A Critique of the Statement “Oppose the coup regime!” by several Asian Left Organizations
By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 27.5.2014, www.thecommunists.net
A number of socialist organizations in Asia have issued a statement against the recent military coup d’état in Thailand. (1) Below, we reprint the statement in its entirety:
“We, the undersigned organisations, strongly condemn the latest coup d’etat staged by the Thai military under the leadership of Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The current coup, which took place almost eight years after 2006 coup, will do nothing to enhance democracy and social justice in Thailand. Instead it will only tighten the grip of dictatorial rule and attempt to crush any democratic institution that exists.
The army has already started its crackdown on media and the internet, and has arrested people who oppose the coup.
The coup is set to protect the interests of the section of the Thai ruling class who want to reduce democratic space to consolidate its power. The military junta in Thailand has no interest in bringing about free and fair elections to solve the political crisis, and certainly will not protect freedom of expression, which it sees as a threat to its rule.
The Thai military has been notorious for its ruthless crackdowns on democratic movements, for instance, the bloody massacre of Red Shirt pro-democracy protests in 2010.
Hence, we demand:
* Immediate repeal of martial law in Thailand.
* Restoration of the election process to let the people of Thailand choose their future government democratically.
* Stop the crackdown and arrest of political dissidents in Thailand and free all the political prisoners.
* The governments of ASEAN to get together to condemn and assert pressure to end the coup in Thailand.
* All governments to withdraw their ambassadors from Thailand as a demonstration that they do not recognise the military junta.”
Such an international initiative to mobilize against the reactionary military coup is highly welcome. For socialists, the defense of bourgeois-democratic rights against an open dictatorship is a question of principle. This is because bourgeois democracy provides socialists with advantageous conditions to organize, fight for, and spread revolutionary ideas. In addition, it is incumbent that socialists fight alongside bourgeois-democratic mass movements actively resisting the arch-reactionary old elite, so as to break the rank-and-file away from their bourgeois leaders and bring them to a socialist perspective.
For these reasons, from the beginning of the political crisis in Thailand in November 2013, the RCIT continually maintained that it was necessary to mobilize against the reactionary protests of the Yellow Shirts and the looming military coup d’état. We have stated that, in the actual confrontation between the government and the military putschists, socialists have to defend the former against the latter. Socialists should work towards a united front with the workers and poor peasants of the Red Shirt movement who have repeatedly shown their support for the ruling Pheu Thai Party. At the same time, socialists must not give any political support to this party. We have called for the formation of a revolutionary workers’ party which will aim to break the workers and poor peasants away from the Pheu Thai Party and win them over to a revolutionary socialist perspective. For these reasons we reject ultra-left sectarians who refuse to defend the bourgeois government of Yingluck Shinawatra against the army command. (2)
While we fully support the comrades’ desire to mobilize for an international campaign against the coup, in the campaign to organize the necessary resistance, the RCIT considers the above statement as most inadequate and even misleading. Below we shall briefly outline our critique, with the hope of engaging in critical debate the comrades who have signed the statement.
How to Bring Down the Military Dictatorship?
Our first criticism is that the statement doesn’t say a single word about how the masses in Thailand should bring down the dictatorship of General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The only slogans they raise to threaten the regime are calls to the capitalist governments of ASEAN and other countries “to condemn and assert pressure to end the coup in Thailand” and “to withdraw their ambassadors from Thailand”. How is it that socialist organizations fail to emphasize that the resistance of the working class and the oppressed masses is the one and only tool to fight the military dictatorship?!
As we have maintained in our statement released immediately after the coup, it is urgent that the trade unions and Red Shirt movement mobilize for mass demonstrations and a general strike. No appeals to capitalist governments in other countries can bring down the military dictatorship, but only revolutionary activity of the masses in Thailand and the international solidarity of the international workers’ movement. Naturally, given the new conditions under the military dictatorship, socialists in Thailand must be extremely careful in organizing such protests. However, such mass protests must be prepared.
Combined with these efforts, it is vital to clandestinely conduct organizational work among the soldiers of Thailand’s army in order to undermine the generals’ authority and, in the long run, to win the soldiers over to not shooting at demonstrators but, instead, to turn around and point their weapons at their commanders.
Socialists should also state that, ultimately, the dictatorship has to be brought down by a popular armed insurrection. Such an uprising would create the preconditions for smashing the reactionary state apparatus, abolishing the monarchy, and opening the road towards a revolutionary transformation of Thai society.
What is the Alternative to the Dictatorship: Parliamentary Elections or a Popular Armed Insurrection?
In this light, the RCIT considers the following slogan in the statement as both dangerous and misleading: “Restoration of the election process to let the people of Thailand choose their future government democratically.” We are fully aware that many Red Shirt activists hope for another election. Naturally, if such elections do take place, socialists will have to defend them against any reactionary interference by the army or the Yellow Shirt thugs.
However, at the same time, socialists should patiently explain that none of the parliamentary elections conducted in Thailand during the past thirteen years have helped overcome poverty, weaken the powerful role of the army command, or even abolish the reactionary monarchy.
