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Myanmar’s communists speak out on the coup

Monday 3 May 2021, by siawi3


Myanmar’s communists speak out on the coup

Posted Apr 29, 2021

by Eds.

Originally published: Morning Star Online by Kenny Coyle (April 26, 2021) |

In the first of a two-part series KENNY COYLE interviews the Communist Party of Burma about the social and economic mismanagement of the military regime.

The military coup in Myanmar on Feb. 1 this year is a product of the country’s long-running social and economic crisis, according to the Communist Party of Burma (the party prefers to refer to its country as Burma, as some other opposition forces also do, rather than the military-chosen name Myanmar.)

Photo: Anti-coup protesters flash the three-finger sign of defiance during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, on Friday, April 23, 2021. | AP

The Communist Party of Burma (CPB) was founded in August 1939 by a group of revolutionaries in a British-ruled colony. The founders included national hero Aung San, father of recently deposed State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The party survived decades of illegality, including prolonged periods of armed struggle against foreign occupiers and a succession of repressive domestic military regimes. It suffered a major crisis in the late 1980s with the loss of its remaining base areas in the frontier regions of Burma. Members were then scattered and had to rebuild their underground structures within the country and exiled communities.

Highlighting the current crisis, a CPB spokesman says: “People from all walks of life are struggling with exemplary courage against the cowardly military oppressors that are waging ruthless war against unarmed civilians. Our party has been resorting to every available means to support our courageous people.”

Today’s military regime has its roots in the coming to power of the Burmese Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), sometimes known as the Burmese Way to Socialism Party, in 1962. The CPB believes that the BSPP squandered the possibilities of advancing national development, industrialization, as well as popular well-being and—far from taking a socialist path—held the country back with its system of crony capitalism.

Burma’s development in society and economy has made very little progress since Bo Ne Win and the BSPP coup in 1962. One can easily witness the decline in quantity and quality in every field, including education, health, social welfare, and many other aspects.

If someone says that there are more foreign investments and companies than in the past, we would only point out that one should check out who profited from these.

The ruling class—as well as the generals—claim that they have created jobs for ordinary people during their rule. To be exact, the number is about 500,000 workers in a nation with 50 million. True, ordinary people obtain jobs, but profits went into the coffers of the generals’ family members and their cronies of all sorts.

The so-called industries introduced into Burma by the military generals consist mostly of home industries, where neither modern technology nor heavy investment is involved.

Myanmar is a textbook example of parasitic crony capitalism. The military is deeply embedded, resulting in poverty for the overwhelming majority of the population and prosperity for the few.

When one sees new high buildings and posh limos, one can’t help asking who owns them. This only indicates the difference of income between the people of the highest and lowest incomes.

As with some other Southeast Asian countries, Myanmar exports a huge proportion of its population overseas as migrant workers. Despite their super-exploitation, with many working illegally, they have become a significant source of remittance income for the country.

A few days ago, I noticed some numbers published by the Department of Labour of the present government in Burma. It said: ‘Until June this year, the total remittance of money by Myanmar migrant workers amounted to over $500 million USD.’ Further, it said: ‘The official remittance of money accounted for 0.81% of the GDP in 2016-2017 financial year and 1.06% in 2017-2018 financial year.

An activist holds up a defaced portrait of Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, during a rally against the military coup in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Southeast Asian leaders met Myanmar’s top general and coup leader in an emergency summit in Indonesia Saturday. | Tatan Syuflana / AP

An activist holds up a defaced portrait of Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, during a rally against the military coup in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Southeast Asian leaders met Myanmar’s top general and coup leader in an emergency summit in Indonesia Saturday. | Tatan Syuflana / AP

The figure offered by the World Bank is 3.2% for 2019.

After the break out of COVID-19 and the present conflict in Burma, the migrant workers—most of whom left the nation illegally—could not send their money back to their low-income family members back home, and the family members are facing insurmountable difficulties.

