Indonesia Perspectives: 2013

PrintE-mail

Here we publish the excerpt of Militan Indonesia’s perspective document which was passed at its 3rd National Conference in March 2013.

Introduction

Last year we said that “the world is changing in a rapid fashion. It is entering a new era”. Events this year, especially in Indonesia, have proven that statement to be correct. Political terrains in many countries shift rapidly as the ruling classes scramble to maintain economic order in the face of a crisis that refuses to go away. Meanwhile, Indonesian proletariat flexed its muscle this year in an unprecedented wave of strikes and actions. The law of combined and uneven development expresses itself clearly in the strengthening of Indonesia’s manufacturing sector – thus Indonesian proletariat – while the whole world is plagued with anaemic growth.

Let us quote our 2012 World Perspective to get a general sense of the situation we are in today:  

“These sudden sharp turns indicate that something fundamental has changed in the entire situation. Events are beginning to impinge upon the consciousness of ever-broader layers of the population. The ruling class is increasingly divided and disoriented by the depth of a crisis they never expected and have no idea how to solve. Suddenly they find themselves unable to maintain control of society by the old methods.

“Instability is the predominant element in the equation at all levels: economic, financial, social and political. Political parties are in crisis. Governments and leaders rise and fall without finding any way out of the impasse.

“Most important of all, the working class has recovered from the initial shock of the crisis and is moving into action. The advanced elements of the workers and youth are beginning to draw revolutionary conclusions. All these symptoms mean that we are entering the opening chapter of world revolution. This will unfold over years, possibly decades, with ebbs and flows, advances and retreats; a period of wars, revolution and counterrevolution. This is an expression of the fact that capitalism has exhausted its potential and has entered a phase of decline.” (IMT 2012 World Perspective)

However, capitalism doesn’t bury itself even after it has exhausted its potential. In the absence of a revolutionary leadership capable of overthrowing it, it will restore itself – or, as a theoretical possibility, the whole system will crumble and brings down all the contending classes, much like the slave society of Roman Empire that crumbled and clear the way for a thousand year of Dark Ages. However, all indications show that even if capitalism restores itself it will not return to its past glory. If it returns to normality, it will be a new normality, economically and politically. The massive sovereign debt crisis around the world means the end of post-world war welfare state. All the gains made in the past 60 years by the labour movement will be clawed back, resulting in lower standard of living for the toiling masses. The austerity measures will not pass unnoticed by the workers. It will be fought bitterly by the workers – and has been fought bitterly in Greece, Spain, France, etc. – in  a series of struggles that will shook the consciousness of not only the workers but also the whole society. Furthermore, this era of crisis will also forge a new generation of workers, young workers who can only hear of the past glory of capitalism like a tale passed down from their elders, who will have to fight tooth-and-nail for every little gains.

This is the general situation we are entering today. History has not ended as Fukuyama would like to have it. It has just began again, today with more force than ever before. The voice of Marxism, which for decades have been a voice crying in the wilderness, is now gaining echo amongst the advanced layers of workers and youth. To reach the working masses, we have to first reach its most advanced layers, its best flowers and fighters. This document will outline the political and  organizational perspective needed to do exactly that.

Briefly on International Situation

(Readers are referred to our 2012 World Perspective document for a more complete analysis of international situation)

The capitalist crisis has entered its fifth year and there is no end in sight. There is no more talk of “green shoots”. For ruling classes all over the world, last year proves to be another year filled with pessimism on their prospect to bounce back from the crisis. One forecast after another is downgraded as reality sinks in and sets their hoped-for recovery back to a distant future, one where the fog of economic chaos prevents them from seeing anything or even understanding anything at all.

German, Europe’s stronghold that has keep EU together, revised its 2013 growth from 1.6% to 0.4%, while this year’s growth is also cut from one percent to 0.7 percent. Korea, one of the engines of growth in Asia, cuts its 2013 growth forecast from 4.3% to 3%, while its 2012 growth was lowered from 3.3% to 2.1%. India follows suit in this trend of downgrading forecast, with 5.8% growth this year, far from earlier estimate of 7.6%. World over, UN recently slashed its global growth prediction in 2013 from 3.2% to 2.4%. Not long ago, in June, the UN forecasted an astounding global growth of 3.9%. There is only one thing which is certain today: that uncertainty is on the order of the day.

