Reasons to think about 1932

20 06 2017

As the anniversary of the 1932 revolution draws closer, the palace and the military dictatorship must be getting twitchy.

First, there’s the speech by the now aged Octobrist, Seksan Prasertkul. He was widely reported after a speech at Thammasat University, honoring Direk Jayanama, a member of the Khana Ratsadon that overthrew the monarchy in 1932.

Seksan seems to have caught up with PPT (sorry, couldn’t resist), saying that the military junta “is systematically laying down the foundations to allow its power to take deep root in Thai politics and overshadow the role of elected politicians in the future…”.

He sees something he calls a “state elite” branding “politicians who sought power through elections as bad people,” and seeking to stay in place itself. He says the “Thailand 4.0 banner, the Pracharath state-and-people cooperation scheme, the national strategic plan, and the current constitution to change Thai politics and keep political power in the hands of the ‘state elites’ and bureaucrats for at least 9-10 years…”. We have been saying that for more than three years (sorry, couldn’t resist).

He says that “the bureaucrats” are Thailand’s “old power” before  Thaksin Shinawatra came along. In a report at The Nation, Seksan is reported as saying that state elites and their “norms have been challenged or at some point eroded by globalisation and capitalism. With the writing of new rules and regulations, the new charter has become the tool they use to rearrange power relationships in the society.”

That’s kind of right, but there is no link between capitalism and an open society. Thailand’s middle class has demonstrated this and so have China and Singapore. Thailand’s capitalists have lined up behind the old elite that is broader than “state” officials. Missing that is risking missing the story of 21st century Thailand.

He is right to warn that “[i]f political parties cannot think of anything better than to challenge state elites or don’t dare touch the neo-liberalism model, or don’t dare to think differently on big issues, it’s no use our having these political parties because they will only be groups of power seekers.”

Look at them lining up for the junta’s rules and the junta’s “election.”

The second story is Thongchai Winichakul at Prachatai. When he talks of rule by law, he’s pointing to a point we have been making for several years (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Thongchai, ever the clever commentator, notes that the “months of May and June mark several key milestones in Thai history. There is June 1932 (the People’s Revolution) and June 1946 (the assassination of King Rama VIII), the two bloody crackdowns in May 1992 and 2010, and the coup in May 2014.”

He’s right to say that “the revolution of 1932 is not yet finished, not merely in with regards to the political system, but with regards to the establishment of the rule of law.”

What we’d emphasize, though, is that 1932 was an event that unleashed a struggle that has gone on since. The royalists have worked for more than eight decades to roll back the changes of 1932. What the junta has put in its constitution is a system of government that the royalists (and the royals) have tried to establish again and again. Now they think they have succeeded.

The 2017 constitution is the political victory of the royalists. Accepting it as the rules of the political system is a capitulation to the anti-democratic royalists of 1933, 1947, 1957, 1976, 1991, 2006 and 2014.

Only a people’s movement recognizing people’s sovereignty can defeat the anti-democrats.


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