My comment on the op-ed article The Times view on anti-Lukashenko protests: Minsk on the Brink in The Times, 24 August 2020.
This article’s analysis is carried out without understanding how Communism worked and continues to work.
Belarus is a Communist, totalitarian country. The alleged ‘opposition’ to Lukashenko’s rule come from similarly privileged Communist class as himself. This is phoney opposition. Communists in the countries of Eastern Europe implemented a model, in which there seem to be periodic upheavals, which do not lead to any substantial change, apart from superficial rhetoric and superficial symbolism. This is an agreed upon, staged conflict. It requires a bit longer span of attention to notice that, but it is pretty obvious. It also helps to have a knowledge and familiarity with realities of everyday life in Eastern Europe.
There is no life, no opportunities outside the regime.
Western media generally get it wrong. The presence of crowds on the streets does not mean that there is suddenly irrepressible desire to lead a just and honest life. To stop lying and pretending, to risk it all for democratic ideals. This crowd as opportunistic as ever.
You seriously underestimate the capacity of Communist regimes to fabricate fake conflicts and fake narrative. “Never tell truth when a lie will do”.
Poland experienced mass demonstrations and strikes forty years ago. I participated in a sit-in at the university in Toruń as a first-year chemistry student. It seemed that masses of people really wanted change. However, as years went by, it became more and more clear that those protests have been organized by the regime themselves. No Communists were harmed and have not suffered in any way. Quite the opposite.
My wife Małgorzata Głuchowska and I were expelled from our jobs in 2015, from the State School of Music in Zielona Góra and from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (LSB). We refused to lie and falsify state documents. We demanded truth, honesty, justice, dignity, human rights.
Now I am working as a shop assistant at a west London greengrocer’s. My pianist wife is unemployed in Poland. I have a PhD from a very good American university. I was happy to come to work at the Polish university with my own laptop (they didn’t want to buy me one). I paid for trips to conferences partly from my own pocket.
There is, however, one fundamental difference between us and the functionaries running state institutions in Poland. I am proud of my parents’ resistance to Communism. Real resistance. My father deserted from Communist army in January 1945. He was imprisoned in a concentration camp in northern Russia from 1945 to 1954. My mother was imprisoned from 1949 to 1956.
Communists have very long memory and very long hands.