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The lessons from the Thai Red Shirts

Society develops in fits and starts. Discontent simmers under the surface till it cannot contain itself and then bursts into the open. At all times people are dissatisfied at the injustice, unfairness, and oppression. They demonstrate, protest, write letters and petition – these are tolerated for a while. They show their discontent through the NGOs, civil societies, etc.

Of cours, the ruling class deems these illegal and arrests, baton charges follow with bleeding wounds, broken bones, and torn flesh – which over a period serve to raise people’s political consciousness, that political power follows through the baton, police, army, courts, prison and the gun.

When all avenues are closed, the dissatisfaction bursts into the open – by violence, occupation and protests. The working class and the poor have nothing to lose except their chains of poverty, the rich have their profits and riches to lose.

Thailand is a society in ferment since the beginning; its ruling class scandal-ridden. Its poor burdened by the monarchy, the monks and the military all supported by the capitalist classes.

All the scandals – from Pridi’s time have been papered over.

These have been ingrained into the people’s minds but people’s suffering can only take so much when the truth of harsh reality sweeps away the false myths.

Thailand is a rural agricultural society controlled by the force of the military. As such at least people have food to eat and are self-sufficient in basic necessities – that itself is a stabilising factor. Compared to Malaysia and Singapore it is a more stable society and less volatile although the image is different from the reality.

History has shown numerous occasions and incidents where discontent have broken out in riots, and armed opposition. But because the leaders of the peasantry and workers were not politically class conscious they were groping in the dark and bound to fail.

Today globalisation has made capitalism international. It controls all the world’s organisations like the UN, World Bank, IMF, Gatt and WTO which it uses as a battering ram to open countries to capitalism’s access and relentless search for profit maximisation. It even controls workers’ unions and organisations which are fragmented and confused unable to see the whole picture and grope in the dark.

Capitalism gets away with crimes against humanity – from relentless slaughter and murders in Palestine, pollution, financial breakdown, everything else while pretending to take measures piecemeal.

In history, workers in 1786 to form its own society like the Paris Commune, but because it lacked the understanding of class struggle and consciousness it was isolated and crushed.

Struggles led by class consciousness like in Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba, etc, have been successful. It takes more than 10 soldiers and many supporting staff to fight one guerilla.

The Thai struggle is still being played out. Ever since the Thai Communist Party signed a peace treaty, the head of the struggle was decapitated.

The Thai farmers and working class thus look to a section of the Thai ruling class who appear to support their aspirations as their leaders. To be sure, Thaksin is a capitalist and corrupt as they come but at least his rural policies were beneficial to the farmers – loans, health care, basic education, electrification and mechanisation, etc. At least Thaksin shared his corruption and capitalism with the poor and made their life easier unlike the other capitalists; so why should people and students not be willing to die for him, his policies and ideals?

The Thai monarchy military and middle-class did not like Thaksin’s populist approach – he was becoming too real, too close to the people and too popular and they feared that their rural support was threatened. And so they had to oust Thaksin by whatever excuse and means.

The usual allegations, invariably those of corruption, were brought and was used to blacken him and keep him out of Thai politics and best of all removed and away in exile. But the Thai ruling faction failed to see the power of the Internet.

Students as intellectuals having time to think and analyse mobilised the poor. The military are composed of the sons of the farmers.

The first principle of guerilla war is to never hold territory. In this case the Thai protestors barricaded themselves in the heartland of Thai capitalism. And it was only a matter of time before the Thai military moved in with guns and tanks to surround them. The ruling class can bring superior force and army to crush a minority unarmed protest into a blood-bath.

The people cannot expect mercy or compassion; the ruling class will use maximum force to put down all protests and struggle. Those who fight halfway will not only lose bones but also their skins.

Unless the protestors can now arouse the farmers to create and break out other protests in the rural areas, to come to Bangkok to their rescue, to get them to surround the army who are surrounding them they are likely to be crushed but the political lessons learned by the poor are going to be very invaluable.

The Oxford-educated Abhisit is behaving like an ox tied by the nose by the military who will use him as a velvet glove to crush the people’s protest as a lesson to the poor not to demand their rights, not to demand for justice but to accept whatever they are given and in future not to demand but to beg.

One must know how to compromise and how to retreat one step backwards but two steps forward the next time. And in any struggle they are bound to be renegade, still better fewer but better.

The Thai protests may be crushed for now, but only temporarily. Till the next time.