The Fire Next Time
by Maung Shwe Oh
Many an anniversary we have marked over the past six decades and more, not just 8888, but 7th July and Bo Aung Gyaw Day too, and most recently the Saffron Revolution. They were all characterized by our tragic losses and or defeat. It begs the question: when and how soon are we going to see victory for the people? More to the point, are we ever going to?
Hope springs eternal they say, but hope alone will never do. How are the people going to win through – to borrow a phrase from U Nu. We are in fact witnessing a great deal more than the proverbial “interesting times”. The recent changes in our country have been tangible if not profound or meaningful to any satisfactory extent. At least they have the potential to lead to something really different if we play our cards right, if the people manage to beat the generals at their own game.
Even the best laid plans have unintended consequences. We can be sure of the military rulers making meticulous plans to strengthen their stranglehold on political and economic power, and surely we have witnessed the principal stages of their plans coming to fruition over the past few years. They have managed to complete the vicious circle of their misrule.
Détente has been achieved between the generals and the West. We must not kid ourselves that when they say reconciliation it actually means our national and ethnic coming together to form the basis of a springboard for real progress and a clear path towards a freer and fairer society.
Needless to say the people must also plan and prepare, if anything a better plan to outwit the generals, not just resources both materiel and human must be built up but tactical and strategic planning must be properly thrashed out.
In our long history of popular struggle against colonial rule, and later against a military dictatorship that has inflicted not only grave political and economic injustice but heinous crimes against humanity, unless the revolutionary currents from among the farmers, workers, students and monks join together in solidarity and engage in a powerful show of mass action, we are denied even a modest step forward in the pursuit of freedom and fairness, let alone anything like the pursuit of happiness enshrined in the US constitution.
Now these currents of popular struggle in our country’s particular case need to acquire teeth and muscle, both brains and brawn. Look no farther than the 400,000 strong standing army to provide the spark to power up the popular movement for the next stage when the crucial moment arrives. For it will at this rate, the way things are moving. The generals never had the slightest intention of true national reconciliation or granting political and economic freedoms to the diverse and resourceful populace that remains the greatest asset of this great nation whose inherent potential for progress and development in its truly universal sense for the benefit of the peoples of Burma has been suppressed, not to mention the stunted physiques from widespread undernourishment, for such a long time.
Our strength is within ourselves, all the people in all walks of life, including the civil servants and security forces, not least our Sangha and our youth, the students, who have shown their mettle and leadership abilities in crucial moments of our history. Outward looking for help elsewhere can become a real weakness, nurture a culture of dependence, indeed spinelessness, no matter how useful or necessary it may be.
There was a prophecy after a fashion in the wake of the 1988 popular uprising: it will happen when the three sons meaning soldiers (sons of war), students (sons of school) and the Sangha (sons of the Buddha) join together in a mighty effort to overturn and topple the military yoke, as had been necessary in the struggle for independence where the BIA had to be formed with the help of the Japanese. Here we must distinguish between the rank and file soldiers of the standing army and the top brass who treat them as badly as they treat the people, just as the rulers and the ruled cannot be the same especially in the case of the Burmese nation both minorities and the mainstream populace.
Our urgent task therefore is to win over a significant number among the army rank and file who naturally believe their generals in their bogus democratization and peace processes if not so much the capitalist globalization-friendly (hardly popular) economic reforms. The gap between the poor (which includes the army rank and file who are after all sons of farmers and workers) and the rich headed by the generals and their foreign partners as well as their cronies is set to become a yawning chasm.
The rank and file will feel betrayed and badly let down when the generals renege on their promised new freedoms and genuine rule of law since everything that has happened in recent years has done so for one purpose and one purpose only – a new lease of life for their continued domination and exploitation of our national political and economic life.
Do not forget that the farmers and workers will provide the foundation stones of not only the popular struggle particularly in the form of mass action and more but in the building of a new Burma which has always been our cherished dream. In that sense it has to be the five sons – farmers (sons of the land) andworkers (sons of labour ) together with the three mentioned in the prophecy.
This “democratic” interregnum remains the window of opportunity for us to strive towards acquiring real teeth for the popular struggle, never mind the politicians strutting about in the legislative chambers at Naypyidaw in their parliamentary regalia. The real strength of the people lies within themselves in the grass roots organisations and movement.
Time to build up stronger networks, better resources and clear strategies for the peoples’ final victory. We cannot let it become yet another defeat. We owe it to ourselves to be the winners this time around for our own future and our children’s, for the future generations of this great land of ours.