DSA IC and DSLC stand in solidarity with the labor movement and other forces fighting the military coup in Myanmar

အောက်တွင်ဗမာဘာသာသို့ပြန်ဆိုထားပါသည်  /  Translated in Burmese below.

On February 1, 2021, the commanding military officers of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma with some groups still using that name), also known as the Tatmadaw, violently overthrew civilian rule by carrying out raids and arrests of political opponents and elected officials throughout the country. Since instituting a state of emergency, the Tatmadaw has arrested State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders from the ruling National League for Democracy (NDL), dissolved the Assembly of the Union, and suspended the Constitution. The officers justified the coup over baseless claims that the November 2020 national elections were fraudulent, after the Tatmadaw-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USPD) was overwhelmingly rejected by voters. The takeover was indeed possible because of the tight control the military kept over the country’s institutions since the beginning of the democratic transition in 2010.

While blame for the coup lies squarely on the Tatmadaw and its leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, these actions expose the significant risks of accommodation to right-wing anti-democratic forces. State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, known internationally for her decades-long fight for democracy, was complicit with the Tatmadaw’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people in 2017, which includes her defending such actions before the International Court of Justice. The Tatmadaw have been engaged in conflict with Myanmar’s ethnic minorities since independence in 1948, and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s defense of their actions allowed them to think they could act with impunity. Significant portions of Myanmar’s economy is also controlled without restriction by the military-owned corporations Myanmar Economic Holdings and Myanmar Economic Corp., due to special permissions granted by the liberal ruling party.

The burgeoning labor movement of Myanmar immediately stood up to the coup as healthcare workers, public service workers, and garment workers laid down their tools and marched in the street. Workers and their unions have taken part, and become leaders, in the broader Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) that has emerged to confront the Tatmadaw. The unions are escalating the resistance movement’s efforts by calling for general strikes in all industries to defend democracy and weaken the military.

While the calls of pro-democracy activists center around the return of civilian rule and control to the duly-elected NLD government, the demands of the movement are broad and indicate a growing rejection of the neoliberal status quo. Workers and labor unions seek recognition and better working conditions, ethnic minority groups emphasize self-determination and federalism, youth are calling for an overhaul of the 2008 Tatmadaw-drafted constitution, and LGBTQ+-rights activists want to build a truly inclusive movement.

The Tatmadaw’s response has been repressive, declaring many unions “illegal organizations” while arresting dozens of labor leaders. Strikers are facing growing threats of detention despite the International Labor Organization (ILO) urging the military to cease all harassment of striking workers. The police are asking company managers for the home addresses of trade union leaders to arrest them. Meanwhile confrontations in the street have turned deadly and the list of casualties gets longer every day. 

One labor confederation mobilizing its forces at great cost is the Confederation of Trade Unions – Myanmar (CTUM). The CTUM was created clandestinely during the last Tatmadaw regime in 1991 as the Federation of Trade Unions in Burma (FTUB). CTUM then became the first labor confederation to become nationally registered in 2015 after new labor law reforms were enacted by the democratic government. It is now the largest union in the country, representing more than 65,000 workers in many different industries. The International Committee (IC) and Democratic Socialist Labor Commission (DSLC) of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) supports the entire Burmese labor movement and all striking workers fighting to preserve democracy in the country. We extend our direct solidarity and support to CTUM, which is currently taking a leading role in this struggle and is an example of the role labor unions should play in society. 

DSA’s International Committee, in collaboration with Italia.birmania.Insieme, is raising funds to support CTUM, and its members, organizing against the coup. Our financial support will be used to buy organizing material, purchase food and water, rent housing for strikers, acquire mobile and satellite phones to communicate, and more. This support is especially vital to strikers that have not worked or received wages since the coup took place.

Additionally, we ask all DSA members and supporters to spread the word about the situation in Myanmar through your chapters, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Join in and support protest demonstrations led by local Burmese groups wherever possible. In other areas it might be appropriate to target headquarters or shops of corporations that continue to do business with the Tatmadaw or do not try to protect their suppliers’ workers in Myanmar. We also call on DSA members in union leadership to organize statements of support like that already made by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).In conclusion, the DSA International Committee and Democratic Socialist Labor Commission call for the immediate restoration of civilian rule and joins the International Labor Organization in its call for an end to the targeted harassment of labor activists, as well as the release of all political prisoners. We offer our solidarity to Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement and call on all comrades to materially support the Burmese labor movement as they build power and urge everyone to back the ongoing resistance to the military junta.

Burmese translation: