Socialist Party of Malaysia: Building socialism while capitalism crumbles

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By Choo Chon Kai, International Bureau, PSM

November 13, 2008 -- Kajang, Malaysia -- It was timely for the Socialist Party of Malaysia (Parti Sosialis Malaysia -- PSM) to host the ``Socialism 2008 –- Malaysia'' conference, when the world is caught in a deep crisis that is considered the worst since World War II. The conference showed that capitalism, during its 18-year term as the dominant ideology of the world, had wreaked havoc on the lives of people and the planet, and that there was an urgent need to put forward a socialist alternative.

Socialists from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Australia, Britain, Sweden, Taiwan as well as from different parts of Malaysia, gathered at New Era College, Kajang, Selangor state, during the weekend of November 7-9, 2008, to discuss and debate some of the burning issues related to the struggle against capitalism and for socialism today. The organiser chose November 7, the anniversary of the Great October Revolution, as the day for the opening rally and ``Youth Revolutionary Night''.

Five-hundred people attended the opening rally on November 7, with keynote speeches by Nasir Hashim (chairperson of the PSM), Syed Sharir (president of the Malaysian Trade Union Congress), Saraswathy (deputy chairperson of the PSM), "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-Hung (Hong Kong Legislative Council member), Francisco Nemenzo (from Laban ng Masa in the Philippines) and Colleen Bolger (from Socialist Alternative, Australia).

Speakers at the opening rally, with the theme, "Socialism in the 21st Century", spoke about the deep crisis of global capitalism and the urgent need to build socialism from below. Leung Kwok-Hung, a radical social activist who is often called "Long Hair", said in his speech, "You can call it neoliberalism, globalisation or whatever. It is merely another stage of global capitalism."

Nasir HashimNasir Hashim (left), chairperson of the PSM, stressed during his speech at the opening rally, "Socialists must always be prepared to grab the chance to replace capitalism when the crisis of capitalist economic crisis explodes one day."

All the representatives of the participating international groups in the forum, together with comrades in the PSM, were invited to go onto the stage and to wave their flags and banners, after the opening performance which depicted the struggle of the working class and ordinary people in Malaysia. The Internationale, the anthem of revolutionaries and working class all over the world, was sung in high spirits, on the day the October Revolution took place 91 years ago.

Following the opening rally, was the Youth Revolutionary Night, with many dramas, pantomimes, songs and dances performed by young people. There was a mixed media performance by children of Kampung Berembang about their struggle against eviction, as well as a "Malaysian Political Oscar Awards" which entertained the audiences with satirical political scenarios in Malaysia from the last year.

Such use of revolutionary and critical art and the dedication demonstrated by our young people greatly inspired the international delegates; some of whom said it has given them a lot of ideas on applying art in the same way in their home countries.

Capitalism in deep crisis

The next day, November 8, the program kick started with a session on "Crisis in Capitalism: "Financial, Food and Fuel Crisis." The chair for this session was Rajamoorthy, from Third World Network, while the speakers were Lim Mah Hui, an economist, and Mickael Von Knorring, from the Swedish Left Party.

Lim Mah Hui gave a brief yet detailed analysis on financial capitalism. He said, "Capitalism is prone to crisis. Capitalism is a highly productive system but prone to flaws –- inequality, destruction. Dominance of finance over productive capital is problematic. Financial capitalism has become even more unstable. Over the last 70 years there have been 124 banking crises -– South American, Scandinavian, Japanese. The current crisis started with the subprime. " Mickael's talk was more focused on the oil crisis and ways to overcome it.

After the first session, there was a launching of the Malay translation of Lenin by Ian Birchall. This is the first in a series of translations of the ``rebel's guide'' series of books planned by the PSM to help Malaysians understand socialism.

The second session "Climate Change -– How to Weather it?" was chaired by Nizam Mahshar, a social environmentalist, as he calls himself, from Friends of the Earth. The speakers of this session were Terry Townsend, editor of Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal and the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective, and Jonathan Neale, a leading member of Socialist Workers Party of Britain, who is actively involved in campaigning against climate change.

Terry warned that "a 6˚C rise in temperature would mean billions of human beings will perish, with broad areas of fertile lowland swamped by rising seas and desertification." Jonathan also said, "They [governments] want to do something, but they cannot do it within their system. We have to build a global climate movement to force them to do it. We cannot build it based on sacrifice. This movement will be nothing unless we have it in USA, China, India and Asia. We cannot have a movement in Asia that's based on sacrifice. We cannot have a movement in Asia to tell people to go back and live a simple life. We have to build a movement that says we will have jobs, we will have growth and we will make poverty history." Only a socialist system driven by popular democracy and planning and not personal enrichment and consumption can alleviate the problems we have today.

