Social Roots of the Malay Left

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This is a study of the Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM), the first Malay political party, established in 1938 and led by Ibrahim Yaacob. KMM is often regarded as the precursor of the Malay Left.

Modern Malay politics is said to have divided into a left and a right stream from the 1930s. The differences between the two poles are not to be equated to our conceptions of such terms but instead they indicate the respective Malay political parties' affinity to prevalent ideologies; the educational backgrounds of leaders; and the influence exerted by leftist anticolonial Indonesian political exiles.

This book makes this largely academic debate available to a wider public, contextualising KMM's founding within early 20th century transformations of Malay and Malayan society, especially the emergence of an elite alienated from, and dissatisfied with, traditional court-based power. It argues that the Malay Left emerged within the new elites two pronged struggle: against colonialism and against the traditional rulers who were the only ones allowed a voice.

A good read for anyone wishing to go beyond the generally airbrushed and bland versions of Malay, Malayan, and Malaysian history.

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