Wednesday, 29 April 2009

2009 CWI May Day Statement


We will not pay for the failure of the profit system!

Get organized - Resist! For fighting unions and mass workers' parties!

For international solidarity and socialism!

The Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) sends warm May Day greetings to workers, youth and the oppressed everywhere. Socialists, trade unionists and other activists celebrate May Day against the background of the worst crisis of capitalism since the 1930s. Following the near meltdown of the financial markets, the economic tsunami is now hitting the 'real economy'. The global economy is expected to decline by at least 1.3% in 2009. The biggest economies are shrinking dramatically, with Britain's to fall by over 4% this year and Japan's by over 6%. In the US, unemployment and house repossessions continue to climb steadily. Germany faces a huge 100bn euros loss in 2009, as its economy shrinks by 6%.

No part of the world can escape the deluge. Twenty years after the collapse of Stalinism and the illusions engendered in capitalism, the market economy has failed spectacularly in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, cruelly throwing millions into poverty overnight.

In Asia, Africa and Latin America already barbarous 'living' conditions are made even worse, as the effects of the world economic recession hits the poorest parts of the globe. Even before the onset of the recession, at least 80% of humanity lived on less than $10 a day and 25,000 children die due to poverty, every day. Just look at the situation in 'oil-rich' Nigeria, which has the largest population on the African continent. The UN reported that in 1996 the poverty rate in Nigeria was 46%, but that by February 2009 it had sky-rocketed to 76 %. The Nigerian government's Bureau of Statistics states that 40 million Nigerians are unemployed, which is a 65% unemployment rate among employable Nigerians.

These sorts of grotesque figures will increase as the already meagre 'aid' from the West is squeezed further by the economic downturn and as the bosses try to offload the crisis of their system onto the poorest people. The IMF is busy enforcing 'austerity packages' - meaning huge social spending cuts - from Iceland and the Baltic states to Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa. The profit-led system means endemic poverty, joblessness, environmental destruction, wars, and the spread of preventable diseases. Even big sections of the middle classes face sackings and plummeting living standards.

The working class and poor of the world are being made to pay for the catastrophic breakdown of the capitalist system. Huge government bail-outs have "socialized the costs" while "privatizing the profits". Many millions of workers face severe social welfare cuts, mass unemployment, lower wages, higher taxes and house repossessions. Young people, particularly school leavers, are amongst the hardest by the crisis, with youth unemployment already standing at nearly 24% in Australia.

The global crisis has led to a sharpening of tensions between powers, at world and regional level, and a ferocious struggle over profits and influence. This can provoke more regional conflicts, as we saw last year in the short but bloody war between Georgia and Russia. Just as the situation in Iraq is becoming more violent and unstable ahead of a US "pull-out", Western imperialism is bogged down in the unwinnable war in Afghanistan, which is spilling over into Pakistan and threatening eventual all-out civil war and even the country's bloody break-up.

More than ever, socialists, trade unionists, anti-capitalists, students, environmental activists, anti-war campaigners and others need to unite and resist the bosses' attacks and imperialism, and to struggle for a better world.

Socialist policies needed for the workers' movement

The CWI calls for the workers' movement everywhere to urgently fight for decisive measures to guarantee jobs, a living wage, decent homes and for free education and health. The CWI fights for the immediate needs of working people and the poor along with arguing for the building of socialist movements that can transform society. Pro-capitalist governments carry out 'nationalisations' of banks and other industries at the cost of working people, with the intention that the same institutions can be later privatized. We call for socialist nationalizations, which would see big banks and the key industries brought under the democratic control and management of working people, for the benefit of the majority in society.

The crisis of capitalism is shaking up the consciousness of the masses everywhere. Many workers and youth were initially be stunned by the speed and savagery of the crisis. Many others will have no choice but to resist the onslaught against their jobs and living conditions. And as the crisis prolongs, many more sections of working class will reach the conclusion they must fight to defend their basic living standards. The struggle to defend democratic rights also takes on new importance everywhere. The capitalist state, often under the guise of "anti-terrorism legislation", uses repressive measures against an array of protesters, from anti-capitalists and environmental activists, and increasingly against the organized workers' movement.

The masses will seek an alternative to the parties of crisis capitalism, including in the US, where big illusions, or desperate hopes, currently exist in Obama personally. But Obama's policies are dictated by the interests of the big corporations and US imperialism. The huge stimulus package has not turned around the US economy, bail-outs for the rich are highly unpopular, unemployment and house repossessions climb steadily and more US troops are sent to die in the war in Afghanistan.

As working people get organized and fight-back, they will search for a way out of the crisis; for alternative ideas. The politicians are desperately trying to solely lay blame for the crisis on the heads of big banks and financial institutions and talk about 'regulation' to prevent more crises. But the heart of the problem lies in the very nature of the capitalist system. The world economic crisis vindicates the ideas of Karl Marx – that capitalism is an irrational, chaotic and hugely wasteful system, of booms and slumps, with devastating consequences for working people. We face not just one but many crises. A default on their debts by two or three East European or Latin American states, for example, could trigger the next big shocks, with global repercussions.

