SG: Thoughts on the Formation of the Socialist Front
New opposition party founded by former WP leader Chia Ti Lik, went the heading in Temasek Review - a Totally Reprehensible Singaporean neo-Nazi site which is quite the discomfortingly popular site amongst the ‘netizens‘ of singapore. An excerpt from the brief report,
“A new opposition party – the Socialist Front, is being set up by former Workers’ Party candidates Ng Teck Siong and Chia Ti Lik.
An application was filed last month with the Registry of Societies, the Straits Times reports. It is not revealed who the other applicants are. ~ Temasek Review”
ed’s comment at the aforelinked site:
Is this a posthumous April 1st joke? If not, I can’t wait to see your manifesto mate. ‘Socialist Front’? Fantastic. I was just speaking to some of my Socialist colleagues, being a member of the Socialist Party UK, the other day and was bemoaning the absence of a Socialist alternative in singapore. Well well, as i said, i’m awaiting the manifesto. What singapore needs is an ‘umbrella’ party that ties together the interests of all with respect to sexual orientation, gender, race, nationality, etc. If this founds the basis upon which all other perspectives emerge, this party will definitely have my support.
I have one concern with regards to the formation of this party. That is, given the degree to which racial/cum/national/individual self-absorption has been bred amongst the Singaporeans of today, and which has turned racism, xenophobia, self-absorption and mutual alienation into culture, to what degree is this socialist alternative going to truly be an alternative.
I have said in past observations that the compromising of the egalitarian spirit in singapore by self absorbtion-turned-culture, the spread and reinforcement of legalist-confucianism amongst the people, and the ensuing ‘horizontal activism’ (where people view each other opportunistically so as to get around the hardships emerging from top-down pressures) that resulted, has led people to make sense of democracy in, well, an extremely legalist-confucian sense. For instance, the aversion to contradiction and challenge; viewing critique from an ‘you’re either with us or against us’ standpoint; rallying around the prominent and publicised as opposed to reason and insight; focusing on the interests of a race-defined ‘majority’; are some of that which afflicts the singapore of today. Hence, the ‘democratic’ parties of the Singapore of today are not averse to xenophobia; keep silent in the face of it; rarely take issue with racism, or even notice it; expect rank and file loyalty amongst members of their respective parties; ignore all critique or view it as support for the party in power; etc, etc.
So, the news that a ‘Socialist Front’ was being formed was on the one hand most surprising given the degree to which the ‘S’ word had been demonised out of the most of the public’s and oppositional sector’s imagination, and on the other, met with some scepticism on my part. It is quite difficult to suggest a solution and not simultaneously be a part of the problem if one has been reared within such a state for long enough to produce mass apathy, mutual alienation, and self-absorption at individual and group levels. So, my second thought was, to what degree would the Legalist-Confucian spirit possessing the people of the Singapore of today serve as a rein on the evolution of the socialist spirit in singapore? Or would the Socialist spirit serve as a check on the influence of the Legalist-Confucian spirit? Or would it turn out to be a refined version of the ‘socialist’ Nazi party of the Germany of yesteryear or the so-called ‘Communist’ party of China?
To some degree, the pathetic state of singapore’s oppositional/activist sector is due to the absence of the egalitarian/socialist spirit amongst the said sector. They are ‘democratically fragmented’. In other words, everyone is focused on their own interests and there is little cross-cutting empathy, and hence, involvement. They tend to agitate for equality only amongst similarly-interested minds. That is quite the contrast to what i witness here in the United Kingdom where cross-cutting involvement is Socialism ‘seen to be done’ as opposed to being ‘said to be done’.
There is an appreciation amongst the Socialists in the UK that an interest in another is an interest in ourselves as the development of the other bodes well for the elevation of all. There is an appreciation that the compromising of my interests finds its root in my apathy in the face of the compromising of the interests of another. There is, in other words, an appreciation that if we allow apathy in the face of your interests, i will reap dividends in the form of apathy in the face of mine. Overall, our individual group interests will thus fail to reach critical mass, in numbers and vociferousness. There won’t be enough cross-cutting empathy to result in truly progressive ideas and perspectives.
