Maung Sue San: from Communist party to NLD

maung sue san

Maung Sue San, a well-known ex-communist writer, was one of the first to embrace global trends that departed from Burma’s principal literary ideologies of communism and capitalism. Maung Sue San is another dissent who was hated so much by the communist party members and the party sympathisers. He was denounced as a counter-revolutionary, opportunist, reactionary, capitalist roader, and bourgeoisie writer by the elder generation of leftists in Burma but was praised as a dissent, economist writer and democratic socialist by the newer generation of leftists and other organic intellectuals.

Submitted by heinhtetkyaw on November 13, 2023

Maung Sue San, also known as Maung Chan Aye, was born in 1927 but had already become a student leader, participating in student strikes and hunger strikes since 1938-1939. He joined an anti-fascist revolt in 1943 and rose to become the commander of a guerrilla battalion in 1945. On the other hand, despite his guerrilla existence, he never stopped studying and graduated from high school in 1945-1946.

During his stay at the University of Yangon, he served as a Joint Secretary of the All-Burma Student Union, General Secretary of the All-Burma Student Union, and Chairman of the All-Burma Student Union. In 1949, he was in the final year of his Honours Degree in Economics when he was recruited by the Communist Party of Burma and joined their guerrilla revolution against the BSPP (Burmese Socialist Programme Party).

Communist Party of Burma
Later, he was assigned by the Communist Party of Burma to discuss the political programmes with the members of the Yangon University Student Unity Front by visiting the University of Yangon. At that time, since the AFPL government, which includes the Socialist Party and other left-wing political groups, was still in power, the Communist Party of Burma appointed Maung Sue San as their spokesperson and representative to discuss whether it's worthy for the Communist Party of Burma to rejoin the AFPL or not. During the discussions, Maung Sue San was told specifically to consider from the perspective of political outlook by the party superiors, but Maung Sue San discussed on the basis of economics. For that reason, he was demoted by the party from his rank and suspended for nine months. Maung Sue San formally requested to quit the party, but the party leadership denied him leaving the party.

Chan Aye’s Analysis
During his suspended time, Maung Sue San wrote a “critical analysis” which he called “Chan Aye’s Analysis” and submitted to Communist Party of Burma.

(To understand the context, please refer to the English book, which was written by Comrade Goshal, a politburo of the Communist Party of Burma).

Chan Aye’s analysis suggested that the Communist Party of Burma should abandon its 1948 policy, which basically says that a military rebellion is needed against its former AFPL government. One of the suggestions from Chan Aye’s analysis was that “since almost all the political parties and groups inside AFPL are socialists and communists, who also share the same political doctrine as the Communist Party of Burma, it would be more beneficial for the CPB to continue the non-military struggle”. Chan Aye’s analysis was declined by the leadership of CPB.

Maung Sue San was arrested during his CPB mission by the military intelligence in 1957. Even though he was first sentenced to be arrested for his rebellion against the government, Maung Sue San submitted Chan Aye’s analysis to the government. U Tun Win, Minister of Information of the AFPL Government, decided that Maung Sue San could be useful for their government and let him publicly host a press conference. Chan Aye’s analysis was also published and distributed at the expense of the government.

After his release from prison
Maung Sue San re-enrolled at the University of Yangon to study law. He managed to obtain the bachelor degree in law again this time and became an editor of the national newspaper. He was invited to become a lecturer who teaches cooperative courses at the Central Wholesale Cooperative Society. In 1960, he was expelled from his position for having a debate with U Tun Win, Minister of Information of the AFPL Government. U Tun Win said Maung Sue San still holds the same political position as CPB and still criticises the AFPL government.

Maung Sue San started working at the “Mirror Palace” daily newspaper and weekly journal as an editor in 1961–1962. “The Mirror Palace” welcomed the coup conducted by U Ne Win, the Myanmar military, and the Socialist Party as a progressive move for Burma and its economy.

