Burma: For a general strike to overthrow the dictatorship!

CWI leaflet in English and Burmese

Burmese version, pdf, opens in new window.

For a general strike to overthrow the dictatorship!

The following leaflet in English and Burmese has been produced by members of the Committee for a Workers’ International in Sweden, in discussion with Burmese refugees from the 1988 crackdown.

Since its production, the crackdown on the protesters has continued. Even though the curfew and ban on assembly have been lifted, there are still reports about arrests and prisoners being tortured to death. In the religious centre of Mandalay, many of the monasteries are reported to be half empty, with monks either arrested or sent back to their home villages.

Still, it is the opinion of many Burmese that the protests are far from over and that a movement will grow again. In the coming events, the lessons of the 1988 uprising, alongside the socialist ideas and programme, will be vital for the building of a movement that can overthrow the military dictatorship.

How to take the struggle further

For a general strike to overthrow the dictatorship!

Use the lessons of 1988

All over the world workers and youth support the heroic struggle by Burma’s youth, monks, workers against the military dictatorship. Refugees who survived the military crack down on the 1988 revolution organise protests all around the world.

When the military is trying to crush the protests with violence the question has to be posed: How can the struggle move forward? The experiences of 1988 are important. Just like this year’s protests, the protests in 1988 spread like wildfire all over the country. At that time, trade unions, work place committees and many parties were formed. Hundreds of independent news papers mushroomed. As in 1988, today’s protests must unite different ethnic groups against the dictatorship.

On the 8th of august 1988 millions took part in mass protests and a general strike that paralysed the military regime. In some parts of the country people’s committees took control over villages and cities. For several weeks the military had lost control over the country.

In 1988 the uprising was crushed. One reason was that the mass movement did not succeed in offering a clear alternative in the struggle for power. This had the effect that important groups, such as lower rank soldiers, did not dare to switch sides. Now the movement must try to win over soldiers and lower rank officers to the uprising. These soldiers have more in common with the people on the streets than with the generals they take orders from. Today a new general strike is needed, organised by committees in workplaces, schools, estates, monasteries etc. Together these committees can organise a movement strong enough to overthrow the military junta.

The mass movement can only rely on its own strength and solidarity

Many governments have worked together with the junta since the bloodshed in 1988. It is only now, when the people of Burma have come out on the streets, that the EU, US and Asian countries have publicly criticised the junta. Even the Thai generals, who took power in 2006 with the support of Bush, say that they want a peaceful transition to democracy in Burma, at the same time as they crack down on democracy movements in Thailand. The US and President Bush try to appear as if they are in favour of democracy. At the same time, they support the military dictatorship in Pakistan and other corrupt and totalitarian regimes. Bush’s policy of war – especially the war and occupation of Iraq – crushes democratic rights and mass struggle.

Many powerful nations talk about “dialogue” between the junta and the people. But the experience of 1988 shows that “dialogue” is only a way of gaining time for the junta, waiting for the right time to hit back with violence.

The main priority for the US, EU and other imperialist nations is to gain control over Burma’s natural resources and win allies in the region. That is why the Burmese generals are backed by India, Russia and China. The ruling elite in China is terrified that the struggle in Burma could spread into China. That is a fear they share with many other regimes in the West and Asia. This is why the protesters can only rely on their own strength and organisation and the solidarity of workers and poor in the rest of the world.

A democratic socialist programme for the struggle:

  • Stop the military repression – overthrow the junta!
  • Release all political prisoners!
  • For a general strike to bring down the military regime!
  • For full democratic rights, including the right to organise and assembly, and to form political parties!
  • For independent and fighting trade unions!
  • For a mass party representing the interests of the working class and subsistence agricultural workers!
  • For free elections to a constituent assembly!
  • For a democratic workers’ government with socialist policies, based on the interest of workers, small farmers, agricultural labourers, and the urban poor!
  • Nationalise the natural gas and oil wealth, along with the other main big companies and banks, under democratic control!
  • Full rights for all minorities!
  • For a democratic and socialist federation of South East Asia!

This leaflet has been written by members of the Committee for a Workers’ International in discussion with refugees from the 1988 crack-down.

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October 2007