An Introduction to Anarchism in Myanmar

Anarchist Logo during Light Festival Protest from Myanmar

In Myanmar, anarchism was a catch-all term used by communists and leftists to disparage others until the 2000s. The Communist Party of Burma murdered their Bengali founder, comrade Hamendrnath Goshal (Thakin Ba Tin), and other members of the politburo, using ""anarchists" as a slur and racist slurs such as "Kalar" in the process. Comrade Hamendrnath Goshal was, in a technical sense, supporting the "Mass Strike" method of orthodox Marxism over the Maoist guerilla strategy of the CPB. Ironically, that explains an obvious fact that the leadership of CPB in 1960s didn't even know the differences between "Mass Strike", "anarchism", and "Maoist People's war".

Submitted by heinhtetkyaw on May 13, 2024

Prior to the 2000s, there were no organizations or individuals officially identified themselves as anarchists. Nonetheless, some left-wingers employed talking points or anarchistic narratives. With all these fancy clothes and loud music, the people who enjoy listening to and singing punk songs constitute a subculture in Burma after the year 2000.

Eventually, they organized themselves and began to speak for anarchism. Both underground and mainstream punk music scenes are rife with bands. "Big Bag" is renowned in popular culture for its pop punk soundtrack.

Rebel Riots are well-known in the underground for their atheistic, anarchistic, and pacifist lyrics and punk rock music. One of the first bands to adopt crust punk, Kultureshock, is well-known for its rebellious and anarchistic lyrics. Other underground punk bands include Happy Three Friends and No U Turn, while other metal bands include Darkest Tears from My Heart and others.

Still, not every punk band, metal band, or independent band is anarchist. To be sure, most of them are progressive. The indie band "Side Effect" is one such instance as they are progressive neoliberals.

In any case, the following lists of anarchist organizations exist in Burma/Myanmar.

Rebel Riots (individualist anarchism, or anarcho-punk)
The punk anarchist band "Rebel Riots" is currently the face of anarchism in Burma. The most well-known songs from "Rebel Riots" include "One Day," "Bella Ciao," "ACAB," and "Dear Comrades." "Kyaw Kyaw" is the main vocalist and the creator of Rebel Riots. He is also a co-founder of Books Not Bombs Myanmar and Food Not Bombs Yangon. Rebel Riots propagate their actions through their music and art. Rebel Riots are fans of the punk rock genre.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/therebelriot/
• Official YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvzokjMxtYYXdCtXrvfJ7NQ

Kultureshock (Anarcho-punk or Individualist Anarchism)
Thet Khaing, the lead vocalist and founding member of Kultureshock, went under the moniker SKUM Thet Khaing. The most important punk in the community is SKUM Thet Khaing, and Kultureshock was around before Rebel Riots. In contrast to Rebel Riots, the band Kultureshock does not identify as anarcho-punk. The lead singer, SKUM Thet Khaing, was the only one who identified as anarcho-punk.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/kultureshockmyanmar/
• Unofficial YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/@jamitrecords/videos

Food Not Bombs Yangon (Mutual Aid & Synthesis Anarchism)
Thiha JP, Kyaw Kyaw, and a few other anarchists established Food Not Bombs Yangon. Thiha considers himself a self-styled anarchist punk rocker. Many organic and antiquated Indian philosophies, such as the materialist Indian philosophy known as Charvaka, were translated by Thiha JP. He may have adopted a brief kind of anarchism that we referred to as "decolonial anarchism" or "post-left anarchism." Kyaw Kyaw, the lead singer of the punk anarchist band "Rebel Riots," on the other hand, describes himself as an individualist anarchist. Every week, Food Not Bombs Yangon provides free vegan food to those in need by crowdsourcing donations from those who value helping one another. Food Not Bomb Yangon also offers free courses on English, Drum, Knitting, and so on.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/fnbmyanmar/
• Articles on Mainstream Media - https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-09/food-not-bombs-punk-group-feed-yangon-homeless/7827700
• Articles on Alternative Media - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t63XODlIjAI

