· Subject: Re: [Marxism] An important development on the Indonesian left
· From: "Max Lane"
· Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2008 22:45:58 +1100
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· Reply-to: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition
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Nick Fredman includes in his posting in response to my article on
developments in the Indonesian Left, the following:
"the charges [against the PRD] including 'opportunist' orientations to the
mass base of the mildly liberal Islamic bourgeois PPP (one of the three
legal parties under Suharto) when underground around 1996, at the same time
as its orientation to the mass base of the Megawati wing of the secular
mildly liberal bourgeois PDI."
Making this comment in the discussion of the developments I outlined in my
article, may tend to obscure differences with the current situation.
In the 1990s, the PRD never had any sustained orientation to the mass base
of PPP involving any kind of merger, or coalition with the PPP, and not even
critical support for the PPP. Neither was the PPP a "mildly liberal
bourgeois" party but housed the most reactionary of the Islamic parties. The
main liberal bourgeois wing of political Islam, represented by Abdurahman
Wahid (Gus Dur) left the PPP in the 1980s, precisely because of its
reactionary and pro-Suharto character. Another liberal, though less so than
Abdurrahman Wahid, Amien Rais, was also never in the PPP. The PPP included
some of the most reactionary and craven elements.
In 1997, the PRD intervened very effectively in general elections that took
place as the movement against Suharto escalated. During the nine day
election campaign each of the three permitted parties were allowed to
campaign, although they were actually not supposed to campaign outside, only
On the days that GOLKAR, the most pro government party, campaigned - very
few people were on the streets.
On the days that the PDI campaigned, very few people mobilised because by
that time the government had withdrawn electoral registration from the real
PDI lead by Megawati Sukarnoputri, which did have a mass following, and had
given it to a puppet PDI.
On the days that the PPP was scheduled to mobilise there were huge and
militant anti-government mobilisations. On the last day estimates are that 1
million plus people mobilised in Jakarta, defying police, military and
government instructions and barricades not to mobilise and defying PPP
leadership instructions cancelling all campaign activities. This was not so
much a mobilisation of the PPP mass base, but a mobilisation of hundreds of
thousands of anti-Suharto urban poor, irrespective of which, if any, of the
bourgeoius parties they looked to. This was eveidenced by, among other
things, the fact that many people brought their own photos of Sukarno or of
Megawati on those so-called PPP campaign days.
The PRD intervened by distributing hundreds of thousands of leaflets calling
for the end of the role in the army in politics, for Suharto to resign and
for a 100% increase in wages and it demanded that the political forces
represented by Megawati and political Islam unite with all other forces to
win these demands.
Never did it adopt a policy of campaigning in critical support of the PPP.
The PPP leadership moved immediately to condemn the leaflets that the PRD
had been distributing.
For more on this see my book UNFINISHED NATION: before and after the Suharto
dictatorship, to be published in May, 2008 by Verso books
In the current case, of course, there are no anti-goverment mobilisations by
the PRD, no anti-government dynamic (the PBR has supported the current
President), and the PRD was seeking to merge with the PBR, suggesting they
would take 5 seats on the PBR national committee.
There are many aspects to the current developments, some representing
setbacks for the Left, some - insofar as a regeneration has begun after ten
years of difficulties - are very positive. I will try to post more articles
on my blog in coming weeks as well as translate more interesting material
from Indonesia. For those interested in the record of the PRD during the
1990s and early 2000s, this is a significant part of UNFINISHED NATION,
hopefully available soon.