"The day has passed for patching up the capitalist system; it must go", wrote the great Irish Marxist James Connolly, nearly 100 years ago, and his words are more relevant than ever. The only way to permanently overcome the crisis facing humankind is by abolishing capitalism and landlordism. The task of the socialist transformation of society is to bring the big monopolies, the banks and the financial institutions into public ownership and to work out a democratic plan for the production and redistribution of wealth on a national and international scale. A planned economy, run and controlled democratically by working people, will make it possible to develop the productive forces in harmony with the environment. Only a socialist organisation of production and distribution can assure humanity a decent standard of life and end oppression and exploitation.

Strikes and factory occupations

Working people are starting to fight-back. In late 2008 and in the first part of 2009, magnificent mass demonstrations and general strikes against attacks on working and living conditions took place in Ireland, Greece, France, Italy and Portugal, and other parts of Western and Southern Europe. Mass street protests erupted against corrupt, pro-market regimes in the Baltic States and strikes are on the rise in Russia. As well as this, factory occupations occurred in the US, Ireland, Britain and the Ukraine. Huge pressure is growing in the workplaces for industrial action, from Austria to Nigeria. 'Boss-napping' is breaking out all across France, as well as widespread defensive workers' struggles, including at the Toyota car plant. School and higher education students and youth are also taking action, including in Spain and France, where some colleges and universities shut down for months. Youth are clearly showing they are willing to resist efforts to off-load capitalism's economic disaster onto the heads of their generation.

All these struggles are just a taste of what is to come. To be successful, however, mass struggles need conscious class direction and leadership. In many cases, the bureaucratic, right wing union leaders only want to divert and dissipate workers' anger. The transformation of unions into fighting, democratic organizations is a vital goal for the working class. In many parts of the world, a first step is the creation of genuinely independent organizations of the working class, including unions.

In recent years, new organizations of the Left started to develop as the former workers' parties transformed into purely capitalist entities. The NPA ('anti-capitalist party') was formally founded in France, earlier this year, and has won credible poll ratings, despite the limits of its programme. Unfortunately many of the new formations have failed to seriously champion struggles of the poor and working class or put forward clear socialist policies. A result has been that they have not taken off or have gained some electoral successes only to later fall in the polls. The leadership of the Left Party in Germany turned to the right just at a time when real socialist ideas can gain much wider popularity. The broad left alliance, SYRIZA, in Greece, has fallen in the polls as a right wing section of its leadership makes clear it wants to enter a coalition with the right wing social democratic PASOK.

Despite the setbacks concerning some of the new left formations, new broad parties of the working class will inevitably arise, at some stage, due to the deep capitalist crisis and workers' mass struggles. The 'No to EU – Yes to Democracy' EU electoral alliance in Britain, which was initiated by the militant transport workers union, the RMT, and which involves the Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales), is an important step forward.

For new left formations and parties to succeed, they must adopt fighting socialist policies and be open and democratic organizations.

Danger of racism and reactionary populism

The dramatic failure of the market economy means there will be huge opportunities to build mighty class organizations and to massively increase support for the ideas of socialism and Marxism. However, due to the lack of a strong left alternative, the political vacuum can be partially filled by other ideas and forces.

Sections of the most alienated and frustrated youth can increasingly turn to rioting, as we saw during the movement of Greek youth at the end of 2008. Small sections of youth can even look towards individual terrorism to 'hit back' against the system and oppressive state. But these false methods are a deadly cul-de-sac for youth and counter-productive to the interests of the working class. Only the organized working class, armed with socialist policies, can fundamentally change society.

Racist and reactionary populist ideas and movements can also grow. The anti-immigrant political movement based around Geert Wilders 'Party of Freedom' in the Netherlands, is leading in the polls for June's EU elections, ahead of governing parties and official opposition. The far right BNP could pick up seats in Britain in the same elections. This reflects deep hatred of the main pro-market parties by a disillusioned section of the population. The workers' movement must actively counter the far right threat and campaign against all forms of discrimination and racism; for workers' unity against the real enemy – the bosses and their profit system. This must be linked to a united campaign for jobs for all, a living wage, decent and affordable housing and fully funded public services.

On this May Day, the CWI sends solidarity greetings to all those resisting oppression, discrimination and injustice. We salute the United Socialist Party (CWI Sri Lanka), which opposes the slaughter of many innocents as the Sri Lankan army closes in on the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) with bloody consequences. The USP courageously calls for Sinhalese and Tamil workers' unity in the teeth of vicious chauvinism. We also salute the courageous CWI comrades in Pakistan, who have helped build important unions in a country under the domination of corrupt, reactionary elites and meddling imperialism, and which is wracked by reactionary political Islamist terrorism. In the teeth of right wing nationalism, the CWI in Israel campaigned against the Israeli army's slaughter in Gaza at the start of 2009.

