Burma-Myanmar: For the revolutionary overthrow of the military junta

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On February 1, 2021, after 10 years of so-called democratic transition, the Burmese Army Staff took power for the fourth time since the 1948 independence of Burma-Myanmar, colonized by Great Britain and Japan. The soldiers arrested the President of the Republic Win Myint, the Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, and numerous parliamentarians of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the majority in the Parliament, the Union Assembly, which was to meet a few hours later. The junta appointed as President the commander-in-chief of the army, Min Aung Hlaing. The junta promised new elections, but after a year of state of emergency.

Like Trump in the United States, the general questioned the November 8, 2020 general election, which had been unfavorable to him: Suu Kyi’s NLD had crushed other bourgeois parties at the polls, notably those serving as a civilian smokescreen for the army, namely the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The NLD won 258 seats in the House of Representatives, the USDP 26. The NLD won 138 seats in the House of Nationalities, the USDP 7.

The fact that the army tramples on the Constitution does not mean that it is democratic. It was conceived in April 2008 by the former military junta and approved in a referendum by more than 92%. The 2008 constitution, which came into force in 2011-12, guaranteed the judicial immunity of the junta, allowed Suu Kyi to be removed from the presidency, and reserved 25% of Parliament seats to the military. The commander-in-chief also appointed the ministers of Defense, Interior and Borders. He also denied the right to vote to more than 300,000 Rohingya.

While the 1947 Constitution granted ownership of land to the State, the 2008 Constitution restored it to private ownership. This is reinforced by the law of October 30, 2018, which in particular allows the dispossession of minority agricultural communities. Large companies can begin to take over land, causing massive deforestation.

With the bill of March 28, 2012, the State recognizes the right to unionize and the right to strike, but it imposes the “Conciliation Body” and the “Arbitration Body,” which include representatives of the Bourgeois State.

Suu Kyi, who is supported by the imperialist governments of North America and Western Europe and deified by the Western media, endorsed such a parody. The “democratic transition” allows the lifting of sanctions and the securing of foreign investments (China, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Great Britain, Japan, India, France, the United States …). The army and its companies (the official UMEH and MEC conglomerates and also the traffic of jade, wood, opium and amphetamines) benefit from vigorous economic growth (more than 6% in 2018 and 2019), although it has slowed down with the global economic and health crisis in 2020 (+ 2%): decline in exports of goods, falling Japanese and Chinese tourism, rising health spending …

In 2015, the NLD won the general election by a wide margin. As a bourgeois party, the NLD competes in nationalism with the General Staff: “The Army and the NLD, dominated by the Bamars, share the same vision of minorities” (Le Monde diplomatique, March 2021). Burmese chauvinism has strong clerical (Buddhist, the religion of about 90% of the population) and racist (based on the Bamars, 68% of the population and 100% of the military staff) overtones.

Since 2012, the “democratic transition” has come with an anti-democratic process. A section of the “Sangha” (the Buddhist clergy) is leading a racist campaign against the Muslim minority. In 2012, with the help of police and the army, fascists led by Monk Wirathu boycotted Muslim businesses, killed 200 Rohingya in the State of Arakan and expelled 140,000 of them. In 2013, in the Mandalay region, Bamar Buddhist fanatics, with the help of police, killed 40 Rohingya and expelled 10,000 of them. In 2016-2017, in the State of Arakan, monks and the army destroyed 300 villages and massacred 7,000 people. Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia push back 800,000 Muslims, who end up taking refuge in Bangladesh. Suu Kyi hides this ethnic cleansing. For example, in a September 5, 2017 message to Turkish President Erdogan, she called the allegations of atrocities committed in that region “false information”; by the way, she told him that she faced a similar problem to his own with the PKK in Kurdistan.

On February 1, 2021, the junta repealed the law that protected the privacy and security of citizens. To create disorder, it released 23,000 common law prisoners.

The military coup was immediately received with great resistance throughout the country. In its development, capitalism has created companies, universities and civil administrations, relations with the rest of the world. The “Committee Representing the Assembly of the Union of Myanmar – Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw” (CRAU-CRPH) set up by the NDL, proclaims a pacifist “civil disobedience movement” (CDM). The unions, including the CTUM, support it by calling strikes. Min Aung Hlaing retaliates by banning trade unions on February 26.

In fact, on the ground, workers have unleashed a real indefinite general strike, in rail transport, textiles, banking, electricity, health, education, supermarkets, ports, fast food restaurants, post office … This gigantic social force has fueled the street mobilization of young people (young workers, students) who use social networks. Everywhere, including in the defense of demonstrations, women play a big role.