Burma’s migrant workers work mostly in neighboring countries such as Thailand, China, Malaysia, etc., and total about five million. You can find Burmese workers even in faraway lands like Qatar, South Korea, and Jordan.

About three million alone are working in Thailand, most of them as low-paid laborers, according to U Myo Aung, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Labour.

Some estimates suggest that as much as 10% of Myanmar’s workforce are migrant workers. Aside from those in employment, Myanmar has also seen a hemorrhaging of its most vulnerable people into refugee camps outside its borders, who often face additional hostilities in exile.

Burma’s other export to neighboring countries is refugees, who left their homes because of war or racial oppression. Immigrant camps, containing not less than 100,000 each, are scattered all along the borders, and they exist there under the scorn of their hosts.

The CPB believes that the ruling elite has failed to implement an independent economic strategy, despite the country’s considerable natural wealth.

The foreign investments are centered on exploiting Burma’s natural resources, chiefly oil and gems. Many labor-intensive projects like plantations and mining are also scattered all over the nation, exploiting one of the world’s cheapest labor sources—Burmese villagers.

In fact, both the laborers from the plantations and the local people enjoy a minimal benefit from various plantations that grow bananas, rubber, corn, medicinal herbs, etc., whereas the investors who take away more than 90% of the output to their destined areas reaped high-yielding harvests every season.

Once the world’s once biggest rice-exporting nation, Burma has now become the world’s biggest labor-exporting nation. The growth of the domestic industry is inadequate, leading to the need to import industrial goods from all kinds of countries.

The crisis, the party points out, is not simply one of industrial backwardness but also flows from the failure to modernize production in the agricultural sector sustainably.

The exploitation of resources results not only in destroying the environment; it depletes the earth of its irreplaceable natural resources and fertility. The rich soil was left dry and infertile from artificial fertilizers and pesticides when the plantation lands were returned to the local people.

The people of Burma are suffering from heedless logging, mining, and plantations by the foreign investors and local rich people.

Landslides on mountain slopes, soil erosion, drying up of streams and rivers, diminishing wild animal species and of course, weather changes, can be found across the nation.

The CPB is urging friends in the international labor movement to mobilize effective international solidarity against the coup.



The Myanmar coup and Aung San Suu Kyi

Posted Apr 30, 2021

by Eds.

Originally published: Morning Star Online by Kenny Coyle (April 2021)

This is Part 2 of 2.

SINCE 1962, Myanmar’s political life has been dominated directly or indirectly by military leaders, either through outright dictatorship or in an uneasy coalition with the main civilian party the National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, according to the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) the military must not be viewed simply as a political force but, as far as its elite ranks are concerned, an economic one too.

“The conflicts between the military and the NLD are longstanding. The main reason for this is that the military itself has become a clique by itself among the ruling powers of the nation and it does not intend to get along with, far less submit to, any civilian government. This is a mentality it inherited from Ne Win, the first military dictator in modern Burma’s history,” according to a CP of Burma spokesman.

One of the points of friction in the CPB’s view is that both groups “represent Burma’s richest stratum, the bureaucratic capitalists. But they belong to different groups. Neither of them has an interest in making the commoners rich nor closing the widening gap between the rich and the poor.”

Though the contradiction between the two groups do not centre exactly on specific interests and enterprises, no-one can deny that there’s a conflict of interests between the two economically as well.

The military’s most lucrative form of enrichment has been through the creation of two mega-monopolies that together are involved in almost every sector of Myanmar’s economy, from mining to agriculture and from banking to telecoms.

The generals’ conglomerates–Myanmar Economy Holdings Ltd and the Myanmar Economic Corporation–hold sway in Burma’s economy and the generals are very sensitive about the development of these two groups.

It is said that after the latest elections, the generals sensed signs of danger to their pet conglomerates, so they took action immediately without warning.

Nonetheless the party representative notes, “it is difficult to pinpoint the specific issue that ignited the latest conflict inside our nation. The misgivings and prejudices [between the army and the civilian government] were there long ago, without compromises, no matter what the people want them to do.

