From Class Struggle #47 October-November 2002

Class Struggle condemns the recent terrorist bombing of a Bali nightclub. The bombers are probably Indonesian Islamists angry at the exploitation of Indonesian workers and resources by Western governments and businesses. By turning their anger on innocent workers from Western countries, they only strengthen the position of their enemies.

What's behind the Bali Bombing?

Indonesian is rich in natural resources, but its workers and peasants are poor. The mines and oil fields of Indonesia earn billions of dollars in exports each year, but most of this wealth is taken overseas by Western-based companies. The factories of Indonesia turn out huge numbers of consumer goods every year, but few Indonesians can afford to buy these goods. Left-wing journalist John Pilger estimates that the tens of thousands of workers who produce Nike shoes in Indonesian factories are together paid less a year than Tiger Woods gets for promoting Nike products.

The island of Bali symbolises the domination of Indonesia by the West. Bali is a paradise of shining beaches and lush forests, yet few Indonesians can afford to take holidays there. Ordinary Balinese are treated as casual labourers and second-class citizens by the largely foreign-owned tourist industry on their island. The Sari club where the bombing occurred employed security guards to keep ordinary Balinese off its premises.

The governments of Western countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand have always interfered in Indonesian affairs in an effort to protect the investments their big business friends have in the country.

For thirty-three years Western countries supported the military dictator Suharto as leader of Indonesia, selling him arms and extending him loans. When he took power in a military coup in 1965, Suharto used US intelligence reports to hunt down and kill 500,000 communist workers and peasants who opposed him. In 1975 Suharto invaded the newly independent country of East Timor, beginning a reign of terror which killed at least 250,000 people. Fearful that an independent East Timor would go communist, the US gave guns, ammunition, and diplomatic support to the invasion. Australia and New Zealand followed the US lead, taking part in numerous joint training exercises with Indonesia’s army during Suharto’s rule.

In return for the assistance he received from the West, Suharto crushed any attempts by Indonesian workers and peasants to organise against their exploitation by Western businesses. Suharto’s successors have continued to do the West’s dirty work. The Islamists who were probably behind the bombing in Bali exploit the deep reservoir of anger and frustration Indonesian’s semi-colonial status creates in workers and peasants.

The Perfect Excuse

The Bali bombing gives Western governments and companies an excuse to increase their interference in Indonesia’s political affairs and their exploitation of Indonesia’s natural resources and labour. Already US Ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce has demanded that the Indonesian government "deal with this problem" by passing an anti-democratic ‘anti-terrorism’ law that will make it possible for ‘suspects’ to be detained without clear evidence they have committed any terrorist act. Boyce also wants US security forces to be given a free reign in Indonesia. Already, CIA operatives and a unit of Australian Federal Police have been dispatched to the country.

When Indonesia’s neighbour the Philippines allowed US troops into its country as part of the ‘war of terror’ these troops spent much of their time intimidating union activists and hunting for communist rebels. Any ‘war on terror’ in Indonesia would be likely to involve war on workers unionising and striking against their exploitation at the hands of Western bosses.

Back home in New Zealand National, ACT and the Greens have all used the bombing in Bali to attack the Labour government for not committing enough military muscle to the Pacific region. ACT and National are pushing for a New Zealand military contribution to any new US invasion of Iraq, and an increasing number of voices in parliament and in the media are calling for the return of nuke ships to New Zealand ports. Labour Party leaders have themselves used the Bali bombing to justify the military support they gave to the US invasion of Afghanistan.

It is clear that New Zealand political leaders and their business backers want to exploit the Bali bombings in the same way as their US counterparts exploited S 11. New Zealand workers shouldn’t let their sadness at the slaughter in Bali be used for political and commercial ends by these warmongers.

Instead of bombs, a general strike

In 1998 Indonesian students, workers and peasants showed that the way to challenge Western domination of their country was through mass direct action, not cowardly bombs. In a matter of weeks, massive street protests kicked off by students forced the mighty Suharto out of power. Students and workers in many Western countries protested in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Indonesia. Unfortunately, the workers and peasants of Indonesia were unable to turn the anti-Suharto revolt into the socialist revolution that alone can tear Indonesia away from the rule of the market and the Western domination the market imposes.

The failure of the 1998 protests to go all the way and deliver the goods has driven some angry young Indonesians toward violent and counterproductive acts of frustration like the bombing in Bali. Anger at the continuing Western exploitation of Indonesia should be channelled away from Islamism and terrorism, towards the building of a workers’ and peasants’ movement and party capable of taking power in Indonesia. It takes a general strike to terrorise the bosses

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