Peoples' struggles around the world

The next session was on "Revolution and Counter Revolution in Latin America", chaired by Amer Hamzah, a human rights lawyer. The speakers for this interesting topic were Jorge Martin, International Secretary of Hands Off Venezuela, and Lisa Macdonald (at microphone, below right), national coordinator for Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network. 

Jorge shared the inspiring stories of the brave Latin American masses in fighting capitalism and imperialism. There's right now a major debate in Latin America to differentiate between reformist socialism and revolutionary socialism. Lisa also said, "The gains people have made in Venezuela have made an impact in the revival of mass uprising in a variety of countries. The Venezuelan revolution is unfinished and an open-ended process and threatened by the contradiction of the process."

After "travelling" to a continent far away, we returned to our own region in the session on "South East Asia –- People's Power and Betrayals". The session was chaired by K. Arumugam, a social activist, and the speakers were Giles Ji Ungpakorn, from Turn Left Thailand, and Francisco Nemenzo, from Laban ng Masa in the Philippines. 

Giles raised a few crucial issues like the gap between mood and struggle, problems of alliances on the left, alliances with Islamic parties, transitional demands in a time of global economic crisis, and the need for a Marxist political organisation; while Francisco concentrated his presentation of the development and challenges faced by the Filipino left.

The fifth session on November 8 was on "Nepal under Maoists". The invited speaker from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) was not able to make it to the forum but had sent his apologies and solidarity greetings. The speakers for this session were Farooq Tariq, from the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), and Siritunga, from United Socialist Party of Sri Lanka. The recent developments in Nepal, a landlocked country of the Himalayas, has attracted tremendous attention and interest from socialists around the world including those in Malaysia. 

Farooq spoke about the meaning of the success in Nepal and the challenges faced by CPN (M), while Siritunga talked about the problems with the Maoists. Farooq said that one of the victories of the Maoists was that they stood ordinary people against the government heavyweights in the electoral contest and they deserve credit for putting the maximum number of women in parliament. "Those already fighting on a hammer and sickle should then move forward, not backwards. It's our task to have an open mind and open eyes as socialists, and as internationalists," said Farooq.

After a long day of discussions, the second day ended with the screening of films about local and international struggles.

The way forward for the left

The third day, November 9, started with the session "Left in Coalition Politics", chaired by Koy, a social activist. Speakers for this session were Jesus Syaiful Anam, from International Marxist Tendency (IMT) Indonesia, and Jeyakumar Devaraj, central committee member of the PSM and member of parliament for Sungai Siput.

Jesus shared the experiences and debates about coalition politics in Indonesia. Kumar pointed out one of the main reasons for this topic is because the left is weak and divided. Kumar pointed out the dialectics of "success" in coalition politics, where the nature of the revolutionary party itself can change when taking part in electoral politics. Kumar outlined the principles of engagement in coalition-electoral politics – ideological clarity, democracy within the party and the avoidance of cultism. He also cautioned against elected representatives becoming too comfortable with their new positions. "Coalition politics does offer the left opportunities to spread its analysis and win over more supporters and members. But it is a doubled-edged sword which may actually result in the subversion of our aims and destruction of our party", said Kumar.

PSM Secretary-General ArulThe session that followed was on "PSM – 10 Years and Beyond", chaired by Amir Muhammad, a well-known filmmaker. The speakers were Tan Jing Quee, who was a leader of Socialist Front in Singapore, and Arutchelvan (``Arul''), secretary-general of the PSM. Tan talked about the history of the left in Malaya, while Arul (left) shared the history of the PSM and challenges ahead.

Tan Jing Quee reviewed the inspiring history of the Malayan/Malaysian left, the contributions and the challenges faced. Having played a role in that great history, he spoke with passion, and sometimes with regret at current interpretations of certain events of that period. 

According to Arul, there are four critical issues facing the PSM today which will determine its future path:

1. How do we build the party? Around election work or through building the class movement? 

2. Welfare work/reformist versus revolutionary work.

3. Help build a two-party system or the third force, and 

4. Creating a more multi-ethnic membership.

Arul also shared the three ``guiding stars'', advice from a very prominent socialist in her mid-80s:

1. Always read and understand ideology.

2. Do a lot of hard work with the people to gain their support, and 

3. Never betray your members and the people at large.

The last session before the closing session was on an interesting topic – "Islam and Socialism". The session was chaired by Mashalina Hamzah, from Sisters in Islam, and the speakers were Farooq Tariq from the LPP, and Mat Sabu, vice-president of the Islamic Party (PAS) of Malaysia. 

