Bibliography on Party Politics in BURMA, 1950-1962

Amos Sawyer

The political process of Burma has been studied first-hand by Western scholars who generally focus on either the Anti&endash;Fascist People's Freedom League, the military, or U Nu. Like most new nations, Burma's independence was achieved under the guidance of an umbrella political organization, the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League. The achievement of independence was the League's raison d'etre; thereafter, it slowly disintegrated and finally collapsed in 1958. The Burmese military was then entrusted with the responsibility of salvaging the nation out of its political and economic problems and in a move uncharacteristic of military regimes, it relinquished power to an elected civilian government in 1960. In 1962 General Ne Win and the military ousted the civilian government of U Nu. As a devout Buddhist in a land where religion confers considerable secular power, U Nu had always been at the center of Burmese politics. These factors, coupled with Burma's tenuous efforts to walk the tightrope of neutralism, have constituted the principal concern of much of the recent investigation into Burmese politics.

Material Processed into ICPP Information Files

We have indexed for the ICPP files 2,037 pages of material taken from 110 English language sources related to party politics in Burma. The table of indexing codes summarizes the content of our files.

A perusal of the major categories of substantive codes shows a predominance of the 6-- and 7-- coding categories. These codes, along with the 1--codes, provide information on the turbulent social, economic and political milieu out of which Burma strove to carve a system of political parties. Immediately after independence in 1948, Burma experienced a decade of severe civil strife from which it has not fully recovered. The repercussions of the civil war constitute some of the crucial issues of Burmese politics.

The high frequency of 360, 530, 750 codes underscores the importance of what we have identified as key factors in Burmese politics. The 360 codes mainly indicate the extent to which the political scene has been dominated by the personality, political and religious activities of U Nu as leader of two political parties. The issue of Burmese neutralism is reflected in the 530 codes and the political activism of the military and General Ne Win is represented by the 750 codes.

 Some Observations on the State of the Literature

The table of data quality codes describes the rather rich character of the literature on Burmese party politics. The relatively large number of documents processed into the file (110) attests to the abundance of material. Almost half of these documents are journal articles, and more than half of the authors are academics. A plurality of the documents, however, involve no quantification, present no theory, and fail to attribute sources through footnotes, Moreover, many authors do not appear entirely objective, and rightist overtones are more prevalent than leftist perspectives. While most of the documents by far are single country studies, only six focus on parties per se.

From the standpoint of the ICPP Project, the greatest weakness of the literature is its failure to focus on political parties, especially party organization. One consequence of this failure can be seen in the low usage of indexing codes under the "party Organization" category (4--). This hampered our coding of parties on concepts dealing with 'internal organization.' The production of material on this neglected aspect of Burmese party politics would be welcome.