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Synthesis/Regeneration 17   (Fall 1998)


Documents from the Samara Strike Committee

introduction by Vladimir Bilenkin

Below is my translation of the documents on the struggle in Samara which we received from the leaders of the Strike Committee, Grigory Isayev and Victor Kotel'nikov, in response to our collective letter of solidarity. I just want to say a few words on the background of this struggle.

Samara (Kuibyshev in the USSR) has a population of one million people and a long revolutionary tradition. It has a large concentration of heavy industry which, as elsewhere in Russia, has been devastated by capitalist restoration. ZIM (Zavod imeni Maslennikova) presently has 5,000 workers who have not been paid their wages for a year. ZIM is a military-industrial plant which still belongs to the state. Like most such enterprises, ZIM has been left without state orders and subject to plunder by its administration and the authorities at all levels whose usual tactics come to the following. First, an enterprise is stripped of all its assets. Its real estate and all kinds of facilities are rented out for a nominal price to the relatives or friends of the administration. If the workers have some shares they are compelled to sell them to the front people of the administration or/and outside gangsters, since they are not paid their wages. They bankcrupt the enterprise, the state puts it to auction, and the local gang buys it for small change. With the workers now out, they are free to do with the enterprise, often unique and having priceless equipment, whatever they want. Often they just sell it to a private bank and settle on a nice piece of real estate in Switzerland or Florida. And behind they leave hundreds of thousands of Russian workers to starvation, lumpenization, and death.

If the workers have some shares they are compelled to sell them to the front people of the administration or outside gangsters, since they are not paid their wages...

Why was it ZIM, among so many enterprises in similar predicament, that rose in organized action? I believe it was because of the long revolutionary tradition of the Samara proletariat and because of the small group of revolutionary workers led by Isayev and Kotel'nikov who can be called some of the few professional revolutionaries in contemporary Russia. I know that Isayev was arrested in 1981 for organizing a strike and was given a six-year prison term for that. Together with Kotel'nikov, he leads a local Party of the Proletarian Revolution based on some sort of vernacular Marxist tradition, transmitted, I believe, by Kotel'nikov's father, the now deceased founder of the group. According to the Party statutes, its members from the intelligentsia have only the right of consultative vote.

The protest began on February 3 when the ZIM workers blocked the central avenue of the city. They then sent a delegation to the nearby meeting of the so-called Trilateral Commission -- the bosses, the city administration, and the "yellow" official unions -- which was discussing the terms of a new "production" agreement. They found cold reception there. The following two months they continued to block the avenue every day. They also threw their director from the factory and his coterie who are now under criminal investigation for the embezzlement of the plant's assets. To obstruct the investigation, the "gang" inside the plant burnt down the bookkeeping office. The police twice arrested the leaders of the strike but both times they were released under the workers' pressure. Among other actions, the workers took the vice-directors and the plant's union boss hostages. Isayev writes that now they are working on organizing a city-wide meeting to overthrow the regional governor. He also mentions that the Committee badly needs a Rizograph A-4 monochrome (apparently, some sort of printing device) which is sold in Samara for $3,300. They don't have such money and are looking for a cheaper price.

They also ask to disseminate their email address (stachkom@transit.samara.ru) as widely as possible, and they ask for email addresses of papers, radio and TV stations where they could send information about their struggle. They are also asking for the addresses of the servers where they could display the web page of their committee free. That's all so far.

We Need to Make a Decisive Step!

We need to convene an extraordinary conference of ZIM workers because of the following problem. We know that Letyagin, our new general manager, has taken a number of energetic measures to solve the crisis. But these measures have not been successful because they were sabotaged by the entire gang of thieves inside the factory as well as outside it. They include the hacks of the former director (who burned the accounting office) and the gigantic thievish gang of creditors, bureaucrats, authorities and other "friends of the people" who talk about their love to us while doing everything in order to finish off the factory as soon as possible. In this, all these hyenas are united! Because the death of ZIM means enrichment to them-and death to us!

It's clear that Letyagin cannot save the factory on his own. This gang of predators will sooner break his neck than let the plant out of their paws. This is why the strike committee thinks that under such circumstances we can win only by joining together the efforts of Letyagin and the collective action of 5,000 angry, hungry, pauperized workers of ZIM. And we are ready for this. We have nothing to lose!

ZIM is a state enterprise, i.e. we have the right to put our demands before any state representative, including the President, if we firmly wish to. This is what we want to discuss at the conference.

We'll invite to it all whom we find necessary to (some names of their enemies are mentioned here). And we'll call them to account for their actions. Let them only try not to come and to deceive us again. 5,000 ZIM workers make five proletarian regiments. We'll get our lawful money from them, we'll get them!

We shall win if we unite together the great power of our collective with the intelligence and knowledge of our new director and those managers and technical personnel who are honest, bold and believe in ZIM! We can get what we need only by force!


The criminal regime has brought Russia to unheard-of shame and humiliation and has thrown her people to poverty and misery. This regime must be overthrown!

For long decades we lived as serfs of the feudal CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet Union, - Ed.]. Now, new exploiters-democrats-have thrown us into the new, bourgeois slavery. It is the gang of communists and democrats who have brought Russia to the brink of catastrophe. It can be prevented only by a revolutionary organized working class. There is no other social force that can do this!

It is the gang of communists and democrats who have brought Russia to the brink of catastrophe. It can be prevented only by a revolutionary organized working class.

This is why we, workers, are taking today all power and responsibility for the fate of our society. The mafioso-type, festering administration of Yeltsin has to be dissolved immediately and unconditionally. All power will be transfered into the hands of revolutionary strike committees which will be fully accountable to workers' meetings and conferences. This will become the main law of life!

Any power-unless it is strictly controlled by the organized masses-instantaneously degenerates and produces new mean exploiters no matter how beautifully masked.

All to the Square of Glory! Down with the Communists and Democrats! Down with Parliaments and Presidents! Long Live the Power of Workers! Long Live Revolution!

The Strike Committee of ZIM
The Strike Committee of the City of Samara

To the Police

Do not spill workers' blood. It is easy to make a mistake today. The authorities have many times used you as a bogey-man to protect themselves. Until now you served as a buffer between the two exploiting classes: the old feudals of CPSU and the new predatory bourgeoisie who wear the masks of communists and democrats. The communists still manage to lead some sections of desperate pensioners, invalids, and veterans right under your batons.

But today the very working class itself has run out of patience and does not believe anybody or anything. We are not the pitiful crowds with red flags but tens of millions of people. We'll sweep away the old and the new oppressors! We'll do this by any means and establish our own proletarian power which will indeed express the interests of the people.

This is why we're telling you: do not stand in our way! Instead, help workers detachments in their struggle with crime, banditism, and the mafia. We'll squash this scum!

Police, workers are not armed. Think twice to avoid making a terrible mistake and becoming criminals. You will not be forgiven. Remember whose sons and brothers you are and whom you must serve. You can become either heroes or criminals. Become heroes!

The Strike Committee of ZIM
The Strike Committee of Samara

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