1.这篇文章的作者是：Dr. Hong Lysa孔莉莎博士 。这文章发表在她的个人博客网页http://minimyna.wordpress.com/的网站上。发布的日期为：2014年6月10日。这篇文章是孔博士针对在网站上发表一篇有关评论覃鑫炳博士的文章：《林清祥是被错误的拘留！ Lim Chin Siong was wrongfully detained给予的回应。
2.评论覃炳鑫博士的文章：《细读：林清祥和他在美世界的演讲》（《Lim Chin Siong and that Beauty World speech: A Closer Look》）的作者Kumar Ramakrishna博士。他以副教授和南洋理工学院拉惹勒南国际研究学院杰出国家安全的主任身份（ Associate Professor and Head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Nanyang Technological University）在网上发表他的评论文章。
假如《林清祥和他在美世界的演讲:细读（《Lim Chin Siong and that Beauty World speech: A Closer Look》）的作者古玛.拉玛克历斯南（Kumar Ramakrishna）只自称本身是副教授和南洋理工大学拉惹勒南国际研究学院国家安全杰出中心的主任（ Associate Professor and Head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Nanyang Technological University），我将不会理会他在网站上发表的文章
If Kumar Ramakrishna, author of ‘Lim Chin Siong and that Beauty World speech: A Closer Look’ had only identified himself as Associate Professor and Head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Nanyang Technological University, I would not have bothered with his article at all.
However, he also states that he is a historian by training. This makes it the business of historians, which I take great pride in being. As such, it is not possible to not take issue with his approach to history.
“细读”的作者有一个目的：就是否定覃炳鑫博士的论述：林有福政府扣留林清祥，是以他出席1956年10月25日在美世界举行的群众大会上发表演讲，号召群众‘打警察’（pah mata）的话为依据，乃是滥用不经审讯而扣留的《维护公共安全法令》（PPSO）。覃炳鑫博士的结论乃是基于英国国家档案馆政治部最近解密的一份文件，一份对林清祥伤害至深的演讲稿（这是新加坡警察在当场所作的记录）。这份资料揭露了与当年逮捕林清祥的罪名是恰恰相反的内容！实际上，林清祥是呼吁群众“不要”‘打警察’（NOT to ‘pah mata’）（请链在’A Closer Look’所提供的有关信息）.
‘A Closer Look’ has one aim: to discredit PJ Thum’s assertion that the Lim Yew Hock government had abused the PPSO, which provided for detention without trial, when it detained Lim Chin Siong for urging the crowd that gathered to hear his address at Beauty World on 25 October 1956 to ‘pah mata’. Thum’s conclusion is based on his unearthing of what is so far the only copy of Lim’s fateful speech in recently released Special Branch files in the UK archives which reveals that contrary to the charge, Lim had in fact urged the crowd NOT to ‘pah mata’. [Link provided in ‘A Closer Look’]
这位作者认为理所当然的，当时导致林有福政府加紧逮捕林清祥与林清祥在一起被捕者的原因是因为这篇演讲证明了林清祥是一个共产党员，这个标志代表他们的行动是残酷性、暴力性、颠覆性和危险性的。因此，他们理应被逮捕和不经审讯地被拘留。接下来，不言而喻，一切行动就这样延续下去。对这位作者来说林清祥表面上是号召群众“不要”“打警察”（NOT to ‘pah mata’），实际上林清祥是在鼓动‘在情绪上即使不在文字上’他们这样做，这是共产党惯用的技俩。因此，作者断言，覃炳鑫博士在评论林清祥的演讲辞提到的“打警察”（‘pah mata’）是断章取义的！
The author takes for granted that Lim Chin Siong, and everyone else who was arrested by the Lim Yew Hock government in the days and weeks leading to the speech was a member of the communist party, and by that token was ruthless, violent, subversive and dangerous. They all deserve to be arrested and detained without trial. From that everything else flows. Hence, to the author, even though Lim Chin Siong had urged the crowd NOT to ‘pah mata’, he was in fact encouraging them to do so ‘in spirit if not in letter’, for that is what communists do. Thum was thus taking the ‘pah mata’ comment of Lim Chin Siong ‘totally out of context’, the author avers.
