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Malaysia:10th PSM National Congress: a decade and going strong!

Port Dickson, 1 June 2008

PSM successfully concluded its tenth Congress- in an era and time where the ruling Barisan Nasional faces its biggest survival in Malaysian politics while Capitalism faces its biggest challenge - World Food crisis. It is an exciting time and it is time for change.

Party Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) had a successful 3 day (30-31May to 1 June 2008) National Congress attended by around 150 people comprising of delegates from 7 states, 3 front organizations and invited guests who been strong supporters of PSM for the past years.

PSM Congress 2008

The Congress was held at National Union of Banking Employees (NUBE) center, Port Dickson. The road leading to NUBE was decorated in red. A few banners greeted the delegates. The only vibrant and remaining Socialist party in Malaysia holding it’s National Congress. Tenth Congress. Ten years of uncompromising politics to uphold class politics against communal politics, to advance the working class agenda against the ruling capitalist class. Ten years of survival without legal political registration.

This year congress marks yet another mile stone in PSM’s history. The Congress is extra special, besides being PSM’s tenth year, the Congress for the first time was attended by two elected representative - Socialist Member of Parliament, Comrade Dr. Jeyakumar and a Socialist member of State Assembly, Comrade Dr. Nasir Hashim. Another reason for the party to cherish is the presence of 4 new branches from Tanah Rata (Cameron Highland), Seremban (Negri Sembilan), Semenyih (Selangor) and Jelapang (Perak).

The Congress began with the Internationalle song and a new song introduced by Comrade Chon Kai, titled Lawan (Fight) �a translation from an Italy song, Bella Ciao. Then, our Deputy Chairperson comrade M.Saraswathy gave her opening speech. She welcomed the delegates and guests. As usual she was very energetic in her speech touching on various issues from food crisis to the Maoist victory in Nepal. This was followed by International solidarity messages from 18 Socialists Organizations in Asia and Europe. (A summary of the Solidarity messages will be released soon)

Comrade Nasir Hashim, the chairperson of the party officiated the congress after his opening address which praised the brave decision made by the Malaysian voters in the last election to bring changes He also spoke about Pakatan Rakyat- a coalition of opposition parties who won 5 states in the election, the rapid growth of socialism in Latin American, the overthrow of the monarch in Nepal and finally on capitalism which is destroying the world and the culprit for current food crisis, climate change and economic crisis.

His address was followed by responses from each branch, front and state delegates on his statement. Certain issues seem to dominate the debate this year especially on the victory of Pakatan Rakyat, PSM failure to get registered, the inspiring developments in Nepal.

Later in the evening, the Party’s Secretary General, Comrade Arutchelvan read out his report covering from Jun 2007 till May 2008. His review was remarkable. He described the year as being one of the most historical, horrifying, challenging and incredible. It is not only the 50th year of independence for the nation but also a turning point to Barisan Nasional who were defeated in 5 states on 8 March 2008 election. His speech addressed the controversial position taken by PSM especially on the 2 big gathering last yearà BERSIH and HINDRAF rally which raised serious conflict on the party’s principal stand because both actions seems to miss a point. The BERSIH rally in going to the King is seen as endorsement to feudal institution while the HINDRAF rally was an ethnic based mobilization. Both actions led to massive gathering of people in the street and made the party review its position on tactics and strategies. It led to a discussion on Socialism in 21st century to assess mobilizing strategy in view of dynamic changes in objective and subjective conditions. The party played key role in organizing several important rally last year such as Anti fuel hike which resulted in 18 leading party members arrested, a protest to defend freedom of assemble and the May day rally. The effort was applauded.

PSM Congress 2008

The Secretary General also discussed the difficult and painful experience in seat negotiation with opposition party especially with the DAP. The Party only asked for 4 seats but the arrogance and hostility shown by some opposition members was extremely hurting. They claim it is their traditional seat but we can also claim the same as those seats, once belonged to the socialist front! Anyway, after 44 years, Comrade Kumar won a Parliament seat in Sg. Siput while Comrade Nasir won the Kota Damansara state seat after 40 years. This would definitely help the party to grow but we will continue to face challenges from Barisan Nasional as well as Pakatan Rakyat since PSM does not a have registration and we have to use other party symbols. This is used by some of these parties to suppress PSM and its ideology. The Party since the election has a 400% increase of membership and four new full timers in the elected areas. We would continue to build the people’s power and the workers would definitely rule the country one day!

