Don’t just rely on politicians – let’s get organised!

Politics in Malaysia, at least lately, has been an exercise in choosing the lesser evil. Many who voted for Pakatan Harapan did so more to prevent Perikatan Nasional and Barisan Nasional from gaining power than actually supporting Pakatan Harapan through and through. Now, especially after Pakatan Harapan has taken Barisan Nasional as its main coalition partner, moving swiftly to rehabilitate its image even, the sentiment is being shifted to project the PH-BN coalition as a bulwark against the green tide of PN. Once again, the Malaysian people are being forced to choose the lesser evil, especially as state elections are coming soon.

Legitimate criticisms of Pakatan’s policies, from the denigration of the LGBTQ+ community to the unnecessary scrutiny of Mentega Terbang and now the backpedaling in abolishing the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA), alongside the growing conservatism within Pakatan itself, is brushed aside by the bogeyman that is PN.

We rightly rage against Muhyiddin Yassin’s corruption case, yet Zahid Hamidi is Deputy Prime Minister, whose influence in UMNO grows ever stronger especially after the exemption given by the Minister of Home Affairs (Saifuddin Nasution from PKR) to bar contests for its top two posts. We still remain within the CPTPP, a horrific free-trade agreement that will undermine local productive forces especially in the agricultural sector, with the Deputy Trade and Industry Minister (Liew Chin Tong from DAP) justifying it in the face of opposition from local farmers. Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act (CMA), also known as Akta Sakit Hati, remains ambiguous, potentially even restricting freedom of expression, with Communications and Digital Minister (Fahmi Fadzil from PKR) stating it has not been abused. In this regard, the people of Malaysia must take a step back and ask themselves, what is it that they are looking for with the current PH-BN government?

All of these are now being justified as ways to prevent PN from coming into power. But what is power if you cannot use it to carry out the necessary changes that have been fought for since decades ago and you yourselves have promised? The Malaysian people are being silenced from asking this through scaring them against a potential PN government. There is no other choice but us, PH and BN seem to say. According to them, there is only one way by which ordinary Malaysians can exercise their political power, through elections, and there is only one logical choice, PH-BN. This is a bold-faced lie. For one, there are other parties who seem more serious in their approach and actually do the groundwork to justify their promises, rather than simply pomp and grandeur from expensive ad campaigns, who deserve to be voted for.

For another, political action does not begin and end with elections. Ordinary people can exert their power through various methods, primarily by organizing themselves into unions and solidarity groups to push for necessary changes. The most effective method of course is unionizing in their workplaces and negotiating with their employers for better wages and work conditions. The strength of this kind of organization is that if there is a dispute, industrial actions such as strikes and pickets can be implemented to force the hand of the employer. When such prominent figures as the Health Minister (Dr. Zaliha Mustafa from PKR) and the MP of Ipoh Timur (Howard Lee of DAP) have seemed lukewarm on strike actions, it is even more important for workers to organize themselves.

Other than this, like-minded individuals should come together and form networks to further their own causes. These can be quite large in nature, for example an association of farmers in Malaysia can encompass thousands of individuals at a key sector with their solidarity providing them immense power to demand change. Other such associations, say amongst low-cost flat residents, plantation workers, informal workers and university students can be formed too. This way, ordinary Malaysians do not have to wait for the next election cycle or depend on their elected representatives’ promises in isolation.

A lot of the time, what is promised does not get implemented due to the lack of pressure or input from the proper stakeholders. Wages, for example, gets a lot more pressure from employers to the government whereas a similarly organized movement from workers themselves does not exist. If such a network exists, even if the space is not given by the government, the necessary push can be manufactured such that the needs of the workers will need to be heard. In essence, that is what democracy is, ordinary people loudly and strongly advocating for their needs, not simply buying into the empty promises of politicians.

At Parti Sosialis Malaysia, we ensure the marhaen are fully empowered in advocating for themselves through various methods. Primarily, we organize the masses through our front, Gabungan Marhaen. Within this organization, we have many groups representing various sectors including plantation workers, contract workers, ranchers, lorry drivers and urban pioneers. We also support the National Union of Workers in Hospital Support and Allied Services (NUWHSAS). Through this kind of people’s movement, we have managed to win many cases for the marhaen and materially benefited them in multiple ways. Just for plantation workers alone, we have organized over 60 plantations across 5 states with hundreds of houses won.

It is time the Malaysian masses realise our dependence on sweet-talking politicians, no matter how progressive they initially seem, is a failing strategy. I would like to invite everyone reading to come get organized. Join a union, or if there is no union for you, create one. Join an organization that is filled with like-minded individuals to fight for your rights. Understand that politics is not a popularity contest and that you deserve to have your needs met. Only if we organize ourselves and actively get involved in the proceedings, can we ensure we also will have a seat at the table. Ordinary people should continue to build movements strengthening pro-marhaen policies and strategies throughout terms of whoever is in power. Then, these movements or parties can challenge effectively the status quo. Otherwise, it is the current 222 people’s mindsets talking amongst themselves about who gets to run the show for the foreseeable future.

Arveent Kathirtchelvan,
Socialist Youth,
Parti Sosialis Malaysia

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