Still remember in 1961, there was a split in the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the breakaway group founded Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front) #1, a party carrying the name of Socialist. Since then, the socialist ideology and movements have already left the PAP. This was also the reason that the PAP was forced to leave Socialist International in 1976. #1
[In 1976, however, the PAP resigned from the Socialist International after the Dutch Labour Party had proposed to expel the party, accusing it of suppressing freedom of speech.]#1
To be fair to the PAP, no political party in Singapore is a member of Socialist International, after a check in their webpage. Historically, ‘socialist’ is a negative word in Singapore politics. It is so close to the word ‘communist’. Perhaps, this tells us why no Singapore political party wants to join Socialist International and carries the ‘socialism liability’.
However, in the Wikipedia, the PAP and WP are in the list of democratic socialist parties and organisations. But in term of political position, the PAP is centre-right and WP is centre-left.
If the PAP’s new resolution does not mention ‘democratic socialist’, many Singaporeans will not think of the link between socialism and the PAP. In particular, the PAP has always rejected the European-style of democratic socialism or social democracy – the so-called welfare state.
Will socialism win votes for the PAP?
The word ‘socialist’ was a heavy name to the PAP. Two years after the split, in the 1963 election, its share of votes dropped to 46.9% from 54.1% in 1959. Will history repeat itself? Will there be a split in the PAP after the re-focus of democratic socialism?
Considering 1961, the split costs the PAP votes to go down. So, in simple mathematics, the PAP will win more votes by re-introduction the term ‘socialist’. This means they want to take back the breakaway votes. Is this so simple? Or, will it result to the opposite effect? PAP members confuse and so they reject the ideology of democratic socialist. They then leave the party to form a new conservative right wing party.
I wonder how many PAP members can associate themselves to the democratic socialist movements. After so many years of PAP education (see below), democratic socialism is really out of sight, ‘no free lunch’ is the only capitalist word we know.
[…most analysts of Singapore have discerned four major "ideologies" of the PAP: pragmatism, meritocracy, multiracialism, and Asian values or communitarianism.]#1
[It has since considered itself a social democratic party, though in recent decades it has moved towards neoliberal and free-market economy reforms.] #1
A confused Democratic Socialism
PAP members are not the only ones confuse about the meaning of democratic socialism. Even among political scientists, there is no consensus. Wikipedia provides a brief explanation:
[Democratic socialism is a name given to trends of socialism that emphasizes democratic principles as inalienable from their political project. Some forms of democratic socialism overlap with social democracy, while other forms reject social democratic reformism in its entirety.]
But it also adds the following:
[Democratic socialism is difficult to define, and groups of political scientists have radically different definitions for the term.]
Will a confused definition of democratic socialism work for the PAP? As a consequence, the PAP can claim that they are everything, from left to right. They can be the Democratic as well as the Republican in the USA. They can also be the Conservative, Liberal as well as Labour Party in the UK. They can also be a combination of Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat in Malaysia.
In fact, this is what the PAP has been doing since 1959. They can shift side as they like.
Confused democratic socialism = discounted lunch?
A confused definition can also benefit the PAP as it can sometimes claim to be in the left side of politics when facing new popular demand and want to gain votes. However, when talking to investors, promoting business, creating jobs, they want to stand at the right side of the politics.
It is just like PAP MP Baey Yam Keng and his $3 lunch. Some lunches have discounts, some have discounted drinks, some without. Only the PAP is capable to provide so many different pricing for a lunch.
In the past 50 years, the PAP has shown its capability in shifting side from left to right, right to left, and now with the new resolution, it is offering a lunch package with some discounts to Singaporeans, but some of them, like Baey Yam Keng, may not even notice the special discount.
It is now moving away from ‘expensive lunch’ to ‘discounted’ lunch as stated and claimed in the PAP resolution. But still there is no ‘free lunch’.