Beside the internal problems, The SG also addressed the issues of certain International Socialist groups in Europe who try to create splits here if they cannot convince the party to toe their line. However, he said, “we don’t let any international group to teach us how to do work in our homeland, we are willing to learn but we will not allow ourselves to be bullied”

Comrade Arul concluded his speech with 5 challenges in coming years:

  • Would Pakatan Rakyat sustain or would it able to take over Federal?
  • Would Badawi remain or would he be overthrown? Is there a possibility of racial riot or will BN declare emergency?
  • Food crisis and its impact to our economy and our workers
  • What would be the decision of Federal Court on registration of PSM and what if registration denied?
  • Would the ISA detainees be released?

The SG report was followed by our National Treasurer, Comrade Sivarajan. He took the opportunity to thank all supporters of PSM for their contributions. He said that the party also saved up some amount from the recent election. Our State Assemblyman and MP are also contributing part of their allowances for more full timers at branch level and one more person for head office. Anyway, several projects such as publication to print books and others had to be postponed because of financial constrains and more plans needed to remedy the problem.

PSM Congress 2008

The first day ended with a paper presentation by T. Rajamoorthy and Choo Chon Kai on Food Crisis and it’s Impact to Economy and People’s Movement. The crisis is there to stay for at least another 10 years and the cause of the crisis were outlined by both presenters e.g. drought situation, overwhelming industrialization compared to food production, increase in bio-fuels, climate change and crisis in stock exchange. Thus prices of food increased many folds. There are protest all over the world including in Haiti, Indonesia, Cameroon, Nigeria and Bangladesh. Millions of people will be facing hunger and death. Both presenters concluded that capitalism and its policies are the cause of the current economic crisis â�� basically capitalism is in crisis!

The solution recommended was equal distribution of food, more land for food farming, more land for small farmers/collective farming, diversity in food farming, reinstatement of the goal for food security, more organic farming as done by Socialist Cuba during food crisis in 1989 and ensure various subsidies are in place to keep the prices of food and basic essentials down. Chon Kai said that two great revolutions � The French revolution and Bolshevik Revolution was triggered because of food shortage. Will we get an opportunity to put an end to capitalism and the free market system!

PSM Congress 2008

The second day of the Congress was full of debate and healthy discussion on number of issues. It started of with presentation from Comrade Arul and Lee Ban Chen on whether the objective condition is mature enough for Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to take over power from BN and whether there is a need for PSM to form a third force. Comrade Ban Chen feels that PR is not ready to take over from BN who been ruling the country for ½ a decade using various manipulation and dirty tactics. Furthermore voters did not fully endorse the PR’s agenda for change. PR is a loose coalition without a strong foundation and lacks experience. Already the Federal Government sabotaging on financial and administrative matters. It is possible PR to win the people in next election if their current policies are pro-people. In terms of whether PSM should form a 3rd force or support the 2-party system â�� Lee Ban Chen is of view that PSM should first support PR to counter BN/UMNO and only at second stage fight for implementation of its own Program.

Meanwhile comrade Arutchelvan is of the opinion that now we are in a unique situation because 5 states are under PR vs. 7 states under BN, BN is in crisis, UMNO facing power struggle, Anwar talking about taking over power, food and fuel crisis are getting worse â�� so, it’s time to play active role in politics and not grumbling! As PR was a phenomenon created by the people, PSM must ally with the people to defend PR. He also shared same views as Ban Chen that PSM does not have the power to build a third force but have the power to empower the people to bring down BN. He suggested that PSM should work with PR on minimum program. But if PR allies with capitalist to go against the people, then PSM would stand with the people. The conclusion of both these papers were that PSM to support PR and work together under minimum program but at the same time start building the party and spread its influence.

The afternoon session was allocated to evaluate PSM program and its 5 Bureaus - National Network, Ideology, Party Registration, Propaganda and International.

