Belarus has been gripped by protests and strikes following the fraudulent “re-election” of dictator Alexander Lukashenko on 9 August. On 22 August Another Europe Is Possible held a meeting with voices from the frontline of Belarus.
Lizaveta Merliak, International Secretary of the Belarusian independent trade union of miners and chemical workers, told us strike committees are now being formed all across Belarus. This is in spite of the fact that Belarus’ repressive strike laws prevent trade unions from putting forward political demands or striking for political reasons.
Valentyna Katorzevska, besides looking after her young child, is part of the Homel organization of the Free Trade Union of Metalworkers. Factory workers at various metal plants have been some of the key workers who have gone on strike and who have faced arrests and detention by the regime in response. Some members have even had to flee the country.
Pavel Katarzheusky of “Just World”, the Belarusian section of the European Left Party, spoke about how he saw the future developing for the struggle in Belarus. He suggested that the struggle will continue but may not be as acute and in-the-open. Those in power may continue their repression over a longer period of time but not in the public eye.
He said that the Belarusian left must also politically oppose the liberals who are not interested in fixing social problems and for whom just getting rid of Lukashenko is enough. The protests are genuinely a small window of opportunity for the real Belarusian left, as opposed to the Stalinist groups in the country who (even those who, unlike the official "Communist Party", who positively support Lukashenko) have condemned the protests.
These Stalinists who claim to oppose Western neoliberalism conveniently ignore Lukashenko’s neoliberal reforms like increases in pension age and the end of grants for some students, casualisation of labour contracts, and the dictator’s parliamentary reform which destroyed left opposition in parliament.
A speaker from the Ukrainian Social Movement, who are seeking to build an independent letf party from below, pointed out some of the similarities and differences between the experience of other ex- and post-USSR-model countries. One similarity is that Stalinists still say that Soros and the CIA direct everything in relation to uprisings in Eastern European countries.
He emphasised also how different the situations have been in many of these countries. For example, Belarus does not now have a strong far right seeking to participate in these elections, whereas the far-right did carve out space in Ukraine.
He rightfully pointed out that if Lukashenko does stick it out, there will be more brutality and less space for independent left working-class activity in Belarus. He emphasised the need, as Workers’ Liberty do, for an there to be an independent working class force as a pole in the struggle in Belarus and elsewhere.
Independent left-wing and working-class forces clearly exist in Belarus. Our job is to give them our full solidarity.
• More on Belarus:
Eight out of ten of the largest enterprises in Belarus are on strike, by Dovydas Kuliešas
Belarus: the working class joins the battle, by Dan Katz