This is a translation of 미얀마 군부독재와 노동계급 : 몇몇 좌익의 아주 해로운 인식
Myanmar Military dictatorship and working class
: Some left’s very pernicious perceptions
<Table of Contents>
Colonial Myanmar/ National Liberation Struggle and Japanese Imperialism/ The intensification of the national liberation struggle and the expansion of workers states areas since the end of the war/ Changes in the axis of conflict/ Stalinist leadership’s international class collaboration/ Myanmar’s Communist Party in turmoil/ Political polarization and civil war in Myanmar/ Military dictatorship: capitalist defender/ Ne Win’s coup and “Burmese socialism”/ Background of “military socialism”/ The nature of the military’s nationalization/ ‘Mafiaization’ of the military junta/ The military’s new capital/ The Age of the Neo colonialism/ People’s Resistance in Myanmar/ National League for Democracy (NLD) and Aung San Suu Kyi/ Working class internationalism vs Stalinism/ Sino-Soviet Conflict/ China’s Myanmar policy/ Myanmar and the Left: 1) Minplus and 4.27 Epoch: the support of the military 2) The Workers’ Revolutionary Party(WRP: RCIT South Korean affiliate) criticizes NL’s this position as a “friend of Chinese imperialism”/ The Demands of the Working Class of the Myanmar and World
Amid the territorial division competition, the entire world, including Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania, fell into the hands of imperialist financial capital one after another. British imperialism, “the empire on which the sun never sets,” moved eastward after incorporating India into its sphere of influence, toppled the Konbaung dynasty in 1886 after three wars, and even took over Myanmar.
Imperialism, which dispatched troops to occupy a new area, reorganizes the area. Not according to the needs and interests of the local people, but according to the interests of imperialist financial capital and the convenience of colonial rule, imperialism arbitrarily draws borders and puts impregnate indigenous people into those violent lines.
In Myanmar, there are at the least between 30 and 40 ethnic minorities, at the most and 135 minorities. They had lived on their land for many years enjoying their own language and culture. Until now, the minorities have now been captured into borders which imperialism has drawn its own way and subjugated to British imperialist violence.
‘Divide and rule’ is the old way of ruling of rulers. In particular, it is a conventional way in which a small number of imperialist rulers effectively control a large number of colonial people. British imperialism created hierarchies among Indians, Bengals, Burmese and minorities, and made them antagonize each other. In this way, it established an imperialist order of separation. It was a strategy to make the governed people quarrel with each other, exhaust their energy, and disrupting the resistance from directly touching the imperialism body.
After the military conquest, the region and the people of Myanmar were incorporated into the colonial comprador economy. Myanmar is a resource-rich region. Especially, it is one of the world’s largest producer of rice and oil. Myanmar is one of the world’s top three rice producers, along with Thailand and Vietnam. British imperialism made a fortune by developing the Irrawaddy River basin into rice paddies in Myanmar, with soaring international rice prices. But Myanmar farmers did not benefit from it. Price was determined by the imperialist government, and farmers were stripped of their dorsal skins once more with usury. Myanmar oil fields have already been discovered in the late 19th century. Founded by Britain, the Burmah Oil company was such a pioneer that it became the parent company of Middle East oil development in the early 20th century. Burmah Oil company later became the parent company of British Petroleum and is still owned by BP.
National Liberation Struggle and Japanese Imperialism
Where there is exploitation, there is oppression; where there is oppression, resistance is inevitable. The oppressed people in Myanmar fought for national liberation against British imperialism, and the Thakins was at the center of it. In 1939, when the Second World War broke out, it decided to fight an armed struggle. There was a mix of various political tendencies that would later diverge greatly.
By this time, Japanese imperialism had already grown into a great power in East Asia. Using the Korean Peninsula as a stepping stone, it invaded mainland China in 1937 and entered the competition for the imperialistic division of imperial territory. Imperialistic greed knows no bounds, and eventually conflicts with the greed of other imperialism states. The expansion of the power of late imperialist countries such as Germany and Japan faced existing forces such as Britain, France and the United States, leading to a second imperialist war.
Myanmar was also a key point for Japan. If Japan conquers Myanmar, it can break down one of Britain’s citadel and build a bridgehead for India. And it could cut off the supply routes of the Allies to the Kuokmintang and hit western China. And Japan can get a lot of energy and food. Thus, Japan was looking for local forces to respond to its military operations.
The Japanese spy encountered the Thakins, which longed for military aid needed for armed fighting. Meeting for each other’s needs, these two forces planned a joint military operation. Thirty members of the Thankins, who are later mythicized as “30 Thakins,” including “Aung San, U Nu, and Ne Win,” escaped to a Japanese military base in 1941 and were trained. They recruited Burmese independent soldiers to expand their influence, and in March 1942, they advanced to Myanmar with the Japanese Imperial Army. They expelled British troops and liberated of Myanmar from British imperialism. After the first independence, on 1 August 1943, they established the Burmese National Army, with Aung San as commander and Ne Win as deputy commander.
But Japan became a new occupier, not a facilitator of liberation. It took colonial Myanmar away from Britain, incorporated it into its’ imperial sphere of influence, and rebuilt colonial rule. The target of resistance for the independent people of Myanmar who want independence had changed from Britain to Japan. In August 1944, the Burmese Army, the Burmese Communist Party, the People's Revolutionary Party, and ethnic minorities formed the Anti-Japanese Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL). After a crushing defeat in the Battle of Imphal between March and July 1944, the Japanese army quickly lost momentum. The AFPFL launched an anti-Japanese uprising in March 1945, and in May, along with the Allies, advanced to Rangoon, defeating the Japanese imperialist forces.
Myanmar was liberated for the second time. However, it also meant the return of Anglo-American imperialist forces. The Burmese army was under Allied command. The Allies were, in effect, under the command of the United States and Britain. The British army sent military advisers to lead the Burmese army, and trained outstanding cadets in the Commonwealth. The United States trained Myanmar’s military personnel at the CIA base in Saipan, creating the infamous Myanmar Military Intelligence Agency. Nicknamed ‘Electronic Microscope’, Brigadier General Tin Wu was a representative figure.
