Events in Belarus have shown the strength of the factory working class

Submitted by meerov21 on August 16, 2020

The working class of the Republic of Belarus (the working class in the broad sense, both workers and non-managerial specialists) became an important component of the protests. According to the information that comes from this country, dozens of labor collectives are joining a political strike. The names of these groups flash every minute - BMZ, GrodnoAzot, Himvolokno, Hephaestus, etc. The giant (11 thousand) BMZ metallurgical plant in Zhodino became the flagship of protests (among other plants). Furniture factories and construction sites, machine-building plants, the Metro and railway workers protest. They are joined by doctors, research teams, and even theater actors. This is a political strike. People demand the dictator's departure, the recognition of the election results and the release of political prisoners.

Workers in large state-owned factories or factories with mixed (private and public) capital were long considered loyal to the regime: Lukashenko managed to avoid the Russian-Ukrainian disaster of the 1990s by saving their jobs. The turn of the working class against the regime means radical changes in Belarusian politics. In addition, these strikes could hit the country's economy.

Workers are irritated by the repressive dictatorship - many of them have relatives, friends, neighbors who were arrested and tortured. In 10-million Belarus, the regime has arrested 7,000 people just in few days. Riot police organized torture, they beat people, rape women and men (!), make them lie in their own filth - a combination of sadistic humiliation. There are already several dead. In addition, workers are irritated by humiliations from their superiors. For example, railway employees demanded to stop humiliating during inspections. Russian political scientist B. Kagarlitsky reports that in some cases, various economic requirements are put forward. Economic stagnation has continued in Belarus for 10 years, but today it has been intensified by the pandemic and the global crisis. However, not all factories that are active are fully on strike. Some stop work for several hours, organizing protest rallies and demonstrations.

The peculiarity of Belarus is that it was an advanced part of the scientific and industrial complex of the USSR. This country has kept the plants to the present time. It is interesting that liberal economist Vladimir Milov notes a higher average level of training of Belarusian specialists than in Russia. With such a concentration of the skilled working class-experienced professionals able to do complex smart things, it is not surprising what is happening today.

Unfortunately, a significant part of the Belarusian working class may lose their jobs in the course of future privatizations or factory closures. This will become a reality in the coming years. This will be a tragedy for hundreds of thousands of people and a social catastrophe. Often, when the liberal-democrats came to power in Eastern Europe, they destroyed large-scale industry. This means plunging society into chaos in the style of the 1990s, when half of the factories and research institutes of the USSR were destroyed. It means destroying people morally and physically. They lost their jobs, became beggars, became small traders, sellers or unemployed, turned into alcoholics or went into bandits. A vile situation in the style of Gaidar-Chubais Russia of the 90s may come to Belarus. I went around the country in the 90s and saw what happened then.

However, it is pointless to complain that the political revolution, destroying the dictatorship, will lead to the closure of factories. Unfortunately, these factories will be closed even under Lukashenko's dictatorial rule. In Belarus a very large part of the industry is in a poor state. The public sector factories are inefficient, unprofitable or low-income. This is reverse side of nationalization policy of Lukashenko. State-owned enterprises are usually unprofitable or low-income, because their bosses live on subsidies from the Treasury and are not interested in rationalizing production. About 60 percent of the country's factories are unprofitable or low-income. All this existed thanks to the multibillion-dollar support of the Russian Federation. In 2019, Russia decided to curtail subsidies to Belarus within 6 years (this, in particular, is reported by Sergei Guriev, a former leading economist at the European Bank). Lukashenko already went to the IMF with an outstretched hand, but something did not work out there and he was left without loans....

In any case, the awakening of workers ' activity today gives labor collectives a chance tomorrow. They could keep privatizers out of factories.This is not a full-fledged solution to the problem, but it stops the process of destroying factories and the population for a while. If this happens, the next step may be to fight for workers ' autonomy, for the power of the General assemblies of workers and their subordinate Councils of delegates. Theoretically, this is possible. In practice the working class of Belarus has only just woken up from sleep. The trouble is that they may lose their jobs already tomorrow. The modern working class of Eastern Europe rarely shows such Autonomous initiatives, unlike Hungary in 1956 and Poland in 1980.


Spontaneous non-leader protests that have taken place around the world in recent years (Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran). Non-leader protests in the modern world, organized with the help of social networks , are not an exception, but the rule. People organize themselves and take to the streets. They have no clear leaders, no one commands them, although various leaders spontaneously arise, who organize the construction of a barricade or hold a meeting in a factory to hold a strike. In addition, various reactionary groups can also join the protests.

Self-organization in factories during strikes in Belarus complements and expands network self-organization. These strikes are not subject to Union officials or political groups. But people are not yet organized enough to establish direct labor democracy in their cities and the power of labor collectives in factories. They do not yet have a more solid structure than just an agreement on a joint action in one or another point of the city. Therefore, even if the protests are successful, the power may end up in the hands of a new oligarchy - different political parties and large businessmen. At the same time, the privatizers will try to take over the factories (they will lay off half of the workers), and the unions with their bureaucrats will take control of their protests and manipulate labor sales to their advantage. Another important point is the multi - class composition of territorial protests, which also leads to discord and prevents the development of a class agenda and the autonomy of the councils of delegates.