Report of Malaysian SP Conference at weekend

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Here is a report of the PSM Conference in Malaysia by SP Cllr Stephen Jolly plus his two presentations during the event. (The PSM’s own account of the Conference can be read by clicking here).

Last weekend I had the honour of attending the brilliant Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) Conference in the city of Kajang on behalf of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI). Clare Doyle, a leading member of the CWI, also attended from London.

The PSM is the only socialist party in Malaysia and the only party that actively encourages class unity by appealing to Malay Muslims (65% of population), Chinese (25%) and Tamil Indians (8%) to join the party in the fight for socialism. While still a relatively small party, the PSM has influence way above its size thanks to the heroic efforts of its members and leaders. Amongst workers, amongst youth, amongst squatters (correctly named ?Urban Pioneers? by the party) the party – through several front organisations – has big influence because of the great work it has done against different wings of the capitalist class and its political representatives in Malaysia.


The video of PSM work shown on the Saturday night of the Conference (with ?Land and Freedom? simultaneously showing in another meeting room) was a highlight of the weekend for me. It showed the terrible way developers and police treat Urban Pioneers in Malaysia and the bravery of the party members and supporters in resisting these outrages. Despite the brutal reputation of the Malaysian state machine, the party members – through standing strong on rallies – have won some democratic space for direct action and the police are forced to treat them warily.


The Conference was preceded on Friday night with an opening rally followed by several bands, mainly made up of Malay youth. It was a strange sight for me to see young Muslim Malay women with punk haircuts and dress as well as Malay ?Red Skins? (progressive, anti-fascist punk music followers).


The opening rally was translated into Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English – the first sign to me of the great ability of the PSM to organize extremely efficiently.


The first speaker was the General Secretary of the Malaysian Federation of Trade Unions, who while not a party member, spoke of his support for socialism. I said to him at the end, ?I wish more union leaders in Australia had your politics!?.


I spoke next (see my speech below). Other speakers were John Percy, of the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective, Dita Sari the legendary Indonesian union leader and leader of the left party PRD, as well as the Chairperson of the PSM, Nasir Hashim.


The Conference proper began the next morning at 9am sharp. All sessions were videoed and a DVD will be made of all sessions. If delegates were late they could watch proceeding outside on a TV screen in the hallway. Each session was opened by a party member who then introduced the Chairperson and speakers. Other members handed a cordless microphone to those who wanted to contribute from the floor. At the end of each session the Chairperson and speakers were handed a PSM banner to keep. Outside other party members staffed food stalls, bookstalls and each international speaker had a party ?minder? to help them in any way. In this way, many many members of the party had an active role to play in the Conference.


On Saturday the first session was: ?Globalisation – Capitalism and its resilience?. This was important to put the whole Conference in a broader context. I spoke from the floor taking up the arguments of one of the speakers, Rajamoorthy T (a non-party member), who argued that we needed to give critical support to China and Russia as an alternative block to Washington. I suggested the real alternative to US imperialism was the struggle of workers and poor peasants throughout the world, in particular right now the continental revolt of the masses in Latin America.


The next session was: ?New Imperialism – Can the US be stopped?? followed by ?The failure of socialism in Russia and China. Why?? Here one of the speakers was the CWI?s Clare Doyle who outlined that these societies were never socialist (apart from the early stages after the Russian Revolution), despite abolishing capitalism and that the Trotskyists always opposed Stalinism. Her excellent presentation can be found on the CWI web site.


The following session was: ?Revolutionary Feeling – Brazil, Venezuela and Latin America?. I spoke (see my presentation below) with John Percy of the DSP. John Percy was of the view that a socialist revolution was unfolding in Venezuela already and he argued against artificial schema being used to compare developments in Venezuela against. From the floor, Thailand?s Giles Ji Ungpakorn of the UK SWP?s international tendency IST, said he hoped Venezuela didn?t take a Cuban path as he thought Cuba was a state capitalist country and therefore not fundamentally and different from any other Third World country. In the sum-up I opposed the argument of Giles, outlining the great gains of the Cuban revolution but also warned that a ?blank cheque? approach to the Cuban leadership was also dangerous – for example Castro supported the Tiananmen Square massacre by the Chinese government.


The last session on Saturday was on: ?Peoples Power and regime change in South East Asia with Dita Sari, Giles, and the well known Sonny Malencio of the Filipino Workers Party speaking.


