Workers’ strikes expressing open defiance of Belarus’s dictator-president Lukashenko continue to grow, though only incrementally, in Belaruskali, Grodno Azot and the Belaz car works in Zhodino.
Medical staff, who as in Hong Kong have been partly radicalised by the injuries they have seen inflicted by security staff on protestors, have taken to street protests.
Workers are being sacked in many areas for defiance or for “Italian strikes” (“working to rule”). The numbers involved in such protests are difficult to quantify, but many oppositionists claim the action is seriously affecting industrial output.
The marches on 8 November led to the arrest of between 400 and 1000 people across the country. Increasingly the security forces concentrate on trying to stop protest marches through early mass arrests of anyone suspected to be intending to protest. So many cops have been pulled into Minsk from elsewhere that some protestors refer to them as “the invaders” — a term also reflecting the suspicion that Russian personnel are amongst them.
The everyday brutality and repression will be having its toll on Lukashenko’s ever shrinking popularity. And the activist base of the opposition has grown dramatically, particularly among students and staff at universities.
The figureheads of the opposition who are at liberty abroad, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Pavel Latushka, a former junior minister in Lukashenko’s government, are garnering support from European heads of state. Those heads of state have little influence on Lukashenko, and their support for the opposition may even harden Putin’s support for Lukashenko. However not only Lukashenko but also Putin will be feeling the pressure.
Putin is still looking for a “safe” alternative to Lukashenko. Lukashenko has run such a repressive regime that few such figures exist.
If Putin can find one, they will need to extend the hold over the economy of those oligarchs close to Putin, dampen the protests in Belarus and not raise the democratic hopes of Russians over the border. Not an easy job.
Neither Putin nor the EU will give the people or the workers of Belarus what they need: workers’ control and an end to “the kakistocracy” (as some students describe the regime: one run by the worst people).