A-Radio interview with anarchist comrade about the rebellion in Belarus [radio podcast and full transcript]
Anarchistisches Radio Berlin (A-Radio Berlin) conducted an interview about Belarus with a comrade from there (on August 31, 2020). Here is the audio link (56¼ mins): https://www.aradio-berlin.org/belarus-rebellion-against-dictatorship/ or you can play from here (in English after a short intro to the internet radio station in German) …
(A) is A-Radio Berlin and (B) is the anarchist comrade from Belarus:
A1: As the Anarchist Radio Berlin we are happy to present the following interview with someone from Belarus about the current situation in the country. This interview took place on the 31st of August, 2020. All and any links mentioned are listed on the blog entry of this audio on our website, aradio-berlin.org.
We’re having a talk with someone from Belarus to get some insights into what is going on in the struggle there in the country. First, would you like to introduce you in some way that is comfortable for you, maybe there are any associations you want to mention, or maybe you want to mention where you’re located or what your political leanings are.
B1: You can call me Mannia, and I am an anarchist, I live in Minsk, and probably I wouldn’t like to identify publicly with any of the initiatives that exist there, but I think that my affiliation would more or less tell you what my political ideas are.
A2: For people who are not familiar at all with the general situation in Belarus, could you, to start out, give a short introduction on what has been the status quo before August, and what’s been happening since, or, in the last couple of weeks?
B2: Right, so, we have the presidential democracy, so to say, so there was no real elementary structure, so it means that the president is head of the country and he rules the state and his decrees can overrule the laws that are just signed by the members of the parliament, and in this parliament there are no opposition members at all. So it means that basically he has all the powers, including he is controlling the judiciary, the police of course, and all branches of the authority. The country is very centralised, so we don’t have any, so cities or municipalities do not have their own rights or something like this. Basically everything has been, what they have to do has been told from the centre, from minsk. And Lukashenko is the president. He came to power in 1994, just closely after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and he created this strong, authority over the years, so he first changed the constitution which allowed him to be, to run for the president unlimited number of times, so now it’s his sixth term in power, and he has been in power for 26 years. And, eh, basically, this time the election took place in August this year, and this time he again allegedly won the elections, so he got more than 80% of the vote, I think that this is even, it looks like one of the biggest rates of him, because previously he could have had 78 or something like that. And most of the elections, apart from the first one, where he was actually elected democratically, and most people actually supported him, all the further elections were not recognised by the international community as legitimate. So the only countries that recognised it were Russia and some other Eastern authoritarian regimes. So basically this year it happened the same, nobody was thinking that he would be giving away his power, but unlike all the last times, the population started to revolt against it.
A3: Can you describe a bit more in detail the character of the revolt? Because for example in Germany we see the mass media talking about peaceful protests of tens of thousands of people, but yeah, maybe we can go into the character of the revolt. What are all the different types of things that happened?
B3: Right, I think to start with we should remember a little bit before the elections, because this electoral campaign was very much different from all the previous ones, because for the first time, also by coincidence I think, most of the systemic opposition, like the opposition that has been there for years and actually is quite marginalised, and it really doesn’t, it cannot canvas so much people, it cannot attract followers, so it wouldn’t even, I think if they participated in the elections this year the elections might have been going on like always, but unlike all the other times, most of these people were arrested even before they could get registered, so they were arrested for minor crimes, and they were put in jail and most of them are still in jail, but suddenly there were about eleven candidates that wanted to run for candidacy, including different bankers, business men, people who are managing the IT sector within the country, and there was also one person from the opposition, but he would not be the party member but rather a person who would have his own blog or a youtube vlog, so he was actually quite popular and maybe quite active on social networks. So, in the end there were three main candidates that got many signatures, this was that blogger, then there was a very rich banker, and another one was a former manager of the IT sector.
