Briefly about Work Way’s position on the events in Belarus from 9 to 24 of August, 2020
What is going on in Belarus is not a “maidan”, it’s a democratic revolution.
The main moving force of this revolution, its backbone, is the working class of Belarus.
Whether this democratic revolution will win or get defeated by the counter-revolution (presented by the yet not overthrown clan of oligarchs led by Lukashenko or presented by the so-called “opposition” reflecting the interests of other groups of the largest capitalist monopolies, including foreign ones), we do not know yet – it will depend on the ratio of the class power in Belarus, on the actions of the classes participating in the revolution, on the working class, on its awareness, cohesiveness and organization.
The democratic revolution in Belarus is not yet going beyond the bourgeois framework and is not seeking to change the social structure radically (to replace the capitalist way of production with the communist way of production), which means that, in its content, this is a bourgeois-democratic, anti-imperialist, anti-fascist revolution. But due to the objective laws of social development, if the leadership (the hegemony) of the working class remains, if the latter manages to coalesce into its class political party of the Bolshevik variety and unite all working folk of Belorussia around itself, this revolution will have every chance to grow into a socialist revolution.
In the revolutionary events in Belarus, which are currently unfolding in front of our eyes, we can observe the good old bourgeois-democratic stage of the proletarian revolution, the necessity and inevitability of which Lenin talked about in his work “Two Tactics of the Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution” (Lenin’s theory of a bourgeois-democratic revolution escalating into a socialist one).
These are the conclusions WW has drawn from the analysis of the events in Belarus from Aug 9 to Aug 24, 2020.
What grounds do we have for drawing such conclusions? They are the following.
As we know, history has proven that Lenin was right in his foresight – democratic (anti-fascist, anti-imperialist) revolutions preceded all socialist revolutions of the 20th century. It is not an accident that J.V.Stalin, giving a speech at the 19th convention of the All Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks, Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in October, 1952, recommended to the communist parties of the world to lead the fight of the people in capitalist countries for democracy, for gaining bourgeois-democratic rights and freedoms, against the upcoming fascism. He realized that the development of imperialism and its rot will inevitably lead to an increase in reactionary politics, to all around fascization of the bourgeois authorities – both in colonial countries and the countries of the capitalist center. Therefore, the fight for the dictatorship of the proletarians cannot be separated from the fight against fascism, from the fight for democracy, for the political and civil rights and freedoms.
MLWM “Work Way” has explained multiple times in its articles that during the epoch of the “globalized” imperialism Lenin’s theory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution becoming a socialist revolution and Stalin’s guidelines remain fully relevant. Moreover, the revolutionary process during the “globalized” dictatorship of capitalist monopolies, now encompassing all countries of the world, cannot develop without a bourgeois-revolutionary phase, without the fight for democracy and against fascism, against terror and oppression. See, for instance, Work Way’s article from last year called “About the bourgeois-democratic phase in the upcoming proletarian revolution”. It contains the key theoretical points on which our conclusions about Belorussia were based. We shall list them here in short, adding those theoretical points which were not considered in the above-mentioned article, but were explained in other Work Way articles.
The main theoretical provisions
The contemporary epoch is the epoch of “globalized” imperialism, that is, imperialism that has encompassed all countries of the world and that has included them, although on uneven conditions, into the unified system of the capitalist production.
Imperialism (monopolistic capitalism) is the last stage of capitalism, dying capitalism finishing its historical existence. This stage is characterized by the dominance of monopolies – gigantic capitalist alliances that have subjugated the economy and politics of capitalist countries.
Under imperialism, the political power belongs not to the class of the bourgeoisie in general, but to its uppermost and richest layer – the monopolist bourgeoisie that has gotten hold of the government apparatus (the state). Therefore, the state during imperialism is not serving the entire class of the bourgeoisie, but only a narrow circle of the owners of the monopolies, which merged into one with the governmental apparatus (i.e. the oligarchs), which is allowing them to receive gigantic excessive profits through creating the ideal conditions for intensifying the exploitation of workers and laborers, for bankrupting and ripping off their weaker brothers in class – small, medium and even big bourgeoisie.
The oligarchy, while protecting the excessive profits, meaning their right to undivided ownership of the governmental apparatus and to using it in their own interests, inevitably has to abandon democracy, cut down the bourgeois-democratic rights and freedoms, i.e. switch to fascism.
It happens for the following reasons. Numerically, the oligarchy is miniscule – ranging from several people to tens or hundreds per country, and no more. It doesn’t have any serious social support (social base) in the society, that is, there’s no social class behind it, whose economic interests would coincide with those of the oligarchs. It’s completely the opposite – through its own actions the monopolistic capital and its government constantly alienate themselves from the rest of the society, by robbing and oppressing all other classes and layers of the society, depriving them of any opportunity to defend their interests. That’s why democracy, even the bourgeois democracy, which rests upon the majority, is lethal for it – if people will be indeed allowed to act using democratic methods, the oligarchy will not be able to stay afloat a single day, losing all its perks and benefits, which also means their gigantic profits. Under such conditions, the only way for the monopolist capital to preserve its dominance is through bribing individual layers of the working people (top government and military officials, top managers, etc.), but mostly through terror and total deceit of the masses, i.e. using fascist methods. Hence the inevitability of the abandonment of the bourgeois-democratic freedoms for the citizens, the curtailment of all kinds of rights: from the right to free trade, vital for the survival of the small and medium businesses, limiting people’s movement and the opportunity to gather together in one place and discuss hot subjects, etc. to the total removal of all political rights, the result of which are the purely decorative bourgeois parliaments, covering up the direct dictatorship of the monopolistic capital; elections that are just one big show and the voters not really choosing anyone anymore, i.e. being devoid of any chance to influence the authorities, and therefore to change their policies; all around electoral frauds, etc.
