28 July 2021, Wednesday, 13:42
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Siarhei Dyleuski: The Junta Is Very Much Afraid Of Workers

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Siarhei Dyleuski: The Junta Is Very Much Afraid Of Workers
Siarhei Dyleuski
Photo: CHARTER97.ORG

Powerful interview of the worker-leader.

One of the leaders of the labor movement in Belarus, head of the strike committee of the Minsk Tractor Plant Siarhei Dyleuski became a guest of the Studio X97 program. Host - Yauhen Klimakin.

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- I’m thinking, what an irony of fate. Even last year, until August, until September, they did not know you, but today you are one of the leaders of the workers' resistance in Belarus. It turned out interestingly.

- Well yes.

- The New York Times even wrote about you. It called you a new political star of Belarus. I am very interested, when in your life came the moment of the birth of the opposition leader Siarhei Dyleuski? When you said to yourself: "I don’t care about the consequences, I don’t care about losing my job. There may be more serious consequences, but I can no longer put up with what is happening in my country." Was there such a moment?

- Yes, there was such a moment. From an ordinary person who sympathizes and disagrees with the regime, I turned into such an ardent oppositionist on the night of August 9-10. When we were simply destroyed at the Stele, when we were beaten at Niamiha - I saw this cruelty, this messed up thing that was going on, I realized for myself that this should not be so. In addition to the fact that we are destroyed at the workplace because the conditions are stagnant, we have injuries and deaths at workplaces, probably higher than in the whole of Europe.

- Combined.

- Combined, yes. Not only the salaries are so small, but we are also killed in our free time. This was a turning point for me. I realized then, just then, that I couldn't put up with it.

- How many years have you worked at the Minsk Tractor Plant?

- I first came to the Tractor Plant in 2006.

- At what age?

- I think, two months before the sixteenth birthday. It came to work part-time at the Tractor Factory during the summer holidays.

- As an ordinary worker?

- Yes, a simple worker. For production, at the lathe machine.

- As I recall, your whole family is some kind of dynasty. Everyone is somehow connected with MTZ.

- Yes, my father came to work at the Minsk Tractor Plant after the army. After graduation, my mother came to work at the Minsk Tractor Plant. Well, I grew up, graduated from the Machine-Building Lyceum, and went to work at the Tractor Plant.

- Are your parents still working or not?

- Parents have already finished their work at the moment. Their contracts are not renewed. My parents are pensioners. And the regime said that the parents of Siarhei Dyleuski should not work at the enterprise, so it was such a sting to them, let's say.

- The labor movement of Belarus now, at this moment. What is it? How does it look now?

- The labor movement of Belarus now is such a motley association of workers according to the guild principle, according to the geographical component. There are two officially announced associations - the "Rabochy Rukh" and the workers' association, which is called the Belarusian Association of Workers. Simply, these two organizations are engaged precisely in protecting the rights of workers, uniting workers. What I am talking about: according to the guild, the geography. There will always be a place for everyone who turns to our associations. These are people from completely different enterprises, from private businesses. We try and defend the rights of workers inside the country as much as we can. The number of these organizations, these associations are constantly growing.

- Last year, Siarhei, all the world mass media wrote: “Belarus,” “Revolution.” Photos were shown on information TV channels from morning till night. Then, there were a lot of publications that repressions and arrests were getting tougher. Where do you feel we are now, if we talk about the Belarusian revolution? What stage is it now?

- If we talk about the Belarusian revolution at the moment, then we are now in a position between the partisan movements and the pre-strike situation in the country.

- That is, this is such a calm before the storm.

- This is the calm before the storm. The Belarusian people finally realized that workers' rights are constantly being violated, working conditions are extremely difficult, disproportionately difficult compared to wages; wages are low, social rights and guarantees are not respected and not protected. And, against the backdrop of all this, Belarusians are preparing to defend their rights, defend their benefits through, perhaps, even a strike.

- I think that you did analyze the strikes in 2020.

- Yes, I did.

- What conclusion did you come to?

