Communism is not evil, but CPM’s methods were

Just as we were hoping the issue of Chin Peng’s ashes would be put to rest, about 300 people, including Ronnie Liu of DAP and PKR veteran Syed Husin Ali, decided to gather in Kajang to celebrate the struggle of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).

It was quite a sight to behold, and perhaps it has added to the misunderstanding some of us have of communism, thanks to the skewed formal education we’ve had on the subject.

Largely because of that education, sanctioned by the Special Branch, some of us think communism is the same as “komunis”, a term that usually refers to Bintang Tiga, a group of violent rebels led by Chin Peng and professing to champion communism.

There should be a distinction between the two. Communism is an ideology and Bintang Tiga was a group championing the ideology using any means necessary, even violence.

The Cold War of 1948 to 1990 between the US and the Soviet Union can explain the origins of Chin Peng’s struggle holistically.

The US championed capitalism, an ideology propounded by Adam Smith. The Soviet Union was expanding upon the communist ideology of Karl Marx.

Capitalism advocates a free, competitive market, without government intervention in the economy or with a limited amount of it. Communism believes that government intervention in the economy is necessary to provide everyone with equitable resources.

Early during the Cold War, communism expanded into China and then crept into Southeast Asia.

CPM – or Bintang Tiga – claimed that it intended to enforce the communist ideology onto the country’s administrative system.

The 1940s to the 1960s was a time during which Britain, France and Spain were setting their colonies free through the peaceful handing over of power to local leaders.

As leader of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman embraced this transition and brought about our independence through peaceful means.

There was no need for violence.

But Bintang Tiga terrorised and slaughtered people in the villages, instilling fear and despair. They did all this in the name of independence, which we were already getting in a peaceful way from the British. The campaign of terror continued even after independence in 1957.

The real reason Chin Peng continued to wage war against the British and our soldiers was his group’s insistence on spreading communism under the direction of the Soviet Union. Remember that the Soviet Union was actively creating satellite states in Eastern Europe and Asia.

In essence, Chin Peng’s struggle was not really for true independence after all. It was to replace British control with Soviet control.

During the Baling talks in 1956 between the Tunku and Chin Peng, the former did not agree to legalise CPM because of its inhuman methods. It would have been morally wrong to acquit the murderers. In other words, had Tunku legalised CPM, it would have meant that Chin Peng and his comrades would could easily escape charges of war crimes.

While it is fair to answer the call to “set the record straight”, the fact that Chin Peng terrorised and murdered his fellow Malayans won’t change.

So is the call to vindicate the “komunis” an appeal for the vindication of the communist ideology or Chin Peng’s atrocities?

Azeem Abu Bakar is a founding member of Akademi Harimau Asia.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.