Burma Socialist Programme Party

   Between 1964 and 1988, the BSPP (in Burmese, Myanma Sosialit Lanzin Pati, or Ma-Sa-La) was Burma's only legal political party. Established by the Revolutionary Council on July 4, 1962, it espoused a socialist ideology (the "Burmese Road to Socialism") and operated according to the principles of a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party. Parallel party and state organizations existed on all levels of the administration, from the center to "cells" on the ward or village tract level, and decision making was based on "democratic centralism," meaning that power was exercised from the top down, requiring the absolute obedience of lower-level party members. AMarch 1964 law made the BSPP the country's sole political organization, with a revolutionary mission of transforming society in accordance with socialist (but not communist) principles.
   Between 1962 and 1971, the BSPP evolved from a "cadre party" with only a handful of elite members, most of whom were also members of the Revolutionary Council, into a "mass party," holding its First Congress in June-July 1971. At that time, it had 344,226 full and candidate members. By early 1981, membership had expanded to 1.5 million. Tatmadaw personnel and most civil servants were expected to join the party. But widespread corruption and abuses of power led to the purge of over 150,000 of the party rank and file during the mid-1970s.
   Policy making was in the hands of a Central Executive Committee, chosen from among the Central Committee, which itself was selected by Party Congresses. The party's leader and chairman from 1962 to 1988 was Ne Win. More than two-thirds of all top party officials were military officers.
   The BSPP's status as Burma's sole political organization was reaffirmed in the Constitution of 1974, which stated that the "working people" of Burma must "faithfully follow the leadership" of the party and that it "is the sole political party and shall lead the State." For example, the BSPP nominated candidates for the Pyithu Hluttaw, or People's Assembly, and People's Councils on the state/division, township, and ward/village tract levels.
   At the BSPP Extraordinary Congress of July 23-25, 1988, Ne Win retired and was succeeded by Sein Lwin. Although Ne Win's proposal to hold a referendum on establishing a multiparty political system was turned down by the congress, Dr. Maung Maung, Sein Lwin's successor as state president and BSPP leader, presided over a second BSPP Extraordinary Congress on September 10, 1988, at which the holding of a multiparty democratic election was promised. The BSPP's demise was imminent. On September 16, members of the Tatmadaw and the civil service were "permitted to resign" from it. On September 26, 1988, eight days after the power seizure by the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the BSPP transformed itself into a "democratic" party with a new name, the National Unity Party.
   To generate popular support, the BSPP established mass organizations, of which the most important were the Lanzin youth group and Workers' and Peasants Associations. Each had millions of members and resembled the Union Solidarity and Development Association established in 1993. Party managers, or cadres, were trained at the Central School of Political Science at Mingaladon, in northern Rangoon (Yangon).

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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