Wednesday, June 10, 2009
A response by Hitokiri Yusoff to a comment I made here:
Your comments just pretty much show what politics is all about. It's not about principles, it's about pragmatism. Well the government's position during the 60s onwards was one of neutrality, although still West-leaning, so it would be logical to recognise and establish relations with the Communist powers. This is so that our government's position would be reflected in reality and not just the dogma of politicians. And mind you, I don't believe the USSR cared about our little Commie problem, due to the Sino-Soviet split, as the CPM was allied with the PRC.

Considering this, you're right that the govt's animosity towards Chin Peng and gang is not because of their ideology but because of their violent acts. Indeed the government position should reflect this rather than just say that communism is 'evil', period.

I would say however that your analogy with the Communist Party of the US is somewhat flawed. The CPUSA did not mount an armed struggle against the government, so in a way the American government would have had no reasonable excuse to outlaw them. A better analogy is with South Korea that still continues to outlaw Communism and this is in direct response to the armed struggle mounted by Commie guerrillas prior to the Korean War and of course the association of Communist ideology to the atrocities committed by the North Koreans during the Korean War. Indeed the South Korean military continues to have a largely anti-Communist outlook. Therefore, since the CPM mounted an armed struggle against the legitimate government, it's understandable why there is some remaining stigma against the Communist ideology and refusal to critically analyse it. There is however no need to establish a Malaysian version of House Committee on Un-American Activities, as Communism, at least in its true form, is a dead ideology.
My subsequent response to that has been posted but I thought it deserves a little elaboration here. In addition to the points covered by a previous post on Chin Peng (which the commenter might not have read), there are a few things that need to be considered.

The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) analogy would be wanting had the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) been declared illegal only after it began armed action against the government, but the party was, in fact, deemed an illegal organisation by the British from its very inception purely on the basis of its ideology. Malaya was, after all, a British colony and, for all intents and purposes, colonies are nothing more than economic enterprises run for the benefit of the controlling colonial power. There should be no pretensions about that fact. The British viewed CPM as a threat to national production due to its success at unionising the labour force and its anti-colonial stance, and the party would later be driven underground by the British response to a call it made in 1947, as a member of Putera-AMCJA (Pusat Tenaga Ra'ayat and All-Malayans’ Council of Joint Action, respectively), for a nationwide hartal in demand of self-rule.

British economic interests again played a role in independence talks. Despite the fact that CPM still had sizeable support among the general working population, and thus represented a good proportion of Malayans, the British chose to negotiate only with the centre-right, race-based Alliance parties. These parties were dominated by owners of big business and, as such, were much less likely to nationalise British-owned businesses after independence. British influence even carried through to the Baling Talks, which were held to resolve the 'communist crisis' in the run-up to independence. Tunku Abdul Rahman was adamant that CPM not be allowed to contest in nationwide elections, thereby depriving it of constitutional means with which to pursue its goals, despite Chin Peng's suggestion that the legitimacy of the party be put to the people.

This is not to say that the eventual decision of CPM to resort to militancy against the government of Malay(si)a was the right one, but the fact is the communists did what they thought was the only thing they could do after all other legitimate avenues were denied them. We must at least concede that they exhibited integrity in keeping to their beliefs, however flawed, a characteristic which seems in short supply in modern Malaysian politics.

As for the analogy made with South Korea: The two Koreas are still technically at war—the two sides only signed an armistice at the conclusion of the Korean War—and North Korea, to this day, still makes threats against the South Korean government. In fact, the North launches long-range missiles and explodes nuclear bombs just to make this very point. The remnants of CPM in southern Thailand, on the other hand, are no more a threat than the old men and women that they are—they are armed only with a failed ideology and an alternate take on Malaysian history. One wonders which of these is the thing that the Malaysian government fears most.


Update, 12th June 2009:
Mat Amin, a veteran of the all-Malay 10th Regiment of CPM, gives his reasons why the party continued its fight even after Malaya achieved independence in 1957. Juxtapose this with a summary of equity ownership in Malaysia in the years preceding the May 13 Incident
—as much as three-quarters of the economy was still under foreign control—and how the real issue of class was obscured by the race-based implementation of the New Economic Policy.

posted by Hong at 9:47 am | Permalink |