So, basically these people were a little bit from different strata of society, but all of them were quite neoliberal, mostly pro-European, but not necessarily totally anti-Russian. Like usually the opposition in our country is very anti-Russian. And these people were like, they were not able to actually say anything, what they wanted, because they were all, one by one, put in jail, on different crimes. The two people were put in jail, and the other one was not registered. And so it created, because these people were not from the opposition, so they got quite a lot of followers, because there were people who would support them from the IT sector, there were a lot of petit bourgeois, many people from the simple population would also support, because they saw that suddenly there is a face that is not necessarily conservative, like many opposition leaders from before, and that these people looked like they could change something, and many of these people used to be, they used to occupy some diplomatic positions before, so they looked like they could run the country. And basically what happened is that Lukashenko started his usual tactics, he started just repressing everybody. And before he used to do it after the elections and now he just started doing it two months before. And it created, unlike all other times, it created a lot of protest, so people started silently basically protesting, so there were no mass actions before the actions. People started protesting the detentions, protesting the arrests of their candidates, people started queuing for example, this protest is very legalistic, so people were trying to fight the authorities with a lot of complaints, with a lot of petitions, with a lot of applications, and a lot of citizens groups were rallying and so on, and of course they were all getting rejected. It looked like people, for the first time, they started understanding that most of the elections are falsified, so a lot of new intitiaveis were created for people who would like to observe the elections,m who would like to count the votes, and of course all of them were not registered, like the other times, but for so many people it looked like it was the first time that they opened their eyes and saw that they lived in a country that doesn’t give a fuck about even their right to vote.
And what happened next is that because all the three candidates were either arrested or not registered, a wife of one of them decided to register herself instead of her husband, and two other women, a wife of another one and a third woman was a member of the, she was an agent of this third candidate, so she was in his team. And basically they formed this kind of, three-women picture, so to say. So they united their teams and they said, ok, we are not running for anything, but just for new, fair elections. So, eh, this woman who got registration as a candidate, she said, I’m not going to be the president if you vote for me, but you should vote for me if you want, for me to be elected, I will later hold other elections, and we will set all the political prisoners free, and afterwards we can start a new political process. And in her programme she only had five simple points, so she didn’t promise anything, she didn’t say I’m gonna change your life and so on, she just said, first, new elections, second, set free all the prisoners, third, something something something. And I think this was what actually attracted people, because for the first time it was not the professional politician, or not somebody who wanted to tell them how cool their life is gonna be if they elect her. Also this women face who is very simple, who just said ok, I’m here only because of my husband, and also because the three teams of the most popular candidates united, so it attracted a lot of people, and they actually started campaigning, and they went all around the country, and people all around the country supported them. But of course the election was falsified and she only got 10% of the vote. And because she got this campaign so popular, people saw that there was a lot, that it’s not 10%, and people saw with their own eyes that the elections were falsified, the observers were not allowed to see the results and so on. So for the first time many people saw that their votes were stolen, and so I think this is why the protests started. And usually the protest goes on, after every election in Belarus the protest goes on one evening, everyone gets detained, and then the next day maybe one hundred people come out to the street, and then it’s over. And I also thought it’s gonna be the same this time but it looks like not anymore. And what happens now is that first day the police decided to choose very weird tactics, maybe for the listeners from Europe I will have to describe the difference in police tactics which is used in Belarus and what I saw in Europe. So for example when there is a riot or let’s say a riot, or maybe not a riot but just a mass protest, what the police in Europe does is disperse the crowd. So they’re not openly wanting to beat up anyone or detain anyone. They just want the crowd to be dispersed, to leave, to get away from the square and then just go home. What happens in Belarus is that they’re not dispersing the crowd, they want to detain as many people as possible, and beat them up on the way. And this usually works very well in Belarus. Because nobody wants to get beaten up or detained, so everyone just runs away. Suddenly, on the 9th of August, they decided to use another tactic, they decided to use the tactics of Europe, so they brought all the water canons, all the smoke grenades, all the shock grenades, and so on. And even though the people did not attack them, they started attacking the crowd, and they got many people wounded, they got many people wounded or injured with rubber bullets where the grenades, and so on. And then, they also detained, I think, on the first day they detained a lot of people, manybe four thousand in the whole country. And all these people were severely beaten up by