In a nutshell, it came clear to me after the first day that the CWI and PSM were ?peas in a pod? when it came to our general approach to the working class; that is to say, socialism means nothing if a revolutionary party does not dive in head first into the day-to-day struggles of the working class and in that sense ?Make Socialism Relevant? as we say in our Australian SP paper every month.


Only the CWI of any socialist organisation internationally as undertaken work similar to the PSM and that is why only the CWI internationally has made electoral breakthroughs without watering down their socialist principles.


However we have more to discuss in relation to our analysis of the broader political struggles of workers, especially in the ex-colonial world. We in the CWI sees Menshevism in the approach of the DSP and others to struggles in Indonesia, East Timor etc. There is, by the DSP for example in our view, a form of the dangerous position of stages. That is to say, we believe only the working class, leading the poor peasants and the middle classes, can win genuine democratic rights and that is only through overthrowing local capitalism and their imperialist allies who are enemies of democratic rights. Once in power the workers can then move to carry out socialism and attempt to spread it internationally. Other tendencies see the potential of allies in sections of the national bourgeoisie and in the process, the revolutionary party has to drop its insistence on socialism. That, of course, is not to say a revolutionary party cannot enter into short-term tactical alliances with other progressive forces on concrete issues (we in the CWI do this every day in our work – we wouldn?t win victories for workers otherwise).


Some members of the PSM said to me that they thought it was unfortunate that the left in the advanced capitalist world were divided so much. I replied that we must and do work together around concrete issues such as fighting the occupation of Iraq, against capitalist globalization, and defending trade unions – however it would be a mistake to ignore programmatic difference of importance which, by the way, can and do lead to differences around strategy and tactics. For example, the hesitation of the SWP in England to call a rally against terrorism and against racist attacks on minorities in the wake of the recent London bombings.


On Sunday the sessions were on Malaysia. ?Why the Left failed to gain power in Malaysia/The MCP and the Socialist Front in Malaysian history?; ?Lessons of reformasi 1998?; ?Class and Communal Lines – The Unsolved National Question?; and ?Building the Movement?. The serious study of their own, until recently hidden, workers? history by the youth was very inspiring to me. It reminded me of the South African black revolutionaries of the 1980s who as apartheid began to crumble searched their own history and had an equal thirst for theory.


The final session ended with the singing of the Internationale in Malay, Tamil, Chinese and English. It was very moving – in particular the Chinese version, as some older attendees had not heard it sung so openly since the (mainly Chinese Malaysian Communist Party revolt after World War Two).


I look forward to further discussions and joint solidarity work between the sections of the CWI, especially in Australia, and the MSP. At the next Australian SP National Committee we will be discussing the idea of inviting a PSM member to our 2006 National Conference.


The CWI stall at the Conference was popular with us almost selling out totally – we sold all of our new book on Che.


Finally, I want to thank all the comrades of the PSM for inviting me and Clare to the Conference. I was inspired by their dedication and revolutionary valour.
Long live internationalism! Long live socialism! Long live the PSM!

Speech at Opening Rally of SP of Malaysia Conference, Friday night 9th September 2005, by Stephen Jolly, representing CWI



Comrades,
The question we are asked to addressed tonight is ?Is Socialism Relevant??
With 852 million hungry in this world, with 1 child dying every 5 seconds as a result of hunger, with 42 million living with AIDS – 93% in the Third World – yes, socialism is relevant, more relevant that ever.


The future for socialism is very good, and the future for capitalism is very bad.


Only months ago we were told the US – the sole superpower today – was so strong that socialism or any resistance was futile.


Now the US is bogged down in Iraq, spending US$5.6 billion a month there, with 2000 US troops dead. It?s not a stepping-stone for new imperialist adventures, it?s a swamp for the US.


Hurricane Katrina with 10,000 dead shows the ?uncomfortable truths? at the heart of the US. They can send rockets to Mars and troops to Iraq, but if you are poor and black and live in New Orleans you wait 5 days to see the slightest relief.


That city is a ?snake pit of anarchy, death, rape, looting and shattered infrastructure?.
Like in Vietnam 30 years ago, there is rising opposition to US imperialism from its own people.


It?s not only in poor countries that there is rising opposition to imperialism and its ideas.


In Australia Prime Minister John Howard is preparing a massive attack on Australia?s unions, in particular its strongest union, the construction union. This will guarantee big battles in that country.


I am Councillor in a part of Melbourne where people live in public housing estates of 95%+ unemployment.


All capitalists and their governments guarantee now is cuts, attacks on unions, and attacks on democratic rights. In Australia there has been raids of Muslim bookshops and calls by some rightwing politicians to expel Muslims. It is ironic that to ?protect democracy? they want to destroy democracy.


