In recent days, unexpected civil unrest in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan has confused many international observers, particularly those who are seeking some sort of a class-based explanation for what is happening in that country. Media coverage of the spontaneous revolt that has shaken that country features up to now very little identifiable division of forces between “progressives” or “the left” on the one hand, vs. conservative or right-wing elements on the other, no clear revolutionary agendas or platforms, and little or nothing in the way of coherent programmes or demands on any side. According to a January, 2022 report from Russia’s Zanovo Media, as translated and published by the American online journal Jacobin, “Underground” Resistance organizations such as the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan (Социалистического движения Казахстана) have so far had no on-the-ground leadership role in the protests.
According to reports, the current level of unrest in Kazakhstan involves internal factors including:
External factors fanning the protests include:
As has been widely reported in mainstream capitalist media, the spark for the current unrest was a doubling of prices for LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas, the most commonly used automobile fuel in Kazakhstan). Kazakhstan is oil-rich, but in the post-Soviet era the country’s oil wealth has been sold off to private companies, mostly Western. Thus, the country’s government no longer controls the sale price of petroleum and gas products.
For almost 29 years, from the breakup of the USSR in 1990, until March of 2019, Kazakhstan was ruled by Nursultan Nazarbayev (Нурсултан Абишевич Назарбаев), former Prime Minister of the former Kazakh SSR. His ruling style might be described as Soviet-like, but utterly without the Soviets’ socialist ideals (Communist discipline, equality, workers’ power) or high ethics (in fact, credible allegations have been made that Nazarbayev and family have vastly enriched themselves by selling off the nation’s wealth). The current president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ( Касым-Жомарт Кемелевич Токаев), took office in 2019 upon Nazarbayev’s resignation.
Sources for more information:
For the best currently available English-medium Marxist background analysis of the daily-changing situation in Kazakhstan, one should look at the online “Statement of the Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan on the situation in the country” on the http://socialism.kz website expresses the viewpoint of the country’s Marxist opposition. The original online article is in Russian, and an English-speaker may have to use an online translation-program. A January 9, 2022 English-language article in the Jerusalem Post, “Israel and Kazakhstan: When bland Foreign Ministry statement says it all,” explains a great deal of the larger global geopolitical context behind Kazakhstan’s current crisis, albeit from a Zionist point of view that some readers may well find unacceptable. One may also consult Jacobin magazine’s January, 2022 article, “Kazakhstan’s Protests are About Soaring Inequality for further analysis.