Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko has been the President of Belarus for 29 years. During this period, he established an autocratic regime which consistently undermined democratic rights. And it has consistently repressed civil resistance by the people of Belarus to the president’s authoritarian rule. This regime of Lukashenko is notorious for tramping on the freedom of association of working people and the trade unions.
Since the collapse of the USSR and Lukashenko becoming the President in 1994, he has done everything possible to undermine anything but a resemblance of trade unionism. This includes the promotion of yellow unionism with pro-government supporters claiming to represent the workers while they represent nothing but the regime’s interest in keeping the working class subdued. This helped the regime to perpetuate unfavourable working conditions for the working class.
In 2020, there was a general election, which was massively altered in favour of Lukashenko, who was rejected at the poll by the voters. This is evident in how Belarusians turned out in response to organised mass action by the trade unions. This massive wave of protest affected the big enterprises in Grodno, Novopolotsk, Zhlobin, Zhodino, Minsk, including the country’s largest company, Belaruskali, in Salihorsk. In the face of repression, the protests continued until 2022 when AliaksandrYarashuk (president), Siarhei Antusevich (vice-president) and Iryna But-Gusaim, (treasurer) of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Union (BKDP) respectively were arrested and unjustly sentenced to 48, 24 and 18months imprisonment respectively. Leaders of other Unions in different industries were also arrested and sent to prison.
Five leaders of the students’ movement were also arrested and sent to 30 months in prison, while many professors were dismissed and fled into exile for safety from Lukashenko’s dictatorship. The leadership of the Union of Workers in the Radio-Electronics industry, including its ex-chairperson Hennadz Fiadynich and acting chairperson Vasil Berasneu were sent to 9 years in jail, while the editor, Vatslau Areshka, was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment without regard for their medical conditions There are more than 1,500 political prisoners in the country. Over 35,000 people have been arrested and detained in this period. Hundreds of thousands have fled to seek asylum, while over 700 NGOs were dissolved after they were declared extremist groups.
This is not just a domestic issue for the Belarusian people. The autocracy of Lukashenko supported by Vladmir Putin of Russia has nothing to offer but more civil repression, disregard for human rights and economic impoverishment of the masses. The working people of the world under the banner of international working class solidarity have to support the Salidarnast (successor of the BDKP) and the working masses of Belarus to demand for the end of Lukashenko’s dictatorship. We must carry on this fight with such spirit, knowing that until everyone is free everywhere, no one is free anywhere.
by Lekan Abdul-Azeez SONEYE