What is the strength of the workers?
One of the most important events of the Belarusian revolution was the strike at Hrodna Azot. A worker of the chemical plant has told Charter97.org how it all began.
- The start was given on August 12, when after three days of madness in the streets of Hrodna, workers, engineers, and some senior managers came to the building, where the office of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union is located.
The people were looking for answers, why everything was going on like that, why the plant was silent. The former director of the plant also came there. The people put him at a stand, saying that they were going to march, and if at least one of them was detained, all those people wouldn't go to work tomorrow.
Naturally, that's when the first question of going on strike came up, and we had the first conversations about how to do it and the question of creating a strike committee came up. On that day Hrodna Azot united the whole city. The girls who were holding a solidarity rally joined our march, then all the protesters joined us, the column was huge.
- In your opinion, what factors contributed to the unsuccessful attempt to win in August?
- People just don't know the history, they weren't prepared. If every one of them had watched the movie "Square 2006", "The Ordinary President", they would have known what kind of monster they were marching against with flowers. The protesters were allowed to wave flags for a couple of days and buy all the flowers in town, and then they calmed down, shifting all the activity to the yards and now even to the woods. No doubt, those who continue to partisan are heroes, but the real might is always felt in the main squares and streets of the cities.
- How many factory workers went on strike?
- Some people went on strike, some just quit. The people who left are those with greater intellect, I don't want to offend those who have stayed at the plant now, because it turns out that I'm not very smart either. The plant has lost employees with more than 20 years of experience. Now, of those who are left, it is precisely this layer of workers - the higher categories of machine operators, engineers and technicians - who continue to think about the strike. There is now a certain number of people who are ready to go on the general strike, and if not, they will just quit on their own.
- What does the situation at the plant look like today?
- The people who have gone on strike do not participate in the active life of the plant. The "Broom" (this is how the workers call the new director Ihar Liashenka - Charter97.org) visits the shops every week with his propaganda speech, and the shop managers successfully report that, thanks to the strike, the discontented have left and give the impression that everything at the plant is quiet and calm, but this is far from being the case.
They place a bet on the working class and that is why they are so demanding, but that applies to everyone. IT-companies could go on strike, no one drives them to work with batons, the same goes for the stores and other enterprises.
Speaking specifically about Hrodna Azot, you must understand that it is a highly specialized enterprise, there are no analogues in Belarus. Yes, there is a similar specificity at Naftan and the Mazyr plant, but if you take an operator from such an enterprise, it is impossible to put him into the picture immediately. A year is the minimum, provided the person has a head on his shoulders.
That is the strength of the workers, there is nobody to replace them, but there is the flip side of it: just because it is a highly specialized occupation, it is very hard for a professional who has given more than 10-15 years to the plant to find another job. That is why people are afraid of losing the little they have. However, this is a matter of psychology, a strong person will always be able to cope with the situation, so I wish everyone to be strong!
- What forms of strike could affect the regime?
- We need the Polish variant, which we have to prepare for diligently. The occupation strike put the usurpers at a stand and then led to victory. This scenario variant should have no definite date, no publicity, not even leaders, and the workers should agree among themselves in the workshops.
There can be many causes for a strike, for example - low wages, sharp deterioration in working conditions, but it definitely should not be just a day circled by a marker on the calendar.
A strike does not need to be announced - it is a phenomenon, not a prearranged scenario. Take, for example, the Minsk dairy plant: no announcements, no diligent preparation, but just civil solidarity, which surprised all the enterprises of the country.
On October 26, the day the national strike was announced, the whole country was waiting to see who would strike first. And it happened that because of the early shifts, it was Azot that started first.
I think we can consider many forms of strikes, but if in hot August, people would have set up tents in every square in Belarusian cities and demanded only one thing - Lukashenka's resignation, there would have been a better chance.