A revolt is being prepared – best seen in Latin America, a continent in revolt, as we will discuss tomorrow.


For almost 30 years there has been a one-sided civil war on the poor, on workers and on youth.


Why has it been so one-sided? Some people gave up on struggle in the 1980s and 1990s.


The leaders of the old workers? parties and even of many union leaders swallowed the neo-liberal lies and became industrial policemen for the capitalists.


The fall of Stalinism was an ideological victory for capitalism. Although we always opposed Stalinism for example the CWI was active in the Tiananmen Square movement in 1989.


Now the capitalists are embarrassed by the realities of life for workers in Eastern Europe and Russia.


There are big opportunities for the PSM and all genuine socialist parties to build an alternative to capitalism.


Our objective is to understand these processes, and to develop a programme. The programme must be international, it must be socialist not reformist, and it must be based on the working class, the only class with the social weight to be able to destroy capitalism.


But the best programme in the world means nothing unless the party and its members try to implement it. The PSM is rightly renowned here and overseas as a party of action with dedicated members willing to fight to end against the capitalists.


Your work on the ground is the same work the CWI does overseas and is the reason we have made electoral breakthroughs in Sweden, Britain, Ireland and Australia.


Comrades, while it is true that abstract socialism understanding without getting your hands dirty is the wrong method, it is also true that ?activism? without theory, without a broader understanding, is also wrong.


This conference will play an important role in raising our political level. Of linking the brilliant work of the PSM to the struggle to end a rotten system that puts profits before human need.


The problems of poverty, homelessness, of hunger are not ‘Acts of God’. They are not due simply to the mistakes of our rulers. They are a result of the capitalist system.
Only the PSM says this in Malaysia, that is why the future of Malaysia rests with the PSM.


We must unite the power of workers and the energy of youth to the ideas of socialism.


Comrades, socialism is not only relevant but are the ideas of the future.


Long live internationalism!

Long live socialism!

Long live the PSM!

Presentation (lead-off) on Latin America by Stephen Jolly, representing CWI, Saturday 10th September 2005

Comrades,

Latin American is a continent in revolt. The greatest fear to Washington today comes not from Putin or the Chinese bureaucracy but from this area.


From the shanty town dwellers to the workers


From the urban poor to students
From unemployed to peasants
People have risen up in a mass continent-wide movement against imperialism and neo-liberalism.


The movement is also partially and increasingly against capitalism.

It is partially for socialism.

The movement has taken two forms.

A – In the more developed countries of the continent, left governments have been elected to power and have united to attempt to develop an alternative capitalist block to the one dominated by Washington. Each of these governments has also capitulated to the IMF and imperialism, to one degree or another.



Uruguay

President Vazquez was the first President elected to power there who did not come from the traditional capitalist parties.
He implemented some reforms, including US$100 million on hunger eradication.
However it was all done within the confines of capitalism. He said: ?It would be ludicrous to disregard the importance of our agreement with the IMF for budget surplus goals and debt repayments?


His is a government of old fashioned reformism – his reforms have not been as radical as even the Allende government in Chile from 1970-33.



Argentina

Peronist President Kirchener came to power after mass protests against the disaster flowing from the neo-liberal experiment of the 1990s. During that decade Argentina was held up by capitalists as the model to follow. The disastrous effects of this experiment led to massive movements of the middle class and youth.


5 Presidents were overthrown within a few weeks in 2001-02.

Argentina – 4 years before Kirchener came to power- defaulted on a US$100 billion debt.

57% of the population live in poverty. In the 1950s people from Europe, especially Italy, used to migrate to Argentina due to high living standards – it was described as the ?Italy of Latin America?. Now the opposite process takes place, as the middle class and educated youth flee to Europe or the US.


Kirchener represents a layer of the national bourgeoisie in revolt at the imperialist robbers of the IMF.


On the one hand, he has forced a renegotiation of over 60 contracts with private utilities. He has given preference in terms of debt repayment to domestic banks over foreign banks. Overseas banks are only getting 30% of their debt repaid.
On the other hand, he has initiated an austerity drive, and driven down wages and repressed militants.


Put together, these two processes have led to a small upturn in the Argentinean economy, but mainly for the rich.
During the Bolivian mass movement, Kirchener – with Lula in Brazil – assisted the government to keep their power supplies going in the face of workers? strikes.
Nevertheless the economic upturn has revived the class struggle somewhat.
The task now is for the creation of a mass socialist workers? party in Argentina.



