Communist Party (Burma)

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Flag of the party

The Communist Party (Burma) (Burmese: အလံနီကွန်မြူနစ်ပါတီ; also referred to as the 'Red Flag Communist Party') was a communist party in Burma. The party was formed after a radical grouping broke away from the Communist Party of Burma in 1946. In the same year, it began a protracted armed insurgency; first against British rule, then against the Burmese state. The party was led by Thakin Soe, a firebrand communist leader. The influence of the party would however decline, and it was virtually crushed by the Burmese military in the 1970s.

Split[edit]

The party emerged from a split in the Communist Party of Burma in February 1946.[1] Thakin Soe, a former guerrilla leader, had staked claims for the leadership of the party. He denounced Thakin Than Tun and Thakin Thein Pe as 'Browderists', charging that the two had taken a compromising stand towards imperialism and opportunistic elements.[2]

The inner-party conflict had erupted after a speech by the AFPFL leader Ba Pe in January 1946. Ba Pe had denounced the political system in the Soviet Union. In response, Thakin Soe labelled Ba Pe 'a tool of the imperialists'. Wary of the risk of the unity of AFPFL, the party leadership initiated a disciplinary process against Thakin Soe.[3] Thakin Soe demanded that control over the Central Committee be handed over to him and his associates. Thakin Than Tun and Thein Pe did commit self-criticism (and temporarily resigned from their posts), but did not agree to Soe's demand to make him the party leader. Soe himself was removed from the Central Committee. In response Soe broke with the Communist Party of Burma and formed the Communist Party (Burma).[2][3] Thakin Tin Mya and six members of the Communist Party of Burma sided with Thakin Soe's new party.[4]

Red Flag vs. White Flag[edit]

The party was labelled the 'Red Flag Communist Party' (as opposed to the 'White Flag Communist Party', the main Communist Party of Burma) due the colour of their armbands.[5]

The party was reportedly 'Trotskyist' in its orientation.[5] Whilst the White Flag Communist Party employed a popular front line of working within the framework of the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League, the Red Flag Communist Party denounced cooperation with non-communist forces. Instead the party called for direct armed confrontation with the British as a means to achieve independence.[2][6] The Red Flag Communist Party was significantly smaller than the White Flag Communist Party.[2][6] Thakin Than Tun described the positions of the Red Flag Communist Party as 'left adventurism'.[7]

Mass work, ban and insurgency[edit]

The party began building up Red Flag Cultivators Unions across Burma, a movement which called on peasants to stop paying rents and taxes.[8] In July 1946, the governor of Burma Sir Henry Knight issued a ban on the Red Flag Cultivators Unions and the labour wing of the party, the Red Flag Labour Unions.[9]

The government also declared the Communist Party (Burma) itself an unlawful association on July 10, 1946.[3][10] The White Flag Communist Party protested that the ban was an infringement on civil liberties.[3]

The party initiated an armed campaign against the British colonial rule and the 'rightwing' elements of the AFPFL in July 1946.[11][12] Soe was also to recruit some elements from the army to take part in the rebellion.[11]

U Aung San had objected to the ban on the Communist Party (Burma), and ensured that the ban on the party was lifted temporarily in October 1946. He had, however, not associate himself with any public protest against the ban.[3][10]

In January 1947, the party was again banned.[3] In response, the party went underground.[5] The White Flag Communist Party had again protested against the ban on the Communist Party (Burma). In April 1947, the Communist Party (Burma) called for a boycott of the elections to the Constituent Assembly.[3] By 1948, the armed operations of the party were concentrated to the Irrawaddy delta.[13]

Arakan insurgency[edit]

In the Arakan State, the Communist Party (Burma) made an alliance with separatist rebels under the leadership of U Seinda.[3][14]

Thakin Tin Mya expelled[edit]

In 1949 the party expelled Thakin Tin Mya. Thakin Tin Mya later re-joined the Communist Party of Burma.[15]

Decline[edit]

Following the 1956 parliamentary elections the party, as well as other rebel groups, began to suffer from defections from its armed wing. The strong performance of the National United Front had convinced many leftwing sympathizers that armed rebellion was not the sole path of political struggles. When U Nu launched the 'Arms for Democracy' programme in 1958, several fighters of the party deserted to the government. Many might also have simply returned to their villages quietly.[16] In 1961, the party was estimated to have around 500 fighters.[17]

