Aung San of Burma

The Situation and Tasks

I. Basic Demands of Our People


We meet today again in order to discuss the existing situation in Burma in relation to world events, and further to discuss questions of our struggle for freedom. You know very well what are the basic demands of our nation. They are, firstly, the formation of an interim national government vested with full powers of a responsible democratic government and representing principal political groups in our country. Secondly, we want to have elections on adult franchise. Thirdly, such elected representatives of the nation should form a Constituent Assembly free from any foreign control, to frame a constitution for a free, independent Burma. These are our clear simple basic demands. Can the people of Burma realise these basic demands? I think, we can. But this depends upon the strength of our unity and organisation, on our ability to correctly gauge trends of events about us and prepare ahead, in our constant and sedulous awareness of our strength and our limitations, for any and every possibility, good or bad, that events might unfold to us. And, without doubt, we must leave nothing to chance and must be able to avail ourselves of any advantage offered in a situation, national or international, objective or subjective, etc. Only then we can be successful completely and in due time. As I see it, the international and national situation as a whole is favourable to help make our tasks successful in a not very long period and, may be, even peacefully. I shall, first, discuss with you questions of our respective tasks in general and those of national struggle for freedom in particular. I shall begin with international situation first.

II. The International Situation

Let us first see the favourable side of the picture in analysing the international situation. Here are some of the salient features. Complete military defeat of all principal Fascist states, overwhelming victory of democratic ideology over Fascism, and general elimination of extreme Rightism throughout the world, a more powerful League of Nation (U.N.O) in which the two most powerful states in the world, namely U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. participate actively; China's rise to the position of one of the Big Five in the U.N.O, though for the moment clouds of civil war darken over her horizon; Asia's awakening and rising strength as can be seen in the armed struggle of Indonesia, developing independence of Indo-China, the independence of the Philippines, the coming of a free, independent India (I am not referring to present arrangements being done by the British Government in India), Malayan politicalisation, rise of a progressive young Thai Party in Siam, rising and increasingly powerful nationalisms of the Middle East compelling the recognition of the independence of Transjordan, withdrawal of long-occupied British troops from Egypt, the rising nationalism in Syria, Palestine, etc., democratisation of the people of the world as can be seen in victories of new democracies in Eastern Europe, republicanisation of Western Europe, the victory of the Labour Party in Britain, Africans' increasing consciousness, increasing democratisation of South America, developing independence of British Dominions, particularly Australia etc., gradual internationalisation of Burma's case, the Soviet Union's ascending strength and position in international affairs, U.S. twelve-point foreign policy, etc., - these form the favourable factors in the international situation.

Now the unfavourable side. Remnants of Fascist menace such as can be seen in fascist Spain, Mosley's organisation in Britain, Labour imperialists in Britain, Kuomintang Right-wingers, Indian vested interests in India and Burma-encouragement of reactionaries and even open Fascist acts by British imperialism and company in international and colonial affairs; continued existence of international capitalist trusts and appearance of new regional trusts and combines, the means of international propaganda being mostly in their hands; the reappearance of the old power politics of Balance of Power and Spheres of influence; British imperialism's physical appearance for the moment which hides its weaknesses from the observations of a good part of the world; continued existence of colonies and semicolonies; disunity in China; Hindu-Muslim disunity in India; imperfections of Siamese democracy, certain anti-Burmese sentiments there; British machinations in Siam and South East Asia; lack of positive international support for Indonesia; Malaya's amorphous racial questions; reaction still raising its head in the Middle East such as the extremely unsettled state in Palestine; brewing campaign for quarantining the Soviet Union from international affairs; U.S hydra-headed State Department and anti-Soviet Navy; lack of frequent and positive contacts and co-ordinated policies between oppressed and exploited peoples of the world which result chiefly in the Indian and African troops being used for suppression of natural and just revolts of oppressed and exploited peoples (including even their own at times) etc. - these form unfavourable aspects of the present international situation.

