Alexander Lukashenko, the corrupt dictator of Belarus a man apparently intent on making the country his family’s dynastic inheritance, tried to consolidate his weakening grip on power by helicoptering into a factory on 17 August. His visit followed a weekend of massive demonstrations calling on him to quit. As this video shows the workers want rid of him too.
When socialists see tens of thousands of people on the streets protesting against an election result rigged by an autocrat and workers going on strike to fight for democracy, we have no choice but to offer our full support writes Andy Stowe.
Lukashenko declared that he won 80% of the vote in the election on 9 August. Not even Trump claims that level of popularity and not even he has matched Lukashenko’s absurd claims that coronavirus can be kept at bay by drinking vodka and that “tractors will cure everyone!”
Lukashenko had prepared the ground for his landslide by imprisoning opposition candidates or leading them to conclude that they would be safer moving into exile. He also decreed a period of preliminary voting to allow his goons to stuff ballot boxes.
Again, not even Trump has yet tried to fix the November election in such a manifestly antidemocratic manner. Luksahenko has done all this before. The difference is that workers and young people have decided they aren’t going to put up with it. They are taking to the streets to assert their right to live in a democracy.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who opposed Luksahenko in the election officially won 9.9% of the votes. The Economist reports that in the few polling stations which were independently monitored she won up to 70%. The official announcement of the result brought tens of thousands of outraged citizens onto the street.
Gangsters and unemployed junkies
Predictably enough Lukashenko and his supporters in The Morning Star and the Communist Party of Belorussia ludicrously claimed the protests were “subversive work by specially trained instigators, from outright fascists to inveterate criminals”. And just like Assad or Sisi said of the movements for democracy in Syria and Egypt, he described the demonstrators as “gangsters and unemployed junkies, controlled from abroad”.
The only coup plotters in Belarus are Lukashenko and the kleptocrats who rely on him for their fortunes. Belarus has two important Russian military bases and Putin, the butcher of the Syrian people, has said he is willing to invoke a joint defence treaty with Belarus. This is an explicit threat of imperialist intervention from a dictator whose rule is a catalogue of theft and murder and who must be thinking that what can happen in Minsk could also happen in Moscow.
Tsikhanouskaya is an accidental figure, though with obvious personal courage, forced by Lukashenko’s persecution of her husband to stand in his place for the election. The demonstrations are not in support of her and her programme. They are the howl of a society which has had enough of Lukashenko, his criminality and absurdity.
Socialists have to give their unconditional solidarity to those small, internationalist anti-Putin groups willing to resist his imperialist aggression like the Russian Socialist Movement who say:
“We support independent Belarusian trade unions, social movements, and left-wing organizations that oppose the usurper regime and criticize openly right, neoliberal alternatives to the existing system. We hope that the political uprising in Belarus will strengthen the influence of those forces which are ready to defend the interests of the majority of Belarusians – workers, students, pensioners, the interests of Belarus as an independent, democratic, social, and in the future socialist state.”
More importantly, even though the movement on the streets is spontaneous it is terrifying Lukashenko and has the power to bring him down. Socialists have to support it and Socialist Resistance will be aiming to work with others to organise actions in defence of the movement for democracy in Belarus and against the possibility of Russian intervention. This must include taking part in the demonstrations that Belarusians have begun organising across the world such as the one in London last weekend.