The Dialectic of Violence

Note: In an effort to concentrate on other work, posts over the next two weeks will be short and sparse. I hope to merely point out and excerpt news and commentary instead of giving my own comment on it.

Commentary and analysis of the Belarusian elections and their aftermath continues. Aleh Novikau’s opinion, “Contract of the Third Term” on Eurasian Home caught my attention. A columnist for the Minsk paper Nasha Niva, Novikau argues that Lukashenko’s use of repression against protesters might do more to spread the opposition than the Opposition itself. Novikau writes:

By conducting mass police arrests under farfetched pretexts, refusing to give the prisoners’ relatives any information and forbidding them to bring packages, backing up special squad soldiers who beat people up in front of the cameras, the authorities involuntarily aroused the people’s sense of civil dignity. The relatives and friends of victims of the political repressions as well as those just sympathetic began display some initiative, for example to escort all of the patrol wagons coming out of prisons, in order to know where the prisoners are transported.

Gradually, the one-time actions acquired organizational format. Even a local analogue of the Argentine “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” – association of mothers whose children “disappeared” under the military dictatorship of the 1970s – has been created. Practically every day in Minsk the flashmober actions take place, such as flower-laying to the Polish embassy to spite the picket of the young adherents of Lukashenka. The next phase of the movement is quick politicization of the masses, which questioned the “efficiency factor” of radical leaders’ preventive arrests. Despite the fact that all of the active opposition leaders are put into prisons, thanks to neophytes, the brands of their organizations are widely represented in the opposition’s actions.

Further he writes,

Now many security officials and judges involved in the repressions clearly see: “They, their families and people close to them have nowhere to retreat”. But the opposition is in the same situation. A student, who has been expelled from a university for his political views, increases the number of oppositionists in Belarus by, at least, five people: his family, relatives and friends. An anonymous author of the leaflet “Resist!” (a new initiative of the grass-roots organizations) believes that speaking to the representatives of the state bureaucracy should be as follows: “Boycott and condemn them! Do not greet them and minimize the contacts with them!”

It is worth noting that even if those regime’s adversaries will have a change of heart towards Lukashenka’s adherents, they will do it not due to Milinkevich’s directions. As the number of civil initiatives is growing, it becomes evident that the “single” opposition and social democrats do not control the new generation of the resistance participants, and in the event of consultations between the opposition and the authorities the problem of powers will be inevitable. For the time being, a new pole of the Belarusian opposition is anonymous, but in the near future we expect declaration of a brotherhood of the camp participants. Because of a good hype in the mass media the camp “fighters” became popular and now they are able to bring into existence a semblance of the Ukrainian party “Pora”.

Repression moves from general to specific, that is, it moves from the ideological to the material when it begins to touch people’s personal lives. The crackdown on the protests to squash the “Denim Revolution” in the short term might produce a dialectic that will reproduce opposition in the long term. As Novikau’s astutely states, the repression of one has the potential to increase the opposition to Lukashenko by five. The Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci noted in his Prison Notebooks that a balance of force and consent is the most effective way to maintain hegemony. When force trumps consent hegemony begins to slip. Could Lukashenko’s repression against the protesters be a sign of a further imbalance occurring?