On August 9, presidential elections will be held in the Republic of Belarus, and we, the Collective Editorial Board, consider it necessary to speak out about the upcoming events.
Belarus is not isolated from the rest of the post-Soviet space. This is not a “fragment of the past” or “a germ of the future.” Although today the country has one of the most egalitarian indicators of income ratio (between the richest 10% and the poorest 10% — the average is at the level of 4.1), strategically, it, like other states of the former socialist camp, is moving along the same road — toward wild peripheral capitalism with a dozen or so super-rich people on one side and an impoverished, disenfranchised, increasingly oppressed mass of the population on the other.
The peculiarity of Belarus is that it follows the road of neoliberal reforms gradually, with the preservation of a much larger share of the public sector, planning and social sphere than in other republics. There was no “shooting of the House of Soviets” or “Maidan” with “decommunization.” When Lukashenko came to power in the mid-1990s, there was no “wild privatization,” but politically the country was transformed into authoritarian state capitalism, in which you can observe features of the Chinese economic model and the populism of Latin American left-wing regimes. He has no clear ideology and no mass party behind him.
The sole power of the president rests on the state apparatus, power structures and the political passivity of the masses, which has been maintained throughout the years of his government. With the strengthening of this model, political movements, parties and trade unions were isolated and almost destroyed. Politics has become marginal, a hostile atmosphere has been created around it, in which criticism of the “single” guarantor and leader is equated with treason.
When the idea of social justice, despite popular demand, does not have an active base, not only is it not possible to move from state capitalism to socialism, as evidenced by the constant decline in the share of the public sector in the economy, but an inexorable right-wing tendency also prevails within the framework of current politics, and within the available alternatives. With only one caveat: within the framework of current politics, this movement is directed from state capitalism to the state-monopoly model, and within the framework of the alternatives voiced by the opposition candidates — to the capitalism of transnational corporations, which will lead to the loss of state sovereignty, destruction or partial integration of industry and agriculture into global production processes.
Right-wing tendencies are also reflected in the election campaign, where none of the candidates with even the slightest left agenda has mustered enough strength to run for president. Alternative candidates, including the main opposition candidates who were not allowed to participate, are representatives of neoliberal views who advocate private initiative, condemn the inefficiency of the state, etc. In the context of the global crisis, the widespread decline in living standards, alienation from participation in politics, these views, even in such a crude form, attract significant masses of urban youth simply because of their opposition.
There is a possibility that the radical part of the opposition has a plan similar, if not to the Bolivian putsch or an attempt to implement the Ukrainian scenario of 2004, then at least for another rehearsal of such an attempt. A conditional “single protest candidate” Tikhanovskaya, declared in advance as the winner, is nominated. And in the course of the usual riots, a scenario can be tested in which power temporarily passes into the hands of not Tikhanovskaya, but the street and the radical part of Lukashenko’s security and bureaucratic apparatus, which has gone over to the side of the street.
This course of events — given that it is likely to be supported by both the West and the East — seems possible, but not the main scenario. Lukashenko is still popular among the rural population, which makes up one-third of the country’s population, and the bulk of the rank-and-file of the security forces. At the same time, the left needs to have a plan in case of a coup: what to do if the current system experiences a Ukrainian-like paralysis and how to use a significant protest base (imbued with the desire for a just society and a social state) against the private capitalist path, created by the government itself.
Since the left of the Belarusian “opposition camp” is related to the white-ribbon movement in Russia — to a lesser extent to the protests in Hong Kong — and does not even deserve critical support, it is necessary to campaign among the politicized masses, drawn into the essentially right-wing protest by general opposition sentiments.
However, in no case should repression against opposition candidates be approved (punishing criminals is also illegal if they are imprisoned selectively, based on practical considerations of the current political struggle) — such actions, in the end, are more likely to hit the left than the right.
It is necessary to understand that the strength of the left alternative depends on the organization of the communists and the left groups themselves and is proportional to the weakening of the current government. The government is as strong as its ability to lure a part of the state apparatus and the bourgeoisie, gravitating towards state-capitalist reformism and a socially-oriented state, with its rhetoric and actions; the neutralization of the passive majority of the working class and the broader proletarian strata is also an important factor.
In order for a left-wing alternative to materialize as soon as possible, we believe it is necessary at this stage:
In view of the fact that the conditions for our participation in such election campaigns are ripe (although the forces are still insufficient), vote against all candidates;
Maximize coordination between all healthy communist and leftist groups;
Continue to expose both anti-popular ideas of privatization, tales of inefficiency of state administration, etc. from alternative candidates, and the actions of the authorities.
The Collective Editorial Board: Tankie’s R&R, Stalinheads, Aurora, Non-Party Communists, Red Carnation, I.B. Khlebnikov Workers’ University, Maoism.ru.
Translated by Greg Butterfield