|DOWN WITH POLICE PROVOCATIONS
AGAINST LABOR ACTIVISTS!
In the last several days Russian secret police (FSB) and the authorities of Kemerovo Region launched a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Comrade Vladimir Vorobiev, a well-known labor leader from Kuzbass, and orchestrated the publication of slanderous articles against him in a number of media outlets.
Vladimir Vorobiev became internationally known in 1998, when he organized the blockade of the Trans-Siberian railroad by miners and other workers. (Read the clip on Vorobiev from The Economist in the end of this letter). Since then he became a recognized leader of the Kuzbass proletariat because of his courageous and persistent struggle for the rights of workers and against the closures and plunder of industrial enterprises in the Kuzbass Basin. Comrade Vorobiev is a Co-Chairman of the Inter-Regional Alliance of Workers’ Unions “Defense of Labor.”
His dedication to the cause of the working class was also recognized by the state authorities and the secret police. They gave ComradeVorobiev high marks by repeatedly intimidating, slandering, and persecuting him. Their new attacks--more vicious than ever—came soon after Vorobiev’s return from the European Social Forum in Florence, where he addressed mass audiences with reports on Russian labor movement and the strategy of international solidarity (read his speech in Florence at http://www.left.ru/inter/november/ vorobiev.html). He also appeared on Italian TV where he talked about the struggles of Russian workers.
Vladimir Vorobiev’s international visibility immediately triggered the campaign of slanders and denunciations from the bourgeois press. It was orchestrated by the Governor of Kemerovo Region Aman Tuleev and some Duma deputies.
First, the local newspaper “Kuzbass,” controlled by the Governor Tuleev, published a slanderous article, whose author likened Vorobiev and his comrades to “mosquitoes” who sabotage… the construction of the new hydroelectric plant in Kuzbass.
Then, on November 25, two major “democratic” newspapers--the tabloid “Versiya” and the “liberal” “Novaya gazeta”-- published articles with slanderous innuendoes, accusations, and reports to authorities against Vladimir Vorobiev and the members of workers’ trade-union alliance “Defense of Labor” and the Siberian Confederation of labor.
The textual analysis of these articles leavee little doubt that they originated from one source. One of the authors, the tabloid journalist Ekaterina Kostikova is known to have ties to the secret police (the other author published under the assumed name). The provocative nature of this attack is captured by the title of Kostikova’s piece – “The Common Criminal from the Trans-Urals Decides to Overthrow Putin and to Make a Coup d’Etat.” The members of CCL are called “radically-minded pensioners and officially registered mental patients.” In its slavish eagerness tabloid “Versiya” slandered even Alexander Maksakov, the murdered leader of Astrakhan workers, who it calls a “former criminal… killed in some gangster’s dispute.” These vicious articles--full of lies, absurdities and fear before the prospect of international cooperation between workers of Russia and other countries--end by calling the authorities to “investigate” and “take decisive measures” against Vladimir Vorobiev and his comrades. Their call did not pass unnoticed.
When Vladimir Vorobiev returned to his native city of Anzhero-Sudzhensk he met with unlawful attempts of the city administration and the local office of secret police to hinder his trade-union and political work. The acting city mayor Alexander Gotfrid refused to provide free office space for the City Confederation of Labor (CCL) (Vorobiev is the head of this trade union formation), even though earlier, faced with worker’s pickets, he had promised to comply with the Law “On Trade Unions,” which requires this. Vorobiev’s attempts to rent a hall for the general meeting of CCL have also failed. The managers of community centers refused on all kinds of pretexts.
Simultaneously, Comrade Vorobiev began to receive threats and warnings. Last week his “good-wishers” advised him to stop his activities so that nothing bad happened to him and his family.
On November 27, Vladimir Vorobiev was taken to the city office of the secret police (FSB) for “a conversation.” The FSB agents, who did not introduce themselves, were primarily interested in Vorobiev’s trip to Florence. They asked him who else went with him, where he stayed about the themes of the panels and seminars at the Forum, who made presentations and about what, what Vorobiev said in his speeches. Comrade Vorobiev briefly answered that he told the Forum about the violation of workers’ rights in Kuzbass, his trade-union and political work, none of which constitute state secrets.
The FSB agents then moved to more detailed questions: who financed the trip, who Vorobiev met with in Florence, addresses, contacts. When Comrade Vorobiev refused to answer such questions the “conversation” became more intimidating. The agents warned Vorobiev that if he refuses to cooperate they would take any measures to discredit him.
