The Strangest Thing

The strangest thing, for me, happening now in Belarus is the certain romantic naivety with which protesters seems to uphold a long-gone social contract, and its consequent juridical apparatus. On the other side, government and authorities, have visibly dropped the intention to even hide that they are bluntly, and intentionally, violating not only that same social contract but the mere façade of it.

Evidence of this is the constant filming of detentions by onlookers. As if trying to collect some sort of proof on the law enforcement agencies disrespect for the law. Those agencies know they are not respecting the law, and it is not like if they are caring too much about it. The arrest of accredited national journalists working for national press organs and consequent accusation of taking part or organising an illegal mass protests is the ultimate verification of this. How can a journalist cover an illegal mass protest (let us just for a couple of seconds accept the definition, after all it is the one established by the law) if not “participating” in it? Absurdity could only reach a higher degree if police elements would start arresting each other under the same pretence violation.

But it must be accepted that the situation in Belarus seems to have come to a stalemate. There is no need to actually arrest (as in court sentence, even if administrative arrest) or even detain (as in grabbed in the street or at home) everyone. The randomness and time discrepancy (more and more cases related to past actions are happening )of detentions and, from within those, of arrests, is precisely what allows to play the long game. Obviously, this randomness hides the slow but steady dilapidation on the protesters mass of those with capability of leadership, like the several workers’ strikes leaders. And even if just limited to the already traditional 10-15 days of administrative arrest there is the added “advantage” of slowing down the pace at which protests could/would have grown.

The long-game favours Lukashenko’s position. Not only by simply tiring those willing to go out and protest but because it allows, in this slow pace of fighting that both sides are now conducting for the conquering of public opinion, to spot those within the governmental ranks that are considering changing sides. And here lies the real danger for the system: it is not so much the “contractualist protester” that may topple the regime but the official that breaks contract. Not the social contract but that of servitude to the power. Precisely as a consequence to the lack of respect towards the social contract still (?) in force by the official entities. The “still in force” must be questioned as even if the analysts in Belarus, with direct personal access to some of those officials, seem to be unable to point out more than the odd case of dissidence.

On the protesters side the bet clearly seems to be this slow turn of positions by state officials. The constant appeal to the respect of law, as mentioned worthy of being labelled as romantically naïve, by those pointed out as “leaders of the opposition” are, at best, sign of weak desire to really promote any relevant changes in the political system of Belarus. The act of “challenging” the de facto president (it is totally irrelevant from a material approach whether he is de jure or not) for a constitutional revision, revision that has been waved as a promise for quite some time now, is sign of a desire of continuity and not one of rupture.

The self-proclaimed Coordination Council – CC, promoted by a circumstantial leader that has, meanwhile, left the country (once again it is the material reality that matters, and not so much the reason why) has been, under the umbrella of contractualism, actually refraining the flow of change that the country has been, quite openly, witnessing since mid-May. Interestingly enough the path chosen by the CC is the one that the so widely criticized grassroot movement Tell the Truth (co-headed by Andrey Dmitriev – presidential candidate in 2020 – and Tatsiana Karatkevitch – presidential candidate in 2015) has been carving since, at least, the 2010 presidential election: trying to achieve a public mobilization with activities that fully comply with the law. It should be said that Tell the Truth is, most likely, the only politicized movement that has a national wide reach organisation in Belarus – and this remains true even after the events of this summer. Perhaps even more now. Remains to be seen the success that the appeal made by the CC of creating regional and local representations may, eventually, achieve.