Russia: Solidarity with the struggle of the Borets collective farm workers

Recently the State Duma passed a law on the private ownership of land. The redivision of land is beginning all over Russia. The collective farms and state farms that are situated near big towns are subject to the greatest danger. This article highlights the situation at one farm near Moscow.

Recently the State Duma passed a law on the private ownership of land. The redivision of land is beginning all over Russia. The collective farms and state farms that are situated near big towns are subject to the greatest danger. In Moscow oblast (region) the carving up of farmland is being carried out continuously. New "landlords for life" are attempting to destroy agriculture with the intention of taking land out of farm use and using it instead for building out-of-town mansions. The fate of people who have lived and worked there for decades does not worry them.

In the Ramenskii area of Moscow oblast there are about 10 collective farms in the process or on the verge of bankruptcy. Their assets are being stolen. The workers are not paid their wages, and the inhabitants are threatened with being moved from homes owned by the collective farm. In raising a campaign with the Borets collective farm we want to bring this problem to the attention of society. Our aim is to stop the robbery of the agricultural workers.

Remember that in helping the struggle of your comrades from your own class you are waging your own struggle also.

Forward - from the struggle for individual demands to the complete victory over capital!

Support the Borets collective farm workers

Comrades!

We call on all those for whom the condition of the working class is still important to turn their attention to the events that are taking place today at the Borets collective farm.

In December 2000 the workers discovered evidence of a fraud. Up to that time the amount of unpaid wages had reached the equivalent of six months' wages. The basic demands of the workers, obviously, focused on one thing - the full payment of their wages for the whole period. However the management of the collective farm assured them under oath that there was no money. In itself this sounded more than strange. People were working, the collective farm was functioning as before, so where had the profits disappeared to? The workers demanded an audit by the accountants. On seeing that there was nowhere to hide, the administration conceded. On March 16, 2001 at a meeting of the representatives for management and of collective farm workers the head accountant Vasilieva Galina Vasilievna reported on the financial situation of the collective farm. And here the following circumstance emerged: it turned out that the collective farm had large debts about which the workers had known nothing. In 1994 a certain Zelnetskii Aleksandr Stepanovich, who was at the time the chairman of the collective farm, took out a lot of credit from various firms on the basis of some made-up minutes of a meeting. The first deputy chairman of the agricultural department, Zabelin Aleksandr Iosifovich, and the head accountant Vasilievna knew about the machination. Zelnetskii then disappeared, taking the money with him. His partners in crime, no doubt having received their share, continued to work in management as if nothing had happened, with a tremendous burden of debt hanging over the collective farm and the creditors getting impatient of waiting, compensating for their losses at the expense of the wages of the unsuspecting workers. More than 900 workers of the collective farm brought a law suit in Ramenskii court for compensation for their unpaid wages. The court turned to the magistrate to initiate the procedure for the bankruptcy of the collective farm. The Federal Agency for Bankruptcies found for the legal creditors (the Pension Fund, the tax ministry, MezhRaionGaz, etc). These creditors commenced bankruptcy procedures and the collective farm workers were turned from creditors to debtors.

This is the content of the conflict - the bare facts. Now events can develop according to two scenarios:

1. The collective farm workers publicise the actions of the local authorities in the case and refuse to pay the debts, which are not their debts. Further, the collective farm workers do not begin work until all their wages have been paid and demand that all the assets that were taken to pay off the creditors should be returned to them. To counter the claims of the law they should answer with the demand that the authorities find Zelnetskii and take the required money from him. Further, to immediately familiarise themselves with all the accounting books of the collective farm and to keep the accounts under their supervision. And finally, to remove the thieves Zabelin and Vasilievna from the collective farm.

2. The collective farm workers publicise the actions of the local authorities in the case and then bring a lawsuit to court and quietly continue their work in the hope that the authorities will solve their problems for them.

In the first case the actions will inevitably attract the attention of public, and the bolder the actions the more effective and quicker this will happen. A campaign of support is starting up in the mass media not controlled by the state. Also, parallel with these events, at the present time in the Ramenskii area there are about ten more various agricultural enterprises in a similar position - in some a mood favourable for strike action is building up. The reason is the non-payment of wages occurring everywhere. In acting decisively and collectively, as is appropriate for the working class, it is more than realistic to protest in solidarity with joint actions. Of course, this means an inevitable and fierce confrontation with the state power. But, in taking into consideration the instability and shakiness of the regime, there is a significant chance of winning.

In the second case defeat is guaranteed, since it means depending on the state. It is already clear whose side the state is on.

Which method of struggle have the collective farm workers chosen?

On learning what had happened, the meeting of March 16, 2001 elected a control commission, which was to conduct investigations into the unsanctioned theft of credit (as if everything was not obvious) and turned to the law enforcement organs. (The commission dissolved itself immediately after the meeting.) The meeting also re-elected the management: The chairman of the trade union I. Zabelin was elected as the new chairman of the collective farm. The already familiar name of Vasilievna appeared again! This is amazing.

Zabelin then promptly acknowledged all debts and petitioned the court with a declaration of bankruptcy for the collective farm. All the debts were the responsibility of the workers' collective fund of the collective farm (which, it is true, came under a different suit). Then there were legal proceedings, transfers from one court to another, even the direct sabotage of legal proceedings took place more than a few times.

The chairman of the collective farm who was elected at a meeting in March 2002, V.M. Krasnoshchekov, did not recognise the authorities, as could be expected. Against this, the authorities set up a rival management under Aleksandr Vitalievich Kravets, who, on their instructions, continued the famous matter of bringing the collective farm to bankruptcy. It is evident that the administration of the Ramenskii area is impatient to profit from the sale of the land that belongs to the collective farm. The collective farm workers of course are embittered, and for a reason. Kravets calmly goes to work, and unhindered does the dirty work and helps Zabelin and Vasilievna to orchestrate repression against active fighters for justice. In particular, the administration hinders the appearance in court of witnesses from the collective farm. The judges continue but nobody has any faith in them anymore.

Not everything has been lost though. There are workers in the Borets collective farm who are now thinking about other, not judicial, methods of struggle: everybody who is not acquainted with the class struggle by mere hearsay, can see how a spontaneous struggle with the employer here is growing into a recognition of the rottenness of the state regime. We are seeing how collective farm workers are losing faith in the courts, and this means in the government also, on the basis of their own experience. And we are seeing how their readiness to struggle against their employers by every means has grown into a similar readiness to struggle against the bourgeois state. In other words, we are seeing (admittedly on one particular collective farm) the evolution of consciousness from spontaneity and economism to complete political consciousness.

It is necessary to underline that alongside these developments in Ramenskii area alone there are about ten other agricultural enterprises in a similar position, some of which are on the verge of strikes. The task of communists and of all fighters for the cause of the working class is to help them! In particular:

  1. It is necessary to raise the campaign in the press, especially on the internet, as well as papers (preferably not only opposition ones), the radio, and any other means that will rouse public opinion.
  2. To find reliable lawyers.
  3. To make contact with the surrounding agricultural enterprises, to clarify the situation they face, and make every effort to persuade them to support the class campaign of solidarity with the Borets collective farm.
  4. To find people (volunteers) who are ready if necessary for decisive events and their personal participation in them.

Comrades, the proletariat needs our help. For those who are ready to take up the class struggle in deeds, and are not idle chatterers at meetings, support the struggle of the Borets farm workers and get in touch with us at rwp@1917.com.

See also Rabochiya Democratiya the website of the Russian Marxists. (In Russian.)

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