The Anti-colonial Context
History is about context: the wider circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.） The bald context the author has zeroed in is the Cold War, understood simply as the anti-communists vs the communists.
Yet there is a more fundamental context that he and other historians have suppressed:
the anti-colonial movement that swept Singapore in the post-war years, which was put down by the Emergency in 1948, and resurfaced as a mass movement comprising in particular the Chinese middle-school students and workers following the May 13 1954 petition for the students to be exempted from national service which turned violent when the police used force in the streets to disperse them.
Lee Kuan Yew had stated in his radio talks ‘exposing’ Lim and other left-wing leaders as communists over the question of merger (Battle for Merger ) that he recognized the vitality, dynamism and revolutionary fervour of the anti-colonial mass movement from the mid-1950s which he knew he needed to tap into. Colonial rule had to go—its business was not to rule for the benefit of the people, and the British had to be pressured to leave; dissatisfaction with the system that permitted exploitation of workers would no longer be tolerated, hence the burgeoning of labour unions which were ready to take strike action. The very first aim of the PAP as stated at its inauguration in 1954 was to end colonialism.
对作者而言， 英国殖民地主义者应当基于它自身的条件而不是基于新加坡人民的力量离开新加坡。因此，反殖民地主义的运动不被肯定是迫使英国殖民主义者离开新加坡的历史事实，而是被诬蔑为共产党的颠覆活动。首席部长林有福逮捕反殖民地主义的左派成员，目的是要讨好英国人。 而林有福被林清祥责骂为‘英殖民地主义者的走狗’， 作者反而认为林清祥是在使用“非理性的语言” 而激起群众的暴乱。他的意思是说 当时林有福的逮捕行动与暴动 一点关连也没有！
To the author however, the departure of the colonial power should be on its terms, rather than on that of the people of Singapore. Hence, the anti-colonial movement was not recognized as such, but as subversive and communist, and calling Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock who detained members of the anti-colonial left in order to impress the British ‘running dog of the British’ is using ‘dehumanising language’ and whipping up mob frenzy, while Lim Yew Hock’s action apparently had no part in it at all.
Without the pervasive anti-colonial context in which the Cold War rhetoric has to be understood, every action challenging the authorities, even if it is the colonial is to be condemned. And the legacy that the use of state violence is always justified, while any questioning or protests against it is communist/Euro-communist/Marxist-inspired, has remained a key myth in Singapore, where the same party has been in government since 1959.
离开了反对殖民地主义者的这个大环境，作者是不可能了解他引用了林清祥在1996年接受周美兰尼（Melanie Chew）访谈所作的声明：“这是我的错吗？或者是历史的错，当时我已经成为 一个抗英同盟的成员?”（简称‘ABL’ [Anti-British League]）”
Without the pervasive anti-colonial context, the author is unable to understand the statement he quotes made by Lim Chin Siong to Melanie Chew in 1996: ‘Was it my mistake, or was it the mistake of history that I had become a member of the ABL [Anti-British League] at the time?’
莫非作者也不能评估李光耀1955年5月5日的声明内容的重要性，就是在CJ W-L Wee书里的首篇文章，其内容被作者广泛的引用：“假设我必须在殖民地主义和共产主义之间做出抉择， 我将选择共产主义。这是绝大多数的。”
Nor would he be able to appreciate the significance of Lee Kuan Yew’s 5 May 1955 statement, at the start of CJ W-L Wee’s chapter which the author cites fairly extensively: ‘If I had to choose between colonialism and communism, I would vote for communism, and so would the great majority.’
