Myanmar is a nation in Southeast Asia bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand with a population of 51 million. After winning the 2015 general elections, the National League for Democracy (NLD) finally took control of the government. However the military remains in control of important ministeries and has 25% of all parliament seats reserved. The generals who oppressed the people will not be prosecuted and the wealth they stole is not returned. In a way the NLD has made huge compromises with these corrupt militarists. Compromises which do not serve the interests of the working class!
Myanmar (Burma) has a long history of military governments. In the early 1960’s political chaos led to a militarist coup by general Ne Win. This general enforced a brutal pseudo-socialist dictatorship that lasted 28 years. In 1988, the population demanded freedom and Ne Win agreed on holding elections. The elections were won by the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi. However the military rejected the election results and installed a junta that ruled for 22 years!
In 2010, the military returned power to a civilian government under their control. However the party of Aung San Suu Kyi won the 2015 general election. Crushing the candidates of the former junta, who are united in the Union Solidarity and Development Party. With the NLD in power many workers hope for change. Their biggest problem is that the current state is created to save-guard the power of the military. The constitution points out that the ministeries of internal affairs and defense, remain under control of the criminal Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces). Also 25% of all seats in the national parliament are reserved for military officials!
This is how the corrupt generals of the former State Peace and Development Council, retain political control over important functions of the government. Aung San Suu Kyi maybe in political control, but will the Tatmadaw obey her? Revolutionary socialists fear that the NLD cannot change the nation unless it removes the military from politics. But Suu Kyi is not stupid, she knows that the Tatmadaw can start another coup against her, therefore she has agreed to play by their rules for now!
Also the former members of the State Peace and Development Council are not prosecuted. Senior General Than Shwe was the face of the military junta from April 1992 to March 2011. His rule was marked by despotism, militarism and isolationism. While the working class suffered, Shwe spend millions on his daughter’s wedding. The Shwe family enjoyed luxury at the expense of Myanmar workers. They were the ruling caste of the Union of Myanmar. Although the families of junta members had the best of the best, by 2008 they realized that political changes had to be made!
Myanmar made some deals with western capitalists to exploit oil in the nation. But protests in Europe and America, forces these oil capitalists to back out. The generals understood that their isolationist politics failed. World capitalism would never accept Myanmar with a highly centralized economy and military junta. So they decided to fool the world by installing a civilian regime. This new government would still be led by former military officials, but it would make Myanmar more acceptable for foreign capitalists to invest in!
Than Shwe and his generals wrote a new constitution in 2008, save-guarding the power of the military. The State Peace and Development Council was reorganized into a political party called the Union Solidarity and Development Party. Thein Sein, a former military commander, became the first civilian president since 1962. He was handpicked by Than Shwe to lead the new civilian government. Soon the National League for Democracy was legalized and Aung San Suu Kyi released from her house arrest!
But Suu Kyi refused to participate in the 2010 elections, because they were held while the State Peace and Development Council still ruled. That these elections were not free and fair is shown in the results. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won over 50% of the votes. With 25% of seats reserved for the military, the Tatmadaw controlled 75% of all representatives. Thein Sein was then elected as first president of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar!
He started with capitalist reforms and suddenly the USA and Europe were very supportive. Hilary Clinton visited the nation and promised economic aid and political support. The plan of the generals worked perfectly. The world was fooled to believe that Myanmar was moving towards a democracy. Suu Kyi started to negotiate with Thein Sein for political reforms. By 2011, trade unions were legalized and 1/10 of the political prisoners were released. Still revolutionary socialists said it was not enough. Trade unions are now free, but police brutality prevents most strikes in the nation. Also most political prisoners are not released!