The diametrical opposite of the UK is the plight and culture of the singapore of today. Hence, I cannot but wonder if the Socialist Front is not going to be similarly afflicted. Of course, I sincerely hope that’s not going to be the case. However, when we apply Newton’s First Law of Motion - that an object in motion will continue along its path unless met with an opposing force that either deflects or stops it - in the political-cultural climate of a country, we have to recognise that mutual empathy is just about non-existent in singapore and hence cannot be relied upon to deflect the current perspectival trajectory of singaporeans. Of course, the Socialist Front may be that force that steers the nation toward empathy. However, we have to be concerned after how this party would itself require a push away from the general direction of the entire nation. What ‘force’ are we going to rely upon? I realised years ago that the human will is insufficient to motivate any directional or perspectival shift. What is required is the manipulation of the variables determining this shift. Hence, the education of oneself, party members, other parties, and the people of singapore is needed, amongst a host of others. Critical introspection, open critique, and not allowing our ‘oppositional’ status to be simply defined by our being against the government of the day, but our being in opposition to the unegalitarian spirit wherever it finds market - even if it is amongst the so-called opposition as well.
In discussion with members of the Socialist Party (UK) over a pint at the local pub a couple of weeks ago, I stated, in discussion about China’s ‘communism’, that whilst the socio-political aims of the communist party may have been well-intentioned, theirs and the people’s philosophical spirit was not. In other words, the Legalist-Confucian ethos was well in place, and especially so after 2000 years of practice. For instance, how is it that precious few ever took issue with, or noticed at all, that the 60th anniversary of the communist party of China is celebrated with an emblem of a part of the Imperial Forbidden City? Does this not indicate that the Communist party of China were not an alternative to the imperial throne of the past, but rather its new tenants? Whilst one of those present at the discussion termed China a ‘deformed worker’s state’, and which appears to be the view of the Socialist Party (UK), I said that it would be more apt to term it a ‘refined Legalist-Confucian state’. It’s sharing some similarities with the communist ethos does not mean that the greater similarities it shares with the Legalist-Confucian ethos does not compromise the former significantly.
The same situation may be applied in the case of singapore and the formation of the Socialist Front. I’m not stating this would be a ‘deformed socialist party’, but that its initiators should be well aware of those perspectival impediments that might just significantly obstruct its true deviation from the way things have been for quite a while in singapore. If not, it might just mutate into yet another version of the xenophobic, racist and self-absorbed oppositional sector. I have to wonder how many true Socialists there are in singapore to enable the party to maintain its socialist orientation.
We do not make history, history makes us. It is when we can remake our personal individual histories in opposition to what history has made us, than we are in a better position to make history.
If not, we might just see the Socialist Front being populated by Legalist-Confucians who again fight for equality amongst those they’ve been taught to view as ‘their own’. Given the populist stance of all oppositional parties in singapore, which just amounts to their being racist/xenophobic parties given that ‘populist’ refers to pandering to a ‘majority’, and given that ‘majority’ has been associated with ‘race’, I have to wonder if those whom might be inclined to form or join the Socialist Front would not similarly lead to the party being populist and pander to the state-programmed inclinations of its members.
This observation is not a condemnation of the Socialist Front, but serves as a reminder to its initiators that they would be attempting to draw support from a people whom are self-absorbed. Hence, there would be a need to educate its members, along with the people, on mutual empathy. Gender issues, race issues, issues related to the plight of the aged, physically or mentally challenged, class, amongst a host of others, have to be simultaneously and vociferously addressed. One should not just pay lip-service to these issues, as do other parties who just state that they believe in equality, but then just focus on that which affects a race-defined majority and hope that the fact that this impacts on the interests of other groups is evidence enough of their being representative of all groups.
With that said, I wish the Socialist Front well, but its the actions and perspective of the party that will determine if it is deserving of such a name, or if it is to turn out to be little other than yet another variant of its Chinese counterpart.