Farooq argued that religious fanatics are not anti-imperialist. Meanwhile, Mat Sabu said that Prophet Muhammad had established a welfare state in his time. Farooq said that a political leader, leading a simple life, by itself is not enough. The more important thing is what policies are you going to implement. Farooq also emphasised that "Socialism is a message of the future, religion is a message of the past. They both stand on two different ends in ideology. We must oppose religious politics but not religion."

Socialism strives on

The final session was chaired by Sivarajan, treasurer of the PSM. The line-up of speakers for the final session with the topic on "Building the Class Forces" included Nasir Hashim, chairperson of the PSM, Kohila, coordinator of the Oppressed Peoples' Network (JERIT), S.N. Rajah, an active trade unionist, Ishak Surin, a founding member of People's Party (PRM) and currently the deputy chairperson of the Bureau of Labour and Urban Pioneers in PAS, and A.J. Kattaiah, editor of the Tamil version of Malaysiakini.

Farooq Tariq & Nasir HashimAfter the five speakers delivered their speeches, representatives from each international organisation participating also gave their views about the way forward for socialist struggle and about the forum. Farooq Tariq (right, with Nasir Hashim) said, "You (PSM) brought together some of the internationals who would not meet each other or sit with each other in their own countries. In Labour Party Pakistan, we have Maoists and Trotskyists, ex-Maoists and ex-Trotskyists. They are all there and they call themselves socialists. We are almost the same because we want to build a party of the working class!"

Jonathan Neale also gave his comments about Socialism 2008, "I will go away very tired in my body, but I will go away with my heart singing, and with much more courage. This room is full of the spirit of struggle… I became a revolutionary in Asia. And I am not interested in a revolution in Britain that does not include a revolution in Asia… Along the struggle, you will make a lot of mistakes, but it is better to do that than to get the theory worked out and do nothing."

A three-day event filled with revolutionary passion ended with the singing of the Internationale in four languages -- Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English. Socialism has shown its vibrancy and indomitable spirit at ``Socialism 2008 – Malaysia'', and it will continue to strengthen through mass mobilisation and rising of the working class all over the world to resist capitalism and to build a socialist world.

Long live the people! Long live socialism!

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 11/18/2008 - 20:34


OPINION: Left sails through the turbulent times


MALAYSIA’S Socialist Front scattered in the mid 1960s. But former members tell SANTHA OORJITHAM that socialism is still alive today — although it may be practised under different names by different parties. ISHAK Surin, Dr Mohd Nasir Hasim and Dr Syed Husin Ali all began their political careers with Parti Rakyat Malaya (PRM).

Each was arrested under the Internal Security Act for his socialist beliefs, which their jailors equated with communism and/or Marxism.

And today, each says he is pursuing the same goals with a different party. Ishak is now the deputy chairman of the Pas Workers and Squatters Bureau, Syed Husin is deputy president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Nasir is chairman of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM).

The Socialist Front peaked in the early 1960s but had collapsed by the middle of the decade. And after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, many wrote off socialism in Malaysia.

But with Parti Sosialis Malaysia winning one parliamentary seat and one state seat in the March 8 general election, with its registration in August and with several other parties claiming to champion similar "pro-people" policies, maybe reports of the death of socialism have been premature.

"Socialist goals are still alive today, advocated by different groups and parties -- although it is not as widespread as it was in the 1950s and 1960s," says political scientist Khong Kim Hoong, author of Merdeka!

After World War 2, groups such as the leftist Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM) that had collaborated with the Japanese collapsed. Leftist Malay activists formed new groups, including the Malay Nationalist Party (PKMM) and Angkatan Pemuda Insaf (Api).

"All the Malay parties under Pusat Tenaga Rakyat (Putera) and the non-Malay parties under the All-Malaya Council of Joint Action (AMCJA) united to oppose British colonialism," says Ishak.

In 1948, the British banned Api, followed by the Communist Party of Malaya, PKMM and others, jailing hundreds of their leaders, including Ahmad Boestamam, a former KMM member and the leader of Api.

