But today large-scale protests are impossible as in the country.
Over more than 20 years of rule of the current regime with its material values a serious degradation of the Belarusian society happened. Today, just as 25 years ago, the only power that can bring people to the streets are neither trade unions nor the opposition, but the government with its incompetent policies and inability to solve the problems of the working people.
The economic crisis in Belarus grows stronger: the standard of living is falling, plants are laying off workers, salaries are decreasing, and it gets almost impossible to find more or less decent job in the country. Summer season has somewhat lessened the economic stress, but hardly for a long time.
Is social explosion possible in today's Belarus? Are independent trade unions able to lead protests? Who can become a driving force of the "social revolution"?
Aliaksandr Jarashuk, the head of the Belarusian Congress Of Democratic Trade Unions (BCDTU), answers these questions in the interview with the “EuroBelarus” Information Service.
- One gets the feeling that the economic crisis in Belarus has slowed its pace. Perhaps it’s the holiday season and country hustle that creates this illusion. What is the situation in the Belarusian industry?
- In fact, over the recent months the speed of decline in industry slowed down, which the Belarusian officialdom rushed to characterize as the recovery from the industry crisis, while in fact, no recovery can be expected. A slight revival of industry is associated with certain improvement in the situation at the Russian market. It is, in its turn, associated with an increase in oil prices that cannot be a reason for optimistic forecasts. We must once and for all abandon the destructive policy to make Belarusian economy dependent on the price of Russian oil – they won’t save the Belarusian industry from bankruptcy. We need comprehensive economic reforms, which the government doesn’t want and cannot introduce. Therefore, the crisis in Belarus has come here to stay, and its consequences are unpredictable.
- 25 years ago, the economic crisis has brought the whole working Minsk on the streets. Judging by the social and economic development, Belarus is returning to 1992 at an accelerated pace. But is the repetition of mass protests possible?
- Any analogies are relative, and it would be a mistake to draw direct parallels between the current situation and the one that was 25 years ago. For a variety of reasons today in our country as large-scale protests as in the spring of 1991 are impossible. I see no reason to list them all, but I will name one: in my opinion, 25 years ago people had no fear; while in today's Belarus, fear is invisibly present in everyone. The current government is capable to brutally suppress any action people take to protect their legitimate rights and interests tough and very brutally. However, it doesn’t guarantee that one day the situation wouldn’t get out of control.
- How has the consciousness of the Belarusian workers changed over the years?
- Over more than 20 years of rule of the current regime with its material values a serious degradation of the Belarusian society happened, and unfortunately, our working class bears all the signs of degradation.
- Are trade unions capable of leading mass protests, like 25 years ago?
- Today, just as 25 years ago, the only power that can bring people to the streets are neither trade unions nor the opposition, but the government with its incompetent policies and the inability to solve the problems of the working people.
Another thing is that just like now, on the wake of protest moods self-organization of workers will be rapidly growing. It is not hard to predict that most likely it will manifest itself in the form of a powerful movement of workers and trade union movement.
- What is the situation with the independent trade unions today? Can we compare them with the trade unions in 1991?
- Independent trade unions, as well as all the opposition, are in the ghetto. Maybe we managed to win some more space than other democratic organizations, but it doesn’t change our situation fundamentally. We are immersed and operate in an extremely aggressive environment, which in every way rejects any uncontrollable democratic body. There is no sense to compare the current situation with independent trade unions with the unions that we used to have in 1991.
- The standard of living falls lower and lower, which Belarusians can easily feel, but prefer to remain silent about. How long can last the silent grumble continue?
- We are in a state of classical economic stagnation, which can last indefinitely and common Belarusians can endure the hardships and privations for a long time. We should realize that however hard the situation is, it doesn’t look catastrophic. And all the pompous statements of some exalted politicians that tomorrow people will massively get to the streets and sweep away the "bloody regime" have no relation to reality. They are made either because of incompetence, or cheap PR, or for provocation. Anyway, they bring no benefit, only damage.