While socialists defend bourgeois democracy against a military coup d’état, it is not permissible for them to propagate bourgeois democracy as the positive alternative. Quite the opposite, it is vital that socialists openly state that the masses should not trust such a corrupt and undemocratic institution like a parliament. Socialists should not be complicit in yet another betrayal of the masses by calling for new elections which will only return to power the pro-Thaksin forces which, in turn, will leave the army command and the monarchy in power.
We defend bourgeois democracy only because it gives tactical advantages to working class organizations and because the popular masses still have illusions in it. However, as socialists, we do not actively call for bourgeois democracy which inevitably only betrays the masses hopes to eradicate poverty and repression.
The positive alternative of socialists to the present situation in Thailand should be a call to form popular action committees as the basis for a general strike and an armed mass insurrection. Such committees could be, when the mass struggle against the new dictatorship fully unfolds, transformed into action councils (like the soviets in Russia in 1917) and hence open the road to real democracy, i.e., a workers’ and peasants’ republic based on councils and popular militias of the armed masses.
Therefore, socialists must not direct the struggle towards another parliamentary election. It is certainly true that the popular masses still have great illusions regarding bourgeois democracy. To this situation, socialists should relate by calling for a Revolutionary Constitutional Assembly. Such a constitutional assembly would not be controlled by the old state apparatus, which has repeatedly proved in the past its hostility to any serious social and democratic reforms. Such an assembly should, rather, be controlled by armed, mass organizations of the workers and peasants. In such an assembly, socialists should fight for the program of a workers’ and peasants’ republic.
Lack of Criticism of the Bourgeois Government of Yingluck Shinawatra and the Pheu Thai Party
Related to these weaknesses is the statement’s lack of any criticism for the government of Yingluck Shinawatra and the Pheu Thai Party. This is particularly unfortunate, as it was precisely these bourgeois forces which, for six months, refused to mobilize the powerful Red Shirt movement in order to drive the Yellow Shirts from the streets and prevent the military coup. It is obvious that the leadership of the pro-Thaksin forces itself is capitalist in nature and, as such, is mainly concerned about reaching a compromise with the monarchy and the old elite.
This is why it is vital that socialists work towards building an independent workers’ party. Such a party is essential, because it will provide new leadership for the workers and poor peasants who currently follow the leaders of the Red Shirts. The RCIT believes that such a party must fight for the program of permanent revolution, i.e., the intermeshing of the democratic and socialist revolutions, which will lead to an armed uprising of the workers and poor peasants aimed at overthrowing capitalism and founding a workers’ and peasants’ republic.
How to Put International Pressure on the Military Dictatorship?
Of course, the RCIT fully agrees with the comrades’ desire to call for an international campaign against the dictatorship. But instead of calling for action by capitalist governments, it should call upon the trade unions and popular organizations in Asia and around the world to take action against the dictatorship in Thailand.
Socialists should call upon the trade unions to refuse to handle commerce linked to the Thai military and the country’s new dictatorial regime. They could call for a boycott of Thailand’s economically significant tourist industry – both by boycotting airline companies with links to the country as well as by calling upon individuals and groups not to vacation in Thailand. Socialists should call for mass protests in front of Thailand’s embassies. In addition, they should call for an international solidarity campaign to raise financial and material support for progressive militant forces of the trade unions and Red Shirt movement.
The RCIT looks forward to discussing, with comrades in Thailand and other Asian countries, the above remarks and, in general, the critical issue of revolutionary strategy against the military dictatorship. We are an international organization with sections in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Occupied Palestine/Israel, the USA, and Austria. We recognize as urgent the uniting of authentic revolutionaries to build a revolutionary workers’ party in conjunction with the creation of a new World Party of Socialist Revolution which, in our opinion, will be the Fifth Workers’ International.
(1) 'Oppose the coup regime!', Green Left Weekly, May 24, 2014 https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/56532; Amongst the signitaries are Parti Sosialis Malaysia, Turn Left (Thailand), Partido Lakas ng Masa (Philippines), Socialist Alliance (Australia), Social Action for Change (Cambodia), Awami Workers Party (Pakistan), Thai Alliance for Human Rights (Australia), Unite Union (New Zealand/Aotearoa), Socialist Aotearoa, Communist Party of Bangladesh-ML, National Democratic Action Society (Bahrain), Transform Asia Gender and Labor Institute (Philippines), Solidarity (Australia)
(2) See the following documents of the RCIT:
RCIT: Thailand: Smash the Developing Military Coup! No Trust in the pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai PartyLeadership! Mobilize the Working Class and Poor Peasants to Defeat the “Yellow Shirts”, Army Command, and Monarchy! 21.5.2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/thailand-coup/
Michael Pröbsting: Thailand: Shall Socialists Defend the Government Against the Military Coup? Reply to a Neo-Bordigist Polemic of the “Liaison Committee of Communists”, 24.5.2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/thailand-coup-reply/
Thailand: Defeat the looming reactionary Coup D’état! Mobilize the Working Class and Poor Peasants as an independent force against the “Yellow Shirts”, Army Command and Monarchy! 4.12.2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/thailand-looming-coup-d-%C3%A9tat/
Michael Pröbsting: Thailand: CWI’s Disgraceful Support for the Bosses’ “Yellow Shirts”, RCIT, 15.1.2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/cwi-on-thailand/