But the abandonment of democracy and increasing fascization of the power of the monopolies neither resolve the contradictions within the bourgeoisie, nor resolve the main capitalist contradiction – between labour and capital (the proletarians and the bourgeoisie). Au contraire, these contradictions only intensify, worsening to the extreme, shaking the foundation of the bourgeois government, straining the capitalist structure and preparing its collapse. Not having the opportunity to defend their rights and interests amidst the ever increasing terror and oppression, the working people rapidly become poorer, the small and the medium bourgeoisie go bankrupt en masse, millions of people end up on the verge of physical survival, and this can’t but cause growing outrage among the common people. The democratic revolution becomes therefore inevitable, since the entire society is interested in it, all layers of the society, all people.
However, different social classes are interested in democracy in different ways. If the working class in a democratic revolution strives for maximum extension of democratic rights and freedoms for the whole society, for all workers, including themselves, the bourgeoisie, as an exploitative class, wants democracy only for itself, but not for the working class and working masses. It is afraid of expanding democracy for the working class, because then it will be more difficult to exploit them. After all, having democratic rights and freedoms at its disposal, the proletariat will certainly use them to fight for the improvement of its material conditions: for higher wages, for shorter working hours, for lower production standards, etc. That is why the pro-democracy part of the bourgeoisie, receiving in the course of the democratic revolution the rights and freedoms it needs (for example, the right to nominate its representatives to the authorities, etc.), i.e. a certain access to the state, an opportunity to influence it, hurries to put an end to the democratic revolution as soon as possible, to stop the further process of democratization of society. It betrays the revolution, betrays the working people striving for freedom and democracy, goes over to the side of the counterrevolution and unleashes the cruel terror against the revolutionary people, often cutting down their rights and freedoms even more.
Now, the proletariat is an entirely different thing, it is vitally interested in the continuation of the democratic revolution, in bringing it to the end – until the establishment of such administrative agencies of the people’s power that could guarantee the inviolability of democratic rights and freedoms to the working people, accomplished during the revolution.
And what organs of people’s power can really guarantee this? Only the organs of the dictatorship of the proletariat. No authorities of the bourgeoisie, no matter what they are called, no matter who participates in them and no matter what their representatives promise to the people, by their very essence, due to the class objectives and interests of the bourgeoisie that had created them, cannot and will not protect democratic rights and freedoms of the working people from being violated, because the disempowerment of the working class and the working masses is economically beneficial for the bourgeoisie – the disempowered are easier to rob!
This means that by protecting the democracy won for the working people, the working class, together with the working masses, must inevitably end the democratic revolution with a socialist coup, i.e. take political power in their hands. The revolutionary process that began as a democratic revolution thus ends with a socialist, proletarian revolution.
It is clear that all this is possible only if the working class is at the head of the democratic revolution, if it is aware of its interests and has sufficient political experience, if it is organized and united into a political party of the Bolshevik type. Otherwise, the bourgeoisie, as a more experienced and well-organized class with huge material and administrative resources, will not allow to complete the democratic revolution and bring it to its end and will not allow the working people to win the bourgeois-democratic rights and freedoms. The democratic revolution under the leadership of the bourgeoisie will inevitably be suppressed (or “bailed out”) even if a part of the bourgeoisie (usually its uppermost and richest layer, large capital) has managed to take advantage of the revolutionary democratic movement of the masses and use it in its narrow-minded interests.
From here, it becomes clear what a “Maidan” is. (RP explained it in the article “What is Maidan”, but now it is worth adding and clarifying this concept a little).
“Maidan”, clarification of the concept
“Maidan” is, of course, a governmental coup in which political power remains in the hands of the same layer of the bourgeoisie – monopolistic capital, the only thing that changes is the specific group of monopolists who control the state and use it to their advantage. That is why “Maidan” is not a revolution. In a revolution, political power passes from one social class to another (in a democratic revolution under imperialism it is passed over to several classes, including the proletariat).
But the democratic revolution and the “Maidan” have one common root – the democratic movement of the people against the oppression of monopolies and for the expansion of democratic rights and freedoms. It is the exact same democratic revolutionary process, only in one case it ends with the victory of the people over the fascist mob of oligarchs and monopolists, and in the other case it is interrupted at the stage of conquest of democratic rights and freedoms by the bourgeois class, it is interrupted immediately after the highest, richest part of the bourgeoisie – one of the groups of monopolistic capital, which had no influence on the state before – has managed to use it for its competitive struggle.
That is why “Maidan” and the democratic revolution can both replace one another: the democratic process that started as “Maidan” can end with a democratic revolution, and vice versa, a democratic revolution can be ruined by the democratic bourgeoisie that betrayed it and degenerate into “Maidan”.
