The Politics of the Malayan Communist Party from 1930 to 1948

DAVID LOCKWOOD is an associate professor and visiting research fellow in History at the University of Adelaide.

NUS Press (First printing, 2024)
272 pages including Bibliography and Index


In stock

The Politics of the Malayan Communist Party from 1930 to 1948 surveys the political history of the Party from 1930 to 1948, and explains why the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) was launched into the collective act of self-destruction in 1948. By 1946, the MCP had become one of the most successful communist parties in Asia. From its foundation in 1930, it had built up a membership in the thousands, mainly among Chinese and Indian workers in Malaya. It had forged a mass trade union movement which it led in a constant struggle of attrition against employers and colonial authorities. When the Japanese came, the MCP organised the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), the only effective resistance force, earning grudging support from the British. After the War, when the British returned, the Party launched a highly effective legal campaign for independence, and a better life for Malayans.

But by 1948, the MCP had surrendered all these achievements, left its mass organisations to their fate, and taken many of its members underground to launch a disastrous insurrection against the British. The Party withdrew from the political and economic struggle and transformed itself into an Army. It was to be utterly defeated. To understand these momentous turns of history, a fresh view is required of the Malayan Communist Party as political actor. In particular, Lockwood questions assumptions that post-War politics led inevitably to armed struggle, and questions the accepted narrative of Party Chairman Lai Teck’s treachery. This is a strongly revisionist history of a period, and political force, that has left a lasting mark on the politics of Malaya and Singapore.

Introduction: Malaya’s Communists and the War of Position

1. Communism, the Colonies and Malaya in 1930
2. The Malayan Communist Party: 1930 to 1934
3. Building a Mass Workers’ Movement: 1934 to 1941
4. The People’s Front
5. The Japanese Occupation
6. The First Debate
7. Back to the Workers
8. The British Strike Back
9. The Second Debate
10. The Decision
11. The Campaign against Lai Teck
12. Disaster

Appendix: Further Sober Historical Reflection on Lai Teck Notes

Selected Bibliography

Weight0.407 kg
Dimensions22.9 × 15.2 × 1.8 cm




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