The intensification of the national liberation struggle and the expansion of workers states areas since the end of the war
The people of Myanmar did not achieve independence entirely on their own. However, they were proud people who actively fought against British and Japanese imperialism. Before and after the end of the war, local workers, farmers and minorities in Myanmar hoped for “complete independence from imperialism, nationalization of imperialist assets, land redistribution, and independence of minorities.” And those demands could only be fully fulfilled by 'socialism'. Thus, the majority of Myanmar's people regarded socialism as an ideal political system, as did the people of the Korean before and after liberation.
This was a demand not only from Myanmar, but also from all colonial areas since the end of World War II. The imperialist rivalry warfare weakened the power of the existing imperialist invaders, while strengthened the capacity of local worker and peasant’s to fight for national liberation. This fighting capacity became more powerful in combination with the Soviet Union, which had already been liberated from capitalism and imperialism. Eastern Europe and the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, where German imperialism and Japanese imperialism were defeated, have become areas which abolished private property system along with the end of the war. Similar turbulence shook all colonial states and nations of the world, including Africa, South America, and Asia.
Let’s just look at the situation in East Asia adjacent to Myanmar. A workers’ state was established in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, and the southern part of the country occupied by U.S. imperialism entered a civil war, which eventually escalated into an all-out war between 1950 and 1953. By the end of World War II, the Civil War between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang was nearing the end. Despite the full support of the Allied forces, the pro-imperialist and anti-people’s Kuomintang was eventually defeated in 1949, and the victorious Chinese Communist Party declared the establishment of the People's Republic of China. The “Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia” people of Indochina also supported socialism as an alternative for liberation from imperial oppression and capitalist exploitation. The Vietnamese Communist Party defeated France which wanted to be imperialist boss again, and liberated the North. The war was extended throughout Vietnam due to American participation, but American imperialism suffered a humiliating defeat and the whole vietnam became a de-capitalist workers’ state. Laos and Cambodia were also established ‘deformed workers’ states’ with “low productivity, low working-class ratios, undemocratic and tyrannical governance of bureaucracies, but with the elimination of private ownership.”
The imperialist Netherlands could not return to its former colony of Indonesia since the end of the war. It was partly due to the U.S. check, but anti-imperialist resistance, which grew so much, was the more important cause. The Indonesian Communist Party, which represents anti-imperialist forces, had 3 million members by the 1960s. In order to keep Indonesia within the capitalist framework, an anti-communist, pro-capitalist, and pro-imperialist coup was needed in 1965. The coup led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people. The powerful Communist Party of Indonesia was horribly defeated. This defeat was the result of the Stalinist line of class cooperation.
Changes in the axis of conflict since the end of the war
After World War II victory, the United States, which won world hegemony, became the mainstay of global capitalism. To support the world's troubled capitalist system, the United States raised yesterday’s enemies by operating plans such as Marshall Plan and others. The first priority was to support the capitalist dam, which cracks here and there due to the national liberation struggle and the establishment of a workers’ state.
The same was true of Myanmar. Imperialism had to tie up the entire country as a capitalist neo colony. To do so, the government had to subdue Myanmar's working-class and farmers, who demanded "land redistribution, complete independence from imperialism, nationalization of imperial assets and independence of minorities," and the Communist Party and minority political forces. This was a difficult goal to achieve without the help of local forces.
Working people in Myanmar, led by the Communist Party and ethnic minority groups, and imperialist and pro-capitalist indigenous forces trying to tie it up as over-exploitation areas were irreconcilable hostile contradictions. These two directions of pressure have pulled Myanmar's society to the extremes since the end of the war, resulting in rapid polarization of political forces.
Stalinist leadership’s international class collaboration
Before the end of the war, most of the forces involved in the Myanmar national liberation movement joined the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL), which was founded in 1944. The term fascism was mainly used to refer to “German” and “Japan.” Especially after the outbreak of World War II, for the Soviet leadership, who had to fight Germany on the Western front and Japan in the southeast, to win the war against both was the most important. Needless to say, Soviet defence was a priority of the international socialist revolution. But the way it was a problem. The Stalinist bureaucracy, whose vision has become extremely narrow in the face of immediate threat, has lost its long-term and international prospects.
Non-Marxist and short sited policy has been overtaken. They differenciated the “friendly imperialism” from “belligerent fascist” imperialism and called the alliance with the British, French, and American imperialism. This was an extension of domestic politics to unite the "national capitalists" and the "people's front" against fascism. Class struggles in each country were restrained and shelved for the 'anti-fascist struggle'. The so-called class collaborative people's front strategy was advocated, and this catastrophic strategy was given as a guide through the Comintern. The Stalinist bureaucracy, which was struggling not to go against the imperialism of the Allies, eventually disbanded the communist world leadership, Comintern, in 1943, during World War II.
Myanmar’s Communist Party in turmoil
This line confused the workers and communists in the British, French, and American colonies, and divided the local communist party. The same was true of the British colony of Myanmar at the time of World War II. According to Comintern's guidelines, the working people of Myanmar had to form an alliance with the imperialist invader Britain, who had fallen Myanmar themselves into disaster, and fight against Japan.
It was not until 1943 that the “red flag” Communist leader Thakin Soe escaped the chaos and said that "the alliance with Britain should be completely rejected because British imperialism is fascism as well". In the eyes of Myanmar's people, the chaos could have been swept under the carpet between 1943 and 1945, when Japan became a clear invader to Myanmar. However, class-collaborative chaos resumed when Britain, which won the war in 1945, returned and insisted on restoring its former colony. The confusion tied communists and workers together in fantasies of ‘workers and communists’ in fantasies of “alliable capitalists” and “friendly imperialism”. Damaging the ‘golden time’ of resistance, it dispersed energy. It was the specific result that the “white flag” Communist Party and parts of the Socialist Party stayed in the AFPFL, the People's Front, for a while and led them to fall into class collaborationist fantasies.
