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Ukrainian Miners Win Their Wartime Strike, but Victory Looks Short-Lived

By Kateryna Semchuk - Open Democracy, October 21, 2022

On 6 October, Ukraine’s energy ministry dismissed Trotsko following pressure from a delegation of strikers that visited the energy minister twice. But some workers at the mine and the union representative fear this is not the end of their struggle against what they allege is a continuous corrupt attempt to take control of the mine.

“This is not a victory. Victory is when we mine an extra 1,000 tonnes of coal. This [whole situation] was a misunderstanding,” said Volodymyr Yurkiv, the mine’s previous director, who during the strike period was demoted to chief engineer. In the month of strike action, the mine could have earned five million hryvnias (£110,000), Yurkiv added.

Workers at Mine No. 9 have been fighting to keep Yurkiv – who was reinstated as director by the ministry on 8 October after Trotsko was dismissed – in office, as they say they are completely satisfied with his management. But Mykhailo Volynets, a Ukrainian MP who is also chair of the Independent Trade Union of Ukrainian Miners, is among those who think Yurkiv could be dismissed once again. He told openDemocracy that the latest events “are not the end of this story”.

“It will happen again,” Volynets said, claiming the energy ministry will try to appoint a new director at mine No. 9 for a third time. Volynets believes there are still corrupt insiders at Ukraine’s energy ministry, claiming the recent new managerial appointments have been made on behalf of the smotriashchiy.

Ukrainian Coal Miners Defy National Protest Ban to Go on Strike

By Kateryna Semchuk and Thomas Rowley - Open Democracy, September 14, 2022

Miners and management at a state-owned coal operation in western Ukraine have called a strike over what they say is an attempt to seize control of the mine.

The strike action at Mine No. 9 in the town of Novovolynsk continues the first major workers’ protest in Ukraine since Russia’s 24 February invasion and the Ukrainian government’s announcement of martial law, which forbids all protests.

Last month, the miners prevented a new director from taking up his post, citing his alleged link to an embezzlement scandal at another coal mine in the region.

They also claimed that his appointment had been made on the say-so of local smotriashchiy – a term for the Ukrainian coal sector’s network of corrupt unofficial overseers. That director denied any wrongdoing and stated he was not under investigation.

Now, they say, efforts to take control of the mine have reached a new level and the miners have gone on strike to protect their jobs and working conditions.

They describe a stark sequence of events. On 9 September, a new manager arrived at Mine No. 9 with a lawyer and a dozen private security guards.

For a Transnational Fall of Struggle: Strike the Climate Crisis!

By TSS PLATFORM - Transnational Strike, September 5, 2022

Six months have passed since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the war’s social effects haven’t stopped at the Ukrainian border and are now affecting millions of people throughout Europe and beyond. In recent days, the price of gas skyrocketed to new record heights, granting huge profits to the fossil fuel majors, and condemning millions to a reality of growing poverty, inflation, and unemployment. Governments’ attempts to secure energy supplies for the winter (such as the European Save Gas for a Safe Winter plan) ensure those market sectors that cannot work without gas, while dumping these choices’ costs on people’s consumption and individual responsibility and sacrifices. This is part of the Third world war scenario we all live in and struggle against. In fact, as energy and ‘green’ policies are now deeply embedded into the war, the struggles against their material effects of impoverishment are part of our transnational politics of peace. In the last few days, the #DontPayUK campaign has been confronting both governments and the big companies that want to discharge the price of their profits and power on people’s shoulders. Committing to strike on energy bills, thousands of people are already refusing the deadly choice between “eating” or “heating,” between racking up debts or facing fuel poverty and freezing winter. We are confronted with the necessity to articulate our transnational politics of peace inside this growing international competition by fighting in the conflict between those who pay the price of the war and those who profit from it.

