Part 34: National Strike
Chapter 34: National Strike
The night after the vodka distillery was taken over and manipulated to raise the prices of Victory Vodka, Prokofiev instructed Nasarov to unleash the national strike. What occurred was one of the greatest strikes ever seen during Karasov's regime. Fueled by disenchantment, enraged by union-scrapping policies, and sparked to motion by being denied cheap vodka, workers around the nation picked up their pro-Novistranan Coalition placards and paralyzed the country.
Essential services were frozen. Mills did not work. Factories remained boiling hot with no product, or entirely unmanned. Farmers did not sow their seeds or harvest the crops. Markets and building sites remained closed. Even the police and some branches of the military refused to do their duty. The national strike is considered to be one of the Coalition's greatest moments during the Third Glorious Revolution, and the number of supporters, up in the millions, has not been matched in another Novistranan strike yet.
Karasov was nowhere to be seen or heard in the day of the national strike. It is rumored he had sealed himself in his palace and tripled the vigilance of his guards to avoid attention, essentially giving the country authority and legitimacy to Piotr Prokofiev's whims for one day...
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: ...Do it.
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The Novistranan National Archive - Video Compilation of National Strike Footage: 16/04/1996
*NNN logo pops on-screen, then cut to footage of the strike.*
"This... is NNN, the Novistranan News Network. Today's top story: a national strike erupts in the streets of Novistrana! We go live to the Matiushin Green district of Berezina with Mikhail Koltsov, where the first stirrings of the strike took place this morning."
"The tension is high on the crowd here today. The people are massing and holding placards that are pro-Novistranan Coalition, the faction that has been building up for this strike for the past week. Combined with President Karasov's recent price increase of Victory Vodka and his announcements that unions are to be disbanded, the workers are in an uproar."
*Cut to more footage of chanting crowds in different places of Berezina.*
"What do we want? Vodka! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Vodka! When do we want it? Now!"
"U-nion! U-nion! U-nion! U-nion! U-nion! U-nion! U-nion! U-nion!"
*Cut to helicopter footage.*
"The strike has bled all over the city. While many have been arrested and taken to camps, some strikers have been brought to penned-in areas for peaceful protests. However, even in these places, riots between police and the strikers have broken out. Some of these "free speech" zones have also been taken over by the Novistranan Coalition, where they have been offering free vodka for the strikers as a charitable act."
*Cut to street footage.*
"It, ah, it is believed that the Coalition has somehow gained control of the vodka distillery and have been peacefully shipping out cases upon cases of vodka, uninterrupted by police and the military. It seems that in areas in and around the Chekhov Industrial Estate the strike is strongest, and the forces of the government have actively joined in the protesting."
*Cut to union strike footage.*
"Certain men have stepped forward and claimed positions of authority in the strike. In the Kirov Precinct, a lieutenant of the Novistranan Coalition, Josef Nasarov, has taken the podium to rally the workers."
"Comrades, fellow laborers, and union members! We have had the government's capitalist boot stamping on our faces for far too long! Today our strike screams defiance to the government and Karasov, and says, 'We are the people, we are the unions! Do not fuck with us!' Let's make sure they hear the message, and come tomorrow, continue to protest your will!"
*Cut to shots of charity gala, evangelizing on the streets, leafleting.*
"During the protest, it seems that members of the Coalition did everything they could to get the word out of their charity goodwill by donating vodka alongside celebrities..."
"Handing out anti-government pamphlets on the streets..."
"...And targeting the religious aspects of the strike."
"A Berezinan councilor, Maxim Nazerov, sponsored a charity gala event inviting over numerous pro-strike celebrities for festivities in City Hall. The well-respected priest Rostislav Petrov sermonized in the streets all day to preach the virtues of the strike to non-participants, and the subversive writer Tresori Vilnov spread pamphlets throughout the city clamoring for revolution."
*Cut to nighttime footage.*
"The strike continues to rage throughout the nation. People have been brought aside for interviews throughout the day and police have made thousands of arrests in many cities throughout Novistrana. Ironically, Berezina has had the fewest arrests of all the cities, likely because of the charity vodka offered by the political faction, the Novistranan Coalition. Late-night strikers have taken to uniting their cheers behind the leader of the Coalition and the head unionist behind the scenes."
"Pro-ko-fi-ev! Pro-ko-fi-ev! Pro-ko-fi-ev!"
"Na-sa-rov! One of us! Na-sa-rov! One of us! Na-sa-rov! One of us!"
*Cut to shot of Presidential Palace.*
"Victory Square has remained quiet today. The question many anti-strikers and businesspeople are asking is, 'Where is the President?'"