Political polarization and civil war in Myanmar
The most radical red flag Communist Party immediately resisted British and American imperialist intentions and refused to participate in the AFPFL, a pro-imperialist and pro-capitalist organization, and launched an anti-British struggle in February 1946. The white flag Communist Party, under the leadership of Thakin Than Tun, accused the red flag of "left-wing adventurism" and stayed in the AFPFL to maintain the People's Front. However, they failed to withstand the increasingly intense anti-communist offensive and was eventually kicked out. They joined the anti-U Nu armed struggle in March 1948. When the AFPFL regime sided with the UN in the 1950 Korean war, the left wing of the Socialist Party also withdrew from the AFPFL. Minorities who refused to join the Burmese Federation State joined the armed struggle in 1949. As from the left wing people separating from AFPFL one by one, only the right wing of the Socialist Party led by the liberal force "U Nu" and the Ne Win forces who found his identity in the far right remain in the AFPFL government.
Class civil war broke out throughout Myanmar. Between 1949 and 1952, the Communist Party of Burma and ethnic minority rebels controlled two-thirds of Myanmar. The U Nu and Ne Win governments were lamped by the wind. They were isolated in the capital city of Rangoon, at the southern tip of Myanmar. Like the South Korea, it was only with the military assistance of the US-centered imperialist forces that managed to recover the war.
Liberals and the Far Right: ‘Two horns sticking out of the same head’
Ne Win rose sharply after a large number of Burmese troops, including top commanders, joined Communist and ethnic minority rebels. In 1949, after losing most of Myanmar, Ne Win became commander-in-chief of the Burmese Army, and later became deputy prime minister of the Ministry of National Defense and the Interior.
U Nu and Ne Win are two factions of Myanmar’s pro-capitalist ruling class. The two have something in common: anti-national comprador political forces that exist through imperialist patronage. But U Nu (later Aung San Suu Kyi) expresses a liberal attitude and Ne Win expresses a despotic attitude. Phenomenally, the two seem to be at odds. In essence, however, these two are two horns that sprout from the same head. These two share a fundamental interest of capitalism. The two are just two facial expressions of the ruling class, just as one person has different facial expressions of in stability and in crisis.
U Nu expresses a group of capitalists who avoid extremes and want stability. In terms of Korea, it can be inferred to the Hanmindang(Korean Democratic Party) shortly after liberation and the Democratic Party after that. Ne Win, on the other hand, expresses a group of capitalists in extreme crisis. It is the direction of this force’s action to unconditionally crush up those who threaten their lives. In terms of South Korea, it can be inferred to the Jayudang(Freedom Party), the military dictatorship, and the current far-right political forces, which used to be reckless political gangsters such as the Northwest Youth Corps right after liberation.
Military dictatorship: capitalist defender
The popularity of the Ne Win military is appalling because it has been bloody suppressing working-class, peasants and minorities in Myanmar who want “liberation from imperialism, land redistribution, and independence of minorities”. Thus, military political forces like Ne Win suffer crushing defeats in elections. The military’s performance in 1960, 1990 and 2015 general elections was disastrous despite the fact that it dominated almost all public institutions, including politics, economy, government, military, media and education, and held elections under favorable conditions.
Nevertheless, why is military rule still continuing in Myanmar? That’s because Myanmar’s capitalist system can’t handle a single piece of democratization. Given democracy, as if the valve of a heated rice cooker was opened, demands from the working people who had been suppressed would pour into the open space, immediately put Myanmar’s capitalism in crisis. Regardless of the coup, it is Myanmar’s society that has frequently carried out the closure of universities and the massacre of civilians. Coups in 1958 and 1962 and 1988 and 2021 only express extreme instability in Myanmar’s capitalist system.
After the April 19 democratic ‘Revolution’ in 1960 in South Korea, labor movements and unification movements poured out into the square, and the South Korean neo-colonial capitalist system was immediately in crisis. The May 16 coup by Park was a first aid to the crisis. The 2013 Egyptian coup is a similar analogy. The 2012 Egyptian Revolution brought down Mubarak, a longtime military dictator. The Egyptian working class was greatly awakened and systematically and consciously jumped forward. Egypt’s over-exploitation system is in crisis.
In the global capitalist order, the ruling class is not afraid of incompetent and reactionary “civilian governments” such as Yoon Bo-sun in 1960, Choi Kyu-ha’s government in 1979 in South Korea, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s government in 2012 in Egypt. What they are really afraid of is the organizational conscious awakening of the working class that erupted into the open space. That’s because socialism is coming soon after the door of awakening.
Internationally, Myanmar is adjacent to deformed workers’ states. And domestically, there has been a decades-long civil war with the Communist Party and ethnic minority rebels. Protests that risked protesters’ lives continue due to their miserious lives. This Myanmar capitalist system is hard to allow even a very feeble level of democracy. In this regard, the so-called liberal political forces such as U Nu or Aung San Suu Kyi, who are partly pacifistic and seem to yield to the working people, have always been unreliable. In addition, the military has grown like a monster, monopolizing various interests under its long reign. As a public enemy, they will be horrified by a slight power shift or concession.
Ne Win’s coup and “Burmese socialism”
In October 1958, the Ne Win military seized power by threatening liberal U Nu. It was because the lukewarm attitude toward the Communist Party and minority rebels was not reliable. Meanwhile, the military made various devices in its favor and held general elections in 1960. But the military lost the general election and the ousted U Nu swept to victory. It was due to the deep fear and antipathy of Myanmar’s society toward the military, which has carried out violent anti-people rule. On 2 March 1962, Ne Win again staged a coup to dissolve the parliament and imprison U Nu.
After the coup, Ne Win’s military suddenly advocates “socialism.” So far, it has trampled on the socialist orientation of the working class and brutally suppressed the Communist Party and minorities. On July 4, the military created its own party. The party’s name was “Burmese Socialist Planning Party.” The party was not welcomed by the working class. On July 7, three days after its foundation, a student at Rangoon University staged a protest denouncing the coup and demanding the restoration of democracy. Ne Win released troops into college and killed hundreds.
