Socialist Party of Malaysia: Perikatan Nasional’s false promises (plus reports on PSM election campaign)

Perikatan Nasional

First published at Think Left.

Ever since MUDA and PSM have decided to work together for the upcoming State Election, we have gotten disproportionate attention from our counterparts at Pakatan Harapan and their supporters for this supposed transgression. Whilst we have responded in kind, from pointing out hypocrisy to derision, I fear another idea may take root; that MUDA and PSM are only getting together for the polls in hopes of handing Perikatan Nasional a victory. Let me be perfectly clear. Perikatan Nasional’s politics of division, rhetoric of hate and, ultimately, the seeds of doubt that they continue to plant within our multiracial, multicultural, multireligious society are all opposed by MUDA and PSM to the hilt!

Let us now explore a little on how we are approaching our involvement in fighting against this toxic culture. For PSM, the situation within Malaysia, as it is within many third-world nations, is due to primarily the inequality of the distribution of wealth created by our workers. This happens in multiple manners. Within Malaysia, capitalist firms exploit workers as much as possible by expecting many hours of labour, often exceeding contracted time, whilst paying as little as possible. Internationally, global firms seek our vendors within Malaysia that will minimize their cost of production for raw materials, components and other goods.

The latter impacts on the former as these vendor companies drive down local wages to be competitive, keeping the downward spiral going. Oftentimes as well, the managerial and higher executive levels are shielded from this wage suppression, as they bag tremendous paychecks that could only be dreamt of by their subordinates. Another layer on top of this is that these paychecks become symbols of desire that “prove” the system works if only one can reach those lofty levels, leaving most workers languishing with pathetic wages unable to even complain lest they be deemed unproductive labourers.

These workers are the majority chunk of society and they are immensely frustrated at how their lives are run. They are constantly searching, either consciously or subconsciously, for a reason why they have to toil so hard yet not achieve the gains that were promised. It is in this space that many coping mechanisms, and with them, exploiters exist. Marx stated that religion is the opium of the masses, not as a form of derision against it, but as a matter of fact whereby the spiritual crutch provided by religion helps soothe the ailing heart of our workers. There are those, now, that wield such crutches to create false identities and promises to separate us for their own political gains.

This is how we see Perikatan Nasional’s influence seeping into our society. They are taking advantage of a very material issue, that of economic difficulties faced by the public, and providing a false solution, that of Malay-Muslim supremacy. The difficulties faced by the poor is usurped by just focusing on poor Malay-Muslims, their strife diagnosed as due to the loss of their rightful position in society which has been unjustly stolen by non-Malay-Muslims. This is why PN leaders like Hadi Awang keep insisting it is a fact that non-Malay-Muslims form the majority of those involved in corruption.

What is most interesting is that PN’s largest tracts of success seemingly come from the idea that they are fundamentally a replacement of UMNO, a Malay-Muslim majority political force that is somehow less corrupt. This is where supporters of PN come agonizingly close to understanding the folly of their approach. A party with the very same Malay-Muslim mentality they have trusted for so long was the one that ruthlessly stole from them. The race-religion narrative has been done before, as it is being done now, all for the same reasons, power and money. Just see the value of cases in Bersatu and UMNO!

What now, then? Where do we fit in? Let us have a look at what we have seen from the PH-BN camp. Gone are the days of feigning desperation to work together by force, the narrative now is of Unity (Perpaduan) between PH and BN. Anwar has even gone the distance by both asserting none of his ministers are corrupt (even though at least one is facing multiple graft charges) and that Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi, the one PH used as a bogeyman all throughout GE14, is a progressive. This political kow-tow is done with such fervour that it can no longer be called desperate, rather it is how PH has accepted BN as part of themselves. We are told to learn to bury the hatchet, but with it we are burying decades of destruction BN has dealt to this nation.

All of this is justified by using PN as the new bogeyman. The stalling of many reforms, sudden support for ethnic policies of quota and rhetoric of Anwar saving UMNO from Mahathir and Muhyiddin from being banned is directly tied to appeasing the same voters who would vote for PN. Where are the reforms that we are so desperately searching for? Where was the idealism of 2018 and 2022? Gone with the realpolitik of our times? Sorry to say, that is simply not good enough!

The needs of the marhaen supersedes the need of Pakatan Harapan winning, especially when PH are so willing to dilute their initial progressive stances just to stay in power. If they are this malleable that they will follow along with whichever viewpoint is popular, then it must fall on us, progressives of Malaysia, to put up a progressive alternative! If we want local council elections, we must put up an alternative that unabashedly fights for it, rather than allow PN’s narrative of racialized local councils push PH away from the idea, as they have been already. If we want our forest reserves to be protected, we cannot allow the two-coalition system that has PAS which cares very little for the forests in Kelantan, as PH in Selangor, for example, may be moved to follow suit. If we want policies for the 99%, we shouldn’t depend on meetings with Elon Musk, we should platform the marhaen!

