Katya Kazbek is a Russian writer and translator based in NYC. She is the editor-in-chief of Supamodu.com. Follow her on Twitter @kazbek
Liberals and leftists blindly supporting the Belarus protests in the name of ‘freedom’ are ignoring something important – the living standards of the people. What if the ‘revolution’ leads to mass emigration and economic hardship?
Watching the protests against Lukashenko unroll in Belarus, I was immediately brought back to the anti-Putin rallies in Russia back in the early 2010s, in which I personally participated. It was all very similar: Contested elections, fed-up people, flowers, police violence, displays of solidarity. The landscape was different, of course – a Minsk summer amid a global pandemic versus the bitter Moscow winter cold. But my reflection on the processes has also deepened since then, which makes it impossible for me to fully engage with current events without thinking about the neoliberal and Western influences on them.
In the last decade, it became apparent that there is almost no way to oppose inequality and authoritarianism in the post-Soviet space without this struggle being co-opted into an anti-communist, or anti-leftist, position – even though the ‘authoritarians’ are quite vehemently anti-communist themselves. The anti-socialist sentiments in society are so strong that the two polar opposites to communism – capitalism and nationalism – come sweeping in and claim the protestors.
In Russia during the protests, I saw people so enthusiastic to jump on the bandwagon of liberation that they would eagerly side with foreign governments just to oppose Putin. In reaction to this, nationalist fervor began fermenting from within. Then, revisionist schizophrenia arrived: “We’d be a better country under Hitler than Stalin,” and that sort of rubbish.
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At the same time, the bourgeoisie was also waiting for those unhappy with their material conditions but vehemently opposed to anything resembling communism, offering surveillance solutions, capitalist nationalism, free markets, and eternal neoliberalism. Pretty much the same spread as back in 1991, as I understand, and the exact same promises that later brought Putin to power in Russia – although,