Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Belarus and the New International Solidarity.

with 8 comments

Global Solidarity Needed with Belarus Democrats,

One of the most influential books on nationalism in modern times was Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities.  (1983) Thinking about the nation as “an imagined political political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” a “deep horizontal comradeship”, in different styles (languages, cultures), and though the arrival of print,  in which this relationship occupies people’s minds, and through the sovereign state, were hallmarks of Anderson’s approach.

Imagined Communities was at its most convincing for the case that nationalism was not just another ‘ism’, “a system of ideas, an ideology”.  It was at its least plausible when it extended an argument against those who tried to battle against nationalisms which were plainly an ideology, part of political projects which projected a future for a national sovereign body based on the common “fellowship” of a people. Critics of Anderson, such as Eric Hobsbawm, pointed out that that the idea of People and Nation are no doubt created in this way (Including very imaginary inventions of tradition and organic roots). But “politics constantly tended to take up an remould such pre-political elements for its own purposes”. (Nations and Nationalism since 1780. 1991)

In this millennium a new generation of nationalists has learnt to “speak for dead people” to defend their nationalism and imagined sovereignty. National populisms, amongst other boasts,  claim to give voice to the People against the ‘globalist elites’. These themes have helped sustain governments like Donald Trump’s , the election of Boris Johnson, and to propel the hardline regimes of Poland and Hungary.

The left has had a hard time finding an alternative. A few, like the editors of the journal which Benedict’s brother,{erry sustained for many years, have variously welcomed ‘anti-system’ movements of all stripes against the ‘globalising’ ‘neoliberal’ European Union, and relished Brexit  as shocks to the world order, while spending their time in wishful thinking about a small American left unable to create an alternative would-be hegemonic radicalism to national populism.

Some wish to channel national feeling into left populism. Attempts to do so have not been successful, as the failure of the most explicit left-wing populist project, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise indicates. This suggests that the diversity of modern European societies may be one reason why it is not easy to mobilise and draw together  the “people” against a capitalist elite, but not as difficult to speak for one group of people against an ‘anti-national’ enemy, foreigners in general and domestic groups of migrant origin.

Reflecting on his academic career  in the posthumous A Life Beyond Boundaries (2016) Anderson spoke of his writing on nationalism.

I began to recognise that the fundamental drawback of this type of comparison, that using the nation and nation states as the basic units of analysis totally ignored the obvious fact that in reality these units were tied together and crosscut by ‘global’ political-intellectual currents such as liberalism, fascism, communism and socialism, as well as vast religious networks and economic and technological forces. I has also to take seriously the reality that very few people have ever been ‘solely’ nationalist. (Page 128)

People can be “gripped” by global cultural and political products and ideas, Hollywood, Manga comics, neoliberalism, Islamism, human rights, and democracy, As he observed, global forms of communication, created with the “telegraph and the steamship” had moved on. One word, Internet, plus, another, global travel. And another migration. We can communicate across the world not just through “supranational’ languages, like English, Arabic, Spanish, French, Mandarin, but in any language, if only through with the help Google translation. TO the Internet we can add migration, global travel, and migration.

It seems that many on the left, particularly the pro-Brexit left which prepared the ground for Boris Johnson’s message of Get Brexit Done, have been unable to grapple with the results of these underlying changes.

These are times and conditions not just for the rise of national populism, but for a new internationalism to grow.

In recent weeks we have seen support for Chinese democrats, protests against the persecution of the Uighurs, and a wave of deep empathy with Beirut.

But for some on the left the model of solidarity seems stuck on the late 19th century. That is, calls for solidarity between the peoples, each separate, and communicated to through vertically. It is suggested that people are constantly getting their support ‘wrong’, and should leave it to official channels; that our real business is with our “Own” imperialism.

This is not going to happen…..

Revolts in places across the world inspire direct support.

Here is –  clear, simple and an intensely moving – account  of one.

Lukashenko may be announced the winner. But his victory won’t last long

Let’s put this type of response in the dustbin of history:

Background Articles: Why the clock is ticking for Belarus’s Lukashenko

The opposition’s wooing of Moscow may have sealed the fate of Europe’s “last dictator”.

Belarus blues: can Europe’s ‘last dictator’ survive rising discontent?

Andrew Roth.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 10, 2020 at 12:19 pm

8 Responses

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  1. This is very good, and the Belarusian opposition has my full support.

    Can think of one Lexiteer who is no doubt rushing to praise Lukashenko as I write, alas.


    August 10, 2020 at 3:52 pm

  2. Quite a few of them, I’m afraid, feb!

    Jim Denham

    August 10, 2020 at 4:39 pm

  3. I was thinking of N**l Cl*rk specifically but, yes, you get some profoundly creepy characters on Twitter. I really, really wouldn’t want to pay the price for that sort of “social unity”.


    August 10, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    • In a few minutes his words came alive..

      Tractors apart I did find the Morning Star had something to say, a while back, about the lack of trade union rights in Belarus, but nothing until this bombshell which suggests even they are fed up, or regard the whole thing as not worth defending.
      Protesters brutalised after Belarus presidential election.

      “he coronavirus-induced economic damage and Mr Lukashenko’s swaggering response to the pandemic, which he airily dismissed as “psychosis,” has fuelled broad anger, helping swell the opposition ranks.

      The post-election protest, in which young demonstrators, many of them teenagers, confronted police, marked a previously unseen level of violence.

      “We don’t agree with [the election results], we have absolutely opposite information,” Ms Tsikhanouskaya said today.

      “We have official protocols from many poll stations where the number of votes in my favour are many more times than for another candidate. We are gathering proof of falsification.”

      Supporters of the Belarusian president said the unrest was organised by foreign forces, including the Polish government and “Banderites” (supporters of Ukrainian World War II nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera) from Ukraine.”


      It remains to be seen how far they have been converted to the view that ‘human rights’ and democracy are not part of a WEstern backed Colour Revolution,

      Andrew Coates

      August 10, 2020 at 9:04 pm

      • The contrivances in his arguments are perversely breathtaking for reasons I doubt he understands at all …

        As he has blocked me from even reading his tweets, it is worth gawping at his reflex arguments by other means.


        August 10, 2020 at 9:58 pm

  4. Seems from looking at its website that the Morning Star has yet to formulate a position. What I am picking up is that the Belarus oligarchy is inning the blame, as normal, at “outside influences” and in the Lukashenko mindset this means (a) the Duda Polish Government, and (b) Ukrainian nationalists from those parts of Belarus which was the former heartland of what was Galicia-Lodomeria. These are characterised by the Minsk regime as followers of wartime Ukrainian Nazi collaborator, Stepan Bandera and his OUN movement. This grouping dies exist an formed a key part of the far right element in the Maidan events. But talk of these being in league with Warsaw is simply hooey. After all, the one racial group that Bandera and his followers detested more than Jews wee Poles, and they used the WW” instability in Galicia to institute anti-Polish pogroms leaving many thousands dead. However, in todays world, this are mere foibles, and along with the supposed employment benefits of the Belarus tractor plants, this strange alliance that never was, will be trotted out by Western apologist for sure. As a postscript, the workers at the Minsk Tractor plant – the world’s biggest – seem to be following the steelworkers in Zhlobin. See https://charter97.org/en/news/2020/8/10/388948/

    david walsh

    August 10, 2020 at 7:38 pm

  5. Andrew Coates

    August 11, 2020 at 7:42 am

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