Declaration of the ISL on Belarus Let's support the struggle of the workers and the people

1. The presidential elections of August 9 in Belarus were once again staged by Alexander Lukashenko to achieve re-election in his sixth nomination in the 26 years he has been in power. The acceptance of candidates, the campaign and the results, completed a flawed and fraudulent electoral process. The authorities stopped the presentation of the stronger opposition candidates through imprisonment and prosecution by law. During the voting days, the presence of impartial observers was not allowed and there were all kinds of irregularities that were denounced, but were not taken into account. The scrutiny determined a result of 80% of the votes for Lukashenko and 10% for Svetlana Tijanóvskaya, who had taken up the dispute after her husband, the popular opposition blogger Syarhei Tsikhanouski, was jailed. In light of the events, what opposition leaders and activists previously warned would happen, happened: the results were forged.

2. The vast majority of the population did not believe in the official results, for that reason, on the same night they were announced, the outrage caused thousands and thousands of people to massively win the streets, with a great protagonism of young people and women. In response to the peaceful protest, a violent police repression was unleashed, sending thousands of people to jail, with brutal beatings, torture, hundreds injured and two protesters killed. Far from causing demoralization or fear, state violence exacerbated the anger that had been contained for years and a truly popular rebellion broke out.

3. It was from this moment that the mobilization grew stronger, when factory workers such as BelAz, Grodno Azot, Soligorsk miners, Metro workers, railroad workers, doctors, nurses and teachers held assemblies, strikes and actively joined the street actions. The entrance into the scene of important detachments of the working class strengthened the demands and spread them, managing to stop the generalized repression and forcing the release of people detained during the protests. The daily actions multiplied place by place and on Sunday 16 and Sunday 23 there were mass gatherings of hundreds of thousands of people expressing themselves in Minsk and other cities. On the other hand, the rally called by Lukashenko in support of his government was poor, numbering a few thousand participants, even with the state apparatus pressing to force assistance. The “80%” of the votes assigned to him do not show up anywhere, Lukashenko is supported by the state apparatus and Russia, since Vladimir Putin has not lowered his thumb and has promised to help him.

4.As a good dictator, Lukashenko stated that he will not leave office or repeat the elections. At this time, the repression is selective, it is carried out on leaders and activists, under threat of layoffs, sanctions and criminal cases, mainly among the working class. Svetlana Tijanóvskaya herself went into exile in Lithuania after being summoned and held for hours by the authorities. Through the official media, Lukashenko spread an image of himself accompanied by his son and an armed gang, wearing a uniform, a bulletproof vest and a Kalashnikov in his hands, gratefully motivating his shock troops, after the massive mobilization on Sunday had ended. He tries to appear stronger than he really has, since internally and externally, he is considered politically finished, even among the Russian diplomacy.

5. The mobilizations imposed a dual power in the streets: Lukashenko says one thing and the people do another, a situation that has been going on for more than 15 days. However, it is not institutionalized, there is still no solid, democratic coordination, led by the working class, which is just starting to form Strike Committees in various companies. The creation of new organizations in which the most combative sectors of the working class take the lead will be fundamental.

6. The electoral fraud lit the fuse of the outbreak, but the gunpowder had been accumulating for a long time, for different reasons. The lack of democratic freedoms was combined with the advance of the capitalist economic crisis, the deterioration of living conditions, social inequalities, the lack of a future for young people, job insecurity and poor management of the pandemic, since Lukashenko is a denialist, like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro. There is another essential component: the contagion effect caused by the rebellions that spread across the world and have a new impulse from the Black Rebellion unleashed in the heart of imperialism.

7. The people of Belarus suffer from an authoritarian government and regime, with Stalinist characteristics. After 26 years in power, every institutional aspect is handled from above by Lukashenko, with a systematic persecution of political opponents. The labor movement is a victim of this situation with very serious obstacles to organize, protest and strike. The repressive forces are the fundamental pillar of the dictatorship, within which the KGB is in charge of espionage and persecution. Formally it is not a single party regime, but that is what exists in reality, since only the organizations that are partners in power or those used to as justification that the opposition exists are legalized. 

8. In Belarus there are no “Soviet conquests” since they were liquidated decades ago, as in all the republics of the former USSR, by the bureaucracy of the Communist Party. Since the 90s, a process of capitalist restoration began from above, by the bureaucracy itself, which transformed the country until it became State Capitalist. At present, the country is adapted to the rules of the market, open for large employers to obtain profits at the expense of the exploitation of workers. As a consequence, the social conditions of life of the great majority are increasingly deteriorating. In 2017 the protests stopped the so-called “Law against Vagrancy”, which established fines for the unemployed. Precarious short-term contracts were generalized and regressive reforms were made to the pensions. The lack of state investment in public health that was exposed by the pandemic is also a sign that profits are prioritized over life. After the disasters of the bureaucratically planned economy, the introduction of capitalism has not caused, and will not cause, better living conditions, but more crisis, poverty, social inequality and suffering.