Books Not Bombs Myanmar (Synthesis Anarchism and Mutual Aid)
Kyaw Kyaw, Thiha JP, and a few other anarchists also founded Books Not Bombs Myanmar. Through book donations, Books Not Bombs Myanmar established a children's library. Additionally, they give books, booklets, and zines to underprivileged kids who can't afford school textbooks.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/bnbmyanmar/

For the People for the Hood (Anarcho-syndicalism & Mutual Aid)
An autonomous neighborhood located distant from the Yangon region in the lowest economic area is called For the People for the Hood. High crime rates and other issues are well-known in that neighborhood. The region's economic backwardness is not being overseen by any government officials. However, a few residents of a specific suburb were able to band together with anarchist organizers, such as Bro-Y, to organize for their own causes. Bro-Y also co-founded the Yangon Anarchist Association. Every resident in the suburb raised money for their own common interests by crowdsourcing themselves. After that, they prepare free meals for everyone residing in the area. There are anarchists who live inside Yangon and others who reside in the suburbs."44" is another name for the People for the Hood. It was established at the same time as Food Not Bombs Yangon in the 2010s. The majority of the people in "For the People for the Hood" are unaware of anarchist philosophy, yet they typically organize questions of collective interests in a syndicalism approach.
The youths from For the People for the Hood are influenced by Hip Hop hood culture. For the People for the Hood also offer free courses for English, Music, and Boxing. "For the People for the Hood" is currently in more than one suburb of Yangon region. The unique advantage of them compared to other mutual aid organisations is that they're not just anarchists doing mutual aid. They contains grassroot commoners who are living in the respective suburbs. Also, there is no centralised figure or founder.
• Official Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064852621171

Food Not Bombs Mae Sot (Mutual Aid & Synthesis Anarchism)
Food Not Bombs Mae Sot is a branch of Food Not Bombs Yangon set up by those anarchists who recently migrated to Mae Sot to flee from the military junta. It does everything Food Not Bombs Yangon does and operates similarly.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/people/Food-not-bombs-Maesot/100086396083800/

Food Not Bombs Dawei (Mutual Aid & Synthesis Anarchism)
Food Not Bombs Dawei is a branch of Food Not Bombs Myanmar. It does everything Food Not Bombs Yangon does and operates similarly.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100068599745068

Food Not Bombs Kawthoolei (Mutual Aid & Synthesis Anarchism)
Food Not Bombs Kawthoolei is a branch of Food Not Bombs Myanmar. It was set up by those anarchists who joined for an armed struggle against the military junta.
At first, they planned to set up a Black Army in a liberated area. However, the Ethnic nationalist Armed Organization from the region didn’t allow it.
Also, at that most, most of the anarchists in Burma never had the chance to read Nestor Makhno on organizing an anarchist army. Those who are currently residing in different nations also seek for international platformist groups for help. However, given their whole life-long commitment towards anarchist individualism or egoistic anarchism, and failure to comprehend platformism, those anarchists from foreign nations couldn’t provide the proper knowledge back to the anarchists in Kawthoolei. So, the Black Army project failed. However, the anarchists in Kawthoolei successfully founded Food Not Bombs Kawthoolei. It does everything Food Not Bombs Yangon does and operates similarly.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100083349212284

Yangon Anarchist Association (Anarcho-Communism & Apoism)
The failure to establish a Black Army sparked an opportunity for self-criticism and to evaluate the whole anarchist scene in Burma. It turns out that anarchists in Burma were mostly influenced by either individualism or syndicalism, yet most of them have never heard of anarcho-communism as a theory and platformism as a theory.
The recently established Yangon Anarchist Association is an anarchist organization that will priorities theoretical translation. You can read the introduction to the Yangon Anarchist Association on the page below.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/people/Yangon-Anarchist-Association-YAA/100095042526096/
• Libcom article - https://libcom.org/article/founding-yangon-anarchist-association

