The Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League
), or hpa hsa pa la
by its Burmese
acronym, was the main political party
from 1945 until 1962. It was founded by the Communist Party of Burma
(CPB) led by Thakin Soe
, the Burma National Army
(BNA) led by Aung San
, and the People's Revolutionary Party (PRP), later renamed the Socialist
Party, led by U Nu
, at a secret meeting in Pegu
in August 1944 as the Anti-Fascist Organisation
(AFO) to resist the Japanese
occupation. The AFO was renamed the AFPFL after the defeat of Japan in order to resist the British
colonial administration and achieve independence.
Fight for freedom
When in March 1945 Aung San led the BNA in a national uprising against the Japanese and the Burmese puppet government
led by Dr Ba Maw
, it was done in the name of a provisional government
of the AFO led by Thakin Soe. After negotiations with the British, the AFO was transformed into a political party called the AFPFL. When Aung San left the army to re-enter the political arena as a civilian, he became the recognized leader and president of the AFPFL in January 1946.
While often called a political party, the AFPFL was in fact more of a popular front organization comprising many very different political parties held together by the common leadership of first Aung San and then U Nu. Its first general secretary was the communist leader Thakin Than Tun.
Dissent and rifts began to appear in the AFPFL over the negotiations regarding strategy and more importantly the nature of independence on offer. Thakin Soe started a rebellion after splitting from the CPB forming a splinter group called the Red Flag Communist Party. The CPB, now dubbed the White Flag Communists, continued to cooperate with the AFPFL, but Than Tun was forced to resign as general secretary in July 1946 and replaced by the socialist Kyaw Nyein, after a split with Aung San and the rest.
Aung San became the de facto premier of Burma in September 1946 when he accepted the British Governor's invitation to lead the Executive Council. The communists accused him and the others of selling out and settling for what they alleged a 'sham independence'. The CPB was then expelled from the AFPFL the following November. The AFPFL negotiated with the British total independence for Burma including the ethnic minorities, and Aung San succeeded in uniting the majority Burmans with the hills peoples at the Panglong Conference in February 1947. Aung San was however assassinated together with six other members of his cabinet in July 1947. U Nu then became both the premier of Burma and leader of the party.
Independence and civil war
Burma declared independence from Britain in January 1948, and the CPB went underground the following March after U Nu ordered the arrest of its leaders for inciting rebellion. Other groups also soon dropped out of the AFPFL to join the rebellion, not only the White-band faction of the People's Volunteer Organisation (PVO) formed by Aung San as a paramilitary
force out of the demobbed veterans, but also a large part of the Burma Rifles
led by communist commanders calling themselves the Revolutionary Burma Army (RBA). The AFPFL government had plunged into civil war
with not only Burman
insurgent groups but also ethnic minorities
including the Karen National Union
, nationalist Rakhine
and the Mujahid
or Rakhine Muslims
Parliamentary rule and AFPFL split
With two short interruptions, Nu and the AFPFL remained in power until March 2 1962
, winning several parliamentary elections. The 1956 election results however came as a shock although the AFPFL was returned to office, as the opposition leftist coalition, known as the National United Front
(NUF) and led by Aung Than, older brother of Aung San, won 37% of the vote with an increased number of seats in parliament. In 1958, despite an economic recovery and the unexpected success of U Nu's 'Arms for Democracy' offer that saw the surrender of a large number of insurgents most notably the PVO, the party split into two factions namely the 'Clean' faction led by U Nu
and Thakin Tin
(aka Nu-Tin faction) and the 'Stable' faction led by Ba Swe
and Kyaw Nyein
(aka Swe-Nyein faction). The political infighting resulted in U Nu narrowly escaping defeat in parliament over a motion of no-confidence
by only 8 votes with the support of the opposition NUF. Still dogged by the 'multicoloured insurgency', the army hardliners' fear of the communists being allowed to rejoin mainstream politics through Nu's need for continued support by the NUF was compounded by the Shan Federal Movement
lobbying for a loose federation. The volatile situation culminated in a military caretaker government
under General Ne Win
that presided over a general election in 1960 which was won in a landslide victory by U Nu's faction renamed the Union Party.
During its time in office, the AFPFL pursued a nationalist
policy based on unity and consensus, upheld parliamentary democracy
and presided over a mixed economy
comprising both state
and private enterprise
. It spent most of this period in its history fighting several communist, socialist and ethnic separatist rebel groups for control over the future of the country. It also fought a successful war against Nationalist Chinese
(KMT) forces who occupied the far north of the country for several years after the Kuomintang
's defeat by the Chinese Communists
. Its foreign policy followed strict neutrality supporting the Bandung Conference
of 1955, shunning the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO
) on account of the American
support of the KMT on one hand, and facing the communist insurgencies on the other.
In March 1962 the Union government was overthrown in a coup d'état
by Ne Win
, who immediately began to persecute all political opposition. The leaders of the AFPFL as well as the ethnic leaders were rounded up and thrown into prison. He then founded the Burma Socialist Programme Party
(BSPP) and established one-party rule
banning all other political parties by decree in 1964.
The AFPFL has been superseded by other political parties and movements in opposition to the military junta which still holds power today.