When he was released in 1955, he started PRM, which the 19-year-old Ishak joined "because I saw it as the only way to achieve independence, not because I was a socialist".

But as the young teacher read, listened to lectures and attended meetings, "I found there was injustice. At that time, I thought socialism could form a nation and society which was just".

Ishak became assistant secretary-general and, after PRM and the Labour Party formed the Malayan People's Socialist Front (SF) in 1958, he helped in the campaign for the first general election in 1959.

The Front won eight seats at the national level, making it the third largest party in Parliament after the Alliance and Pas. Meanwhile, it was also consolidating power at the local level. In Penang, for example, it held 14 of the 15 George Town seats after the 1961 city council elections.

By 1965, Syed Husin notes, the socialists had gained control of the municipal councils in Penang and Malacca as well as the local councils in Seremban and Serdang.

Adds Khong: "Poverty, poor wages and healthcare, and less access to electricity and water were breeding grounds for socialism."

Trade unionist N. Patkunam, a founding member of the Labour Party of Malaya and member of its central executive committee, won the Sungai Pinang council seat in the 1958 and 1961 elections and was elected deputy mayor in 1960.

As a young teacher, he sold his parents' land in Green Lane and handed the proceeds to his party.

"We wanted a socialist society which would alleviate poverty and provide for fair distribution of wealth," he explains.

He helped Penangites to get low-cost housing, put in streetlights where there hadn't been any and helped people get jobs.

"I do not think people in Penang were afraid of socialism," he says.

But pressure was building up. Federal Government propaganda "demonised" socialism, claims Syed Husin, giving it "a terrible stigma associated with communism and being 'anti-religion'".

In 1964, the SF won only two seats. Ishak attributes this to Indonesia's declaration of Konfrontasi in 1963.

"The Front was seen as pro-Indonesia. All the SF leaders were arrested again."

And after he helped to organise a mass demonstration to protest the arrests, he was also detained under the ISA and later sentenced for having "subversive" documents.

But the final blow was the suspension of local government elections in 1965 (after the 1964 declaration of Emergency during Konfrontasi).

"Socialism never recovered," says Ishak. No more socialists made their way into Parliament until this year, although a couple won state seats over the years.

Unions have also been weakened since the Emergency, says Khong. Before independence, there was one General Labour Union, adds Nasir, "not separate unions for workers in the private and public sectors. It was very powerful. Most of the members were socialists".

At the same time, as Khong points out, working conditions have improved -- and so have the amenities.

By the 1980s, says a former PRM member helping with election campaigns then, "response from the voters and the public was very poor. They recognised that PRM members were committed but there was a real suspicion that socialism was not for this country. It was seen as anti-religion".

He was disillusioned by the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1991 which he says, "really buried socialism. I left because I could see that capitalism worked, whether you liked it or not. There is ample room for democracy under capitalism".

Today, he is a planner with a government-linked company.

Ishak left even earlier, for a different reason: an ideological and leadership struggle within PRM in 1969.

Younger leader Kassim Ahmad, who had taken over as chairman in 1965, brought in "scientific socialism" and changed the name to Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia.

Scientific socialism had the same goals as the earlier ideology of "Marhaenism" (named after a peasant whom Sukarnomet), aiming to remove the vestiges of colonialism and work towards a society based on nationalism and social justice. "The party did not want to be associated with Indonesia," explains Syed Husin.

Founder Boestamam and others (including Ishak) left to form Parti Marhaen Malaysia which tried to revive the Socialist Front for the 1974 elections but failed. Ishak joined Pas in 1985.

"Pas helps workers, educating them on their rights and educates squatters on their right to housing," he explains. "It has similar goals to socialism."

Parti Sosialis Malaysia was formed by another splinter group. When PSRM reverted back to PRM in 1989, Nasir left "after they dropped socialism from both the party's name and constitution".

Since then, his party has worked with "urban pioneers", plantation and factory workers, farmers, Orang Asal, students and migrant workers among others.

Among its successes, says the new Kota Damansara state assemblyman, were pushing for the Selangor state policy (which was adopted in the early 1990s) that when plantations are developed, the affected workers must be given alternative housing; and persuading the Federal Government to put smaller plantations under what is now the Rural and Regional Development Ministry so that it could take care of them (which was done in 1993).

Meanwhile, Syed Husin led PRM members into a merger with Parti Keadilan Nasional to form Parti Keadilan Rakyat in 2003 -- although some Keadilan members opposed the merger arguing that PRM and he were "socialist and anti-religion", he recalls.

