As we move on to 2014, the most important thing which most people remember in 2013 was the long awaited election and the failure to change Government. Ini Kalilah got postponed again. For the PSM, the experience was even bitter and a learning experience on coalition politics. PSM had to face a multi corner fight in three out of the 4 seats it contested. The lesson learned in Kota Damansara was the most difficult reality which the party need to swallow. In spite of PSM compromising in its logo, yet a three corner fight took place.
In spite of all the bad experience, PSM as a party continue to prosper with a record number of young people joining the party. Most Malaysians and voters did not desert us after the elections and in fact, more people seem to appreciate the need for a principle party like PSM. It was also a year that the party for the first time had the pleasure of having members in all states including Sabah and Sarawak.
The experience also opened up to the formation of a left coalition which would be launched in 2014. The left coalition is a coalition of individuals, left leaning NGOs and political parties with the main aim of building an alternative system against Capitalism. The Coalition will concentrate on research on left alternatives, conducting ideological classes as well as fighting the neo-liberal attack which comes in various forms today like GST, privatisation of health and education and the TPPA. There will be special emphasises on recruiting young members as well as rebuilding the trade union movement. The Left Coalition is not an electoral coalition for now but we have to take one step at a time.
Many quarters keep asking us about our relationship with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and where is it heading. The honest answer is nothing much has happened. PR wrote to us in August officially and said that they have not decided and asked if PSM endorse the Joint memorandum of PR which is the Buku Jingga before they can decide. PSM answered that we have already accepted the Buku Jingga as stipulated in our election manifesto. There has been no answer from PR since. For us the ball is in PR’s court and unless PR registers for a joint Logo like BN, I don’t see we resolving much and the same problems will crop up again. PSM is determined to end the one party hegemony of UMNO-BN and is willing the work with other parties to achieve this.
Rebranding PSM & Nation wide Roadshow
The PSM Congress in 2013 identified one major weakness in PSM. PSM is seen as a small party and not a mainstream National party and there is a need to build the PSM’s profile. Nevertheless, most people acknowledge and recognise that PSM has good politics, hardworking members and humble leaders. PSM also has a very good track record in fighting for the marginalised communities. What is lacking they say is the need to rebrand PSM image as a National party and not one which just focuses on community issues.
With this in mind, the 2013 Party Congress adopted a resolution that PSM conducts a Nation wide road show to popularise the party. Most people remember and envy the party’s earlier initiative in conducting a nationwide paddle for change cycling tour spearheaded by JERIT and the second being calling for UMNO-BN to quit in the famous campaign known as Udahlah-bersaralah. The second nation wide tour led to the arrest of 30 PSM leaders and later 6 people arrested under the Emergency ordinance.
With this in mind, in 2014, the party would be going on its third nationwide tour starting from January; but this time to popularise PSM, its national campaign and its profile. PSM new tagline “berjuang bersama rakyat” or “With the People in Struggle” would see PSM going to all major towns in the Country to tell people what is PSM, what socialism is and what our agenda for a better Malaysia is. The tour will be held for three months and all party leaders are expected to go state by state to explain about PSM and its campaigns.
We believe that the introduction of GST, the various price hikes, suppression of wages are all due to the nature of the capitalist system which is profit orientated. It is therefore imminent that only by changing the system, can one escape from economic crisis, price hikes and wage deprivation.
The BN adopts the neo liberal capitalist agenda to its core. On the other hand, the PR believes that it is not the system at fault but the application. They believe that by good governance and curbing corruption, the problem will be solved. PSM sees that Capitalism itself is problematic as it promotes high growth, high investments and high profits. It has no answers to income disparity, income and wealth distribution and it has no answers to the environmental problems faced by the world today like climate change and global warming. PSM is taking a different road. This is illustrated in our annual Socialism 2013 forum which calls for Delinking Capitalism. This is the route taken by a growing numbers of countries in Latin America and it seems to be the call today by the majority of working people and youths around the world. We believe this anti capitalist movement worldwide will grow. Delinking from capitalism, perhaps the only way to save the earth and its habitants.