The occasion of the speech
作者也忽视了有关这篇在美世界‘演说’的直接背景。首先林清祥发表这篇演说并不是在工会的集会上或在林清祥个人的号召下召集的会议上。这是人民行动党的群众大会。与林清祥一起出席这个群众大会并坐在台上的人还包括了秘书长李光耀、主席杜进才和帝凡那。人民行动党主席是群众大会的组织者。他决定群众大会的时间、日期和地点以及挑选上台的演讲者。早些时候杜进才还邀请了林有福，劳工阵线的组织秘书 迪库鲁斯（Gerald de Cruz）到人民行动党的群众大会上以确认一系列的逮捕行动的正当性。但是，迪库鲁斯没有接受人民行动党的邀请（见1956 10月25日海峡时报第24版。）林清祥当时是武吉知马区的立法议员，被指定为最后一位发言者。
The author also ignores the more immediate context of the Beauty World speech. Firstly, it was not a made at a labour union event or one summoned by Lim Chin Siong. It was a People’s Action Party rally. On the stage along with Lim were party secretary Lee Kuan Yew, chairman Toh Chin Chye, and CV Devan Nair. The party chairman organized the rally, decided on the time, day and venue, and selected the speakers. He had earlier invited Gerald de Cruz organizing secretary of Lim Yew Hock’s party, the Labour Front to justify the series of detentions at the PAP rallies, but de Cruz did not accept the invitation. (Straits Times, 24, 25 October 1956). Lim Chin Siong, Legislative Assembly member for Bukit Timah, was designated the last speaker.
The Lim Yew Hock government had announced that at 8pm that evening ( Lim ended his speech one hour and ten minutes before that, as the organisers had arranged), troops would be sent into Chinese High School and Chung Cheng High to break up the students who were camped there for the past 15 days in protest against the banning of the Singapore Chinese Middle Schools Student Union, and the arrests of student leaders and teachers.
Surely there is no doubt that the PAP rally was addressing a gathering of people angered by the actions of Lim Yew Hock, and the violence on the part of the government that was imminent.
The rally commenced at 5.25 pm, Lim Chin Siong spoke from 6.25 to 6.48 pm. There would have been other PAP speakers before him, possibly the three other PAP leaders on the stage. The permit for the rally expired at 7 pm. The crowd dispersed 10 minutes before the deadline. An announcement was made that next rally was at Bukit Panjang on 27th and call was made for shouts of ‘Merdeka’ three times.
As we now know, Lim Chin Siong had urged the crowd not to yell ‘pah mata’, but ‘Merdeka’ instead.
A really close look at the speech
Looking at the context also means’ taking the speech as a whole, not just a snippet’, as the author himself has put it. In taking ‘a close look’, the author sees Lim Chin Siong’s speech as ‘inflammatory and aimed to stoke anti-government resentment towards the Lim Yew Hock government.’
Summary of Lim Chin Siong’s speech at Beauty World, 25 October 1956:
I. roll-call of those detained by Lim Yew Hock; groups and organisations that were banned.
2. Lim Yew Hock as running dog of the British. The people want the British to be driven out. Instead of enlisting the help of the people and joining up with other political parties to do this, he got the help of the British to fight against the people. Lim Yew Hock did nothing for the people, and was afraid he would be thrown out of office in the election in 2 years’ time. In return for the arrests of those who were strongly anti-colonial, the British would conspire to give his government independence so that the people would forget the arrests and laud him for obtaining independence, and elect him as prime minister.
3. Lim Yew Hock’s position is dependent on the use of the army and the police, and banishments and detentions without trial. This cannot go on forever. Even if the people are intimidated enough to vote for him in 1959, their desire for democracy remains, and sooner or later, Lim Yew Hock will be defeated.
4. Lim Yew Hock relies on the British, but they are no longer mighty and respected. They are now like lowly dogs that the people spit on. They are being chased out of Egypt, India, Cyprus and Africa.
5 The police are wage earners. They are all here to attend the meeting to oppose Lim Yew Hock. People don’t want to shout ‘Merdeka’. They want to shout ‘Pah Mata’. This is wrong. We want to ask the police to cooperate with us.
6. Lim Yew Hock is not worthy to represent the people; he should dissolve the government and call for an election to see if the people will support him. And we warn him that if he uses force against the students we, the people of Singapore, will not tolerate it.
