Labor leaders are actively preparing for a general Belarusian strike.
Natallia Radzina, editor-in-chief of Charter97.org, answered the questions of Daniil Konstantinov, a journalist of the Youtube channel Forum of Free Russia.
Here are excerpts from the interview. Watch the entire interview on video.
- A year ago, at this very time, the whole world watched with great interest what was happening in Belarus. A year has passed since these events, and now there seems to be a lull, a calm after the revolutionary storm. What do you think? Is it true, and what is going on in Belarus now?
- No, it is not, because the struggle continues. In August and September last year, we saw the first stage of the Belarusian revolution. Belarusians continue to move towards freedom. And both within the country and abroad, protests continue to take place today. In Belarus, they have now acquired a more partisan, underground character. But nevertheless, people do not submit, they continue to fight. And now we are actively preparing for a general Belarusian strike.
- The strike. I understand that you are guided more by the Polish experience? I am referring to the experience of Solidarity and its actions against the Communist regime.
- Including the Polish experience, the experience of Solidarity. The only difference is that workers' leaders are talking about it now. First of all, the workers of enterprises are called upon to prepare for a strike.
What does preparation involve? Naturally, it is necessary to collect a certain amount of funds so that a person and his family have everything they need for a month, including a certain amount of food, as well as money.
A separate appeal is addressing the businessmen and entrepreneurs: just close your enterprises, go on vacation. Each of you can do it. No sanctions can be imposed against you if you do so. It turns out such a two-sided tactic: the business goes on vacation, and the workers stay at home.
- The fact is that we already heard the call for a strike last year. This call sounded from the lips of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who once announced that a strike would be held, but, as we saw, a large-scale strike never happened. What is the difference between what is happening now and then?
- You probably mean the so-called "People's Ultimatum." But it was announced a month in advance and, as far as I know, no serious work was carried out in connection with this ultimatum.
The situation here is fundamentally different since preparations have already been underway for several months and will continue. There was too little time then, it was a premature initiative, such a false start. Moreover, the necessary work was not carried out.
In this case, the strike is declared by workers' leaders, people who know about the situation at their enterprises, who know what to do, who have people at each enterprise.
Moreover, now we have sanctions that have a very significant impact on the economic situation in the country, including on the work of enterprises. We know that workers have already started to be fired, and wages have begun to be cut. Enterprises are also experiencing serious problems with the sale of products. There are already not enough components. Even at Belaruskali, now part of the workers were sent to 2/3 of the working rate. I know that this is like a snowball, it will grow, these problems will seriously worsen.
- How does a strike affect the regime in general? Where is the connection between the actions of the strikers and the actions of the regime?
- First of all, it affects the entire economy. If the enterprise stops, accordingly, all trade chains, the entire production cycle are interrupted, problems begin with all contracts for the supply of products. And it will certainly have an impact.
It must also be said that the authorities are not in a position to fire all workers, for example, in the event of a strike, because there will be no one to work. A worker is a specialist. And replacing a specialist at an enterprise is not as easy as it seems.
For example, last year, when the authorities tried to fire workers due to protests in factories and sent so-called strikebreakers in their place, problems immediately arose. In particular, a worker at one of the enterprises simply died because he did not know and did not understand how this equipment works.
Therefore, this is not an easy situation. A strike is a real move, a real action that can affect the regime. And I am convinced that the strikes will be followed by new protests.
- Well, what if Russia cannot help out the Lukashenka regime in this case? Say, prepare some cadres and send them out.
- I do not think so. They can, of course, send propagandists to Belarusian television, as they did in August last year when BT journalists began to leave en masse. But they are not able to replace such a number of workers at Belarusian enterprises, because they need to know the specifics of production and equipment. I don’t think it’s not realistic.
- If we are talking about the economic situation in Belarus: sanctions have already been introduced. Do they work somehow? Please tell us what these sanctions are and how do they affect?
- At last, economic sanctions have been introduced against the Lukashenka regime. We have been striving for this for many years. And fortunately, they have finally been introduced.