May Day is also an occasion to remember and to learn from past workers' struggles. This year, we commemorate the 90th anniversary of the deaths of the immortal leaders of the German revolution, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, murdered with the connivance of right wing social democratic leaders. If the German revolution had succeeded, ushering in a socialist transformation of one of the major advanced capitalist countries, it would have broken the isolation of the young Soviet Union, the first workers' state, and acted as a huge spur to world socialist revolution.

The German revolution showed the power and role of the working class, but also the need for a clear programme, strategy and leadership, if capitalism is to be overthrown. Similarly, the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution shows the huge potential the working class had to transform society on socialist lines but a lack of a clear sighted leadership saw the revolution cruelly diverted and strangled by the rule of the reactionary Mullahs. Today huge discontent is building under the surface of Iranian society, presaging future revolutionary movements. Elsewhere in the Middle East, working people and youth are taking more independent class action, as indicated by the surge in strikes and workers' protests in Egypt over the last few months and by recent strikes in Lebanon. This points the way forward for the masses of the Middle East – united, independent class action to overthrow the despotic Arab regimes, to expel imperialism and to bring about genuine self-determination for Palestinians and other oppressed peoples.

Socialism back on the agenda

The worldwide crisis of capitalism will put the issue of socialism back on the agenda. In Latin America a number of radical populist or left-leaning leaders have been elected to power. While some welcome reforms have been gained by the working masses and the poor in countries like Bolivia and Venezuela, fundamental social change will not come simply through individual leaders but from mass action from below. To successfully overthrow capitalism and landlordism, and establish genuine workers' and peasants' democracy, mass parties of the working class, armed with bold socialist policies, are needed.

Compared to the Bush years, Obama's administration is taking a more sophisticated approach to Latin America and making even making overtures to Cuba. But the overriding aim of US imperialism is to stop the spread of radical, socialist ideas throughout the continent, to safely see off or to defeat the movements in Venezuela, Bolivia and elsewhere, and to restore capitalism in Cuba. The only way to safeguard and to extend the social gains of the Cuban revolution, whose 50th anniversary we also mark this year, is by opposing all attempts at capitalist restoration, introducing workers' democracy and the democratic control and management of the economy by the working class, and by calling for the support of the international working class.

The world crisis of capitalism and the resulting deep sense of volatility and uncertainty have already led to a big increase in young people and workers turning to the works of Marx and Engels. As the crisis deepens and prolongs, and as working people look for an alternative to the bankrupt system and its bankrupt ideology, genuine socialism and Marxism will find a greater response. More sections of the poor and oppressed will conclude that that capitalism is a rotten, barbarous system that must be overthrown and that the global profit system must be resisted by the international solidarity and collaboration of the working class and oppressed. From Marx and Engels, youth will look to the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky and other great Marxist thinkers and leaders. Over the next period of tumultuous events, these ideas can become the property of the masses, in country after country. Capitalism, on a global scale, can at last be replaced with a genuine socialist society, where the world's enormous wealth and resources are used for the benefit of humanity.

29 April 2009


Saturday, 18 April 2009


Malaysia's sixth Prime Minister, Najib Razak, took office on 3rd April from his predecessor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, after he was elected as UMNO president. This transition took effect under immense pressure within UMNO (United Malay Nationalist Organization), the dominant party of the Barisan Nasional (National Front) government. This is a desperate attempt to save UMNO and BN from the tainted and weakened position since the humiliating defeat in the last General Election (March 2008). However, this power transition does not bode well amongst many ordinary people who have become disgusted with racial politics and cronyism that only benefits BN politicians and the capitalist class. With the weakening economy and emboldened oppositions, this could lead to the fall of UMNO/BN who has had political domination since independence in 1957.

5 years Abdullah as PM

When Abdullah took over the premiership from Mahathir Mohamad in 2003, he promised reforms to strengthen democracy, weed out corruption and make governance transparent and accountable, with the motto "work with me and not for me". After more than 20 years of an autocratic regime and the neo-liberal attacks of Mahathir, Abdullah's promises of reform swept the BN to an extraordinary electoral victory in the 2004 General Election. But the overwhelming public support for his reform agenda soon turned to frustration and anger when ordinary people could not see much of the change that was assured to them, though Abdullah allowed a bit more freedom of expression than had Mahathir.

Abdullah was considered as a 'clean' man but he failed to even clean some of the corrupted government machinery, such as the police and judiciary. He has also been powerless in confronting the profit system of capitalism to raise the living standards of the working class and most of the time he favours the needs of the capitalist class. Instead, his laissez-faire leadership had succumbed to the demands of his party apparatchiks to follow the status quo set by his predecessors. The working class and poor, who suffered under Mahathir's autocratic regime, are discontented that Abdullah seems incapable of challenging 'Mahathirism'. This has shattered their hopes for change.