- I came to the conclusion that, in the fall of 2020, the strikes were ineffective because they were not prepared.

- What do you mean when you say “weren't prepared”? How should you prepare?

- Trivial things: stock up on food. A person who goes on strike should be aware that, first of all, when he goes on strike, he will need to feed his family with something. First of all, you can't rely on anyone. Our task, yes, is to help the striking people. But first aid must come directly from the person himself. A person should be ready to go on strike, financially try to close some of his moments related to utility bills, loans, and so on. A person must be as independent as possible from the state in order to start going on strike without harming his family.

- What is the mood among the workers now? Are there any fighters left?

- Yes. There are still a lot of people at the factories who are ready to take action. There are still more people left who doubt themselves and their abilities, who do not see options for going on strike. This is again because they are still financially dependent on the state. There are people left who are against the current government, against the lawlessness that is happening even in their workplaces, against the infringement of their rights, but they do not know how to overcome it all. We have to work on this.

- You, as a worker, should know what buttons of the soul, heart to push...

- To explain that it will only get worse in the future, really. If we don’t move, if we don’t do something, the situation that “my hut is on the edge, I’ll sit out” will no longer work. Now the situation is such that my hut is next. That is, if I try to sit out in this situation, then tomorrow I will have nothing to eat, my family will have nothing to eat, I will be laid off.

Now European, foreign, former cooperating companies refuse to work with Belarusian enterprises. Consequently, this already entails the dismissal of people. And even a person who does not show his active civic position in relation to the regime - is already in the risk zone. And this needs to be explained to people. Again, you need to try to convey to people that we, for our part, are here abroad, people who left Belarus, do not sit on the golden mountains either, picking our noses with our fingers. We, too, are working to help the protest within the country in the first place.

- By the way, is it true that you sleep three to four hours a day?

- Well, yes, it happens. I'm looking somewhere for a portal to a parallel universe to get me a few more hours of sleep. Because there is really a lot of work. Enormous, colossal work is being done. I already have a pretty good team of people from different countries of the world. We communicate on the Internet, we work together. And people are just like me - they sleep for about three-four hours a day. There is a catastrophic lack of time in the day to do everything planned.

- In mid-October 2020, you were forced to leave Belarus, fleeing repression. How do you make your living here? Car repairs, if I understand correctly?

- Yes, I am engaged in car repairs - mechanical parts, welding, a little paintwork. I do such things.

- Did you do repairs in Minsk too?

- Yes, I worked in the garage for more than 10 years. In parallel with the plant, I worked part-time there. In my garage, I was doing car repairs.

- How does your life look now? As far as I understand, the garage, repairs are just a small part of what you do, far from the main thing.

- Garage and repairs - this is the main thing I do, so as not to starve, roughly speaking, so that my family is in abundance, so that we have something to eat, so that we have a roof over our heads. And my main things life is a struggle. That is, I go to bed with plans, some projects that will bring us closer to victory and wake up with the same thoughts. We work with employees of state-owned enterprises of Belarus, stand up for everyone, work with legal justification, challenge the dismissal of employees of an enterprise. All my activity is connected with helping workers to defend their rights in the Republic of Belarus.

- What is the current situation at the factories of Belarus?

- It's horrifyingly simple. The rights to safe labor of workers are not respected. Banal sanitary and fire regulations are not followed. I even remember my places of work: when it rained, we, not thinking about ourselves, covered the machines with cellophane trying to save the equipment so that there were no short circuits. Instead of the management spending some time, some funds for the repair of the roof in the workshops - they bought us cellophane: fools, cover the machines. Nobody cared that we could get an electric shock, that it could kill us.

- This is so absurd.

- This is so absurd. I will repeat once again: there is a very high injury rate in production. You don't have to go far: as recently as last month, there were already two accidents, not even at my enterprise, at Belaruskali. One death and one serious injury. Within a month. This suggests that in the wake of protests, strikes in the fall - now this enterprise does not have enough manpower, but the management still forces understaffed brigades to descend into these mines. And people take on more workloads than they can handle, just to make some money for their families. And, from this, it turns out that one overlooked another - traumatism happens. This is a problem, but a person cannot complain, he has no one to complain to, independent trade unions in the country have been killed.