7. We must let people know how bad the government is. I believe that no matter how oppressive the government is, it will be defeated if we are united. We must take certain action to retaliate against their oppressive action.
There are no records of there being ‘so many contemporary and later observers who have recounted’ that the speech was inflammatory, as the author alleged.
时至今日，原始资料已经揭露了教育部长周瑞琪在1956年11月26日在立法议会上所提的欺诈性指控：他指责林请祥对群众说：“与其高呼‘默地卡’的口号，群众现在应该高呼 ‘Pah Mata’，意思就是打警察‘Beat the Police’。这还有任何的疑问是谁点燃了暴动的火花”。
The originating source, now revealed as fraudulent allegation was made in the Legislative Assembly by Minister of Education Chew Swee Kee on 26 November 1956. He stated that Lim Chin Siong had said: ‘Instead of shouting “Merdeka” the people should now shout, “Pah Mata”, which means “Beat the Police”’. Is there any doubt whatsoever as to who sparked off the riots?’
Taking the speech as a whole, it is evident that Lim Chin Siong was condemning Lim Yew Hock for the wave of detention of anti-colonial trade unionists, civic organisations, students and teachers. He was calling on the people not to despair, but to unite to get rid of Lim Yew Hock in the 1959 election, which the PAP would be fighting.
The discipline of history
What gives anyone claiming to be a historian, an academic even a student of social psychology the authority or legitimacy to claim that ‘it does not matter that Lim Chin Siong did not literally tell the crowd to ‘pah mata’?
According to the author, Lim Chin Siong was like ‘a well-known violent extremist leader in Indonesia who said, “I am only a craftsman making knives, so how am I responsible for how those knives are used?”’ Such a comparison, plucked out of the air by the author, cannot be the practice of historians and their consciousness of context.
《细读》作为一个整体也不符合一位诚实历史学家的作品的条件。全文充满了影射、讽刺、耍杂技、空洞的逻辑伪装为事实，混杂天真、一套塌糊。英国最高专员Lord Selkirk在他的记录里提到，当‘林（林清祥）和方（方水双）被问到他们是否是共产党员时，他们‘似乎感到尴尬‘，‘他们无法给予清楚的答案’。在这个问题上请问到底是林清祥或者是Lord Selkirk ‘虚伪’呢？
Nor can the ‘A Closer Look’ as a whole qualify as the work of a bona fide historian. It is replete with insinuation, caricature, acrobatic leaps of logic, bald assertions disguised as fact, and confounding naiveness. What is one to make of the statement that the British High Commissioner Lord Selkirk recorded that ‘Lim and Fong had “seemed embarrassed” and “failed to give a clear reply” when he asked whether they were communists. Was it Lim Chin Siong or Lord Selkirk who was being ‘disingenuous’?
Is the author so prone to repose uncritical belief in the superior intelligence of the British colonial rulers, or regard Lim Chin Siong as an imbecile, caught out by such a penetrating question? Or perhaps it is his readers’ intelligence that the author is insulting.
In the end, the worth of a piece of historical writing is based on the integrity of the author as a scholar.
Even on this score alone, ‘A Closer Look’ does not qualify as the work of someone who claims to be a historian.
What it’s all about
Or who even tries to be one.
Just as the recent commemoration of the 60th anniversary of May 13 1954 brought a renewed claim in Lianhe Zaobao that the student movement was actually directed by the Communist Party of Malaya, the surfacing of the Beauty World speech which revealed that Lim Chin Siong was clearly framed when he was arrested in 1956, has duly resurfaced the chant of ‘communism’.
Lim Chin Siong’s arrest by the Lim Yew Hock government would call to mind his subsequent detention under Operation Coldstore under an equally specious charge of planning to supply weapons for the Brunei Revolt.
‘A Closer Look’ has to defend Lim Yew Hock even though his government has been proven to have blatantly lied in the Legislative Assembly. The obvious resort is the charge of communism, the fight against which no measure is deemed to be unjust or too harsh.