Twelve years later, on January 4, 1974, the country was renamed as the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma. The same was true at this time. Although “socialism” was put into the national name, workers and students had no hope of “socialism” by the Ne Win military. Myanmar’s working people were starving. In May of that year, workers who were complaining about food shortages went on strike first. The students responded to the strike with protests. The protests continued until the end of December. Ne Win’s military had to kill hundreds of workers and students for its “socialism.”
The Chinese government, which was supporting the white flag Communist Party at the time, seems to have already recognized the identity of the Ne Win military’s “socialism.” The Chinese ambassador to Myanmar said in 1967 “The Myanmar government is a dictatorship of a military party acting like a bourgeoisie…The military, led by Ne Win, is a key force among Myanmar’s bourgeoisie, reporting that Myanmar socialism is bureaucratic capitalism that follows socialism only outwardly(「The Change in Myanmar’s Foreign Policy and its Relationship with Major Countries.」).”
Background of “military socialism”
Ne Win’s military, which had cruelly suppressed socialist demands, has now unexpectedly come up with “socialism” to deceive the working people and minorities, among other things. As South Korea did shortly after liberation, almost all political organizations and military personnel, including the Myanmar people before and after the end of the war, did not have much disagreement that socialism is an ideal system.
“In addition to the anti-government forces, major politicians and the military in the government, continuing ideology of General Aung San, have defined liberalism and capitalism in Britain as incompatiable system, while adopting Fabian socialism after independence as a national ideology.”―「The Change in Myanmar’s Foreign Policy and its Relationship with Major Countries.」
This atmosphere in favor of socialism was formed during the struggle for national liberation of Great Britain and Japan. People in Myanmar have learned in the struggle that “the real liberation from imperialism must be overcoming capitalism.”
The support of the people of Myanmar for socialism was also confirmed through the civil war. The Communist Party and minority armed groups were guerrilla-style armies, and the armies of U Nu and Ne Win were regular troops supported by the United States and Britain. Nevertheless, during the civil war, the governments of liberal U Nu and far-right Ne Win were isolated in the southern port city of Rangoon. This proves that most workers in Myanmar supported the Communist Party and ethnic minority rebels.
The nature of the military’s nationalization
After the deceptive “Burmese-style socialism” declaration, the Ne Win government nationalized various industries, including mining, electricity, construction and telecommunications. Since there is no share of the profits of private capital, nationalisation is likely to be mostly pro-labor, even within the capitalist system. But the nationalization of the Ne Win military is not. Nationalization was anti-labor and racist, only to fill the military’s stomach and prevent the disturbance of recruiting soldiers who were working hard.
Around 1982, the highest level of nationalization was 38% (『the Burmese modern history』). All nationalized assets were managed by the Burma Defense Association (later Burma Economic Development Corporation), which consists of incumbent and retired soldiers. The assets were for the “welfare” of the military, not for the welfare of the people. Not only did the military took profit from various industries, but it also took the national budget to its own devices.
“The World Health Organization says one in 29 Burmese adults are infected with HIV. The number of malaria deaths is even higher, with 700,000 reported in 2004. While Burma’s military junta poured most of its national budget into the military, the 2004 AIDS suppression spending was only $22,000. Burma has allocated 3 percent of its national budget to health and 8 percent to education, while spending 50 percent on the military.”—『Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese Army』, Bertil Lintner
And Myanmar’s state-owned assets were created primarily through racist looting. After liberation, assets such as Indians, Pakistanis and Muslims in western Myanmar were looted by the military. More than 100,000 people fled Myanmar between 1964 and 1966 to escape severe looting and racial oppression. This segregation and suppression of ethnic minorities are the main means of Myanmar’s capitalist rule. In 1978, 350,000 people moved to Bangladesh due to the suppression of Muslims in western Myanmar. In 2012, there was the Rohingya genocide and mass migration. The suppression and looting of ethnic minorities have similar political implications to the Nazi’s madness over domestic class conflicts and plundering Jewish assets by instigating anti-Semitic frenzy before and after World War II.
‘Mafiaization’ of the military junta
In this process, the army was mafiaized. Myanmar’s military has taken control of not only the military, but also the police and intelligence agencies, monopolized politics, and all institutions of the economy, including the state-run corporation. Education, government offices, and the media are also dominated by military personnel. It is rather peripheral, but Myanmar’s military has a profound connection with drug cultivation and sales.
The combined number of soldiers and their families is about 400,000 and the total number of workers for military dictators and related personnel is about 2 million. These are the privileged caste of Myanmar. There are separate schools and hospitals that only soldiers use, and there are special shops only for soldiers. Police cannot crack down on soldiers even if they violate traffic laws.
The military’s new capital
Myanmar’s third-term military dictator, Than Shwe, purged Ne Win, a longtime dictator, and Kinyun, a second-in-command information defense, and seized control of the military mafia. Than Shwe arrived in Naypyitaw in 2005, 400 kilometers inland from the long-time capital, Yangon. Naypyitaw is a citadel isolated from the outside world that even diplomats from each country cannot easily access. The city was built exclusively for the military and military families, leaving all existing residents out. The military city, built in a remote area far from the existing capital Yangon (Rangoon), where the majority of Myanmar’s population resides, is, among other things, to escape the danger of frequent mass uprising. As seen in the protests now, soldiers who exist far from civilians regard citizens as separate beings. They feel less guilty while slaughtering. There are reports that some riot troops, including police, have joined the protesters, but they are very rare among soldiers. Families of soldiers living in Naypyitaw, enjoying various privileges, also serve as hostages for riot suppression troops.
Naypyitaw means “house of the kings” in Myanmar. Myanmar’s military always bluffs that it inherited Aung San’s national liberation struggle and even aims for “socialism.” However, the three giant statues built on the vast training grounds of Naypyitaw is neither Aung San nor Marx. Three large statues examining the military are medieval kings who fought neighboring countries and greatly expanded the Kingdom of Myanmar.
The Age of the Neo colonialism
Since the end of World War II, direct colonial rule of imperialism has almost disappeared and changed to indirect rule, or “neo colony,” using local puppet. This is not because imperialism’s greed has abated. This is because the political environment has changed.