The people's frustration and anger towards UMNO and BN broadened when racial hypocrisy and the wealth disparity between rich and poor became more serious. They also realised that the UMNO/BN hegemony has meant the abandonment of the rights and the needs of ordinary people and they must be "taught a lesson". This anger amongst people, regardless of race, particularly in West Malaysia was translated into protest votes against the UMNO and BN to generate the 'political tsunami' of 8th March 2008. This resulted in unprecedented losses to the ruling government of BN – the biggest in 50 years. The BN lost its two-thirds majority and five state governments to the opposition coalition, the Pakatan Rakyat, although the BN has remained as the government of the day.

With the set-back, UMNO leaders fear that the dire straits the party is in could lead to total defeat in the next general election, due before 2013, if it is not revitalized with "strong leadership". Consequently, the crushing blow ended Abdullah's tenure as he was forced into early retirement, despite his efforts to cling on.

Mahathir also played a part in ousting Abdullah by blaming his policies for ruining the UMNO but ironically it was during Mahathir's tenure that the UMNO had been thrown into patronage and money politics. Meanwhile, Najib is considered a close ally of Mahathir and now Mahathir has vowed to assist Najib to regain the "past glory" of UMNO, in other words to solidify 'Mahathirism'.

Najib's tarnished image

Paradoxically, even before taking power, Najib had been under a cloud of allegations, including ones linking him to a murder case and another one on corruption. Many also believe that Najib has also played a key role in the 'power coup' in the state of Perak, where three assemblymen of Pakatan were lured to support the BN. Pakatan won the state of Perak in the last General Election but with the exodus of their 3 assemblymen, with the support of Sultan of Perak, BN hurriedly formed the government in the state.

Although Najib denied all these allegations, this has somehow undermined the public perception of him. This is the first time a Prime Minister of Malaysia has been deemed to have such a very low public profile as soon as taking power.

However, in order to amplify his leadership credibility, Najib, in his maiden speech, put his direction: "One Malaysia, People First, Performance Now". With the diminishing public support, Najib knows there is no honeymoon period for him and he desperately needed something positive to boost his standing. He immediately took action to release 13 ISA detainees and to lift a temporary ban on two opposition parties' newspapers. Such attempts to gain political impetus are not new to Malaysian politics. When Mahathir and Abdullah took power they also staged similar stunts with slogans and rhetoric of reforms. Since people had experienced enough with such empty rhetoric and slogans during the era of Mahathir and Abdullah, Najib's attempts, with his low standing, didn't augur well amongst most ordinary people.

Weakening UMNO/BN

With the power transition, the UMNO desperately hoped that with the new leadership, the BN would be rejuvenated to "turn back the clock and bring back past glory" of the time when they ruled the country with the mighty support of the electorate. But this hope was dashed when the BN could not win the recently held by-election of Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau in West Malaysia, viewed as a referendum on Najib. This indicates that the appointment of Najib as Prime Minister had no great impact on the general public as with the great euphoria when Abdullah took over from Mahathir in 2003.

Many political analysts are also foreseeing that the UMNO/BN would enter the last period of their demise if unwilling to change - 'change or perish' - with the new political landscape since the last general election, the strengthened opposition and embolden electorate.

But as Zainah Anwar, The Star political analyst put it, "For as long as the government continues to play Santa Claus to keep UMNO members happy, there will be no end to money politics and corruption in the party. This is the big running sore that is poisoning UMNO". Will Najib rock the boat to change the tainted UMNO? As Zainah continues, "Who within UMNO dares to sink the gravy boat? Obviously, if the new President does not also embark on this big party clean up, the discontent between UMNO and the rakyat will be prolonged".

In this tainted and weakened position, if UMNO/BN could not be revamped, as a veteran politician advised Najib, "Do what your father did. If the BN has become useless, then you have to throw it away". He was referring to the decision by Najib's father, Abdul Razak Hussein, to revamp the Alliance coalition into Barisan Nasional in 1973 by influencing some of the opposition parties such as PAS, GERAKAN and PPP into its fold, making it more popular among the voters. At that time, this attempt was to counter Left leaning support among non-Malays and the growing support of the Islamic Party among rural Malays.

Since the General Election, the opposition parties, with different beliefs and approaches, are rallying behind Anwar Ibrahim under the banner of Pakatan Rakyat (People Coalition). With the increasing popularity of Anwar and his prominence amongst international capitalists, there are more possibilities of some ruling parties joining the PR if the UMNO/BN is further weakened.

Meanwhile Najib will try to disintegrate the Pakatan Rakyat in order to strengthen the BN. If conflict erupts among Opposition parties, in the name of strengthening Malay or Islam supremacy, the PAS could join the BN, as indicated by some PAS leaders few months ago.

