the SBU. This latest attempt by the MGB also failed to have its desired effect.

MGB faked screenshot of purported communication between Vaskovsky and the SBU

By the next day, June 10, two more mines had been blockaded by the military in an effort to stop the miners from entering and joining the strike. The Belorechenskaya and the Frunze mines were now also idle, by now totaling 3 mines which were not working. Pro-Western Ukrainian propaganda tried to abuse the situation of the miners for their own nationalist propaganda purposes, but this was rebuked in articles such as the one by Pavel Volkov:

By June 12, the head of the LPR Pasechnik declared that all wage arrears would be paid in full, thereby fulfilling the original demand of the strike. But as not all arrested miners had been released, the strike continued. At this moment 12 people were still held by the MGB, and military “quarantine” continued to be maintained in the city. Internet and mobile communications continued to work only intermittently.

On June 13, Pasechnik declared that immunity would be granted to the labour collective of the mine and their families, thereby fulfilling the second demand put forward by the strikers on the 9th of June. However, Igor and Vitaly Efanov were still in the dungeons of the MGB, and so the strike continued into its second week.

Solidarity declarations continued to be coming in, such as from the band Vysota 277, whose singer Alexander Moroz would later die on the frontline in March 2023 after being drafted into the army:

Stickers in support of the strike appeared on the city’s walls

Finally on June 19, after 14 days underground, all arrested miners had been released and the demands of the strikers had been met in full. The moment of their victorious resurfacing was captured on video here:

The VK page of the Independent Miners Union NPSh can be found here:

The Telegram channel of Alexander Vaskovsky can be found here:

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