chapter  15
Autocracy and Nationalism
Pages 10

How then to explain the continued fierce nationalism of the SLORCthe logic of the generals? It could be argued that a regime with so much blood on its hands would obviously cling to power at any price. This is, of course, part of the explanation, but there are other important reasons. If the SLORC is unable to promote modernisation, economic growth and stability, as have been promised, the internal corporate solidarity of the Tatmadaw (army) may easily collapse and the SLORC may lose its direct and indirect support in the civil society. A new bankruptcy, as in the 1980s, and a new uprising could undoubtedly create chaos. Events in 1988 show that the behaviour of the Tatmadaw and the historic experience of violence could make the SLORC’s prophecy a dire reality: without the army, Burma would end in turmoil and lose its independence. It is precisely from this circular process of evils that nationalism gains its meaning as a forceful ideological interpellation as well as a dreadful reality. Although many in Burma are not convinced by the SLORC’s rhetoric, and many may find it utterly repellent, nationalism cannot be dismissed as a spent force. The rhetoric is an instrument of discipline within the army and SLORC-controlled organisations, and it carries the threat and fear of high-handed violence to the rest of the population. Even though only a minority, mostly in the countryside, listen to and agree with the SLORC’s ideology, the entire population is intimidated, coerced, and subdued by its nationalism and autocracy.