Uladzimir Matskevich: Belarus will have to go through the period of publicity

Aliaksei Yurych, EuroBelarus Information Service

Signs of publicity are already looming on the horizon, but the decisiveness of the regime for changes is not visible yet.

Distrust and apathy is the main problem of the Belarusan society. Even if 90% of Belarusans will oppose the current regime, the regime will feel safe: there’s no alternative that would enjoy greater trust than the regime.

In the situation of general apathy and total distrust hopes for the activation of political opposition are not justified. Such opinion in an interview with the EuroBelarus Information Service shared a philosopher and methodologist Uladzimir Matskevich.

— A season of street revitalization of the political opposition comes. Now, with the impoverishment of the population, a favorable situation for the mass protests of the opposition emerged. Will it be able to take advantage of a favorable moment?

— I don’t want to act as a fortuneteller, but I don’t see the conditions for the activation of political opposition this year and don’t expect violent mass protests.

As history with individual entrepreneurs has shown, there Is no common unifying idea for which people would be willing to go to protests. Despite the harassment and unfavorable laws, people prefer to adapt to the situation or to seek solutions to their advantage by other means than street protests. The hopes of the opposition leaders for the entrepreneurs to be the engine of mass protests haven’t been justified: the protests are few, and it is not self-employed entrepreneurs who form the majority of the protesters, but traditional participants of street actions.

— Does it mean that today traditional opposition is not able to organize mass protests in principle?

— I think so. In that sense, the reasons why people go out to mass demonstrations, and ways of activation, support, and “feeding” the mass demonstrations are much deeper than some analysts and political leaders are trying to show. I think that the hopes for the activation of political opposition are groundless.

— Sociological research has been indicating Belarusans’ thirst to change for several years. Everyone understands that the changes won’t come themselves. Who is able to fight for them?

— Our social consciousness is a hostage of the imposed Marxist form of social thinking, where the “upper classes can not, and the lower classes do not want to”; high expectations are put on the lower classes. But the lower classes don’t have creative potential, they can destroy, block, and stop. Whereas a very small minority — competent, creative, and proactive — decides what and how should be done. If this minority isn’t consolidated or isn’t manifested in any way, then, accordingly, no change will occur.

The situation in Ukraine and Maidan served as a great lesson for us. Maidan, Mass protests, consolidation, discipline, and determination of the Ukrainian lower classes could lead to the change of the authorities and eliminate the cabal who seized power. But who will come instead?

For two years now Ukraine has been experiencing a growing discontent with the processes, which come from the government; corruption is not defeated, economic reforms haven’t been carried out, legislation and law enforcement leave much to be desired. The war that could have been ended either in a victory or in negotiations still continues.

Of course, two or two and a half years is a short period for history, but we understand that if there is no articulated reform program, no good management, masses do not decide anything. And this understanding starts reaching the masses, the hot-heads, who are ready to go out to streets: what for? If we take the power, whom we will give it? Therefore, everything will be happening differently in Belarus. Mass actions will sooner or later be taking place when there appears the competent part of the elites, who will be able to offer a program, a strategy of reform and the country’s transformation. These elites will have to obtain a vote of confidence from the masses. How can they win the trust? Today, with total distrust to everything that reigns in Belarus, even if 90% of Belarusans would be against the existing regime, the regime will feel safe: there is no alternative that would enjoy greater trust than the regime.

But now the regime is put in the situation where it can no longer maintain the status quo; it cannot remain in power just doing nothing. The regime should change, but the regime itself is not able to do so; it cannot find the creativity to change itself and change the country.

What do the countries of our region do in this situation? Sooner or later, the so-called publicity will be announced: a broad public debate will be allowed. First liberalization in relation to the media and assemblies will happen, so that new leaders will emerge. The emergence of new people will allow the authorities, on the one hand, to appropriate their ideas and put them into practice; on the other hand, the emergence of new people will condition their support. Anyway, a political process will start. If things develop peacefully, with a high degree of agreement between the parties, we can take the Poland’s path after the roundtable. And the mistakes and failures may lead to mass protest and clashes. It all depends on how clever the authorities and the elites are, which will be manifested in the era of liberalization and publicity.

We can notice delayed signs of the approaching publicity right now, but the decisiveness of the regime for changes is not visible yet.

— Does it mean that Belarus will have to repeat the path of the USSR in its last years?

— Not exactly. The similarity with the USSR in its last years will be visible in the need to declare the publicity — certain liberalization of the media, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly under the control of the regime and the power structures, so that assemblies don’t turn into mass demonstration. Secondly, new leaders will manifest themselves through publicity. Here we will have to borrow Poland’s experience of consolidation and mutual trust within the nation. That is why we cannot just give power to the Belarusan specialists educated in the West.

The experience of Ukraine doesn’t suit us: the majority of the population must be realizing by now that it is easy to break the system. We need our own synthetic way. Are there forces and resources for overcoming this path? It is very difficult to say that now; it can only be said by empirically analyzing the period of publicity.

The main obstacle to be overcome is the mutual distrust that Belarusans have to each other, to the authorities, and to political parties... Can we find people, forces, parties, groups, churches in Belarus, who would enjoy the confidence of the very significant part of the population? I think that 30-40 percent, who are able to trust and through that trust lead new power to become the authorities, would be enough.

Distrust and apathy is the biggest problem.

You can also read the research results of the report of the “Belarusan society’s solidarity potential”