The third world war and specifically the energy crisis have led to a return to fossil fuels, postponing the conversion from coal to alternative energy sources. However, even before the war, we saw the European green transition neither as a way to solve the climate crisis, nor to deliver a better environment, but as an attempt to open new opportunities for capital accumulation through the exploitation, reproduction, and widening of differences and hierarchies within the European space and beyond. Now the war unmasks the European transition policies’ actual scope. Promoting new Partnership Agreements with its member states, the European Commission is fostering its “just” – digital and green – transition to face the upcoming freezing winter struggling to coordinate industrial and energy policies for years to come at the European level. This is not the climate justice that was powerfully reclaimed by the global environmental movement in the last years. As States are engaged in a run to grab as many resources as possible, gas, nuclear, and coal sectors will keep exploiting the work of thousands of people in some places, while in other countries the closure of coal-powered plants in the name of the green transition results in the loss of many jobs. In Bulgaria, such a national decision recently found the response of hundreds of workers striking not to be caught in the middle between the government’s green policies and the bosses’ profits. Their struggle is a practical contestation of the green transition in wartimes, which is part of our attempt to turn the green transition into a transnational terrain of struggle.

As workers, activists, migrants, women, and men, we refuse to suffer either the consequences of climate change, the consequences of Putin’s war, or the unsustainable costs of the capitalist green transition. Strikes and movements such as those in Bulgaria and the UK are making clear the need to foster transnational political connections that aim to overcome the artificially fabricated distinction between workers’ and climate activists’ interests. On September 23 a new climate strike is announced, which aims to reactivate the global movement for climate justice by radically opposing the logics of profit and exploitation, and the overall relations of domination, which affects our ecological, social and political environment. The meeting in Sofia organized by the TSS Platform and LevFem on 8th-11th September will be the occasion to tackle and develop these issues. Transforming the green transition into a terrain of struggle is an essential part of our effort to escape the blackmail of the climate, social, and war catastrophe that reproduces violence, exploitation, and environmental degradation. The climate, energy, and social crises won’t wait until winter comes: they are already hitting, and we need to turn this fall into a season of collective struggles.

Climate Politics and the Ukraine War

By staff - Fight the Fire, September 2022

There are three aspects to the war in Ukraine.

First, the war began as a Russian invasion. A large majority of Ukrainians support the resistance by the Ukrainian armed forces. This is a fight for democracy. Invasion is always an act of dictatorship, whether in Ukraine, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq or Palestine.

Putin’s invasion is of a piece with his previous military interventions in Chechnya, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan and Syria. This is part of reestablishing Russian power and influence in the region of the old Soviet Union and the previous Russian Empire.

But Putin is also afraid of the spreading movements for democracy in Belarus and Central Asia. And he is afraid of the growing internal opposition in Russia. Military excursions to solidify internal power are a constant in the history of Putin’s Russia.

A victory for Ukraine would make the movements for democracy in Central Asia and Eastern Europe stronger.

But then there is the second aspect: this is a real war between Russia and Ukraine. But it is also a proxy war between the United States / NATO and Russia.

What this is not is a confrontation between the forces of democracy led by Biden, Scholtz and Macron and the forces of dictatorship led by Putin. What Russia is doing to Ukraine now, the US has done to many countries. Joe Biden supported the American invasions of Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Washington, Paris and Frankfurt have supported the Israelis, the Assads in Syria, the Saudis in Yemen and Sisi in Egypt. The list goes on and on.

The most important climate crime in the world right now is the US economic blockade of Afghanistan. The purpose of this blockade is to punish the Taliban and the Afghan people for defeating the American military. The blockade has turned a serious drought caused by climate change and a massive earthquake into a serious famine.

A victory of Ukraine over Russian invasion would also strengthen the power of NATO and American imperialism in many parts of the world.

The third aspect of the war is political. Putin is the leading figure in the growing global movement of the racist right. Other leading figures include Modi in India, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Trump in the United States, Orban in Hungary, Le Pen in France and Duterte and Marcos in the Philippines. There are many more leaders, in many more countries, that constitute this reactionary international, which is a bullwark for climate chaos.