In the sphere of world relations, there is an increasing conflict of opinions between the Soviet Union on one side and the Anglo-American combination on the other. In Asia, China and the Middle East are the sorest spots while India and South East Asia (including Burma) are also of equal and vital priorities. I shall not be surprised if Asia, especially China, will become the beginning and prime theatre of war if the Third World War becomes a fact. Asia, or rather China was the beginning of World War II. This time it will be not merely the beginning but may even become the prime war theatre itself. For in Asia, in South Africa and South America, particularly in Asia where she is coming into her own and where almost all those powers dominating Asia and world politics as well as the Soviet Union and U.S.A are bound up somehow or other in Asia's tangled skein of geo-politics, international intrigues, rivalries and struggles will get keener and sharper and thus pave the way for World War III.That does not mean that the third World War is inevitable. Contrary to certain opinions and seemingly bad news from China in these few days, I am of firm opinion that large scale military struggle will not yet come for quite a time and that there will be only fresh and more intensive political maneuvers and mobilisations generally for the Peace contests by means of atomic, food, economic and slandering diplomacies. I don't however claim to be a prophet and cannot guarantee that this will be the case in international affairs. But this is the trend I can see.

As things appear to me, the Soviet Union and the Anglo-American Powers are engaged in keen competitions for the division of respective spheres of influence in the Middle East, Europe and the Far East, while British imperialism seems to be the spearhead of the combination for domination of South East Asia, with U.S.A. in the background consciously or unconsciously. Thus there is now, roughly speaking, a division of the world into two main camps, the division between forces of freedom and democracy on the one hand and forces of anti-freedom, anti-democratic reaction on the other; or rather between forces for the old world and those for a new world, between, so to speak, Old Democracies and New Democracies; and not between Democracy and Communism as it is generally painted to be. For from any point of view, communist or noncommunist, there is no immediate prospect of communism being successfully established anywhere in the world. Even in the Soviet Union where the Communist Party is the sole ruling party without any rival, by the admissions of the Communist themselves, only the primary stage towards Communism is still achieved, and they cannot as yet definitely forecast when full-blown Communism can and will be accomplished. To quote the far-famed Chinese Communist leader, Mao Tse-tung, to illustrate again, "Socialism (not Communism as yet, mind you) can be reached only through democracy; this is an undisputed axiom of Marxism.In China, the period of struggle for democracy will be, very long... In short, without the thorough, democratic revolution of a new bourgeois nature, to establish socialism over the ruins of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal China of today would be an Utopian dream. Some people cannot understand why the Kung-chautang (Communist party's name in Chinese), far from being unsympathetic to capitalism, actually promotes its development. To them, we can simply say this much: To replace the oppression of foreign imperialism and native feudalism with the development of capitalism is not only an advance, but also a necessary step; it will benefit not only the bourgeoisie, but also the proletariat. What China does not want is foreign imperialism and native feudalism and not native capitalism which is too weak. (Italics, mine) It is therefore clear that the ideological struggle now going on all over the world is not between Communism and Democracy, but as I have said, between Old and New Democracies. This conflict of ideologies is the reflection of the conflict of mutual material interests primarily and a result of lack of mutual knowledge and understanding secondarily.

This rough demarcation of the world into two main camps must be examined here more minutely again. For we should not run away with the simple idea that this will be the case henceforward everywhere and every time. There are and still be, I think, several intervening factors, forces and circumstances retarding, diverting, breaking, intensifying, complicating this simple or perhaps over-simplified picture of alignments and re-alignment throughout the world or regionally or nationally, as the case may be. To view the world now just as a simple uniform picture of two camps only will be not only undialectical but also untrue in fact. For we cannot ignore the fact that in any and every country with the possible exception of the Soviet Union there are two nations at least, the one helping forward and the other retarding forces of historical progress. We cannot also ignore another salient fact that, though several imperialisms appear to be tending towards processes of unification cutting across national barriers, there are still several difficulties, contradictions and hesitations amongst themselves and with themselves, one to another and so forth. At any rate they dare not yet come out and say that they place the interests of imperialist class above even the interests of their respective nations. For above all, they fear and tremble before the incalculable and immeasurable prospects and effects of the atomic power of the peoples' wrath or creative efforts to which the physical effects of all the atomic bombs available throughout the world are nothing comparable. In other words, they fear their own respective peoples and the peoples of the world and dare not come out in the open and show their true colours. In that dilemma, some of them are somewhat resigned to the coming and rising forces of New Democracy in their own countries, possessions, and the world. But a great majority of imperialism have not yet admitted defeat and want to try to play their old games of hide and seek while a few are adamant and want to go all-out against rising forces of history and braving even the very real prospects of breaking their heads over such adventures. Thus roughly speaking in the camp of world imperialism again, there are three subdivisions, the liberal type, the cunning type, and the desperate type.