If this happens, if “Maidan” occurs, the new group of monopolists, which have taken over the state apparatus (the state machine), immediately begin to carry out the same policy of terror and oppression of the working masses, which was carried out before the coup by its predecessors. As a result of the Maidan, the working people get nothing, and their disenfranchisement and oppression only increases. (As a clear example – Ukraine in 2013-2014 and other “colour revolutions”.).
We can conclude that “Maidan” is a “betrayed democratic revolution”, which had begun and was not completed, but instead was defeated (from the workers’ point of view), when one of the groups of the monopolistic bourgeoisie took advantage of the democratic revolutionary movement, in which all layers and social classes of the capitalist society in the era of imperialism are vitally interested (except the narrow circle of the ruling oligarchs and their minions).
The above means that “Maidan” is not predetermined. “Maidan” is just one of the ways the all-democratic revolutionary process might end. If the political power remains in the hands of the owners of capitalist monopolies (this or that group of monopolies, new or old), i.e. the democratic revolution suffers a defeat (a defeat for the workers), then it will become a “maidan”, in other words, a bourgeois state revolution (or its failed attempt). And if the political power ends up in the hands of all the people and each of the social classes is represented on equal terms in the new bodies of state power (dual power is not excluded, as it was in Russia in 1917), we can safely talk about a successful democratic revolution. (It is clear that if this happens, this situation will be temporary and unstable. The democratic process will either go further – towards the proletarian revolution, as we mentioned above, or, in case of the victory of the bourgeoisie, the democracy for the working people will be wrapped up again, and the society will turn back to fascism, to political domination of the monopolistic capital).
That is why one can never tell for sure at the very beginning of the all-democratic revolutionary process whether it is a “Maidan” or a democratic revolution. Such statements, if they are voiced, are either a deliberate provocation, beneficial to the fascist power, or defeatism. Whether the revolution will be successful or unsuccessful, only time will show.
Social movements are not a fixed state, but a process that develops, and it can go on in different ways. It all depends on the struggle of the main class forces against each other, on the outcome of the class battle between the bourgeoisie class and the working class. What started out as a “maidan,” say, rallies in city squares or processions with white balloons and sneakers on wires, may well become a successful democratic revolution as events unfold.
If in the process of its development, an all-democratic revolutionary movement begins to be led by the working class, if the latter becomes its vanguard, the democratic revolution will have all chances to win. If the leadership in the democratic revolution gets seized by the bourgeoisie, and the working class is not able to pursue its own policy and is lagging behind the bourgeoisie, then the defeat of the democratic revolution is guaranteed. Because the bourgeoisie will inevitably betray the working people, betray the revolution – such are its core class interests.
Thus, in the course of a democratic revolution, the working class is waging an ongoing class struggle not only against the fascist power of the group of oligarchs that are currently in charge, but also against its temporary and extremely unreliable allies – the democratic bourgeoisie, to which it should by no means yield leadership.
But this suggests the following. For a democratic revolution to win and not to turn into a “Maidan”, i.e. not to be defeated by the counterrevolution, it must be supported by all means possible.
During a democratic revolution, no one should stay indifferent, thinking it’s not their business. Democratic rights and freedoms, for which there is a struggle, is the personal business of every worker. The existence or absence of democratic rights and freedoms directly affects the material (economic) and social status of every employee, self-employed, individual entrepreneur, pensioner, student etc., their health, safety, and sometimes life itself. No one likes the constant rise of prices and communal fees. Nobody wants to be beaten on the streets by the police, tortured in the detention center. Everyone is afraid that he may get fired and may not get his salary, because he has no one to complain to about the offender – the bourgeois government and its court stand on the side of the capitalist employers, not hired workers. Everyone wants the state to defend the interests of the people, not a narrow group of monopoly owners. So we all have a common vital interest, and we must all help the democratic revolution in its struggle against counterrevolution, against the power of the fascist group of oligarchs. Moreover, we must assist the working class, the only consistent fighter for democracy, not the democratic part of the bourgeoisie, which is also interested in the revolution.
Those who scare people with “Maidan” and call for not participating in a democratic revolution, for not going out into the streets, for not beginning a strike and for staying at home, help counter-revolution and step over to the side of the oligarchs’ fascist power. As we know, there are many leftists among such people, and even those who call themselves Communists or Marxists. Many of them often hide their real interests, saying that since this is not a proletarian revolution, you must not participate in it and assist it.
Of course, no way these people are either communists or Marxists. They failed to recognize the class essence of the events happening in front of their noses, failed to recognize a democratic revolutionary process in these events – and the only way for a proletarian revolution to develop, under imperialism, is exactly through this process.
Why did so many leftists suddenly go blind?
In Work Way’s opinion, the main reasons are as follows. They do not understand materialistic dialectics; they see states, not processes, in the events taking place; they do not know how to distinguish form from content; the external is mistaken for the internal; a phenomenon is mistaken for the essence. And most importantly – they do not understand the tendencies of the social development in the modern era; they do not take into account its peculiarities, in particular, the fact that with such a gigantic social stratification of the capitalist society, which we have today in the capitalist countries and in the entire capitalist world (when, for example, the wealth of the 26 richest inhabitants of the planet Earth is equivalent to the income of half the world’s population), the struggle for democracy against the upcoming fascism and the oppression of the world’s population becomes the central and main task of the working population.
