Statement of Solidarity by the Social Movement – Ukraine

The bloody repression by the Belarusian government of the protests against the rigged elections shook the world. It is noteworthy that these protests were not organised by the “old” opposition (from the traditional parties), nor by the “new” opposition (former loyalists of the Lukashenka regime), nor by “foreign agents”, but in fact it’s a decentralised explosion of popular anger. During the dispersal of protests, the security forces detained thousands of dissidents, including our Belarusian comrades.

Social Movement activists Protest near the Belarusian Embassy in Kyiv

The Social Movement welcomes left-wing and trade union activists, who are participating in the protest movement, and wishes them gaining hegemony over its rightist-liberal forces. In addition, these events provide an occasion for us to evaluate the social order that was formed in Belarus, and to outline a direction of development of the situation.

Denys Pilash of Social Movement speaks at solidarity protest at the Belarus Embassy in Kyiv

The brutal repression of the protests demonstrated the autocratic nature of the regime of Alexander Lukashenka. The main aim of this regime is to maintain personal power, not to support the well-being of workers. The increased expenditure on the security apparatus has pit a break on ted social progress. The death penalty, a punishment meted out for disrespecting the leadership of the government and a de facto “moratorium” on peaceful gatherings — these are attributes of a dictatorship rather than of a democratic republic. The fear of the collapse of the system in the case of Lukashenka’s departure demonstrates its unsustainability. The police terror is incapable of “stabilising” the situation, as these are problems arising out of the crisis of Belarusian capitalism.

One should not evaluate the events in Belarus on the basis of geopolitical considerations. The dictatorship in Belarus has been supported in Ukraine by some far-right figures and individual members of the governing or opposition factions. For some, the key is not the attitude towards people’s lives or the social character of the regime, but the role of this state in external relations. Moreover, the expectations that the policies of Lukashenka would weaken Russia or the US have no basis. The sole aim of Lukashenka is power and in order to maintain it he has gone into different alliances with imperialists. Western nations, which gained an advantage from working with the Belarusian autocrat, largely ignored the violations of human rights. The terror experienced on the Belarus squares would not be possible without the silence of not only Putin, but also the EU and US leaders. (Lukashenka in turn supports their repression of the protests in their respective countries, for example of the “gilets jaunes” in France or Black Lives Matter in the USA.)

The radical left Just World Party section of a protest in Belarus

The Lukashenka regime has for some time now been conducting a neo-liberal policy, which has led to this crisis. The approval of a new Labour Code, the massive transfer of workers to fixed short-term contracts and the increase in the retirement age are some examples of such steps that have made Belarus favourable for foreign investment. The regime has throughout the years eliminated leftist critics from the political field (many anarchists were imprisoned) and has suppressed independent trade unions. The regime itself has been consistently adopting anti-worker economic policies for a long time now. It’s important to note that protectionism has preserved Belarusian industry from destruction. But the employment of 40% of labour power in the state sector does not indicate the “socialist” character of the economy: it is run and administered in the interests of the bureaucracy-bourgeoisie, not the masses. With the change in the conjuncture (most of all because of the increase in the energy costs imposed by the Russian Federation) and the decrease in paternalistic programmes, the economic burden has been carried on the backs of the working class, especially in the conditions of today’s COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. Nevertheless the level of unemployment is contained not by the abundance of jobs but by administrative methods.

Belarus needs genuine workers democracy. To overcome the alienation of workers from the government and the means of production will be impossible in the conditions of authoritarian capitalism. Workers should feel protected in their workplace and should have the freedom to create political movements. Today the Belarusian level of the GDP per capita is double that of Ukraine, but the minimum wage according to some data is even lower than in Ukraine. The financial control by the workers and the accountability of the leadership/management would lead to a fairer distribution of the national product.  We consider the working class of Belarus organised in large labour collectives being capable of this. The current spontaneous strike actions at Belarusian enterprises, and the 2017 grassroots protest campaign against the infamous “social parasite” give hope for a society based on solidarity and self-organisation.

Mass protests and strikes continue in Belarus

Once Lukashenka’s authoritarianism is defeated, the struggle for social liberation will only begin. The release of political prisoners, new fair and free elections, and the non-interference from other countries – such a formula for political settlement will lead to peace. At the same time the fact that the mainstream oppositionists to date have not put forward social demands, demonstrates that they are not steered by the interests of the working people. But the preservation of the status-quo, and the coming to power of opposition factions of the bourgeoisie (as can be seen in the Ukrainian example) would mean the continuation and acceleration of the market reforms already initiated by the government. Thus, even if Lukashenka is removed from power, workers must undergo a series of strikes and protests, organised around class slogans, in the struggle for a fair social system.

Position statement by Social Movement 11 August 2020


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