18 March 2008

[Marxism] Indonesia: Information on the split in the PRD

Earlier this year I spent one month in Indonesia to study Indonesian political developments and the split in the People’s Democratic Party (PRD) – Indonesia’s revolutionary Marxist party. I also wrote some news articles for Green Left Weekly. The articles included that which first reported the split in the PRD http://www.greenleft.org.au/2008/738/38186, as well as an unpublished Green Left article earlier sent to this list see http://kprm-peoples-democratic-party.blogspot.com/2008/02/indonesia-reject-parliamentarism-and.html.

As there is not yet much analysis available in English on the split I will make some points to provide readers with background to the situation.

People following the PRD split threads on this list would know that the Split (which began July 2007) occurred ostensively over how to approach the Indonesian elections scheduled for late 2009. The majority of the PRD’s central leadership committee expelled those members of the committee that did not agree with the majority approach. This preceded further expulsions from the PRD and its allied organisations including the expulsion of whole branches and districts where a majority of the members did not agree with the PRD majority’s approach to elections.

Why force a split over a tactical question like how to relate to a parliamentary election? The PRD minority (now called the Political Committee of The Poor - People's Democratic Party - KPRM-PRD) argues it is because the differences are not really just tactical – but that the PRD majority has taken an opportunist turn to the right. They say this can be seen in part by looking at the majority approach to the 2009 elections.

So what are their election tactics?

In short the PRD majority’s election work consists of trying to form a coalition between their own PRD led broad left party (National Liberation Party of Struggle – PAPERNAS) and one or another bourgeois party that can meet the electoral registration requirements (i.e. will be allowed to compete in the 2009 elections).
PAPERNAS failed to get registration in its own name – that is what triggered the split last year.

Dita Sari is the Chairperson of the PRD majority (now PRD-PAPERNAS). In her own words to a Green Left weekly interview in October 07; “Before we were focusing on campaigning among the social movements. But we found the social movements were very fragmented and sometimes very sectarian and apolitical. What we are trying to do now is campaign for our program among the mass bases and structures of this Islamic party that we are targeting for a coalition… building a coalition with another party, which is not left, revolutionary or progressive, but to some extent can accept our program. “ see http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/735/38075. That party is the Star Reform Party (PBR).

I was able to attend all of Dita Sari's presentations at the Latin America – Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference (LAAPISC) in Melbourne in Oct 2007. She was an invited guest of the DSP along with another leader of the PRD majority Agus “Jabo” Priyono.

In their workshop *The Indonesian left before and after Suharto’s ‘new order’ regime* Sari stated her basic justification for an electoral coalition with one or another bourgeois electoral party:
“From 1998 to now, platforms proposed by the left have already been accepted. An Anti neo-liberal platform is already accepted by centrist groups including academics. Anti militarism is also accepted by student and bourgeois political groups. Also anti feudal and anti corruption demands are also widely accepted.”
“So the challenge is not how to get our platform accepted – it is already. The challenge is to create momentum.” Later in the same workshop Sari stated:
“PRD-Papernas also see people in [the] centre, centrist groups who need to be moved [into action] because the anti-neo liberal platform is already accepted” by them.

However it is difficult to find any evidence that the Star Reform Party (PBR) had any agreement with the PAPERNAS three point program. I phoned Dita Sari for an interview for Links Magazine while I was in Jakarta but she declined the interview, stating that if I had any questions about PRD-PAPERNAS position I should refer to the PRD majority’s official position statement sent to the Democratic Socialist Perspective (my party) – however this is not publicly available.

The PAPERNAS program is1. Abolish the foreign debt!2. Nationalise the oil and mining industry!3. Build a strong national economy for the benefit of the people.

The Star Reformation Party (PBR) has never mentioned that program or those demands publicly.
PBR is an Islamic party with a reactionary landlord base in some areas. PBR has opposed increasing the budget allocation for education to 20% of Government expenditure (as stipulated by Indonesia’s constitution of 1945), opposed the campaign on foreign debt cancellation, and pushed for Islamic Law in many provincial representative bodies.

