Thus, who was glad the crisis bottom had been overcome? A crisis, like a hydra, has three heads growing instead of a cut-off one. And each one is more powerful and more terrible than the previous one. In early summer the authorities have renewed the work of the major town employer enterprise in Pikalevo under pressure of mass protest actions. The Gordian knot was cut by emergency state funding. But before the summer could come to end, the problem of industrial manufacture decline and mass firing has arisen to the full scale again. But now it happened not in a town with 20,000 population but in Togliatti - the flagship city of Russian light automobile construction.
One can’t fail to notice a bitter irony of the history in the fate. In the late 1980es workers of the Volga automobile plant, once a top-priority Komsomol building site, all supported the reforms leading inexorably to the capitalist restoration. It was Togliatti where the CC CPSU General Secretary of those days Mikhail Gorbachev has first pronounced the word “perestroika”. It seemed possible to enrich themselves enormously by free trade of critically short at Soviet era “style light autos” during transition from planned distributing economy to free market, having saved all the social gains.
But severe reality of free market dispelled one illusion after another. In 1991 the production volume which had fiercely grown before has fallen for the first time ever from 743,600 to 673,800 cars a year. In 1993 the “AvtoVAZ” which had been transformed into an open joint-stock corporation has come across components shortage, part-time work was being introduced, and workers’ strikes began.
Temporary success, growth of cars production and new models production start-up only shaded the motion towards downfall. In 1994 the “AvtoVAZ” assembly line was stopped for a month for the first time ever in its history, the workers were placed on leave.
The production has fallen by 19%, the autumn has passed by in strikes. In 1996 months-long wage arrears emerged. In 1998 poor sales and floating assets shortage have brought the plant on the verge of bankruptcy. Only the 1998 default has saved the enterprise when mass demand for home light cars increased and wage arrears depreciated because of uncontrollable inflation.
The “AvtoVAZ” has closed the 2008 year with pure loss of 24,3 billion roubles. To the beginning of this 2009 year the “AvtoVAZ” had 50 billion roubles debts, 95% of them - by short-term credits.
Mass media are filled like an avalanche with information on strikes, hunger strikes and other working people’s protest action which are hold more and more. The workers’ cheer “temperature” grows more and more quickly. Aside for Pikalevo rebel, the miners’ strike in Zverevo in Rostov region, the Taganrog automobile plant workers’ picket line in front of the administration building, the high-rise builders’ strike in Ekaterinburg, the ship-building sections workers’ strike in Astrakhan, the unrest at the Tula gun factory, etc. have taken place.
Why is it the “AvtoVAZ” and Togliatti situation that should be considered the top point of people’s - and aside from any parties - agitation in middle 2009?
First of all, Togliatti is a city with 705,000 population, unlike notorious Pikalevo. Automobile production is the major city employer there. It is possible to say, each family of the city is connected to the plant. Taking into account the “AvtoVAZ” workers’ families, the unemployment shadow hanged over half a million persons’ destinies. Although the plant management is sure the question is not mass firing but only “manufacture optimization”.
Few in number journalists from Moscow and other centers - the witnesses of workers’, trade union activists’ and all others’ confrontation against the plant business class - have disproved the official mass media’s idle talk and the “Moscow Echo” radio station’s liberal fish stories on number of the meeting participants. Near 2,000 persons gathered for a protest meeting in Togliatti up to the working-day middle. The authorities-fed mass media reported on three hundred.
The same informal talks show high intensity of emotions. It is enough to say that policemen watching after the meeting have put into their pocket such a wonderful workers’ slogan: “Who doesn’t like “AvtoVAZ” - will be a motherfucker!”
It was the first time ever that workers’ protest moved forward not only a set of economic demands but of clearly political, revolutionary ones: nationalisation of the “AvtoVAZ”, criminal prosecution of the plant managers and administrators, workers’ and trade unions’ control over the plant’s management, dept forgiveness on the “AvtoVAZ” credits, workers’ unhampered right for housing privatiztion in hostels, etc.
But where are suppliant petitions to Putin-Medvedev, strikes to death, messengers to different officials? Nothing of that kind… In spite of August - the traditional period of collecting pasturages at summer cottages by Russian people - the same people chanted: “It is not Pikalevo, we’ll kick so hardly - there’ll be hell to pay!”
Most mass media information tell that talks on forthcoming direction of OMON [special police force] fighters, special machinery (water cannons) to Togliatti and strengthening of police and internal troops units are misinformation. Russian authorities succeeded to have taught journalists to be afraid of charges of slander and extremism. Let us think journalists have told so covertly that OMON and water cannons would really be driven to Togliattli if necessary. Because all this had once happened already.
December 2005, the “New Region” agency, Ekaterinburg. “The Ekaterinburg Internal Affairs department press office informed that the city Extradepartamental security officers had been directed to guard one of the largest automobile enterprises of Russia - the “AvtoVAZ”. They had been on temporary duty for near two weeks already. Ekaterinburg police guards are not the only regional law-enforcement officers invited to guard the enterprise. Outsider policemen have taken under their protection the “AvtoVAZ” gates and checkpoints. Special security regime was introduced at the plant in the view of administration change. The board of directors is to be completely renewed there in the nearest days”.
The pro-Kremlin businessmen were hardly afraid of Togliatti gangsters - their own security service would have pulled them off at once. The new masters of the plant were afraid only of workers’ disorders.
In general, before August and September were stormy months for the “AvtoVAZ”. Thus, on August, 1, 2007 a large strike took place at “AvtoVAZ”, aftermath the management began prosecuting its organizers. It resulted to the “Unity” trade union September meeting where participants stated the possibility of one more strike at “AvtoVAZ”. In October an attack on three workers’ militants Alexey Vinogradov, Anton Pustovoy and Alexander Grachev and a local newspaper journalist occurred. One of the attackers was recognized as the city UBOP [Organized Crime Department] officer. The plant trade union chairman Anton Pustovoy when beaten has got a craniocerebral injury and has spent nearly 2 weeks in the local hospital neurosurgery department. Policemen threated him with imprisonment for “extremist activity” - distribution of the “Togliatti Workers’ Question” newspaper.
The next year 2008 was marked with bringing workers’ leaders - already fired to that time - to criminal responsibility for “slandering”. The plant administration has appealed to trial.
But the emerged crisis has added more trouble for the “AvtoVAZ” bourgeois. Now, if the plant managers together with the city UBOP feel necessary to break the rebel workers’ crania, they will have to gather OMON puppets from all Russian regions, like in 2005.
Nevertheless, it is less probable that Togliatti becomes an epicenter of a social outburst which starts to demolish the Russian “power branches” which had stuck in many people’s gizzard. The Health and Social Development Ministly of RF has urgently adopted the regional program for decreasing social tension at Samara region labour market. The officials will try to direct the fired from the plant workers to take over vacant positions existing in the region - near 14,000. The program includes social works in the regions and creating near 30,000 new work positions, two third of them - for Togliatti inhabitants. Funds were devoted to it after the summer protest actions and have already come to hand to the region.
But what would you do, Mssrs rich officials, when a dozen of such Togliattis burst out in the country at once?