People Power in Burma: Part III

(Keep the lamp in the window folks 2pm – promoted by buhdydharma )

Cross posted at the Daily Kos under betson08

When the military junta in Burma began its outrageously brutal crackdown on the monks, students and other pro-democracy activists last month, I had a feeling that this time it had gone too far. For one, Buddhist monks are way too important in Burmese society for the population to acquiesce to the junta striking out at the very soul of the society.

In this light, there is an interesting news report today in Truthout based on an interview with a pro-democracy activist, whose identity is being kept a secret for his own safety, that shows some interesting things about the extent of the internal organization of the movement and how its nonviolent nature will be the final downfall of the junta.

Cynthia Boaz is reporting that the junta has killed at least 200 monks, and possibly more, not the dozen or so the government claims.

Despite the killings, torture, and mass detentions, among other things, they movement hasn’t given up at all. 

The resistance continues, even amongst the monks, in a number of forms. Many monks have been engaged in a hunger strike for up to two weeks now. Others have been instrumental in protests of other types, including prayer vigils in honor of their fallen brethren. By violently striking out against that specific part of society – the revered, symbolic soul of Burma – the regime may have applied the final straw necessary to galvanize many who have thus far only stood on the sidelines. A common regime tactic in striking out against a nonviolent mass movement considered threatening to their power is to accuse the group of being “terrorists” or “enemies of the people.” But in this case, the generals are in quite a dilemma because they know no one will believe that sort of fiction about peaceful, much-beloved monks. So, their answer is to hide away the monks and continue to terrorize the people.

What the junta didn’t realize is how vertically integrated the pro-democracy movement is. This is REALLY interesting:

Although those arrests came as a heartbreaking blow, they were not entirely unanticipated by the movement, which means they were probably accounted for strategically. According to reports from pro-democracy groups inside the country, there are too many layers of leadership for the regime to attack simultaneously. The mass movement in Burma is unlikely to be defeated by removing its most visible components because they have organized themselves around a conceptualization of power that does not depend on the guidance of just a small group of people. The resistance is based on the notion of people-power, a genuinely bottom-up form of authority that finds its strength in numbers and scope, not in the charisma or strategy of one or two key individuals. So, the more the regime attacks, the more likely it is that movement’s numbers will actually increase. In fact, on Thursday, the Industrial Zone Workers’ Union made a public declaration of their solidarity with the movement, and declared its members would join in “when a general strike comes up.” They also “exhort all workers of Burma to work for our country’s cause.”

I think we might take some lessons from that. People power may be the key to transforming our own country as well.

It’s important to note that the key to the success of the movement is not just its internal organization, but its nonviolence, as Boaz writes:

In making that fatal error to use violence against the soul of Burma, the regime has very likely sealed their fate. To paraphrase Lech Walesa, former leader of the Solidarity trade union federation, which ultimately undermined Communist Party power in Poland, it was at that moment – with the decision to respond so violently to nonviolence – when the regime revealed they were losing the conflict.

We all may have felt helpless watching this brutality unfold on our televisions and computer screens, but the people of Burma will free themselves from the junta, I know it. Just stay tuned.

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  1. more violence the junta will perpetrate on the population, and that will be painful to watch, but this time I think the junta will be over.

  2. I will try to get this on the FP later.

    We need to keep the light on this.

  3. Namaste

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  4. a prayer for Burma too
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