The Tatmadaw (Myanmar's military junta) detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and took control of the government on February 1st. This recent coup is not the first in Myanmar’s history. Following independence, a civil war between various ethnic groups with disparate interests began to escalate. In 1962, General Ne Win, a military leader, staged a coup. He oppressed workers, students, and democracy activists to maintain his power. In 1988, a massive mass strike occurred, which the world knows as the "1988 Uprising." In 2007, the Saffron Revolution occurred against the military government as well. A pseudo-democratic election was promised by U Thein Sein's paramilitary administration in the 2010s, in which the military made up 25% of the parliament and the constitution was drafted in support of military governments. The military regime and its political influence were never overthrown, even during the NLD government's term.
A revolutionary-scale movement had been set in motion because of the coup. The extensive and expanding strikes as well as the protest movements that have been unleashed demonstrate how determined the general populace is to prevent the military from seizing power. Clearly, the military junta misjudged the strength of the opposition they would encounter. During the coup attempt, the military junta ensured that the electricity was turned off. Additionally, they restricted any form of communication they could think of. As soon as people noticed what was happening, they began using deceptive propaganda and false hopes to stifle the population's spontaneous revolutionary movements. The very first false information is propagated by unidentified sources, but populist pro-democracy advocates primarily share it or host it on their platforms. There was a strong reactionary belief that was prevalent on the first day following the coup. It states that "the United Nations will deploy R2P to Myanmar in order to remove the military junta if the people don't carry out the strikes within 72 hours."
However, the civil disobedience movement (CDM), started spontaneously by health professionals and students, disputed this “72-hour propaganda”. In the meantime, the FGWM, once known as the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar but now grown into a general workers' union, which has thousands of members, is credited with starting the mass movement in Yangon. Their first strike has rallied huge crowds to participate in the streets to protest against the new junta.
Unfortunately, these facts are being covered up by some prominent liberals. Instead of acknowledging a general workers' union as the first revolutionary union that started the revolution, the liberals tried to portray the workers as some sort of followers who were led by a populist politician called ‘Ei Thinzar Maung’, a center-left civil rights activist.
According to an interview Thomson Reuters Foundation featured with Moe Sandar Myint, a popular FGWM leader, it’s apparent that workers were already activated and spontaneous as far as the strikes and protests were concerned. During the day, she went around organising the workforce and urging them to "fight against the military government till the end." Moreover, she evaded the military authorities who raided her home at night to silence her. She, unfortunately, encountered a less aggressive response when she urged other unions to intervene, with union organisers urging restraint. However, since government employees and medical professionals began to participate in strikes, pressure from below has increased. Since the workers were ready for the strikes, a united front of multiple union organisations was forced to be created.
Meanwhile, the CDM movement was absorbed into the population along with the mass strikes. Later, the CDM movement was innovated by new ways of showing their disobedience against the military junta by a noisome new night-time ritual of banging pots and pans. Even though banging pots and pans, as well as singing anti-dictatorial songs, were not rationally effective, they acted as catalysts to raise the revolutionary motivation of the population. Street demonstrations took place in 2007 during the "Saffron Revolution," but there were not as many widespread strikes directed specifically at the military's economic interests as in the spring revolution. As a result, sections of the state bureaucracy, including the investment and transportation ministries, the tax office, and the General Administrative Department, which oversees a number of public services and governmental operations, have been paralysed by strikes. According to reports, 34% of Myanmar's civil servants are currently on strike. Entire sectors, like private banking, have been shut down, and more employees at state-run banks are now participating in the strikes. According to estimates, 60% of state electrical employees are on strike. Myanmar’s governments have faced student protests and civil rights protests in the past. But this time, it’s the working class itself that’s participating in the protests and CDM movements. The working class is the force that has the power to transform society, just as it has the power to paralyse the entire nation. The misfortune of Burma is that the working class lacks a vision that is willing to go above and beyond the demands of liberal democracy. However, if the working class managed to hold the leadership position, it could rally all the other social classes—youth, middle class, peasants, and national minorities—behind it, not only to overthrow the military regime but also to eradicate capitalism. The military-run corporations were impacted by the strikes. More than 2,000 miners walked out of a copper mine in the northern Sagaing district that is a joint venture between the Chinese state and Myanmar military. At a telecommunications firm called Mytel that the military owns in part, hundreds of engineers and numerous employees have also gone on strike. Five thousand employees in Yangon's industrial district of Hlaing Tharyar have joined the strike movement and declared that they would continue to be on strike as long as the military junta is in charge. Large numbers of bank employees have also joined the wave of strikes and joined the civil disobedience movement. One of the biggest private banks, KBZ, also had to shut down. Government salaries are paid through the state-owned Myanmar Economic Bank, but it has also been impacted. The number of workplaces that have participated in strikes is limitless.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, since Myanmar's military performed the coup, security forces have killed more than 700 people within the first two months for participating in the protests. In some cases, even children staying peacefully in their own homes were shot from the streets by the military officers. To elaborate on the inhumane and oppressive measures of the military junta, a few unique cases should be cited as examples.
