Greetings from the Soviet past. Belarusians protest against compulsory labor and the tax on parasitism
There have been protests for a month throughout Belarus against the tax collection from the unemployed. Thousands of Belarusians express their displeasure in the streets with the decree of the President Alexander Lukashenko, who introduced the so-called tax on “parasitism” in the country. The law returned the concept "parasite" from the Soviet past. The unemployed were raided, caught and sent to community service at that time.
Soviet agitation poster “Conscientious work for the benefit of society: a person, who does not work, does not eat”. “I'm not a parasite” is written on the protesters’ sheets today. Every 20th Belarusian citizen received notification from tax office.
The concept "parasitism" began to be actively used in 1961. In the USSR, those who did not officially work more than 4 months were considered as parasites. Private business activity was not associated with labor activity. The parasites were evicted from cities.
Criminal liability for parasitism was introduced in the Soviet Union. The parasites were threatened with community service or even imprisonment for up to two years.
Agitation poster «The path of a parasite».
The police conducted raids in shops and cinemas, stopped people in the streets during working hours and checked documents of the citizens of working age.
In modern Belarus, the officials are looking for the unemployed in their homes and make lists. But the task assigned to them is to understand why these people are among the non-payers. The unemployed will be employed in accordance to the results of such search.
In the Soviet Union, the responsibility for parasitism made it possible for the system to punish the undesirable. In the early sixties, Joseph Brodsky, the future Nobel Prize winner in literature, was recognized as a parasite and expelled to the Arkhangelsk Region for community service. Brodsky could not prove that writing poems and making translations as a freelancer is also work.
Today, the membership in creative organizations exempts the writers from paying tax on parasitism. But only if a creative worker is a member of a pro-government union. But the members of the alternative Union of Belarusian Writers are not exempt from payment. Svetlana Aleksievich is a member of the Union of Belarusian Writers and a Nobel Prize winner in literature. She could also have been considered as a parasite, but for the advanced age. Notifications from tax offices were given to writer Victor Martinovich and play writer Andrei Kureichik and others.
Agitation poster "Parasite is our enemy. Keep out the hard-earned bread of the reach of parasites!"
"Would you like to return the concept “parasitism” – do it. It will be clearer for the people”, said Alexander Lukashenko, when the Ministry of Internal Affairs introduced a tax on parasitism in Belarus."We must put these people to work by whatever means necessary!"
The President of The Republic of Belarus signed the Resonant Decree on “preventing social dependency” in 2015. The purpose of the law is to encourage the citizens of working age to work and oblige those who do not work (and therefore do not pay income tax) to participate in financing of public spending on education and health care, which are formally free in the country.
The special charge is approximately $ 200 with an average salary of $ 380 in the country. The so-called tax on parasitism should be paid by those who worked less than six months in a calendar year.
There is a fine of about 25-50 dollars or arrest, during which you can be involved in the community service for non-payment of the tax on parasitism. The fine does not exempt from taxation.
The human rights activists note that Decree No. 3 contradicts the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Art. 8, part 3 states: "... No one shall be forced to perform compulsory labor..." The prohibition of compulsory labor is also enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. The Constitutional Court of Belarus recognized the so-called tax on parasitism as legitimate, emphasizing the constitutional obligation of each citizen to take part in financing public spending (Article 56 of the Constitution).
The protests have been taking place throughout Belarus since February 17. February 20 was the last day for the unemployed Belarusians to pay tax on parasitism.
"Pay tax and go to bed hungry!". Belarus has not seen such protests since 2010, after the announcement that Alexander Lukashenko was elected president for the fourth term. Photo: svoboda.org
"There is no salary, no work, job cuts do not stop! There are only decrees" say participants of the protests in Brest.
Photo: Zamirovski Vadim, TUT.by
“Almost all the enterprises in the city stopped the work over the past 20 years. Before that, there worked more than 14 thousand people. And now there are shopping centers on site of former enterprises”, — says one of the participants of the protests in Molodechno.
"And why do ordinary people have to suffer because of the wrong economic policy of the government?!" resent the participants of the protests.
«Lukashenko –get out!» -- one of the slogans of protesters. The president of the Republic of Belarus has been in office for 23 years.
In the Soviet times the protagonist of the posters was a parasite, now the protesters make posters with the president.
Alex Klimenko holds a poster “Moustached parasite! When are you going to burst?!” during the “March of outraged Belarusians” on February 17 in Minsk. The action was the beginning of protests throughout the country. A month after participating in the protest, Klimenko received a fine equivalent to $ 600 for violating the procedure for organizing or holding public events. Photo: Zamirovski Vadim, TUT.by
The protests were peaceful until the end of February; the protesters were not detained. Lukashenko even went for a week to Russia to have rest in Sochi. And when he returned, the police started to call public activists and politicians and draw up protocols for the participation in the “March of non-parasites”.
Photo: Matveev Igor, TUT.by
On March 9, the president suspended the collection of tax on parasitism for a year.
Commenting on the protests, Lukashenko said that the meeting was attended by people who were offended by notifications on tax payment sent to them by mistake. They are not genuine parasites. Lukashenko said that people should not be forbidden to take part in protests, but, like in the developed countries of the West, there must be a definite place to express the opinion. "We need to pick out provocateurs like sultanas from the bread rolls. And they should be liable before the law”,- said Lukashenko.
Now, after the protests, the plain-clothed police arrests activists, journalists and bloggers. The total number of detained and fined is more than 300 people in March.
The next protest action is expected on March 25, on “Freedom day”, when the opposition traditionally arranges the march. But most of the well known activists have been arrested for 15 days and will meet this day in prison.