And when PKR wanted its deputy president to contest the Kota Baru parliamentary seat in the 2004 general elections, Kelantan chief minister Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat objected to his socialist background, claiming that socialists are "adik kepada komunis".

PKR's objectives now are "more pro-people and non-racial", says the party's deputy president. "Wealth is to be shared by the poor and disadvantaged... You can call it socialism if you want. Some say it is Islam."

Although Pas may still associate socialists with communists, he says, "they have changed their attitude towards individuals and would not accuse me of the same today. And if PSM wanted to join Pakatan Rakyat, I don't think Pas would oppose that".

PSM and former socialists like himself "are still struggling for a non-communal society with fair distribution of wealth," he says.

"Our paths are parallel. If they stick to these principles, they will succeed. I can do the same within Pas."

But if reports of the death of socialism are premature, speculation about PSM joining Pakatan Rakyat may be premature as well.

"We have yet to receive an invitation," says Nasir. "If there is one, we will review it in our congress."

Both PSM candidates stood on a PKR ticket during the March polls and have cooperated with other PR parties for years.

But, the chairman stresses, "As socialists we prefer to overhaul this exploitative system rather than fine-tune it."

© Copyright 2008 The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad. All rights reserved.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Thu, 11/20/2008 - 09:23


Malaysia: Socialists building global struggles

Lisa Macdonald, Kajang 15 November 2008

“Socialism 2008 — Malaysia”, a conference hosted by the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) in Kajang, Selangor, over November 7-9, brought together more than 500 activists from around Malaysia, as well as from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Australia, Britain, Sweden and Taiwan.

The conference comes after an important breakthrough for the PSM in the March general elections, winning both a federal and state MP — giving Malaysia socialist parliamentarians for the first time in decades.

Just hours before the conference began at the New Era College, students at the college held a demonstration to demand that the college principal, a progressive academic who attended the conference, have his contract renewed next year.

The conference opened on the evening of November 7 with a rally to mark the anniversary of the Russian Revolution. As part of a range of cultural performances, a group of children from Kampung Berembang performed a moving pantomime about their families’ struggles against the bulldozing of their homes near Kuala Lumpur.

Speakers at the opening rally, on the theme of “Socialism in the 21st Century”, raised the deep crises of capitalism and the urgent need to build socialism from below.

PSM deputy chairperson Saraswathy spoke about the need to get rid of capitalism to save all life on Earth from the devastation of global warming.

Nasir Hashim, PSM chairperson and recently elected state MP, stressed that capitalism’s current financial crisis underlines the need to always be prepared to seize every opportunity to present socialist alternatives.

The conference covered a wide range of pressing issues in Asia and globally. The first session, titled “Crisis in Capitalism: Financial, Food and Fuel Crisis”, chaired by Rajamoorthy from the Third World Network, featured economist Lim Mah Hui and Mickael Von Knorring from the Swedish Left Party.

This was followed by a session on climate change, chaired by Malaysia Friends of the Earth activist Nizam Mahshar.

The speakers, Terry Townsend from the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) in Australia and editor of Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, and Jonathan Neale from the Socialist Workers Party and the Campaign Against Climate Change in Britain, argued that only genuine democracy — which must be socialist — can stop climate change.

The session on “Revolution and Counter Revolution in Latin America”, chaired by human rights lawyer Amer Hamzah, was addressed by Jorge Martin from Hands Off Venezuela and Lisa Macdonald from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network and the DSP, and resulted in a lively discussion on the Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn from Turn Left in Thailand and Francisco Nemenzo from Laban ng Masa in the Philippines spoke in a session titled “South East Asia — People’s Power and Betrayals”.

This session began a discussion, which threaded throughout the remainder of the conference, of experiences in left coalition building.

In the session dedicated to this theme, newly elected MP for Sungai Siput and PSM central committee member, Jeyakumar Devaraj, outlined three principles of engagement in coalition andelectoral politics: ideological clarity, democracy within the party and avoidance of cultism.

“Coalition politics does offer the left opportunities to spread its analysis and win over more supporters and members. But it is a doubled-edged sword that can result in the subversion of our aims and destruction of our party”, Kumar argued.

In the session on “PSM — 10 Years and Beyond”, PSM secretary-general Arutchelvan explained the four critical issues facing the PSM today: how best to build the party through electoral and/or mass movement work; doing welfare/reform work versus revolutionary work; helping to strengthen the opposition in Malaysia’s two-party system and/or building a third force; and strengthening the multi-ethnic character of the PSM membership.

