Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 2 April 2016

In an attempt to justify their alliance with the man responsible for destroying much our Malaysian democratic institutions, the Anti-Najib Coalition has described themselves as a “united front”. The usage of this historically significant term is, to say the least, illusory.

The term “united front” has been used to refer to a form of struggle or political organization carried out by progressives and revolutionaries in 20th century history. It is a strategy to join all forces in the struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the people against the bourgeoisie, against fascism and imperialism.

The roots of the united front go back to the practice of revolutionaries in the 1917 Russian Revolution. The united front offered a method of working with large numbers of non-revolutionary workers and simultaneously winning them to revolutionary politics. While uniting with non-revolutionaries, however, progressives and revolutionaries did not subordinate themselves within the united front or sacrifice their independence.

In the 1930’s, with fascism on the rise, united fronts were built and even broader alliances of democratic forces all over the world to unite the democratic forces opposed to war and fascism. As a result, significant gains were achieved in a number of countries at the time.

Then, during World War II and in the postwar period the creation of united fronts achieved a broad unification of the democratic and anti-fascist forces in a number of countries. The united front helped the national-democratic and socialist revolutions to achieve victory in several countries of Europe and Asia and created the peace movement, which developed throughout the world. Following Hitler’s victory, popular fronts drawing in forces far beyond the working class movement were created against fascism.

In Asia, the most well-known united front was formed when the Chinese Communist Party worked closely with the Kuomintang to fight Japanese imperialism that was determined to turn China into its colony. Likewise, during the Vietnam War, the Vietcong organized the National Liberation Front as a united front against US imperialism.

The united front in revolutionary history is thus not a mere tactic. It lies at the center of revolutionary strategy in which progressives never subordinate themselves within the united front nor sacrifice their independence.

Did Mandela form a united front with de Klerk?

Another example used by the Anti-Najib Coalition to justify their alliance with the self-professed dictator of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 is that “even Mandela formed a united front with de Klerk to save South Africa”, or words to that effect.

This distortion of South African history is also a contortion of the united front strategy of progressives. First we need to understand that the 1985-87 period was the height of resistance by the oppressed masses of South Africa. The Pretoria regime triggered a wave of black anger that led not only to protests in which thousands died, but also to the creation of grass-roots organizations throughout South Africa. The United Democratic Front (UDF) put the Pretoria government on the defensive and resulted in a more militant ANC leadership that had to be recognized by the settler and the Western imperialist forces. When the regime failed to refinance South African debt, it was Botha’s downfall and his replacement, de Klerk, was forced to negotiate with the ANC.

Thus, the Anti-Najib Coalition should get their facts right. There was never any supposed “Mandela-de Klerk United Front”. The South African freedom fighters had a United Democratic Front that was fighting the Pretoria regime. The end game was de Klerk had to negotiate a settlement with Mandela. Unfortunately, the new apartheid-free South Africa compromised the reforms that the ANC had been fighting for all along including nationalization of resources and left the integuments of Western imperialism intact to the present day. President Zuma sitting under a cloud of corruption is instructive for the present anti-Najib campaign after Najib goes.

So what is the objective of the Anti-Najib Coalition?

Since I have shown the non-existence of the “Mandela-de Klerk United Front” in South African history, the attempt at comparing Mahathir to de Klerk automatically falls.

So what is the objective of this so-called Anti-Najib Coalition?

From what we can gather, they only want Najib to step down – Nothing more, nothing less. We don’t even hear about a Royal Commission of Inquiry to impeach him for having 2.6 billion ringgit in his personal account and for squandering all the monies in 1MDB. For how can they when there is no mention of a Royal Commission to bring Mahathir to justice for all his years of financial scandals, assault on the judiciary and oppressive rule?

This Anti-Najib Coalition does not seem to stand for combatting impunity. Notice that when the former Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim had refused to step down, the Pakatan Rakyat leaders held a file of alleged corrupt practices over his head? Sure enough, after he agreed to step down, we hear no more about these corrupt practices that the former MB was alleged to have committed.

So the question is: Was Khalid Ibrahim corrupt or was he not corrupt? If he was not, then the Pakatan Rakyat leaders are guilty of gross irresponsibility and heads should roll. If he was corrupt, why haven’t police reports been made against him by now?

If such is the modus operandi of Pakatan Harapan, why should it be any different if Najib decides to step down? Remember, you cannot have a Royal Commission to investigate Najib and not have another to investigate the 22 years of Mahathir’s scandals.

Who calls the shots in this Anti-Najib Coalition?

Clearly Mahathir calls the shots since the leaders in Pakatan Harapan cannot even raise the issue of releasing Anwar Ibrahim (the de facto leader of Pakatan Harapan) as a demand in the Citizens’ Declaration. I feel sorry for all the PH supporters who have campaigned so hard to free their de facto leader and they cannot even succeed in including “Free Anwar” in the Citizens’ Declaration!

And what precisely has Mahathir agreed to in the supposed reforms in the Declaration? For example, do the reforms in the police force include the establishment of the IPCMC (Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission)? What concrete democratic reforms can we hope for? The reforms are couched in such woolly terms in the Declaration that Mahathir can turn around when Najib has stepped down and say: “I never promised anything concrete, did I?”

United Fronts are led by progressives who are clear about their reform objectives

It is clear that the history of united fronts is marked by three common elements:

(i) The objective of the united front is for the defeat of a dark force oppressing the people, namely, fascism, apartheid, imperialism;

(ii) The united front is led by progressives with clear economic, political and socio-cultural reforms and not by arch-reactionaries who want the same system with just a change of leadership at the top;

(iii) The united front allies with SIZEABLE non-progressive forces in order to defeat a bigger threat such as racism, fascism and imperialism. By contrast, Mahathir is today a spent force in UMNO as he himself has admitted that most active UMNO leaders have kept a distance from him. This is clear from the fact that he cannot even defend his son from being kicked out of the MB post in Kedah and he has been removed from all the cushy positions in Government companies. So what forces can he rally to this Anti-Najib campaign?