Ten days of protests in Belarus

Photograph of the civic funeral of protester Alexander Taraikovsky. Hundreds of mourners wave old Belarusian white and red flags, and throw flowers onto the open casket. AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky.
Funeral of a protester killed by Belarusian riot police.
2020.08.18, by Ansel

It’s been ten days since the presidential election in Belarus. Yeah, we know the protests began before the election. But I doubt they’ll lead to anywhere by themselves. Workers in key industries in Minsk are striking, and there are calls for a general strike. But they haven’t presented a clear political alternative. The EU, and the US all seem keen in courting the “wasp’s nest” (Belgian De Standaard) that is the opposition. Quickest and cleanest way to deal with this, from the standpoint of the US and EU (and probably the Kremlin, too), is to get rid of Lukashenko, make friends with the Tsikhanouskis, and let life continue as usual.

Whoever takes power—it won’t change Belarus’s position as a buffer state between Russia and Western Europe. The opposition will have to play the same game Lukashenko did, playing Moscow against the EU and Nato. They might be less quick to imprison popular YouTubers, that’s all.

Sviatlana T. said that the forces of state repression would be “forgiven” should they change sides, after all. The opposition is happy to keep everything—the status quo intact. The broader conditions facing Belarusian workers—an official poverty rate of 21.5%—won’t change.

“Can Brussels help the opposition to get dictator Alexander Lukashenko out of the saddle? If so, how should that be done? What precautions must be taken to avoid Russian President Vladimir Putin feeling offended? Moscow has complex relations with Minsk. And it has declared that it is ready to ‘solve the problems’—whatever that means. And against this background what role do NATO and the United States play? …Belarus threatens to become a problematic wasp nest that requires careful maneuvering. But the situation has escalated to such an extent that a continuation of the Lukashenko regime could hardly be defended.”

—Ruben Mooijman, “EU cannot look away from Belarus”, De Standaard. 2020.08.18

Remember the massive protests in the US after Donald Trump’s election? What changed? Fucking nil. Nothing did. If Lukashenko resigns the only difference will have been that workers in Belarus struck and put the country to a standstill, whereas American workers never did that to eject Trump out of American political life. Still counting on the Democrats to save them, apparently.

Lukashenko dealt with his political rivals, who built up massive support on YouTube and other social media, with incarceration and torture in prison. (In Siarhei T.’s case he was charged with “grave breach of public order”.) It doesn’t take a leap of the imagination to see Trump doing the same. He’s—well, his wing is—preparing to mount a three-pronged attack on the coming [presidential] election. Slow the mail down, have Republican-controlled states deem Election Day “failed” because of uncounted votes, and denounce any results (that don’t count him the winner) as fraudulent.

At this point, I don’t think it matters whether he manages to delay the elections or not (he won’t). The entire political establishment is scared shitless of the protests that’ll ignite if the elections are actually delayed. That’s why he’s counting on his fascistic base—“very good people” to intimidate the suits in the legislature. They won’t appeal to the working class to save them from the boogaloo boys, after all.

Rendition of John “Mad Dog” Mattis as a Catholic saint. His golden halo reads “M A D D O G”. In his right hand is a grenade and his left a Ka-Bar knife. A scroll overlaying the painting reads, “Saint Mattis of Quantico, Patron Saint of Chaos”.
Quite possibly how the Democrats view Mad Dog Mattis right now.
Click to view the full image.

They’ll appeal to the military.

Speaking of violence…

Tolly got into a sparring session with Dr G. today. He was waiting outside for an ambulance and practicing kata.

G. approached him and they started talking about boxing. About how, since Tolly is small, he has to get comfortable fighting at close range to erase the advantages his opponents have in reach. G. threw a jab and Tolly reflexively parried it the same way you would parry a knife attack. Glad he didn’t go the extra step and strike Dr G. in the neck. Tolly was pretty embarrassed by that, but pretty happy, too. When he went back to the office, he told everyone about it. “I smacked Dr G!” It wasn’t a conscious decision, it was a reflex…

Later, he told me:

“I’m ready to take responsibility and act during this period as a national leader so that the country calms down and returns to a normal rhythm. …and if you decide not to carry out criminal orders and go to the side of the people, they will forgive you, will support you, and in the future will not reproach with a bad word… We have no right to raise a hand on a friend. …We will always accept you if your thoughts will be pure repentance sincere.”

—Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, “I am ready to become a national leader.” 2020.08.16

“My right hand nearly did. I nearly followed with a horizontal palm strike to his neck.”

“I think a knife hand would’ve been better in this context, but yeah. I’m glad you didn’t. You should practice knife hands more.”

Now, whenever Tolly is about to bump into someone turning the corner, he sidesteps so quickly and brings his hands up; automatically assuming a stance and guard. People at the hospital tease him for it now. “Oh I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to spook you, I won’t hurt you.”

The best part? He still says “ope” when he does that.