For its part, the State has rapidly hardened repression. Against information, Internet blackouts and confiscations of newspaper offices (Myanmar Now, Democratic Voice of Burma, Khit Thit Media, Mizzima, 7 Day News …). Against strikes, intimidation in administrations, universities, shipyards, and the eviction of striking railway workers from their homes. Against demonstrations, water hoses, rubber bullets, real ammunition. The junta already killed at least 70 people and jailed about 1,300 (including 34 journalists).

Neighboring China is the dominant imperialist power in Burma-Myanmar. In January 2021, just before the coup, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited the country. But in the face of continuing unrest, even the Beijing government is beginning to worry.

Workers are right to fight against the junta, for the release of prisoners, for democratic freedoms. But they must not place their hopes in the UN and in this or that of imperialist States, which dispute the world but agree on the essentials: Burma must remain capitalist, its natural riches (gas, oil, gold, wood, jade, rubies, copper, gold …) must continue to be looted, its rural and city workers must continue to be exploited. May they remember that General Min Aung Hlaing was received in 2017 by European staffs and arms dealers at the time he personally led the massacre of Rohingya. The fate of the Palestinians or Uyghurs shows that the ruling classes of the great powers and those of neighboring countries do not care about oppressed peoples or the most basic freedoms.

Although workers can sometimes cooperate, for practical reasons, with the bourgeois opposition and nationalist leaderships of oppressed minorities, they should not trust Suu Kyi and the NLD. The latter’s rivalry with General Min Aung Hlaing and the military staff remains within the framework of capitalism and the bourgeois State. The military coup is a backlash against the attempt by a fraction of the Burmese bourgeoisie represented by Suu Kyi and her party, the NLD, to regain direct control over sectors of the economy that are under the control of generals.

Indeed, the “liberal” bourgeoisie, the NLD and its alternative government (CRPH) are more afraid of the general strike, the armament of the people and the formation of soviets than of the military dictatorship. Workers must remember that in 1988, Suu Kyi and the NLD already betrayed the masses who went on general strike or occupied land, and began setting up committees in the neighborhoods. In July, the army changed the general at the head of State (Sein Lwin replaced Ne Win), guaranteed a multiparty system, and promised elections. Suu Kyi then founded the NLD to repel the revolution that was beginning, to encourage students and workers not to defend themselves and to trust the army (August 26, 1988 speech at Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon). In September, the army crushed the movement (3,000 dead). Elections were held in 1990, won by the NLD, but the junta retained power.

Trade unions must preserve their independence from the junta, but also from the NLD and from its alternative government CRAU, which is also at the service of the exploiters. In the heat of action, workers must build their own party on the basis of the Marxism of Marx, Engels, Luxembourg, Lenin and Trotsky; create their own defense and organizational bodies.

Everywhere, inspired by the democratic struggles in Hong Kong and Thailand, determined young people are forming militias to protect demonstrations; in Yangon, there have been barricades; in Rangoon, they are using Molotov cocktails. In Dawei, Karen National Union (KNU) guerrillas are defending the protesters. Cops are deserting. To organize the fight against the junta, to arm the people, to defend strikers and protesters: organize general assemblies and elect strike committees in workplaces, create councils in districts, in villages, centralize at a regional and national scale basic organs for constituting the political leadership of workers, employees, peasants, students and national minorities, for overthrowing the dictatorship and replacing it with their own government!

Also in Thailand, protests against the government supported by the army have resumed. The working class of the world is the only social force that can help the mass movement that opposes the military junta and that can defeat it definitively only by initiating a social revolution:

  • Immediate release of all political prisoners. Cancellation of all charges against them.
  • Legalization of trade unions. Freedom of opinion, of the press, of organization, of strike, of demonstration …
  • Occupation of workplaces and administrations. Self-defense against the army, the police and the Buddhist fascists. Popular militias to disarm, disband and replace them.
  • Right of refugees to return immediately to their lands. Compensation for Rohingya. Legal equality and respect for national minorities. For their right to secede from the Burmese State.
  • Restitution of collective ownership of land to cooperatives and to committees of working farmers.
  • End the persecution of atheists and Muslims. Complete secularization of the State.
  • End the oppression of women.
  • Expropriation of large companies, whether they are or not controlled by the military, and of foreign capitalist groups.
  • Workers’ and peasants’ government based on workplace, neighborhood, university and village committees. For the Socialist United States of Asia.

March 14, 2021

Permanent Revolution Collective (Austria, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey)

Endorsed by the International Leninist Trotskyist Tendency. April, 2021