ISL Declaration: Down with the coup in Myanmar

We are with The Workers, Peasants and Oppressed People´s Struggle

The protests that started after the coup on February 1 in Myanmar continue. The military alleged the fraud in the November election as the pretext for the coup and detained many politicians, including Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the country’s most important political actors, and president Win Myint. At least 25 protesters have been killed by the repression since the day of the coup, 18 of them while this declaration was being writen. The army also threatens the masses who take to the streets with 20 years of imprisonment.

Despite the threats, the protests against the coup continue with the participation of large masses of laborers. With the call for a strike made by opposition political parties on February 22, life has stopped in almost all major cities of the country. The media in Myanmar states that the February 22 protests are the biggest in the history of the country. With the massification and radicalization of the protests, the coup government also increased the violence on the streets and the use of real bullets against the masses; Internet outages are also prolonged. The main demand of the masses participating in the protests is the release of Suu Kyi and other detained politicians, and the military to hand over the power to a civilian administration.

Concepts such as democracy, human rights and freedom have been a faraway dream for the people living in Myanmar (formerly Burma), which were repressed by colonialists until the mid 20th century and then by military coups. Although important steps were taken to break the hegemony of the army over politics under the leadership of Suu Kyi, who spent many years in prison and under house arrest and received the support of Western countries in this process, these attempts remained quite weak. As a matter of fact, the constitution in Myanmar was designed to preserve the power of the army in the political arena. Regardless of the election results, the army has a 25% quota of deputies in the parliament. Moreover, the Defense, Interior and Border Affairs Ministries are controlled by the soldiers. The success achieved by Suu Kyi’s party NLD in the November elections seems to have triggered the reflex of the army to protect its influence on the political arena.

On the other hand, the actors of civil politics and the military in the country follow the same line in policies towards different ethnic and religious elements, just like the massacres of Rohingya Muslims in 2017. When Suu Kyi, who is seen as the pioneer of bourgeois democratization in the country, backed the army in these massacres, the relations with the West had deteriorated. She was even summoned to give a statement by the International Criminal Court. Although Suu Kyi could not be directly the head of state due to her husband being a British citizen, after 2015, when she actively guided the politics of the country, the corruption involving the government ministers and the failure to realize what was promised to the public caused her popularity to be shaken. In short, this short experience of “democratization” revealed how incompetent and limited the bourgeois actors were.

Today, the fate of the country is highly dependent on the competition of imperialist powers in South Asia. The world’s superpowers such as China and the USA are in competition over Myanmar, which is critical for the Bay of Bengal, an important destination for international trade in the Indian Ocean. China had good relations with the Myanmarese army for many years, and it managed to establish these relations with Suu Kyii, who fell out with the West. Myanmar stands at an important point for the “Belt and Road Initiative”, which China pays special attention to in terms of expanding its imperialist hegemony. Therefore, rather than who is in power and what crimes they have committed in the country, the main issue for China is to maintain the political stability and to keep the relations working. As a matter of fact, the veto of the UNSC’s decision to condemn the coup by China along with Russia shows that the military administration will have a warm relationship with Beijing. While the USA and EU countries condemn the coup, they repeat the familiar refrains: democracy, human rights, the resolution of problems within constitutional limits… Western countries saw Suu Kyi as an option to break the political power of the army, despite all her defects and support for dirty policies against ethno-religious minorities. They will try to create a new alternative from within the country as the army purges her. However, we know that the main goal will be to prevent the country from settling in China’s orbit rather than achieving a free and democratic future for the Myanmarese people.

What happened in Myanmar proves once again that democratization in backward countries is too big a task that cannot be fulfilled by bourgeois actors. The future of working people and oppressed ethnic-religious identities will not change regardless of who is in power. The only change can be the extent of exploitation and oppression, but existing contradictions will remain in place. The deep economic contradictions and ethno-religious conflicts that have accumulated in Myanmar and other countries of South Asia can only be swept away by the international class struggle led by an internationalist-socialist alternative.

The working class, standing against the coup with their general strikes and street demonstrations, should act independently of Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). NLD and its leader Suu Kyi are capitalist political figures, representatives of the bosses in Myanmar and imperialist forces. Moreover, the backgrounds of these figures in the struggle for democracy are rather dark.

Workers must develop the strike committees they have formed in strike movements and become an independent force to take Myanmar’s fate into their hands. Workers, peasants, youth and oppressed minorities have no future in a capitalist system. Therefore, the current anti-coup movement cannot be limited to democratic demands. To achieve a fundamental change in addition to defeating the coup, the properties of capitalists, military bureaucracy and foreign monopolies should be expropriated, and a struggle should be made for workers’ power in Myanmar.

February 28, 2021