“After the Second World War, the struggles for national liberation were intensified by two causes. One is the growth of the working class in the colonies as a result of capitalization initiated by imperialism. The other is the weakening of the former imperialist powers in the colonies by all out war between the imperialists. The growth of the working class has made direct imperialist rule difficult. Direct rule by foreign imperialists exposed the stark division of society before the working people. So ways to rule the colonies have changed from direct to indirect rule, using the indigenous ruling elites and comprador capitalists as domestic imperialist agents, to avoid direct and fierce struggles against imperialism.”—「Iran, Nationalism, Imperialism」, Bolshevik EA, 2018
Military dictatorship is common in the “3rd World” of Neo Colonies. It is responsible for protecting the imperialist financial capital invested in the region and safely escorting super profits and looting resources to the imperialist home country. The 3rd World military dictatorship effectively carries out the task of overpowering the anti-imperialist national liberation movement, which intensified shortly after World War II. It effectively suppresses the local working class’s awakening in combination with communism and its progress toward anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggles.
Until the 1980s, coups were frequent in many countries, including South America, Africa, and Asia, and were ruled by military dictatorships. Even now, Thailand, Egypt, and Indonesia are in power by the military or have strong power. The military acts as an anti-communist hound like this. The more difficult the hunting mission is, the more preferential the hounds are and the more oily they feed. As such, the Third World colonial military also enjoys wealth along with power, and has a considerable say in it.
In 2013, a year after the 30-year-old dictator Mubarak stepped down due to the “Arab Spring,” a coup broke out again in Egypt. At that time, Al-Sisi, the defense minister and commander-in-chief of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood government, staged a coup to strangle the “Arab Spring.” The military, which is back in power, also has huge corporations. According to Egypt’s Armed Forces Cement Economic Power, Egypt’s Armed Forces is known to have more than 20% of GDP. After Suharto’s 1961 coup, the Indonesian military also has almost all social sectors, including government agencies, businesses, parliament and foreign embassies. This phenomenon has become the word “dwifungsi.“ It is also well known that military dictators Park Chung-hee, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, who appeared in the coup, accumulated astronomical assets. The assets they have raked up in illegal activities have yet to be recovered.
Myanmar and South Korea have similar and different modern history. The difference is analyzed by 『the Burmese Modern History』.
“The United States, which emerged as a guardian of the capitalist world after the war, extended its influence to South Korea and Burma on behalf of Japan and Britain, but intervened much deeper because South Korea, a strategic hub aimed at China and Soviet and a key point in Japan’s defense, was important in the U.S. global strategy. As for Burma, the Burmese government, which is basically anti-communist, provided only a small amount of military aid unless there is a risk of losing a civil war with communist rebels or ethnic minorities. Therefore, the Burmese government was enjoying relative autonomy in policy-making.”
People’s Resistance in Myanmar
Myanmar have suffered from the endless dual oppression of the over-exploitation of imperialism and military dictatorship. People in Myanmar, including ethnic minorities, are forced to continue their terrible lives. This is the cause of frequent resistance to violent levels. The student movement still plays a big role in this resistance. As in South Korea until the 1980s and 1990s, students play a political leading role in a society with a relatively high proportion of agriculture and a low proportion of working class.
There was a surprise currency reform in September 1987. Complaints from Myanmar people, who had already suffered from living difficulties, have erupted, leading to student protests across the country. As usual, the military responded by suppressing murder, arresting and closing universities. In March 1988, student-led protests resumed. Martial law was declared on 3 August. On August 8, massive protests broke out across Myanmar and the military fired. Thousands of people have died. But the protests did not abate. On September 18, a pro-government coup took place. It was announced that Ne Win and others would step down from power, and a general election would be held. It resembles Roh Tae-woo’s “6.29 Declaration,” which succumbed to the June Great Struggle but deceived it at the same time.
National League for Democracy (NLD) and Aung San Suu Kyi
On 24 September, the National League for Democracy (NLD) was formed. Aungji and Wu Tin-u, who were members of the military dictatorship, served as chairmen and vice chairmen. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was returning to Myanmar to take care of her mother, was appointed secretary-general. She is the daughter of legendary hero Aung San.
General elections took place on 27 May 1990 for the first time in 30 years. Aung San Suu Kyi was pensioned, registered 93 political parties and organized in favor of the military. Nevertheless, the NLD won by a landslide. It won 392 of the 492 seats. It was a result of measuring the extent of Myanmar’s disillusionment with military dictatorship. Surprised, the military denied the results and arrested the winner.
Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD are the crystalization of an abomination to military dictatorship. Under a long military dictatorship, the real alternatives, including the Communist Party, were doggedly suffocated. Thus, the NLD became the only substitute for the remaining military dictatorship in Myanmar. However, the NLD is only one of the two cards of capitalism, and it does not fulfill the aspirations of the people of Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi has shown no significant pro-people policy on her own, other than the fact that she is an opponent against the military. She even sympathized with the military during the Rohingya crackdown.
Like the Democratic Party of South Korea, the NLD acts as a curtain on real alternatives. It is just another capitalist ointment applied to the wounds caused by capitalism. “Democratic” swindler like the NLD play a role in dispersing the energy of resistance that wants real democracy and buying time until the heat cools down.
Myanmar’s working class can fight alongside the NLD in the struggle for democracy under the dictatorship of rebels. But they are crooks, not alternatives. Advanced activists representing Myanmar’s working class must build their own socialist alternatives.
Working class internationalism vs Stalinism
Marxism analyzes the capitalist system and views the socialist revolution on a macro-time and space, or “historical and global” level. From an international perspective, it designs and supports the socialist revolution and national liberation struggle of the local working class. Stalinism, on the other hand, is suffocated by the immediate threat of imperialism and loses its long-term and international perspective. Stalinists are frightened into a narrower perspective and trapped in a national perspective. They are only keen on the interests of its own country, which is in the face of them.
When German fascism came to power just before World War II, the frightened Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy put Soviet defense at the forefront of all values. Thus, in exchange for cooperation with British and French imperialism, they paid for the “worker’s world revolution and internationalism.” Fascism is just one of the faces of capitalism and imperialism. It’s just a convulsion of capitalism in crisis. However, they pursued an alliance with “democratic/national capitalists” and “friendly imperialism,” saying they stood up against the capitalist phenomenon of fascism. This is the class-collaborative “anti-fascist popular front.”