the cops, later when they were in jail. And the next day after people saw that the reaction of the police was not something that they were expecting, like they were actually from the very beginning a peaceful protest, and nobody wanted to attack the cops. In the country there is a very widespread slogan, they are shouting ‘the police is with the people,’ which I hate, but a lot of people shouted it in the first days. Luckily they are not shouting it anymore, because they saw that, no, the police is not on their side, they are not going to be on their side ever, they are on the side of this one person who is paying them money. And also they’re going to beat up many many people. And I think more than one thousand people got very much beaten up, with bruises all over the body, and basically when they came out of prison people were shocked from all the photos, all the pictures, and so on. And I think it was for the first time, that simple people, that were not, never engaged in politics, they saw that, what the fuck is happening in this country. And many people who would be, maybe taking no sides, maybe sitting at home, and saying ok, I don’t give a fuck, this is not something I should be caring about, when they saw these atrocities, they decided that, no, we’re not going to sit anymore, this is horrible, and this person should not be there. So now, the demands of the protestors are only two; to set free all the political prisoners, and there are a lot more people who are becoming prisoners, because cops are starting criminal cases against everyone who is detained, for example, or who is wounded, so they are accusing everyone who is detained of mass riots, or organising mass riots, or participating, or attacking the cops, or so on. So I think now there are more than two hundred people who have criminal cases started against them, and there are more and more every day, because all over the country the protests are going on, and it’s very different in different cities, so in some cities it’s quite peaceful, in other cities people are more active I would say, so if cops are attacking they are attacking back. So basically what is new about this protest in that they are decentralised. I mean, usually the protest is happening only in Minsk, and this time it’s happening all over the place, even in smaller villages. And this is very much encouraged, by the former, by the candidates, and by these organised teams, but also by the people themselves, so now people started marching from the sleeping, residential areas themselves, rather than just going one by one. So they are getting into groups, they are hanging out in the places where they live, and they then go together, and this happens in every city, so it doesn’t let the authorities put all the police in every city and cut down the protests. So the police have to be everywhere to control everything, and they can’t, because there are not many police. So they started using also the army, and terrorist units, and so on.
A4: Do you think that the Corona crisis, and the last months of economic stress also had some, were some kind of driving force behind this, or is it something that you really don’t see having much effect?
B4: Everybody is talking about this as one of the factors, but I am not an analyst so much, but I can say that it actually played a role, because unlike in Europe, Lukashenko decided not to impose any limitations, we didn’t have any lockdown, or even y quarantine, anywhere, so there were no general call for wearing masks, there were no general call for stopping working, or trying to work from home for example, so because Lukashenko decided to save the economy instead of saving people. Myself for example, I didn’t like the measures that were introduced in Moscow, where people couldn’t leave home without a special pass, which allowed them to control everybody who lived somewhere and so on, so I wouldn’t like to be in the situation where I have to give away my address to cops. So I’m actually fine with how Lukashenko handled the Coronavirus, but of course he handled it, like the state in general didn’t work well, so they didn’t give the doctors and the medical staff all the equipment, so most of the equipment was bought by the people. There is two different sides of the coin; first, people were dissatisfied with how he reacted, so people wanted him to take more stricter measures, which he didn’t, and he was actually saying that Coronavirus is not something we should care about so much, it’s this psycho shit so we don’t have to care. So people said, ok, you don’t care about our lives, what the fuck? And another thing is that people saw that there is a lot of support necessary for the medics, and the state didn’t provide them with anything. So what started happening is that people started forming initiatives and groups of producing equipment, of buying equipment, or transporting equipment and so on. So already then there was a big wave of self-organisation happening. So I think this was something that started the process of self-organising, and also of dissatisfaction with the politics. ANd also we should understand that although he wanted to save the economy, the economy was in crisis, because a lot of people lost their jobs, because a lot of businesses had to cut down on expenses, or cut down workers, so many people lost their jobs, especially those who work in the restaurants, and everything that is connected with foods, or mass entertainment places, where people stopped going there so much. So I think that because many people were already in a critical situation, and the state didn’t actually offer any support to these people. They were just saying, if you are going to fire people because of the Coronavirus, we’re going to punish those businesses, but of course you as a worker are not protected at all. And this was also something that people did not like, and already then the Belarussian currency devalued a lot. So I think that this all is a process of, like it’s one process but it’s just different stages I would say.