The pro-democracy campaign had won the hearts of a fourteen-year-old micro-influencer, Pan Ei Phyu, who had created numerous TikTok videos of herself singing pro-democracy songs. On March 27, 2021, Pan Ei Phyu was shot while trying to open her door to demonstrators who were trying to avoid a military operation. Hein Htut Aung, a cab driver, and his wife, Ma Zin Mar, were travelling to an anti-coup demonstration on February 28. They had been on a bus to the demonstrations. However, due to gunshots, the bus came to a stop, and the passengers had to get off. Hein Htut Aung was fatally shot in the interim and taken to the hospital. But he couldn’t make it. The hatred towards the military arose as more and more people were getting killed by the military. The gun, submachine guns, and launchers were used to launch the strikes. Protesters were under surveillance and were raided at night for taking part in protests. If the protesters managed to escape from the raid, their family members, such as old people and young children, were arrested instead of them, in some cases, resulting in the death of them because of the inhumane treatments in the jail.
Out of the anger and hatred against the military, the people had no choice but to defend themselves. In Myanmar, people are not allowed to own guns. However, there are some rural areas where some people own hunting guns because they hunt for their basic needs. Hunters and people from those areas started to rile the professional-grade military army with their hunting guns. As a result, the whole villages were burned down and attacked by air strikes. Such kinds of oppressive measures remind me of the "red terror" of the Bolshevik regime. The tactics are also the same, even though the reasons are slightly different. During the Bolshevik era, pro-bandit villages were singled out. In relation to this massive terrorism, a special sentence was pronounced on these villages, in which their crimes against the Bolsheviks are enumerated. The Bolsheviks claimed they were defending the socialist values of the October Revolution, whereas the Myanmar military junta claimed they were defending the democratic values of the last election. However, both claims are as true as the theory of the flat earth.
The educated youths from the metropolitan area fled the cities and joined the ethnic armies to get military training. Some people had to sell all of their life savings in order to buy a gun. Early in April, poorly organised organisations started to appear, mostly in the hinterlands of western Chin State and the north-western Sagaing Region, where the Chin Land Defense Force (CDF) proclaimed its establishment on April 4. By mid-July, approximately 125 distinct groups in both urban and rural areas had formally announced their opposition to the State Administration Council of the military. This resistance came about because of a significant multiplication of groups with various capabilities in late April and early May. All of these spontaneous, loosely connected militias declared an alliance with each other and collectively adopted the name "People’s Defense Force." Some of them, but not all, also swore loyalty to the National Unity Government (NUG), the opposition's shadow government that was established in mid-April. The rest of the PDFs chose to struggle against the military junta on their own, without any allegiance to an exile government. Urban PDFs, based on covert cells, have concentrated almost exclusively on two main strategies: targeted killings and bombings, using primarily crude improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Most of their targets have been "soft" targets, such as local ward offices and other government buildings, civil administrators, alleged military informants, and members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the Tatmadaw's political proxies (USDP). In the remote rural areas, the PDFs have emerged more brazenly as infant rebel bands with minimal weapons. They have repeatedly attempted to repel Tatmadaw incursions into villages with ambushes by local volunteers using hunting rifles and improvised landmines, in addition to hitting many of the same soft target-sets seen in the cities and have frequently claimed to inflict significant casualties on the military. All of these military struggles were led collectively by the proletariats, peasants, and all labouring people, including mothers, unemployed social workers, and students, rather than by the NUG government.