The ‘Cold War’ context is presented as literally the fight between the free world and the communists, without any sensibilities of McCarthyism, or its manipulation by colonial powers, including in Operation Coldstore, or the killings of more than a million in Indonesia in September 1965, in the name of eliminating communists.
Archive-based historical studies which have presented documentary evidence that Operation Coldstore was about political rather than security concerns so far have not received substantive critiques from historians which challenge the findings.
Once again, there are only loud blares of ‘It’s the Cold War, stupid!’
These come from those who state that they are trained as historians, or throw terms like ‘revisionist historians’ and ‘alternative histories’ around, are in fact with the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Nanyang Technological University.
《深入解析：林清祥和他在美世界的讲话》（《Lim Chin Siong and that Beauty World speech: A Closer Look》）原文。此篇文章的作者：Kumar Ramakrishna。此篇文章是刊载在《THE ONLINECITIZEN 》(公民在线)网站。 http://www.ipscommons.sg/index.php/categories/featured/177-lim-chin-siong-and-that-beauty-world-speech-a-closer-look
Few historical figures in Singapore’s post-war history excite as much controversy as does Lim Chin Siong (1933-96). Emerging from a humble background, Lim quickly rose in the 1950s to become an exceptional trade union leader and organiser. He joined the People’s Action Party (PAP) as a founder member in 1954, and won a seat in the Legislative Assembly the following year as a PAP candidate. He proved himself an absolutely first-rate Chinese-language orator, able to move large crowds with his folksy anti-colonial speeches.
Was he a Communist? Lim never admitted that he was. When Lim was at his political zenith in the 1950s, the British colonies of Singapore and Malaya were embroiled in confrontation with the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). This was not a geopolitically isolated contest. It was very much part of the wider Cold War that pitted Western democratic capitalist forces against the politically and economically centralised Communist bloc led by the Soviet Union and China. While the CPM was engaged with British and Malayan forces in a low-intensity shooting war up north in the Malayan jungles, its campaign in relatively more urbanised Singapore took the form of clandestine subversion and the fomenting of industrial unrest.
In the period 1954-56, for instance, Singapore was beset by Communist-instigated work stoppages and paralysis of public transport. Daily life was punctuated by running battles between workers, Chinese middle school students and the police. Cars were burnt, property was destroyed, people were injured, and some lost their lives. In 1955 alone, there were 275 strikes and 946,000 man-days lost compared to a total of 12 strikes and 182,000 man-days lost in 1953 and 1954.
Against this backdrop, the Labour Front leader Lim Yew Hock, who became Chief Minister in June 1956, following the resignation of Chief Minister David Marshall – deemed by the worried British as too soft on the Communists – sought to assure London that his government could restore public order and calm. Lim Yew Hock recognised that the British required assurance that a decolonised Singapore would remain politically stable and anti-Communist, before they could consider any serious constitutional advance toward self-government and eventual independence.
His government hence took a series of tough actions in September and October 1956. Communist agitators were arrested and banished while several Communist-subverted organisations were deregistered. It was in this context that Lim Chin Siong led mass protests against these actions. Amidst the growing tension with student demonstrations and camp-ins in two schools involving 4,000 students, meetings were held in nearby sites where Lim and others were said to have delivered inflammatory speeches.
The standard account records that on the evening of 25 October 1956, Lim apparently made an inflammatory speech at a protest meeting at Beauty World, not far from Chinese High School, accusing the Government of oppressing workers and victimising students. After his speech, a number of those who attended the meeting went down to the school to join the crowds that had already gathered there. Riots broke out not long after. As a result of the violence, 13 people died, 123 were injured, 70 cars were burnt or damaged, two schools were razed and two police stations attacked. Speaking in the Legislative Assembly later, Labour Front Education Minister Chew Swee Kee alleged that Lim had urged the crowd to “pah mata” or “beat the police” and had thus “sparked off the riots”. Lim was subsequently arrested under the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance (PPSO) on 27 October.
The “Pah Mata” Incident: A New Finding?