9. There are Stalinists of all stripes who defend Lukashenko and his regime, arguing that it is an external conspiracy and that it resembles the Maidan demonstrations that took place in Ukraine in 2013-2014. Neither statement is true. It was not a movement on the international board that motivated the protest, it was the exhaustion of the people who got rid of their fear and confronted authoritarianism, fraud and the hardships of life and the unsatisfied social needs. The demonstrations cannot be equated to Maidan, where the population was divided between “europeanists” and “pro-Russians” and the extreme right acquired a determining weight. The Belarusian protest does not express a “turn to the right”, it is in tune with the rebellions and strikes that give the current world situation a positive sense.

10. Senior EU representatives have announced sanctions and the US government has expressed its “deep concern” about the development of events. They are cynics in whom no confidence should be placed, because they intend to continue to nail their political, economic and military claws in Eastern Europe. Nor can one have expectations on the capitalist governments of Russia and China. Russia executes an aggressive foreign policy, which some seek to soften by falsely presenting it as the rebuilding of solidarity “with the former Soviet republics.” The aggressions it carries out in eastern Ukraine are a clear example of its expansionism. Nor can it be believed that Vladimir Putin’s intention to deepen the State of the Union (Russia-Belarus) is aimed at establishing a project of solidarity: what he is seeking is the annexation of the neighboring country. The growing presence of Chinese capital in Belarus is not due to an uninterested and fraternal agreement, but to the objective of the Asian power to have access to the strategic location of Belarus as a bridge between the EU and Russia, as one more link in the chain of countries on the new “Silk Road”. Among imperialist interests, there is no “lesser evil” or “progressive camp” for the peoples, that is why we say, without a doubt: US and European imperialism out, NATO out of the East, No to Russian interference and Chinese neo-imperialism.

11. There is a tough fight going on and the last word has not yet been said. We stand with the people, the youth, the women, the workers and our comrades who are in the heat of the struggle. They have raised their voices and put their bodies in the line to confront authoritarianism, for that reason, we stand with the popular demands for the immediate end of repression, respect for human rights, freedom for political prisoners, punishment for the repressors and killers of protesters.  

12. We are in the presence of a heterogeneous movement which converges around a short-term objective: to defeat Lukashenko and hold new elections. But which also contains different class interests. Within the movement, as part of the mobilization and promoting the broadest unity in action, it is necessary to combat the liberal and right-wing tendencies that may exist, so that they do not take over the struggle, or lead it to a dead end of privatizations and a neoliberalist program. The main tasks of Socialist Revolutionaries are to be the vanguard in the struggle to remove Lukashenko; to promote democratic coordination between the different sectors of workers in struggle and extend it to the majority of the labor movement; and take steps in the constitution of a workers’ party with a revolutionary program.

13. The experience of the old fighters, the strength of the younger ones that are emerging and the dignity of those who do not sell out or surrender, such as the Independent Trade Union of Belarus, make us optimistic about the possibility of advancing in building a new democratic, class-struggle oriented and combative leadership of the labor movement and begin to build a political alternative for the working class, independent of the bosses and the bureaucrats. We support the just demand for new free, transparent and democratic elections. But we insist that a true democracy like the one demanded by the majority of the people and the social demands that allow a dignified life for all, can only be achieved if a socialits revolution leads a workers´ government to power, that is democratically organized through workers´ councils in which they can freely debate and decide their fate. Based on a social model without capitalist exploitation or bureaucratic oppression to build a socialist society at the service of the popular majorities.

14. The International Socialist League has carried out various actions in support of the popular rebellion. In Argentina we rallied in front of the embassy of Belarus. In Barcelona we joined the actions of the emigrants. In Ukraine we promoted solidarity from the Independent Trade Union of Ukraine “Labor Protection” and in several other countries through statements and actions of support. Permanent mobilization and an active general strike must be the goal for Lukashenko and his repressive regime to leave. And we warn about the possibility of a bloodbath in the hands of a  government and a regime that will try to stay in power by all means at its disposal.

We call on the workers of the world and the revolutionary left to redouble their support, with demonstrations at embassies and consulates, in solidarity with the great actions that are being carried out in Belarus, making videos and statements on social networks in favor of workers in struggle until it succeeds.