To prop the economy, countries all over the world are plunging themselves into sovereign debt crisis, particularly EU and US, the two main economic engines of the world. There is no single country in the world, from Australia to Zimbabwe. no single business enterprise in the world, from local business to multinational corporation, whose economic future doesn’t depend on the outcome of the EU and US sovereign debt crisis. Any optimistic outlook comes with a pessimistic disclaimer: “Conditional upon the economic state of EU and US”.

If the world escaped the Mayan’s Doomsday with a stroll in a park, it barely escaped the end-of-the-year US fiscal cliff that threatened to plunge US and the whole world back into recession. Foregoing his Christmas and New Year holiday, Obama scrambled to forge a new deal to prevent an automatic tax increase ($536 bn) and spending cuts ($109 bn) on January 1st 2013. Tax rise and spending cuts will lower US consumption power and thus can drag it back to recession. At last minute, at 2 AM of the first morning of 2013, a new deal was struck. Stock markets around the world celebrated with a surge as they once again averted the crisis. However, it is not so much of a new deal but a 2-month postponement of the fiscal cliff. BBC Economics Editor, Stephanie Flanders, has this to say about the deal: “This week's deal lifts the risk of an accidental recession - at least for a while. But it does little to address the first two issues: in fact, it makes another scary stand-off, over spending cuts and raising the amount of debt that the Federal government can legally issue, almost inevitable.

US ruling classes are at stalemate on how to solve their sovereign debt crisis as the US government will hit its debt ceiling of $16.4tn in 2 months. To put this into perspective, the US government has a debt that totals 20 times the annual economic output of Indonesia. The Republicans seeks deeper spending cuts to solve the deficit, which means quickly unloading the burden on the backs of US workers. Obama and the Democrats understand too well that such hasty spending cuts can trigger social explosion that could tear the whole fabric of society. In other words, the Republicans seek a direct confrontation with the workers in order to bring economy in order, while the Democrats seek to make the blows to the workers softer and acceptable.

EU has been faced with sovereign debt crisis that seems to have no end. After injecting 4.5bn euros into the Spanish bank BFA in September, the government said that it would need to further inject 13.5bn euros into BFA to save it. This bank is now deemed to be worth minus 10.4 bn euros in the market. All together, Spanish banks would need an extra 59bn euros from the government to prop them up. Meanwhile, more than 25% of the population is out of work, and 54% of Spanish youth cannot find any job and have to resort to foraging food in the garbage.

Greece has become a third world country in its own right. It is facing a humanitarian crisis that in the past was reserved only for countries like Indonesia. There is no more good news coming out of Greece. There is no way out for Greece other than deep austerity measures, i.e. putting the burden of the crisis on the backs of Greece workers, which will create a whole new generation of pauperized workers in Greece. The Greece working class has refused to go down that road and has put up a big fight against the dictate of the Greece and EU capitalists. We have witnessed a series of general strikes and unprecedented electoral shift that brings SYRIZA to the fore.

China has now become the hope for world capitalism. To stave off the 2008 crisis, which saw declining demand from US, Europe and Japan, China has shifted its gear from export-oriented economy to domestic-consumption-oriented economy. It has significantly invested in infrastructure to increase domestic consumption and keep the economy running. Since 2008 it has built 10,000 km high speed rail track (about five times the entire TGV network in France); 85,000 of motorways as of 2011, which is significantly more than the entire US freeway network; the most expensive Olympics venues ever; three longest sea-bridges in the world; six of the 10 largest container ports in the world. Last September, the government unleashed yet another stimulus to energize the slowdown in its economy: $150 billion in 60 infrastructure projects. China’s high demand of energy and raw materials – now mainly fuelled by the massive infrastructure stimulus – is now propping the world economy. China’s domestic coal market is more than three times the global coal trade, and it is the world’s largest consumer of iron ore, coal, and other base metals. Thus any slowdown in China makes the global financial market very nervous.