Brazil

Lula and the PT (Workers Party) have so moved to the Right, that ex-members and other militants have formed the socialist workers party, P-SOL.


Lula seeks to create an alternative capitalist block to the US-led one with Argentina, Uruguay, Cuba, China and so on. He does not stand for socialism.
In his first year in office, he paid $33 billion in interest and charges on debt. To do this, to get this money, he cut social spending from 2.59% of GDP to 2.45% of GDP.


He cut pensions of public sector workers and offered them a 0.1% pay offer in the last pay round – this offer must be a world record low.


On the land, land reform is desperately slow. It is outrageous, with a PT government, that there are still landless activists still in jail.


In fact Lula hasn?t even come close to Kirchener?s debt monitorium that forced the IMF to renegotiate.


Now there is the corruption scandal with the PT paying money to bourgeois politicians to support it in parliament.


When Roberto Jefferson, the capitalist politician at the center of the scandal was interviewed about the PT?s role in it all, he said: “I supported the neo-liberal policies of Cardoso (the previous president, and a leader of the PSDB [Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira – Party of Brazilian Social Democracy]). Now I support the neo-liberal policies of Palocci (current finance minister, PT). I haven’t changed. The PT has changed.”


The PT was built out of mass struggle of workers against the military dictatorship. For a long time, it was different to the other corrupt parties. But without a programme or strategy to bring down the corrupt capitalist system, the party leaders adopted the methods of rule of the other politicians, which included corruption.


The PT is no longer a party with an active mass base. It is made up of Mayors, MPs, Councillors, and their assistants. It?s not a party for social change, but for power.
Now P-SOL becomes the focal point for all those who want a fighting, class-based, international and socialist party.



B – In the more downtrodden countries the movement has gone further.

Equador

The richest 20% of the population consume 60% of the wealth.


The bottom 25% has 4%.

There is 46% unemployment or under-employment.

60% live below the poverty line.

45% have no running water.

In April Col Gutierrez became the 3rd President since 1996 driven out of office by the masses.


Mass movements of protests and strikes forced out the previous Presidents. While clearly attempting to rid themselves of their capitalist rulers, the masses have not yet embraced the idea of socialism as an alternative to capitalism. This, plus the absence of a mass socialist workers party, means power eventually passes back to another wing of the capitalist class.


Col Gutierrez was elected in 2002 but with no socialist alternative he became imprisoned by capitalism and the laws of capitalism. And he almost immediately capitulated to the IMF.


The Vice President assumed power in the face of mass protests. Ironically the President fled not to the USA, but to Lula?s Brazil!


The capitalist class in Ecuador and elsewhere cannot play a progressive role in the modern era or sustain capitalist development.


They are tied to imperialist interests and they will always act to defend their own interests against those of the working class and poor peasants.


In the modern era, it is only possible for the working class, with the support of the poor peasants and youth, to take over the running of society and to begin to plan the development of society, by breaking with capitalism with the perspective of spreading the socialist revolution internationally.


There is a need for workers and peasants to form independent organs of struggle in the workplaces, communities and colleges. With delegates subject to recall and on the average pay of the people they represent.



Bolivia

The consciousness of workers here has is even higher than Ecuador.

2/3 live in poverty.

For 100s of years, Bolivian riches were robbed by foreign powers, helped by the domestic elite.


The biggest natural gas reserves outside Venezuela are worth US$100 billion.
Right wing governments have lowed tax on gas and oil exploration and privatised the state oil company.


The demand of the masses is for the nationalisation of the gas and oil industries.
When President Sanchez de Lozada was overthrown in 2003 the Vice President Mesa promised a referendum on this. In actually only delivered a small tax rise for the bosses in these industries.


This led to roadblocks and threats to burn down the Congress. Mesa resigned in June and the President of the Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodriguez, stepped in.


The ruling class are playing for time. They are tying unions and mass organisations into talks with empty promises.


There are elements of dual power in the situation in Bolivia – that is where there are alternative power structures which compete with established power.


What is lacking is a party to being the movement together and smash capitalism and introduces socialism.

Venezuela

The eyes of the world are on Venezuela.
This country and its President, Chavez, have bravely stood up to the US.


I?ve been asked this weekend?: ?Will he take the road of Allende or Castro??


What the comrades who ask this question actually mean is ?will Venezuela take the road of revolution or counter-revolution??


Chavez says no to US imperialism and to neo-liberalism.


