Belarus: anger still spreading

Submitted by AWL on 3 November, 2020 - 2:29 Author: Pete Radcliff
Belarus protest

The weekend 24-25 October saw a targeted peak in militancy in Belarus, but the general strike called for by the opposition’s nominal head Svetlana Tikhanovskaya did not materialise. The time since then has seen some loss of momentum.

Students across 13 universities have, however, continued to step up their organisation, with ongoing protest meetings on campuses.

In factories and workplaces, a minority of workers remain on strike. In some places that number has increased. In the chemical plant Grodno Azot crucial skilled workers — the “technical intelligentsia” that Lukashenko has long claimed to champion and regard as his base — have joined those on strike, hitting output.

Of course, it would take months for a general strike to be built at the current pace of growth. But the workers are not beaten. The political anger continues to spread into workplaces.

New disputes have started, like one at the Minsk Tractor MTZ factory, demanding an end to the victimisation of previous strikers.

There were 100,000 on the march in Minsk on 25 October. but 1 November saw probably around 10-20,000 demonstrators scattered across a number of areas and a number of themes. The turnout was affected by a new peak in Covid-19 cases.

Protest included the annual “Forefathers” march, “We will not forget, we will not forgive!”, to Kurapaty forest, six miles from the centre of Minsk.

Since discoveries in 1988, the forest is now recognised as the graveyard of anything between 50,000 and 200,000 Belarusian opponents of Stalin, executed there between 1937 and 1941.

Mass protests following the 1988 discovery of the mass graveyard were a contributory factor to the collapse of the old regime the following year in Belarus and elsewhere across Eastern Europe. Yet Lukaskenko has never recognised the extent of the crimes at Kurapaty.

Kurapaty became an important focus for protest again in 2001 when hundreds occupied the site of the atrocity to try and stop Lukashenko bulldozing the evidence in the construction of one of his motorways.

This year the march on Kurapaty was met with tear gas and guns fired over the head of protestors.

Lukashenko plays his games of intimidation, threatens to double sentences for some political crimes, to bring back his pampered retired military personnel as auxiliaries to current security forces etc. But his base is collapsing, and even pro-Putin media in Russia speculate on when he is going to resign.

And so the stalemate goes on. Belarus workers must organise so they shape what will replace Lukashenko.

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