Belarus: ‘what counts is workplace organisation’

August 19, 2020

The confrontation in Belarus between the Lukashenko regime and the mass movement continues. Strike committees are being formed at state-owned enterprises, and the strike at Belaruskali, one of the country’s strategic conglomerates, has begun. At the giant Minsk Tractor Factory, demonstrators who tried to talk to workers were stopped by police. In Grodno, Belarusian media report that the local authorities have begun a dialogue with the opposition. I am trying to follow the situation, and tell English-language readers about independent socialist and working-class trends in the movement. Here are an interview with an independent trade union activist, and, below, a political statement supported by the largest independent trade union federation. Many thanks to P for help with translations. GL.

“Until workers in the factories begin to organise, this will be so much hot air”  

An interview with Sergey Antusevich, deputy chair of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BCDTU), published by the Russian magazine Snob on 18 August.

Q: Strikes have started in Belarus. Clearly, they are linked with the post-election protests, but they certainly didn’t start straightaway. What has the decision-making process and why did it take time?

SA: I think that people had waited for the outcome of the elections, in the hope that their vote against Lukashenko could influence the situation in the country. But when it turned out that their votes were simply thrown in the bin, the conversation changed. On 10 August people came into work, talked with colleagues and discovered that none of them

Striking workers at Belaruskali, Soligorsk, 17 August. Photo: EPA-EFE

had voted for Lukashenko. They ended up feeling that something needed to be done. From different factories, activists from trade unions affiliated to BCDTU called us with questions and ideas. We replied that centralised trade union structures could, of course, condemn electoral fraud and demand a vote recount, but that this would be of little use without being supported by action from the workplaces. I said, and I can say it again now, that until workers in the factories begin to organise, begin to oppose the lies, the lack of rights and the degrading treatment, when the authorities have just spat on them and wiped them on the pavement, this will all be just so much hot air.

Q: Did you co-ordinate the workers’ actions

SA: At first we had no means of full-scale coordination: the Internet was cut off nationwide. I spent two days with no connection, basically; I could not set up a working Read the rest of this entry »

Belarus: potash workers strike to support victims of police violence

August 17, 2020

This statement by striking workers at Belaruskali, a giant potash fertiliser production complex, has been released today by the Belarusian Independent Trade Union. The Russian original is here. Belaruskali, based at Salihorsk, 120 kilometres south of Minsk, is one of the largest producers of potash fertilisers in the world, employing about 12,000 workers. Each of its four production units consists of one or two potash ore mines, and a processing unit.

This morning at Belaruskali there were meetings of all production units with management, who were informed that an indefinite strike is to begin. Strike committees have been formed at all production units. They are formulating demands to the employer and guarantees of safety for the strikers and their families. Later on, around two p.m., these demands will be presented to Belaruskali management. At present, production has not been stopped. Workers are conserving equipment and preparing for cessation of operations, so as not to damage the enterprise or its employees.

The strike is expected to start at midnight on 18 August. From eight a.m., the production process will be stopped.

The strikers’ demands:

What was done to the peaceful Belarusian people on 9-11 August 2020 showed the true face of the Belarusian authorities, and the real attitude of the power of the wealthy towards citizens. Hundreds of men and women of all ages, including young boys and girls,

A meeting at Belaruskali this morning

became the helpless hostages of monsters in uniform, and were subjected to unprecedented torture, humiliation and the most vicious beatings. And this lawlessness was conducted with the approval, and the direct participation, of officers of the district department of internal affairs and judges of the Salihorsk district court.

No-one will forget what has happened; no-one will pardon your crimes. Thousands of people in Salihorsk, whole enterprises, have joined the national peaceful solidarity STRIKE. The people are against violence and brutality, against the falsification of election results, and against lawlessness and recklessness in our city.

The following demands by citizens are being expressed through peaceful mass actions in the city of Salihorsk:

1. Take measures to declare the results of the presidential election null and void. To this end we call on the Salihorsk Regional Electoral Commission to make public the real results Read the rest of this entry »

Belarus: ‘without organisation, without struggle, the oppressive unfreedom will never disappear’

August 14, 2020

The revolt against the authoritarian regime in Belarus has spread from the city streets, where thousands of protesters have been battling with police, to the workplaces. On Thursday 13 August workers at large enterprises – including chemical and food factories, and construction and transport companies – downed tools in protest at the monstrous surge of police violence and arrests. People are quitting the state-supported trade unions. Films and photographs of workers’ meetings, at which participants denounced police violence and the fraudulent election results, are spreading like wildfire across social media. Womens’ organisations are taking to the streets – against a president whose fury was provoked, especially, by the support for Svetlana Tikhonovskaya, the woman who dared to stand against him for election. Here are two appeals by independent trade union organisations that were published yesterday. Please share and re-post. GL.

Open Appeal by the Belarusian Independent Trade Union to workers

Dear Belarusians,

The authorities’ actions – in falsifying the election results, breaching human rights, instigating mass arrests and beatings of peaceful protesters and passers-by across the whole country – could all lead to irreversible consequences for Belarus. We are hearing ever-louder

A factory meeting in Minsk earlier this week

announcements from the European Union and the United States, that they are ready to impose various sanctions, including economic ones, on Belarus as a state that is trampling cynically on the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

Closure of the western markets for our products and services would be a catastrophe for our enterprises. The impact of this would be borne first of all by ordinary workers, who are in a bad enough situation already.

To defend ourselves and our freedom of action at the workplace, we propose the following pattern of simple collective actions:

1. Quit the state’s social organisations, such as the [government-supported] Federation of Belarusian Trade Unions, [the pro-presidential civic-political association] Belaya Rus and the Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: