By CHRISTOPHER HUTCHINSON
On Wednesday, June 14, the International Labour Network for Solidarity and Struggles (ILNSS) departed from Warsaw, Poland, on the third “Workers’ Aid to Ukraine” convoy. Union and student activists from France, Poland, and Lithuania participated, and thousands of dollars in funds were raised to supply humanitarian aid, electronics, and camping gear that would go to support working-class communities and workers on the front lines of the resistance to the Russian invasion.
The ILNSS writes in a statement, “It [the convoy] is aimed at strengthening the working-class resistance against the Russian imperialist invasion and the Ukrainian government’s anti-union and anti-social reforms during the war. We bring the requested aid directly to those who need them and we plan our actions together.”
They included the following demands: “Solidarity with Ukraine’s armed and unarmed popular resistance against the Russian imperialist aggression! Down with anti-social reforms during and after the war! For the cancellation of Ukrainian international debt! For a post-war reconstruction to meet the working-class needs, not private profits! Confiscate the Ukrainian assets and property of all capitalist sponsors of Putin’s anti-people regime!”
The most important aspect of the convoy was that it set an example of international solidarity among workers. Along the way, the convoy met with students in Lviv, teachers in Kropyvnytskyi, miners and metalworkers in Kryvyi Rih, and railroad workers in Kyiv.
Kryvyi Rih, a major mining city in Ukraine, was a key stop for the convoy. On Tuesday, June 13, just a few days before the convoy reached Kryvyi Rih, Reuters reported that Russian missiles hit residential buildings, killing at least 12 people and wounding many more. Then, on June 15, Russian missiles hit two industrial facilities in the city, though no casualties were reported.
Kryvyi Rih has been at the center of class struggle for more than 100 years. Workers there played a key role in the revolutionary movements against the Tsar in 1905 and would eventually help make the revolution in 1917 and play a leading role in the industrialization of the Soviet Union. But the Stalinist bureaucracy squandered their great achievements, and made famine and state terror a reality for the masses of workers. In June 1963, working people in the city rose up in protests against increased food prices and food shortages, but Moscow sent in troops, and the protests were ultimately crushed. The convoy was on hand in Kryvyi Rih to help commemorate the 60th anniversary of this workers’ struggle against the Stalinist bureaucracy.
Again and again, that same fighting spirit in the working class in Kryvyi Rih has been on display. The workers are not afraid to use their strongest weapon—the strike. In October 2020, prior to the Russian invasion, miners spent 46 days on strike, more than two miles below the surface of the Earth. Since the invasion, miners and metal workers have seen their comrades perish in war and have had to defend their wages and working conditions from the Zelensky government’s anti-labor laws.
The Kryvyi Rih branch of the Independent Mine and Metal Workers’ Union has played a leading role in defending workers during the war, especially their members in the military. Their president, Yuri Samoilov, said during a European meeting, “Just as at the beginning of the war, our task is to help our members who are now serving in the army. … Before the war, an employer didn’t have the right to fire an employee without the union’s approval. Now they have been given this right and are very eager to exercise it. … But what else do unions do now? Sometimes, for example, various people call me and say, ‘My relative has fallen on the front and his body is lying somewhere on a neutral strip not far from the city, help me pick him up.’”
Yuri continued, “There are a lot of different issues related to the army, but why are we even talking about the army? Because several hundred members of our union have been drafted into the army, but they are still employed at their jobs. Their employment contracts are not on hold. They are not yet, but anything can happen. They are members of our union and remain so. It’s all intertwined here: labor relations, the situation in companies, the situation in the city, various personal relations. You could say that the union deals with everything.”
Workers’ Voice in solidarity with the International Workers’ League has taken up the call by the ILNSS for international solidarity with the workers in Ukraine and in particular with the independent miners union in Kryvyi Rih. So far, we’ve raised a modest sum of $9000 for the Workers’ Aid to Ukraine campaign in two one-month-long fundraising drives. We will continue to raise funds and the banner of international solidarity. We encourage our readers to do the same. You can make a contribution to our most recent campaign here: https://chuffed.org/project/workersaidtoukraine
Photo: Apartment building in Krivyi Rih after being attacked by Russian missiles on June 13. (Dnipro Regional Administration via AP)