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The six leaders of the Novistranan Coalition entered the side room they were using as the headquarters's inner sanctum. They stood around, watching the TVs in the walls, all tuned to different news channels, each covering the strike from a different angle. The three phones in the room were ringing madly, but nobody made a move to pick it up. Behind them, the main floor of the headquarters was frenetic with cheering and waves of energy from their assistants, watching the same media footage and keeping in touch with their contacts in Ekaterine, Pugachev, and other cities they had not visited but still had contacts in.
"Piotr?" Josef Naserov asked after a while.
"That was fucking amazing!" the unionizer whooped, slapping his blood brother on the back. "I never expected to see this develop right in front of my eyes... and the support, Jesus, the support!"
"Sir, this was a thing of beauty," saluted Boris Churnyeav smartly before breaking into a wide, soldierly grin. "I'm proud of all of you, men."
"Such a turnout. This is what I always expected my brothers in the Church to organize someday," Rostislav Petrov said in a tone of hushed awe, still entranced by the momentum of it all.
"If only I could have understood what kind of power you held with the people, I would have approached to join you myself," Maxim Nazerov admitted. "Comrades, what you have done here will be remembered forever."
The five men kept congratulating each other, two moving to a television to catch a view on things while the other three went for the phones. Tresori Vilnov was the only one who remained still, his joyous face slowly turning into worry. Not wanting to cause undue panic, he walked to Prokofiev and pulled him aside silently.
"What is it, Tresori?" asked Prokofiev, taking the phone with him as far as the cord would allow and with an elated grin on his face. "I have Churbanov on the line."
"I need to talk to you in private, my student," Vilnov said in a hushed tone. "We need to take measures to protect ourselves from Karasov."
"Yeah, Churbanov?" Prokofiev talked into the headpiece, interrupting the mile-a-minute jabbering from the Ekaterine journalist, "I'll call you back in a minute, all right?"
Prokofiev quickly hung up the phone before Churbanov could protest, returned it to its table, and walked back to Vilnov.
"Okay, tell me again what it is that's bothering you, comrade," Prokofiev said, still smiling.
"I don't mean to disrupt our festivities, but we have to protect ourselves from Karasov," Vilnov talked quickly, strategically, back to his old revolutionary self. "He may not have the muscle to send in an Alpha Squad, but he definitely will try to do something to us."
"Ah, you're worrying too much, Tresori," laughed Prokofiev, taking his old teacher by the shoulders appreciatively. "Karasov's not going to do anything, not while the country is at a standstill!"
"But he will do something when everyone goes back to work tomorrow," warned the wizened mentor, scratching his bald spot anxiously. He felt the onset of one of his fits coming in, but he fought it back as best he could. "A good leader always tries to predict his opponent's next move, Piotr. It would be prudent to take protective measures."
"C'mon, Tresori, we can't be paranoid all the time like that asshole Karasov. I'll think up of something tomorrow, all right?" Prokofiev concluded, his spirits dampening a bit at how nervous his teacher was becoming. With a magnanimous gesture towards the inner sanctum's buzz of excited activity, he said, "For now, let's just bask in the sound of victory."
"Well... all right," Vilnov said, conceding to his student's wishes and walking to his desk to continue working on his next treatise despite the noise. Prokofiev had managed to lead a national strike, Vilnov figured, and he probably deserved the celebration as a momentary pause to their activities. And yet, he had this horrible feeling creeping up on him. Foreboding.
The city may have stopped for a day... but Vasily Karasov never stopped.
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Piotr Prokofiev's Diary - Hundred-twenty-fifth Entry: 16/04/1996
The national strike was... glorious. I never expected the turnout to have been so decisive. Were that we could have held the strike from the morning through the night, but getting the message out and mobilizing the people to drop their work delayed it until the afternoon. After all, people needed the time to realize their precious vodka had been taken away from them.
The media attention and Karasov's absence show just how little power he has over the workers and the common people. We will be portrayed as dissidents and troublemakers by the more sycophantic outlets and the monied elite, but they will fear us. The Novistranan Coalition has proved that we control the people, and at the drop of a hat, they will pick up their placards, take to the streets, and rally in our favor. My entire inner circle was ecstatic... with the exception of Tresori.
While he was excited about the strike, he didn't share the same enthusiasm as we did. He warned me that Karasov wouldn't stand for this and would take action, but I told him to relax, especially in one of our moments of triumph! Karasov will not do anything as long as we have the people on our side. He cannot! Soon, we shall march onto the Presidential Palace and remove the tyrant from his throne! Those with the will survive, and we have shown exactly how much will we have!