A quick geopolitical audit of Washington’s political and military proxies around the globe reveals a tangled web that, at first glance, appears contradictory and incoherent.
Fascists in Kiev who hold extreme views regarding race and religion enjoy equal standing in Washington with Wahhabi militants across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Two groups who would otherwise find themselves ideologically opposed, instead find themselves working toward a common cause, one on behalf of Washington.
And Washington itself, which would appear at first glance diametrically opposed to both fascism and Wahhabism, instead counts both among its closest and most reliable facilitators and functionaries around the globe.
And while the rank and file of Americans, Ukrainians and Wahhabi militants may genuinely believe in otherwise contradictory and incompatible ideologies, cursory research reveals that the leadership of all three groups are motivated by money and the influence it buys far more than their alleged, respective ideologies.
In Southeast Asia, Wahhabi-inspired militants also serve Washington’s interests across the region. They are joined by neo-liberal academics and journalists who eagerly serve Washington, London, Brussels and the Western clubs and networks these neo-liberals seek memberships within.
But there is also another curious and perhaps ironic member of this otherwise contradictory alliance, supposed “Communists” and “socialists.”
Thailand’s “Communists”and the Capitalists They Love
The most transparent example of this is found in Thailand in the form of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD). The UDD is led by prominent members of Thailand’s former Communist Party including Weng Tojirakarn and his wife Thida Thavornseth. While the UDD claims to be an independent “people power” movement, it is little more than a street front of, by and for the Pheu Thai Party (PTP).
PTP in turn is the creation of billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra who served as Thailand’s prime minister from 2001 until 2006 when he was finally ousted from power during a swift and bloodless military coup.
Since 2006, Shinawatra has mired Thailand in political turmoil as he attempts to seize back power, temporarily holding it by proxy through his brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat and more recently through his own sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
Shinawatra is currently living abroad as a convicted criminal and a fugitive. He enjoys significant backing from the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union where he is allowed to regularly travel and conduct business.
Shinawatra has a lengthy list of lobbying contacts in Washington D.C. including firms such as Baker Botts headed by James Baker. Both Baker and Shinawatra shared roles in the private equity firm, The Carlyle Group, in the late 1990’s before Shinawatra ascended in Thai politics.
Another lobbyist that has supported Shinawatra is Kenneth Adelman who also concurrently served as a trustee of Freedom House, one of several US State Department fronts that work to undermine one government on behalf of another favoured by Washington.
Today, Shinawatra, his PTP and the UDD continue undermining political stability in Thailand with the help of a massive and growing network of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) funded by the United States, the United Kingdom, the EU and private foundations like convicted financial criminal George Soros’ Open Society.
The UDD’s leadership regularly receives directives from Shinawatra, its membership openly and shamelessly professes fealty to Shinawatra and during rallies regularly feature video call-ins from Thaksin Shinawatra himself. While the UDD claims to be an independent “people power” movement, it is in reality nothing more than people “powering” a billionaire’s foreign-backed political machine, with nothing at all to do with empowering the actual people involved.
In simpler terms, the return of Shinawatra, his PTP and its UDD street front to power upon Thailand’s political landscape will be a victory for “imperialism,” not a strike against it.
Not Everything That is Red is Communist
The UDD is also commonly referred to as the “red shirts,” both for the red shirts members literally wear during US colour revolution-style protests and to invoke Communist ideology and symbolism as a unifying theme for the movement.
However, the UDD clearly has no more to do with Communism than Wahhabi militant groups like Al Qaeda have to do with genuine Islam. Both are organisations using ideology and symbolism as a smokescreen for the actual interests they truly serve and at the expense of the very ideologies they claim to represent.
While proponents of the UDD and Thaksin Shinawatra’s political dynasty will cite a handful of socialist policies PTP implemented in Thailand while in power, it should be noted that Thailand before and well after PTP held power has devised and implemented socialist policies, as do virtually all nations on earth.
The much vaunted 30 baht healthcare scheme was already on the drawing board when Thaksin Shinawatra came to power in 2001. Well after Shinawatra was ousted from power, successive governments have kept the policy in place, or enhanced it.
State institutions, including affordable public universities existed before and after Shinawatra’s time in power. Shinawatra actually privatised the nation’s state oil enterprise, PTT, a move that Shinawatra’s opponents have repeatedly tried to overturn, and a move most certainly “un-Communist.”
Subsidy programmes have also existed before and after Shinawatra’s time in power. Under Shinawatra’s sister’s term as prime minister between 2011-2014, rice subsidies promoted by Shinawatra in order to clinch the 2011 election ended up not only not helping Thailand’s rice farmers, it devastated the rice industry and left nearly 1 million farmers unpaid while their rice rotted unsold in government warehouses. It was only after the 2014 coup that ousted Yingluck Shinawatra from power that farmers were finally paid.