The “pah mata” episode at Beauty World has now become the subject of a new controversy concerning Lim., In a recent post on The Online Citizen1 website the revisionist historian Thum Ping Tjin, citing recently declassified British Special Branch records, argues that the Labor Front government’s arrest of Lim Chin Siong for allegedly inciting the Beauty World crowd to mob violence was unjust. Thum attaches a copy of the actual Special Branch report of Lim’s Beauty World speech on 25 October, and highlights that Lim did not tell the crowd to “pah mata”. What Lim actually said was as follows:
“With regard to police… they are all wage-earners and they are all here to attend this meeting to oppose Lim Yew Hock. (Loudest cheers of the meeting so far) We gladly welcome them, and the more of them that attend will make us even stronger. (crowd cheers wildly) A lot of people don’t want to shout Merdeka! They want to shout “pah mata”. This is wrong. We want to ask them to cooperate with us because they are also wage-earners and so that in the time of crisis they will take their guns and run away. (Laughter and cheers).”
In short, Thum argues that “the government deliberately misrepresented Lim Chin Siong’s speech”, and that the “Special Branch files show that Lim was framed”. Thum adds that after Lim’s English-speaking colleagues in the PAP won power in 1959, they did not allow “Lim to clear his name either”.
The Basic Problem with Thum’s Analysis: “Cherry-Picking”
Thum’s case however is compromised by his “cherry-picking” approach to the historical record. He appears to selectively emphasise certain facts while ignoring others in order to promote his preferred narrative. This results in four major gaps in his analysis.
Gap One: The Communists were not regular folks
Thum never provides an adequate sense of the Communist threat to Singapore and Malaya. The novice reader can be forgiven for coming away after reading Thum thinking that the CPM represented merely another political option for the people of Singapore and Malaya. It was not. The Communists were utterly ruthless in the quest for power, and their doctrine granted their leaders the flexibility to toggle between “peaceful constitutional struggle” and “armed struggle” depending on their assessment of the evolving political situation.
In Eastern Europe after the Second World War, “United Front” tactics were employed in which Communist agents would form coalitions with civil society associations, unions and political parties, lie and manipulate their way to the top, subvert them from within and take over eventually. The CPM followed suit in Malaya and Singapore as well. Moreover, the Malayan Communists were not beyond using extreme, shocking violence to attain their ends. Bombings, assassinations, hackings, sadistic acts of mutilation, torture and murder of individuals and entire families were not unknown and have been fully documented.
Gap Two: Lim Chin Siong did have Communist links and sympathies
In 1955, Lim Chin Siong declared publicly that he was “not anti-Communist” and “should not support the colonial officials in spreading negative hysteria of anti-Communism”. There is no doubt that Lim did at the very least have strong associations with known Communist United Front (CUF) organisations. For instance, he was a member of the underground Singapore Students’ Anti-British League (ABL), which he joined when he was still a student at Chinese High School. While Lim later claimed he did not know that the ABL was a CUF entity, the Special Branch unearthed documents that flatly contradicted this notion. One was a note Lim made of a talk he gave in commemoration of Soviet Communist leader Joseph Stalin’s death to his ABL subordinates. Another contained guidance notes by Lim to his ABL charges on the CPM’s secret journal Study. Moreover, even CPM leaders such as Fang Chuang Pi, better known as the Plenipotentiary or “The Plen”, admitted later that he had been in clandestine contact with Lim, asserting in his memoirs that they had a “special relationship”.
Meanwhile, Philip Moore, the deputy high commissioner in Singapore, who was noticeably less hardline in his attitude toward Lim than some other British officials at that time, nevertheless conceded in confidential correspondence in September 1961 that Lim Chin Siong “was a really clever United Front Communist operator”. Interestingly, during the famous 18 July 1961 “tea party” meeting between Moore’s boss Lord Selkirk, Lim and his fellow extreme left PAP members Fong Swee Suan, S. Woodhull and James Puthucheary at Eden Hall, the official residence of the High Commissioner, Lim and Fong had “seemed embarrassed” when Selkirk asked whether they were Communists. The official record notes that both men “failed to give a clear reply”. Such behaviour on the part of Lim even prompted relatively sympathetic observers such as C.J. WL Wee to admit in 1999 that “Lim might be accused of being disingenuous in not directly stating his own position vis-a-vis communism”.