However, the long term prospect for China’s economy still relies on the recovering demand from US, Europe, and Japan. Massive investment in infrastructures will increase China’s productivity, which means that there will be more products churned out from Chinese factories, products that will need to be sold eventually. US, Europe, and Japan – despite its declining economy – still make up the largest market in the world. Deng Xiaoping “open turn” has shown that China cannot be a self-sustaining economy, unless it wants to go down the road of North Korea.

There is only one way to recovery in world economy, the full implementation of austerity measures against the interests of the workers. Whatever way governments around the world choose to implement this, it will result – and has resulted – in the sharpening of class struggle. Every organizations, trade unions, parties, leaders, and ideas will be tested in this period. Not one of them will be left intact. It is in this period that Marxism will gain ground, and the task is clear for comrades of the International: to connect the labour movement to its natural ideology, Marxism.

Indonesia Today

Last year, we wrote this about Indonesia:

“At the end of 2011, wave of strikes and protests are hitting Indonesia … In Batam, in November, 30 thousand workers went on strike to demand increase in minimum wages. This demonstration was repressed by the police and resulted in the death of two workers. In Papua’s Freeport, 8 thousand workers went on strike for more than 3 months since September, where one of them has been shot dead. In response to the 2012 Minimum Wage, tens of thousand of workers in various cities took the street to reject this minimum wage that they deem not enough ... A relatively rapid economic growth has made the workers bolder in their demand for a better living condition.

The strike wave that began at the end of 2011 did not stop at all. It is gathering in speed and volume, and made the year 2012 as the year with the highest number of workers’ strikes and actions since the fall of the Soeharto regime. There is also a qualitative leap in the form of actions and demands, as the workers are using more and more militant tactics and fighting for demands that are beyond the narrow gates of their own factories.

After the initial strike wave in early 2012, particularly in Bekasi and Tangerang industrial areas, the centre of Indonesia’s manufacturing, the workers took a lead in the movement against fuel increase in March. The decisive involvement of the workers gave this movement a class character never seen before in the past similar movements. Even though the movement seemed small in numbers, but the active involvement – and to certain extent leadership – of the workers gave this movement a social weight that betrays its size. The workers managed to beat back the government, forcing it to postpone the increase in fuel prices. For the first time, the workers fought for a demand that concerns the whole nation and won.

This victory was then followed by the largest May Day rally in the history of Indonesia, where more than 160 thousands took the streets. That year, it was the largest May Day even in Asia. The victories that the workers scored in the past few months have clearly gave it a confidence it never had before. On that day, 80 thousand workers gathered in Gelora Bung Karno and declared the formation of MPBI that unites 3 confederations and 8 federations. This unity brought 5 million workers under one umbrella. The manifesto read by the three big confederations contained demands that are not limited to workers only but also other exploited layers of the society. Workers are starting to plant its feet in the front line of the struggle for the whole toiling masses. This is a qualitative leap of the workers movement, that moves it closer to the question of proletariat dictatorship as the only solution to the problems faced by the whole people, or in the more popular slogan of Indonesia’s workers movement: “Workers in power, people prosper”

In the next few months, workers’ action became more radical. Confident that they can win with solidarity, unity, and mass actions, workers engaged in what is known as “sweeping” or “grebek pabrik” actions. Workers gathered in large numbers and visited other factories that are in violation of labour laws, especially the outsourcing laws. With these mass actions, without any more long-winded ‘negotiations’ and ‘labour court’, workers took the law into their own hands and forced factory owners to obey the existing law. Scores of victories are made this way.

The culmination of it all is the national general strike on October 3rd, that involved more than 1 million workers. They shut down factories, oil companies, the streets, and ports across Indonesia. This was the first general strike since 1998 and the largest in the history of Indonesian labour movement. The significance of this strike cannot be overstated. It marks a turning point in the labour movement. Workers are becoming a political force to be reckoned in Indonesia.

As we have predicted, the general strike was not the end. The capitalists were probably expecting this general strike to be a big valve for workers to let off some steam. Workers see it differently. They see it as their show of strength and wave of strike and labour actions continues. The employers’ association became the most vocal opposition to the workers’ action. They threatened to close down factories and move them elsewhere. They also threatened to have their own general strike (national lockout), which never materialized as workers scoff at these threats with more militant actions.