MUDA and PSM reject Perikatan Nasional’s politics of division. We urge all potential supporters of Perikatan Nasional who are frustrated with PH-BN to support us instead. Realise that the solutions given by Perikatan Nasional are false promises. There is nothing to be gained from being divided. The needs of the marhaen cut across race, religion, creed and all identifiers that supposedly divide us. Let MUDA and PSM carry your voice to we can fight for the very things you need; more spending power, affordable houses, an equitable public transportation system and, above all, dignity to live your lives with your head held high. To our detractors from PH-BN, you are playing a game that will change you unrecognizably. Cut your losses and back what your heart desires for rather than the lesser evil.

Arveent Kathirtchelvan is Chairperson of Pemuda Sosialis, the youth wing of Parti Sosialis Malaysia

PSM Penang launches People’s Referendum on the 2023 Penang State Election

Choo Chon Kai

First published at Think Left.

With the Penang State Election soon to take place, the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) Penang is launching a People’s Referendum to collect views from the voters on the participation of PSM in the Penang State Election and issues that should be given attention during the upcoming Penang State Election.

As a progressive political party that always fights for the ordinary people and determines to build people’s power from below to defend people’s rights collectively, PSM is prepared to offer a new breath to the politics of Malaysia as well as Penang, while continuing to serve the communities and advance the struggle of the marhaen. However, PSM realizes that it is not easy for a small party that does not join any major coalition to win seats in elections. Therefore, PSM Penang would like to get feedback from the voters in Penang on whether PSM should stand in this coming Penang State Election, through a people’s referendum.

The People’s Referendum on the 2023 Penang State Election will be conducted online and offline. For the offline campaign, PSM Penang will go around asking the public to fill in the polling form. While for the online campaign, anyone who would like to express opinions and support PSM to contest in the Penang State Election can fill in the online form here:

The period of the People’s Referendum on the 2023 Penang State Election is from 19th May to 28th June 2023, which is a 6-week period.

Questions asked in the polling form include whether you support PSM contesting in the Penang State Election or not, which State Assembly seat PSM should contest, and issues that need to be highlighted in the coming Penang State Election.

PSM will only put up candidate if the number of voters’ support in a particular State Assembly constituency reaches the target of the minimum number of votes set by PSM Penang.

PSM Penang will be focusing on 3 State Assembly constituencies in Jelutong, with the targeted minimum number of votes in order to put up a candidate as below:

State constituencyTargeted minimum number of votes
N29 Datok Keramat2800
N30 Sungai Pinang3400
N31 Batu Lanchang3300

Although only 3 state constituencies are listed here, voters can also suggest other state constituencies in Penang where PSM should put up candidates.

The targeted minimum number of votes listed here is determined by PSM Penang based on a rough estimation of approximately 10% of the total voters in a particular state constituency. PSM Penang will only contest in the state constituency if we reach this targeted minimum number of votes. PSM Penang will not contest if we are not able to achieve this targeted minimum number of votes in a particular state constituency.

Ahead of the coming Penang State Election, whether contesting or not, depending on the results of the People’s Referendum on the 2023 Penang State Election, PSM Penang would still like to highlight several important demands for any party that is going to form government in the state of Penang to pay attention to. The demands of PSM Penang include:

  • Bring back the local elections in order to allow all the people in Penang to democratically elect the mayor and local councillors in their areas.
  • Develop a policy that guarantees affordable and decent housing for all, and housing should not become a commodity for profit-making by property developers.
  • Establish a better public transport system based on efficient, extensive and accessible public bus network, where such approach is cheaper and faster to realize.
  • Oppose development projects that damage our environment and endanger the health and safety of people. People need sustainable and just development.

At the same time, while doing the People’s Referendum on the 2023 Penang State Election, PSM Penang will also conduct a campaign to call for a Universal Pension Scheme. PSM recently launched a campaign for Universal Pension Scheme, to urge the government to implement immediately a pension of RM500 per month for all Malaysians aged 65 and above who are not receiving any government or private pension. Universal pension for the elderly is one of the important components of comprehensive social protection, which is very much needed now as Malaysia is moving towards an aged society and many Malaysians do not have enough old age savings to survive. A universal pension for the elderly will enable all senior citizens in our country to live through their old age with dignity. You can support the campaign to demand the implementation of a Universal Pension Scheme here at this link:

In addition, PSM Penang also welcomes donations from the public who support our effort to build a new progressive alternative. Donations to the PSM Penang campaign fund can be channelled to the following bank account:

Bank : Hong Leong Bank
Name : Parti Sosialis Malaysia (Baru) Cawangan Bayan Baru
Account number : 17800019335

Choo Chon Kai is a Central Committee Member of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM)
and Spokesperson for PSM Penang.

