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  Issue No 23 Official Organ of LaborNet 23 July 1999  





Bosses Use Armed Gangs to Break Russian Picket

On 9 July 1999, eighty masked, uniformed gunmen accompanied by the local prosecutor and other officials tried to storm the Vyborg Pulp and Paper Mill, under occupation by workers for the past eighteen months.

One special police unit, normally used to put down prison riots, is reported to have been particularly vicious. At the same time, another private armed militia linked to the mill owners captured the workers-elected director Vantorin and tried to force (and made him a substantial bribe) him to call off the strike.

He stood firm and the workers, using the mill's own alarm system managed to mobilise enough people (including local residents who support their struggle) to beat off the attack. However, the fighting was fierce, and two workers are seriously injured.

Some Background Information

The Vyborg Pulp and Paper Mill, in the town of Sovietsky (Leningrad Oblast), sits in a highly strategic location near the Russo-Finnish border, one of the busiest border and trade crossings in the country, as well as being nearby the railway line that links Russia with Scandinavia. The mill itself is very large and features some of the most modern equipment in the industry.

Formerly owned by American Cellulose, this plant was bankrupted in 1996, in a process which has become very typical of Russian capitalism today, where firms are allowed to run to the ground, then asset-stripped and auctioned at low prices. Profits made are inevitably salted away abroad. Meanwhile the local workforce, often highly skilled and experienced, are left to starve.

What made the Vyborg situation different was that the workers, as in Samara, Yasnogorsk (Tula) and other struggles which we have supported, refused to accept their impoverishment and they seized complete control of their plant. They ran production themselves, electing their own (unpaid) plant director.

A few months later, the new owners, Nimonor Investments, sued the workers committee and trade union. A counter-suit was filed by another group of vultures, the creditors of the bankrupt mill, who felt the property had been unfairly awarded to Nimonor. Nevertheless, though the courts ruled in favour of Nimonor, the latter was unable to drive out the occupying workers and establish control over the mill.

Key areas of strength for the workers were the solidarity they received from other local and regional workers organisations, the massive local sympathy (the mill produces the electricity that supplies people's homes), and perhaps most importantly of all, their threat to cut off all traffic on the Russia-Scandinavia highway and the railway. The mass blockades of last summer's "rail war" in support of the miners and other workers showed just how important this tactic is proving to be.

The mill has since been sold by Nimonor to a company called Alcem UK Ltd., apparently linked to some of the most mafia-ridden sections of Russian industry, the alcohol and aluminium sectors. The relationship of Nimonor and Alcem to each other is not clear, nor is it clear whether these are actually front companies for a larger firm.

One thing is clear, however. The combined attack by government authorities and private company militias, armed with guns and batons, was designed to destroy in the bud the new, rising militancy of Russian workers, sick of their plight. The IMF-Yeltsin privatisation programme has reduced much of the economy of this former superpower to that of a Third World Country. Russian workers, who once enjoyed a life expectancy similar to western levels, now live on average to the age of 56. They will not put up with this situation any longer.

The ruthless attack on the Vyborg workers comes hard on the heels of an unprecedented victory by the workers of the Yasnogorsk (Tula region) machine plant, who also took control of their factory in a similar scenario to the Vyborg one. Nearly all of their demands were conceded after a long occupation during which the workers ran production, shared the profits and fed their town.

Every boss in Russia is terrified that this method of fighting will become widespread, and that the authorities will lose more and more control. Clearly they hope to roll back the tide now by using violent, fascistic methods, before this militancy goes any further.

Now is the time to answer the Vyborg workers appeal for international solidarity with Vyborg workers. All workers and progressive organisations around the world need to send their messages of protest to the regional authorities (see inset), and to stand by ready for further action. We are also interested to hear any information regarding the true identity of Alcem UK Ltd., its major shareholders, its trading partners.

For further details contact mailto:[email protected]

fax: +44 171 733 9622


The Government of the Leningrand Region say they are going to discuss the situation with the Vyborg mill.

Now is a good time to send them e-mails of protest about the attacks by armed militia's against the Vyborg workers

The acting governor is Serdiukov, V. P. Fax: (007) 812-271-56-27

Head of the Press Center: Veretin, A. I. phone (007) 812-312-46-35, 276-61-08 ; fax (007) 812-110-78-41; E-mail: mailto:[email protected]


*    For international labour news bvisit Labourstart every day

*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 23 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: An Economic Wet
Dr Christopher Sheil on economic rationalism and the 1997-98 water failures in Adelaide and Sydney.
*  Unions: The Stench from the South
In 1997 the entire Adelaide metropolitan area was drenched in foul, sulphorous, sewerage odours, emanating from the Bolivar waste water treatment plant.
*  Environment: Trading into Trouble
Seattle, USA, is shaping up as demonstrator mecca in the lead up to World Trade Organisation talks.
*  History: Eveliegh Rail Reunion
Former workers and their families from the historic Eveleigh Railway Workshops in inner-Sydney are holding a picnic reunion and folk music festival on the site on Sunday, August 29.
*  International: Bosses Use Armed Gangs to Break Russian Picket
On 9 July 1999, eighty masked, uniformed gunmen accompanied by the local prosecutor and other officials tried to storm the Vyborg Pulp and Paper Mill, under occupation by workers for the past eighteen months.
*  Satire: New Refugee Crisis: Journalists Flee Peace Zone
The camps are once again full in the Albanian border town of Gruntiez.
*  Review: 10 Reasonably Interesting Moments in Film
Cultural theorist Snag Cleaver flies off the handle again..

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»  Apology to Dr Bridget Griffen-Foley

»  Guest Report
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»  Piers Watch

Letters to the editor
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»  Bright Oakdale Idea
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»  Dissent Within the Ranks!!
»  Reply to Don Macchiato

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