Under the leadership of the Soviet bureaucracy, Comintern repeated the symptomatic treatment. A clumsy driver, who was not familiar with the road, responded zigzag as if he were rushing around the steering wheel. In 1927–8, they led the Chinese Revolution and the British general strike to disaster with a class-collaborationism, including the dissolution of the Communist Party into the Kuomintang and the maintenance of an uncritical united front with the British trade unions. Then, they suddenly adopted the ultra-left “third epoch” that said, “A communist revolution is imminent, so there is no need for compromise with reformism.” They called the Social Democratic Party “social fascism” and rejected a united anti-fascist front with the working class reformist group. In the meantime, fascist Hitler came to power. Surprised Stalinist Comintern curled up this time. Now, they quickly turned the wheel to the right and appealed for a class-cooperative anti-fascist united front.
Even workers’ states that have abolished private ownership do not have the same situation. The circumstances of each country are different. So if you’re stuck in a national perspective, there’s discord occurs. The Sino-Soviet conflict was a disastrous consequence.
Circumstance of Soviet: ‘When German and Japanese imperialism invaded, the working class defended their country with all their might. Thus, the Soviet Union was able to win World War II. However, it made a huge sacrifice, both personally and physically. The Soviet Union fought on the same side as the United States, witnessing the formidable economic and military power of American imperialism. Immediately after the end of the war, U.S. imperialism immediately began Soviet hostilities, but it took time for Soviet bureaucrats to break away from their old affairs. They also took a lukewarm stance in the upcoming war on the Korean Peninsula. Stalin died in 1953. The Khrushchev regime, which represents the post-Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy, staged a “anti-Stalin campaign” for its survival. It was to sever the sins of Stalin’s time(see 「흐루쇼프의 비밀연설과 스탈린주의Khrushchev’s Secret Speech and Stalinism」). Trying to avoid a sharp confrontation with imperialism. The illusion that it could coexist with imperialism through disarmament or peace agreements.’ became the line.
Circumstance of China: ‘In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party defeated the Kuomintang after a civil war. The People’s Republic of China was established. But the U.S. imperialism and the Kuomiontang’s offensive to choke newborn China has not stopped. U.S.-backed uprisings have been frequent in Myanmar border and Tibet. War broke out on the Korean Peninsula in 1950. Discontent arose with the lukewarm Soviet Union in this war. Suffering from imperialist military provocations, the Soviet Union takes a step further and puts forward a “peaceful co-existence line.” It pushed to improve relations with the U.S., which is a strong opponent to China. Moreover, it downgrades Stalin, who is known as Mao Zedong’s mentor and a heroic supporter of the Communist Party of China. This is an insult to Mao and the CCP. It also does not transfer nuclear technology that was desperate for self-defense against imperialist threats.’
Under these circumstances, the conflict between the two countries intensified. Talks between Mao Zedong and Khrushchev, who visited China in 1959, was the last one. Worker’ internationalism, or the idea of “unity of international workers”, is practically discarded by Stalinist leaders of both countries. The Soviet Union surprisingly supported India in the 1962 Sino-India border dispute. In 1969, armed conflict broke out on the Sino-Soviet border. In 1972, Mao invited Nixon from the U.S. to have a pleasant conversation. Joined the anti-Soviet blockade of American imperialism. In 1978, pro-Soviet Vietnam invaded pro-China Cambodia. In 1979, China invaded Vietnam. In the 1980s, the Soviet Union was troubled by rebels in Afghanistan. China, along with the United States, trained and supported Afghan Mujahideen rebels.
The Sino-Soviet conflict did not stop until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. This long-standing struggle between workers’ states has severely disrupted the world’s working class. It split and demoralised the class. Class enemies made a mockery of “workers’ internationalism”.
China’s Myanmar policy
The policies of China and the Soviet Union, which are bent on increasing their side no matter who they are, continued to Myanmar. “Whoever it was” competed with each other to win favor with the Myanmar regime. They offered good conditions to each other and asked to be on their side. For Myanmar’s military, not only the United States, Britain, and Japan, but also the Soviet Union and China offer gifts and treat them generously. It was best situation for the anti-communist Myanmar military, which had been tainted by various crimes, including the massacre of civilians.
Although private ownership was abolished, China’s productivity level was very backward. Poverty can’t be removed in the such productivity level. In that case, the planned economy cannot be maintained smoothly and even state power is in risk. Economic cooperation with the Soviet Union was broken. China opened a market to the West. China had to solve economic problems by introducing advanced technology.
Myanmar is also a very important country for China. It is much more economical if supplies from Africa and Europe go through Myanmar. Moreover, it is a little more free from the US blockade of China. Trade volume between China and Myanmar is also significant. Because of these geopolitical considerations, China values Myanmar. Whoever it is, Chinese regime must establish friendly relations with the Myanmar regime.
Meanwhile, the CCP has supported the Communist Party of Burma, especially the white flag, which maintained a class-cooperative line. But the triangle relationship was not smooth because of the need to improve relations with Myanmar’s ruling military. The Chinese government’s support for the Burmese Communist Party has become increasingly passive and secretive. In 1979, China also publicly announced that it would stop supporting the Burmese Communist Party on condition that Myanmar’s military would not form military alliances with the Soviet Union and the United States.
Burmese communist movements have been gradually reduced due to the long-standing operations of Myanmar’s military combined with imperialism, isolation, international divisions and internal divisions. By the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc collapsed, it was almost extinct. The communist government of China has been uncomfortable with Myanmar’s communists since the 1980s. The CCP regime offered asylum to the Burmese communists. While guaranteeing housing and living expenses in China, it was a proposal with humiliating clues to abandon any political activity. To stabilize trade routes with Myanmar in early 1989, China again proposes retirement. The Burmese Communist Party was joined by young people who escaped from military oppression not only during the national liberation struggle, but also during the civil war since the end of the war and during the turbulent times inside Myanmar, including the 1988 Great Struggle. The senior communist fighters from the time of the national liberation struggle has devoted their lives to nearly 50 years of struggle. In February 1989, during an emergency meeting to review retirement proposals from the CCP, the 75-year-old Communist Party chief Thakin Ba Thein Tin criticized China for the first time. Disappointment and humiliation could not have been tolerated(『The rise and fall of communist party of Burma』).
