Go on strike, son-in-law!
The first president of a free Poland was a worker, electrician Lech Wałęsa.
The first man who sacrificed his life for freedom during the putsch of August 1991 was Dmitry Komar, a forklift driver.
The worker and gas welder Mikhail Zhiznevsky became a Belarusian hero of the Ukrainian Heavenly Hundred.
One can speculate on the role of workers in the struggle for freedom for long. To recall the names of daredevils and worker leaders or even entire trade unions and enterprises. By the way, independent trade unions were active in Belarus before. However, the labour movement did not exist. Last August, it finally appeared. Together with the awareness of the inevitability of victory.
We all remember how frightened Lukashenka was in August when strikes started at plants, strike committees formed, and independent media published interviews with workers who were brave, intelligent, charismatic, and eager for freedom and fair elections. If earlier the propaganda used to bedtime scare children about opposition figures who were estranged from the people, live on Western grants and sell their homeland for the money of the Department of State, then these tricks will never work with the workers (by the way, they don't work at all, but why one should burden the regime with knowledge - let it think it at least good at propaganda tricks). If one tries to show on TV the story of a milling machine operator who's making a fortune on Western money, the whole factory and its subcontractors will laugh. That is why there were crowds of men in civilian clothes near the gatehouses in August. That is why the riot police together with GUBOPiK were on duty near the plants - they felt scared to go near the workers. That's why they used to wait in police vans for the whole brigades coming back from the night shift. That is why Lukashenka flew to MZKT in a helicopter, in order to avoid any contact at all, even accidental contact with the workers in their territory. It is better to fall from the sky than to take at least ten steps around the plant.
Lukashenka is afraid of the workers. He is right to do it. It is worth remembering Sergei Dylevski, the head of the strike at the MTZ, last August, the miners of Salihorsk, the workers of Grodno Azot, Naftan, BMZI. It becomes clear that such people are able to wipe off the regime, which bothers the whole world. I do not know whether a worker will be the first president of the new post-Lukashenka Belarus. One can already say that a certain collective Valensa has appeared in Belarus. Without him, victory is impossible. Belarusians have always been able to resist. Mass actions are what we have succeeded in, starting with the famous Charnobylski Shliakh in 1996. However, the strike has always remained that missing link. Without it, victory seemed to be a few hours or meters away. However, its absence always meant that the victory was postponed indefinitely. Now, this link has finally been formed.
By the way, when we talk about the Polish revolution, we always think of the names of intellectuals - Jacek Kuron, Bronislaw Geremek, Adam Michnik. But the engine of change was Lech Wałęsa, the electrician of the Gdańsk shipyard. This is one of those historical lessons which must always be remembered.
Three years ago, I interviewed Wałęsa. I remember his words: "Solidarity is not the name of our trade union. Solidarity is a simple philosophy. If you can't carry a heavy load, ask for help, ask someone to carry it with you. For us, the Soviet Union and communism were a heavy burden. A monstrous burden. I realized that Poland alone was not enough to get rid of that burden. And even European solidarity was not enough. But the world solidarity is just the right thing; that's what is needed.
Today, the whole world stands in solidarity with the Belarusians. It is just a question of us. No strike can happen without you and me. If one says something like, "Well, we have already demonstrated the will of the people, we have brought half a million of them to the streets, and now we are staging partisan actions, so now it is your turn, dear workers, go on strike," means pushing the victory away. The only correct principle of the strike was written on a poster that one of the participants held during the autumn protests: "Go on strike, son-in-law! Your mother-in-law will support you". So, we should become a collective mother-in-law for Valensa. Go on strike, son-in-law!
Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org