Arutchelvan stressed the need for socialist parties to read and understand ideology, do a lot of hard work with the people to gain their support, and never betray the party membership or the people.

The session on “Islam and Socialism”, chaired by Mashalina Hamzah from Sisters in Islam, was addressed by Labour Party Pakistan secretary Farooq Tariq and Mat Sabu, vice-president of the Malaysia’s Islamic Party (PAS). These talks and audience contributions helped deepen the ongoing discussion at the conference about coalition building and alliances.

The gathering ended with a spirited singing of the “Internationale” in Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English.

During the conference a Malay translation of Lenin by Ian Birchall was launched, the first in “a rebel’s guide” series of translations planned by the PSM to help popularise socialism in the country.

Solidarity greetings were also presented from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), who had planned to attend to discuss the winning of a republic and creation of a new Maoist-led government in Nepal, but who had to pull out at the last minute.

Arutchelvan told Green Left Weekly that the PSM was happy with the conference outcomes. “The issues we discussed were very relevant, affecting a lot of countries in this region, especially the financial crisis and coalition building”, he said.

“Being able to organise a successful international conference also gives the PSM, which is a quite new party, more confidence. We could see at this conference that the PSM has grown from its experiences.”

He added: “It is very important for us to have an international outlook and build broad collaboration in the south-east Asian region. International solidarity is very important.

“But the most important thing for all of us is to build the class struggle in our own countries. The next conference, in 2009, will be conducted in Malay and will focus on national questions, to build the struggle in Malaysia.”

More information on the conference and the PSM.

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #775 19 November 2008.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Wed, 11/26/2008 - 10:10


Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Jorge Martin at 21st Century Socialism Conference in Kuala Lumpur

Jorge Martin at 21st Century Socialism Conference in Kuala Lumpur In the "21st Century Socialism Conference" which was hosted by the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM, Parti Sosialis Malaysia) from November 7th to 9th at New Era College Kajang Malaysia: there were comrades present from many countries, including Sweden, Belgium, Australia, Britain, Pakistan, Nepal, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, India, and Sri Lanka.

Jorge Martin spoke in the session about the Venezuelan revolution and Latin America, together with Lisa MacDonald from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity network. Jorge explained the background to the current revolutionary wave that the continent is witnessing which is to be found in the failure of capitalism to solve the basic needs of the people. The Venezuelan revolution started from the point of view of solving problems of health, education, national control over natural resources, agrarian reform, etc, but it was met with an armed uprising on the part of the oligarchy. From 2005 president Chavez started to explain that the only way forward was socialism and that capitalism cannot solve the pressing problems that the masses face.

Jorge Martin at 21st Century Socialism Conference in Kuala Lumpur Now, according to Jorge, the global economic crisis of capitalism can provide a momentum for the working class to build a fighting force on an international scale. Building solidarity amongst workers from different countries is important to face the current global crisis. The working class has to prepare itself to replace this capitalist system in crisis with socialism, taking over the factories, banks, and big businesses to run them under democratic workers' control. According to Jorge only a working class which is united internationally can carry out the revolution.

Apart from Jorge Martin, Jesus S. Anam, the coordinator of HOV-Indonesia spoke at a session on "Political Coalition". He also mentioned the importance of building the forces of the revolutionary left (from the workers, peasants, and urban poor). Transformation in the ideology and political consciousness at all levels are necessary to build a strong organization, especially a workers' organization as the most important base for a revolution. According to Jesus, in the context of Indonesia, the main priority in the left movement today is to build strong cadres with a high level of militancy. Building solidarity with the Venezuelan Revolution is a way of building that force together as the Venezuelan Revolution can become the starting point for world socialist revolution.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Wed, 11/26/2008 - 19:53


By Jeyakumar Devaraj
PSM Central Committee Member
And member of Parliament of Sungai Siput

I first met Sdr Dr Rajakumar in 1979 as a member of a group of medical students who met up with him for a discussion. He was then the President of the MMA (Malaysian Medical Association). What struck me then was his energy and enthusiasm. He challenged us to visit rural areas to understand the problems faced by the ordinary people living in kampungs. “How can you be good doctors if you do not understand the background and the problems of the rural people?” he asked us. “A good doctor must be an advocate for the poor!”