Myanmar and the Left
South Korea and most of the international left are opposed to the military coup. Of course, majority is not always right. In the case of the Hong Kong protests and Belarusian protests, which were hot issues in 2019 and 2020, the majority supported the so-called “democracy” protests. Both protests were reactionary, but most of the “leftists” supported the “democratic” protests in Hong Kong and Belarus and joined the anti-China and anti-Russia campaigns (see 「the Bolshevik EA’s position in Hong Kong and Belarus」). But as the March 10 statement on Myanmar and this article explain, we stand by the protesters fighting for their lives to overthrow the reactionary military.
In this regard, the position of “support for the coup of the Myanmar military” by ‘Minplus and the ’4.27 Epoch’, which are in the so-called ‘NL gourp’, is quite shocking. Meanwhile, the Workers’ Revolutionary Party’s stance criticizing them is appalling in another sense. All of these left-wing organizations perceive the Myanmar military’s relationship with China and the United States very differently from the truth. While distorting the facts, they draw conflicting conclusions. They are both polemic but it is true in that both are detrimental to the world’s working class.
1) Minplus and 4.27 Epoch: the support of the military
The two media outlets described their positions on Myanmar through various articles and videos. The two are different media outlets, but the same articles are sometimes duplicated (How would you view the coup in Myanmar?/ A review of the Myanmar situation―can only be seen as a simple anti-dictatorial democratic demonstration?). And other articles and videos are almost the same, so we summarize them in a bundle.
‘The Myanmar military is an anti-imperialist force rooted in the anti-Japanese national liberation struggle. And the military is oriented toward socialism. Such Myanmar’s military has maintained friendly relations with China, while it has long been a thorn in the side of the West, including the United States. In this regard, it resembles the North Korea, which overcomes the march of hardship under imperialist pressure. The protests are anti-communist, like in 1988, behind it there is imperialism, including the United States. Aung San Suu Kyi is only the biological daughter of Aung San, and is anti-Communist and pro-American.’
Earlier, we explained in detail the nature of the Myanmar military, its relations with imperialism, including the United States, and its relations with China. We think the explanation has already refuted Minplus’ claims and the 4.27 Epoch. However, we would like to introduce more related facts. From 『A Delicate Relationship: The United States and Burma/Myanmar instance 1945』 2) Office of the Historian, and 3) 「The Change in Myanmar’s Foreign Policy and its Relationship with Major Countries」
* * *
First, this document gives an overview of U.S. policy toward Myanmar since the end of the war.
“In October 1949, policy options were presented to Secretary of State Dean Acheson. American interest in Burma was simply stated: to prevent communist encroachment in the region, there should be a stable government oriented toward the United States and the British Commonwealth, one that could maintain internal order, resist external communist pressures, and rehabilitate the society and economy. To this end the United States should be prepared to extend financial and technical assistance. It should also provide military aid and encourage the formation of a regional anticommunist pact. Finally, the United States should intensify “the use of intelligence services,” step up propaganda distribution, and engage in “appropriate … covert activities.”—A Delicate Relationship, 54p
Next, this document shows that the U.S. is pleased with the bloodless coup of the Ne Win military, which overthrew the liberal government of U Nu in 1958.
“The State Department, however, concluded that “on balance, the military takeover was a good thing,” primarily because of its anticommunist posture.”—ibid, 172
The military held general elections in 1960 after creating conditions in its favor. But U Nu’s victory was assured. U.S. Assessment of this.
“By January 1960 embassy officials had concluded that a U Nu victory was now probable, and they were not heartened by the prospect. Nu was likely to appease China and would be “less susceptible to US influence than Ne Win Govt.” The best course for the United States, the new ambassador William P. Snow suggested, was to continue to keep channels open to the army. “This group has shown realistic appraisal of danger which strong Communist China poses for Burma,” he explained, “and willingness to take anti-Communist position.”—ibid, 172
Next is the part that U.S. trusts anti-communism of the Ne Win army is believed in anti-communism, fearing an invasion of communism after U Nu’s re-election.
“Even as skepticism of U Nu grew, the United States wanted to provide additional military assistance because, as Parsons put it, “the Burma Army is the strongest organized anti-communist element and force for stability in Burma.” By the end of December 1960 the United States was ready to propose a program of military assistance worth $43million to be spread over four years with deliveries of supplies over five years.”—ibid, 183
Ne Win, aware of U.S. concerns about the U Nu regime, addressed them in a coup on March 2, 1962. This time U Nu and his party were not safe. They were arrested and disbanded. On March 19, shortly after the coup, the U.S. ambassador sent the following telegram to the State Department.
“I began call conveying President’s greetings and hope he could visit Washington early July. Ne Win replied wished come Washington and meet President as soon as possible but not sure could get away so early.”―Office of the Historian
A year after the coup, Kennedy’s government renewed confidence in the Ne Win government, and the United States promises not to take issue with Myanmar’s military’s democratic and human rights violations.
“To this end the State Department wanted the new ambassador, Henry A. Byroade, who departed for Burma on 11 September 1963, to express Kennedy’s hope to meet Ne Win personally. The State Department also wanted Byroade to assure Ne Win that the United States would “not stay idly by” if China attacked. Nor was the United States about to make an issue of Burma’s lack of democracy or its human rights violations.”—A Delicate Relationship, 207
The president changed after Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, but American trust in the Myanmar military remained the same. Here’s a call from National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy on May 13, 1964.
“Burmese have been damn good about preventing any serious communist infiltration.”―Office of the Historian
Meanwhile, the CCP regime wants stable economic cooperation with the Myanmar government, not necessarily it is military junta. In 2010, General elections were held for the first time in 20 years since 1990. It was an election that allowed some democracy, and the new government, which emerged, was replaced by the NLD regime in 2015. A phrase that gives a glimpse of the Chinese government’s thoughts around this time.
