Military coup and “democratic transition” are two sides of the same coin!
For the class independence of the proletariat !
For an open struggle against all bourgeois camps!
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 17; Spring 2021)
On Monday, February 1, the newly elected officials were preparing to join the various parliamentary hemicyles to officialize the results of the November 8 legislative elections, won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). The military interrupted the electoral circus they themselves had set up, imprisoning the head of state and his State Councilor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi and various NLD personalities in the name of a State Administrative Council (SAC) created to govern the country.
The details of the coup and its chronology, the lack of charisma of the junta’s leaders or its ridiculous justifications are of no interest. What is important here is that once again the democracy/authoritarianism duo is an anti-proletarian weapon.
CAPITALIST DEVELOPMENT AND THE RISE OF THE PROLETARIAT
Myanmar (Burma) is a Southeast Asian country of 50 to 60 million inhabitants according to estimates, still largely agricultural (the countryside employs 70% of the country’s workers), but which is in full capitalist development: it is experiencing strong economic growth, boosted by an influx of Western and Asian capital, especially Chinese. The “democratization” instituted since 2011 was essentially aimed at attracting these investments by normalizing the regime and carrying out a gradual economic opening.
This capitalist expansion gave birth to a young proletariat. Anthropologist Stephen Campbell describes this dynamic based on rural-urban migration: “The working class population in the industrial areas of Yangon [Rangoon] consists mainly of former villagers driven out of rural areas because of unmanageable debt, the devastation of infrastructure caused by Cyclone Nargis in 2008, and the outright theft of their land by private military and commercial interests. Real estate speculation and elitist urban development over the past decade have pushed up the cost of housing, leading hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving in the city to run out of official housing and turn to cheaper squatter housing on the outskirts of the city. Many of these new urban residents sought employment in food and other processing plants producing for the domestic market, or in clothing factories producing for export. In 2018, more than one million workers - mostly young women, many of them squatters - were employed in clothing, textile, shoe and accessory factories in Myanmar, mainly around Yangon” (1).
This young working class is the victim of ferocious exploitation: very low wages attract foreign investors by diverting them from countries like Vietnam where poverty wages are not enough for the capitalist exploiters. Of course, this exploitation is accompanied by severe anti-worker repression (legal or extra-legal) and by the integration of workers’ protest into the bourgeois institutions of negotiation and “dialogue”. Campbell explains: “The quasi-civil government of U Thein Sein, which took power in 2011, introduced new legislation developed with the support of the ILO [International Labour Organization], legalizing the creation of trade unions (October 2011) and formalizing collective bargaining (March 2012). The new laws are designed to curb strikes by providing workers with institutional channels to seek redress for their employment grievances.
These measures do not prevent workers’ protest, but they aim to confine it within a bourgeois framework in order to prevent it from finding the path of classist struggle.
A “DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION” AGAINST THE PROLETARIAT AND ETHNIC MINORITIES
In November 2010, the military freed the leader of the opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, and embarked on a democratization of the regime: reduction of media censorship, reduction in the military budget, increase in the budget for education and health, release of several political prisoners, etc..
The 2012 elections allowed for the legalization of political parties and constitutional reforms on elections. However, the military retained reserved seats in the assemblies. Finally, in 2015 Aung San Suu Kyi became the country’s de facto prime minister (“Councilor”).
This democratization was not only accompanied by repressive measures against the working class (to guarantee the investments of foreign capital) but also by a genocidal policy against the Rohingyas, one of Burma’s many ethnic minorities (these minorities constitute 30% of the population and the central power has a long tradition of persecution against them). In 2017, the army launched a systematic campaign of massacres, rapes and village fires against this deeply oppressed Muslim minority, killing thousands of people and leading to a mass exodus to neighboring Bangladesh.
The criminal nature of the “democratic transition” has made the star of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning “Lady of Rangoon” paled in the imperialist media and international institutions, but it has not prevented the imperialists from going about their business: business as usual!