In Labuhan Batu and West Sulawesi PBR elite land owning politicians actually directly clashed with peasant mass organisations aligned with PAPERNAS. For example in West Sulawesi the chairperson of PBR hired thugs to evict peasants belonging to the National Peasants Union (STN) from his estate.

On October 30, 2007 an interview was published in the Rakyat Merdeka newspaper with Bursah Zarnubi, the chairperson and boss of the PBR. He openly slates that he is also involved in negotiations with the Concern for the Nation Party (PKPB) set up by Suharto’s eldest daughter Tutut Suharto and her favourite pro-Suharto generals. This public statement did not cause PRD-PAPERNAS to change their policy which is to seek a coalition with PBR.

The Concern for the Nation Party (PKPB) is chaired by Raden Hartono, a former Suharto army commander. He is quoted as stating during a campaign rally in March 2004 that "With an extraordinary boldness I want to affirm that I am a Suharto lackey". Tutut Suharto was chosen as the PKPB's presidential candidate in the last elections.

While PRD-PAPERNAS has not been put off by the apparent reactionary nature of the PBR, it seems the PBR has been less interested in forming an alliance with PAPERNAS, so the PRD-PAPERNAS leadership have had to look for other coalition possibilities if they wish to run in the elections.

The second party publicly flagged by PRD-PAPERNAS as a coalition target is the Democracy renewal Party (PDP) which was a split from ex-president Megawati Sukarno Putri’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). The PDP party was founded and until late last year lead by Laksamana Sukardi a millionaire businessman who served as Minister for State Owned Enterprises in Megawati’s cabinet From August 2001 until late 2004. Sukardi was also put in control of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA) for most of that time.

Sukardi’s appointment in 2001 followed the so called “Asian” economic crisis of 1997-8 which brought massive IMF intervention into the Indonesian economy. The IBRA was the government agency given control of all “bailed out” i.e. bankrupted and then nationalised bank assets resulting from the economic crisis . It was second collection of state owned enterprises controlled by Sukardi whose office controlled more than 150 companies ranging from oil exploration to shipping to telecommunications as well as many many banks.

Sukardi’s policy was simple – sell off as many state assets as possible to raise enough cash to meet the IMF loan re-payment schedule. This IMF / Megawati / Sukardi policy, also accelerated foreign capitalist take over of the Indonesian economy by offering bargain basement fire sales of Indonesia’s national wealth at a time when mostly only foreigners had the cash to bid.

All the main international financial press seems to have been happy with the choice of Sukardi for this job:
Asia Today on August 27, 2001 Decided that :

“With the recently concluded IMF agreement, things are looking up for Indonesia. Standard & Poor's upgraded the country's long-term sovereign ratings from negative to stable, reflecting its confidence in the new administration. One of Megawati's first acts as President was to shift control of IBRA from the finance ministry to the state enterprises ministry, headed by Laksamana Sukardi. Investors will most likely approve of the decision, given Mr. Laksamana's background as a former Citibank executive.” see

The Far Eastern Economic Review (Eastern edition). Reported on August 14, 2001“Mr. Sukardi said he would initially focus on quickly raising more revenue by consolidating the portfolio of state companies under the control of his ministry with IBRA's roster. At the height of the 1997-98 financial crisis, the agency took over assets with a face value of some $60 billion. 

