Saturday, September 29, 2007

Burma and "democracy"

Burma (or Myanmar as the present rulers want it to be called) is, and has been since 1962, a military dictatorship, one which even has had the cheek to claim to be socialist. Now, once again, sections of the population are demonstrating for there to be more elbow room for people to organise politically and to express critical political views.

Naturally as socialists we would welcome this as freedom of movement and expression, the freedom to organise in trade unions, to organise politically and to participate in elections are of great importance to all workers and are vital to the success of the socialist movement.

We must, however, warn workers in Burma against becoming the pawns of capitalist interests, both home-grown and external.

Burma is the largest country in South East Asia and is of strategic importance, especially for its north-eastern neighbour, China (which also has the cheek to claim to be socialist), as it provides Chinese capitalism with an outlet to the Indian Ocean. In April this year the Chinese authorities approved the construction of an oil pipeline from the Burmese port of Sitwe to China (see here). According to an article in Asia Times (27 September), other economic interests are involved too (see here).

The current regime in Burma is pro-China. The US, anticipating that its main rival for world hegemony this century is likely to be China, has been pursuing a policy of trying to encircle China with a ring of military bases. They are anxious for "regime-change" in Burma, to one favourable to them, so as to further hem in China. And to this end are encouraging, and no doubt financing, the Burmese opposition.

China, on the other hand, is anxious to maintain the present regime and is likely to use its position as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, with the power of veto, to prevent Burma being given anything more than a slap on the wrist for shooting down demonstrators.

Neither the US nor China care a fig about "democracy" in Burma. They are both concerned merely with their own strategic interests. So, workers in Burma should not be taken in by Bush when he says he wants to see Burma become a "democracy". What he means is that he wants to see a regime installed in Rangoon that will be pro-US and pro-market capitalism. And there is no reason whatsoever why workers should help him do this.

Nevertheless, workers should still try, independently of pro-capitalist groups, to take advantage of this rivalry between China and the US to gain a little more elbow room to pursue their own class interests.



Anonymous said...

hopefully, after the latest fiasco's in Iraq, Afghanistan,etc and the u.s.a.'s rulers past, as the 'Cops of the World' who go around trying to 'impose' their version of 'democracy' (sic) Myanmur/Burma's workers won't fall for this.

But like the article says, could use it as a window of opportunity, to provide a little elbow room to agitate for class struggle.

The U.N. Security Council seems a bit of a sham really - unless of course its security for countrys to get away with 'human rights' abuses.

Like this article points out, China will veto any dissing of or action again the Burmese leaders; just as the U.S. makes sure Israel gets away with its behaviour towards the occupied Palestinian territories,etc.

daz said...

It's just a tad Western-centric, not to mention naive, to think USuk have any influence over this situation now or in the future. China is a vast economic powerhouse, and along with the two other huge ASEAN powers, India and Japan (both nominally free-market democracies) owns nearly all of the US ~$8 trillion national debt.

China only has to float the yen against the dollar to destroy the US. The US is already panicking because the euro is challenging the dollar hegemony as global unit of exchange. (Iraq, North Korea and Venezuela switched already; you do the math).

China has been isolationist for decades, but that is no longer true. It might be waiting for the Beijing Olympics for the big coming-out party, but it's been investing heavily elsewhere (especially Africa) and is no longer in a position to be pushed around by anyone at all.

The only relevant question, IMO, is whether there is any interest (for China) in Burma becoming a dependency; an interesting question for the newly-emergent and most non-interventionist state in the very powerful ASEAN group of non-interventionist states.

I don't know, but if we can get over this obsessive belief that the US is actually a global power that could plausibly interfere on China's doorstep...ignoring the fact that it's in deep deep hock to it's main rival and displaying all the signs of an empire in decline...well maybe there'd be a sensible debate to be had.


daz said...

Note to self: proof read before submitting...

That should be "float the yuan against the dollar", obv. Not that Japan is economically powerless either.


gray said...


I don't think there are many who will quibble on China's growing power.

And it's a scary thought actually.

The USA on one side and China on t'other side. Wars have started over less.

Anonymous said...

If it's a "tad Western-centric not to mention naive" to think the US/UK have any influence over this, what are we to make of this warning, from a representative of a worldwide movement of about 100 people, to Burmese workers not to become a pawn in a capitalist game? These are people who took to the streets knowing that, last time they did so, they were gunned down in their thousands. And, according to some reports I've read, most people went on the street with no real hope that this time would be any different. What bravery! What courage! And we can sit here and type out some advice for them? How absolutely fucking ridiculous.