IMPERIALISM ON THE LOOK-OUT
The imperialist powers of Europe, the United States, Japan and China are very interested in Myanmar. In addition to finding cheap and monitored labor there, the bourgeois are greedy for the country’s natural resources. This is particularly the case of the French multinational Total, which has been exploiting Myanmar’s oil for several decades, an activity that was accompanied under the military dictatorship by barbaric violence against the civilian populations in the oil-producing areas, including their enslavement.
The European imperialists also sought to strengthen their presence by establishing military cooperation with the uniformed torturers. Police forces have been trained in “crowd management” by the European Union as part of the MYPOL program in place since 2016 (2).
On the Japanese side, the Japan-Myanmar Association (formerly the Burmese Interests Committee), the influential lobby at the source of Japanese policy towards this country, has pushed, in addition to the development of investments in various fields (Japanese investments are in first place after Chinese investments), the establishment of military relations between Rangoon and Tokyo at the beginning of this year. Japan is also the largest provider of “aid” to Myanmar (more than a billion dollars a year) obviously to defend its interests. All this explains the refusal so far to talk about sanctions against the military; Japanese capitalists also fear that critics of the military will play into the hands of the Chinese competitor.
For its part, Chinese imperialism sees Myanmar as an important partner in its “New Silk Roads”. Chinese investments are by far the most important in the country. Burma is a trading partner but also a geostrategic asset that can help avoid the Strait of Malacca to move Chinese exports and imports by sea. It is therefore not surprising that the Chinese government did not voice any criticism of the coup and that it vetoed a UN resolution condemning it.
Reacting to the Chinese push, the United States had approached the Myanmar regime in the 2010’s in an attempt to reduce Beijing’s influence and is now the most vehement critic of the military junta.
IT IS NOT DEMOCRACY THAT WILL DEFEND THE PROLETARIAT!
The population that had testified to its rejection of the military by voting for the NLD went out into the streets in massive numbers against the junta. The army responded with a bloody – albeit relatively measured (3) – repression against the demonstrators and strikers.
In various sectors (railways, shipyards, etc.) workers went on strike against the new dictatorship and calls for a general strike have been made. Unfortunately, this contestation remains on the ground of bourgeois democracy. As the British daily The Guardian explains: « Protesters’ demands now go beyond reversing the coup.They also seek the abolition of a 2008 constitution drawn up under military supervision that gave the generals a veto in parliament and control of several ministries, and for a federal system in ethnically diverse Myanmar » (4).
In the face of the inevitable capitalist offensive - military or civil, authoritarian or democratic - the working class has no other solution than to prepare itself for open struggle, in total rupture with democratic or nationalist demands (even under an “anti-imperialist” mask), independently of all bourgeois and petty bourgeois forces. Only by forging a class force, anticapitalist and antidemocratic, hardened in proletarian mobilizations against all attacks by capital, both on the economic ground and on the political and social ground, will it be able to confront the bourgeoisie and its military apparatus.
The sine qua non condition is the struggle with class demands, methods and means, and the presence of a genuine communist party to lead it towards an international revolutionary perspective. This will require the help of the proletarians of other countries who, as a first contribution, must distance themselves from the current democratic campaign, unmask the hypocritical condemnations of their own imperialism and enter into struggle against them.
Down with the military coup! Down with the “democratic transition”!
Against the army and the opposition, against all imperialist rapacious, against all ethnic divisions, one proletarian perspective: independent class struggle!
For Internationalist Proletarian Solidarity!
For the reconstitution of the World Party of Communist Revolution!
(1) https:// www .revolutionpermanente .fr/ Myanmar-La-classe-ouvriere-face-au-putsch- entre- la-resistance- et-le-piege-democratique-bourgeois
(2) Salai Ming “Coup d’État in Burma: Resistance in the face of the spectre of 1988", https://asialyst.com/fr/2021/02/19/coup-etat-birmanie-resistance-face-spectre-1988/
(3) Since this text was written repression became bloody and hundreds of people have been killed.
(4) https:// www. theguardian. com/world/2021/feb/10/myanmar-protesters-streets-naypyitaw-yangon-police-coup-violence
International Communist Party