At the end of the year 2011, the NLD changed its mind and was willing to participate in the next elections. This was another compromise of Suu Kyi, who now had to play by the rules set out by Than Shwe and Thein Sein. Although the State Peace and Development Council was dissolved, it kept political power through the USDP and their appointed officials in parliament. The NLD is not a revolutionary party, this has been proven by their willingness to compromise with the generals. We seen this before, the African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela also compromised with the Apartheid government. With their stunning victory in 1994, the ANC took control over South Africa. The NLD is like the ANC in many ways. Both were socialist in the past, but have rejected the idea of building a socialist society once in power. It seems that Aung San Suu Kyi tries to reforms the nation by slowly removing power from the military!
Revolutionary socialists disagree with her. Also because the Tatmadaw controls the Ministerie of Internal Affairs (police) and Defense (army), they can still use the state forces to crush anybody who opposes the government. Also not all political prisoners have been released and the police remains brutal in dealing with demonstrations and strike, not to mention deeply corrupt. Religious sectarianism is also a force of danger. The Muslim minority in Myanmar is facing discrimination and open rejection by the Buddhist majority. Suu Kyi’s party made the big mistake of calling on Muslims not to vote, in order to appeal to the Buddhist majority. If Suu Kyi does not have the courage to radical change the nation, the NLD will soon lose the support of the working class!
Five years after the military junta decided to turn power over to a civilian government, the next general election led to a historic victory for the National League for Democracy. Aung San Suu Kyi won 57% of the vote in the House of Representatives. The USDP only won 6% and became a minor opposition party. However thanks to the 2008 constitution, the military is allowed to take 25% of all parliamentary seats. The Tatmadaw therefore has 140 out of 440 representatives. Still the NLD won 255 seats, many filled with former political prisoners and people once jailed for rejected the junta!
A former force against the military junta of both Ne Win and Than Shwe is the Communist Party of Burma. Founded in 1939, the CPB was banned by the pseudo-socialist government of general Ne Win. For over 30 years the communist party, fought a bloody civil war with the Tatmadaw. Thanks to material support from Maoist China, the CPB was able to arm an army of 10.000 rebels to fight the Ne Win regime. However years of conflict combined with the extreme cruelty of the military were too much. After Than Shwe and his junta came to power in 1988, the armed wing of the CPB was defeated. The political wing moved underground!
Today the Communist Party of Burma is still illegal and very critical about the NLD in power. Like Revolutionary Socialist Media, the current CPB leaders do not think that Aung San Suu Kyi can change the nation, while the Tatmadaw controls both the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Defense and 25% of all parliamentary seats. Because it allows them to use police brutality against striking workers and those who sympathies with the banned communist party. Revolutionary socialists agree that if the NLD carries out the same capitalist politics of the Thein Sein government, it will not only betray their struggle against the former junta, but also the trust of millions!
Socialism is the only alternative for the working class of Myanmar. But it seems that the NLD is not willing to build that. More and more the party moves into the bourgeois camp by compromising with the powerful military and their capitalist allies. In order for genuine change to happen, the 2008 constitution will have to be replaced. Also those generals of the former junta like Than Shwe have to be arrested and prosecuted for 22 years of military dictatorship. If this is not happening then massive disillusion in Aung San Suu Kyi will be the result. This is why we revolutionary socialists call for the formation of a mass workers party against both the NLD government and the USDP of the Tatmadaw. A genuine socialist Myanmar will need to disband the military and expropriate all those corrupt generals, who made their fortunes under Than Shwe’s despotism!
What will be the future for this Asian nation? Thein Sein will soon leave office to new president. Because of her marriage to a British citizen, Aung San Suu Kyi is not allowed to become president under the 2008 constitution. The NLD will put up candidates for the next presidential elections. Many western media outlets predict that the National League for Democracy will win the presidency, since nobody in Myanmar wants a president that is linked to the Tatmadaw. Still with no genuine workers party participating in elections and the NLD turning more to the right, workers need to understand that they have no future under the current rulers!
Workers in Myanmar have been chained by the military since 1962. They have nothing to lose, they have a world to win!
ကမ္ဘာ၏အလုပျသမား, စည်းလုံး ☭