Let's be honest, admit it openly, that independent trade unions are dead, they were simply killed. The pro-government trade unions, the so-called ones, are not trade unions, they are the hangers-on of the junta, who do not decide anything at all. They don't stand up for workers' rights. They do not investigate any emergencies at the enterprise. It all boils down to the fact that if the employee, God forbid, died, then the employee is to blame for this. Always and everywhere. And our task is to fix this.

- But these hangers-on, whom you mentioned, and the management of the factories, do you think they sincerely support the regime? Or the wind will blow in the other direction - and it will be like in the film “The Wedding in Malinovka”: “the reds came - they took off the hat, the whites came - they changed the hat”?

- Here the situation is that, by and large, there are people who are left to “just hold on to retirement.” For their large mass, these people who work in pro-government trade unions are quite capable to go over to the side of the people when everything changes. As well as, in principle, any security structure, and the security sector, that is, the state structure, almost everyone is ready to go over to the side of the people, but there are also ideological ones.

- How did the strike at MTZ start last year?

- Like, probably, at all enterprises in Belarus. As such, there was no go-ahead, there was no Vasya Pupkin, who, in a snap of a finger, said: "Let's mobilize!" It turned out that people came to work and shared these emotions with their co-workers. The machines were simply standing, and people in smoking rooms gathered in some groups, communicated, shared what they saw, projected, passed all the information that was there. That is, people were in such a state of shock that no one approached the machine. This is how the strike began. People simply said: "How long will we tolerate this?" They just stopped and deliberately went to the central checkpoints.

- How did you become the leader of the strike committee?

- There were 23 of us on the strike committee of the Minsk Tractor Plant. We were chosen by people who were on strike at that time for a dialogue with the director. That is, with the general director of the plant, with the ideologist. Then the prime minister came. We had a planned conversation, which never took place. And I was nominated as a candidate, as a person who can speak for the workers, and they supported me.

- Admit it, did you want to?

- I kinda have social anxiety by nature. I do not like large crowds of people, it was not for me, but, at that time, maybe I was the meanest of all there. I was just a person who could speak. That is, I was not scared of either the head of my enterprise, or the workshop, or the plant. The prime minister arrived - I was not afraid to talk to him, I talked to him as I am now talking to you, absolutely on equal terms and from the position: "What are you doing? Stop it, you bastards!" I was not afraid to say this. This is probably why they saw some kind of leader in me. Many would remain silent, but I cannot remain silent.

- What was the internal motivation?

- Internal motivation was probably just to stop it.

- Lawlessness.

- Lawlessness, yes. Not to stop the plant. I never set the task of harming my enterprise, in fact. No matter how funny it sounds, I love my plant, I liked my job. I loved coming to work. It's a whole small world. But my task was to stop the lawlessness and violence. And, at that moment, I understood that the strike itself might worsen the economic situation at the enterprise, but for a while. But worsening the economic situation at the plant for a while, I can improve the political situation in the country forever.

- Before the interview, I asked you who is the most important opposition figure for you. And I heard in response: Mikalai Statkevich. Why exactly he?

- Probably because, in my ideological rhythm of life, I am very similar, perhaps, to Mikalai Statkevich. He has set a goal, and he adheres to his position, his goal to the end. Never once did this man change his shoes, no matter what repressions would take place against him, how long he was in administrative cases, how long he was in criminal cases. And now he is in jail. But he is in jail for the idea, he is firmly convinced that he is right. This is a person that everyone should probably look up to. He is confident in what he is doing. He is sure that his cause is right, and he is moving towards his goal.

- Siarhei, how can we, people at large, help Statkevich and other political prisoners?