A5: Ok. And like, other uprisings, or rebellions, or protest movements, for example in Ukraine, but also in something like the yellow vests. There was and sometimes still is the threat of right wing or even fascist groups taking part in the mobilising, and maybe even they manage to take over some part of the movement. And I’m wondering if you see any signs of something similar happening in Belarus too at the moment, or what are your views on this issue?
B5: Well, I think the difference between us and the countries you mentioned, or the movements, is that in Belarus, fortunately or unfortunately, there are no movements possible. He cut down on both. The leftists, the centrists, the right wingers. So he doesn’t create anything that could be a threat to his authority. I mean, from the parties that are registered, of course, there are a lot of conservative ones, but they are so marginal, I mean they have maybe one hundred members, they are not influential at all. And if we speak about the street groups, the people who would be more like these neo nazis, over time they all got into football hooliganism, so there was an anti-fascist football hooligans, and also right wingers. But both groups were dispersed in the last five years. So it means that these people were not, they could not make any political agenda, and they didn’t want, it was fine for them to just fight each other. But I can imagine that if there is this vacuum of power, you know, if there is a space where people could potentially rise up, or raise their heads, I could expect that there could be people who might be forming a union or… I would say that the general, domestic right wing views, are quite widespread in Belarus, like homophobic views, or people who don’t like anybody who is not Slav, you know, so i would say that many young people would support such ideas if there would be a movement like that, and this is actually scary. But, the thing is that for the moment, in this protest, which is also something nice I think, no group, no political group controls it, or organises it. And in all of the protests you would not see any flag, any symbol, anything that belongs to some organised group. So, if you see pictures where people are waving these flags, like red-white flags, this is only because this flag was used all these years by the opposition, so now people just start using it because the symbol existed. But it doesn’t mean that they support any of the parties with a nationalist idea. This protest is not at all about nationalism or patriotism, so people are just using symbols that are already there. So if you go and visit the protests people would even have the same slogans that I have heard for the last fifteen years, that usually belongs to the opposition, but just because people don’t have the culture of protest, they use the old stuff. It’s interesting that people are trying to copy and paste something that already existed, and transform it maybe into something different. But like I say, I haven’t seen anyone who would try to work as a group. I know that the right wing hooligans, like the anti-fascist hooligans, participate in the protest, but for the moment they’re not pushing any of their agenda. So, I heard even that there was some collaboration between people from different factions, on fighting the cops. Like, that they were saying, ok, we would not fight each other in the streets, because we are now all together against the regime. So for the moment it looks like everybody has the consensus that Lukashenko has to resign, political prisoners, wherever they are, should be out. And that’s it. And that’s something that everybody supports, and nobody pushes any other agenda.
A6: I understand. Do you have any ideas on what the anarchist movement in Belarus can play at the moment in the situation?
