[Marxism] Thailand and Ukraine

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 4 15:10:27 MST 2014

(Forwarded from Matt Russo. Matt, you need to clip the digest next time.)

Louis, at the risk of sounding overly harsh, but you may be 
wrong-footing this in a Manichean juxtaposition to the standard 
positions of traditional "anti-imperialism" in the case of Thailand. 
The same goes for Ukraine and Syria, though these latter are further 
overdetermined by overt imperialist interventions (and I mean both NATO 
and Russia).  In this context it is quite ironic to read in the article 
cited that "This shows parallels to Egypt last year, as masses piled 
into the streets, challenging the elected government of Mohamed Morsi in 
its drive to consolidate power and impose a theocratic state on an 
unwilling populace. It's not that Egyptians did not want democracy a 
year earlier they had died in the streets fighting for it ? but they 
felt democracy was usurped by the very government elected under its 
rules."  Huh?  Didn't Phan Binh *correctly* denounce Morsi's overthrow 
in a military coup as counterrevolution - one point where I have 100% 
agreement with Binh, even if I criticized his tendency to abandon an 
analysis of imperialism (the best antidote to the fake Putin-loving 
"anti-imperialists")?  What the Egyptian people now have is a full blown 
military dictatorship fully endorsed by the likes of Tony Blair, not to 
mention Kerry. And Putin! All bankrolled by the Saudis and Gulf 
satrapies.  Poor Morsi had no foreign friends at all, no wonder the MB 
was "paranoid".

On Thailand, it is safe to say that in general we are dealing with a 
factional struggle between different sections of the Thai bourgeoisie, 
leading rival "red" and "yellow" mass blocs dividing along regional as 
well as urban-rural lines.  In the abstract its a classic divide and 
rule to preserve the rule of the bourgeoisie as a whole, even if this 
means one sector loses out, as in the American Civil War.  In modern 
Thailand, this tactic will especially divide the working class along 
urban-rural and inter-regional lines.  The article cited makes it look 
like "rural" == "not working class".  I really doubt that they are all 
"peasants", but more importantly from any revolutionary Marxist POV, the 
"red" regions most likely contain the *poorest* and unprivileged layers 
of the Thai working class - where any revolutionary working class 
movement must begin - while Bangkok likely contains the more privileged 
layers, including any labor aristocracy ("civil servants" anyone?), i.e. 
the petite-bourgeois working class, even if the majority of Bangkok 
workers are poor.   That's not to say that all privileged workers are 
ipso facto "reactionary", quite the contrary, the task is to unite 
militant trade unionists from the privileged sectors with the poorer 
workers, and in Thailand, unite these with the militant peasantry. That 
has to be the orientation.

The second point concerns a glaring omission in the article's 
"analysis":  the important role historically played by the Thai 
military.  It is called the *Royal* Thai Army for a reason, as it is 
effectively under command of the monarchy, who appoints its commander in 
chief.  Thailand, like Japan, were the two Asian countries not 
colonized/invaded by the Europeans prior to WW2, and for this reason 
preserved strong monarchies. The rulers of Thailand have not 
uncoincidentially shared a close relation to Japanese imperialism to 
this very day.  Thailand peacefully acquiesced in the entry and passage 
of the Empire of Japan's army and with a pro-war regime installed, sent 
a large army to fight alongside the Japanese Empire in Burma and 
Malaysia during  WW2.  After the war, while the power of Japan's 
monarchy was vastly diminished, Thailand's remained strong - a sort of 
"prewar Japan" that Japanese rightwingers could wax nostalgic over - and 
Japanese capital has consistently been the largest foreign investor in 
Thailand.  The Thai military has consistently intervened in politics to 
this day, basically to defend and project the power of the monarchy, and 
in the current phase of struggle have also consistently intervened to 
favor the "yellows" against the "reds", and in fact in the current phase 
the "yellows" showed their addiction to this sort of backing by 
demanding the intervention of the military to topple the present 
government and prevent elections!  The military will not intervene, I 
believe, unless a significant "red" presence makes itself felt on the 

We not only need to consider the balance of class forces divided between 
the two sides, but also the balance of the political programs, to 
determine which one is more favorable for us.  It isn't the one 
promoting military intervention, that is for sure.  As in Egypt, one 
didn't have to like so-called "moderate Islam" to understand that the 
Morsi government presented a more favorable environment for the working 
class struggle.

Ukraine is even more complex - and more dangerous.


More information about the Marxism mailing list