Of course, they should have been introduced even earlier. We said that it was the economic sanctions in September-October that could have stopped the regime, and there would not be so many people in prisons today, and there would be no such repression.
Fortunately, they were introduced already in May, and this happened after Lukashenka hijacked the plane. Now we have sanctions against oil refining, against Belaruskali, against several Lukashenka's oligarchs. Unfortunately, now they are not working in full force because some contracts that were signed before the imposition of sanctions continue to operate. Also, sanctions were introduced against the range and goods that are not produced by the same Belaruskali.
But these are the mistakes that I hope will be fixed. And when economic sanctions start working in full force, Lukashenka's regime will be dealt a crushing blow. But even in the form in which they exist now, the sanctions have already significantly hit the regime, we can see this in Lukashenka's tantrums, we can see this in the hybrid war that he staged today against Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland, sending emigrants to these countries... But in the end, he provoked a new wave of sanctions against himself. Because today Lithuania, Poland, and Latvia insist on the introduction of new sanctions against the Lukashenka regime, and we know that they will be introduced as soon as the vacations in Europe are over.
- You mentioned the migration crisis, which actually provoked Lukashenka. But we know about it from here, on this side of the border fence. We see what's going on here. Do you know how this migration crisis is organized on the other side?
- Just the Dossier Center conducted an investigation. And they told that the Belarusian state enterprise TsenterKurort invites people from Iraq, Afghanistan to come officially to Belarus - we have direct flights. They arrive in Minsk, and then, judging by the videos that were filmed by the Lithuanian border guards and bloggers, people are brought directly to the border, the Belarusian border guards drop them off and send them to Lithuania.
- And now it all continues or has it calmed down?
- Now it continues, sometimes it calms down, but yesterday again, 150 migrants tried to enter Lithuania from the territory of Belarus. Then again, you need to understand that, in addition to ordinary simple deceived people, among these migrants who are sent from Belarus to Europe, there are also representatives of terrorist organizations.
- And what is happening inside Belarus itself?
- The fact is that now any political or public structure in Belarus is actually banned.
In this case, people are simply forced to work underground. Plus, today centers have been formed abroad, which are already working openly, not only with international structures but also with Belarusians.
The so-called Belarusian courtyards also continue to operate - this is our phenomenon, when people united in courtyards and held actions, went out together on marches. I know that these people also continue to act, continue to work, but, of course, now exclusively in the underground.
- As far as I understand, the point in these actions is the dispersion of the police forces.
- Of course. When I see these actions, I can imagine how much effort was used to remove even the same white-red-white flags that people hang high, even on electrical wires or on trees. That is, both the police and the Ministry of Emergency Situations are involved. Therefore, a huge amount of money is spent on this.
There is a huge number of police patrols in Minsk today. If before they walked in groups of two or three, now they are already walking in groups of six. Just imagine what salaries must be, how much money is spent on this. And the Lukashenka regime is already experiencing serious economic problems. That's why this fear is draining him even more. All this terror that he is staging strikes him personally. Do you understand?
- And the budget has to be increased, as I understand it?
- Of course. Of course, all this requires a huge amount of money, which Lukashenka does not have today, which Russia does not give him today, Western loans are closed for him, the external debt is huge.
The situation in the country in this regard is catastrophic, as wages continue to fall. In salary regions, I recently looked at offers for $ 100. These are salaries in the region. It is given that the price level is comparable to that of Lithuania, and several goods, for example, in Poland, are cheaper than in Belarus.
- But in a sense, it turns out that Lukashenka is digging his own grave. These terrible crackdowns, the illegitimacy of the elections, the landing of an aircraft, the threat of interrupting Russian-European transit, and the like. It turns out that he is doing everything to bring his end closer.
- Absolutely right. He is digging his own grave.
- That is, it suggests that he does not quite adequately perceive reality?
- He never adequately perceived reality, and 2020 finally shook his already not very healthy psyche. And now he is really doing everything in order to hasten his fall. And this makes me very happy.