B6: Yeah, I participated in the protest, just like other anarchists, and for us it was also not the easiest times, because actually nobody is ever prepared for anything like that, or for the uprising. I think many people didn’t believe that something like this happens. People were preparing for maybe one, two days of protest, and the protests are continuing. And I think it’s not so easy for the people who are not used to every day protest, which is very decentralised and which is very self-organised. And it looks like what you discuss in the morning, and you plan for something in the evening, it becomes outdated in two hours, just because something else happens, and people decided to go there. Or you’re bringing a loud speaker because you want to use it, because you think there’s going to be space where people are going to stand and listen to you, and then it becomes a walking protest, and you can not really talk because you have to walk and march and so on. And then the other time you bring one type of leaflet and it’s not the topic anymore. So, for me it looks like, and I think it’s not only for the anarchists but for all people, like you come and it looks like you are chasing the train that is always two steps behind you. And on the one hand it’s kind of nice because it’s good that people are organising very fast and spontaneously, but on the other hand it’s difficult to plan strategically, or to plan something deeper than what is happening, plus it’s not really possible for now to promote the agenda that is creating the new future. Because still we are stuck in the past, and it looks like first we have to make Lukashenko resign, and then starting the talk about what we could do next, or how we could organise next, how we could, maybe we should not stick to representative democracy anymore. So, what anarchists are doing, and you should know that anarchists are not any big or popular movement in the country, but people tried to organise in different cities, mostly in the Western part of Belarus. What we’re doing is either we’re going, we also decided that in most times we’re not participating with our symbols, so for us it’s important to pass on our ideas and not the identity, so it looks like when you are playing a simple protestor, people are much more friendly to you, rather than when you are deciding to promote your identity and also some programme and so on. So what we tried to do is that we tried to spread thousands of leaflets on different subjects. So for example when the rhetoric of the protest changed to this peaceful protest, people started saying that people who are building barricades, or people who are fighting back the cops, are provocateurs, and we should search all people who wear masks and so on. So we spread a lot of leaflets about the fact that all tactics of protest should be welcome and people should choose what they want, and that we should not give flowers to the cops who beat up our people tomorrow. And people actually supported us, because this peaceful protest thing is something that is advertised, but it doesn’t mean that it is supported by everyone. So everyone is talking about peaceful, peaceful, peaceful, but over time people are understanding that just standing in the streets every day is just something that makes you tired, and not really making you achieve anything, and I think this is, people need time to get to this point, you know. And eh, another thing is that we tried to go and visit the workers protests, to spread leaflets about ho to organise the strike, or how to organise the strike committee, and the fact that they can not only ask for resignation of the president, but also try to ask for something that would improve their conditions,and so on. We also reacted to the thing about the violence, because people are all the time saying, stop the violence, and they think that violence is just when cops are beating you up, but we tried to promote the idea that violence is the state, you know, violence is not just when you are getting beaten up, but when you are deprived of the authority to decide on your life and so on. So this monopoly of violence was one of the leaflets that we spread. Also there is an anarchist cooperative for printing that said that there would be printing for free, all the materials that are printed for the strikes, or banners, and so on. So they tried to support it in this way. So basically for the moment it’s not so much we can do, because, like I said, when you are forty people in a crowd of 300,000, you can not do much, you can not influence many people, but at least you can influence a thousand, two thousand? And so on. We are trying to be creative, we are producing, like, a leaflet every two days, because all our leaflets become outdated tomorrow. Because the protest is changing so fast, and what the rhetoric behind the protest is is changing. So we are trying to keep up, which is not always possible. And of course there are also structures like the anarchist black cross, who are supporting anarchists who are repressed. And the other day I read that there were more than fifty people, including anarchists and anti-fascists, detained over this time, and people served two hundred days altogether, behind bars. And two people are now charged with the criminal article of organising mass riots. And today I read the information that they were actually tortured. One of them for sure was tortured with the electric shocker, just like in Russia. So it looks like our special services are taking after the Russian brothers.
A7: I’m really sorry to hear that. I was also wondering, because you mentioned the leaflets, and printing of other materials, are there other alternative media or communication channels that you see that are being used now? Is there maybe also something like Telegram or digital media that plays some kind of role for the protest?