But at this stage the UMNO/BN has become saturated with crony capitalism, compared to its characteristics in 1970. If the BN were restructured, this means crony capitalism, which is its main attractive point, would disintegrate. The careerist politicians and members of the UMNO/BN will not easily allow this link to be lost.

Crony capitalism

The UMNO at present is merely a patronage machine and we could trace the emergence of this culture, since the inception of the New Economy Policy (NEP) in 1971 by Najib's father, Abdul Razak, who was the second Prime Minister at that time. Initially the NEP was intended to eradicate poverty among rural Malays but later was used as a tool to sustain the support of Malays towards the UMNO by making it "a circle of goodies in return for support".

Full-blown crony capitalism occurred in the Mahathir era, between 1981 and 2003. During his tenure, the formation of a 'party-state' was realized through the notion of "Malaysia Incorporated", very similar to what was practiced in Taiwan. In the 1980s, with the massive development of heavy industries and widespread privatization of state enterprises, Mahathir used the NEP to develop and strengthen the position of the Malay capitalist class and this further fortified the patronage culture among UMNO members. There are also linkages established to noted business tycoons, many of whom engaged in 'rent-seeking' enterprises. One statistic shows that the UMNO and UMNO-related individuals were said to hold directorships in more than 100 companies with assets valued at RM4 billion by 1990.

At present, for many, the UMNO is merely a passport to personal wealth accumulation and to gain lucrative positions. This has deeply brought the party into money politics, systemic corruption, 'rent-seeking' behavior and entrenched patronage. The other BN component parties such as MCA, MIC and others, have also emulated the patronage culture of the UMNO to entice the support of their respective race, in another words, 'divide and rule' the different races to maintain the power.

Emboldened opposition

On the other hand, more and more working class and poor, regardless of race, have become conscious that the cronies of the UMNO/ BN have been reaping the profits generated by the 'labour' of the working class. Because of the unscrupulous acts of these capitalist parties, the working class and the poor have been left out of gaining proper benefits from the abundant wealth and rapid development of the country. Many have come to the conclusion that they need to change the status quo. Since there is no mass party of the working class, they are turning their support towards Pakatan Rakyat.

Based on results of by-elections since the general election, the PR, with the leadership of Anwar Ibrahim, has been increasing its support, particularly in West Malaysia. The recently held by-election in Batang Ai, which the BN won, showed that it still has the upper hand in the politics in Sarawak and Sabah (East Malaysia). But disgruntled feelings amongst people in these states, against the BN policies, are growing and could favour the PR if some of the reforms promised by the BN in these states do not come to fruition.

The PR could also take advantage of the internal conflicts between the Najib and Abdullah factions in UMNO. The growing purge of Abdullah people from the party leadership has angered supporters of Abdullah. If the conflicts worsen, this might end-up with the exodus of Abdullah supporters to the PR camp.

Deteriorating economy

However, there are still many who are not convinced by the politics of the PR, with their pro-capitalist agenda. These fence-sitters are concerned more about the economy and their living standards than the politics of these parties. Therefore, at this stage the future of the UMNO/BN rule very much depends on the performance of the country's economy.

As an economist of the United Overseas Bank said, "Asia yet to see the worst…it's just a matter of time because we are still in early stages of crisis". The future of the economy in every corner of the world looks gloomy and uncertain. Even in this early stage, in Malaysia, many working class people, as well as the middle class, have suffered the pinch of the global economic meltdown. So far, almost 30,000 jobs have been lost, mainly in the manufacturing and electronics sectors, since January. Even the capitalists' club, the MEF (Malaysian Employee Federation) predicted that by the end of the year, 400,000 workers could be made redundant. Export fell by almost 30% year-on-year in January as a result of the reduced demands from the US, Europe, China, Japan and Singapore. It's expected that the economy will contract 2.5% in the first quarter and by 4% in the second and third quarters.

The reform agenda of Najib and his "team for change" could be further undermined by the gloomy outlook of the economy. The export-orientated economy of Malaysia is very vulnerable to global economic circumstances and the government has totally lost control. However, with the worsening economy, in order to save the national capitalists, Najib could be forced to use the similar protectionist measures that Mahathir implemented during the 1997 financial crisis.

In worsening circumstances, with declining support from the ordinary people and increasing conflicts in the UMNO, the PR with the support of some national and international capitalists, could take advantage and form the government.

Nevertheless, with its 50 years hegemony and its crony capitalism, the BN won't accede to defeat with ease. At the same time, many expect that Najib could use the deteriorating economic outlook of country and the growing internal conflict in the UMNO as a pretext for reverting to Mahathir-style repression. This means that the BN could exploit every possible way to be in power, including undermining and using repressive measures against the PR leaders and the opposition forces. In worsening circumstances, this might lead to the re-emergence of the 'reformasi' movement, which could be on a bigger scale than in 1998.