“China actively supported the general elections and the launch of the new government, but behind it is based on the assumption that Myanmar should not be a hindrance in maintaining an environment that drives China’s economic development and regional hegemony. On the contrary, China expects the launch of a new government to ease the diplomatic burden by going beyond a certain level of international criticism it has been criticized for its problems.”—「The Change in Myanmar’s Foreign Policy and its Relationship with Major Countries」
* * *
These documents show how the idea of Minplus and the 4.27 Epoch ‘the Myanmar military are anti-imperialist and socialist.’ is far from the truth. Myanmar’s military is a group of anti-communist killers similar to the military dictatorship that has emerged in South Korea since the end of the war. In that sense, the perception of Minplus/4.27 Epoch is appalling.
They have no idea that Myanmar’s military has been dictatorship for decades for 58 years to now, slaughtering civilians. Nevertheless, they support it. We diagnose the reason their reactionary and anti-labor perception like following.
‘These people have a Stalinist view of the state. In other words, equate bureaucracy with the state. Therefore, bureaucracies in degenerated/deformed workers’ states, such as the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea, have been defended politically beyond military defense. It has been uncritically and unconditionally supportive of Stalinist leadership. In the meantime, they have justified even the cruel, reactionary and anti-democratic acts they have done to their people. It’s ingrained in their body.’
2) The Workers’ Revolutionary Party(WRP) criticizes NL’s this position as a “friend of Chinese imperialism”.
WRP, who shares their position with the Revolutionary Community International Tendency (RCIT) has frequently published articles about Myanmar on Facebook. However, without concrete arguments based on objective facts, it leaps and bounds everything down to their anti-Chinese position. Since there are several articles, but the tone is almost the same, we mainly review the article on April 16 (“What is needed internationally is not international intervention, but the strong solidarity of the workers’ and the people’s movement!”).
Almost every sentence is problematic. Since the writing is not long, we recommend reader to read the full text oneself. Put some of them in order, and point out what the problem is.
“The Myanmar Revolution, like the Syrian Revolution, is sadly slipping into a painful long-term civil war.”
RCIT and WRP still claim the U.S.-led regime change operations in Libya and Syria in 2011 and the subsequent civil war as a “democratic revolution.” Through this Myanmar crisis, Syria is secretly reinstated. They almost always, define American antagonists as imperialism, or highlight their negative character, and water the act of American imperialism with the logic that “they are qualitatively same.”
In the next paragraph,
“To say that the “international community,” or imperialist powers (especially the U.S., China, EU and Russia), is not “interfering” in Myanmar now is only true if the “international community” is limited to the West. China and Russia, another part of the “international community,” are clearly intervening. They support the Myanmar military politically and militarily.…The United States and the EU, on the other hand, say they “support the democratization movement,” are in fact doing nothing more at the Security Council under the pretext of China and Russia’s opposition. Unlike the Middle East, U.S.-EU imperialism has little interest and practical benefits in intervening in Myanmar.”
It claims that the U.S. and the West are not involved in the Myanmar coup, and that “China and Russia have clearly intervened.” This level of description almost seems to be a blatant collaboration. What evidence does the “clear” evidence of “intervention, support and patronage?” None! They were the same 10 years ago in Libya. At that time and for the next decade, the U.S. imperialist regime change, which has been supported by various evidence, was taken out without evidence, and the Libyan and Syrian rebels insisted without evidence that they were “democratic fighters.” What about Libya, where Gaddafi was overthrown and the ‘Democratic Revolution’ was successful? It’s gone to hell. Syria, which they claim is not an imperialist regime change, but a ‘democratic revolution?’ It’s hell.
“In South Korea, we demand Moon Jae-in regime, one of the West imperialist governments.”
WRP calls South Korea imperialism. No! South Korea is a colony. The tragedy of modern history on the Korean Peninsula, which was marked by the massacres of millions after World War II, was directly related to American imperialism. However, WRP promotes South Korea to imperialism. Why? To shout “they are qualitatively same.” when talking about liberation from American imperialism.
“NL group has also criticized the popular uprising in Myanmar, slandering that protesters are U.S.-funded agents.”
WRP calls the charges against the U.S. “serious slander.” WRP has repeatedly used words such as “serious slander” in recent posts on Myanmar. As if it’s unfair. It’s all time to plead America’s ‘innocent.’ Isn’t WRP too sympathetic to the ‘unfairness’ of American imperialism?
* * *
WRP and the RCIT often put up propaganda. However, most of the recent propaganda articles are articles that encourage anti-Chinese and anti-Russian sentiment. As you know, the American anti-China and anti-Russia campaign is escalating. A few days ago, at the U.S.-Japan summit, they publicly announced the cooperation against China. As a result, anti-Asian and anti-Chinese racism madness is occurring in imperialist regions such as the U.S., Britain ans Australia. In South Korea, demeaning of Chinese people is done casually. We have allegations that the propaganda of WRP and RCIT is sympathetic to this imperialist campaign.
What RCIT and WRP bring out as regulars is Lenin’s “dual defeatism”. In order to apply the line, the latest propaganda focuses on ‘China, Russia and South Korea are imperialist.’ It obscures the anti-imperialist front by defining the antagonists of American imperialism as imperialism. It distorts Leninism’s core concepts such as “imperialism and super profit etc.” WRP and RCIT are very dangerous.
The Demands of the Working Class of the Myanmar and World
―Overthrow Myanmar’s military, a tool of capitalism and imperialism!
―Take the lead in a general strike and armed struggle!
―Win political rights such as rally, expression, thought, freedom of association!
―Release all imprisoned political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi!
―Destroy political fantasies about so-called democratic forces, such as Aung San Suu Kyi, which is just another card of Myanmar’s tyranny!
―Win communism and minority political freedom!
―Support the independence of the minority!
―Only the establishment of worker’s power can break the imperialist chain. Long live the socialist revolution!
―Build a revolutionary party based on Lenin and Trotsky’s program of the Permanent Revolution!
20 April 2021