These actions of the Anzhero-Sudzhensk secret police clearly and blatantly violate the Article 5 of the Law on “Trade Unions, Their Rights and Guarantees of Their Activities” that prohibits the interference of the special state agencies into trade-union affairs.
The next day Comrade Vorobiev was “invited” for a “conversation” with the anonymous general, recently appointed the Chief of FSB in Anzhero-Sudzhensk. As before, this “invitation” was not officially documented or sanctioned by the court. Vorobiev was warned not to tell anyone about these “invitations,” because alegedly “these are the questions pertaining to counter-intelligence and we must know everything.”
This time however Comrade Vorobiev used his constitutional rights and declined to “converse” with the local boss of FSB. He called him and told that he would no longer honor unofficial invitations from FSB.
The meaning of this episode is clear. By using slander, provocations and intimidation against Comrade Vorobiev Russian authorities hope to intimidate other activists and labor leaders and to make them stop their struggle against the capitalist offensive and for workers' right to a life of dignity. In particular, the ruling regime fears the possibility of Russian workers forging strong international ties with the workers and the oppressed masses of other countries.
It is also important to understand the local social-political context of this affair. Anzhero-Sudzhensk, formerly a flourishing industrial city, now is a place doomed to destruction and extinction by powerful gangster-bourgeois groupings. Out of dozens large industrial enterprises there remain only two that are still in operation: the machine-building plant “Anzheromash” and the coal mine “Fizkulturnik.” The more plants and mines get shut down, the more money flows from the federal treasury to Anzhero-Sudzhensk to “create new jobs”, the more money settles in the pockets of the regional and city bureaucrats and their cronies from "business community" and organized crime. The crafty Governor Tuleev invents ever new projects for “creating new jobs” and every one of them mysteriously fails: the “gigantic” ATOK auto plant, the open mine Shcherbinovsky, the OOO Express Bike Factory, the open mine Taeznyi, the OOO Delta Briquette Fuel Plant. These and other projects received colossal sums of money from the federal budget. Today, there are neither enterprises, nor jobs, nor money. One can be confident that the project of the new hydroelectric plant will have the same ending.
Today the City Confederation of Labor, led by Comrade Vorobiev, is the only force that in deeds defends the workers of Anzhero-Sudzhensk and by their actions of protests and agitation slows down the closure of the remaining enterprises. If these enterprises go, the fate of the city of Anzhero-Sudzhensk and his 90 thousand people will be sealed. Just recently, the unique enterprise “Sibsteklo,” used to produce glass products for space exploration, was shut down. Its 500 workers were thrown out in the street without paying them the back wages for the last six months, which was solemnly promised by Governor Tuleev. This plant was shut down while Comrade Vorobiev was in Florence.
It is likely that the authorities of the Kemerovo Region will continue using the police and the secret service for further provocations against the leader of Kuzbass proletariat. All workers and labor organizations of Russia should take part in the campaign opposing the police provocations against Vladimir Vorobiev and raise this campaign to an international level.
Comrades, Vladimir Vorobiev needs your support now. The ability of Russian workers organizations to ward off this vicious attack against him may yet determine under what conditions labor activists will have to work tomorrow.
Please find below addresses of local officials for sending faxes, telegrams, letters, email messages or making telephone calls. We recommend the following text:
We aalso sk all comrades to use your organizational and informational resources to spread the information about the illegal and provocative actions of the city authorities and FSB in relation to Comrade Vorobiev and the City Confederation of Labor of Anzhero-Sudzhensk. Please send us a copy of your letter to Russian authorities so that we can publish it on our website. We keep a special web page of Comrade Vorobiev's affair at http://www.left.ru/burtsev/vorobiev/index.html.
Editorial Board of Left.ru/Left Russia:
29 November 2002
Russia 650027 Kemerovo
Fax +7 (3842) 58-31-56
Russia, 652470, Kemerov,
Chief of City Police
The Office of Chief Prosecutor,
The Economist (UK) December 9-15, 2000
One potential hotspot is the town of Anzhero-Sudzhensk, 100km
The co-ordinator of those protests was Vladimir Vorobiev, an
Other official and semi-official figures allege, contradictorily,
In fact, Mr Vorobiev makes a rather sober impression. Striding