B7: Yes, Telegram is very influential, and I think it’s influential both in the way of coordinating, because like I said the protests became very decentralised, so there are hun dreads of chats; chats of medics, chats of teachers, chats of sports athletes and so on. And also local chats, like in the residential districts, when people are coordinating if they are going to go to make a protest, if they want to do this or that. Of course it’s also flooded with different possible undercover police who are following it, but on the other hand it’s better than nothing, where people could coordinate. But at the same time there’s other channels, Telegram channels, that were already influential before the elections, and they have become, I think, the audience grew, five times, I think, from the 9th of August. And Lukashenko tried to banish the Telegram channels, and tried to switch off the internet for three days, but it didn’t really work, so people used VPN and Tor, and I think now he started to block basically the websites of one hundred independent media and basically now everyone is using VPN, which is very good, because anarchist websites have been blocked for, I think three years now, so it’s good that now everyone knows how to access them as well, because they need to access other things. One problem with these Telegram chats, Telegram channels, is that the most essential one is created and it’s run by one or two people who live abroad, and they are Belarussians, and we know who is behind them because these people were de-anonymised by the police, and basically the problem with it is that it’s actually something that is coordinating the protest, so basically what he’s doing is that he says, ok, tomorrow the plan is like that. And of course it’s important, because two million people () to this guy, and it’s important that two million people would be informed where people are going to meet. But what it means is that this person is actually controlling the audience, in a way that no other channel can be so influential in calling for the protest. So for example if I would like to create something else, if I want people to hear me, I have to contact that guy and ask him to post it. Which, he was doing actually, so whenever there is a protest you can always send the information to him, like if you are a teacher and you are creating a protest of teachers, he is publishing it and saying, hey, come to support, or there was also the women’s march the other day, and of course it was not initiated by that guy, but I’m sure the women who organised it just sent the information over to him. But what I’m saying is that it’s very dangerous when a few people are controlling the big segment of the audience. It means that if tomorrow they would not like to publish something, this is not reaching people. But one other big plus, for the protest, because they have this channel, in Belarus it’s of course, like in other countries, it’s forbidden to call for even the peaceful protests. They have to be authorised by the local authorities and so on and so on, so everything that happens now in the city is illegal basically. So if you’re in media, if you’re registered media, you can not actually say, you can not write, tomorrow there’s going to be a protest at this time, because you’re going to be shut down, because you’re media, and you’re calling for an illegal activity. The same is true for these three women, the candidates that I was talking about, the united teams of the electoral campaigns. They were in no way calling people to protest. They were all the time saying, we believe that people are going to decide which way they are going to protect their votes, and whatever way they take, is good for them. So they were not saying, hey, after the elections you should come and protest, they were just saying, you should just say what you’re going to do about it. And everybody knew that it’s about protest, right? So they were not calling for any protests, because it’s illegal to call for that, but they were for sure in contact with that guy, from abroad, who does not care about legality because he cannot be punished. So in this way they were playing that kind of game, that the person who cannot be punished can say it, and he has the channel of two million people. While the campaign team is keeping face and saying, hey, we didn’t call for anything, and so on. So on one hand it’s dangerous, and on the other hand it could be used, used to overcome the laws, which are suppressing mass gatherings.
A8: Also something that came up in the mass media, was that Russia or Putin has, or is now providing more cops, or is ready to provide more cops, and what role do you think the threat of any kind of Russian intervention, because it could also be much more than just more cops, what do you think, what kind of role does this play at the moment?
B8: Well it’s really difficult to say, because there’s always a threat because Putin and Lukashenko are really weird people, who could do something that is not profitable for them. Basically, like starting a war is a good tactic of the Russian president, just to get away the attention from his problems, you know, from domestic problems. But, on the other hand we should understand that, in Belarus, Belarus is not, eh, Ukraine. It doesn’t have a very strict division between people who identify as Belarussians or people who identify more as Russians, people who speak different languages, and so on. So in Belarus the population is very, I would say, to a greater extent, equal in terms of identifying themselves as someone who is a little bit different from Russia but doesn’t really care, like we don’t have patriots so much, but not necessarily pro-Russian people or anti-Russian people. So it means that in this case he would not find so easy the ground for creating the forces who would fight for Putin for Russia and so on, so it’s really difficult because it’s not there. So you would either have to bring them in, but for the people it would be weird. On the other hand, it’s going to be very difficult in this time, because, like I said, the whole country is protesting, it means that people are not protesting just in one part, and you can use the other part for anti-protest, right? People are protesting even in the cities that are close to the Russian border. So I would say that if Putin is going to, I don’t know, invade, or