- Probably the biggest help that can be for people who are now in prisons is publicity, publicity in front of the whole world that people are in prison because they do not agree with the current regime in the country. Mention them constantly on the agenda. These people should be heard of constantly. I am firmly convinced, I am firmly convinced that the more a person is heard of, the more secure he is. If they talk about Mikalai Statkevich, Siarhei Tsikhanouski, Pavel Seviarynets every day, these people will be much safer than when people are silent about them. That is, when the authorities understand that a person has left the agenda, people do not hear about him in the media - they will simply destroy him, this person will not be released from prison. The authorities are ready for this, and they will do it easily. And our main task is to keep these people on the agenda. It is very important for us to always talk about them.

- How do you assess Western sanctions? Are they needed or not, are they weak, tough, or should they be even tougher?

- Whatever one may say, sanctions are needed. In the situation that has developed in Belarus, sanctions are needed like air, but the sanctions that have been introduced now, at the moment, are like a drop in the ocean. That is, sanctions are needed more decisive, more effective, and sanctions are needed not even for people but for enterprises that need sanctions. The sanctions that are being introduced now are being effectively fought against, given to subsidiaries, some one-day firms, through resale, through third parties - they still continue to trade. Because no sanctions have been imposed on the company's products.

- Were you near the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant when Lukashenka was booed there?

- In fact, then I was nominated as a representative of the working class.

- There is a legend that supposedly dictators are absolutely cut off from the world, they do not know what is happening, and the advisers tell them that, in fact, everyone loves them, everyone respects them. And it seems to me that, at that moment and many other moments, he saw. There has already been such a head-on collision with the people, with the workers, when everyone chanted: "Go away! Go away!" Why didn't he leave? After all, then he already saw for sure that the people hated him.

- When they shouted in his face: "Go away!", he even had such a sincere misunderstanding. And not just misunderstanding and resentment, he had hatred for these people. Such people cannot remain in power. He just hates his people. He sees an enemy in everyone, he sees just some kind of usurper who wants to tear him apart, destroy him, and so on in everyone. By and large, nobody freaking needs him. People just want justice. People just want him and his associates to answer for their crimes. That's all. No more, no less.

- Is there forgiveness for him and his regime?

- There is no forgiveness for his regime. His regime must be held accountable for its actions.

- You were in Gdansk, met, I know, with Lech Walesa - a person who became a symbol of changes in Poland, when Poland was liberated from communism. What are the impressions?

- I read a little about Lech Walesa, found out. I know how iconic he is for Poland. For me, he seemed like a grandfather, but a very cheerful grandfather, an intelligent, educated person, despite the fact that he was a simple electrician at a shipyard in Gdansk. I learned a lot of interesting things from him, he gave me some instructions, instructions on what we can do in the 2020 situation in Belarus.

- And what did he advise? What were the recommendations to the Belarusian people?

- His first instruction was this, I will try to quote his words: "Nobody will ever let you register any organization officially. You must achieve everything yourself. You must stand up to death for the rights of every employee in your organization." These words, like a mantra, are constantly in my head now.

- While in Poland, do you feel the help of the Poles?

- Yes, colossal. And this is the help of both the Polish state, the European Union, and ordinary people, citizens of Poland. If we take all the diasporas of Belarus in the world, the help is simply enormous. They gave me such help.

- Can you tell me what happened?

- First, I can tell you about the Peace House and the Humanosh Foundation. Katerina and Petr Skopets are a married couple, they are just holy people, I cannot say otherwise, they are simply magnificent, wonderful people. They help Belarusians, thanks to them, the Peace House was opened in Warsaw - this is a shelter for Belarusians who have nowhere to go.

Personally, I faced a situation when I rented an apartment. The owner of the apartment, a Pole, who turned out to be a former member of Solidarity, is already deeply retired. When he found out who I am, what we were doing in Belarus, about our resistance in Belarus, he made very serious concessions on renting housing. That is, he rented me housing for 40 percent less. They help in every possible way with furniture, we have no problems if there is some difficult life situation in financial terms, that is, I may be a little late in paying for the apartment - for him, this is not a problem, he is completely imbued with the situation, he helps.