Gap Three: Lim did have a direct role in fomenting unrest
Further exacerbating matters is the evidence that Lim had a direct role in key violent episodes in the 1950s. The first was the 13 May 1954 riots in which Lim and Ng Meng Chiang alias Comrade D – the CPM directing figure in Singapore then – took advantage of the controversial issue of national service to stoke the anger of Chinese middle school students. Lim instructed his subordinates to participate in the demonstrations and told his students to hold their ground if the police resorted to force. 27 students and policemen were injured. A year later, during the infamous Hock Lee Bus dispute in April and May 1955, Lim and Fong Swee Suan exploited their strong union links to escalate tensions by inciting numerous strikes and making rousing speeches, leading the Government to accuse them of instigating the use of violence.
Significantly, Singapore’s future President Devan Nair – then belonging to the PAP extreme left faction – recalled that, although the Hock Lee bus dispute could have been quickly settled, Lim opted to stoke the fires, arguing that “the anger of the workers must first be allowed to explode”. It did, and the violence of May 1955 resulted in four deaths and 31 injured. In the aftermath, an angry Acting Governor William Goode accused Lim of having deliberately organised as many strikes as he could in the lead-up to the riots, while even Chief Minister David Marshall – whom Thum incidentally praises in his article – chastised Lim and his extreme leftist compatriots, noting that the “pattern of developments” closely conformed “to the Communist technique in seeking to foment industrial unrest on any excuse and to obstruct peaceful solutions” (Straits Times 13 May 1955). Marshall actually demanded in the Legislative Assembly “that Lim Chin Siong declare publicly whether he spoke in the Chamber as a communist or communist sympathiser” (Singapore, A Biography, p. 363).
Gap Four: The Beauty World Speech encouraged the crowd to “pah mata” in spirit if not in letter
Finally, Thum takes the “pah mata” comment of Lim Chin Siong totally out of context. One has to view the episode in wider context and read the whole speech – not just the snippet Thum reproduces – to get a clearer sense of what Lim was trying to achieve that evening. What does a fuller reading of the entire speech reveal? Only that the speech was indeed – as so many contemporary and later observers have recounted – inflammatory and aimed to stoke anti-government resentment towards the Lim Yew Hock government. The basic message was that Lim Yew Hock was a stooge of the British, utterly reliant on them to maintain power. Lim Yew Hock did nothing for the people, and was more interested in buying a new car for himself. He was never going to change. Lim Chin Siong moreover warned that “tonight” Lim Yew Hock “may beat the students’, and ‘use force to oppress the innocent students”. Tellingly, Lim Chin Siong added that “we warn him if he uses force against the students, we the people of Singapore will not tolerate it”; that “tonight there is the possibility that something big will happen” and that “we must take certain action to retaliate against their oppressive action” (emphasis mine).
Any student of social psychology would recognize a skilled demagogue’s classic construction of a victimised, morally superior in-group – the workers and students – and a morally evil, materially more powerful out-group – Lim Yew Hock and the British. In addition, by the use of dehumanising language – “Lim Yew Hock has clearly shown today he has become a running dog of the British (ang moh lang)”; “the British in Malaya today are like dogs”; “look at the British and spit, filthy spit” – Lim not only succeeded in whipping the crowd up to a wild frenzy (as the Special Branch note-taker clearly records) he consigned the out-group members to a state of what Orlando Patterson calls a state of social death. When that happens, out-group violence is not too far off. As we know, following Lim’s speech, violence did ensue.