Thakin Soe participated in the 1963 peace talks with the government.[18]

Arakan split[edit]

In 1962 the party suffered a setback, as a group of members in Arakan State broke away and formed the Communist Party of Arakan. They were led by Kyaw Zan Rhee, a prominent Arakanese political leader, and Bo Maung Han. The Arakan Communist Party called for independence for Arakan.[19][20]

Capture of Thakin Soe[edit]

The armed campaign of the party, against both the AFPFL and Burma Socialist Programme Party governments, would continue until the capture of Thakin Soe by government forces in 1970.[21] In November 1970, army forces stormed Thakin Soe's hideout and the last stronghold of the party in the northern fringes of the Arakan Yoma mountain range. He was taken to Rangoon and imprisoned. The party almost disappeared after Soe's arrest.[22]

1978 annihiliation campaign in Arakan[edit]

In 1978 the forces of the Red Flag Communist Party in Arakan and the Communist Party of Arakan were targeted an annihilation campaign by the Burmese army in the rural areas of the region. The party was forced to retreat to the Bangladeshi border.[20]

In 1991, there were claims that the party still existed.[23][who?]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, and Sergeĭ Khrushchev. Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev. Volume 3, Statesman,1953-1964. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University, 2007. p. 752
  2. ^ a b c d Seabury Thomson, John. Marxism in Burma, in Trager, Frank N (ed.). Marxism in Southeast Asia; A Study of Four Countries. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1959. p. 33
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Thompson, Virginia. Burma's Communists, published in Far Eastern Survey May 5, 1948
  4. ^ Lintner, Bertil. The Rise and Fall of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). Southeast Asia Program series, no. 6. Ithaca, N.Y.: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 1990. p. 10
  5. ^ a b c Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, and Sergeĭ Khrushchev. Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev. Volume 3, Statesman,1953-1964. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University, 2007. p. 762
  6. ^ a b Jukes, Geoffrey. The Soviet Union in Asia. Berkeley, Calif: Univ. of California Press, 1973. p. 137
  7. ^ Badgley, John H., and John Wilson Lewis. Peasant Rebellion and Communist Revolution in Asia. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1974. p. 153
  8. ^ Andrus, J. Russell. Burmese Economic Life. 1956. p. 88
  9. ^ Hensengerth, Oliver. Burmese CP in relations between China and Burma
  10. ^ a b Kratoska, Paul H. South East Asia, Colonial History. London: Routledge, 2001. p. 21
  11. ^ a b Callahan, Mary Patricia. Making Enemies: War and State Building in Burma. Ithaca [u.a.]: Cornell University Press, 2003. pp. 103, 116
  12. ^ Butwell, Richard. U Nu of Burma. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1969. p. 95
  13. ^ Low, Francis. Struggle for Asia. Essay index reprint series. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1972. p. 73
  14. ^ Chan, Aye. The Development of a Muslim Enclave in Arakan (Rakhine) State, Burma (Myanmar), published in SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol 3, No. 2, Autumn 2005
  15. ^ Lintner, Bertil. The Rise and Fall of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). Southeast Asia Program series, no. 6. Ithaca, N.Y.: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 1990. p. 67
  16. ^ Alagappa, Muthiah. Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority. Contemporary issues in Asia and the Pacific. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1995. pp. 183, 371
  17. ^ Schmid, Alex Peter, A.J. Jongman, and Michael Stohl. Political Terrorism: A New Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories, and Literature. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2005. p. 514
  18. ^ Lintner, Bertil. The Rise and Fall of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). Southeast Asia Program series, no. 6. Ithaca, N.Y.: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 1990. p. 27
  19. ^ Two Arakanese communists released after 20-years in prison
  20. ^ a b Win, Khaing Aung. Arakanese Nationalism and the Struggle for National self-determination (An overview of Arakanese political history up to 1988)
  21. ^ Alagappa, Muthiah. Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority. Contemporary issues in Asia and the Pacific. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1995. p. 369
  22. ^ Lintner, Bertil. The Rise and Fall of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). Southeast Asia Program series, no. 6. Ithaca, N.Y.: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 1990. p. 28
  23. ^ Project Maje. 'Our Journey'