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Myanmar—how can resistance win change?

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Issue 2741
Myanmar people make the three finger salute during a demonstration against military coup in Yangon, Myanmar on Sunday
Myanmar people make the three finger salute during a demonstration against military coup in Yangon, Myanmar on Sunday (Pic: PA)

In the last two years people have risen up repeatedly to challenge brutal regimes and inequality across the world. Such revolts have raised starkly the question of how to achieve real change.

The latest inspiring example of resistance comes from Myanmar, in south east Asia.

Hundreds of thousands of people have defied state forces and taken to the streets to oppose a military coup.

Last month Myanmar’s military seized power and detained Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her party. The West has condemned the coup and the US has imposed sanctions on the country.

But Western rulers were silent while Suu Kyi’s government oversaw the racist persecution of the Rohingya people.

The military is already reacting to the protests in Myanmar with violence. Troops have used tear gas, water cannons and mass arrests.

Protesters will need to resist the onslaught, and a key element of resistance is the working class.

Workers have the power not just to assemble in huge numbers but to collectively strangle the source of profit. When workers stop, the whole of society shakes. That’s why it was good to see the first signs of strikes this week.

Teachers, engineers and health workers have all joined the protests often marching to demonstrations in blocs.

And some sections of workers, including government staff and doctors, have called for a general strike.

Aye Misan, a nurse at a government hospital, told the media, “We health workers are leading this campaign to urge all government staff” to stop work.


“Our message to the public is that we aim to completely abolish this military regime and we have to fight for our destiny,” she said.

Some industrial workers have also stopped work, despite the risk of repression and losing their jobs.

As well as the need for strikes, the movement raises the issue of political leadership.

A hugely powerful strike wave humbled the military in 1988. But Suu Kyi and other pro-capitalist leaders then worked to call off the strikes on the promise of elections.

Once the strikes were removed, the military annulled the elections—and arrested Suu Kyi.

Such politicians will seek to use the courage and determination of protesters for their own ends.

Myanmar’s struggle now draws strength from, and can boost, the battles in neighbouring Thailand.

And it comes as farmers and workers in nearby India are also fighting back.

Struggle is the beginning of all real change.

Wherever there is resistance, the importance of workers and of a revolutionary leadership are crucial.

We do not want concessions to a rotten system. We want it swept away.

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