Thailand turmoil exposes bourgeois democracy
The streets of Bangkok have once more been hit by violent demonstrations aimed at unseating Thailand’s democratically elected government. In the name of democracy, the demonstrators are demanding the suspension of democracy and that the elected government be replaced by a handpicked People’s Council, its members to be chosen by the unspecified great and the good (i.e., by Thailand’s most reactionary and anti-democratic elements) from among ‘distinguished’ professionals. They are rejecting the government’s offer to hold new elections within weeks on the grounds that vote of the majority would bring about an ‘undemocratic result’, i.e., it would confirm the present government in office. Suthep Thaugsuban, the protest leader, has indeed announced, in the name of democracy of course: “I am one of the people who will not allow this election to take place“. One of his supporters, a Thai soap opera star mesmerised by royalty, was far more honest when he posted on his Facebook page that he didn’t “think we are suited for democracy right now” – i.e., bourgeois democracy should be ditched in a country such as Thailand since events have proved that elections cannot in the circumstances there prevailing be guaranteed to bring to power governments serving the interests of the ruling class.
What is happening in Thailand today is just another episode in the struggle of the patriotic Thai national bourgeoisie, along with the working class and peasantry, against the treacherous comprador bourgeoisie which enjoys the support of most of the army, the civil service and judiciary, to say nothing of Thailand’s ‘revered’ monarchy, massively wealthy feudal relics who, typical of their kind, have no compunction in allying themselves with foreign imperialism and local compradors in order to maintain their anachronistic privileges, exerting on their behalf the baleful influence of age-old tradition in order to disorganise the ranks of the masses.
However, in every election since 2001 the Thai masses have voted for a government committed to serving their class and national interests, a government of the Pheu Thai Party and its predecessors, a party of the patriotic national bourgeoisie, which promises to deliver better education, and proceeds to do so; which promises to subsidise farming in order to keep it going, and does so. From the comprador point of view, these policies are indicative of incompetence and vote-buying at best and corruption at worst. However, from the point of view of Thai national interests, sovereignty and independence, these policies are essential. An independent and sovereign Thailand needs a working class with a high level of education and skills, and it needs a peasantry engaged in producing the agricultural goods that enable Thailand to be self-sufficient, rather than land being left abandoned by millions of bankrupted peasants forced to migrate to city shanty towns and slums, to live in penury, or thriving as best they can on crime or providing young souls for Thailand’s notoriously degenerate sex industry. The compradors, on the other hand, have no vision of self sufficiency in agricultural production, or the generation of national industrial capacity, and they couldn’t care less about the fate of millions of peasants, so long as they can take their cut in the import of food and industrially-manufactured goods from ‘efficient’ producers abroad.
It is no wonder then that the Thai masses have since 2001 been voting for the Pheu Thai Party. It is equally unsurprising that every time the powerful elements dominating the army, the judiciary, the royal family, etc., have tried to overthrow the government, and in 2006 actually succeeded, installing in its place a government amenable to promoting the interests of the comprador bourgeoisie and feudal classes. However, when this government came up for election it was thoroughly trounced by Pheu Thai (an organisation which has had to form itself no less than three times since 2001 in response to the various banning order that have been made against it).
The acknowledged leader of Pheu Thai is Thaksin Shinawatra, who served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006 when his government was overthrown in an army coup. He was then indicted on trumped up corruption charges and so put himself into voluntary exile. His party nonetheless won the next elections which took place in 2007, with Samak Sundravej at the head of the party. The opposition succeeded in hounding him out of office for appearing on a television cookery programme, which they managed to dress up as some gross abuse of office. He was replaced by Somchai Wongsawat, who was forced out of office in 2008 by disruptive demonstrations organised against his government by the comprador class, the demonstrators having, for instance, closed the international airport, as well as wantonly attacking pro-government supporters, leading to the deaths of almost 100 people. The army then installed a government under the leadership of Abhisit Vejjajiva, old Etonian and leader of Democrat Party. Shinawatra’s party then went on again overwhelmingly to win the 2011 elections under the leadership of Thaksin’s sister, Yinluck Shinawatra. The current demonstrations are following the pattern laid down in earlier efforts to remove the government, occupying or surrounding government building to prevent personnel getting in to work, resorting to violence, and creating conditions for intervention of the military to stage a coup and bring back a ‘Democrat’ government. In the violence generated by the present anti-democratic demonstrations, people have again been killed. This time round all 153 ‘Democrat’ Party MPs have resigned.
The excuse for setting off the current demonstrations is an attempt by the government to steer through parliament an amnesty bill that would enable people forced into exile through trumped up charges, like Thaksin Shinawatra, to return home. However, it is likely that the compradors were acting to avoid progress being made in bringing to justice Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the current demonstrations, and Abhisit Vejjajiva, the former army-installed Democrat prime minister, over the killings of pro-Thaksin protesters in 2010.
Whatever might be the current excuse, the truth of the matter was well expressed by a person interviewed by the New York Times: ” Because a number of the protest leaders are members of Thailand’s wealthiest families, some have described the demonstrations here as the antithesis of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This is the 1 percent rebelling against the 99 percent, they say .” (Thomas Fuller, ‘In Thailand, Standing Up for Less Democracy’, 16 December 2013).
Nothing could better demonstrate the truth that capitalism is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, notwithstanding the presence of the trappings of bourgeois democracy. The people are free under bourgeois democracy to choose a bourgeois government but only within parameters acceptable to the bourgeoisie. If despite all the best efforts of the bourgeois propaganda machine the electorate steps out of line and votes in a government that actually takes steps to undermine bourgeois interests, then all hell lets loose. It is of course true that Thailand does not present an entirely classic scenario in this regard, because the bourgeoisie is divided, as it is in all oppressed countries, into a comprador section and a patriotic national section.
In Thailand the hell has been let loose in a situation where contradictions have become acute between the comprador and the national bourgeoisie. Those elements of the Thai bourgeoisie which perceive it to be in Thailand’s best interests (and their own) to turn Thailand into a paradise for foreign investors and free trade for imperialist monopolies, notwithstanding the problems that this would cause for Thailand’s working class and peasantry, are at loggerheads with those who would prefer to develop Thailand as a strong independent economy able to trade on terms of equality with trading partners of its own choice, such as China. It is the patriotic section which is represented by the present Thai government.
It is interesting to note that when it comes to flying in the face of bourgeois democracy, the comprador bourgeoisie does seem to be having more trouble than it has had in the past in maintaining the loyalty of some of the people manning the organs of state control. The demonstrators are very angry, for instance, at the police whom they have dubbed the Thaksin police (which for the most part is carrying out government orders, e.g., clearing out demonstrators attempting to disrupt the functioning of government).
We sincerely hope that this will indeed assist the people of Thailand to resist this assault on bourgeois democracy being perpetrated by and on behalf of putrid reactionary elements. Moreover, we join with the overwhelming majority of the people of Thailand in demanding an amnesty for Thaksin Shinawatra to enable him to return to his country as the outstanding patriot that he is.