Wa Kha Mount (Chinese Anarchism, Japanese Anarchism & Post-Left Anarchism)
Wa Kha Mount is a collective attempt to translate the anarchist texts from Japanese and Chinese anarchist revolutionary experiences. It will sometimes feature the post-left anarchist texts and decolonial anarchism.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100080931002802

Worker Solidarity League of Burma (WSLB) (Syndicalist Union)
Worker Solidarity League of Burma (WSLB) was organized in 2000 as a semi-underground association to fight for workers’ rights in the emerging industrialization of the country and only one founder, Mr. Ye Naing Win, survives today. After the 2021 military coup, CCTU was outlawed by the SAC military government and it faced a lot of hardships like any other worker union and trade unions. Among all unions and trade federations, WSLB has, in its history of over 20 years, maintained a reputation for serving only the interests of the working class, devoid of any partisan elements. WSLB is not affiliated with Confederation of Trade Unions, Myanmar, Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM), and Solidarity of Trade Union Myanmar. WSLB is technically older than both Confederation of Trade Unions, Myanmar and Solidarity of Trade Union Myanmar, yet refused to affiliate itself with ILO and Ministry of Labor.
WSLB is one of the oldest and rare radical workers based syndicalist union. WSLB has been engaging in day-to-day protection and promotion of labor rights, capacity development of labor unions, organizing and networking with more labor unions, and striving to build genuine and strong labor federations at the township, divisional and national levels.
• Official Facebook Page – There is no Facebook page for WSLB.
• Media Coverage - Aljazeera once covered about the release of its founder Ye Naing Win from Myingyan Prison in 2005 (https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2016/11/16/myanmar-former-prisoners-fight-for-labour-rights)
• Blogspot Coverage - https://chieforganizer.org/2013/10/06/nothing-easy-about-organizing-unions-in-myanmar/

Anarchist Front Youth – Yangon (Insurrectionary Anarchism)
Following the military takeover in 2021, Anarchist Front Youth - Yangon was established. During the rallies and strikes, the founders of Anarchist Front Youth - Yangon organized themselves with anarchistic clothing and banners. Anarchist Front Youth - Yangon later developed into the People's Defense Force for the Yangon region when the revolution got further developed into an armed conflict.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/AFY.YGN

Anonymous - Burma (Insurrectionary Anarchism)
A group of unidentified activists known only as Anonymous - Burma participated in the 2013–2014 National Education Law demonstrations while sporting Guy Fawkes masks and anarcho-communist flags. The larger student protests against the 2014 Myanmar National Education Law were preceded by this. They called themselves anarcho-communists, even though their politics are more in line with insurrectionary anarchism since they lack a political orientation and view insurrectionary acts as the only way of resistance. Additionally, for their propaganda video, they borrowed the far-right libertarian conspiracy song "Illuminati (Take Control)" by the musician " Vakttus".
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/anonymousburma/
• Propaganda video with Illuminati conspiracy song - https://fb.watch/s1JVLSihsN/

Myanmar Cyber Pirates (Hacktivism)
Since "Anonymous - Burma" first staged a demonstration, a group of hackers from Myanmar called the Myanmar Cyber Pirates have volunteered their assistance. Myanmar Cyber Pirates declared a cyberwar on the government of Myanmar and began attacking official and state-affiliated websites as soon as "Anonymous - Burma" began their protests. Eventually, the operation was strengthened by a hacktivist from Burma who works for the well-known pro-Palestinian hacker collective AnonCoders (one of the co-founders of AnonCoders is from AnonGhost) and Myanmar Muslim Cyber Force, a nationalist Muslim hacking group from Myanmar. Hundreds of government websites in Myanmar as well as the official website of "Miss International Myanmar" were targeted and vandalized with the "All Burma Federation of Student Unions" flag. Certain members of the Myanmar Cyber Pirates joined the People's Defense Forces following the coup in 2021 and revolted against the military regime. A co-founder known by the nickname "Star Hunter" was reportedly murdered in his struggle against the military dictatorship. FYI, Myanmar Cyber Pirates never identified itself anarchist.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/mcp2nd/

