Bibliography on Party Politics in Mayala, 1950-62

Irving Rockwood


The political party system in the Federation of Malaya has received an increasing amount of attention from scholars in the last decade. To some extent this trend is a reflection of the fact that the present party system in mainland Malaya is quite young. With the exception of the Malayan Communist Party, none of the Malayan parties can trace their origins any further into the past than 1946, and the first national elections in Malaya were not held until 1955, while the first post-independence elections occurred in 1959.

There are other factors which also account for the increased concern with Malayan parties. Our know1edge of Malayan po1itics has undoubtedly benefited for instance, as an indirect result of the blossoming interest in Southeast Asia which has manifested itself in recent years. However, it is not merely because Malaya is located in Southeast Asia that it has attracted the attention of so many scholars. The structure of Malaya's "plural society," which contains not two but three major communal groups (no one of which comprises a majority of the population), the cumulative nature of the cleavages between these groups, the absence of a tradition of democratic government, the concern acknowledged by Malayans themselves that their country is "not yet a nation"&endash;all of these factors would seem to hinder the development of a stable government, let alone the emergence of a competitive party system coupled with democracy.

For all of these reasons then, our bibliographic search turned up a considerable body of material on Malayan parties. All of the material included in this file is in English. It seems unlikely that this decision will severely limit the comprehensiveness of the data base, for during the time period under consideration both English and Malay were official languages in Malaya.

Material Processed into ICPP Information Files

The ICPP file on Malaya includes some 2,348 pages which were selected from among some 60 documents out of the over 300 documents examined in the course of the bibliographic search. As will be seen from inspecting the table of indexing codes, the codes distribute rather evenly over four major categories: "party activities" (2--), "political environment" (6--), the "party system" (8--) , and "party composition" (3--). In spite of our intention to restrict the use of the "political environment" codes, they were used heavily, for in the course of our indexing it became clear that an understanding of the political environment in Malaya is essential to an understanding of the Malayan party system. Malaya's "plural society" constitutes the significant factor in Malayan politics, and this is reflected in the heavy usage of the 610, 640, and 630 codes, which deal with "Issues of consensus or cleavage," "political attitudes," and "political participation" respectively. The political history of Malaya also seemed significant enough to warrant a heavy usage of the 680 code which deals with that subject and also the structure of the government.

The "party system" coding category also was used heavily. Within the "party system" category, one of the codes which appears most frequently is the 840 code for "interparty co-operation." This is a result of the fact that the major political organization in Malaya, the Alliance Party, is really a coalition of three parties, the United Malaya National Organization, the Malayan Chinese Association, and the Malayan Indian Congress. Each of these parties retains its own separate identity while participating in the policy&endash;making structure of the Alliance Party, which is superimposed upon the organizational structure of the three partners in the Alliance. It is also noteworthy that the 810 code received such heavy usage, which indicates that electoral data for Malaya is readily available.

Observations on the State of the Literature

The "party organization" codes (4--) rank near the bottom of the distribution of use in indexing the literature. We would need to know considerably more about party organization in Malaya, particularly at the local level, before being able to effectively relate much of the contemporary theory to Malayan political parties. While there is ample information available on the leaders of Malayan parties, most notably Dato Onn, Tenku Abdul Rahman, and Tan Cheng Lock, there is considerably less information about the rank and file party members.

Also, it is unfortunately true that even in the cases of those categories such as "party activities" (2-- codes) where much information appears in the literature, the information is not always of the most useful sort. Too often the treatment given the subject is descriptive rather than analytical. For instance, in the case of election campaigns it is repeatedly observed that the Alliance campaigned with great success utilizing a particular slogan. However, we know little or nothing about how this slogan was adopted and who formulated it, about differences in response among the various groups within the electorate, about the types of people who served the party as campaign workers during the election campaign and what they did, or even about the general strategy utilized by the party in conducting the campaign. Until such information becomes available, the data base on Malayan parties will be deficient for certain purposes.

Nonetheless, it may be concluded that the available literature on Malayan politics is surprisingly abundant and of a generally high quality. There are certain deficiencies, as we have suggested, although our general profile of the indexed literature found in the data quality table (which is based on a smaller number of 55 documents) is not very revealing in this respect. The one deficiency which the table most clearly reveals is that most of the literature on Malaya lacks an adequate theoretical base. Most of the indexed material contains no explicit propositions, and in only a few cases is there any reference to general theory. However, most of the literature comes from scholarly sources&endash;journals, books, and monographs-and is contributed by academics. Most of the documents also report quantitative data and are likely to attribute sources through footnotes. Finally, the authors do not display ideological biases which contaminate their discussions and they have been judged to be largely objective in their writings.