The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Myanmar/Burma:
The Population Defies the Generals

Mar 15, 2021

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

At least 18 demonstrators were killed by the military in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, on February 18th. Despite more and more violent repression, the popular opposition to the military coup on February 1st has continued to grow.

The generals have overturned the civilian government, arresting Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of the National League for Democracy, the party that had just won in the legislative elections. They did so in order to maintain their hold on the country’s political institutions, and through them, a large portion of the economy. Their coup set off an unprecedented mobilization in this country of 54 million.

For the past month, the opposition, started by the League for Democracy, has taken the path of civil disobedience—holding daily meetings and rallies, and setting up roadblocks. On Monday February 22nd, hundreds of thousands marched under the slogans: “Free Our Leaders”, “Respect Our Votes”, “Reject the Coup D’Etat.” The call for a general strike was heeded in Rangoon, the economic capital, as well as in other important centers, with a large portion of businesses closing their doors, and a great many workplaces brought to a halt.

The generals have been resorting to force as a way to discourage demonstrators, deploying tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition. An independent organization for political prisoners has tallied thirty deaths among the protestors in the first month. They’ve counted over a thousand arrested and indicted or sentenced since the coup. Among those arrested are railworkers, government functionaries, and bank workers, who stopped work to demonstrate their opposition to the military junta.

The coup d’état of February 1st ended the brief civilian government that began when Aung San Suu Kyi rose to head the government in 2016. Aung San Suu Kyi never ceased to bend before the demands of the military, all the way up to justifying the massacres among the Muslim Rohynga population. This paved the way for the army to bring the so-called “transition to democracy” to an end. If the National League for Democracy now calls for demonstrations, it has shown in the past that it would not challenge the base of the military’s power.

The only true hope resides in these mobilizations, especially if the workers take hold of them for their own purposes and do not remain content to serve as a strike force for different bourgeois parties.