In the core of all major protests in recent years was the strive for democracy. These include the Indian anti-corruption movement in 2011, the Irish protests in 2008-2013, the protests in Brazil in 2013, the protests in Bolivia in 2019, the “yellow vests” movement in France (2018-2020), the “white ribbon” protests in Russia, the protests against police violence in the U.S. in 2020, supported in many European countries, and others. These also include the so-called “colour revolutions” in post-Soviet countries. And now it is happening in Belarus.
What is remarkable and extremely upsetting (upsetting for the Left!) is the fact that the bourgeoisie easily recognizes democratic revolutionary processes and has learned to use them to its advantage. Having achieved what it wants with the help of the masses, it has more than once effectively re-directed the revolutionary energy of the people (this happened during all “colour revolutions”). The left, on the other hand, is still unable to understand what is progressive and what is not, what is in favor of the proletarian revolution and what is harmful for it.
They can’t understand one thing: that the cause for the start of the revolutionary democratic process can be anything, even another increase in gasoline prices, or election fraud, or the arrest of a random governor. The reason as such is not important at all, it is not the real reason why the revolutionary process started to develop. It doesn’t even matter that some part of the bourgeoisie (“the opposition”) wants, using the power of the working masses, to pull their own strings, say, to move their rivals away from the state power in order to use the bourgeois state in their own selfish interests, and that’s why the agents of this “opposition” are intensively inflating the cause of protest, advertising it in every possible way, calling on the dispersed, unorganized masses of workers to go out into the streets. The democratic revolution will not begin when the “opposition” wants it, but when the people are ready for it, when their cup of patience is overflowing. And if this happens, then the revolution will take its course, according to its objective laws, whether the “opposition” likes it or not.
The main condition for the further development of a democratic revolution is the entry of the organized working class, which alone can strike such a blow to the current power of the fascist oligarchs, that after this blow it will be extremely difficult for them to recover. Strikes are the workers’ most important weapon. They literally hold the bourgeoisie by the throat. After all, it is the workers who, in the course of their labor, create surplus value, which constitutes the purpose and meaning of the bourgeoisie as a class. That is why the “opposition” tries not to involve organized workers in democratic protests, and in every possible way prevents them from acting independently, especially strikes, and if they do occur, tries to take control of them. There is no one else: either the working class will maintain its independent line of struggle, in which case the democratic revolution will have a good chance to win, or the bourgeois “opposition” will manage to confuse the workers and make them bow to its interests, in which case the working people will have to forget about winning democratic rights and freedoms for a while, recovering from their defeat and learning from their mistakes, until a new democratic revolution.
Naturally, not all mass actions are of democratic nature. For example, Russian nationalists demanding “Caucasians out of Russia” or fake patriots with the slogan “no to migrants!” are reactionary, pro-fascist. They do not approach the proletarian revolution, but push it further away by splitting the working class.
But the protests with the demand “for fair elections!”, despite the ridiculous slogan, which Work Way has repeatedly criticized, are democratic, revolutionary, because behind this slogan hides the people’s demand to participate in the formation of power.
So how do we recognize the beginning of a democratic revolution?
By finding out which class forces participate in the protest, what their ratio in relation to each other is, what kind of demands they voice, what class nature of these demands is and what lies behind them (i.e., what are the real reasons that forced people to take to the streets), how quickly the protest spreads, whether it involves the broad masses of the people, how actively the working class – the main revolutionary force – participates in it. And most importantly, whether the protests are in line with the trends of the social development of our modern era.
Now let’s see how all these questions are answered by the events in Belarus on August 9-24, 2020.
How did the revolutionary process in Belarus develop?
On August 9, 2020 yet another “presidential election” was held in Belarus. The candidates included the current President of Belarus A.G. Lukashenko, who has been leading the country for several decades (since 1994!), and a few “extras” – intentionally weak candidates whose task was to create the appearance of a choice for the people. Among these “extras” was a certain Tikhanovskaya, a candidate from the “opposition”.
Here we will have to make two small digressions and explain a couple of things to clarify what we are going to talk about later on.
1. The “opposition” are the representatives and spokesmen of the democratic bourgeoisie, about which we have written above, i.e. part of the bourgeoisie class, which has been pushed away from the governmental trough and therefore stands for democratization (obviously only for itself!). Behind the backs of the “opposition” stands large monopolistic capital, not Belorussian but European, which is interested in redistribution of the market and in dividing the Belorussian state property. The Russian oligarchy is also interested in the same thing, as it has long been twisting Lukashenko’s arm on the issue of privatization of Belarusian enterprises, while at the same time flirting with the “opposition” just in case. That is why one of the main points in the program of Tikhanovskaya, one of the leaders of the “opposition”, is the privatization of state enterprises, i.e. the transfer of the state property into private hands. Hence the huge interest of the West and Russia in the events in Belarus, the European politicians even going as far as expressing willingness to support the striking workers financially (which, of course, will not happen! The money may very well get transferred, and a lot of it, but only to the leaders of the “opposition” – the workers are not going to get anything).
2. Now, why is it not the Belarusian monopolists who are behind the “opposition”? The reason for this is the originality of Belarus, its peculiarities and differences from Russia and most other capitalist countries of the world.
Belarus is a rather highly developed industrial-agrarian country, which has preserved since the Soviet times a powerful manufacturing industry (including a particularly valuable part of it – mechanical engineering and chemical industry) and large agricultural enterprises (former state and collective farms), which receive considerable support from the state.