Thus we may see that the developing alignments of the world into two camps will hedge up and down, back and forth, interlocking and un-locking, etc., Such developments will be a very long process and will vary from place to place, time to time. Hence we must expect several developments in the nature of international, regional and national groupings before the world is simply and fundamentally divided between two camps: the camp of the oppressor and the oppressed. In such perspective, we must take care that we take our due place in history and on the right side wile we do not commit ourselves irretrievably to any rigid or static position which may let us fall into several unnecessary scrapes.

How will this world-scale conflict be resolved in the end? It is in the lap of the future which no one can foretell definitely. Nevertheless, certain trends can be observed and perspectives visualised.

As far as I can see, the international situation as a whole is still favourable for us, in spite of certain apparent set-backs here and there.War, especially modern war and particularly this last World War II, has educated so many peoples in the world. Out of its ashes, imperialism survives no doubt, but greatly weakened and overwhelming democratisation of the peoples of the world including those of Britain and American has risen. The Day of Judgement for Imperialism is coming.

But, (and this is quite a big BUT) there is many a slip "twist the cup and the lip." Imperialism is not yet defeated completely and for all time. It is still strong, at least in appearances. Moreover it will not surrender easily and without a fight. A long drawn out, gasping struggle for its existence may be waged by Imperialism to the last ditch. What then are and will be the strategy and tactics of Imperialism? Does it hope to exterminate rising world New Democracy? Of course, not. A few die-hards in its camp might play with that imagination, but I believe a good number of imperialists do not hope to do that or rather to succeed in that direction. What then is its real and main objective? Its main objective is none other than its preservation, its maintenance of status quo ante, the continued prolongation of its domination of the world, and, at any rate, and at all costs and events, to defend against its complete extinction from the face of this world in which case it will fight a most desperate, bloodiest war, a war unto death. Imperialism entertains this hope of dominating the world still, mainly because of its possession of the biggest weapon, the weapon of propaganda, by means of which it hopes still to delude a good part of the world and its own peoples into wrong channels for a time, to an extent, at least. It hopes, again, to have fresh lease of life by atomic, food and economic pressure diplomacy, and by seeking new and more allies in the camps of various national and international vested interests, the reactionaries, the unwary, the wavering elements, etc., in various parts of the world. Above all, it hopes to play still its old game of divide et impera anywhere and everywhere permissible. It hopes thus to preserve itself, in different forms of course and a little more liberalised but not to the extent that will affect its fundamental or vital interests and position. But there will be no large-scale military struggle for this purpose, at least for some time to come, except when Imperialism is faced with an imminent prospect of extinction. And we have to remember here that imperialism is still dying hard and is not threatened with imminent death as yet. Why is it that imperialism will not wage large-scale military struggle for its continued domination of the world? Because it is not in a position to wage it. Even though outwardly it is strong economically (I am speaking of imperialism generally, not of British imperialism particularly), it is now involved in an insoluble vortex of post-war contradictions, mal-adjustments, dislocations, etc., It is veritably living a life-in death economically or, let us say, the life of a valetudinarian. But above all and after all, its people and the peoples of the world are its greatest stumbling blocks, for the peoples are now weary of war, strife and turmoil and want peace and want to buy it at any price and are not at all interested in the maintenance of the old world and are not sanguine about the old world benefitting them much or hoping to live again. Thus despite discovery of atomic energy and so forth, imperialism cannot and will not wage major military struggle for its preservation. It places its hope mainly in its self-deluded conceit of being able to play at various manoeuvres and forms of diplomacy some of which are mentioned above. In other words, the Third World War is not certain to come and, at any rate, still far-off.

