We have certainly been treated to a lot of drama over the WP leadership elections recently. The big news was that Low was challenged for the leadership role by Chen Show Mao or he wasn’t really challenged it was all wayang, depending on who you read and how much you subscribe to conspiracy theory.
All of the reports more or less trumpeted the inner workings of WP as democracy and the vote for the SG position as a contest in one form or another. All of the reports that I saw contained factual errors , all avoided the elephant in the room and all misled their readers into believing that WP is some kind of meritocracy. The story being spun on the magical web was that Low had been put to an actual test of some kind and that CSM was an actual contender.
For those who may not be familiar with what happened ( and what cave are you living in?), there was a leadership challenge by Chen Show Mao for the position of Secretary-General. It failed and Low Thia Kiang won the vote 61-45, with some discussion about the sudden adoption of 28 new cadre members in the last month who all happened to vote for Low.
This is what The Middle Ground had to say:
The two [Chen Show Mao and Low Thia Kiang] are colleagues in Aljunied GRC and were all smiles after the elections, and emphasised mutual respect and that the election was part of the democratic process of letting the party cadres decide how the party should move and who should lead it. Both denied that there was any rift between them. If both candidates can keep their relationship friendly in spite of the election challenge, then it will be a good sign that WP is effectively representing the will of its members, and not falling into groupthink or undemocratic control.
Sorry Bertha. It’s not personal but I can’t let you get away with the phrases “letting the party cadres decide” AND “part of the democratic process” In the scientific language of political analysis we call this “Having your cake and eating it.” More than that, it is the kind of Communist doublethink or Orwellian Newspeak that equates dictatorship with democracy or freedom with slavery. How the pigs in animal farm went from four legs to two or to everyone is equal but some more than others.
In case I’m not making myself clear cadres and democratic process are mutually exclusive. If you have Cadres you don’t have democracy. In fact you have a Communist process not a democratic process. Yes, they have elections in Hong Kong too and those citizens aren’t so lazy and stupid to be fooled into mistaking that for democracy. Let’s correct the paragraph to edit out the factual errors.
Whether or not both candidates keep their relationship friendly in spite of the election challenge or hate each others’ guts it won’t make any difference. A good relationship is merely a good sign that WP is effectively promoting groupthink and undemocratic control.
That’s better and we are getting at the truth. However there was another phrase in that paragraph which I find particularly offensive which I have underlined above in particular that part which says “then it will be a good sign that WP is effectively representing the will of its members”. Firstly this is hijacking a phrase I popularised as “the will of the people” which I used back in 2010 at a NUS Alumni forum. PAP MP Chris DeSouza had spoken of the dangers of a freak result if an Opposition Government was voted in for GE 2011. I immediately responded by saying that if it was “the will of the people” it could hardly be called a freak result and I got a standing ovation from the audience.
“Will of the people” itself references the noble sentiments of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the well-known reference to “government of the people by the people for the people”. In Singapore that phrase is changed with no sense of irony to “government of the people by the PAP for the PAP”
It’s not just me who fnds it offensive. I know that my late father, JBJ, would roll in his grave if he heard the word “democracy” and “cadre system” used together or the claim that the cadres represent the will of the members. The cadres are after all appointed by the leadership of the party and they in turn elect the leadership. This is a closed circle system that the late Toh Chin Chye, who was outmanoeuvred by LKY, described as “the Pope selects the Cardinals and the Cardinals select the Pope”. Back in 2011 I wrote an article on the cadre system explaining its origin in pre-revolutionary Russia and its adoption by the Kuomintang in China and the Communists in the Soviet Union. That is why I can call it with some confidence a Communist process.
People frequently say that Low ousted JBJ from the WP in 2001 by underhanded manipulation of the cadre system. This is not quite true. My father stepped down from the SG position in WP before the meeting which he refused to attend. This was because by then Low controlled a majority of the cadres and the CEC and refused to allow the party to help raise funds to pay the damages arising from multiple defamation suits. Low’s sabotage and backstabbing went further than that even. He struck a side deal with the plaintiffs that they would let him and others in position of responsibility for WP’s newsletter off the hook and go solely after JBJ for the damages. And so Low hunckered down in his little MP ship colecting his salary and allowing the man who had brought the Party to where it was with his historic win go to the dogs.
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