The social system in Belarus is state capitalism. Private capitalism accounts for a much smaller share in the country’s economy than, for example, in Russia. It covers mainly small and medium-sized enterprises in the trade and service sector, while most large enterprises are owned or controlled by the state.
How did it happen?
After the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and the destruction of the Soviet Union, Belarus, one of the former Soviet republics, did not start to frantically divide and hand out former Soviet public property into private hands, acting on the principle of “just take it!”, as it happened in Russia and some other post-Soviet republics. Privatization in Belarus went on steadily and deliberately, but at a much slower pace, and mainly affected small secondary enterprises. The main strategic enterprises are now owned or controlled by the state (which is the main share holder in all open stock companies, etc.). Private capital certainly participates in them, but their rights are seriously limited.
Of course, things are this way not because Belarus was lucky enough to have a president who turned out to be a “good guy” caring about the people. Things are this way because there are no raw materials in Belarus that one could sell abroad for the benefit of the world monopolies and live happily on all the profits like the “effective managers” in Russia do! So “Batka” (the nickname for Lukashenko, meaning “pops”, “father”) had to be satisfied with what he had, and protect the Belarusian industry no matter what, because apart from the Belorussian working class, there was no one else to rob and nothing else to steal.
That is why large capital in Belarus concentrates only around Lukashenko. There is no monopolistic bourgeoisie except Lukashenko’s clan which actually privatized the Belarusian state with all its enterprises.
There is very little small and medium-sized bourgeoisie (owners of private enterprises) in Belarus. There are practically no farms (small and medium rural bourgeoisie). Purchase and sale of land is limited.
According to bourgeois statistics, over a third of the country’s working population is employed in the industry. This is a highly qualified working class that has retained its invaluable experience in leading Soviet enterprises and unique high-tech Soviet equipment.
If we add to this the workers employed at large agricultural enterprises, 9% of the population, it appears that the working class in Belarus accounts for at least half of the country’s population, and if we include the members of their families, then it’s the vast majority of the country’s population.
This is the ratio of class forces in Belarus. It explains a lot in the current events.
It explains, for example, why the Belarusian “opposition” is so weak, why it has, so far, failed to consolidate and lead the protest, and why Lukashenko’s regime is strong. Because behind the “opposition” there is no powerful and numerous bourgeoisie class interested in the democratization of the society. After all, there is not a lot of small and middle bourgeoisie in the republic, and there is no large, let alone monopolistic bourgeoisie that would strive to and be capable of pushing Lukashenko’s clan away from the governmental power. All monopolistic enterprises in Belarus are state-owned and are under the control of Lukashenko himself. Lukashenko has no serious competitors among his fellow class members inside the country. Only abroad. Hence the relative stability of his dictatorship (more than a quarter of a century!). Hence the dependence of the “opposition” on foreign capital which pushes its interests in Belarus through it.
Another important conclusion: it appears that the struggle for democracy, for democratic rights and freedoms in Belarus can be conducted only by the working class, no one else. There are no other class forces in the country for this purpose.
Let us now return to the events of August 9, 2020.
According to the Central Election Commission of Belarus, A.G. Lukashenko won the presidential elections in 2020, naturally, having “won” more than 80% of votes. And his main rival, Tikhanovskaya, scored just over 10%. The rest of the “extras” got about 1% each. Just over 4.5% of voters voted against all. The turnout at the elections was mind-boggling for Russia – over 84% (!).
The “opposition” did not recognize the election results. Its supporters, having heard the preliminary results of the vote counting on the national TV channel “Belarus 1” in the evening of August 9, began to pour out into the streets protesting. There were not too many of them, but they were also supported by those who did not vote for Tikhanovskaya, but were outraged by the brazen and unceremonious falsification performed by the CEC during the vote counting. As a result, tens of thousands of protesters ended up on the streets of the Belarusian capital and other cities of the republic. (The most massive protest rallies in the country took place on August 16, when, according to various estimates, from 100 thousand to 500 thousand people gathered in the center of Minsk alone).
In Belarus, everyone knew in advance that Lukashenko would win. And although the people had a lot of complaints about him, his candidacy did not cause any special objections, including among workers. They reasoned in the same way people in Russia reason about Putin: “Well, who could replace him? There is no one else!”. The people did not take Tikhanovskaya seriously. And they did not go out into the streets in the evening of August 9 to protest because of her, but against the obvious disrespect for the people, which the CEC had demonstrated by decree or with the consent of Lukashenko.
Mass multithousand gatherings and demonstrations were held not only in the capital of Belarus, Minsk, but also in other cities of the republic – in Baranovichi, Bobruisk, Brest, Vitebsk, Grodno, Gomel, Zhlobin, Zhodino, Kobrin, Mogilev, Pinsk. These protests were mostly spontaneous. People gathered in different spots in the city, rather than in one predetermined place.
Perhaps everything could have ended well – disgruntled citizens would have gone out into the streets unarmed, make some noise and calm down. But the police was given the order to “clear up” the cities’, i.e. to ruthlessly disperse the protesters using all the special means at their disposal, and to preventively intimidate the population not to participate in the protests. To avoid them, so to speak. The violence that unfolded throughout the country provoked a fierce confrontation between the people and the authorities, giving the start to a democratic revolution.