History, however, has doomed Imperialism. It has sealed the latter's fate. Envisaging this perspective (not an immediate one), Imperialism trembles and shudders to know of it and gets into delirium and loses its head at times and thus commits stupidities, overreaching itself and thereby hastening the day of its end which it dreads so much. But this is one side of the picture only. On the other hand, rising and struggling New Democracies of the world also commit mistakes and serious ones too at times, giving the opportunity to Imperialism to catch them tripping and thus to recover its composure or rather sanity. Imperialism can therefore retain still a good part of its old wisdom and of late has been able a bit to recover some of its lost ground and prestige in the world and our country.

This, generally, is the vistas that the kaleidoscopic panorama of the world now open up before us, the vistas of continued world peace even though it may be ruffled and broken here and there on small scales, of peaceful possibilities of achieving international and national progress. For imperialism cannot and will not wage a general offensive, though it may threaten it, with so many domestic and international problems full on its hands and for several reasons I have advanced above. There are now, generally, peaceful possibilities for New Democracies to develop themselves logically and also rapidly. At any rate, they can avoid defeat, unless they commit stupid mistakes, for it is in their own hands and not in any other hands, that they can avoid defeat, if not yet able to achieve complete or rapid victories of their own which, however are conditioned by so many other factors such as international and national, political and organisational, and so forth.

Possibilities' however, are not probabilities, and will not certainly become actualities of themselves. We cannot bank our hopes on possibilities. We must put our trust in ourselves, in our capabilities and efforts and strength and preparations not only for our success but even to avoid our own defeat. The ability to avoid defeat and prepare, instead, for success comes to those and only to those who know in their very consciousness what are their strengths and weaknesses and what should be their tasks, national and international, objectives and subjectives, etc., who know, in their knowledge of their strength and limitation, of the factors with them and around them, etc., to use the knowledge they thus have to best advantage and use it actually and energetically. This is what really is meant by "genius" when we talk about it. There is no such thing as "natural" or "divinely gifted" genius. I don't believe in it. So many definitions are given of this blessed magic word. "Infinite capacity for taking pains." "Genius means catching the other fellow napping," etc. In the essence of thing, it is man's creative power and that alone which makes himself, his stars, his history, his Karma, etc., though no doubt he has to take necessarily due account of factors and forces around him. WORK, WORK, WORK, ACTION, ACTION, ACTION, SELF-RELIANCE, SELF-RELIANCE, SELF-RELIANCE. This is the stern, simple golden rule of timeless truth for any success that man makes. And there is no other rule which comes first before it. In other words, "God helps those only who help themselves." What then should New Democracies set tasks for themselves from the international points of view generally and specially. They must:

(1) First endeavour to achieve internal unity of democratic forces in their respective territories;

(2) Strive for, in our part of the world, for closer understanding, increasing co-operation and co-ordination and of mutual efforts for solution of mutual problems with nationalist India and democratic South East Asia (More active interest and support for Indonesia);

(3) Contact and understanding with rest of Asia, particularly China in our case;

(4) Understanding and co-ordination of efforts for the overthrow of world imperialism by all exploited and oppressed peoples of the world together;

(5) More fraternisation with democratic peoples of the world (in our case, the peoples of Britain and America);

(6) More alertness and great vigilance to prevent us falling into the net of imperialist wiles, to abstain from making serious mistakes of which imperialism can take advantage and to try to exploit any mistakes or stupidities or contradictions of imperialism, however little the chances that offer themselves to us.

These, then, are the tasks of New Democracies for the building of a new world of complete freedom, abiding peace and rapid progress.