Looking for the Fall Guy in times of Crisis


One of the greatest defects of capitalism is the issue of booms and busts. During boom times the capitalists make huge profits, take back huge bonuses and give high dividends to share holders. During crisis and recessions, the big capitalists will buy the smaller ones, downsize, retrench their workers and besides that, they will lobby and cry for government intervention to bail them out. That is not the only thing they do, they will also look for a fall guy. They always need this to deflect the peoples’ attention from the real culprits at hand. During crises and recessions, they need issues for people to focus on, they need new enemies and they need fall guys.

Today we have a pandemic followed by a world recession. There have been reports on the rise of xenophobia and racism-related issues all over the world. This is not new and quite habitual. The stigma of prejudice has been recorded throughout history, like the Jewish persecution during the Black Death, HIV linked to LGBTQ communities during the rise of AIDS, West Africans during the Ebola outbreak and now the Chinese virus as described by Trump.

So who are the fall guys during this Covid led economic crisis? Definitely the immigrants. Donald Trump on 20th. April tweeted “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States”. So basically the fight will be now between us and them. Citizen vs non-citizens.

In Malaysia, who else can be the fall guys? Who can we retrench first? The fall guys are the migrants from Bangladeshi, the Nepalese, the Indonesian as well as the refugees – the Myanmar, Rohingya and others.

Lately we have seen the anger and frustration levelled at the migrants at the Selayang market as well as the boat people from the Rohingya community. MIC President SA Vigneswaran lashed out saying that the migrants have invaded the market. He blamed the Myanmar migrants for bringing a loss of 1 Billion to the food Industry. He warned the government that if they didn’t handle the situation, it will be like cancer spreading. He also said the war against Covid will fail because of the attitude of the migrants who don’t follow laws. Vigneswaran’s comments are supported by many. Definitely if one was to ask him about Indian workers in restaurants and barber shops, he may have another position on that.

Many political parties and right wing NGOs too take this opportunity to attack the migrants and refugees because they are the easy targets, they have no homes and most importantly they don’t bring in the votes.

In the last one year, I attended two town hall discussions on migrant workers; one organised by the Human Resource Ministry and Primary Industry Ministry and one by the Independent Committee on Foreign workers headed by Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Yunus. This was the committee set up by the PH cabinet to streamline the policies and management of foreign workers.

In both these meetings, attended by 80% Employers and bosses – they lobbied hard and strong for the government to bring in more migrant workers. They argued that Malaysian workers are lazy and choosy. Even Mahathir has said this. During these meetings, a minority of people like myself will advocate for more transparent policies dealing with migrants, advocating against a cheap labour policy and better facilities for migrants – work conditions and liveable hostels. Our views are very unpopular and we are always challenged to provide workers for these industries.

PSM, together with another organisation – The Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition (MWR2R) have come up with some comprehensive proposals on dealing with migrants. These proposals achieved a consensus from workers and even with employers. What is even more sad was the Special Independent cabinet Committee’s report was never made public. It is our contention that this report will not be made public because it goes against the interest of the government and big businesses. Migrant labour is big business, if you don’t believe me ask Zahid Hamidi.

Today Malaysians are so alarmed with what is happening in Singapore. Singapore recorded a total number of 13,624 COVID-19 cases making in the most infected country in South East Asia. In is reported that four out of five cases were traced back to migrant worker dormitories. We always look up to rich Singapore as our model. Yet we can clearly see now the level of exploitation and living conditions of migrants in Singapore, where over 300,000 workers live in cramped dormitories.

Now we fear those returning from Singapore and Indonesia. So we continue to find scapegoats to blame rather than looking for a more fundamental, substantial and humane solution. World media which is controlled by big conglomerates continue to spread and promote racism, xenophobia and unscientific arguments to push their business profit agenda against the people.

In the business of looking for the fall guy, we all end up losing. It is only through building solidarity among the people from various religions and racial backgrounds can we overcome this crisis. In the time of crisis, socialist ideas like healthcare, food security, housing and living with harmony with migrants have becomes beacons of hope for the people of the world. It is time we rebuild the world for peoples’ needs and not corporate greed.

Deputy Chairperson Parti Sosialis Malaysia
27 April 2020

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