It is an example of not only a disingenuous populist or “socialist” policy devised merely to buy votes, it is also an example of how impostors posing as “socialists” or even as “Communists” can damage the very ideology they use as a sociopolitical smokescreen.
Real Analysis Vs. Red Fantasy
Thailand’s constitutional monarchy has for decades worked nationwide to empower people with the tenets and tools of self-sufficiency. The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej relentlessly worked to encourage localisation, decentralisation and strong, self-reliant communities to free people from predation both from domestic political interests as well as those of wider globalisation.
Among the many features of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s work was the promotion of community cooperatives. Cooperatives could include everything from acquiring and distributing the benefits of a common village rice mill and other equipment for value-added agricultural processing, to joint-networks to help package, market and ship community goods around the country and abroad.
The result is a patchwork of strong, self-reliant villages across the nation where people depend on themselves and each other to create and fairly distribute wealth rather than on centralised bureaucracies, self-serving political parties and the exploitative policies they implement to further empower and enrich themselves.
It is perhaps ironic that supposed “Communists,” wrapping themselves in red, vehemently condemn these networks and the tenants they are built on, promoting instead a system of patronage headed by Thaksin Shinawatra and his PTP political machine, a conglomeration of mafiosos and millionaires, insisting that true “democracy” be equated with achieving crippling dependency on such patronage networks.
In contrast to royal projects building productive and self-sufficient villages, Shinawatra’s patronage networks leave entire segments of the population lying around waiting for the next election and the whirlwind of populist handouts they expect to follow a victory for Shinawatra’s political proxies.
At one point, Shinawatra, the PTP and UDD initiated a “red village” programme in which an image of Thaksin Shinawatra would be affixed to the entrances of villages in his political strongholds in north and northeast Thailand. These villages would become de facto exclusion zones for any form of politics opposed to Shinawatra and his political machine. Obedient villages who performed well during elections would be rewarded. Those that didn’t would not be.
At one point, representatives of the US Embassy in Thailand would visit representatives of this “red village” network (video here), lending political support and legitimacy to the movement and highlighting once again the true nature of who and what the UDD really represents.
For those who only need to see the colour red to be convinced, billionaire Shinawatra’s “red villages” seem like progress. For those who actually care about empowering people or Thailand’s sovereignty among an increasingly multipolar world, it is clear these “red villages” seek to overwrite progress that has already been made.
Red Herrings vs Real Anti-Imperialism
Together with US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded networks stretching across Thailand, Shinawatra and his foreign sponsors seek to create parallel institutions and networks to crowd-out Thailand’s own independent institutions, target and undermine Thailand’s military and constitutional monarchy, attack and erase Thailand’s cultural identity and unity, and render the only nation in Southeast Asia to have so-far avoided Western colonialism, a compliant and obedient client regime vis-à-vis Washington’s true regional adversary, Beijing.
Shinawatra and his UDD is red “Communism” without the actual Communism. It is yet another movement that uses superficial symbolism to ensnare the well-meaning, but one that upon tracing the money and true motivations that animate it, leads to Washington, London and Brussels, not “people power.”
The fact that the UDD stands opposed to a constitutional monarchy further lends the movement an attractive narrative that appeals to unrealistic and exceedingly superficial adherents of not only”Communism” but also superficial adherents of “anarchy.” Also aiding the UDD in attracting support, particularly from Western admirers abroad, are persistent Cold War myths surrounding Thailand’s relationship with Washington., myths that contradict Thailand’s actual and current shift away from Washington.
Fantastical narratives in which fluttering red banners are the only prerequisites required, contradicting the actual values such banners represent, enable rather than oppose the injustice of imperialism.
Such superficiality has likewise enabled Washington-backed movements like Al Qaeda, which play the role of pious Muslims fighting against foreign oppressors all while insidiously serving them. Likely, many have unwittingly been drawn into Al Qaeda’s narratives, focused on their banners, their books and their bellowing, rather than on their finances, real friends or actual foes.
Fighting something as large and as devastating as real imperialism requires serious analysis that must extend far beyond the superficiality and oversimplifications of banners, slogans and supposed ideologies.
If Washington is capable of creating legions of fascists and Wahhabi militants that serve its cause, it certainly can create “Communists” and any other ideological flavour of proxy it believes can serve its interests when and where needed. With Washington possessing such a capability, only real analysis can peel back the layers of money and motivations of any given movement, revealing its true colours, and those who refuse to peel back these layers, may in fact be aiding and abetting empire, not resisting it.
Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.