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Henry Judd

Singapore and British Malaya

Armored Cars and Tanks Used Against Strikers

(July 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 29, 21 July 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

An American sailor recently returned from a trip to Singapore and Penang, British ports of the Federated Malay States, has given us the following picture of this imperialist colony – important as a source of rubber and tin deposits.

Within the past year the Singapore base has been greatly reinforced and its defenses have been extended. The island bristles with guns, air fields, planes, armored equipment, etc. Singapore city is filled with troops brought from England (mainly officers and arrogant RAF pilots), Australians, New Zealanders and Indians. There is much hostility between the English and Anzac soldiers because the latter resent the fact that they bore the brunt of the defeats in Greece and Crete – with the English being the first to scram out.

Far more important has been the extended and bitter rubber strike conducted by the native workers of Malaya. This strike assumed violent proportions and rapidly became a general strike of all rubber plantation workers during the month of May.

In the rubber districts of Singapore and the state of Johore there labor tens of thousands of workers – mainly Tamils brought over from South India and Ceylon. There are also many Malayan workers. Organized into a militant union, they struck for higher wages and shorter hours than the 11 per day they labor. They organized themselves into picket bands that roamed the plantations, driving off would-be strike-breakers (blacklegs). They fiercely battled the local constabulary, who soon found themselves overwhelmed by the strength of the workers.

Then armored cars and tanks (we thought they were there to be used against the Japanese aggressors!) were brought in from Singapore and other British imperialist army centers. Armed clashes took place. Before it was all over, two police had been killed, a dozen workers likewise and several hundred wounded. Many were arrested and the workers surrounded the jails in an effort to free them. At last word the strike was still on and the results are as yet unknown.

This is an up-to-date illustration of “democratic” imperialism in action against the enslaved colonial workers. This is why troops are sent overseas.

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