In 1964, Maung Sue San wrote the classical textbook that will be used as a syllabus for the Information Ministry of Cooperatives and National Planning of Revolutionary Government (BSPP). He also served as Director of the State Commercial Bank, Academic Member of the University of Economics, and External Lecturer Examiner under the BSPP government. Under the support of the BSPP government, he attended the International Cooperative Seminar and the Geneva Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1964.

In 1966, his economic planning was considered capitalist by the BSPP. So, he resigned from his position and started working as a federal court attorney. Also, he started to use his author name “Maung Sue San” primarily after 1966.

1988 and post-communism
In 1988, he was one of the first politicians in Burma who publicly started to endorse liberal democracy, federalism, and globalisation as the future footprints of Burma.

“Two grand ideas dominated Burmese literature until 1988. These were communism and capitalism—or leftism and rightism. Now both have gone,” said Nyein Wai, an exiled writer and poet who has published books outside Burma. “What is dominant now is pluralism, which the great poet Dagon Taryar has often mentioned.’’
Since the 1988 uprising, the public has hated the terms “socialism” and “communism” to their bones and used a lot of slogans calling for the massacres of communists and socialists all over the country. People are not to be blamed for such positions. There were a lot of genocides, ethnic cleansing, forced labour camps, and authoritarian acts committed by the BSPP in the name of socialism and revolutionary programmes.

The 1988 uprising consigned socialist realism, together with the so-called Burmese socialists, to the history books. Before 1988, influential writers thought that literature must be guided by politics. Now they sensed freedom. A lot of dissent writers managed to break the ties of their poets, fictions, and literature from the ideologies of communism and socialism. Economics, globalisation, and democracy have become popular words for the people who have starved this whole time under the socialist regime. A lot of former student militias who were massacred by the communists by being accused of being spies also spoke out a lot about how the communists murdered the average peasant and worker for not following their party’s leadership.

In the two years following the 1988 uprising, the Berlin Wall collapsed, the Soviet Union fell apart, and the Cold War came to an end. The political map of the world was no longer bipolar. Maung Sue San said that this period marked the advent of what he was the first to call the “post-communist era,” and so a new page of Burmese literature had been turned.

Under the socialist government, there weren’t enough products to be bought. People had to wait in lines and queues to get food, like homeless people. However, at the end of the day, local Soviet leaders and their families get all the food, and average people have to do pirate businesses to feed their families.

Maung Sue San & NLD
Maung Sue San helped in the founding of the NLD party and assisted Aung San Suu Kyi with understanding the political situation in Myanmar objectively. Maung Sue San was elected as a MP of the NLD in the election. However, the election results were overturned by the Myanmar military, and another military junta performed the coup against the previous socialist regime in 1988.

The NLD was not recognised as the elected party by the military, and most of the elected NLD party members were sentenced to life-long jail time. NLD was also announced as an illegal political party, consequently putting all the NLD members exposed to being sued to affiliate with an illegal or terrorist organisation in terms of the military. Since Maung Sue San was a member of the NLD, his lawyer licence was revoked. To regain his licence, NLD had to expel Maung Sue San as a member publicly.

Even though the military coup happened and a lot of oppressions were recorded, the coup was such a tremendous win for the public to put an end to the socialist regime. The military regime that took control of Ne Win’s socialist government in 1988 introduced an open market policy. Private companies appeared, and modern commodities rolled in from abroad. Making money became the talk of the town. Even though there were no stock exchanges or investment opportunities, people were eager to be rich and started to buy books that wrote about success without understanding the context. Even though politically affiliated individuals are oppressed, the normal average population, who are only interested in selling their labour to feed their families, is safe, unlike their lives under a socialist regime. Under the socialist regime, they were starving even if they worked. Under open market policy, since they at least get what they work for, it creates at least two to three generations of individuals who love capitalism and open market policy and hate the words “communists” and “socialism” to their bones.