In the face of this all is a weak government unable to crush the workers’ movement. The threat of a capital lockout was also a threat to the government to put a stop on the radicalization of the workers. Even though our state is a bourgeois state – which is the institution of the bourgeois class to exploit the working class – it is not always under their direct control. There is a dialectical relationship between the state and the ruling class. Their relationship is not always mechanical. The bourgeoisie would like the state to take a decisive action against the workers, but the state cannot do this because they are in a weak position. After being hit with a series of scandals and corruptions at all levels, the government has an interest to keep their image. To order to police to stop the action of tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of workers requires a wave of repression never seen before since 1998, and this will shake the government from its position of power. Furthermore, the police force has just recently been hit with a corruption scandal that took the attention of the whole nation. Meanwhile, opposition parties – that are preparing to gather political capital for the 2014 election – do want to lose any chance to use this workers’ strikes issue to attack the ruling Democratic Party as an incompetent ruler who cannot bring prosperity to its subjects. Thus, the Democrat government, even though siding with the capitalist, cannot directly hit the workers. Their approach has been one of dialogue and promises to fulfill the demands of the workers, with an attempt to draw it long. In a normal time, these tactics might work. Workers are being given promises in order to prolong the struggle until the demonstration actions subside and workers grow tired. However we are not in a normal time, and the bosses know this very well. Workers’ actions are not subsiding, instead spreading and growing in intensity. This is why there is a clash between the capitalist and the government, where the Apindo wanted to bring Muhaimin, the Ministry of Labour, to the court for giving concessions to the workers on the question of outsourcing. This small concession cannot be accepted by the bosses, not only because it takes away their profit but more so because every little gain won by the workers makes them bolder.

In the “Transitional Programme”, Trotsky explains that “The sharpening of the proletariat’s struggle means the sharpening of the methods of counterattack on the part of capital … Woe to the revolutionary organizations, woe to the proletariat if it is again caught unawares!” As the class struggle in Indonesia becomes sharper, so is the method used by the capitalist. The bourgeoisie is never satisfied with just using the existing police and soldiers. They always have their reactionary battalion. When the state apparatus can no longer be used effectively – because sometimes these apparatus are too exposed to the media therefore it cannot always act freely, especially after 1998 – the capitalists use the forces of reactionary masses. In Bekasi industrial area, which is responsible for 70% of non-oil-and-gas export production, the capitalist mobilized thousands reactionary masses and terrorized the workers. The workers were caught off guard in the beginning. However, once they mobilized, they too managed to beat back these paid thugs.

Indonesian labour movement took such a dimension when the millions of workers in the yellow trade unions finally moved. Red trade unions in Indonesia at most only organized 200 thousand workers. Despite their militancy, they only constitute a minority and pale in comparison with MPBI unions that organize up to 5 million workers. It is this behemoth that shook Indonesian political terrain this year. When the workers feel the need to move, they will use whatever tools they have in their hand, whatever workers organization they belong to. Attempts to separate the more advanced layers of the working class into so-called red trade unions will leave millions of politically untutored workers under the influence of reformist and bureaucratic leadership. We have to be clear that majority of leaders in the MPBI are reformists if not outright reactionaries. These leaders have been pushed to the left because of the pressure from below, and many unwillingly. The wave of actions this year have pitted the more radical rank-and-file of these yellow unions against the conservative leaders. It is the task of the more advanced layers of the working class – many of them organized in the red trade unions – to build a bridge to the workers of these yellow unions, with any means possible. There should not be any obstacle in principle to building links with these unions in order to reach out to the workers.  

The economic base of the strengthening of Indonesian proletariat this past year is the capitalist crisis in much of the Western countries. Anaemic growth in much of the developed countries have in general prevented capitalist from making investment in production. However, it doesn’t prevent some investment to be made in countries like Indonesia which is seen to be registering healthy economic growth of 6% in the past 3 years. With no more significant profit to be made in much of the developed countries, capital export to Indonesia – a relatively capital poor country – intensified. In the second quarter of 2012, foreign investment increased 30 percent compared to last year. Then in the third quarter, 22 percent. We can also compare this to India. In the second quarter of 2012, foreign investment to Indonesia was $5.9 bn. In India, during the same period, it was only $4.4 bn, even though India has twice the size of economy. Another indicator is the price of land in Bekasi industrial area, which has increased by 60% in the past one year alone. The massive inflow of capital into Indonesia’s manufacturing sector means the strengthening of Indonesian proletariat, a period akin to late 80s and early 90s.

