· Subject: Re: [Marxism] An important development on the Indonesian left
· From: "Tom O'Lincoln"
· Date: Sat, 9 Feb 2008 14:35:13 +1100
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· Reply-to: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition
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A few thoughts.
Firstly thanks to Max for filling us in, though of course this is not a
philanthropic exercise, he is writing on behalf of the side he supports, and
I suppose we have to read this against the background of differences inside
It is interesting that Danial Indrakusuma is taking such a prominent role
among the minority. He has usually kept a low profile, but I have long
thought him more influential than, say, Dita Sari. So this split seems
rather historic, and the new group may not be like earlier breakaways which
have rapidly disintegrated.
I think Peter's statement is entirely reasonable. Without it many readers
might imagine the whole DSP agreed with Max.
Bob is quite right, Max is the undoubted Australian left expert (his account
of 1997 is accurate) and I suspect I will lend up sympathising with the
group he supports against the other lot. But like Nick I'm in no hurry to
take sides. Not only have we only seen documents from one side, but
theoretical correctness isn't the only consideration. Back around 2000 when
some leading figures led the first split (forming the PDS) I agreed with
them on many theoretical points, but refused point blank to support them
against the PRD. (I just continued to support all the revolutionaries.) One
reason was that their plans for building an organisation struck me as
seriously flawed; on which point I think subsequent experience has proven me
right. Another reason is that, like Peter, I didn't think someone should
casually take sides from long-distance.
I agree with Phil that the main issue is relations with bourgeois parties;
religion can be a major problem at times but at other junctures it can be of
negligeable importance. In practice virtually the whole Indonesian left is
The underlying question is why a far left group finds itself so close to
bourgeois forces. And here I will argue, contrary to Nick, that there is a
pattern in the PRD's history. Around 1996 I remember quite clear the
flattering language they used to describe the utterly bourgeois Democratic
party led by Megawati. PRD leader Budiman Sudjatmiko described her (quoting
from memory) as combining the "wisdom of a statesman and the gentleness of
a mother." By the way, Budiman ultimately defected to Megawati's party.
I'm probably one source of what Nick calls "unfair accusations of
opportunism" by the PRD towards what he calls the "very mildly liberalising"
Wahid government. This government was elected by a rotten bloc of Islamic
and other right wing parties to stop Megawati getting in despite her big
vote. Partly this was motivated by sexist arguments against women taking
office, mainly it was an attempt to slow the democratic momentum of the
time. In 2001, shortly before the Sawangan conference where we were
arrested, I watched as PRD representatives led chants calling for President
Wahid to issue a decree dissolving parliament, something that was only
possible with the connivance of the mililtary. The PRD leaders later
disavowed those actions (acknowledging confusion) and I accept the
disavowals were honest; but I don't think it was accidental that the actions
The problem is that the PRD was and is very small, but has always tried to
present itself as bigger than it is, and wield to influence beyond its
capacity. Lacking its own troops, it tries to use someone else's mass
forces. In 1996 it was trying to surf to greater influence on the back of
Megawati's party, then later it tried to do the same with Wahid's party. But
the tail cannot wag the dog.
I suspect the new problems reflect the same syndrome. An unrealistic attempt
to form some kind of mass electoral force was a flop, resulting in nothing
but a somewhat wider network of activists sustained by the PRD (sounds like
Socialist Alliance?), and the resulting frustrations led to yet another
unreal manoeuvre, which brought on a split.
But these are just surmises. It would be good to see some documents on both
sides. As a start, can someone post the Indonesian documents or provide
links? I believe the DSP has the translators to provide the key ones in
English, but if necessary I would be happy to translate a document or two.