Thursday, 16 April 2015

Illegal to be unemployed in Belarus

File:Flag-map of Belarus (1995-2012).svg

Social security issues have always been at the centre of political controversy no matter which Government of no matter what persuasion introduces any measures that affect the unemployed. However you would be hard pressed to find a more controversial policy than that introduced by by Europe's last "Stalinist" dictatorship in Belarus.

According to an article in today's Times newspaper (no link £):

Housewives with fewer than three children are among thousands of people in Belarus facing criminal proceedings under a new law against "social parasitism" that makes it illegal to be unemployed....

The ruling aims to "stimulate able-bodied citizens to engage in labour activity" to help to finance state expenditures. Adults who have not paid income tax on at least 183 days a year will be fined 3.6 million Belorussian roubles (£170). Failure to pay will result in heavier fines, detention and community service.

You'll be pleased to that amongst others children are exempt as are pensioners., so that's all right then.

Such a policy is not new. The workers paradise known as the Soviet Union did the same back in the early sixties. Boris Bruk of the Institute of Modern Russia writes:

On May 4, 1961, in response to “multiple requests of the workers,” the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR issued a decree entitled "On Strengthening the Struggle with Persons Avoiding Socially Useful Work and Leading an Anti-Social, Parasitic Way of Life." According to the decree, which noted the Soviet people’s disapproval and resentment of “parasitic elements,” such citizens were to be sent into exile for a term of two to five years.

At that time, it appeared to most “conscientious” Soviet citizens that there was a significant number of "malicious parasites" in the country against whom a decisive and ruthless battle should be waged. In 1961 alone, according to some estimates, some 200,000 individuals were exiled to “specially designated places.” The decree was enforced against the homeless, beggars, speculators (persons buying and selling goods outside the state controlled system), as well as other “irresponsible persons” who did not participate in socially useful work. These parasites, while holding the status “Having No Specific Occupation” (“BORZ” to use the Soviet acronym), lost the right to freely enjoy the Soviet Union’s “wide open spaces.” As KGB Chairman Alexander Shelepin pointed out, “Soviet laws are the most humane in the world. Their humane nature, however, is exclusively for honest workers. As for parasitic elements, to all those who only use what is produced by others, the law should be strict since the individuals in this category are our internal enemies”.1

The Soviet authorities not only used the decree to deal with the above mentioned categories of citizens, but also made it a weapon in their fight against dissenters. In the 1960s, when compared to Stalin’s times, there was a change in nature of the regime’s view of what constituted an “internal threat.” If in previous years the major focus was on “unmasking the hidden enemy,” in Khrushchev’s time, the emphasis was placed on those whose dissonance could contaminate “the ideal image of the Soviet society.

Dissenters? Ah people that disagree with the regime! Human Rights Watch tell us

Belorussian authorities made no meaningful improvements in the country’s poor human rights record in 2014. President Aliaxander Lukashenka’s government continues to severely restrict freedom of expression and association, including by harassing journalists and imposing restrictive legislation on nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). Legislative amendments during the year simplified the reporting requirements for NGOs, but introduced new pretexts for liquidating them.

Read their full report here.

Stalinism is alive and well in Belarus it would seem.

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