Malaysian socialists in election pact with youth-based party

Peter Boyle

First published at Green Left.

The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) and the Malaysian United Democracy Alliance (MUDA) have agreed on an electoral pact for the upcoming state assembly elections on August 12.

This pact, announced on July 15, commits the two parties not to stand candidates against each other and to campaign on five key shared concerns.

The first is a rejection of race-based politics, which has become a dominant and toxic feature of politics in Malaysia since the 1970s, when the left-wing opposition Socialist Front was repressed and its leaders jailed without trial under the notorious Internal Security Act.

Former prime minister Mohamed Mahathir rose to power in that decade by weaponising and manipulating hatred between people of Malay and non-Malay ancestry. In this election, religion is increasingly being used to stoke inter-communal fear, suspicion and hostility. An electoral gain by the Party of Islam (PAS) in the last federal election is being used to frighten people about an impending “green wave” that might bring in more Islamic fundamentalist state governments.

PSM chairperson and former MP Jeyakumar Devaraj told Green Left that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) — which governs nationally under PM Anwar Ibrahim — “is going to town on the ‘green wave’" in the lead up to the state elections.

“It claims that PAS will severely curtail the freedom of non-Malays if it comes to power [in more than the four states it holds] and that "there will be a ‘Talibanisation of Malaysia’," said Deveraj.

On the other hand, explained Devaraj, the conservative Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance is painting the biggest component party of PH — the Democratic Action Party (DAP) — as the bogey man, and claiming that Malay rights and Islam will be sidelined if PH is elected.

“Both sides paint it as a life and death struggle and therefore it is crucial to vote them in.”

This has created an extremely fearful political climate in this election campaign, Devaraj warned. This situation has prompted the PSM and MUDA to unite in a call for a “new politics” that is not based on playing on people’s fears and anxieties and driving communities further apart.

“MUDA and PSM represent Malaysians who are multi-racial, ethnic and religious. We believe the rhetoric of mainstream politics, centred around race and ethnicity, is archaic and must be replaced with need-based policies,” the MUDA-PSM pact says.

“MUDA and PSM are cognisant that the division among people along the lines of race and religion has grown. To challenge the growing division, MUDA and PSM will cooperate and become the common platform to unify the people for the common good.

“MUDA and PSM are cognizant that the strategy to divide the people is done for the benefit and interest of the political and business elite.”

Secondly, the two parties have committed to “uplift the lives of the majority and marginalised people”.

“Many of the policies formulated at the national or state level tend to prioritize the development of those privileged rather than the marginalised who need support,” the MUDA-PSM pact says.

“MUDA and PSM intend to empower the people, especially the majority and the marginalised, at each state and ensure state policies are designed to empower the people to make ends meet and enhance social mobility.”

Thirdly, the parties call for “genuine democracy”.

“MUDA and PSM believe that the government must be guided by the voice of the people, and state legislators and people’s representatives must ensure that the public must be able to share their views directly,” the pact says.

Local government elections were abolished in Malaysia in the 1960s, as part of the campaign to suppress the left.

“MUDA and PSM believe that the right of the people to elect their local representatives and other government positions must be returned to the peoples' mandate. Without elected representatives, the people’s aspirations can never be achieved.”

Fourthly, the pact calls for “balanced and inclusive development”.

“MUDA and PSM believe that each state in Malaysia bears the responsibility to limit the negative economic impact suffered by marginalised communities with necessary developmental support.

“MUDA and PSM intend to champion issues such as improvement to public transportation, maintenance of public facilities, access to clean water and improving the standard of living in every state.”

Fifthly, the MUDA-PSM pact calls for urgent environmental action.

“State governments now focus more on economic development without consideration for the environmental impact. Pollution resulting from unrestrained and excessive development has contributed to and amplified natural disasters caused by climate change. These disasters have caused significant damage and losses for the people and the nation.

“MUDA and PSM intend to prioritise policies that would ensure sustainability and foster the development and growth of green cities.”

MUDA and PSM were still announcing their candidates as at the time of writing.

MUDA’s founder, Syed Saddiq, is a federal MP. He was once a member of the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (BERSATU), which was formed by Mahathir. Saddiq broke away and formed his own party in 2020. "Muda" means “young” in Bahasa Malaysia and the party projects itself as the party of a new generation, fed up with the “old politics”.

MUDA also holds one state assembly position in Johor. The PSM does not currently hold any federal or state seats.