What will be the trigger?
One of the leaders of the Minsk Tractor Plant (MTP) strike committee Siarhei Dyleuski talked to Charter97.org about the situation at the enterprises and preparations for a new wave of strikes.
- Many Belarusians remember the famous "video of the era" of August 14, 2020. A bearded man in a red T-shirt read out the demands of the MTP strikers, the first of which was to dismiss Lukashenka. And then there was the march of thousands of workers to Independence Square. Do you remember the energy of those days?
- Of course, I do. That energy gives strength to continue the fight today. Everyone believed that the regime would fall that day or the next day.
- You once said that the first time you were on strike in 1991. Your father held you in his arms. Are you a descendant of the strike movement?
- You could say that, but you should understand that in the early 1990s every working man was on strike in one way or another. The whole working class was on strike then, families came with their children.
- Being outside of Belarus, you actively appear in video blogs and keep in touch with the labour movement in the country. What is the situation at MTP today? What sentiments do your fellow factory workers and workers at other factories in Belarus have?
- People are as indignant as they were at the time of the mass rallies and strikes - the brutality of the regime and the fact that they have been deceived once again in the election.
The situation in the factories is quite tense. On the one hand, people are being laid off. This junta does not forget anything. That is, the working people are the people who hurt it, and it remembers all the strikes since August. People are being kicked out. People are a little confused now. That's why we set our goals to give people confidence that we are on the right track and doing important and necessary things.
- Many people now use metaphors: "the fire in the peat bog," "it smoulders under the feet of the authorities," "the protest has turned into a guerrilla war". How do you see the situation with the all-Belarusian protest?
- I fully agree with the expression "the fire in a peat bog". Today, hotbeds of protest are periodically erupting in one or another part of our country. The protests have neither stopped nor "deflated". They have evolved into a more organized and coordinated underground structure.
We have achieved something that we missed in August: cohesion among all segments of the population. Everyone has realized the degree of influence on the situation and does what one can do. People are doing their job to ensure that this regime falls.
- Are these people ready to resume protests and strikes?
- As in the rest of the country, underground activism has remained in all enterprises and spheres.
It applies not only to factories but teachers and doctors, and, as unexpected as it may sound, even in the ranks of the internal troops there are guerrilla units.
At the moment, we are well aware that isolated strikes will not result in anything good. That's why we are preparing people for a mass strike on the same day. We do not set dates; people have to do it themselves.
The strike will begin when people are ready for it.
- What should happen for workers to mobilize as they did in August 2020?
- There has to be an understanding that it is really necessary. A very important factor is coherent support within countries and even from other countries and diasporas.
I think the main trigger will be the regime itself; it is actively driving people into a strike from an economic point of view.
- What were the main results of the Nationwide Strike? What has been achieved?
- We managed to achieve teamwork, economic sanctions against the regime and the moustached cockroach, and the fact that the whole world heard us and listened to us. We also got great publicity inside the country.
If you remember, the authorities wanted to take away a boy from his family in Zhodino. The state tried to part them because people disagreed with the regime. The joint efforts of the majority of Belarusians made it possible for the family to remain united.
Such steps matter the most; they show our coherence and unity.
- Any respite is an opportunity to draw conclusions, gain experience, learn something new to apply in practice. Are the methods of struggle of workers against the regime evolving now? Are the Belarusians ready to use the achievements of the strikes that were a success?
- Types of struggle are constantly evolving.
As far as we can see, the situation in our country is unique. The unique nature is that the Belarusians are not very typical people; we invent a new response to any action of the regime.
We are constantly gaining experience, looking at the experience of European countries where the situation was more or less similar. We are constantly improving our skills. Good or bad, it's still experience.
Frankly speaking, we have made conclusions of the failed strike in August and move forward.
- What do you think about "occupation strikes," which were used by Polish workers during Solidarity?
- These types of strikes are the most effective because no law enforcer or riot police can know the structural units and the technological processes of an enterprise as good as a worker of that enterprise knows them. However, everything depends on the cohesion of the collective.
- What are the tasks of the workers' movement now? What are the regime's main weak points?
- First of all, it's the economy.
Secondly, people have already united and are working on themselves, so the power sector is another important direction. We can affect the power sector by mass agitation work. We can get the security forces on our side. We can do that.
- The USA renewed sanctions against nine petrochemical enterprises. After that, Naftan practically lost Russian oil; the supplies of raw materials to Belarus from the Russian Federation will be reduced 2.2 times. What will be the consequences?
- The volume of exports and domestic use directly depends on the number of supplies. Such sanctions could bring Naftan to a complete standstill.
It will be good for us as the government will do everything to make people go on strike. It will cause cut jobs, layoffs, unjustified idle time, people will have to go on unpaid vacation. Dissatisfaction will grow, and it will lead to obvious consequences.
- Will the consequences of economic sanctions become an additional reason for Belarusian workers to go on strike? Should Western leaders impose them on a larger scale and more decisively?
- Yes, we should understand that sanctions are a strong blow to the junta. The more massive and larger the sanctions are, the harder the blow to Lukashenka's wallet will be.
It has been confirmed many times. A dictator will be in power until he has something to support his army. As soon as he cannot do it, the power bloc goes against the dictator.
The more economic sanctions, the better. As strange as it may sound, we are now in a situation when the worse the economic situation, the better.
- What are the prospects for workers' strikes in Belarus? What should workers do to bring the Belarusian people's victory over the regime closer?
- Go on strike. As of today, to prepare for strikes. The time will come when the workers decide on the day for a general strike. They will overcome their fears and economic disadvantages.
The working class should realize that the sooner it takes things into its hands, the sooner it will end.
- How and when will our victory be possible?
- When we stop everything. Moreover, if the Belarusians rise and go on strike, it will mean one thing - the people have power in their hands. Then they will be able to solve absolutely any problem.