The year which saw many prominent leaders pass away
Many great people left us in 2013. One person whom I consider was a huge loss with no comparison was the death of Hugo Chavez on 5 Mac. Chavez was a great inspiration to the left and its his idea of socialism in the 21st century gave a new momentum to the left in Latin America and all over the world. Other prominent deaths was the death of General Giap who is considered an all time giant in South East Asia politics and only second to Ho Chi Ming. Mandela death recently was yet another great reminder on the fight against racism, imperialism and the apartheid system.
On the local scene, two very prominent lefties died in 2013. Ibu Suraini @ Eng Ming Ching in Mac and who can forget the death of Chin Peng on Malaysia Day. Even his ash being brought back brings shivers to the ruling UMNO who continues to deny the role played by the MCP in ensuring an early independence for Malaya. PSM also organised a first open forum on Chin Peng in 2013 which also shows that most Malaysians have departed from the fear of the Red herring used so successfully by UMNO-BN to create fears and divisions.
PSM and young blood
In January 2013, Bawani KS shot to fame after a famous LISTEN video which went viral. This opened up the whole question of democracy in campus besides focusing on the issue of free education – a campaign started by PSM Youth. Bawani has since enhanced her role in fighting for free education as well as spearheading the campaign in building the Socialist Youths in PSM.
Today with the aid of social media, many youths have access to progressive politics. In PSM itself, many of our new members become members from on-line registration. They make the bulk of the new membership. They are also shaping the view that the party should not be afraid to experiment new ideas and new visions. Most young people also feel that it is cool to be radical, anarchist and being a communist. PSM Youth wing is therefore tasked to build young members and build their perspective and capacity in understanding real issues. The head must be grounded to the realities and the challengers in the ground.
2013 also saw Dr. Jeyakumar losing the high profile case where he took the Malaysian Government to task for not allocating development funds to his constituency. Though the case was defeated as the courts did not have the guts to open up the floodgates on how these funds are managed. Yet it raised many pertinent issues on how the rakyat’s money is being used and how it is managed. Dr. Kumar being the sole PSM MP in Parliament, continues to inspire by raising crucial issues and being the voice of the marhaein in Parliament. Besides Kumar, Soh Sook Hwa another PSM Central Committee member also lost her final bid in the Federal Court on the case where she challenged the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) for taking action against her for being punished by USM for her involvement in the 2004 general election in campaigning for an opposition candidate.
On the brighter side, PSM won a consent agreement where the Government agreed to pay RM 200,000 as compensation for unlawfully detaining 6 PSM members, also known as the EO6 in 2011. Though the sum maybe low, yet it is seen as a morale victory where the State finally admits and pay damages for their blatant misuse of power in trampling on human rights in Malaysia. None of the lawyers and none of the EO6 wanted the money for themselves and hence the party has decided to use the money to assist on future bail cases, a revolving fund for publication and to assist party members who have major health expenditure.
Grassroots Activism and Protest
At the grassroots level, PSM communities continue to consistently fight rigorously. PSM along with JERIT continues to fight for the resettlement of 400 ex plantation workers now staying dangerously in Taman Permata to their new terrace houses. In Mantin, Negeri Sembilan, PSM members defend and protect a Hakka Community facing forced eviction in a land they have occupied for over a hundred years. The battle will continue in 2014.
In Cameron Highlands, the people from Green Cow after many arrest, court battles and occupying finally won land and compensation. In Sungai Buloh, Sungai Siput farmers won compensation after developers amd State Government wanted to take away their land.
PSM branches continue to champion issues in many other areas from plantation workers, urban settlers, farmers and Orang asal communities. PSM with JERIT also opened a hotline on Minimum wage and serviced thousands of complaints on minimum wage. We also filed complaints to the Human Resource Ministry on more than 800 companies for failing to implement Minimum wage.
