Rebellion Is Justified!: The Collapse of the Communist Parties in Burma, Thailand, and Malaysia

Monday, April 17

The Collapse of the Communist Parties in Burma, Thailand, and Malaysia

During the 1970s, in Thailand, Burma, and Malaysia, there were vigorous protracted peoples wars being fought under the leadership of anti-revisionist communist parties. By the end of the 1980s, these parties had basically ceased to exist. How could such a thing come to pass, while in the nearby Philippines, there is still today a mighty communist party leading such a peoples war? A World to Win magazine addressed this question, specifically with regard to the case of Malaysia, in its most recent issue. But the general conclusions of the article can be applied to each of these three cases.

The basic political problem was subordination to Chinese revisionism. These parties upheld the Deng Xiaoping groups positions on international affairs. And, during the 1980s, that position mainly consisted of seeking to act in alliance with U.S. imperialism against the Soviet Union and its allies such as Vietnam. China had tossed aside the position of opposing both superpowers as the greatest enemies of the people of the world, and sought a strategic unity with the U.S. in what was at first dressed up as a united front against hegemonism. The Chinese revisionists pointed to the 1930s united front against fascism (UFAF) as a political forerunner of this service to U.S. imperialism. However, the UFAF, formulated by the Communist International in 1935, never meant that the communists abandoned proletarian internationalism. While there were some problems with the UFAF position in practice, and perhaps some revolutionary opportunities were missed, there is no doubt that during the 1930s, there were great gains for communists prestige and influence across the globe. But during the late 1970s and 1980s, the Chinese leaders sought to everywhere oppose, demobilize and liquidate the communist parties over which they had influence.*

China expelled Thai, Burmese and Malaysian revolutionary radio stations from the country. China gave important, active political support to the old states of those countries. The Chinese authorities made clear to the communist parties leadership that they must wind up their armed struggles if they are to please China by joining the anti-Soviet united front against Soviet imperialism, in league with the bureaucrat-capitalist ruling classes of their respective countries. Those revolutionaries to whom China, while led by the working class, had given asylum, became veritable prisoners to Chinas new policy, and were instructed to cease political activities. Even today, there are many Burmese Communist Party activists in south China living under this restrictive arrangement.

So these communist parties did not really follow Mao Zedongs instructions to go against the tide and to fearlessly engage in criticism and self-criticism in the spirit of seeking to constantly rejuvenate the revolutionary forces. Instead, they engaged in whatever politics the Chinese party instructed them to follow. They were as slavish to China as, say, the East German Socialist Unity Party was to the Soviet Union. Wheres the Marxism in that? Their sense of discipline in supporting the center of the international communist movement led them straight off a cliff. These tendencies did not suddenly emerge in 1976 when Mao died and China changed course. They were rooted in a problem in applying Marxism to their own countries conditions. This ties in to what I was mentioning in a previous entry about whether or not there should be a new communist international. There is a real danger that in such an international organization, there would be a tendency to foster such slavishness.

These countries are still semi-feudal, neo-colonial countries. The peasantry is still the main force for revolution in those countries. But communists, and the left as a whole, are demobilized in these countries. In some cases, political Islam has filled the void. In others, nationalism has come forward. The conditions, however, call for a communist party to lead the masses in revolution. The ideological key in reforging these parties is anti-revisionism and reasserting the importance of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. There are many thousands of former cadres who have become apolitical and have not overtly disavowed communism who are a potential resource for such a reconstruction. The communists of those countries must be the ones to conduct such a struggle. But for foreign communists, conducting a thorough examination of the history of the communist movements in those countries, and disseminating the findings, would be a service in such an effort, in the spirit of proletarian internationalism. The article in A World to Win is a good starting point, and is hopefully the beginning of many other related exposures and efforts on the part of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist forces.

* Incidentally, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), referred to in Western media as Khmer Rouge, suffered from the same malady as these other southeast Asian parties, albeit with a nationalist cover. Without dealing with the specific nature of the CPK-led state of Democratic Kampuchea, it is clear that it was under Chinese influence that, after the Vietnamese invasion, the CPK dissolved itself and renounced socialism and communism in order to gain favor from Western imperialism. Additionally, it seems likely that the national-chauvinist Pol Pot group eliminated the revolutionary forces in the CPK during 1976-1977, most notably with the execution of Hu Nim and Hou Youn.