At that time I did not know of his previous history of struggle and sacrifice â�� given the almost complete blackout of the struggle of the radical nationalists and socialists in our local media and history books. It was only much later that I learnt that he had been the editor of “Fajar”, a radical student newsletter produced by the Socialist Club of University Malaya (based in Singapore then). Fajar argued strongly for the eviction of the British Colonialist and full Independence for Malaya and Singapore. That was in 1953. Rajakumar and his group were arrested by the Colonial government and put on trial. Although they won that particular case (in a case that launched Lee Kuan Yew’s political career), many of the Fajar team including Rajakumar were subsequently arrested by the British under the Emergency Ordinance (fore-runner of the ISA) and was detained in one of the islands off Singapore.

When Rajakumar returned to Malaya as a doctor he became involved in the Socialist Front (a coalition of the Party Rakyat Malaya and the Parti Buruh) which was then a potent force in Malayan politics with Ahmad Boestaman as the Opposition Leader in Parliament, and good representation in Local Councils (at that time elected) in many towns and new villages in the west coast of Malaya. He joined the Labour Party and in the mid sixties was the defacto leader of Parti Buruh as the Assistant Secretary General because the rest of leadership had been detained under the ISA. It was a very difficult period. “We stopped nominating chairpersons for our branches in KL because the Special Branch would pick them up within a week,” he once remarked to me. It wasn’t long before Rajakumar was himself picked up by the SB and detained under the ISA from 1966 â�� 1969.

When he emerged from ISA detention, the political situation had changed drastically. Massive, sustained and often brutal repression which saw several thousand leaders and supporters of the Socialist Front detained under the ISA in the 1960’s, led to disillusionment with the electoral process. Some comrades took the decision to join the underground, others opted to lie low. The Parti Buruh disintegrated and disappeared from the political arena. The Parti Rakyat soldiered on only to see large numbers of its activists and leaders detained under the ISA following the Baling Demonstrations in 1974.

In this very difficult period for the Malaysian Left, Rajakumar immersed himself in MMA activities. He spearheaded the MMA review of the Malaysian Health Care System that was carried out in the late 1970’s. This comprehensive report emphasizes the concepts of social solidarity and health for all irrespective of social class and geographical location. This approach has remained the formal position of the MMA up till today. He set up the Malaysian Chapter of “Physicians Against Nuclear War” as a section within the MMA, together with Dr Ronnie McCoy, a close associate, who later became the president of the international federation, the parent body. Rajakumar also worked to improve the standard of General Practice in Malaysia and was instrumental in the setting up of the Academy of General Practitioners which now runs courses for GPs all over the country.

I last met Sdr Rajakumar three months ago. After several false starts we finally met for lunch. Though he was then still recuperating from a bad bout of pneumonia, he was enthusiastic as ever. “After 40 years we finally have a voice in Parliament. You have an important role in showing that our ideas are still relevant.” “Do not neglect grassroots work. You must keep meeting the ordinary people so that you can speak for them.” “Build the party. A good cadre is worth his weight in gold.”

I told him of my intention to publish a book comprising of papers and essays that I have written for various seminars and PSM congresses over the past 6 years, and asked him if he could write the forward. He said he would be happy to do so, and I later sent a copy of the intended book to him. I do not think he had the time to pen that forward.

The task of ending colonialism and of reconstructing countries on the basis of justice, democracy and solidarity has yet to be completed. We have achieved formal political independence but remain economically subservient to the Imperial Centre, slavishly dependent on FDI to the extent we are prepared to impoverish our own workers! We have grown our economy but the divide between the very rich and the bottom 60% of the population is getting wider, and this is manifesting itself in a rash of social ills from “Mat Rempitism” to child abuse. Despite 51 years of independence, we have made very little progress towards building inter-racial understanding and solidarity.

As we embark on the complex tasks that lie ahead, we can take heart and derive inspiration from the example and sacrifices of Sdr Rajakumar and the thousands of other Malaysians who remained true to their principles in very trying times, who believed that a society based on justice and solidarity is possible, and who did not ever “bend their knee before the insolence of power and wealth”!

Farewell Sdr Rajakumar. We will continue with the work of fleshing out the vision of a better society that we share!

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Fri, 11/28/2008 - 18:38


20 November 2008

The Oppressed People’s Network (Jerit) has initiated a nationwide cycling campaign that carries the theme of ’Rakyat Pengayuh Perubahan’ which means People The Force of Change. This campaign is spearheaded by community leaders and ordinary Malaysians such as plantation workers, industrial workers, farmers, urban pioneers, students and youth groups.