anything, there are going to be partisans against him. I am sure. So it just creates another wave of violence I would say, and I’m sure that many people would just go underground and start fighting, because now it’s not any more about Lukashenko or not, it’s about the fact that people realise that nobody is listening to them and they are tired of it. And they want to live in a different world. So it’s not about them choosing between Putin and Lukashenko. Plus, Putin also understands that Belarus is not Ukraine, like we don’t have any kind of natural resources, or plants or factories, that are very very rich and you want to control the territory, so basically he’s invading poor land, and he would have to pay for a lot of things to be done there, and I think basically it is counterintuitive, like it’s illogical for Putin to do it, but I can imagine of course that Putin is stupid, and he could do anything, just because he thinks that, he wants to support the regime, not necessarily Lukashenko because they’re quarreling most of the time. And on the other hand, like I said, the protest is not anti-Russian, and also this united campaign, is not anti-Russian. So they were never saying that we’re going to close all the connections with Russia and want to join European Union and so on. This is not on the agenda. So I think Putin also sees it, and he understands that he actually, later he can just cooperate with the new regime, and it’s gonna be fine. Because nobody tries to cut all the connections. So I think we should understand that when we are getting information from the authorities, when they are publishing this like, ah Lukashenko said, that, Lukashenko called Putin, Putin said this, we should understand that we only get what they want us to get. Of course there is a lot that is being played behind the scenes. They talk a lot and for sure they maybe provide some support and we’re not going to know about it, because they don’t want us to know. But they want us to know about this new creation of this special force that Russia is gonna send. And I think this is because they want us to be worried about it. So, I think that there is no actual force that is being created there, and it’s just the negotiation with Lukashenko, that Lukashenko said, ok can you just say it to the media, and Putin said, ok, yes, and you should, I don’t know, you should think how you will pay me off. So I think that many things that we are hearing is not actually true, it’s just done to make us think about them, or make us scared and so on.
A9: I see. Makes sense. Are there any other factors, or some kind of hurdles, or things, that you think could prevent the protests to get even bigger and keep going? Is there anything you see that is a kind of hurdle?
B9: Well, I think one of the obstacles could be the actual tactics of the protest that is taking place now, like just protesting peacefully without no clear aim, you know? So, they are demanding many things for three weeks, and not a single demand was met. And I think people are getting also frustrated and maybe tired of protesting every day, and all of us, I think it’s important for all of us to know when it’s going to end. Like, people want to know that, ok, two weeks, then maybe I can continue, but if it’s not two weeks then maybe I should just be at home. So I think that the biggest obstacle is that people are expecting fast change, but they are choosing a tactic that can make them wait for years. Because peaceful protest is always something that takes many years, and Lukashenko is not a soft dictator, he is not going to go just because you are bringing him more and more flowers every week, or asking him, or you are laughing at him on Telegram. ButI think what is happening now is that people try to bring more followers from the establishment, and I think in many cases it works, because Belarussians don’t have a culture of protest, because there was much less people on the 9th and 10th, when there was actual violence from the police, but when it’s a peaceful protest, much more people are coming. So I think there are much more people who would support the protest, if they were not afraid. SO they cannot go and build barricades, but they could go out and bring flowers to the street, so basically for them it’s a way to participate. So I think it’s good that people should find a form that is good enough for them to participate, which is not extreme for them. So basically it helped to create a bigger crowd, and when people saw the violence in the first days, a lot of people who were there from the establishment left. So most of the singers who were supporting Lukashenko, singers and all these cultural circles, they now all talk about the fact that it’s not their president, and he should go. Many athletes joined the protests this year, this Sunday, saying that they are also against him, although they are always paid from the budget, and they are given flats for their achievements and so on. It’s something unheard of, you know, so that many people are joining. Many people from the football teams that are also supported by the state are openly showing their disrespect to the president or their support of the protests. Many people from the propagandist state channels quit their jobs or started striking, including many theatres, and so on. And so these peaceful protests, it shows, hey, there are a lot of people and you can join us. And it may take longer, because not many people would be able to quit their jobs so fast, but at the same time many people are doing it and they are showing an example. Also there is a special fund created for the police and army people who would quit their job. And this fund is giving them some money, and also is retraining them for working in other jobs. And more and more cops, I’m not speaking about riot police of course, but cops from local police departments or maybe from the investigation committee and so on, so they are, almost every day two cops are saying, ok I’m going to resign. And this is, even if it’s not going to bring Lukashenko down, this is something we’ve never seen before. On the one hand, like I said before, this is an obstacle, because it takes a lot of time and people are getting really tired and frustrated that the victory is not coming so fast, but on the other hand probably this time is needed for some people to understand that the situation is really shitty.
