WORKERS across Myanmar (formally Burma) came out on a nationwide general strike yesterday demanding the overthrow of the military dictatorship which was imposed last week.
This intervention by the working class follows a massive surge of anger over the weekend as thousands turned out onto the streets of cities and towns throughout the country following the military coup last Monday that saw the elected president Aung San Suu Kyi arrested and the military declaring a state of emergency with power handed to the army commander-in-chief Min Aung Hiaing.
By yesterday morning, tens of thousands of people had answered the call and gathered in the country’s capital Nay Pyi Taw for the strike with other cities, including Mandalay and Yangon, also reporting large numbers responding.
Government workers, lawyers and bank workers have joined with doctors, nurses and teachers at the forefront of the strike call.
The call for the unions to intervene was expressed by a nurse at a government hospital, Aye Misan, who said: ‘We health workers are leading the campaign to urge all government staff to join. Our message to the public is that we aim to completely abolish this military regime and we have to fight for our destiny.’
The massive demonstrations, and now the call for a nationwide general strike, have a revolutionary content that exceeds the so-called ‘saffron revolution’ of 2007 against the then existing military dictatorship.
The 2007 mass demonstrations, mainly led by students and Buddhist monks, took the form of non-violent protests over the removal of fuel subsidies which were driving up the price of gas and petrol.
These peaceful demonstrations were brutally put down by the ruling military dictatorship with hundreds arrested and an unknown number of deaths.
But the overwhelming opposition to military rule was not suppressed and the demands for change and an end to over 40 years of military rule led to the army allowing elections in 2015 that saw Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) forming a government.
At the same time, the military ensured that Suu Kyi was nothing more than their puppet leaving them with complete control.
By last week, it became clear Suu Kyi had outlived her usefulness to the military and she was unceremoniously junked and jailed.
Today the situation is massively more dangerous for the military than the peaceful demonstrations of 2007 that were sparked by fuel price increases.
The country has been devastated by a surge in Covid-19 cases with lockdowns causing massive job losses and poverty amongst both workers and the rural population.
With millions facing starvation and ruin, the military was forced to assume an open dictatorship to deal with a working class, small farmers and rural poor that were refusing to accept seeing their lives devastated by the crisis.
The military today are not confronting a peaceful protest led by Buddhist monks but by a mass movement of workers, youth and small farmers who have gone through this experience and learnt that there can be no trust in the military to peacefully hand over power.
They have learnt the bitter lesson that putting their faith in people like Suu Kyi leads only to betrayal and that the time has come for the working class, along with its rural allies and youth, to organise the strength of a general strike to put an end to the military once and for all along with the capitalist class they defend.
Myanmar workers with the support of the country’s small farmers have broken with peaceful protest and will now go forward to a national general strike and occupation of the streets and factories in a struggle to bring down the military junta and go forward to a workers’ and small farmers’ government.
The only way forward for the Myanmar masses today is to seize power and advance to a socialist state that will expropriate the capitalist class and abolish the military as part of the world socialist revolution.
Central to this struggle is the building of a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International to lead the struggle for power to victory.