Belarus: calculation or confusion?

Submitted by AWL on 9 September, 2020 - 12:54 Author: Jim Denham
Belarus protest

The Morning Star is usually clear-cut on international issues: for them (and their political masters, the Communist Party of Britain), the world is divided pretty neatly into goodies and baddies. The goodies are the “anti-imperialist” forces (Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.) and regimes like Cuba, Iran and Venezuela. The baddies are the US (with or without Trump), the EU and all liberal democracies.

Putin doesn’t quite fit into the Morning Star’s neat division of the world, but it’s pretty obvious that on the whole, they reckon he’s more sinned against than sinning.

First and foremost amongst the goodies, of course, is China, whose regime can simply do no wrong. The Hong Kong protestors are either terrorists or dupes who don’t know what’s good for them, the Tibetan Buddhists, are feudal reactionaries and stories about concentration camps in Xinjiang and demographic genocide of Uyghurs are simply Western propaganda.

But, strangely, recent events in Belarus seem to have left the Morning Star in a state of confusion. The paper appears unable to decide whether Lukashenko is a goodie or a baddie and whether the protests are the work of western-funded saboteurs and fascists or the legitimate and spontaneous mobilisation of a populace outraged by the regime’s obvious and massive electoral fraud.

The Morning Star’s initial coverage (10 Aug) of the protests and the regime’s violent response described Lukashenko as an “authoritarian”, the protests as “massive”. and the response of the police as “violent”.

The sympathetic tone didn’t last long: by 17 August the paper was reporting: “Communist parties in Italy and Russia have warned against another US-sponsored ‘colour revolution’ similar to those that took place in Georgia and Ukraine”. “The Communist Party of Belorussia welcomed the ‘unconditional victory’ of Mr Lukashenko, calling it the natural consequence of the economic growth of the republic since he came to power in 1994.

“It blamed the protests on ‘subversive work’ by ‘specially trained instigators, from outright fascists to inveterate criminals’...

“It warned that ‘foreign puppeteers’ were aiming to carry out a coup in Belarus. ‘It is clear that if they win, the country will face bloody chaos and landslide degradation,’ a statement from the party central committee said.”

That was followed (19 August) by a report that quoted the Communist Party of Belarus claiming that “some demonstrators are being paid to attend protests” and the Communist Party of Ukraine warning that the protests “could prefigure a second ‘Maidan’ as 2014’s fascist-backed coup in Ukraine, supported by the EU and United States is known”. (For the record, there was a peripheral far-right presence in the Ukrainian uprising, though it’s been massively exaggerated by the Stalinists. There is no evidence at all of any such presence in the Belarusian protests).

The Morning Star was hedging its bets. On 24 August it published a piece by Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke backing the opposition and independent trade unions. On 2 September the paper went so far as to publish a letter from A. Bukhvostov, Chairman, Free Trade Union of Metalworkers of Belarus, stating: “Independent and free trade unions in Belarus are fighting for the rights and freedoms of workers, for democratic reforms in the country, for the respect to the people of labour.”

It has been suggested that the paper’s ambivalence is not unlike that of Putin himself: waiting to see how things pan out before committing to either side. I don’t know, but if so, that’s a pretty cynical reaction to a working-class uprising whose demands are simply for basic democracy.

No wonder Ian Sinclair, a non-CPB contributor to the Morning Star, has written “I would not feel comfortable recommending the paper’s coverage of the ongoing protests in Belarus.”

Solidarity with workers in Belarus!

On Monday 7 September, Maria Kolsenikova, a Belarus opposition figure, was seized and bundled into a van by two masked men.As we go to press on 8 September, there are confused reports of her being sighted, and maybe arrested, on the Belarus-Ukraine border.

Street protests against the Lukashenko dictatorship continue, four weeks after the rigged election “victory” of Lukashenko on 9 August, and despite thousands of arrests.

Solidarity calls on readers to support the campaign by LabourStart in solidarity with the workers and people of Belarus, and to get their union and Labour Party branches to support it too.

• See here — and a longer text on solidarity which can be adapted for motions in unions and Labour Parties is here.

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