- I remembered a well-known quote from Ilf and Petrov: "Abroad will help us." Is it worth counting on abroad or should Belarusians rely only on themselves in some basic issues?

- Let's just say, abroad will help when we need it. We need it today - the foreign countries are helping us. But you need to understand that the most important help should be from a Belarusian to a Belarusian. This is exclusively our problem, our trouble. The European community, the world community helps us as best they can. But the main task - to cope with this misfortune - must be solved only by the Belarusians. We must stand up for the protection of our compatriots, our fellow citizens.

- How do you see yourself in the future? Do you want to return home, or is there a temptation to build a cozy nest in Poland and stay?

- Even though for a Belarusian, who has never been anywhere, this is the first foreign country in my life, I came here and see how much the standard of living is higher here, but I understand that it is personally within my power to create approximately the same standard of living in Belarus. ... Yes, sometimes such petty little thoughts visit me: "Why not give up everything?" But I throw these thoughts out and keep on fighting to get home. I have my suitcase packed - I always want to go home.

- I record many interviews dedicated to the current situation. And to the question of what will happen next, I often hear the answers that the logic of historical processes suggests that Lukashenka's days are numbered, and that there is no other way, that the intellect will always win the collective farm. But the most interesting thing in this whole story is when it will happen, how to speed it up, what needs to be done in order to finally overthrow the regime that is destroying its own people?

- I will probably repeat to very, very many others that the regime today itself is doing everything to self-destruct. Self-liquidation is in full swing. The regime itself has long ago driven itself into a corner, and now, like a hunted animal, it is trying to bite from all sides. Their terminals were cut down, they are absolutely inadequate. And to accelerate - only by fighting!

We understand very well that now only the emptying of Lukashenka's wallet can stop the regime. He must have nothing to pay his junta, his army. And the Belarusian people can, defending their rights, achieve this, precisely in economic terms.

According to article 41 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, everyone has the right to defend their economic rights and freedoms, even through a strike. This is spelled out in the Constitution. Every employee of a Belarusian enterprise has the right to defend his rights by means of a strike, namely economic rights. I also want to dispel the myth about independent trade unions in general, that trade unions have no right to declare a strike in Belarus. Trade unions in Belarus also have the right to declare the start of a strike, but the strike must be economic. That is why we say: fight for your rights, we will fight for your rights. Contact us - we will help you, we will defend your economic rights and freedoms. If you have faulty equipment - announce it, declare it.

Do not be silent! Stop being silent. If the Belarusians cease to be silent, we will be able to destroy this regime.

- Do you sacredly believe that the workers are the force that can stop the regime?

- I am sure that the workers are the very force that can stop the regime. If we move away from the topic, the AMAP or these subhumans from the GUBOPiK, they are not afraid of a woman with flowers or balloons, they are afraid of a hard worker who at any moment can get a 32 wrench from his pocket. The feeling of pain and fear are dulled among the working class. And in terms of some kind of resistance with the security forces - the junta is more afraid of the workers. Economically, the junta is very afraid of workers. Because as soon as the machines stop operating - the junta will have no money.

- You talk about it, but I remembered one of the interviews that was shown during marches and protests. And I remember the statement of one guy. When he was asked: "Why did you go out?" He says: "I looked at women's protests with flowers and, at some point, I felt ashamed: where are we, men?"

- I know from my own experience when I lost heart. When I got out of jail in September, I thought: "Maybe, let it all go to hell?" Well, the workers do not want to rise, well, they are afraid, intimidated, downtrodden. And then I find out, after a month of isolation, that my mother went to protests. I find out that my sister took part in these rallies. And I understand that they went out, and I, a big guy, will I sit at home now? I can't let it happen.

- The future of Belarus, how do you see it?

- I see Belarus of the future, first of all, as a free country for my children. I see this country in such a way that my child could freely go out into the streets and express his opinion on the economic, political, any other situation, and, at the same time, so that he would not be taken to prison, so that he would not be convicted under a made-up article for political reasons. I want to see my country free and that's it.