It does not matter that Lim Chin Siong did not literally tell the crowd to “pah mata”. Perhaps he was trying to drive a wedge between the police and the government they were representing. Or more likely, he was being sarcastic, and the crowd knew it and lapped it up, as the record hints at. The bottom line is Lim Chin Siong’s October 1956 Beauty World speech as a whole, would today be regarded as a good example of non-violent extremism. Non-violent extremist leaders do not actually tell their followers to go out and attack specific targets. They merely focus on creating a psychological climate in which out-group violence in general is fully legitimised – which prompts some of their followers to go out and take action of their own volition. As Lim said in his speech: “We must take certain action to retaliate against oppressive action” – and he adroitly left it to his followers to figure out what that “certain action” meant. Hence the ensuing violence was not – as Thum suggests – because “public anger was too strong”. Violence broke out because Lim had skillfully fostered an emotionally combustible climate in which any small skirmish with police was bound to spark a full-fledged riot.
If all this sounds familiar, there are good reasons for it: “I am only a craftsman making knives”, a well-known violent Islamist extremist leader in Indonesia asserted famously not so long ago, “so how am I responsible for how those knives are used?” Notwithstanding the differences in ideology, time and space, such words might as well been uttered by Lim Chin Siong on the evening of 25 October 1956. In this light, Thum’s assertion that Lim Chin Siong’s detention was unjustified because he did not literally tell the crowd to “pah mata” misses the point completely. A case could arguably be made that up to and as a result of that speech, Lim had done little to suggest why the full force of the law should not have been applied against him.
Lim Chin Siong remains a morally complex historical figure. On the one hand, as Lee Kuan Yew, Devan Nair and other members of the founding generation of Singapore’s political leadership have said publicly, Lim deserves much admiration and respect for his dedication, austere lifestyle and unflinching commitment to his cause. Nevertheless Lim did embrace the Communist world view. He seemed to interpret the world through the lens of “dialectical materialism”, in which impersonal world historical forces appeared more important than – and decisive in shaping – individual life trajectories.
As he once put it rhetorically, “was it my mistake or was it the mistake of history that I had become a member of the ABL at that time?” Such intellectual commitment proved costly, because Communism suffered from a basic internal contradiction. Its founder Karl Marx envisaged it as a scientific, historically inevitable system for overcoming the dehumanising impact of industrial capitalism in separating the working class from enjoyment of the fruits of its labour. Ironically, however, once in power Communist regimes were even more dehumanising, emphasising class interests over individual happiness. “In spite of its glowing talk about the welfare of the masses”, the American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. observed, “Communism’s methods and philosophy strip man of his dignity and worth, leaving him little more than a depersonalised cog in the ever-turning wheel of the state”. Such logic ultimately legitimated violence against putative class enemies. Lim appeared to sincerely believe that the ends of global Communism, with its promise of material plenty for the hitherto oppressed working classes, justified practically any means – including prevarication and violence – to attain it.
Lim’s personal moral paradox – like other like-minded intellectuals of the time – was thus intertwined with that afflicting Communism itself. C.J. WL Wee rightly asks: How could “a doctrine of liberation” lead “to the atrocities that it did?” This is a good question: Communist regimes only brought decades of misery to their populations. Little wonder that they were subsequently overthrown in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union by 1989. Furthermore, massive reforms have been required in China and Vietnam, whose governments are now trying to restructure in a more capitalist direction. Remaining communist regimes like North Korea and Cuba meanwhile remain pariah states in the international community.
Singaporeans should therefore take care to avoid uncritically embracing revisionist historical representations like Thum’s. Despite all his personal qualities, Lim Chin Siong ultimately erred. It is moreover important to acknowledge the crucial contributions of all those who fought in the struggle against Communist violence and oppression. In the end this is perhaps the real story to be told, of how such unsung heroes suffered threats and abuse from the Communists and some even gave their lives in the process. It was these courageous souls who ultimately helped to build modern Singapore, free from the yoke of Communism – what the former British Labour politician Richard H.S. Crossman called – the “god that failed”.
Kumar Ramakrishna is Associate Professor and Head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Nanyang Technological University. A historian by training, he has published extensively on the struggle against post-war Malayan Communism. He is working on a longer scholarly analysis of Operation Coldstore.
1Accessed 8 May 2014, available at (http://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2014/05/lim-chin-siong-was-wrongfully-detained)