Capitalism in crisis

The capitalist system has been groomed by the UMNO/BN since independence and reached a high point during Mahathir's era. Many young people, workers, peasants, students and others, particularly in West Malaysia, that have been oppressed, have come to the view that the UMNO/BN has become saturated with a profit-orientated mentality and is incapable of preserving and fulfilling their fundamental rights and needs.

This shows that the capitalist system, supported by the UMNO/BN government, aims to merely assist the national and international capitalists to maximize profits and, at the same time, act as a conduit to fulfill the unscrupulous desires of their leaders and members for power and luxury. With these characters, they are not going to fulfill the fundamental needs of the working class, young people and others that are oppressed by the system. Abdullah, the 'clean' man, failed to carry out reforms that he himself promised when he took power, because he was powerless in confronting and challenging the corrupted system of capitalism.

Although the PR is talking about reforms and democratic rights it is unwilling to challenge the system of capitalism. In fact, Anwar, when part of UMNO, was a disciple of neo-liberalism, trained in the Chicago School.
They are simply proposing to make free market capitalism 'nicer' by reducing corruption and increasing transparency. This, in reality, is the demand of international capitalists to further conquer the investment/business opportunities and local resources from the national capitalists. And the national capitalists are using the crony capitalism of the UMNO/BN to safeguard their profit-orientated desire not to be subjugated by multinationals.

The PR governments in states like Selangor and Penang are powerless when the multinational corporations make workers redundant. They could not even confront the cheap labour policies and the repressive labour and union laws that exploit the workers. Moreover, they have no clear programme to safeguard or preserve the rights of the working class if the PR manages to take over the country.

Under capitalism, certain democratic rights or reforms could be won under pressure from mass movements. If the PR manages to take power, there is possibility that they could concede some reforms and democratic rights under the pressure of working people demanding change.

But the export-orientated economy of Malaysia is subordinate to global capitalism, which means Malaysia has to succumb to the needs of global capitalism. In that case international capitalists are always more powerful than the government itself and most of the time the government has to accede to these multinationals' demands and the needs to maximize profits. That is why we have cheap labour policies, no minimum wage, no union rights etc that suppress the living standards of the working class and the poor.

Consequently, regardless of how sincere the government is or how clean the leaders are, if they are pro-capitalism, they would succumb to the demands of the system. This is to appease the capitalists for their investment and business activities. In that case, some democratic rights or reforms that are gained at certain periods could be clawed back if they undermine the profit system of capitalism. Therefore the struggle for democratic rights must come together with the struggle against the capitalism.

Socialism - the future

Capitalism in the world is in severe crisis and it will be the working class and poor who will be called upon to pay the price. With the pro-capitalist agenda, the BN and the PR are not representing the class interests of the working class and they have no answers to the economic crisis and workers' concern other than to save the free market capitalism with their reform agenda.

The capitalist system offers no way forward for the working class, poor and others that are affected by the system. It is also devastating for our environment. As an alternative we need to build a socialist society that prioritizes the fundamental needs of the society nationally and globally by democratic planning.

Therefore, besides fighting for democratic rights, the working class and poor of Malaysia, with the support of peasants, the middle class and students, has a huge task to build a mass party that clearly counters the destructive character of the capitalist system and at the same time puts forward a socialist programme. This is the time to build this alternative, the working class alternative for our future.

Ravichandren, 18/4/2009

Thursday, 16 April 2009


Export-driven economy shrinks

Singapore was once regarded as a 'Tiger economy' along with other countries in Asia when referring to its robust and unperturbed economic growth. Its economic success, with a per capita income of over US$24,000, was attributed to its free market capitalism, with about three-quarters of its income coming from external trade and investments.

The PAP (People Action Party), which has ruled Singapore since it became a nation state in 1965, has developed this tiny country to be a favourable business island for the free market, by imposing some measure of state capitalism. This was accompanied by its pro-business policies and neo-liberalism which has subjugated workers' rights and independent trades union, as well as other fundamental democratic rights.

In a recent interview in the CNBC, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong related that the country's role in the global economy: "We are part of the world economy. We make chips, we make pharmaceuticals, we make petrochemicals. We consume maybe one percent of what we make of these things. Probably less …We are making for the world. We buy from the world, for the world... that's how we prosper."

Now with the vulnerability of the same free market system, Singapore, the richest country in Southeast Asia, is forecast to slip into its worst recession this year, with the economy likely to shrink by up to 5%, perhaps as much as 10% if exports continue to fall sharply. Previously, the worst recession since 1965 was in 2001, when the economy contracted 2.4%.

World demand for Singapore's exports declining rapidly

Singapore's manufacturing output contracted by 22.4% in February. The key electronics cluster continued to be weak, recording a 37.3% drop in production on-year. Numbers do not look healthy for the biomedical sector either, with pharmaceuticals posting a 29.4% decline. Tourist arrivals see the worst on-year drop in 6 years, down over 15% in February. These figures show that Singapore is a heavily export dependent economy with the US, Europe and China as its main export countries and under the current unprecedented global economic impacts, the demand from these countries is declining at a rapid pace.

