THE RED SHIRTS v THE OLD ETONIAN

I know little about the situation in Thailand but I think this contribution from ‘harrier’ is worth reading:

Today the Etonian Prime minister of Thailand has talked of “a minority within
the Red Shirts” who want mayhem. Does this sound familiar?
In fact it is not so different to the previous line pushed hard by the
international media, that they are the ‘troops’ of the ousted billionaire,
Thaksin. The implication of both is that the majority of the Red shirts are
sheep, being manipulated by leaders of one sort or another.

Unfortunately much of European leftist description of what is happening – that
is where there is any at all – is on similar lines. It is because of a tendency
to ahistorical ‘tick-box’ politics which at its worst – as in some Libcom
arguments makes invidious arguments like it’s not as ‘genuine’ struggle as
industrial militancy in China and Bangladesh. This is unfair to both kinds of
struggle and reveals a terrible Immodesty, as if we were entitled to be a
ratings agency of class struggles.
And whatever else, it is a class struggle in Thailand, against an elitist
elite, given away by one yellow shirt comment that the red shirst were
uneducated peasants, how could their vote count as equal to mine( and in this
instance to not be ahistorical the demand for elections is not
necessarily ‘reformist’. There are elections and elections.)
But whatever the initial demands the direct confrontation of the last two
months, things have gone beyond that.

I’d always thought it was a given, that ‘political consciousness’ developed
most of all in the process of struggle and the tactics of this struggle are
themselves must make that all the more likely. This is Reclaim the Streets and
Climate Camp in the City on a mass scale. And with a longevity that has
confounded the elite.
And it does not come out of nothing. One Lib com correspondent gave this
account of the background.
“Political movements amongst the poor have been around for decades…Thaksin’s
party alone was a fusion of a number of parties itself and a coalition
government including several parties that had strong grass roots based records.
The Thai socialist movement vehemently opposed to Thaksin when in power seem to
be supporting the reds. Former communist guerrillas who fought in the jungle in
the 60’s-80s are supporting them. The idea that it’s a bunch of personality-
worshipping dupes is exactly the propaganda the opponents want you to believe,
that poor people can’t have sophisticated views.”

And those views are self-educating by the day. Things will never be the same
again for the people who are there now in red shirts in Bangkok.
Its significance is not lost on the SE Asian region neither in Malaysia nor
Indonesia. There’s an awareness that some kind of clear defeat of the Red
shirts would be a disaster as in a communique from the Malaysian Socialists. I
think it would be a diaster everywhere, a victory for fatalism.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “THE RED SHIRTS v THE OLD ETONIAN

  1. Anonymous

    Thoughtful post Ian, I look forward to more of this in the future.

  2. Gitane

    Absolutely Comrade Anonymous! A very good stab at “why we fight”. Hope it finds its way into Freedom/Libertaire at least.

  3. KeyboardWarrior

    I like this post.
    In addition to the familiar elite position that mass movements are always led by demagogues, I reckon there’s a fair bit of projection going on. I.e. the media and political classes are fixated with leaders but can’t won’t admit it because they like to characterise themselves as the rational element within society.

    Open any broadsheet at the moment and it’ll be full of discussions of the leadership styles and personalities of the Cameron and Clegg, and latterly of the contenders for the Labour leadership. Not to mention the continued adulation of Barack Obama. Now that ideology and mass movement have been eclipsed by the management of society on behalf of business, personality is all they have left to talk about.

    This Guardian article, which simultaneously craves strong leadership while denouncing demagogues illustrates this quite well. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/may/08/democracy-elites-strong-leadership)

  4. voidoid

    I understand the local ruling class has pissed off from the uber rich neighbourhoods currently occupied by the red shirts. If that doesn’t count as a class war victory I don’t know what does.

  5. I think the Thailand crisis illustrates why I stopped being an anarchist. Half the anarchists as so often when an international event happens are bereft of a view and the other half seem to fall in line behind Trotskyite style dogma.

    They seem to be quite unable to look at the world simply without sifting it through a million quite wacky abstractions and empathy with other people seems to be quite alien.

    Thailand is a country with a wealth divide we can’t comprehend in the UK. Where the wealthy are so rich and flaunt it with an arrogance that would be considered so crass here. The poor live and work in conditions out of the nineteenth century.

    They out of no tradition, no history of struggle developed an imperfect protest movement, one full of flaws and all anarchists do is turn their snooty little noses up and it’s not 100% perfect to my narrow views so worthless.

    I kind of see these people as creationists. They want god to conjure the perfect revolution from dust before them. Whereas I am an evolutionist. You start with a imperfect movement that over time discovers its power and develops and improves its ideas, this maybe takes years or decades, but they evolve and adapt into a better movement.

  6. nice analysis Ian,one of last times I saw you was near parliament square I remember being pissed off to see the media surrounding Tony Benn whilst you walked cooly by.
    The Yellow shirt elite in Thailand are absolutely blatant they are against any democracy, representative never mind direct democr@cy. I wish I was there, any internationals who are should be proud, the yellow shirts should abide by democracy their crassness is repeatedly shown in their calls for a military crackdown against “anarchy”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8650870.stm
    If I was in the area I would go& be a legal observer or report things far more fairly at least. In Fact I would be suprised if I & many anarchists dont know people there in the thick of it,
    in fact Iam willing to lay bets.

  7. some of the yellow shirt supporters moan there should be no democracy until the economic crisis is over.
    Havent they ever heard of direct democracy& cooperatives?
    In a crisis, coalition government& or direct democracy work, Britain in WW2 is a example,etc,etc!!!
    The false economy sucks, lets have a direct democracy & a universal constitution.
    How about a new federation of jura?,
    something that builds on the PGA & ESF.
    I can be abit of a joker, but I take my anarchism seriously

  8. Geremew Wondawik

    The demands of the pro-democracy Red shirts are in principle to be supported, but it is naive to expect ruling classes to commit ‘sucide’, give up their class interests peacefully. The Red shirts should be well organized and form a strong and popular peoples party that could challenge the ruling classes militarily in a protracted manner. Otherwise, it will be expecting ‘eggs from a swing machine’ as B. Russel put it in relation to Socialism and the British Labor Party. The sacrifices made by the Red Shirts could only be productive when the revolt is all embracing and decisive.

    It is a pity that the Ethiopian media did not mention anything about the Red shirts, even Professor Beyene Petros was harrassed by the Ethiopian media for mentioning about the Red shirts in one of his election campaigns relating to the Ethiopian condition.

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