Press statement by Dr Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 29 Feb 2016

The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 claims to “develop 21st Century skills such as critical and creative thinking” and further laments that our graduates lack critical thinking and communication skills.

How does this noble intention square with the latest pronouncement by the Inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar that he wants to ban a course on Marxism organized by Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)?

The revival of interest in Marxist analysis

Ever since that most catastrophic crisis of world capitalism in 2008, the revival in interest in Marxist analysis has seen the sales of Das Kapital, Marx’s masterful critique of political economy soar to unprecedented levels. Young people in the West are especially keen to know the source of the capitalist crisis as workers and other tax payers have bailed out the banks to keep the capitalist system going amidst increasing debt, job insecurity and austerity measures.

Recently, as part of its ‘Masters of Money’ series the BBC looked at the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek and finished by looking at the economic ideas of Karl Marx.  The presenter thought there were important insights to be found in Marx, particularly his perspective on the inequality of capitalism and its instability.  She also made the observation that Marx’s description of capitalism is truer now than when it was first made, noting the compulsive nature of the drive for profit within the capitalist system which is also the source of periodic crises.

Marx’s theory of surplus-value expounded in Das Capital is his most revolutionary contribution to economic science as well as the materialist interpretation of history. His discovery of the development trends of the capitalist mode of production also constitutes an exposition of recurrent crises of capitalist development.

Although Marxist analyses are now resurfacing in public dialogues about economy and society especially after perhaps capitalism’s worst crisis since the 1930s, Marx and Marxist thought have always been part of the essential curriculum of Social Science courses in the best universities of the world. This is the case in Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge as well as Moscow and Beijing universities. Marx with Weber and Durkheim were the main social thinkers in the Sociology courses at my university in Manchester where Marx and Engels lived and researched much of their analyses of the capitalist mode of production. When I was teaching Sociology at the National University of Singapore in 1978-79, Marx was also an essential part of the curriculum there. I cannot imagine our Malaysian universities banning Marxist thought and analysis from their curricula.

Thus the bright young thinkers in PSM should be congratulated for initiating the discussion of Marxism and the analysis of our challenging times. Instead of being hailed as the standard bearers of our Education Blueprint vision to develop the 21st century skills of critical and creative thinking, it seems they are being denigrated as the purveyors of subversive teachings.

Just as Einstein’s insight into gravitational waves has just been vindicated, let us not forget his well-known admonition that “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” It would be the height of irony and an insult to the government’s Transformation Programme if the content of Malaysia’s Education Blueprint is going to be dictated by the Inspector General of Police…