Photo credit: Telegram/KazTAG
By Jakob Stein
Over the past week, protests against Kazakhstan’s elimination of the cap on gasoline prices have erupted into a full-scale uprising against the oppression and miserable economic conditions imposed on the people by the Kazakh State and Russian imperialism.
On January 1, the Kazakh government lifted the cap on the price of liquefied petroleum gas, used to fuel vehicles around the country, causing the price of gas to double in a single day. While modest-sized protests originally centered around the increased price of fuel, they quickly expanded in size, combativity, and the scope of grievances. The people of Kazakhstan are subjected to an extremely repressive State as well as the domination of Russian imperialism, which exploits the natural gas–rich country and keeps its people in a state of perennial poverty.
As of publication, the uprisings have seen protesters kill at least 13 police and injure another 350 officers, as well as storm and burn down both the presidential palace and the mayor’s office in Almaty. Almaty is the country’s biggest city, where the largest and most rebellious demonstrations have taken place.
In video footage of the rebellions, protesters can be seen disarming riot police, using the police’s own batons and shields against them. In one video, protesters victoriously throw these weapons and equipment into a pile.
The reactionary Kazakh State responded to the uprisings with even more intense repression, killing dozens of protesters, injuring hundreds more, and arresting at least 2,000. Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev dismissed the government, declared a state of emergency, and requested the intervention of Russian troops, resulting in even more bloodshed. However, the protests have not let up.
While nominally independent, Kazakhstan is a semi-colony of Russia, meaning it is economically dependent on and dominated by Russian capital. Kazakhstan exports large quantities of raw materials like natural gas and iron ore, in which there is a great deal of Russian investment, in exchange for consumer goods and manufactured products from Russia which the Kazakh people need for daily life. With a huge trade differential of around $8 billion, Russia’s dominance over the country allows them a market to sell their goods and a valuable source of raw materials.
The economic domination of Kazakhstan benefits huge Russian monopolies, owned and operated by imperialists, as well as the Kazakh ruling class, which gladly sells the interests of its people to Russian imperialism. The average household income in Kazakhstan is under $3,300 per year and its minimum wage is just over $0.61 per hour. This relationship stretches back to before the country’s supposed ‘independence’ in 1991, to when Soviet social-imperialism controlled central Asia, after the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. The Russian military intervention only further demonstrates the way in which the Kazakh ruling class and the Russian imperialists share the same interests, diametrically opposed to those of the Kazakh people, who have taken to the streets to express their fury toward their oppressors.
Kazakhstan is also an important target for US imperialism, with energy monopolies like Chevron and Exxon Mobil putting tens of billions of dollars of capital into the country. Kazakhstan also represents a strategic geopolitical position for the US military as it shares a long border with southwestern Russia. With every popular uprising in the region, US imperialism seeks to use the people’s righteous anger as an opportunity to push their own interests in the region.
Along with five other countries, Kazakhstan is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is headed by Russia. The CSTO also includes Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries have joined the efforts to repress the rebellion in Kazakhstan, benefiting Russian imperialism and the interests of the various countries’ rulers.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “The world will of course be watching for any violation of human rights and actions that may lay the predicate for the seizure of Kazakh institutions,” going on to call for a “peaceful resolution.” US imperialism will undoubtedly use the rebellion in attempts to strengthen any pro-US political opposition in the country, as it has been ruled by the same party in service to Russian imperialism since 1991.
The uprisings in Kazakhstan once again show that the people of the oppressed countries are increasingly tired of their worsening living conditions, as the sell-outs that rule their countries and the big imperialist powers continue to benefit from their exploitation. The spontaneous, combative protests are another example of the uneven development of revolutionary situation worldwide, and show that the people are the real heroes, ready to rebel against their oppression and set fire to the old order.
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