Of all possible ways to fight a Maidan, the President of Belarus chooses the worst. On August 16th, he tried to organise a pathetic semblance of anti-Maidan protests that did not help his former colleague Yanukovych in 2004/05 or 2013/14.
To some extent, Lukashenko can be understood. Even among Russian experts, the myth of “Poklonnaya, which broke Bolotnaya“ is widespread. In the shortest possible summary, this myth says that it is enough to gather a crowded rally in support of the government, as any Maidan will be afraid, collapse, and disperse.
But this is not the case. It is said that in 2004, Yanukovych was simply afraid to give the command to the miners already brought to Kiev to disperse the Maidan. Yes, he was afraid, but why? Because he wasn’t sure about the position of the police force. When Iliescu’s miners dispersed the Romanian opposition, the police did not interfere with them, but what would have happened if they had fulfilled their duty, which is to prevent mass clashes, including on political grounds? Then Iliescu’s supporters would have clashed not with the opposition, but with law enforcement, with all the ensuing consequences.
As far as I understand, Yanukovych was also not sure of the position of the Kiev police. Theoretically, it should have stood in the way of the miners to prevent a civil clash. Given the treacherous position of then-president Kuchma and western pressure, the police might well have received such an order. Then the rebel would not be Yushchenko with a Maidan, but Yanukovych with the miners.
In 2014, the police were controlled by Yanukovych and he assembled anti-Maidan. In number, this anti-Maidan was not inferior to the Maidan. If desired, it could be made more numerous, due to the supply of three shifts at the same time. But in terms of the level of aggression and the presence of a clear goal, it did come close to the Maidan. As a result, the Yanukovych’s police, in addition to government buildings, had to protect the anti-Maidan as well. It was of no use.
By the way, it was not Poklonnaya that defeated Bolotnaya. In the shadow of the rallies on Poklonnaya Street, the police were active in the city, and OMON harshly suppressed any attempts to switch to Maidan forms of protest. In the end, everything “resolved” only when the leaders started to receive real prison terms. Then they immediately deflated, along with the entire “protest”.
Poklonnaya had another important function. It demonstrated that the people in their mass supported the actions of the authorities to strictly suppress the protest. The opposition and its foreign sponsors were shown that as long as they were dispersed and imprisoned, the people would applaud. But at the forefront of opposition to the Maidan is always not the anti-Maidan, but OMON. If the government is forced, as Erdogan was forced, to directly appeal to its supporters for support, to call them to the streets, then a civil war has already started in the country, because the police and security forces are not enough to quell the mutiny, and the government is forced to pit citizens against citizens.
Another point. No matter whether you are using the power of the people, like Erdogan, to directly confront the mutineers, or, as in Poklonnaya, to create the desired informational picture enabling the work of the security forces, rallies in its support should exceed everything that the opposition can gather, not even by a few-fold, but by an order of magnitude. This is the only way to change the image established by the Maidan “criminal regime” against “all the people” to an alternative version: “the government and the people against the mutineers”.
As for me, even the declared several tens of thousands of people at each of the rallies in Minsk (in support of and against Lukashenko) are overstated three times in both cases. But even if hundreds of thousands of protesters actually took to the streets of Minsk, it would mean nothing. The only important thing is whether the government managed to gather a rally 5-10 times more numerous than the opposition. If the pro-government rally is only 2-3 times more numerous, it is a failure. The opposition will still create the illusion of a majority at the expense of more skilful work with the image and information initiative. In addition, the opposition protesters will gather tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and for a third day, while the government, at best, will be able to deploy state employees on a permanent basis according to an order (it simply does not have professional protesters prepared in advance, but the Maidan has thousands of them).
Finally, the opposition knows exactly what it wants – a change of rule, and it knows the mechanism – information and, under its cover, forceful pressure. And what does the pro-government rally want, and what means does it have to implement its desires? Only an absolute preponderance in numbers. This preponderance, which cannot be disputed and which demoralises the opposition, makes even the most naive understand that the people are not with them, but against them.
The rally for Lukashenko was outnumbered by the rally against him. The biggest optimists talk about parity, but few people believe them anymore. Immediately after the start of the rallies, the Belarusian ambassadors to Slovakia and Switzerland supported the opposition’s demands. As I said, after the treason of journalists of the central state media, diplomats were next in line to betray Lukashenko. It is not for nothing that Makei‘s group controlled both foreign and information policy, which led Lukashenko to Maidan and continues to lead him to defeat and surrendering power to it.
Maidan is a coup d’etat with the participation of external forces. Every Maidan. Consequently, its participants are both knowledgeable organisers and those “people with kind faces” who do not understand anything and who are used as cannon fodder – mutineers and traitors to the Motherland. The mutiny cannot be kept out. The mutineers are ready for this and will still provoke a conflict. A mutiny cannot be shamed by a retaliatory rally. They did not come to compare themselves at meetings, but to take power. It is impossible to agree on anything with the mutiny, except for the format of renunciation and guarantees of personal safety, which in the future will still be violated.
The mutiny can only be suppressed. Put down by police force, and if necessary, by military force. Any state must be able to defend itself. Any blood spilled in suppressing a mutiny is a guarantee against much more blood being spilled if the mutiny is not suppressed. The leaders, organisers, and field activists of the mutiny must go to prison for long periods (so that others do not get into the habit). Of course, it would be good to win the informational picture too. But even if it turned out to be impossible, the most important thing is that OMON won the street.
The mutiny cannot be defeated whilst being on the defensive. The ruler must advance and squeeze. Defence is the death not only of an armed insurrection, but also of the ruler against which this insurrection is directed. In such cases, the initiative almost guarantees success. Therefore, the struggle is for the initiative. It is on this initiative that all the homework of the Maidan is focused on.
For the first three days, Lukashenko had the initiative, and the Belarusian Maidan was confidently heading for defeat. Then the initiative was handed over. The authorities in Minsk are becoming more and more defensive. It remains only to start negotiations with the mutineers, to recognise them as equals, and the collapse of the throne will be irreversible.
As absurd as it is, the formidable Lukashenko risks losing to the Maidan even faster than the sluggish and cowardly Yanukovych.
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