Burmese Atheists (Anarchist Atheism)
The “Burmese Atheists” is a loosely affiliated organization of social democrats, anarchists, and right-libertarian (classical liberal) atheists that fought for a multicultural and secular Burma. Thiha JP, who also co-founded Books Not Bombs Myanmar and Food Not Bombs Yangon, founded Burmese Atheists around 2015. Later, it was given to a democratic socialist activist named Theo Maung as a spokesperson. Later, it was given to anarcho-egoist spokesperson Hein Htet Kyaw once more. At the moment, the spokesperson of Burmese Atheists, Hein Htet Kyaw (Abu Bakr), is a “Wobbly” from the Australasia division of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
Currently, "Burmese Atheists" is associated with and collaborates closely with a number of humanist organizations, including the International Association of Atheists, Humanists International, Humanist Mutual Aid Network and Atheists Alliance International. Since its founding, Burmese Atheists have continued to follow an anarchist, non-organizational chart style of organization. Since the coup, Burmese Atheists mainly led by Hein Htet Kyaw has been actively involved in fundraising efforts and humanitarian relief operations for the Burmese people.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/burmeseatheists

Ma Chin The(Decolonial, Anarcha-feminism & Abolitionism)
Ma Chin The, who sometimes writes for “Revolution at Point Zero”, is a trained academic intellectual with apparent interests in abolitionism, anarcha-feminism, and decolonial theory. Since most anarchists in Burma never had the privilege to study anarchist-related topics from doctoral level dissertations, her contents are truly unique. While many of her ideas are bold and motivating, they can also be too out of touch for the majority of working-class and impoverished anarchists, let alone the mass. In any case, her friendship with privileged academic anarchists from the west would be a blessing to Burmese anarchists, as she might serve as a bridge between the country's impoverished anarchists and those from the west.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/machinthe

Tankie Anarchists (not a formal group, fringe category of people)
There are also some people who identified themselves as anarchists, yet always agreeing with fringe Marxist-Leninists who think Russia and China are communists. This kind of MAGA communism type of fringe fascists is not even welcomed by most Marxist-Leninists. One of the most influential Marxist-Leninist groups such as KKE (In Defense of Communism) considered these kind of MAGA communists as neo-Kautskyites. Yet, there are a significant number of individuals in Burma who identify as anarchists and agreeing with such red fascists that both Russia and China are communist states and Iran as well as Turkey are anti-imperialist.

Social Democrats who think they’re anarchists (not a formal group, fringe category of people)
(This is not a satire. They literally exist in Burma). There are also some anarchists who like to worship “philosopher want to be leftists” who pretend to have read the authors like Slavoj Zizek, Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, Hegels, Lacan, and so on. This fraction of anarchists doesn’t work with Food Not Bombs since they think Food Not Bombs is sort of charity. They don’t think high of individualist anarchism as they think the system change is the only way, yet without doing any organizing in real life, but always post lengthy posts on Facebook and circle jerked. They don’t do jobs like normal people, and they write poems and pretend like they’re busy saving the work class. They don’t work with workers because they think workers are pro-NLD while the legit syndicalist workers are literally on strikes against the factory owners. This fraction of anarchists think Kronstadt rebellion deserves to be destroyed by Lenin and Shengwulian (Hunan Provincial Proletarian Revolutionary Great Alliance Committee) deserved to be destroyed the PLA and MSS on Mao’s orders. Basically, this fraction of anarchists is not involved in grassroot activism, religious reformism, class struggle, and decolonial/organic liberation movements, gender liberation movements and so on. This fraction of anarchists considered themselves as anarchists because they think of Stalin as bad, think social democracy and anarchism are the same. Yet, it’s important to note most of them are from upper middle class social class and most of them are student activists. This fraction of anarchists works closely with Democratic Party of New Society and their youth wing Youth for a New Society (YNS). But they will always hold red-black flag and black flag in every protests. For them, protests are direct action, not deep involvement in grassroots and strikes, ironically.