From 9 to 12 of August, mass clashes between protesters and the law enforcement took place in Belarusian cities, during which thousands of people were arrested, hundreds were beaten by the riot police and injured, and several people died. Water cannons, tear gas and light-noise grenades with rubber buckshot inside them and lead and rubber bullets were used against the protesters. On election day alone, August 9, about 3,000 people were arrested and one person died.
On August 12, riot policemen opened fire with pomp rifles at people who supported protesters by shouting from balconies. On the same day actions against police violence were carried out across the country – in Minsk, Grodno and Gomel (in Belarus the armed forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were not renamed into “police” as in Russia, but retained the old Soviet name – “militia”).
Only between 9 and 13 of August about 7 thousand people were arrested during protests in Belorussia, 4 people died. During arrest and in prisons people were beaten. Mass media also reported torture and abuse of arrested people, and rape of detained women.
But the fascist thugs from the Belarusian riot police were not satisfied with just beating people. By following the dictator’s order on preventive measures, they began terrorizing people who did not participate in the protests – grabbing civilians in residential areas and severely beating them. They attacked people at playgrounds spending time with their children, workers going to work, young women standing quietly near their houses, and so on. The citizens became afraid to leave the house – they could easily get bashed over the head for nothing!
The cup of patience of the working people was overflowing. From 10 and 11 of August, the workers began to strike – because of the lawlessness of the fascist riot police, they refused to go to work.
The workers of the Belarusian Steel Works (BSW) were among the first to declare a strike. The workers of the Minsk Electrotechnical Plant (METZ) followed suit. The main demands of the workers were: immediate cessation of violence against peaceful unarmed citizens who had the right to peacefully express their political position; cessation of provocations to justify the actions of law enforcement officials; release of detainees arrested during peaceful demonstrations.
On August 13, BelAZ workers went on strike, demanding fair elections, the removal of the riot police from the city and an end to violence against protesters. On August 14, MAZ went on strike. The workers of the Minsk Wheeled Tractor Plant (MZKT) and Minsk Tractor Plant (MTZ) went on strike. A little later they were joined by Belaruskali miners and other Belarusian enterprises. It has been reported that the workers of the largest Belarusian chemical giant GrodnoAzot are ready for strike.
Industrial workers were not the only ones who refused to go to work. Municipal officials and cultural workers also rose up against the terror. Teachers, physicians and the employees of a philharmonic started to protest. Journalists of Belteleradiocompany, the main body of the bourgeois-fascist propaganda, refused to work and demanded to lift censorship on radio and television. Lukashenko had to replace them with Russian journalists (these people! They are prepared to sell their own mother for a few coins!).
The entry of organized workers into the protest fundamentally changed the balance of power. Leadership in the democratic revolutionary process shifted to the working class. Lukashenko understood that it was serious. The working class is not the circus clowns from the “opposition”, it is a real force, which will not be easy to cope with. It is not by chance that Lukashenko’s assistant Valery Belsky on August 19 said that the main threat was industrial enterprises going on strike.
The authorities were forced to make concessions. The riot police was immediately removed from the cities of Belarus. The protesters were no longer dispersed as of August 13, allowing them to assemble and rally peacefully as much as they wanted. By August 17, almost all protest detainees had been released. And Lukashenko personally began to travel around all the striking enterprises, hoping to persuade the workers to stop strikes and return to work.
But this did not help. A spontaneous political strike, which almost became universal (!), continued to develop.
Workers began to elect strike committees, developing their demands at the rallies, which, apart from political demands, also included economic demands concerning their particular enterprise.
No consolidated political demands have been developed by the strikers yet, but most often the workers’ demands include the following: Lukashenko for retirement, fair elections, punish the perpetrators of violence, release all illegally detained and political prisoners.
These demands echo the demands of the “opposition” (because they are universally democratic), but there are also other demands coming from the workers that are purely proletarian.
For example, at almost every rally, many workers voiced the following demand – “remove the riot police from the city”, “we will clean up the city ourselves”. And indeed they did – they would clean up the square themselves after a rally, if there was some garbage left. As for law and order, the words of the workers have not yet been transmitted into actions; the workers’ squads have not been created yet, although they have spoken about them more than once at the rallies. They have not been created not only because the workers are still poorly organized, but also because in Belarus people protest in a rather civilized way – there are no drunken or violent people on the streets, nobody smashes the windows of shops and offices, turns over or sets fire to cars. It seems that, at the moment, there just wouldn’t be that much to do for the people’s militia.
Apparently, Lukashenko’s government has realized that it’d better not anger the proletariat and send hooligan provocateurs to accuse the striking workers of assaults and rampages, and especially not use open physical violence against activists and civilians – it could end up very badly. After all, then the workers’ squads will definitely be created – as workers’ self-defense squads, as squads protecting civilians from the terror of fascist thugs. If the dictator’s chain dogs or provocateurs sent by him use weapons and blood gets shed, these workers’ squads will also take up arms. And then who knows who will prevail.
Only the workers themselves can govern these squads – through strike committees. Strike committees of different enterprises, located in the same area, for the effective management of the strike movement, will inevitably get united by area – city, regional or district. These committees, united by area, will become the governing bodies of the revolution, not only managing workers’ strikes, but also giving orders to the armed workers’ squads.
