"Socialism is alive and kicking, and it has a world to win"
Clare Doyle, CWI, Malaysia, Thursday 15 September 2005
History was made in Kuala Lumpur last weekend, when over 700 people poured into the opening rally of ‘Socialism 2005’. The event, with more than two days of political discussion, music, film and food was the first ever openly socialist public gathering in Malaysia. It was organised by the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) in conjunction with one of the many fighting organisations around the party – the CDC (Community Development Centre). There had been dire warnings beforehand that the state might order a police raid and close it down. The very fact that it went ahead and lasted the full term is a testament to the work the party and its sister organisations have done over the years in the working class and poor areas of Malaysia and even in the days leading up to the event itself.
Full reports of the rally and the week-end conference itself are carried on the website of the PSM (www.parti-sosialis.org). The first report comments that "the huge turn-out of people from different races, different age groups and from different nationalities illustrates that socialism is alive and kicking, and it has a world to win." This confident mood lasted to the very end, when the Internationale was sung in Malay, Tamil, Chinese and English.
Over the two days, between 130 and 150 people participated in the debates. On Saturday, these covered globalisation and imperialism, counter-revolution (in Russia and China) and revolution (in Latin America) plus the experiences of ‘people power’ and ‘regime change’ in the Philippines and Indonesia.
In the evening, there was a choice between watching a Ken Loach film on the lessons of the Spanish civil war, ‘Land and Freedom’, or a video excellently put together by PSM members from footage of the work in which they are involved. There were harrowing scenes of poor shanty town dwellers trying to face down bull-dozers as they moved in. There were also scenes of PSM leaders, like Arulchelvan, the Party secretary, facing down police chiefs on demonstrations against water and health privatisation.
The sessions on Sunday covered topics of vital importance to the socialist movement in Malaysia such as its (still controversial) history, the ‘reformasi’ movement of the late ‘90s and the ethnic and national questions in the country. The final session on how to build the forces for socialism in Malaysia was followed by closing rally, which included further speeches from well-known activists of the region, such as Dita Sari, from Indonesia, and Sony Melencio from the Philippines. Then came the closing ceremony with a long list of thanks to all those who had made the weekend so successful, followed by the rousing renditions of the international fighting hymn of the workers!
At the first evening’s rally, the confidence and enthusiasm for the socialist struggle expressed by Steve Jolly, Yarra City (Melbourne) councillor for the Socialist Party (CWI), in Australia, was infectious. Many of the young people in the audience wanted to know more about what we do and how to keep in touch.
My task, in the session on Russia and China, was essentially to emphasise the reasons that genuine socialism had failed to be established, outline the processes involved in the transition back to capitalism, and point to the new upsurges of workers’ and poor farmers’ struggles in those two vast countries.
Most inspiring for socialists at the moment are the events in Latin America – "A continent in revolt", as Steve Jolly described it, when he introduced the discussion. Inevitably there was some controversy in this session as the other speaker was John Percy from the Democratic Socialist Perspective organisation (Australia) who maintained that the "First socialist revolution of the 21st century" was already being accomplished under the leadership of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. He also jumped fiercely to the defence of Cuba when a criticism was made by a participant from Thailand – Giles Ji Ungpakorn of the IST.
For Marxists, in the opinion of the members of the CWI, explaining what is – warts and all – is vital to a clearer understanding of how to proceed in the struggle for socialism. Crucial, of course, is the feeling that capitalism is a system of exploitation and suffering to be wiped from the planet. This feeling was most certainly engendered in the Malaysian ‘Socialism 2005 weekend’ and the determination to fight for a socialist world was lifted to a new level for all those participating who are prepared to dedicate themselves to the struggle.