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The Impact of the Cold War on the Development of Trade Unionism in Malaya (1948–57)

  • Leong Yee Fong (a1)

Extract

In the aftermath of World War Two, Malaya saw the emergence of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) and its attempt to mobilize labour support against the returning British colonial government. The Pan Malayan General Labour Union (PMGLU), later renamed the Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Union (PMFTU), was established as a front organization to harness multiracial labour support and to work in close liaison with other left-wing political groups. Trade unions that mushroomed after the War were invariably dominated by the PMGLU and used as tools for the realization of communist political objectives in Malaya.

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1 Selangor Secretariat File (SSF) 46/1949.

2 “Attendance of Police Officers at Trade Union Meetings”, Industrial and Social Relations File (ISRF) 109/1951.

3 J.A. Brazier, “Short Term Departmental Policy During the Emergency”, ISR F 130/1951.

4 “Extracts from the Straits Budget, 24 June 1948”, CO717/167/52849.

5 Ibid.

6 M.J. Loftus to Colonial Office, 21 Oct. 1948, CO717/166/52849.

7 W. Laws to Colonial Secretary, London, 7 Oct. 1948, CO717/166/52849.

8 Douglas Mayer to Secretary of State, 15 Nov. 1948, CO717/166/52849.

9 Time Magazine, 30 Nov. 1948, end. in CO717/166/52849.

10 Kamal Choudhary to Colonial Secretary, London, 3 Aug. 1948, CO717/166/52849.

11 G. Kimer to Philip Noel Barber, 24 June 1948, CO717/166/52849.

12 “Extracts from Fourth Report of the ILO Governing Body's Committee on Freedom of Association”, 31 May 1952, ISRF 144/1952.

13 “Law and Order, S.A. Ganapathy: Public Reactions”, CO717/176/52849.

14 “British Trade Unions and International Associations”, 10 Mar. 1952, Office of Information, London, p. 7.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

17 “Analysis of the Extent and Technique of Communist Penetration in the Labour Sphere in Indonesia”, Office of Intelligence Research (OIR), U.S., 20 Mar. 1957.

18 Ibid.

19 “The Status of Organised Labour in Southeast Asia: Thailand”, OIR, 3 Apr. 1950.

20 “Allegations of Infringement of Trade Union Rights”, ISRF 144/1952.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 ibid.

25 B. Gebert to the British Ambassador, Paris, 9 May 1948, CO717/176/52849.

26 Ibid.

27 A note on “Communist Penetration of Labour in Certain Far Eastern Countries”, encl. in CO717/163/52754/1949.

28 Ibid.

29 “British Trade Unions and International Associations”, Central Office of Information, London.

30 “Minutes of the 12th Commissioner-General's Conference on 6 May 1949”, CO717/163/52754.

31 Ibid.

32 SSF 46/1949.

33 “Minutes of the 12th Commissioner-General's Conference on 6 May 1949”, CO717/163/52754.

34 Ibid.

35 Ibid.

36 Ibid.

37 A.D.C. Peterson, Anatomy of Communist Propaganda, 1950–1953, Federation of Malaya, p. 72.

38 Ibid.

39 “Extracts from the Federation of Malaya, Monthly Newsletter, 15 May 1949”, CO717/163/52754.

40 lbid.

41 “Minutes of the 12th Commissioner-General's Conference on 6 May 1949”, CO717/163/52754.

42 B.O. Gidden to Brazier, 7 Sept. 1949, CO717/163/52754.

43 Ibid.

44 Ibid.

45 Ibid.

46 Ibid.

47 Tel, from J.D. Higham to Gurney, 1 Oct. 1949, CO717/163/52754.

48 S.J. Zaidi, Malaysian Trades Union Congress, 1949–1974, p. 41.

49 Dalley, E.W., “The Prospect for Asian Trade Unionism”, Pacific Affairs 24, no. 3 (Sept. 1951): 305.

50 Gamba, Charles, The Origins of Trade Unionism in Malaya, A Study in Colonial Labour Unrest (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 1962), p. 406.

51 Proceedings of the Straits Settlements Legislative Council, 11 December 1939, B141.

52 H.C. Willan, “Judgment of Chief Justice Willan”, 15 Oct. 1947, ISRF 121/1952.

53 F. Gimson to NT. Bourdillon, 7 Feb. 1948, CO717/163/52754.

54 Ibid.

55 R.G.D. Houghton to OAG, Apr. 1948, end. in A. Newboult to G.F. Seal (Colonial Office), 4 Sept. 1948, CO717/157/522976.

56 Ibid.

57 Annual Report of the Registry of Trade Unions, 1947–1949.

58 “British Trade Unions and International Association”, 10 Mar. 1952, p. 12.

59 Ibid.

60 “Conference of Labour Heads of Departments”, ISRF 108/1952.

61 Ibid.

62 J. Prentis to MISR; 5 Feb. 1953, ISRF 1402/1949.

63 “Report on Subversive Activities in Malaya, Oct. 1957, Part II”, 18 Nov. 1957, Pahang Secretariat Fil A-9.

64 Miller, Harry, Jungle War in Malaya: The Campaign Against Communism 1948–1960 (London: Arthur Barker, 1972), pp. 9293.

65 “Working Committee on Counter-Subversion: Report on Labour Situation”, 15 Feb. 1957, Pahang Secretariat File A-17.

66 Rudner, Martin, “Malayan Labour in Transition: Labour Policy and Trade Unionism, 1955–1963”, Modern Asian Studies 7, no. 1 (1973): 24.

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The Impact of the Cold War on the Development of Trade Unionism in Malaya (1948–57)

  • Leong Yee Fong (a1)

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