After the election in 2013 when many people were tired to go to the streets, PSM continued to mobilise protest on the issues of GST, TPPA and minimum wage.
PSM in the year ahead for 2014
2014 will be a challenging year. It is a year which will start with massive price hikes on many basic amenities and we expect more forceful eviction to take place. The ruling Government is also determined to use some new draconian laws to curb public assemblies and take a hard line on demonstrators.
With massive price hikes announced, it is going to be an angry year for the people. Can the frustration of the masses be channelled into some serious form of opposition or movement?
PSM has geared to launch several new campaigns as well as built on some of the older campaigns.
i. Minimum wage – the battle to implement it
PSM is convinced that the Human Resource Minister is going to give further leeway in not implementing the minimum wage which is supposed to be fully in force from January 2014. PSM and JERIT will monitor and campaign to ensure the Government does not to any more U turns. Meanwhile with the rising prices, inflation, the current minimum wage of RM 900 and RM 800 is not feasible anymore. PSM along with progressive trade unions will continue to fight for RM 1,500
ii. Bring down the price of houses
PSM is now working towards in bringing down the price of house prices which are too high and unrealistic. Rental have also raised to a new heights. PSM would organise a round table discussion with state holders and build a strong campaign to take public housing out of the speculative market. House is traditionally a use value and not an exchange value. We believe most Malaysian today cannot afford to buy a decent home and if they buy with the current prices, they will have serious financial problem as well debt problems which we believe they cannot handle. A strong campaign is needed to ensure house is for a living and not for a profit.
iii. Bring back local Government elections
PSM would intensify in its campaign to bring back local Government election and campaign with both BN and PR Government to bring back voting rights to the municipal level. A leaflet campaign as well as mock elections will be done to ensure these positions are elected. PSM would also participate in local Government election if the PR Government starts it. Selangor plans to start local election is some councils.
PSM played a key role in fighting this battle in the last one year and managed to delay it. It looks like the BN Government is going to bring the TPPA to parliament and then sign the agreement. PSM would intensify its campaign early 2014 to stop the TPPA. The TPPA is an issue which the Malaysian public is not aware off. US Imperialism is all set to push the agenda in TPPA next year and we have a duty to protect our key industries from Global Capitalism dominance.
PSM and JERIT have declared 2014 as the year to fight GST. Since the GST will impact on the entire nation, we call for a referendum to be held. The Government has done massive campaign to promote the GST. The GST is a mechanism to make every person pay but will be felt most by the middle and lower income group. A massive demonstration against GST is planned on May 1, 2014.
vi. Public Transportation
As a means to save the environment, PSM has in the last two years formed a network to fight for a better public transportation system. It is time we end campaigns for cheaper cars and thing seriously about our environment and healthy lifestyle. Going green is not planting trees on earth days. Going Green means a political shift in the way we develop our nation and it is not compatible with capitalism and its growth orientated model. PSM would build nation wide dialogues in all states to improve public transportation.
vii. Fighting Neoliberals
This is an ongoing battle to save our public hospitals, to fight for free quality education and to nationalise public institutions which have been privatised. Water, electricity and public transportation must be in the hands of the State. Currently privatisation of our public utilities have only resulted in making a few individuals super rich and making the majority of the rakyat to supper under their rule.
PSM with its new tagline and renewed energy will continue to built the capacity of the people at local level and nationally. It is time to fight to built our capacity not only to fight day to day issues but to built capacity and perspective to bring socialism to the people as a legitimate alternative to the corrupt system people live in today. We always say people are the bosses but 1 % people rule our lives and make us take their shit. It is time to fight back and it is time to fight the system and not just its symptoms.
Happy New Year 2014
PSM – Berjuang Bersama rakyat
With the People In Struggle
PSM Secretary General