Angry Folks (Former Anarchist & Social Democracy)
The lead vocalist for the folk punk band Angry Folks is Zin Linn, once a popular anarchist. Thiha JP introduced anarchism to Zin Linn. However, Zin Linn shifted to social democracy after concluding that anarchism was not his style. Later on, he collaborated closely with social democrats from Youth for a New Society and was recruited by the Democratic Party of New Society, an evolutionary reformist social democratic party. He was detained by the military regime following the coup in 2021 while attempting to rob a nearby bank. It was reported that in order to raise money for the People's Defense Forces, he attempted a bank robbery. He hasn't been freed yet.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/zinlinnAF

Floke Rose (Former anarchist & Social Democracy)
Hip-hop musician Floke Rose is credited with popularizing atheism and anarchism through his distinctive lyrics that highlighted real-world issues that everyday people faced. His best years were before the coup. Many members of the ordinary working class were curious about anarchism after seeing him with a tattoo of the anarchist insignia on his calf. Later on, he began collaborating closely with Youth for a New Society and Democratic Party of New Society. After the coup in 2021, he took refuge in Thailand.
Though he used to sing appreciation for his fellow Burmese immigrants in his songs, his lavish lifestyle in Thailand has led to many arguments and violent attacks against the very own Burmese immigrants he used to praise in his lyrics. Later in 2023, he worked with the military regime and returned to Burma lawfully with their sponsorship. Then he began singing about the bureaucracy and reactionary nature of the NUG government and the spring revolution. Nonetheless, the anti-NUG third position oppositionists would applaud his songs if he continued to sing them while living in Bangkok, since some of the points he made in the lyrics were partially true. He was a former anarchist who later became a social democrat and a counter-revolutionary opportunist, to put it briefly.
• Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/flokeroseofficial

Summary
Summing up, the above-mentioned list represents most of the anarchist organizations or closely affiliated groups. The obvious part is that in Burma, individualist anarchism and synthesis anarchism were always dominant and certain fractions such as anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism and platformism type of anarchism were never introduced both to the mass and the anarchists themselves. It doesn't necessarily mean anarcho-communism and platformism are better than individualist anarchism and synthesis anarchism.

Image:
The image is the anarchist logo being lighted up with candles during a light festival protest from Burma. The whole anarchist logo was solely prepared by a cisgendered working-class anarcha-feminist whose occupation was a nurse. She is a CDM nurse who was haunted by the military junta for participating the CDM movement.

Comments

heinhtetkyaw

2 months 1 week ago

Submitted by heinhtetkyaw on May 14, 2024

Thanks a lot.

ma chinthe

2 months ago

Submitted by ma chinthe on May 17, 2024

Thank you for this overview.

But, I'd like to make an important correction. I am not one of the founders of Revolution Point Zero. RPZ is a new name given for a Yangon-based NGO called Rainfall, which is laregly a Marxist feminist organization. They changed the name after the coup. And one of the founders is older than me and been running the NGO for a while now (not sure how long). I am not sure if they consider themselves as anarchist and/or even anarcha-feminists. I do not know the organizers very well, however I do see them as fellow travellers.

There is also another Marxist queer feminist collective called Thu Pone, which, I've been told, composed of a younger generation of Yangon youth. They also seem to work with the same population (working class women factory workers) in Yangon.

You might want to update this in the essay.

Ma Chinthe

dot_morgue

3 weeks 5 days ago

Submitted by dot_morgue on June 25, 2024

Hi- do you have an email address or another way someone could reach out to contact you privately?

heinhtetkyaw

3 weeks 4 days ago

Submitted by heinhtetkyaw on June 27, 2024

Hey dot_morgue, you can reach out to me via signal username "hein.43".

heinhtetkyaw

3 weeks ago

Submitted by heinhtetkyaw on July 1, 2024

Or you can reach me via this facebook account.

https://www.facebook.com/heinhtetkyaw.h2k/