The People Speak: Myanmar genocide, agents provocateurs, and defending democracy
A Rohingya Muslim living in Malaysia cries during a protest against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar at a stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dec. 4, 2016. | Lim Huey Teng / AP

People’s World readers offer their take on a number of recent articles featured in our pages. The comments below have been edited for length. Join the discussion on the PW website and on Facebook. Your thoughts could be the next to appear in this space.

Re: Ethnic cleansing in Myanmar: The genocide of the Rohingya people

Cameron M. Orr says:

I agree that the China-Myanmar Oil Pipeline, which started pumping in April of this year after years of delays and is part of the Belt and Road Initiative, certainly has a lot to do with the U.S.’ response to the horrific humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, which has been going on for a long time and is now intensifying, and which stems from former British colonization.

The U.S. has also recently been working to cooperate more with the Myanmar military. It is very likely that if the current government in Myanmar were weakened, it would lead Myanmar towards a military coup, and unfortunately, as a result of historically-based divisions in the country, there is not enough unity among the general Myanmar population and within the government to stop the military from continuing its genocidal acts.

I think we should be very mindful, however, to avoid making any equivalency between the role of China and the U.S. in the region. All of China’s economic interactions with other countries have been conducted without strings attached, a stark difference between the kinds of economic interactions Western institutions like the IMF and World Bank have had with others. China is also part of a broader effort in the region and internationally to deal with ongoing effects of colonization and ongoing imperialist wars and the financing of terrorism, imperialist sanctions, and domination over trade routes, international forums, and financial institutions.

The U.S. ruling class’ response to the situation in Myanmar and many other countries is very much part of their panic in watching China’s peaceful rise. The U.S. is becoming increasingly isolated internationally as a result of the U.S. ruling class’ refusal to participate with the Belt-and-Road Initiative. The fact that the Communist Party of China is the largest political party in the world, and leads the development of the second largest and most balanced economy in the world, is certainly not lost on them.

Whereas capitalist countries have traditionally responded to the problem of overproduction by generating a new, heightened level of unemployment with each new round of boom and bust, the response from the Chinese people and government has been to use raise living standards, while using overcapacity as an opportunity to help other developing nations by investing in their infrastructure projects. At a similar point of development in the U.S. economy, the U.S. ruling class began developing the military-industrial-finance complex with an arms race that now threatens to eliminate all life on the planet. It is worth noting here that the Department of Defense is the single largest polluter on the planet, as well as the world’s largest employer, and the biggest and most violent corporate welfare scheme imaginable.

I think ASEAN is fully capable of dealing with the problems in their region. China has certainly not been silent on the issue, but has been giving it regular coverage in its media and has been facilitating dialogue between all the countries involved. What is needed most is to allow countries in the region to work out their problems without interference from the very Western capitalist countries that have created the conditions the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar stems from.

Re: Agents provocateurs and the manipulation of the radical left

Kelly Sinclair says:

Such a timely topic. I’ve come across this problem online when, say, on a Marxist Facebook page, someone will post statements that go beyond the usual political tit-for-tat. I don’t mean the racist and sexist comments, or the usual slice-and-dice of political differences, but posts about using bloody routes to power using maximalist means.

Maybe the poster is a legit radical who’s blowing off steam and doesn’t understand that using the “b” word (the one ending with b) and other explicit statements could possibly entangle them, now or in the future, in what I would call Homeland Security’s auto-surveillance of social media. Something that need not be personal or done with animus, but tagging just the same. And making one a potential person of interest later.

This isn’t hidden knowledge a la “deep state,” but are facts well reported through People’s World, The Intercept, and other publications. One needn’t see us sliding further into some dystopian future to realize that, here and now, our personal data and internet output is being sieved through corporate and federal data filters for a variety of purposes. The tech need not be intentionally nefarious in order to be all too intrusive.

An agent provocateur might be acting due to ego or because of being hired by a company or agency for that purpose. Whatever the reason, such a person is a social IED, damaging dialogue and the ability of progressives to unite with purpose.

When traveling on the web, particularly on Facebook and Instagram, best to use a reasoned approach to speaking out or posting anti-capitalist images. Still bold, transgressive, and angry, still advocating better pathways to socioeconomic justice—just knowing that language, action, and imagery contains routes to spread our message. Ones that don’t break business windows—which shows little sympathy for the low-wage workers who clean up afterward—ones that bark into the face of state power, ones that, with organized intent and action, counter agents-provocateurs as well as foes who don’t bother with disguises.

Re: “Trail of Tears Walk” commemorates Native Americans’ forced removal

Norman Markowitz says:

This is a really fine article. “Jacksonian Democracy” was rightly called by the late George Frederickson, a distinguished historian, Herrenvolk or Master Race Democracy, a democracy based on the de facto extermination of native peoples, the maintenance of African slavery, and the conquest of what were the Northern provinces of Mexico.

That is Trump’s “democracy,” and it is no wonder that Andrew Jackson is his hero, even though he might confuse Andrew Jackson with Michael Jackson, since entertainment ratings are so important to him.

Abolitionists, fighters for public education(called the free or common school movement), women’s rights advocates, and land reformers—all fought what Jackson represented with a different kind of democracy based on human rights and social justice. That was the democracy that defeated the slaveholder Confederacy in 1865 and fascism in 1945. Today, the battle for democracy starts with the battle against Trump.




PW Readers
PW Readers

Contributors to “The People Speak” round-up of discussions and debates happening on the People’s World website and on our social media networks.