NGOs, trade unions, human right groups and political parties also will be part in this campaign to promote human rights and demand for the rights of all Malaysian. The idea of this campaign is to reach the public by cycling to cities and towns in Malaysia whilst spreading awareness of the issues that affect them extremely such as low wage issues, possible retrenchment, lack of democracy, draconian laws against the people and global issues such as the food crisis and the dying planet.

The main objectives of the campaign:

  1. To increase awareness of the real issues affecting the rakyat.
  2. To increase awareness of the need to be environment friendly to save our dying earth.
  3. To popularise the people's demands:
  • the enactment of a Minimum Wage Act;
  • the abolition of draconian laws such as ISA;
  • the provision of adequate housing for all;
  • the imposition of price controls on essential goods;
  • the restoration of local municipal council elections;
  • an end to the privatisation of public services such as health care and education

Interested in participating or contributing to this campaign? Please email jerit2002@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it / visit / call 019-2275982

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Mon, 12/01/2008 - 20:19


Revival of the socialist left in Malaysia

December, 2008

Over the weekend of November 8 and 9, the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) hosted “Socialism 2008” in Kajang, a rapidly growing working class town near Kuala Lumpur.

The conference brought together around 500 activists from across Malaysia, with others from Thailand, The Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Taiwan, Australia, Britain and Sweden.

This year has been momentous for the PSM. In the March general elections, they ran as socialists under the umbrella of the Anwar led opposition, and had both a federal and a state MP elected—putting the first socialists in the Malaysian parliament for some 40 years.

On the opening night we celebrated the anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Various speakers including PSM chairperson Nasir Hashim referred to the global financial crisis and the need for socialists to put forward our alternatives.

The first day of the conference saw sessions tackling the capitalist financial crisis; socialist solutions to climate change; and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

In a session entitled, “South East Asia—People’s Power and Betrayals”, Giles Ji Ungpakorn from Turn Left in Thailand and Francisco Nemenzo from Laban ng Masa in the Philippines raised questions about contemporary politics in SE Asia which became recurring themes throughout the conference.

Giles raised the Thai People’s Alliance for Democracy which he now describes as fascist. He asked if the left had given up building its own party in Indonesia, in the wake of the unfortunate split in the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD). In relation to the Philippines, he asked whether the left can place any trust in a junior officers coup opposed to the government.

On the following morning, the newly elected MP for Sungai Siput and PSM central committee member, Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, outlined the principles that inform their engagement with electoral politics and the increasing need for ideological clarity and party democracy.

One of the strengths of the PSM has been their long-standing commitment to building social movements to mobilise the most oppressed in Malaysian society, including plantation workers and slum dwellers. In 2002 they participated in JERIT, “network of oppressed peoples”, and in 2004 played a leading role in the Coalition Against the Privatisation of Health Care which engaged 82 different groups.

More recently they are active in a range of united fronts: fighting water privatisation; against the US-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement; and a courageous campaign to scrap the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) that has seen bloggers imprisoned for more than 12 months for expressing political opinions online.

Electoral work

They feel that in Malaysia there has been a rehabilitation of left wing politics made possible by the arrogance of US imperialism, the efforts of veterans from the 1950s to retell their story and news from Latin America.

Dr Kumar outlined problems associated with being in parliament. He described an internal debate about whether he should stay at the YMCA when parliament was sitting or a five star hotel with other parliamentarians. It was decided that he should stay at the YMCA and give two thirds of his salary to the party.

He acknowledged that these decisions were largely symbolic but that they conveyed an important message—“we are different”.

There is a strong tradition of politicians behaving like Santa Claus and tossing some coins around their electorate. PSM argues such behaviour is an obstacle to serious organising. They want their parliamentarians to act as catalysts for organising, share office resources to help squatters—urban pioneers—fight against eviction and so on.

PSM secretary-general Arutchelvan spoke about the way to achieve the right balance between electoral and mass movement work, and how to strengthen the opposition whilst building the PSM’s independent profile. Crucially, he discussed the importance of strengthening the multi-ethnic membership of the PSM, in a country that has long been characterised by race-based parties.

Alongside the PSM’s impressive activism is a determination to popularise socialist history and theory. During the conference they proudly launched a Malay translation of Ian Birchall’s Lenin.

The PSM emphasise the importance of building international solidarity, across Asia and beyond, while arguing for the need for activists to build the struggle in our own countries. Next year, their Socialism 2009 will focus much more on local issues aimed at building the movements in Malaysia.

By Tim Erikson and Mark Goudkamp