While Lee was an anti-colonialist, in that he sought the devolution of power from Westminster, he did not start out as a Singaporean nationalist. He oversaw the devolution of power and a merger with Malaya. When the Federation of Malaya and Singapore was dissolved by Malaya’s Prime Minister, Lee cried on television stating that his dream had failed. It may be hard to imagine any Governor who wouldn’t jump at the chance of becoming Prime Minister or President, but Lee was thinking of the good of his country.
The Chinese in Singapore were facing a situation similar to White people in America. They were the majority of the country, but their demographic trajectory was toward minority status. Singapore was abandoned by Malaya because of its recurring, violent race riots. Also, a self-destructive ideology had swept his own people, as Communist Chinese were also causing riots and unrest. Though the Communist Party was illegal, they had infiltrated every trade union, cultural organization, and club in the Chinese community. In fact, the PAP, a bourgeois and nominally Socialist party, first came to power by offering itself as a fig leaf to Communists who were in need of a proxy.
Through rather illiberal tactics he managed to overcome the post-Independence challenges to order and development posed by Communists, Islamists, and decadent liberalism. He compared the dilemma of using authoritarian tactics to having sex . . . the first time is difficult and a big deal, but each subsequent time it becomes easier. Malaysia, unlike Singapore, had vast swaths of jungle and mountains, and they were dealing with communist insurgents (mostly ethnic Chinese) until 1989.
Lee tried to delay the departure of the British military as a guarantor of security until as late as possible (December 1971). This was both because they offered some confidence to the business community, despite the precedent of capitulation in WWII, but perhaps more importantly because their consumption contributed to 20% of GDP at the time. Also, the costs of replacing them would equal about 5% of GDP. Singapore was growing as an important shipping port, but was not yet the financial hub that it is today.
Singapore stands above all its neighbors in having suppressed petty corruption. Lee paid his government employees very well and harshly punished the corrupt. Senior government leaders are compensated as well as business leaders in the region. This is often criticized in the financial press, who would never dream of criticizing CEOs of publicly traded companies who are overpaid by their hand-picked Boards or who fend off acquirers to the detriment of shareholders.
Lee’s leadership focused on economic development and demographic stability (race, religion, class, and age profile). Unlike contemporary Western countries where the government forces racial neutrality in residential real estate transactions, or the free-for-all that existed before the civil rights movement, Lee’s government ensured continuity in racial ownership so as to limit racial discord. The PAP forced a population which mostly did not speak English to accept it as an official language. This would ensure that no community would have the upper hand in the new system and that there would be minimal opposition to its choice as a lingua franca.
Lee was a eugenicist, who explicitly tried to find mates for and encourage the motherhood of Singapore’s best female graduates. He was an avowed anti-egalitarian yet did not see sex as a basis for unequal treatment. This was evident in his private life as well as in his policy.
Lee married an academic rival, Lee Geok Choo, who was three years older than him and had outperformed him in a number of classes. They eloped while studying in England and had a traditional marriage later in Singapore. Lee told a crowd of students, “You either have the Western view, you marry the woman you love, or you have the Eastern view, you love the woman you marry . . . I tried to match both, and I think it wasn’t a bad choice.”
He said that the fact he married a woman who could both be a sole breadwinner and raise his children was an “insurance policy” which made it possible for him to pursue his role as founding father of Singapore. She was a skilled lawyer. Despite the fact that she did not have a formal role in the government at the time, she was asked to write the section of the Dissolution of the Malaya Singapore Federation relating to fresh water provisions to be guaranteed by Malaysia. Lee described her as his “powerful critic and helper.” She would revise his speeches and his memoirs. She is credited with leading Singapore into being a garden city, something which sets it apart from every other Asian megacity.
Lee Kuan Yew is known as Minister Mentor Lee, a kind of Prime Minister Emeritus title which is unique in the world. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but I did have close and sustained contact with some business leaders who worked with him. These non-Singaporeans never failed to refer to him as Minister-Mentor Lee. They had greater respect for him in private conversation than I have seen given to any leader. He was a true visionary and statesman, without being a narrow-minded ideologue or a petty demagogue. Lee recorded 32 hours of very candid interviews titled, “Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going” which will ensure his shadow is cast over decision makers for decades to come.
Was Minister-Mentor Lee one of us?
I have heard on good authority that Lee’s party, the People’s Action Party, had full time advisers in its early days who were former senior members of the British Union of Fascists. Lee is undoubtedly a Fascist of the futurist tendency. He was guided by the goals of order, economic development, stability, and security. If he was a racialist, he sublimated that for short term stability while pursuing long term demographic goals for his people. Had he, at any point, expelled en masse Malays or Muslims, he would have faced invasion from one or both of his massive neighbors. Through positive eugenics and selective migration he has managed to maintain a Chinese supermajority.
This is while they are surrounded by less intelligent and more fecund Malays. This has not stopped some Chinese bloggers from referring to him as a Hanjian, race traitor, for adopting the English language and seeking non-Chinese allies to counterbalance the People’s Republic of China. Whether he was a racial nationalist can only be speculated upon, but Minister Mentor Lee left no doubt that he was a Race Realist.
In 1986, after nearly 30 years of leading Singapore, he stated, “What are our priorities? First the welfare [and] the survival of the people, then the democratic norms and processes . . . which from time to time we have to suspend.” This is the approach we must take with the predicament of our people. Constitutionalism and “Rights endowed by our Creator” must be set aside until our demographic crisis has passed and our parasitical masters have been expelled.
Minister-Mentor Lee was a model of realism that should be followed by any of our comrades who may find themselves at the head of a small state while surrounded by hostile neighbors and the threat of regional war.