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Issue #1930      August 31, 2020

Bela-Ruse! The trickery behind Lukashenko’s opposition

The vast majority of Western liberals and even “leftists” have been quick to uncritically jump on the bandwagon of supporting the Belarusian opposition forces seeking the overthrow of President Lukashenko. Views to the contrary have been ignored or denounced as “supporting dictatorship.”

President Lukashenko.

This only shows that these people continue to refuse to learn from history, and adopt a metaphysical and idealist approach to the world and to apply the question of how to develop and use knowledge about the world.

The opposition has been painted as progressive and peaceful, seeking more democracy and workers’ rights. It is true that some of them see themselves in this way, and those are the ones who get the most screen time in our media. But it is quite clear from investigating the actual balance of forces at play that the driving force of the unrest has been a coalition of right-wing neo-liberals and fascists, given assistance by foreign imperialist forces who wish to see Belarus opened up to increased financial domination and exploitation by the EU and US.

The opposition has made it clear that if they take over government, they plan to implement neoliberal economic policies such as the mass privatisation of state assets, deregulation of markets including the labour market, and closer ties to the EU and US. They also fly the white-red-white flag, which was used during WW2 by Belarusian Nazi collaborators who aided and took part in the murder of Jewish people and Communists amongst others. This fact is known by all Belarusians, although the opposition denies that it should be taken too seriously. After the war, most of the leaders of the various Nazi-collaborator groups, other than those caught and executed by Soviet authorities, moved to – and lived out their days in – the United States, where they were happily taken in.

While it is (shamefully) unsurprising that Western liberals are not bothered by these things, it is shocking that many Western “leftists,” many of whom call themselves Marxists, see fit to downplay or overlook them, and instead accept the mainstream attitude that the most important fact is that the opposition is “anti-dictatorship” and “pro-democracy.” This reveals an un-Marxist idealist outlook, which treats ideas as the primary reality rather than real material conditions.

We also know as Marxists that practice and experience are the source of knowledge, and that a thing cannot be understood but by its relations to other things, and its internal relations and contradictions. No thing can be understood in isolation. In politics, the study of history furnishes us with a wealth of practical experience from struggles around the world, and the situation in Belarus is no exception. We can find clear parallels between the current events there, and many other recent events in other countries.

From last year we see the attempted coup in Venezuela and the successful coup in Bolivia, both of which followed a similar formula: claims of election tampering made by the neoliberal opposition and promoted in Western media, followed by the proclamation of a US-backed “interim President.” Some Western sources have already begun pointing to the Belarusian opposition figurehead Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as a potential “interim President,” showing that phrase has become a dogwhistle for US-backed regime change operations.

Yet more instructively, we can look at the recent history of neighbouring Ukraine. In 2004, then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych ran for Ukrainian Presidential elections. He won by a narrow margin, but protests similar to those in Belarus today emerged denouncing the result as marred by tampering and corruption. The protests eventually succeeded in preventing Yanukovych from becoming President, and instead the opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko was placed in the position. This event is known as the “Orange Revolution” which gave rise to the term ”colour revolution” for this and similar instances of US-backed regime change.

#1209 of The Workers’ Weekly Guardian, (while the “Orange Revolution” was still ongoing and the outcome uncertain) stated:

“The conflict in Ukraine is a further grab for complete economic, political and military power by the United States, supported by the European Union. Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma – who has maintained a semi-state controlled economy and favours relations with Russia over the NATO alliance – backed Viktor Yanukovych in the recent Presidential elections. A pro-big business, pro-NATO banker – Viktor Yushchenko – was the main opposition candidate.” *

Despite the events of the “Orange Revolution,” Yanukovych managed to get elected again as President in 2010 and maintained that position until 2014. But then, the same events occurred a second time, as farce. This time it was called the “Euromaidan.” From #1629 of The Workers’ Weekly Guardian:

“Ukraine has been subjected to what is becoming an all too familiar practice of ousting legitimate governments that refuse to submit themselves to the diktat of the US. In Libya and Syria and now Venezuela [...] and Ukraine, a similar formula for regime change can be seen. Antigovernment protests and demands by forces seeking reforms are used as fronts for Western (or Saudi) funded, armed and trained ultra-right and terrorist/fascist forces.

“In Ukraine, the US has installed what it calls a transitional coalition government which is heavily penetrated by neo-Nazi and other extreme right forces. Members of the Svoboda (All Ukrainian Union) and Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) have control over the armed forces, police and national security. Svoboda was formerly called the Social National Party, a deliberate reference to Hitler’s Nazi party.”

While many of the issues voiced during these two “revolutions” in Ukraine were valid, especially the issue of corruption, it is very clear now, with the benefit of years of experience of a Ukraine governed by these pro-US/EU forces, that the legitimate issues have not been improved whatsoever, and they were only a tactic by the neoliberal and fascist forces to gain support inside and outside the country. Instead, these imperialist-backed governments have implemented far-right economic and social policies, and corruption has only increased. Laws have been passed in Ukraine which not only permit but make legally compulsory the glorification of Ukrainian fascists and Nazi collaborators, and denial of the fact of their role in the Holocaust and other grave crimes. The Communist Party of Ukraine, which had maintained huge popular support from its refoundation in 1993 until the “Orange Revolution” changed the political climate in favour of the right, has now been forbidden from participating in elections.

The Belarusian opposition openly identifies themselves as the Belarusian counterpart of the heritage of the “Orange Revolution” and “Euromaidan,” and openly copies the tactics and talking points of those coups.

All these facts in themselves should be quite enough to show that this Belarusian opposition should not be supported. This is a different question to the evaluation of President Lukashenko: whatever his failings, the failings of Yanukovych were perhaps worse, and yet it is all the more clear that Yanukovych’s oustings were reactionary and illegitimate, the product of outside intervention. We have the benefit of hindsight with Ukraine, which we do not with the present situation in Belarus, but it is simply ridiculous not to learn anything from the relevant past experience of Ukraine.

* spelling of names edited for consistency with modern style.

Next article – Biden’s speech stirs up sense of déjà vu

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