Belarusian ‘railway partisans’ face death penalty

By Simon Pirani - People and Nature, July 18, 2022

The Belarusian regime is threatening “railway partisans”, arrested for sabotaging signalling equipment to disrupt the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the death sentence.

Criminal investigators have passed a file on the first three cases – Dzmitry Ravich, Dzianis Dzikun and Aleh Malchanau of Svetlagorsk – to court prosecutors.

The state Investigations Committee says they could face the death penalty, although lawyers say there is no basis for that in Belarusian law.

On Saturday 23 July, Belarusians will protest at their country’s embassy in London, in support of the Svetlagorsk defendants and eight others arrested on terrorism charges.

Ravich, Dzikun and Malchanau were detained in Svetlagorsk on 4 March this year – a week after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine – along with Alisa Malchanau, Aleh’s daughter, and Natalia Ravich, Dzmitry’s wife, who were released a few days later. 

Dzianis Dzikun’s brother, Dmitry, said in an interview last month that Dzianis had wanted “to help Ukraine somehow”. Three people had been arrested, he said, and:

As far as I understand, people knew [at that time] that all the Russian equipment was moving towards the north of Ukraine through Belarus. And for that they used the railways. They wanted to help Ukraine somehow – to stop these armaments, to make sure they couldn’t go further.

There are 11 people in the “railway partisans” case, and now the first three are going to court. For me, these people are heroes. They didn’t sit at home, like the “armchair battalion”. At least they tried to do something.

Dmitry said that Dzianis, who is in a detention centre at Gomel’, had been able to send and receive letters, and had been visited by his partner and and his sister.

Straight after his arrest in March, it was very different. Dzianis was severely beaten and forced to record a so-called confession on video – one of the Belarusian security forces’ standard techniques. Dmitry said:

On the so called “confessional” video it is clear that my brother’s face was smashed in. A black eye, swelling on his chin. The day before he was arrested, we spoke [on line] in the evening. I saw how he looked; not so much as a scratch. He was feeling fine. [But after his arrest] he was limping. Other people saw him. He was holding his side, his face was bruised.

The case against Ravich, Dzikun and Malchanau concerns an arson attack on a railway relay cabinet. This is reportedly the most common form of rail sabotage: it wrecks automatic signalling systems, disrupts schedules and forces trains to move at reduced speeds of 15-20km/hour.

The Svetlagorsk trio have been charged with: participating in an extremist organisation; acts of terrorism; deliberate harm to the transport system, resulting in serious damage and threats to life; and treason.

The Investigations Committee said the trio could face the death penalty. But Zerkalo, the independent news site, published legal advice that the death penalty for terrorism offences, introduced on 29 May this year, can not be applied retroactively. Prior to that date, it could only be applied if the offences had led to deaths.

Obviously there is no reason to think that Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime will obey its own laws, and so the lives of the Svetlagorsk accused are in danger.

DRACONIAN New Rail Industry Policy WORSENS Supply Chain Crisis, CRUSHES Workers

Wars, Inflation, and Strikes: A Summer of Discontent in Europe?

By Josefina L. Martínez - Left Voice, July 12, 2022

Strikes over wage increases or working conditions are occurring in response to high inflation, aggravated by the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. These labor actions show a change in the mood of the European working class.

Are we heading toward a summer of discontent in Europe? Can we foresee a hot autumn on the Continent? It would be hasty to make such statements, but new strike activity is beginning to unfold among sectors of several countries’ working class. Inflation reached 8.8 percent as a European average in May (with higher rates in countries like the UK and Spain). After years of inflation below 1.5 percent, this is a significant change that is causing a fall in the population’s purchasing power, especially among the working class. Many analysts are already talking about the possibility of stagflation: a combination of recession and inflation.

