Myanmar Disaster And The Human Tragedy of Global Capitalism

From by Li Onesto.

.. The areas hit by the cyclone make up half of the irrigated farmland in Myanmar—which had produced 65 percent of Myanmar's rice. Millions of people who survived are now facing hunger, disease and lack of shelter.

There is tremendous wealth, resources, and technology in the world that could be used to respond to this disaster. There is no shortage of people with skills and compassion that could be mobilized to help. But clearly, this is not happening.

To understand the situation in Myanmar today you have to examine two interpenetrating contradictions. One is the relations between the world imperialist system and Myanmar as a poor country oppressed and dominated by global capitalism. The other dynamic is the geostrategic importance of Myanmar to imperialism and the rivalry between different capitalist countries in the region. These larger factors have deeply influenced the extent and character of the destruction caused by the cyclone, as well as the rescue and relief efforts.

Natural disasters do not “discriminate”—people all over the world are hit by tornados, hurricanes, and earthquakes. But different people and different countries are not affected equally.

We live in a hugely lopsided world where a handful of rich, imperialist countries dominates the rest of the planet. The U.S. sits at the top of a global capitalist system driven and shaped by the maximization of profit. The majority of people live in poor countries oppressed and dominated by imperialism and by social-economic structures that reflect and reinforce the interests of local elites who are subordinate to imperialism. Development of these countries has been stunted and distorted by imperialism. And all this profoundly affects the capacity and ability of governments and people to respond to a natural disaster.

As Debarati Guha-Sapir, Director of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Brussels, said: “The villages are in such levels of desperation — housing quality, nutritional status, roads, bridges, dams — that losses were more determined by their condition rather than the force of the cyclone.”

The official storyline says: Myanmar is run by a bunch of dictators who chose to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.

Reality: Myanmar society is repressive and relatively closed off from the outside world. The reactionary military regime seeks to maintain power and control society through brutal force and by limiting contact with the rest of the world. But this is not why the U.S. criticizes Myanmar.

What the U.S. really means when it says Myanmar has “isolated” itself is that Myanmar has not fully opened its doors to U.S. imperialism. The military regime has not been completely pliable, compliant, and subservient to the United States. And now it has refused to accept aid from the U.S. that has all kinds of conditions and potential “strings attached”—such as Bush’s insistence that Myanmar open its borders to U.S. officials, aid workers and military personnel.

U.S. sanctions on Myanmar (that began in 1997 and have since been extended) ban new investments in the country and prohibit imports into the U.S. from Myanmar. The U.S. says it maintains these sanctions because of human rights abuses. But in fact, this U.S. “isolation” of Myanmar is aimed at undermining and destabilizing the government and creating conditions to bring to power a regime more subservient to the United States.

Historically and up to today, Myanmar’s development has been conditioned by its integration into and subordination to the global system of imperialism.

Myanmar has the world's tenth largest gas reserves. It has been producing natural gas since the 1970s. Today, gas exports are Myanmar's most important source of national income.

In the 1990s Myanmar granted gas concessions to foreign companies from France and Great Britain. Later Texaco and Unocal (now absorbed into ChevronTexaco) gained rights to Myanmar’s gas as well.

In 2005 other countries in the region, including China, Thailand, and South Korea invested in Myanmar’s oil and gas industry.

In 1996 a human rights suit was filed against the American-based Unocal Corp. A group of villagers accused Unocal of using forced labor conscripted by Myanmar soldiers. Villagers were raped, murdered, and brutally relocated during the construction of a $1.2 billion gas pipeline to Thailand, started in 1990.

The suit, which Unocal settled in 2004, brought to light the kind of horrible crimes that were being committed by a consortium of foreign companies, including Unocal, all of which were receiving support and protection from the military regime.

Beyond the interest of imperialism in profiting off the resources and people in Myanmar there is the geostrategic importance of this in the world. And this is a big factor in how the U.S. and various international forces look at their relationship with Myanmar and how they have responded to the current disaster.

.. .. ..

“The U.S. State Department has recruited and trained key opposition leaders from numerous anti-government organizations in Myanmar. Since 2003, the U.S. has provided the NED with more than $2.5 million a year for activities that promote a regime change in Myanmar. The NED funds key opposition media including the New Era Journal, Irrawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma radio...

Today in such human catastrophes, the outmoded economic, political and social relations of imperialism stand out in stark relief. The world needs revolution, and things could be a different way. In a whole new socialist society power would be in the hands of the people. Society’s resources and knowledge and, most especially, the compassion, creativity, and political consciousness of the masses, could and would be fully mobilized to build a whole new emancipating society that will be able to figure out and solve all kinds of problems, including how to deal with natural disasters.


blog comments powered by Disqus