Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Labor Collectives in Belarus Reviving Revolutionary Tradition of Gdansk, Skobov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 15 – Many argue that in post-industrial societies, Internet communities rather than labor collectives play the key role, communities not based on the workplace but being more politicized, Aleksandr Skobov says. But Belarus today represents a return to the traditions of protests in industrialized societies, and this may be a bellwether for the future.

            “Since the time of the Polish revolution,” the Russian commentator says, “democratic protest movements” have not based themselves on large labor collectives but rather on Internet communities. That has been welcomed by many even though it has allowed autocrats to present their opponents as small and marginal (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5F37AC8B3EE9E).

            Indeed, he continues, “after Perestroika, the process … of atomization has dominated society. Right-wing liberals and libertarians have welcomed this process, viewing it as the freeing of the autonomous personality from dependence on all kinds of large and small groups and the dawn of a new world of horizontal self-organization of autonomous individuals.”

            But things have not gone quite as their supporters planned. Online communities haven’t assumed the role outlined for them, and “in the majority of cases, they have been suppressed and marginalized by ‘the new autocrats’” who have been able to present groups based online rather than in the workplace as elitist and small, even if they are not.

            That looked like it might happen in Belarus as well, Skobov continues; but when Alyaksandr Lukashenka began his crackdown, “and when the people awoke, they weren’t able to offer any organization, leaders or simply coordinators” until “suddenly corporative structures which had seemed hopelessly dead came alive.”

            The actions of workers in specific plants and industries in Belarus is “clear evidence that the liberation movement against the dictatorship has acquired an all-national character.”  That raises the question as to whether this is a uniquely Belarusian event, given Lukashenka’s freezing of his country in the past, or something more widespread that could occur elsewhere.

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