Today finishing our work-through of this piece in VZGLIAD by reporter Andrei Rezchikov. Donetsk political pundit Roman Manekin predicted to VZGLIAD that the main coal-burning industrial enterprises of the Separatist enclave Donetsk Peoples Republic (DPR) are on the verge of being nationalized.
On the other hand, Minister of Industry and Trade of the DPR, Alexei Granovsky, denied that nationalization was on the table, but otherwise refused to comment.
By the way, it struck me that most people, including myself, probably don’t know the exact definition of terms such as nationalization and privatization. So I found this basic primer: “In general terms, nationalisation is the act of taking property previously owned by individuals or other legal entities such as companies or municipalities into the ownership of the state.”
“The state”, in this case, meaning the unrecognized governments of the Separatist enclaves. A system in which all, or most, of the major industrial enterprises are owned by the state, could be considered a socialist-type system. For the average worker, it would mean that your paycheck is signed by the Governor, say, instead of by Mr. Scrooge McDuck.
Meanwhile, an anonymous source very close to the leadership of the Luhansk Peoples Republic (LPR) explained to the VZGLIAD reporter: Although the Donbass enterprises are to receive Russian coking coal to tide them through the crisis, they will not be able to pay for the Russian coal. Why? Because they have no cash. All the major enterprises in Donbass still remain under the control of various Ukrainian magnates and oligarchs. All the money flows through Kiev. Once again, the issue of private property vs nationalization comes to the forefront. “In this manner,” the anonymous source contends, “Poroshenko himself, and the people who surround him, are giving Donbass the signal to nationalize the enterprises.” Poroshenko’s people once again scoring spectacular “own goal”. And despite Granovsky’s ideological objections to nationalization, Kiev is simply not leaving Donetsk and Luhansk with any other alternative.
A Real-Life Horatio Alger
Just the other day the Ukrainian blockade forced two major metallurgical enterprises to shut down: The Enakievsky Metallurgical Factory; and an enterprise called KrasnodonUgol. Both enterprises were components of the Mining-Metallurgical conglomerate “Metinvest” owned by billionaire oligarch Rinat Akhmetov.
As of 2015 Akhmetov was ranked the 216th richest man in the world. He is worth around 6.5 billion American dollars. Rinat comes from humble origins, born to a working class family in Soviet Ukraine in 1966. His family are ethnic Tatars from the Volga region of Russia. Rinat’s father was a coal miner, and his mother was a shop clerk. When the Soviet Union dissolved and capitalism was imposed on the people, Akhmetov was one of those men who sussed out, in the ensuing free-for-all, how to leverage the new economic system and amass private capital at an astonishing rate. Previously public assets constituting the wealth of the republics — factories, mines, land, etc. , wealth that was created and built up by four generations of Soviet workers — all of a sudden became the private property of the new oligarchic class. It all happened very quickly, in the blink of an eye. And despite common perceptions of “ethnic mafias”, the role of Jews or Tatars, or whatever, and their supposed cunning and ties to organized crime — the fact remains that there was not much pattern to it; and a certain randomness to the ultimate shake-out, in this big game, of winners and losers. Not unlike the New York lottery!
Since the Maidan coup of 2014, Akhmetov has attempted to play a neutral role in the Ukrainian civil war. He is neither pro-Separatist nor pro-Ukrainian. He is pro-Akhmetov. He wants to get along with everyone, and keep his factories and his money. He is constrained by the legalities of the capitalist system and the concept of the “personhood” of factories. His enterprises are legally registered in Kiev, and pay taxes to the Ukrainian government.
Unfortunately for Akhmetov, the Ukrainian government is not smart enough to simply take the money, run laughing all the way to the bank, and let things be. Always ready to shoot themselves in the foot, while attempting to harm others, Ukrainian nationalists have forced the issue with this latest economic blockade. Mr. Nice Guy Akhmetov’s factories are being forced to close down, one at a time. Recently the blockade activists closed down all traffic on the stretch of highway Yasinovataya-Skotovataya, putting a stop to the ingress of raw materials and the egress of finished product. Work in these factories thus came to a standstill, risking the jobs of around 150,000 residents of the Separatist enclaves. All of these people work for Rinat Akhmetov. He signs their paychecks.
A couple of weeks ago (10 February), the LPR Parliament passed a draft bill which would, in essence, nationalize all enterprises which function, but are not registered, in the LPR. Since Akhmetov’s factories are registered in Kiev, this law will affect him. LPR Chief Honcho Igor Plotnitsky announced this plan. Shortly thereafter Plotnitsky’s analogue for the DPR, Alexander Zakharchenko followed suit with an announcement that the Enakievsky metallurgical plant will be put back online without any participation from the Ukrainian side. Both of these measures strike at the heart of the capitalist-oligarchic system which has basically destroyed the Ukraine since the early 1990’s.
Without Coke There Is No Work. Or Life.
The VZGLIAD piece concludes with the paradox of Donbass dying for lack of coking coal. One thinks of the old “Newcastle” quip. After all, the Donbass region is the major repository of coal for the entire Ukraine. How could this happen?
The answer lies in the fact that coke is not found in all the mines, necessarily. In that part of the territory controlled by the DPR, coke is mainly found only in the Zasyadko mine. But that particular mine is unsafe and susceptible to explosions. There are also people issues: poor management, incessant strikes, etc. The remaining coal mines on DPR territory are primary anthracite coal. Anthracite is suitable fuel for electrical power stations, but cannot be put into coking ovens. Coking ovens produce a necessary component for the cooking of the world’s most important metal: Steel.
One feature of coking ovens is that they must work incessantly, without stopping, like some kind of Eternal Flame. Or like the fires of Hell. If ever they stop, then the ovens must be dismantled and rebuilt anew. But there is no money to build or rebuild the ovens! Poroshenko took all the money away, back to Kiev! Hence, once those flames die out and the ovens go cold, they cannot be rebuilt. Then Donbass dies a painful death.
Unless Russia comes galloping to the rescue with precious life-giving coke to fuel those ravenous flames.