A10: Could that mean that there is just going to be another president, someone else that is more popular, without really changing any core structures? So I’m asking what is your general outlook at the moment, do you think it could get much more radical and fundamental, or do you think, with what’s possible, it’s more likely to go in a more lenient way?
B10: Well, I think for sure the agenda of this protest is representative democracy, and it’s 99% of people who want that, and no anarchist groups or anything can change that, because we don’t have so much influential Telegram channels like these people. So we should understand that what these people want is legal, law-abiding democracy. Nothing more. But, on the other hand, for us, as a country, this is quite radical. Because I think that after the people understood that in every city there is some people who could demand change, they are going and clearly saying to the authorities, to the local municipalities, administrations and so on, hey, we don’t want you, we hired you, go fuck off. So I think that this is something very radical for Belarussians who have never before talked so aggressively with the authorities. So I hope, and I think they have tried it and they realise themselves as the subject not the object of power, so now they could use this power every time, so of course they want a new president, not more, but on the other hand now they also want more self-governance, I mean de-centralisation, and I hope this is going to be done in the future, if Lukashenko goes away, so people would become more independent in terms of territories, and less dependent on Minsk, which I think this is a very good thing. Plus people, I think if we now agree on this culture, people would be able to, whenever there is a problem, and whenever they see that somebody is not going in line with what they asked for, they might again be protesting, and demanding change, and calling off the delegates, or the parliamentarians, and so on. So I think that this is nothing more than representative democracy, but I think for Belarussians it is quite a big achievement already.
A11: Yeah. You mentioned the repression and also that now people are having criminal court cases. What can people outside of Belarus do to support especially the anarchist movement in Belarus, but beyond that even, what do you think are good things that people could do right now?
B11: Right, so I don’t know if you’re going to give people some links, together with this podcast, together with this show, where people could help with money to different structures, including the structures funding the striking workers, or the structures that support all the victims of violence, or people who got fines, or people who need legal support and so on. These links are working for the wider population. If I speak about anarchist movement, for the moment Anarchist Black Cross is probably the biggest way, or the easiest way, to put money into. So the Anarchist Black Cross has accounts in Europe, and paypal accounts, that later could provide funds for providing lawyers, or giving people money because they lost jobs, or people who sat fifteen days in jail they cannot earn money, and then they come out and they need some support. Some people need to get away from the country and they need flats, if they want to get rid of cops, so basically this is all the money that could be sent, and support the repressed. And if you want you can always send money to the same accounts, to the ABC, with the note, street fund, and this money would go to actual anarchist protesting groups, which would provide them with more materials, more money to print something, to maybe produce some equipment, or support the printing coop that I was talking about that is printing for free, but of course they need money to print for free. So basically there is two ways, you can either support the protestors with money, so then you need to put a note, street fund, or you can send money to ABC which would be used for repression.
A12: Yes, any links would be awesome if you can give them to us and we will add them to the show notes. To maybe come to an end, is there anything that I didn’t ask or that you would like to share that wasn’t touched?
B12: The only thing that now comes to mind is…yeah, I I covered quite a lot and I think the questions were quite good.
A13: Ok. Then yeah, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, and I wish you and your comrades lots of strength and solidarity. Let’s stay in touch and maybe we can do this again sometime.
B13: If you have any more questions you could also go to the ABC Belarus website, and there is also one news website that is trying to cover some news from the anarchist perspective in English. I would also give the link and you will find it in the show notes.
A14: Awesome, thanks a lot.