"When you combine state-owned enterprises and IBRA, you get a big stock of companies, and then you can pick and choose which to sell for the best result," Mr. Sukardi said. He said that Indonesia has to meet its commitment to the International Monetary Fund to raise 27 trillion rupiah ($2.96 billion) for this year's budget from IBRA asset sales, and another 6.5 trillion rupiah from other privatization efforts.” Maggie Ford in her article Laksamana's in-tray keeps growing (Wall Street Journal, Sept 2001) cautioned that: “The pile of assets on the desk of Laksamana Sukardi, Indonesia's new minister for state-owned enterprises, has multiplied to include the whole of the country's public sector and a substantial chunk of the private sector. Getting those assets off his desk again will not be easy.” Ford tells us: “Telecoms and banking are likely to get Sukardi's immediate attention as he struggles to meet targets for asset sales under Indonesia's support programme with the IME Few believe he can meet the target of R6.5 trillion rupiah (US$765.5 million) from privatization sales and R27 trillion from IBRA - funds needed to support the budget deficit this year.” It appears that overall Sukardi was able to do a reasonable job of raising cash to send to the imperialists. According to the Letter of Intent Sent by Indonesia to the IMF on June 11, 2003: “IBRA continues to make good progress toward achieving its annual asset recoveries target. Results from the recently completed loan sale program were encouraging, and IBRA has recently launched the sale of virtually all of its remaining asset holdings. The bank divestment program is also advancing; we have completed the sale of Bank Danamon, have announced our plan to launch the majority sale of Bank Lippo this month, and have advanced preparations for the divestment of BII.”

So it is unclear exactly what Dita Sari is referring to when she says that the potential coalition partners “to some extent can accept our program” when the PAPERNAS program calls for nationalisation and “abolishing” (i.e. refusing to pay the foreign debt). Sukardi is currently being investigated for alleged corruption in selling two oil tankers for US$184 million in 2004 – a price which according to the attorney general was well below the market price of that year.According to the Media Indonesia newspaper (February 25, 2005) Sukardi’s personal wealth went up during his time as minister from Rupia Rp26,103 billion to Rupia 42,473 billion. With coalition partners like that it may be difficult for Indonesian workers, peasants, urban poor and students to detect a difference between the PRD-PAPERNAS and the rotten Indonesian capitalist political elite. Under Indonesian election laws PAPERNAS will not be able to use its own name in any such coalition.This question was posed by Ric Reyes, a revolutionary Marxist leader of the united left coalition in the Philippines Laban ng Masa Ric Reyes. Reyes was also visiting Melbourne last October for the LAAPISC conference. Speaking on the same platform as Sari during the session *Movements of Resistance in the Asia Pacific* Reyes Stated: “Our young people have been over exposed to corrupt politicians. They enter into deals and alliances with anybody and sometimes the left makes the same mistake.This can be overcome by a concerted effort to come up clean. To reject everything that is associated with traditional politics – money etc. There is an increasing trend in the Philippines to think that left tactics is similar to those of the traditional politics.”

At the LAAPISC conference and in Green Left Sari downplayed the strategic importance of base building work at the grass roots and counterpoised that to election work.

On the contrary the expelled wing of the PRD – the Struggle Committee for the Poor (KPRM-PRD) see Indonesia's massive and sustained mass movement – the popular response to neo-liberal / IMF policies – as the strategic orientation for the revolutionary left in Indonesia today. KPRM-PRD argues that conditions are beginning to ripen making it easier today to relate to these struggles.

The KPRM-PRD see the task of relating to a large layer of non party social movement activists as the key bridge to the masses. They argue there is a significant layer of well placed and now quite battle hardened activists who have gone through a rigorous ideological education over the last 10 years of “democratic” capitalist decline and national crisis. Many of these activists – having battled it out as social movement activists for years - are now in the process of forming new pre party or proto-party revolutionary groupings.

There are now in Indonesia several streams describing themselves as revolutionary Marxists or as Marxist-Leninist. These groupings are led by activists whose political activity pre-dates the fall of Suharto and are now in the leadership of spontaneous mass campaigns, trade union groupings or student organisations. The mass bases of Marxist or semi-Marxist groupings outside the PRD are now significantly larger than those of either the KPRM-PRD or the PRD-PAPERNAS. The KPRM-PRD’s medium term tactical orientation is to unite with these groups - thereby uniting the most politically advanced elements of the Indonesian mass struggle.

I managed to interview some of these trade union and student leaders when I was in Jakarta. Time permitting I will be able to translate and transcribe the interviews from two key trade Union leaders and make them available in English.

The orientation of the KPRM-PRD itself is explained in detail in an almost finished interview with Zely Ariane from the International Relations Department of KPRM-PRD.

Sam King

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