This is in addition to the political instability of several governments and a widespread dissatisfaction with the traditional parties. The latter was expressed in France in the last elections, with high abstention and the growth of Marine Le Pen’s far-right party and of the center-left coalition grouped around Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Emmanuel Macron lost his absolute majority in the National Assembly and now faces a five-year period of great political uncertainty. Another government in crisis is that of the UK, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson is stepping down.

In this context, recent weeks have seen strikes taking place in key sectors, including transport, steel, ports, and public services, as well as in more precarious sectors. Although there are differences among these countries, the strikes are opening a breach in the climate of “national unity” that governments tried to impose a few months ago, when the war in Ukraine began. In this article we review some of these labor conflicts in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and other countries.

Portugal's Climate Justice Movement Takes on Oil and Gas Company Galp

By Leonor Canadas - Common Dreams, July 3, 2022

Amidst the threat of nuclear war posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which explicitly exposed Europe's dependence on oil and gas from Russia, one could expect that the smart solution would be to get away from fossil fuels and make massive investments in renewable infrastructure and production.

The war should have accelerated the transition to an economy moved fully by renewable energies. Yet, quite the contrary has happened. The European Commission proposes that investments in fossil, gas, and nuclear power are labeled "sustainable investments," understanding them as "transitional" energy sources.

At the same time, European countries, in order to condemn Russia, are looking for fossil fuels elsewhere, shifting dependence to other countries, where gas and oil exploitation perpetuate colonial exploitation or support authoritarian regimes. Shifting from one authoritarian regime to another is not the solution, and neither is shifting from one kind of fossil fuel to another by using gas as a "transitional" energy source, nor by going back to coal.

In Europe's westernmost country, Portugal, the government sees this war and crisis as an opportunity, claiming that it "has the unique conditions to be a supply platform for Europe," talking about how the Port in Sines could be an entry point to supply Germany with the gas it needs. Particularly, gas from the USA and Nigeria could arrive in Sines and then be transported to other places in Europe. This would require the expansion of the LNG terminal in Sines and the construction of new gas pipelines in Portugal and Spain, to overcome the Pirenees. This is obviously a megalomaniacal plan, which doesn't mean it will not get the green light.

Fossil infrastructure is exactly why we are trapped in this crisis, and why capitalism will never be able to avoid climate collapse. If we take climate science seriously, no project that leads to an emissions increase could go forward. We need to cut 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to the 2010 emissions levels. Consequently, there can be absolutely no option on the table when it comes to new fossil projects and infrastructure. On the contrary, we need plans for just and fast transitions and the shutdown of existing infrastructure. That is not the plan in Portugal, in the EU or in the richest countries in the world, by a long stretch.

The UK Government's Nuclear Scam

On Inflation and Working Class Struggle

By anonymous - angryworkers.org, June 17, 2022

On Saturday 18th of June, (there was) a national TUC demo in London, and as part of the build up, we were invited to sit on a panel hosted by the People’s Assembly called ‘Wages Up, Bills Down, Tories Out’. We were joined by six other panelists from the RMT, Bristol Co-operative Alliance and the Tribune, Bristol Trades Council and the NEU, the TUC and PCS, the Green and Labour Councillors for Ashley Ward, and the Secretary for Unite South West, who chaired the meeting.

Below is the transcript of the input from one AngryWorkers comrade about the current crisis, followed by a report from a comrade on the meeting in general.

I work as a housekeeper at Southmead hospital and I am a GMB rep there. I previously worked for several years in warehouses and food factories. I can see every day how people who earn around the minimum wage are struggling more.

I think we’re in a crisis in more ways than one. It’s a cost of living crisis, yes. It’s also coinciding with a long-running crisis of working class organisation and militancy (e.g. the fact that NHS workers can’t even enforce an actual pay rise, despite all the public support and the fact that we slogged our guts out in the pandemic, says a lot). And it’s also a crisis of the system where there aren’t any obvious answers.

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