Personal Reflection
My parents are from one of these generations. My father, who died last month despite being a history student, despises the phrase "communism" to the bone. His favourite communist is "Deng Xiaoping," a capitalist roadster by Marxist-Leninist standards. Understanding their experiences and what they have lived through, I can see why they enjoy reading individuals like Kyaw Win and Maung Sue San who have publicly supported capitalism, market economies, and globalisation. For them, socialism and communism represented shortages of food, the absence of electrical power, and the lack of basic needs, but capitalism represented "from each according to his ability and needs." This may be amusing to western leftists who had never grew up under the Stalinist dictatorship and never faced famine in their lives. But such were the realities for some generations of individuals from my country.

Necessary Evil
Maung Sue San and Kyaw Win, who are hated the most by the leftists in Burma, focused o¬n global trends and political economy and broke the circle of the literature community. Once in the past, the literature community is full of communists and socialists who praised the countries like Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, China and so on. However, after 1988, the topics such as development, economics, globalisation, open market economy, and right-wing libertarian ideas are more and more becoming popular.
Myanmar shifted from a country where everything is owned by the state to a country people literally travelled illegally to perform counter-economic activities to avoid taxation. With the help of the knowledge gained from the books written by people like Maung Sue San and Kyaw Win, some people managed to travel to other countries just to have access to the stock exchange and other investment opportunities. Such people became cronies later on and played a role in the upbringing of a capitalist culture to Myanmar.

All these reminds of a quote from a classical Marxist Karl Kautsky in one of his writings “Terrorism and Communism” that basically stated as below:
"If it is desired to abolish capitalism, same form of organisation must be created, which should be possible of functioning as well, if not better, without the capitalist head. This is not so simple as was the procedure of Philip IV or of Stenka Razin; for it demands a certain set of conditions of a material as well as o£ a psychical order, a high development of capitalistic organisation, not only of production but also of the export and import of raw materials. Moreover, it also demands a proletariat, which is conscious of its duties, not only towards its own neighbours and comrades, but also towards society as a whole – a proletariat, moreover, which has become accustomed to voluntary discipline and self-administration through long years of mass organisation; and which, finally, is intelligent enough to distinguish the possible from the impossible, and the scientifically educated leader with character from an ignorant demi-god without a conscience. Wherever these conditions are not present, capitalism cannot with any success be permanently dissolved by Socialism. And even in those districts, and in those branches of industry in which these conditions are already sufficiently highly developed, the Socialistic organisation must be carefully prepared by a profound examination of the actual conditions. For the forms which the new organisations have, for the time being, taken on are not necessarily the best for all branches of industry, for all lands and all times. They are not “ready-made Utopias” or eternal “ideals.” Under certain circumstances they can differ a good deal, and must be adapted according to the prevailing conditions in the most business-like manner possible, if they are to have any success."

The followng are the summarised questions or details Maung Sue San focused:
When it comes to Communist Party of Burma, Maung Sue San discussed the following questions.
1. After World War II, The concept of peaceful development. (Also called Broaderism)
2. ethnic capitalist, The idea that the imperialist has never returned. (Cold Survey and Criticism)
3. The concept of war/non-war for independence
4. The idea that armed struggle is necessary/unnecessary
5. The strategy of battle: The strike or farmers' war?
6. The Left Coalition Problem
7. Guerrilla warfare: The city or the countryside
8. Should/shouldn't change the shape of the battle.

When it comes to the question of BSPP, Maung Sue San discussed the following questions.
1. Is socialism the historical requirement?
2. If the Calcutta (Subjective Factor) is fulfilled, The idea that the objective condition can be changed.
3. The idea of marrying the market mechanism and Socialism (really similar to Deng).

When it comes to the question of NLD, Maung Sue San discussed the following questions.
1. Giving U Ne Win an honorable exit.
2. A party that can be elected is not yet a government party. (Winning party cannot be ruling party) – ('Six big guay' - concept)
3. market economy and democracy; Can't attach at the same time. market economy and democracy; He will move separately on his own path - a guess.
4. The role of the military It must be recognized:

When it comes to the question of 2008 Constituion, Maung Sue San discussed the following questions.
1. Is it possible to avoid the constitution sponsored by the military? (Can we avoid the military sponsored constitution)
2. Under the Constitution, Are political parties ready to act?
3. choice Are the plans feasible? (Politics is the art of possible)