Reconciliation or Revolution
In ethnic minority areas, rural-based operations have been noticeably more successful because newly formed PDFs have been able to work with or form relationships with pre-existing ethnic insurgent organisations like the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the Karenni Army (KA), and others. Some ethnic armed groups have decided to work with the military junta to achieve a win-win situation for their geopolitical and economic objectives over the last six decades of civil war.
ASEAN is in favour of the compromised dialogue between all the stakeholders in Myanmar's politics, including the PDFs and the military junta, which reminds me of a quote by Ghassan Kanafani of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, "a conversation between the neck and the sword".
If reconciliation is the path in post-revolution, Myanmar will be back to the neoliberal pathway to corporate capitalism where NGOs, CSOs, and some other neoliberal hypocrites will cosplay as socialists to create new political situations such as a newly created bipartisan party politics and so on. The over-privileged, rich, western-trained academia and their fellow reactionary reformists, cosplaying themselves as leftists, will drive the pathway to defend the neoliberal status quo, which in turn protects their families’ wealth, accumulated by exploiting the workers.
The need for socialist revolution
The primary objectives of most PDF components are restricted to liberal democracy and federalism, neither of which are at all critical of capitalism or the fundamental status quo of the imperialist powers. Following the revolution, neither the governments nor the capitalist class was able to influence the working class. The working class has come to understand the dignity of their labor as well as their potential for revolution. The country's GDP is drastically falling as more and more working-class people join militias and abandon the conflict area. The nation will soon become a failed state where the government's institutions, like the police and banking, are no longer able to handle the problems. All these symptoms of a failing state can only be seen once the working class and peasantry have decided to rebel against capitalist structure and its tyranny.
Liberal democracy is not a democracy; rather, it is a de facto authoritarianism that has been advertised as a pro-freedom. It is a system of representation which is anti-thesis to the grassroots democratic movements. Liberal democracy is not representing the people. It’s representing the rich class and the privileged people who have enough power to influence the situations. To preserve their bipartisan politics, liberal democrats will permit wealthy individuals, well-educated professors, and opportunistic center-left activists to dress themselves as oppressed people. These woke opportunists will disregard the actual voices and demands of the genuine oppressed members of the poor working class of all races and the marginalized minority groups. Instead, they will divide the working class based on the racial, gender, and sexual lines to let them fight among themselves.
In this way, the working class will be busy fighting for the political climates that are created by these capitalists and their agent (i.e., NGOs, and CSOs) of imperialism. That’s why the class-struggle is essential to make a revolution properly. For this reason, it's crucial to have a class-based revolution. Only a socialist revolution can provide the working class, proletariat, students, and the general populace with true freedom and democracy free from capitalist wage-salaries and alienations. It’s the only way where we can tackle the sexism, racism and other issue that are strongly linked with the existence of capitalism.
How do we fight for Socialism?
Here, it’s important to note that the only way socialism will come about is for most people on a worldwide basis to believe in the superiority of this alternative social system. Even though Arm struggle is essential for the people to defend themselves against the military junta, but majority of the people must voluntarily prefer socialism to eradicate capitalism. If socialism doesn’t come from the people but from some top vanguardist tyrants, it still will be an authoritarian oppressive regime such as Bolshevik regime, Maoist regime, Tito’s regime, and Min Aung Hlaing’s military regime. Since the working class doesn’t have nationality, we, the international working people, should work together to initiate a socialist revolution. We should share our struggles in solidarity with each other. Our grievance is international; our only hope is international, and our enemy is international as well. Therefore, socialism in one country theory of Stalin is irrational and contradictory with scientific socialism. Socialism in one country theory is based on the imperialism of Soviet state capitalism itself. To sum up, the fight for socialism should not be restricted to the nation in which we currently reside. To prosper together in a democratic socialist society, we must cooperate with our international working-class comrades.
HEIN HTET KYAW