The Left in Belarus Is Fighting to Put Social Demands at the Heart of the Protests

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2173 ... August 20, 2020

The Left in Belarus Is Fighting to Put Social Demands at the Heart of the Protests

The police brutality in Minsk is often said to be without parallel in Europe: something that France’s gilet jaunes protestors would surely deny. Yet something definitely is changing in Belarus, after unprecedented popular support for opposition candidates challenged the twenty-six-year rule of president Alexander Lukashenko. When authorities claimed that he had taken 80 per cent of the vote in the August 9 election -- and crowds took to the streets to protest -- the state unleashed police terror against them.

The street demonstrations were initially dominated by urban youth. Yet, as I have shown in a recent article, the protest has in recent days changed form, expanding into a wider working-class movement involving widespread workplace mobilizations. Actions spanning most of the country’s biggest industrial sites have seen thousands of workers gathering, discussing their demands, and threatening a general shutdown.

So, everything in Belarus is said to be "unprecedented." Yet one can, indeed, find precedents, in Poland’s Solidarnosc or... the miners’ strikes in the late Soviet Union -- examples of worker militancy allied to wider protest movements that unwittingly paved the way for neoliberal transformations. The tragic story of labour in the post-Soviet space thus calls for a careful and grounded approach to the recent events in Belarus.

In order to shed some light on the contradictions of Belarusian society and the condition of its working class, Volodymyr Artiukh, on behalf of Jacobin, interviewed two representatives of the Belarusian left.

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