Since the 1962 coup d’etat, no civilian government in this country has lasted more than a decade. All of them had to kneel down in front of the gunmen. The military has been pressing the NLD to do the same since the aftermath of the 1988 movements, while at the same time they prepare to stage coups whenever necessary.

“Thus, ‘the coup’ becomes a handy word for the military to threaten civilian politicians in our nation. This time they proved they meant what they said. Perhaps they may say that they are fulfilling their ancestors’ wishes,” the CPB representative says.

As for the NLD, the Communist view is more nuanced. The league has a genuine mass base, built upon a transferred reverence for the historical leader of the anti-colonial struggle Aung San to his daughter Suu Kyi, but among the NLD’s founding leaders were figures associated with previous military regimes.

The NLD emerged out of the 1988 political uprisings across the country. They were able to ride the tide of the masses and won the admiration of many people.

Though we cannot say that the NLD led the movement, we can say that they reaped the fruit of the movement due to the charisma of Suu Kyi and other prominent opposition leaders, some of whom were Marxists.

Suu Kyi was pushed to the top by the masses, who were in need of a popular figure at the time. Lacking any political experience, she introduced Western-style politics directly to Burma.

After reaching the pinnacle, a couple of years later, Suu Kyi ousted all those who she thought were left-leaning people from the organisation. Many people believe she did so according to the advice of rightist hardliners from Burma’s politics, perhaps including the military.

The ‘L’ from the NLD means league, which is the same as AFPFL (Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League), the organisation created by leaders like Aung San and Thakin Than Tun, who engaged in the Anti-Japanese Anti-Fascist Revolution and carried out Burma’s independence movement after that.

Suu Kyi’s connection to her father, who was murdered in 1947, allowed her to claim the mantle of national leadership. This was bolstered by support from other veterans.

The NLD acquired the name because it was made up of the Patriotic Ex-servicemen’s Organisation (led by U Aung Gyi and U Aung Shwe) and the National Democracy Party (led by U Sein Win, a cousin of Suu Kyi) and thus they incorporated ‘league’ within their organisation’s name.

U Aung Gyi and U Aung Shwe, both dead, were retired military leaders and sworn anti-communists. None of the groups represent the workers, peasants or the poorer strata of the nation.

However, the civilian governments headed by the NLD failed to decisively improve the lives of the vast majority of people in Myanmar. In addition, Suu Kyi’s collaboration with the military faction and her association with chauvinist views directed against Myanmar’s dozens of ethnic and religious minorities alienated former supporters.

The NLD and Suu Kyi became very popular after the 1988 upheavals. However, the glitter faded as we entered the 21st century. Now many people in Burma have lost faith in both the NLD and Suu Kyi after their reign for some years.

After seeing them often working hand in hand with the generals, people believe that they have seen their true colours and not a few have publicly denounced them.

When the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw [a group of ousted NLD parliamentarians] tried to approach the ethnic armed forces to work together, some of the leaders were reluctant, saying: ‘What if Suu Kyi is released and you picked her as the leader of your movement?’ manifesting their doubts about Suu Kyi’s policy towards the ethnic groups.

Nonetheless the country still lacks anyone of similar national or international stature, the mass movement has not yet provided an adequate alternative to the personality-focused NLD leadership.

Everybody knows that she had expressed her disapproval of the Rohingya people in line with the generals. However, the present movement lacks a figurehead and Suu Kyi may appear there again.

I believe we shall have to wait and see whether she will rise as a phoenix or end as ashes through the present mass movement that is gaining momentum both in numbers and forms of protests.

While she has traded on the reputation of her father, she has remained reticent about his left-wing anti-colonial record.

Suu Kyi grew up under the wing of her mother, a rightist, and in a society where anti-communism prevailed. She was only two years old when her late father was assassinated and she has never mentioned her father’s role in establishing the CPB.

Neither should we forget that she raised her hand in support when prominent leaders of the NLD, who put her on the throne, were dismissed on account of them being ‘leftists’ or ‘communists’.