But such committees, united by area, with armed groups of workers are nothing but the embryos of the proletarian state power! These are prototypes of the workers’ Soviets, the very same ones that, for similar reasons, were first formed by the Russian proletariat in 1905 and broke the neck of the bourgeoisie in Russia in 1917.
The authority of these Soviets will be huge, because they will be elected bodies of the laborers themselves and the actions they take will be in the interests of all workers. It means that the real power in the regions, cities and districts will be transferred to them, and nobody will listen to the bourgeois state authorities (in Belarus they are district executive committees, city executive committees, and regional executive committees). The country may end up having a special political situation – a period of dual power, as it was in Russia in 1917, and it is impossible to predict the outcome. But the victory of the bourgeoisie is certainly not predetermined. This time, the Soviets, the Soviet power, i.e. the people led by the working class, may also win. At least, no one will remember the current Belarusian dictator A.G. Lukashenko for sure by then.
So, shooting at people will definitely put an end to the power of Lukashenko’s clan and will inevitably result in the continuation of the democratic revolution, in the need for the working class and the working masses to complete it.
It’s true not only for Belarus, but also for other countries, including primarily the post-Soviet ones. Take Putin, for instance. It is possible that Putin in Russia has not yet dared to shoot at the masses because of the possible consequences. But sooner or later he or his successor will do it – they will give the order to shoot at the unarmed workers, and it will be the end of them. Perhaps not only their end, but the entire bourgeois power in Russia.
And these are not empty dreams, detached from reality – this is the logic of social development. With such enormous social stratification, which is observed now in all countries of the world, including Russia, to unleash open physical terror against the people as capital used to do in the past would mean suicide. The class of proletarians has become too big, the layer of impoverished workers robbed by oligarchs has become too huge and the social support of the puppet masters, the monopolistic capital, has become too insignificant. This is confirmed by numerous protests against police violence and terror, which have been taking place all over the world, including the main stronghold of the world fascism – the USA. So far, these protests have not brought any particular results, though they do put the gun-crazed authorities in their place a bit. But they haven’t been joined by the organized working class yet, and it hasn’t yet supported them with strikes all over the country. But that will happen one day, and then the capitalists will have to make a giant effort to keep the political power in their hands.
Here we will also make a note for many leftists who stubbornly see only capitalists’ games among themselves (“maidan”) in the Belarusian events and don’t seem to notice the main figure – the working class. They urge us not to participate in “maidan”, recommend sitting and waiting for the proletarian revolution, and before it comes, read the classics, propagandize among the workers and agitate them for the Soviets.
Dear leftists! The Workers’ Councils are formed the way we described above, or in a similar way. They do not fall from the sky and do not jump out of Marxist books ready-made, they cannot be created somewhere on the side and then stuck to the working class from above. Soviets are created by the struggling working class itself during the revolution, are created from strike committees united by area as vitally important for the workers, as an absolute necessity!
This has been shown not only by past events in history, but also by the present-day Belarusian experience. The opposition in Belarus has tried to take control over the workers’ strikes – it created an artificial “Union of Workers” and began to call on the strike committees to enter it. Didn’t work! Despite the fact that strike committees of some Belarusian enterprises responded to this call, this fake bourgeois union failed to become the center of power.
Why did it fail? Because the workers would not obey the orders of someone they did not personally elect, to whom they did not delegate the authority to lead them. It is impossible to gain their trust by force, because they are the force!
For the same reason, a well-respected strike committee at individual enterprises, which all workers will obey, can only be formed by the workers themselves, through electing representatives from their own working collective – someone they know very well and in whom they have the same level of confidence as, in fact, in themselves.
The same goes for a temporary revolutionary government formed in the course of a successful democratic revolution, whose only task is to organize and conduct new elections of power (“fair elections”). Only a temporary revolutionary government, created by the working class itself or with its most active participation, will have the respect of the workers. Some sort of “coordinating council for the transfer of power”, the creation of which Tikhanovskaya announced on August 14, will have no meaning for the workers – nobody will trust it and therefore will not follow its orders.
The Belarusian democratic revolution is not over yet, the revolutionary process is not complete. In general, the situation as of the morning of August 24, 2020 can be described with the words “political balance”. Lukashenko has not yet taken any active actions, neither against the workers, nor against the “opposition”. Although he recently announced his willingness to call on the army to suppress the riots. And the “opposition” does not force things either, but is daily summoning its supporters and opponents of Lukashenko to peaceful rallies and demonstrations. The working class is also not active, although strikes continue. It has retained its independence and the “opposition” has not yet managed to take the workers’ strike movement into its own hands, but its development and the extension of strikes to other enterprises are out of the question. Rather, there is perhaps a certain decline in the strike movement.
Of course, we cannot say how events will develop further. Time will show. But we can and should draw some conclusions from what happened.
What the Belarusian revolution has shown
The Belarusian Revolution has given us valuable experience for the future. It has shown us the following:
1. More than anything else, the bourgeoisie is afraid of the organized working class and when it enters a class fight, the former is forced to make concessions.
Our sources in Belarus tell us that Lukashenko’s government began to withdraw the riot police out of the cities barely hearing about the workers’ intention to strike. It was not even the strike itself that made them tremble, but the threat of it!