For the first time ever, Singapore has to use its trillions of dollars in foreign reserves to help fund a US$13.7 billion 'Resilience Package' announced in the budget in January. However, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a BBC interview that these measures will "help companies to remain viable but we must understand that what we can do is to buffer the impact…you must wait for the storm to pass". Meanwhile, the still influential Prime Minister's father, Lee Kuan Yew, who is also a mentor minister, predicted that the 'storm' may take up to "two to three years" at the optimistic scenario but "at the worst, four, five, six years…" to recover.

Moreover, the government's investment arm, Temasek, which has invested heavily in overseas and in government-owned enterprises, such as the telecom giant SingTel, Singapore Airlines, DBS Bank Keppel Corporation and Semb-Corp, gains a large portion of its income from overseas operations. Their share prices and overseas income have plummeted.

The biggest impact of the recession is the escalating job losses that have become a national dilemma affecting all from the migrant workers to professionals.

Migrant workers first to be sacked and forced home

Singapore, which has no natural resources, depends mainly on shipyard, construction and manufacturing industries. When these industries were going well in 2007, almost 800,000 migrant workers were hired for cheap labour. But as the economy plummeted into recession last year, demand for labour dropped and major projects were cancelled or delayed. Many migrant workers from Malaysia, Bangladesh and others are the first to be sacked and forced back home. Last month, some 60 unemployed Bangladeshi migrant workers assembled in front of Singapore's Ministry of Manpower, demanding work and unpaid wages from previous employers. One of them, Rahman, who gave up his farming job in Bangladesh and took a loan of S$7000 from money lenders back home to pay an agent fee to work in Singapore, said: "We take loan, we cannot pay, we die". The lives of most of the migrant workers, who have come to work in metropolitan Singapore for better wages to support their families in their home country, are now in jeopardy.

This recession is not only affecting the exploited migrant workers but also some of the local workers or even professionals that have enjoyed high living standards over the years. Before the recession, a local married couple with higher education degrees and 3 years working experience could earn a combined S$7,000 to S$8,000 a month. Since the recession, thousands have become unemployed and many are working with reduced wages (working shorter weeks or taking pay cuts).

Degree and diploma holders form the biggest number of redundant local workers in Singapore, in which half of those sacked in the last quarter of 2008 were professionals, managers, executives and technicians. Graduates make up half the number of the new jobless and according to government figures unemployed graduates more than doubled to 14,800 in December 2008 (from 6,200 in 2007). It is also expected that 17,000 youths will be graduating this year from local universities and some 8,000 to 10,000 more from foreign institutions. In a survey of 100 graduating students, conducted by a local newspaper, more than half said "they were afraid of heading into the real world".

Recently a local newspaper reported that up to 66,000 Singapore civil servants could face a cut in their salaries this year, as a result of the economic slowdown. Meanwhile, to cut costs, the government linked companies, such as Singapore Airlines, are planning to lay off thousands of workers.

The government, in its stimulus package, has allocated large sums of money for retraining redundant workers for possible future jobs, which could be in areas different to those they have worked in before, but this will not be attractive to many semi-skilled and skilled workers or to the many retrenched professionals.

Recession and social and political conflict

Singapore has a population of 4.84 million, including about a million foreigners. According to Credit Suisse, if the recession persists at least for the next two years, it may force the exit of 200,000 unemployed foreign workers and around 100,000 locals. This could be another problem for the already declining consumption in the domestic market and it is against the government's policy to further enlarge its population to maintain its skilled manpower. The high living standard enjoyed by Singaporeans could be in peril if this recession persists and this could possibly lead to social and political conflict.

Some commentators even suggest that Singapore should shift away from its export-driven economic development model to survive the deep recession. But this seems impossible given the nature of the country and the present character of global capitalism.

Singapore, as a small country and without natural resources, has to be dependent on the global market for its economic survival. This is because the means of production are controlled by national and multinational companies and their activities are linked to global capitalism to make exorbitant profits. The rapacious nature of this profit-orientated system has exposed the vulnerability of an export-dependent country like Singapore to the anarchy of global capitalism.

The consequences caused by this crisis of capitalism are now being loaded onto the shoulders of the working and middle class. As long as the production is not planned according to the needs of the society, this crisis will be repeated. The creator of the wealth, the working class, should play a leading role, with the support of the middle class and the oppressed, changing this profit-based system to a democratic socialist planned economy to fulfill the needs of society.

16 April 2009

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Neither major party has solution for working and poor people

A temporary calm has returned to the streets of Bangkok and other cities of Thailand. On Tuesday, protest leader Prateep Ungsongtham Hata told the AFP news agency: "We held talks among the leaders since last night and have agreed that we will disperse our protesters for a while."

