By Yuri Prasad
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2902

Myanmar’s regime at risk of collapse as resistance spreads

Myanmar is in crisis, plus updates from Italy and the United States
Issue 2902
Protest in Myanmar against the military coup in February 2021

Protest in Myanmar against the military coup in February 2021 (Picture:Wikicommons/ MgHIa)

Is the military regime running Myanmar on the brink of collapse? Three years after a coup deposed the south east Asian country’s elected parliament and replaced it with army generals, the state is now in crisis. 

Resistance fighters control more than half of Myanmar’s territory, and daily are gaining ground in the countryside and forests. In many towns People’s Defence Forces (PDF) are vying with the army for control of the streets.

The military regime has responded in the only way it knows how—more air strikes and increased army conscription. The resistance it fights is made up of an alliance of militia forces that represent different, sometimes competing, ethnicities.

What they have in common is that they want the generals out so they can more easily fight for separate nation status. Those militia have trained thousands of young people from the cities who had been part of the suppressed pro-democracy movement

The protesters had fled to the safety of the countryside after the regime launched a vicious crackdown from 2021 onwards. Now these fighters form the bedrock of the PDF movement. The combination of youthful freedom fighters with long established resistance groups is now putting the state under massive pressure. 

Kayin state, in the south of the country, shows the dilemma facing the military. Resistance militia took the border town of Myawaddy earlier this month. It sits on a crucial trading route to Thailand. The rebels’ gain delivered a serious blow to the regime.

Fearful of losing more ground, generals last week sent reinforcements to try and retake the town. But last Sunday the resistance smashed the army column, killing soldiers, destroying vehicles and capturing arms. There were similar attacks in Sagaing in the centre of the country and Ywangan in the west.

The rebels’ strength comes from its popular support across the country and hatred of the dictatorship. But its unity is likely to be temporary. There are more than 20 militias representing various ethnic minorities. Some have been fighting for autonomy for decades, and some fight each other for control of mineral-rich territory.

Some minorities have more in common with people in China, India and Thailand than with the Bamar, Myanmar’s largest ethnicity. Those tensions mean that should the military collapse it’s likely that the resistance alliance will fracture and there will be a power vacuum.

The biggest imperial power in the region, China, is desperate to avoid this. Its ruling class’s main concern is that fighting in Myanmar will spill out of its borders, igniting conflicts across the region. But it also wants to ensure that the West does not use any collapse of the regime to further its interests on China’s border. 

Any imperialist attempt to reorder Myanmar is likely to repeat past failures and reignite civil war. If the combined force of the resistance was to bring down the military regime it would be a massive victory. Yet if that was the precursor to new rounds of fighting among groups that were once in alliance it would be a tragedy.

The hope must be that workers and the poor recognise that they have more in common with each other than with the upper classes of each ethnicity.

Fascists in Italy threaten abortion rights

The ruling fascists in Italy are fighting a war of attrition against abortion rights. They introduced an amendment last week permitting healthcare authorities “to involve non-profits with experience providing maternity support in family planning clinics”.

While claiming to inform women of measures available to mothers the amendment makes it easier for anti-abortionists to intimidate women inside clinics. Prime minister Giorgia Meloni promised not to touch the limited right to abortion in Italy.

The substantial number of gynecological departments who cite religious opposition means that access to abortion is already difficult. Healthcare authorities in regions controlled by the right offer women money not to abort and impose hospital stays for those taking an abortion pill. The right also wants to introduce a law that would force women to listen to a fetus’ heartbeat before aborting.

VW Workers win union vote in southern United States

Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee in the southern United States have voted to form a union in major success for a return to collective organisation. Workers voted 2,628 to 985 to join the United Auto Workers union.

The union tried twice before to organise the Volkswagen plant, most recently in 2019. It lost that election 833 to 776. Southern politicians lured corporations to states including Tennessee and Alabama with generous tax breaks and promises that they are hostile to unions. 

The Republican governors of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas released a joint statement opposing the UAW before the vote.  They said they denounce the “special interests looking to come into our state and threaten our jobs and the values we live by”. 

The vote follows major national strikes at the big three auto makers and a wave of other action. But the challenge will be to root a fighting union in the workplace and go beyond the result.

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