2. The bourgeoisie, even though they are competing ruthlessly against each other, is united in its struggle against the working class, and the working class, in order to win, must understand this and take this into account.
3. Workers need their own media and their own means of communication, independent of the bourgeoisie, even if it is a temporary alliance.
The only information sources in the revolution have been the media of the “opposition”, its websites, its communities in social networks and its telegram channel NEXTA. From these sources, Belarusian workers, including unorganized workers and laborers, received all the principal information about what was happening in the country. In Russia, Belarusian events are covered by the Russian pro-government media and the media resources of the Russian “liberal opposition”. The working class in Belarus and Russia do not have their own information sources.
This situation creates excellent opportunities for the bourgeois propaganda, for deception and disorientation of the working masses. A lot of the information about events in the republic was provided by the bourgeois media not objectively, not in the way they actually happened, but from the point of view of the bourgeois class. And their methods were the usual, traditional for bourgeois-fascist propaganda – manipulation of the mass consciousness.
The role and significance of the working class and its strikes are constantly downplayed by the bourgeois media, and the role of the “opposition” is seriously exaggerated. The impression that both the viewer and the reader are getting is that the entire protest is “governed” by the “opposition”, and the working class is just running errands for it, fully trusting it, sharing its ideas, agreeing with its political program and fully supporting Tihanovskaya. Photos and pictures from the protests are selected and edited in such a way that the workers are seen with the red and white flag in the background (the flag of the Belarusian fascists!). And the red flags, which the workers often raised at their meetings, were not mentioned anywhere. The trick is simple, but effective. Even many Russian leftists fell for it, concluding that it was a “maidan” and there was no need to help it in any way. But it is not the flags that determine the essence of a social protest, especially since the class enemy has a huge desire to distort the essence of the protest by making it look like some other kind of protest.
4. The working class rises to fight not when there are calls from the democratic bourgeoisie (“opposition” in Belarus, “liberals” in Russia) for protest actions, but when it is forced to do so by its own class interests, when the situation is such that it is impossible not to rise.
Indeed, even before the elections, the ‘opposition’ in Belarus and its agents tried to provoke workers into strikes. At least, the workers of individual enterprises. There were loud statements about the intention to strike in the “opposition” media and even specific dates. Only these strikes did not take place. The workers ignored these provocations. They rose themselves, without any appeals, at once and en masse, when they were personally affected – when the fascist power of Lukashenko unleashed terror against its own people.
5. Strikes, especially universal ones, which almost took place in Belarus, must be prepared! And the preparation has to be serious. It is necessary to make sure that all workers of enterprises, all the staff participates in strikes. Only then will they become the kind of force that the bourgeois authorities will not be able to smash.
Strikes in Belorussia were spontaneous, emotional. Not all workers of the striking enterprises took part in them. Some workshops and departments at the enterprises continued to work.
And this incoherence and lack of awareness in some workers makes it possible for the bourgeois authorities to end the strikes
6. In order to succeed, a strike movement must have centralized leadership. This leadership consists of a network of strike committees united by area. Strike committees at enterprises must be elected at workers’ meetings.
Strike committees of striking enterprises in Belarus were often created not at work meetings, but through collecting signatures for individual candidates who were proposed to be part of the strike committee. Many of these individuals were not known by the workers. It is not known how they got on the list of candidates. That is why there are many politically unstable people among the members of the strike committee, who are inclined to agree with the authorities and are unable to implement the class policy of the working class.
7. Workers must protect their leaders with all their might, such as their elected members of the strike committee. After all, if left without leadership, workers will become easy prey for the class enemy. Therefore, it is necessary to reject criminal legalism and, where necessary, to use various methods of conspiracy. There is no other way one can win under total fascist surveillance.
8. It is vital for workers to have their own working organizations, to clearly understand their goals and objectives.
Unorganized and unaware workers are easily subordinated to the interests of the bourgeoisie, fooled and used for its own purposes – for competing with other capitalists. The workers, “pulling chestnuts out of the fire” for the bourgeoisie, do not get anything in the end.
9. Workers urgently need their own political organization – a political party of the Bolshevik type, which alone can lead the rest of the working class organizations (strike committees, trade unions, etc.), develop the right tactics of struggle and lead the working class to victory.
We do not know how the Belarusian revolution will end, whether it will win or lose, but what the Belarusian workers have already done cannot be overestimated.
They have shown the way of turning what had all the features of a “Maidan” into a democratic revolution: this way is the mass strike movement, in other words, the entry of the working class into the democratic revolutionary process as an independent political force. This move, made by the Belarusian workers spontaneously, immediately knocked the “opposition” out of the driving seat in the beginning of the democratic revolution and the leadership in the revolution carried over to the working class.
The Belarusian workers also showed how a democratic revolution in contemporary conditions can turn into a proletarian, socialist revolution, why it happens and for what likely reasons. With their actions, they showed how the new Soviets, organs of the new proletarian state, could grow.
This is all an invaluable experience! And it will certainly be used in the future by the working class of other countries.
We sincerely wish success to the democratic revolution in Belarus, victory to the Belarusian workers in their struggle for democracy!
And we call upon all left and communist forces, all those who really stand for socialism and freedom from capital oppression, to support the working class of Belarus and all the working people of the republic in their struggle for democratic rights and freedoms.
MLWM “Work Way”
Prepared by L. Sokolsky