Beware the anarchists in our midst

Nasrul Akim

1 Oct 2019, 8:49 am

Updated a year ago


LETTER | The recent chatter regarding arrest of an “activist” over tweets insulting the royal institution in Malaysia is certainly ironic.

After all, individuals online are already expressing their individual discontent over royal institutions openly – and even celebrated the fact that they managed to get the queen to close her Twitter account over cyberbullying.

However, the queen has explained that she deactivated her Twitter account for personal reasons – not because of negative comments online. Surprisingly, she expressed her disappointment over the arrest. She told the palace to inform the police to not take any action, forcing the police to make a U-turn and free the "activist" on Saturday.

The queen said: “I am truly upset that the police have detained those people. Through the years, my husband and I have never made any police report on bad things said about us. It’s a free country. I repeat again, I did not deactivate my account because of them. My husband and I have never made police reports, and I have never been sad (when I read comments about me) instead, I laugh because Allah knows who I am.”

However, it seems that the anti-monarchist liberals have failed to recognise how they have been manoeuvred into the hands of individuals who seek the demolition of the relative stability and state of transition that we find ourselves in since May 9, 2018.

Individuals like the ones arrested are self-professed anarchists, distrustful of governance institutions and the expert networks that support them – and see themselves as agents of transformation. Finding inspiration from movements such as Occupy, Wikileaks and the Arab Spring Revolutions, they aim to counter the status quo of administrative rule and build a society built upon "direct action" and self-governance by civil society.

The future that they propose is radical. They ignore the formal and informal tracks of political theory where autonomous publics in civil society generate public opinion and political institutions make authorised binding decisions and carry them out – the building blocks of our democracy.

They argue that this relationship is unequal, that political institutions unfairly influence public opinion. In order to resolve this, the latter must eliminate formal institutions. But that implies an entirely different model, premised on a single-track understanding of democratic politics.

They propose that a single body (the self-managed council) can play the role of both institution and public opinion. It assumes that everyone can act collectively on everything that might concern them – that complete self-governance is possible. In such a situation, how do these anarchists propose to hold themselves accountable? In what way and to what extent are a council’s actions accountable to non-participants who are affected by or subjected to its decisions?

And while they pursue these lofty goals, the reality on the ground remains the same.

The economy, despite having the numbers to tell a good story, is not much different on the ground to many people. Pakatan Harapan came into power by promising they will help the ordinary man to weather through the rise in the cost of living and the stagnant local economy. Prices have not gone down, and wages are still the same. Additionally, the lack of effort on the part of the Harapan government to communicate their efforts (if any) to the public to improve the economy has also caused disillusionment among the many who voted them in, even the young voters.

Recently, Bank Negara released a report outlining the current realities many young Malaysians are facing - that wages are not only stagnant, but they have also regressed. Upon the report’s release, the Minister of Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman announced that he will make an effort towards making our local graduates more employable through upskilling programmes, instead of lobbying for higher pay for fresh graduates.

Can these problems be solved through the current actions of “direct action”? Looking at history, one can find mostly tragedy there.

In Russia and Iran, anti-monarchical revolutions were co-opted by exiled thought leaders – Vladimir Lenin and Ruhollah Khomeini. In the former, the role of the local soviets (governing councils) was soon overruled by a larger concern of the Bolshevik Party. Lenin justified his actions by stating that he would ensure democracy – all the while building a bureaucratic structure that made such actions an empty formality.

In the latter, the Tudeh Party supported Khomeini’s consolidation of power – attempting to take advantage of the potential leadership void in the left, only to be ultimately purged all the same by the Iranian government in 1982.

Malaysians have been given a golden opportunity to rebuild our country into an equitable society for all. Let’s not get distracted by dangerous opportunists who refuse to look at the past. 

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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