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(en) Russia - A visit to Sovetski pulp and paper complex

From Antti Rautiainen <antti@polly.phys.msu.su>
Date Tue, 16 Nov 1999 17:37:13 -0500


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A visit to Sovetski pulp and paper complex

Two militants of IWW ROC of Finland visited Sovetski pulp and paper complex,
occupied by the workers in monday 30th of august 1999. Due to various
problems our report has not distributed before.

The first impression about the plant was that it was HUGE. Pipes and halls
to far from our sight. Sovetski mill is clearly equal in size with most
biggest Finnish plants. After seeing the place it is no doubt that workers
can run themselves industrial systems of any size.

We had some backlashes in the trip, we had made a date with some Russian
anarcho-syndicalists in Vyborg, but for some unknown problems they never
showed up. We decided to go to the plant with a risk that no-one was able to
speak English, because such chances are rare in your life. If we couldn't
communicate, we would just say "Harasho" and go away.

We had no problems to get into the office building of the plant. At daytime
there is regularly some dozens of armed guards from the Sovetski village in
the plant, two were hanging around outside office building and let us in. 

>From 2000 workers from which hundreds were office staff, one capable of
speaking English was found. We feel quite stupid when waiting several hours
for "leaders" of trade union to come, they were doing some things, maybe
negotiating in Vyborg. In case we were able to speak Russian, we would have
been able to discuss with rank and file workers and villagers, now we just
had to hang in the building. But time was not completely wasted, we get lots
of press clips from archives of plant, and speaking with the office clerck
who spoke English was also important... one of the most encouraging
experiences in the plant was that how "normal" all the people there were,
clerck was more interested about studying opportunities in Finland than
union militancy, but still had been in the plant during the previous attack
in july. It seems like when pushed enough, whoever might become a militant.
The clerck had a job in a succesfull business in Saint Petersburg, but came
back to work in plant because she had to take care about her grandparents in
the village.

Of course, the fact that people are doing the occupation not because
"revolutionary consciousness" but because othervise they would lost their
all income also influences the way it's done. And that's the problem, I
guess they way plant is ruled is quite lot the same than before the
occupation. We got the impression that executive director, appointed by
workers election in march 1999, is actually doing all the appointements in
the office and holds quite a lot of power. In the contrary, MPST-AIT
comrades who visited plant around 18th of october got impression that power
of executive director is quite a much limited to daily business, and actual
political decisions is made by a crew of union leaders.

 We had finally only a chaotic half an hour time to talk with union leaders
because our visas would not be valid after following midnight, and we had to
hurry back to the Finland, so expecially this kind of important questions
remained unknown to us. When asked, union leaders told that general
assemblies are held "when necessary", for example during the night after
attack of the gunmen in the july. However, MPST comrades told that when they
were discussing about assemblies and direct democracy union leaders didn't
seem to really understand what was it about. Most of the workers seem not to
be very interested to have control over daily plant affairs, they are just
want to keep their jobs. This is very natural, but sad as well.

Another unclear point is involvement of the parties in the process. Some
news have informed that a a general union of Leningrad oblast which has
about one million members, somehow stabbed the back of the occupation.
Anyway, at least any separate unions are strongly supporting it. The second
biggest Russian communist party, disgusting stalinist RKRP, ("Russian
communist worker's party", 1-2% of votes), is very often involved in
occupations and propably in this one too, but we got no any evidence about
it during our visit. Other questions to which we didn't get answers is the
current economic viability of the plant, general feeling and amount of hope
in the village, speculated interest difference between leaders and the
workers and speculated election political interest of the leaders. About
economy, crucial point is that Sovetski is very unique occupation in the
sense that it has really chances of economical survival in capitalist system
(in case they are able to get financing, which is the biggest problem now),
plant has been reformed in Gorbachev's era and everything was shiny and
ultra-modern... nothing like everything else in the rest of the Russia. I am
very sure that it is really "competitive", at least if corporate plans to
sack most of the workers is realized...

Plant has a defence deal with (propably) stalinist controlled organisation
of veterans of war in Saint-Petersburg (mostly Afghanistan veterans), which
has promised to send 400 armed men to plant in case of an attack, it also
takes care about the security during the weekends. 

Many things remain unknown, but both MPST-AIT and IWW Finland think at least
some kind of support and maintaining of contacts is necessary with the
occupation. Unfortunately, in Finland people are few and it is unclear how
enthousiastic they are for this project, people have been organising
counterevents during the EU presidency with 120% of their energy. 

What everyone can do, is to contact the plant, and inform that their groups
and organisations support the plant and are ready to respond appeals any
time. Not very many foreign organisations have yet contacted to the plant,
for example until very recently Finnish moderate unions hadn't contact at
all. It would be nice if you informed that you got the information from IWW
Finland (Solidaarisuus), because in discussion with unionists we had many
ideas what to do for helping but due to lack of energy and time almost
nothing has been done. People in the plant were also enthousiastic to hear
about union activities, experiences and strategies abroad. MPST-AIT is maybe
organising some fundraising later in case it is sure that usage of the money
is decided with direct democracy... MPST has so many experiences about
corrupted union leaders stealing their money. So stay connected...

Of course, plant desperately needs business contacts and financing, but I
guess that most of revolutionaries have not interest nor ability to work
with that. And it would also give a wrong signal how we organise.

To begin, IWW Finland bought enough paper to print one edition of their
paper to a real revolutionary paper. Mill is producing standard A4 of
70g/square meter and 120 g/square meter... unfortunately I haven't got
prices just now, they are something like 3 euros/500... competitive, but
there is logistics problem, and plant production and turnover is so big that
all the trading of paper to revolutionary organisations maybe has not more
than symbolic value, and is thus not maybe worth of all the efforts. But in
case there is huge interest to it somewhere, contact us.. at least I can say
that often in taiga zone new paper is more ecological than imported normal
recycled, because forest recycles itself (WUP is of course more ecological),
but there is problem with the old forests..;-)

And as always, here is some adresses to have contacts and to send appeals
and protests:
  
Contact of the pulp mill:
Vyborb pulp and paper complex
188918 Russia Leningradskaja oblast
Byborskaja raion,
p. Sovetskij, Savodskaja street 2
tel/fax: +7-812-115 28 45
tel: +7-812 78-2 19 17/reception
      +7-812 78-72 701/sales department
      +7-812 78-72 721/supply department


The Speaker of the State Duma Gennady Seleznev
Fax:  +7 (095) 292-94-64.

The Governor of Leningrad Region Valery Serdiukov
Fax:  +7 (812)  271-56-27; 274-85-39
Russia 193311
S-Petersburg
Suvorovsky pr. 67

The Press Secretary A. Veretin
Fax:  +7 (812) 110-78-41. E-mail: lobl@mail.lanck.net

The President's Representative G. Potapchenko
Tel/fax:  +7 (812) 274-08-25

MPST-AIT
117 485 Moscow Russia
P.O. Box 34
mpst@hotmail.com
http://mpst.tsx.org

Solidaarisuus - IWW ROC of Finland
P.O. Box 302 00811 Helsinki Finland
solidaarisuus@iww.org
http://www.dlc.fi/~ravelre/solid

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