Since 1998 he has won 6 electoral contests, each with a bigger vote.


Chavez has earnt the enmity of imperialism and Venezuelan elite.


He now talks of ?socialism of the 21st century.?


Why does the US hate Chavez?

He wants to increase the oil price. The rising price for oil has given the state an extra US$4 billion for social spending. The US doesn?t want Chavezs? hand on the oil industry that supplies 15% of all US oil.
Chavez opposed the invasion and now the occupation of Iraq.


Chavez creates problems for imperialism in Columbia.


The unfolding Venezuelan situation is an example to masses in Latin America and Hispanics in the US and beyond. Especially as he now talks of socialism, workers? co-ops and now the first nationalisation of a company.


Therefore the US supports the Venezuelan opposition. They support Columbia, the US proxy government in the region, with US$3 billion a year. Only Israel now gets more money from the US. The Columbian armed forces have trebled in size to 267,000.
For Marxists, however, we need a sense of proportion with Venezuela.


The Venezuelan experience is occurring in a period of lower socialist consciousness. Therefore the light shines more brightly that it may have done in the past.
Chavez has not yet gone as far on the socialist road as Cuba where Castro nationalised all US interests and then capitalism itself.


Or even Nicaragua where the Sandinistas smashed the Somoza state machine and nationalised more than Chavez. Or even Allende in Chile who nationalised some US interests and up to 40% of the economy.
However the US fear the pressure of the masses could push Chavez further to the left.


His talk of ?socialism in the 21st century?.
The nationalisation of Venepal, a paper processing company, the first nationalisation by the way in six years in office!


The banks, where now private banks have to have 2 government representatives on their governing boards.


Private companies have been asked to introduce ?co-management? – with the approval of new loans from state banks requiring companies to formalise a minimum of 20% workers? representatives on their boards.


However, these measures, while they must be supported, are a long way from socialism or breaking the power of the private sector.


Overall, Chavez seeks to create a parallel economy of partially state-owned companies, co-ops, and ?good? private companies to compete with major companies. This is best seen by his creation of a new satellite TV network, TeleSur, modelled on Al-Jazera in the Middle East.


There are signs – important signs of a rise of socialist ideas and anti-capitalist measures in Venezuela. This is an historic gain and it putting the idea of socialism back on the world map.


But the process is not yet completed. Co-ops, limited nationalisations, and workers? reps on boards – if the process stops here it doesn?t guarantee socialism. You can annoy the capitalists, yet leave them with the power to counter-attack at some stage.
Therefore socialists must – while we have differences we must defend the Venezuelan revolution. But also warn of the dangers of staying on a knife-edge.


Usually a deadlock between the classes is decisively resolved in favour of revolution or counter-revolution.


In Venezuela, this process is drawn out by the cushion of oil wealth and the fact that the US is diverted in Iraq.


What can happen?

Socialism can be carried out or

Reaction can strike a decisive blow in the form of a coup or

The masses can be worn down over a period of time by the failure of the revolution to be completed and a worsening social crisis. At a certain stage this could allow the rightwing to sneak back into power under a ?democratic guise? of an election win as a result of the exhaustion and wearing down of the masses.


This is what happened in Nicaragua in 1990 when the rightwing National Opposition Union won the election.


The CWI says the process that has begun must be completed. There are dangers in limited reforms only. They annoy the capitalists but leave them with the power to counter-attack.


Chavez is not from the workers movement – he is a man of the military. These can have an effect on the revolution – if the workers carry it out it the state bears the hallmarks of mass, democratic organisation. If carried out by a Mao or a Castro it has different hallmarks.


There is a need now for workers, students and poor peasants to create democratic committees in every factory and workplace and college. Delegates should be elected and subject to recall and on the average wage to those they represent. These committees should be linked locally, regionally and nationally and begin to take over the running of society. They should for the basis of a new government of workers and peasants.


The economic power of the ruling class must be broken including in the profitable private sector – not just the bankrupt sections. You cannot control what you do not own.


In conclusion Comrades, in the 80s and 90s we were told socialism is dead. Capitalism – neo-liberal capitalism – was the only way forward. This process got worse after the collapse of Stalinism.
But the masses had nowhere to go, even if intellectuals gave up on the struggle. They endured a one-sided civil war against their interests by rightwing governments and the bosses.


Iraq and Latin America show the rising difficulties to neo-liberalism, and in Latin America the rising opposition to neo-liberalism.


We need an international, socialist/Bolshevik party and international.
Lenin explained this is crucial for the success of socialist revolution.