PSM Congress 2008

The 3rd debate session was on how Socialist handles primary contradictions between Culture and Economic in Malaysia’s political context. Our comrades Ngo Jian Yee and Dr. Kumar presented the paper. This was perhaps the most challenging issue confronting the Malaysian left for the last few decades. It was the most challenging debate. Ngo argued that PSM should involve actively in the cultural struggle as it would bring the various ethnic group people together and indirectly weaken the BN hegemony who use race and religion to divide and rule. On the other hand, Dr. Kumar argued whether the mere existence of multifaceted and widespread ethnic discrimination automatically means that this becomes the primary contradiction? His viewpoint is that in this epoch of globalize capitalism, the primary contradiction is and will remain the tension between capital and ordinary masses â�� the class contradiction.

A workshop questions were given to our delegates to discuss in smaller groups to have their view on whether PSM is on the right track by not getting too involved in ethnic and religious based issues as well as on how to strengthen the struggle in relation to economic and cultural struggle. Unfortunately, after much discussion, the groups were not able to make a decision and the debate was postponed and would now be decided in the Party’s Internal SPD within the next one year.

Twenty motions were debated out of 35 motions tabled by the various branches and fronts. The motions were on party membership, election and program related issues e.g. inflation, food crisis, party newspaper, 1 % membership fee. The outcome were 7 motions were withdrawn, 2 rejected and rest passed. Some of the motions with highest number of votes passed were

  • Our socialist MP and assemblyman to visit all states in Malaysia to popularize the party and it’s program
  • Hire another full timer to handle party newspaper publication
  • To increase volume of party newspaper and it’s frequency
  • To form a coalition and lead a campaign against inflation and food crisis
  • To pressure the government to hold local council election
  • To organize HARTAL against draconian law âISA
  • Intensive campaign to get the party registered.

The 1% wage contribution to Party’s Central Committee was dropped after most members rejected this. This contribution is now not compulsory. During the vote, most Central Committee members supported the 1% but the members rejected it. As the Treasurer later said, this is Democratic Centralism and the party will respect the decision.

The day ended with another long discussion on how to increase the party membership without jeopardizing the quality. Comrade Rani and Kunasekaran presented their views. PSM member has increased 400% from 23 in 2003 to 250 in 2008. In last Congress, the party has loosen up its criteria to enable more people to join party and after national election, more people seem to be interested to join PSM. Would the party principle & ideological belief get diluted with open membership? There are clearly two trends among the members â�� one group who are ideologically clear and active while the other is not. Rani’s suggestion to this situation is to have 2 type of membership â�� voting member and ordinary member. While Sekar argued that the existing party mechanism, probation period is sufficient to ensure the quality of the members and that 2 type of membership will create more problem in future. Same question was put to the delegates in a workshop questions. It was yet another fierce debate which ended with members supporting not to have two type of membership but have asked the Central Committee to come out with a mechanism to only allow active members voting rights on party’s positions etc.

The 3rd and last day of the congress was less hectic. We went through the party line and several amendments were suggested to improvise the class characteristics of current industrial workers class, the fisherman, farmers, indigenous people and the lumpen proletariats. Party planning for next one year was drafted, followed by resolutions of the Congress. The delegates put forward 30 resolutions and some of them were:

  • Register PSM
  • The government must provide permanent land title to farmers
  • The government must enact Minimum Wage Law
  • Pakatan Rakyat must execute their election manifesto, abolish toll in its States.
  • The government must stop the National Service Program
  • The government must give automatic recognition to workers union
  • PSM is against the imperialist power clamping down the Socialist government of Venezuela and Bolivia and PSM is against capitalism.

The Congress ended with forceful speeches from our delegates and representatives. Once again our Secretary General reminded that in two weeks time, the federal Court would decide on PSM. It would be the final court decision but PSM cadres will defend the party whatever the outcome. It is abolition of classes, which can stop PSM not any capitalist court of law.

Dr. Kumar quoted Che, “Let’s be realistic and do the impossible”. When the idea to register a Socialist party was mooted around 15 years ago, most people said that it was not realistic and socialism was dead. Today PSM is alive, 60% of membership is below 40 years of age, the party’s membership has increased and more branches have been opened. We have done the impossible though denied registration in the last 10 years. Dr. Nasir summed in his closing remark, “I feel save today because we have created many more young socialist to lead the struggle forward”.

“Dunia baru kita dirikan… pasti jadi kenyataan”.

The world we are trying to create will definitely one day become a reality. A line from the Internationalle, which ended the 3 days Congress.

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