For a few days, pitched battles were fought on the streets of Bangkok, with the army using tanks and live ammunition against thousands of red-shirted young protesters. Buses were driven straight at police lines. Buildings, cars and tyres were set on fire. Two deaths and 100 or so serious injuries resulted. The prime minister's car was attacked and armoured cars demobilised by angry crowds.

The aim of the 'Reds' is to oust Abhisit Vejjajiva - the fourth prime minister of Thailand in 15 months - and bring back the multi-billionaire, Thaksin Shinawatra. (Thaksin's government was overthrown by a military coup in 2006).

On 11 April, apparently unhindered, his supporters invaded and occupied the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel in Pattaya, forcing 16 Asian heads of state holding a summit there to leave from the roof by helicopter. A state of emergency was declared and blue-shirted paramilitaries deployed. Protesters in Bangkok, stormed the Interior Ministry and occupied the area around the government buildings in the centre of the capital. Their party is known as the 'United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship'.

Only towards the end of last year it was the yellow-clad supporters of Abhisit who had laid siege to Government House for two months and then invaded and occupied two airports until the government sympathetic to Thaksin was ruled illegal. That time there had been little or no interference from the army whose leaders sided with the 'yellows'. On December 12th , Abhisit's party – the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) – had 'won over' enough pro-Thaksin parliamentarians to form a government (Some say it was money, others that it was threats from the military behind the scenes.)

PAD – based predominantly on the urban middle and some sections of the working class – stood for more and not less involvement of the monarchy and the army in government, with 70% of representatives unelected. Thaksin's support comes mainly from the vast number of poor farmers in the countryside who benefitted from his populist measures. At the same time, he carried out neo-liberal policies to appease the investors and the business class, which angered workers in the urban areas.

50,000 rallied at the time of the government crisis last year but their leader is still absent in Dubai, having been sentenced to serve two years in jail on 'conflict of interest' charges. Not surprising then is the latest call to his supporters of 12 April: "Now that they have tanks on the streets, it is time for the people to come out in revolution!" After its victory he aims to make a triumphal return.

If the plight of the poverty-stricken people of Thailand was not so tragic, and some of their number had not now lost their lives, the events of the last few days would appear comical. In fact, in the context of Thailand's economy being one of the worst hit by the global capitalist crisis, it is a tragedy that neither of the major parties has a programme of measures to pull them out of dire poverty and constant anguish.

This is what lies behind the anger and hatred displayed on the streets by predominantly young people, but no socialist force exists to channel it against the ruling elite. Some who ardently support the campaign for democracy, are not happy with the 'leadership' of Thaksin. The populist demagogy of capitalist forces on either side can only succeed because of the vacuum on the left and will be found wanting, sooner or later, by the mass of Thai workers and poor.

The cancelled summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) plus China, Japan, South Korea, India and New Zealand was due to seek remedies to the region's battered economies. On a capitalist basis, they would have had no solutions.

What is happening in Thailand, a country that has seen a total of 18 military coups since the 1930s, is an indication of the political turmoil and instability that can be repeated on an even greater scale in other countries in Asia (and elsewhere) as they are hit by the present crisis. It brings home the grave urgency of building mass parties of workers and poor people and of fighting for a socialist transformation of society, in Asia and internationally.

Clare Doyle, CWI

14 April 2009

Monday, 13 April 2009


Campaign to end the war and fight for democracy in Sri Lanka


There is ferment among Tamil-speaking people around the world over the slaughter taking place in the north of Sri Lanka. Over 3,000 people have died already in recent weeks. Nearly 200,000 Tamil people are still trapped in the warzone. The Rajapakse government refuses to cooperate in a ceasefire to evacuate them. All critics of the government are silenced. SST is an international campaign to demand an end to this slaughter and to fight for democratic and trade union rights in Sri Lanka.

The demands of the campaign are:

 1. Stop the war! For an immediate end to the military operations in Sri Lanka; withdrawal of the army from all Tamil areas; stop the disappearances.

2. No to detention camps! Immediately provide for the Tamil people's basic needs of food, shelter, health, under the control of their own elected representatives.

3. Not a rupee, not a bullet for the war-mongering Rajapakse regime! An immediate end to military and commercial support for Sri Lanka by western imperialism and by India, China, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, Japan and other countries. For workers' action against their involvement and cooperation; workers' boycott of arms shipments.

4. Democratic rights for all throughout Sri Lanka! Freedom of speech, freedom of the press and media, trade union rights for all workers including in the Free Trade Zones, freedom of association and the right to free and fair elections, the right of all to vote without interference, for all party to organise and stand in elections who accept equal rights for all, regardless of nationality, religion, caste and sex.  

5. Full support for building united trade unions in Sri Lanka, for press freedom campaigns and for the work of bodies like the Civil Monitoring Committee investigating kidnappings and extra-judicial murders in Sri Lanka. 

6. Defend the right to self-determination! Campaign to support a mass movement of workers and poor in the north to establish their right to determine their own future