Indonesia and Permanent Revolution [July 1998]

Recent dramatic events in Indonesia have thrust it to the fore as a hotpoint of world struggle. The demise of Suharto has sparked off claims that the Indonesian 'revolution' has begun. We reported on the causes of the latest crisis and political upheaval in the last issue of Class Struggle. After several weeks of mass struggles that brought the downfall of Suharto, we take a hard look at the way forward.

We should all remember that the mass murder of around 500,000 communists and Chinese in 1965 was the direct result of a Stalinist policy of class collaboration that disarmed the working class. Are we about to go down the same road today? We look at the analyses and programme the main left tendencies inside and outside Indonesia.We conclude that the legacy of Stalinism and of degenerate trotskyism means that none offers a convincing analysis or a revolutionary programme so desperately needed to win the struggle for socialism.

Worse, the default of the left primes the brave and militant Indonesian masses for another historic defeat. We cannot analyse the current situation without some background on the Indonesian political scene. The ruling bloc of Golkah and its "New Order" was forged in the years after 1965 when Suharto put down the failed coup and killed up to 500,000 communists and dissidents. The 'democratic opposition' around Megawate Sukarnoputri and the Democratic Party of Indonesia (PDI) is a weak force which is prevented from playing any serious role by the constitution and by political repression. Under the 1945 Constitution, the President is able to usurp power provided he controls the army. Though nominally elected by the Supreme Advisory Council (MPR) which meets every five years, the President can appoint over half its members, and in practice influence the rest. The Parliament (or the Peoples' Representative Council DPR) has little authority. Formally, it too can pass legislation. But the grip of Golkar is such that only opposition candidates which are acceptable to Golkar have been allowed to enter parliament.

Therefore while the President is not exactly a military dictator, by establishing a network of personal patronage around Golkar - the "crony capitalist faction" - and his control of the army, he is a near-dictator, i.e. a form of bonapartist dictator. The student led uprisings of recent weeks have shaken Golkar but it has not challenged is grip on power. The military (ABRI) remains the backbone of Golkah . Although the ruling bloc has its splits, none have emerged so far to suggest that it cannot rule. The replacement of Suharto by his deputy Habibie shows that the ruling bloc is capable of making concessions so long as they are cosmetic.

The popular extra-parliamentary left consists of mainly 'communist' and 'nationalist' groupings. Most see the way forward as one of a 'democratic' revolution based on 'people power'. The students who mobilised for the recent demonstrations largely share these 'democratic' aspirations. Many, influenced by Maoist ideas see the 'democratic' revolution as a stage toward a socialist revolution in the future. There is a widespread belief that the causes of all Indonesia's problems, are not so much Chinese entrepreneurs, but the Golkar regime and the "orang kaya baru" (OKB - the new rich its massive corruption and wealth. This is the view of the Western economic experts as well. The solution is to mobilise the popular masses and demand democratic or constitutional reform to clean up the cronyism and the corruption. But who is going to reform the constitution and how?

Full Text in Class Struggle No 22, June-July 1998

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