Uladzimir Matskevich: Belarusan opposition is losing its moral guidelines

Aliaksei Yurych, EuroBelarus Information Service

If there is no politics in the country, then those who are at power or are eager to get it cannot be moral.

Political analyst Pavel Usov called the participation of the Belarusan opposition in the parliamentary campaign 2016 amoral: “Elections are the other side of lying, with which the authorities poison the minds of the Belarusan society. To participate in the elections means to let this lie take root,” wrote the analyst. That incurred anger of his colleagues-political scientists Valery Karbalevich and Yury Drakahrust.

What is the discussion about? The philosopher and methodologist Uladzimir Matskevich answers the question in an interview with the EuroBelarus Information Service.

— Moralizing is least appropriate of two in a conversation about morality and politics.

At the beginning of the establishment of Lukashenko’s dictatorship there were talks that the regime is ineffective. I repeatedly had to say that my main claim to Lukashenko’s regime is of moral and ethical nature. All what the regime does is immoral.

If we consider the practice of developed democracies, the candidates are most likely to be assessed by moral and ethical criteria. For a common elector, moral aspect is easier to understand than complex sentences, tactical and strategic considerations, and ideological differences between the candidates. If the candidate gave reason to question their moral and ethical qualities, (s)he significantly reduces the chances to win the elections.

When objecting Usov, Karbalevich suggested considering politics and morality as entirely separate concepts, claiming that the effectiveness of practical work has its own criteria that have nothing to do with moral criteria. This is a very deep philosophical and methodological confusion; but what is worse, in the Belarusan situation, when we refer to the ineffectiveness of political activity and the methods of struggling for power that the opposition parties choose, we always emphasize the lack of results. None of the opposition leaders could get either to local councils or to the Parliament, not to mention the victory in the presidential election. When we point out to these circumstances, we hear in response that even though we couldn’t win, we won a moral victory.

What is a moral victory? Politicians explain: We caught the authorities lying! We have demonstrated that the authorities are falsifying the elections. But even the most inexperienced, the most uninformed voters have been aware for a long time that the elections are falsified, that the authorities deprive independent, opposition candidates of access to the media, to voters.

So what is the moral victory about? Usov tried to catch those who participated in the “elections” 2010 in the immorality. They are involved in the fraud; not only the authorities are deceiving the voters, civil society, and the international community, but also all those who are involved in the fraud, inspired by authorities. It is the complicity that is immoral — this is what Usov points at, with which it is impossible to disagree.

— Does that mean that you agree with Usov’s thesis that elections and lies in the Belarusan reality are two sides of the same coin?

— Yes, I also believe that the participation in the elections (starting with the 2004 parliamentary elections) is immoral. Well, if 2006 election could still be considered slightly pragmatic, and the election after 2006 can without any doubt be described as immoral complicity and playing up the authorities.

— Which actions of the opposition in the current political climate could be considered moral?

— Absenteeism — non-participation, passive resistance to electoral political system. I.e. to knowingly abstain from participating in the immoral actions of the authorities: for voters — ignore the elections; for politicians — non-participation in the elections. In India, Gandhi is an example of absenteeism, in the Czech Republic — Vaclav Havel.

— But for many years, it was believed that the morality distinguishes opposition from the authorities ...

— Let’s approach the problem from the other side.

I can understand the basis for the claims of Karbalevich and Drakahrust in their criticism of Pavel Usov’s theses — morality is based on activity. Isolation from the activity deprives of morality, too: since you have nothing to lose there are no values you are ready to defend. And if you have no values ​​— you have no morality.

And that is what is happening with the Belarusan opposition. For two decades, being detached from the goal-directed activity, being admitted only to the simulation of activity, which can never achieve the stated objectives, the opposition loses its moral bearings. Morality and ethics are mixed, become chaotic, disordered. This was due to the separation of political activities.

Politics is not only the means of achieving the objectives of different social groups in the country; politics should be the aim of the civil society. If there is no politics in the country, then those who are at power or are eager to get it cannot be moral. Until the country has politics, crooks or amoral, even though harmless personalities will rule us. Even though Belarusan officials are doing all the evil in the country not from malice, but just mindlessly, their actions and deeds are no less amoral.