In October 2012, the World Bank released a report (Picking up the Pace: Reviving Growth in Indonesia’s Manufacturing Sector) that points to the growth in Indonesia’s manufacturing sector:

“The recent global financial crisis was a bump on the long road to recovery for the Indonesian manufacturing sector after the Asian crisis of the late 1990s, but the upward trend is clear. By the third quarter of 2011, the manufacturing production of medium- and large-scale manufacturing firms was growing at an annual rate of 5.6 percent. Growth in real value-added was relatively broad-based, the key drivers being automotive machines and parts, with a remarkable 29.8 percent year-on-year increase, followed by the chemicals sector (19.8 percent).

“Part of Indonesia’s recent upswing in manufacturing output has been driven by increasing flows of foreign direct investment. At the start of the global financial crisis, Indonesian net FDI inflows almost halved from US$$9.3 billion in 2008 to US$4.9 billion in 2009. By 2011, net FDI had reached almost double the crisis peak at US$18.9 billion.”

However the increase combativity of workers is not a simply mechanistic product of the strengthening of manufacturing sector. The workers’ movement itself has undergone a long process of internal training and consolidation. After experiencing a boom immediately after the collapse of the repressive Soeharto regime that opened the lid for a pent-up need of workers to organize trade unions – where news unions were mushrooming and the old union of Orde Baru era (SPSI) were splitting into pieces – the labour movement in the second half of the 2000s seems to be entering a period of stagnation without any significant development. However, beneath this seemingly still water is a molecular process whereby workers and their organizations are accumulating experiences: what works and what doesn’t work, and re-building its tradition of class struggle of out the rubbles left behind during the dictatorship. This development is especially taking place amongst the ranks of the reformist trade unions, which made up the bulwark of 2012 strike movement.

It is impossible for Indonesia to decouple itself from the world economic situation, in other words it is impossible for Indonesia to keep registering high growth amidst an anaemic global economic growth. At the moment, the low production cost, weak Rupiah, and massive internal market has made Indonesia a lucrative place for investment. However, the scores of victories won by the workers will increasingly make Indonesia less competitive and ends the massive influx of foreign investment that has served as one of the basis for its growth. Thus, the workers have to fight harder and harder to gain victories that were once relatively easy to gain (because the capitalists still had the room to give concessions), and in this process the workers will learn to use more and more radical and revolutionary methods and perspectives. Internally, the workers will increasingly clash with the refomist, bureaucratic, and convervative elements who in each step seek to stop the workers in their tracks. These clashes will sharpen the difference between revolutionary elements and reformist elements, between revolutionary ideas and reformist ideas.

The surge of class struggle in 2012 has been a validation for revolutionary Marxism that has never lost its faith in the revolutionary character of the working class. Some in the Left had in the past doubted and dismissed the working class – and maybe some are still. This episode has proven beyond any textbook and theory that the working class are still the only revolutionary force in the society, one that can and will overthrow the system and bring prosperity to the whole nation.

Workers are not the only layers that are moving. We have also witnessed more and more radical actions from the part of the peasants who are defending their land and villages. In Jakarta, the middle classes are moving as well. Tired of unending corruptions and incompetence of their leaders, they found Jokowi and Ahok – two populist figures with a clean image and  track record – to rally around during last year governor election in Jakarta. The electoral campaign of Jokowi-Ahok and the euphoria surrounding it was akin to Obama-mania. The two figures were a symbol of hope for change, not only for the middle classes but also for the urban poor.

The sudden emergence of Jokowi-Ahok and how fast they shifted the electoral arena shows one important thing: the complete bankruptcy of Indonesian politicians. Political parties and their leaders are quickly discredited, and with the same speed new parties and leaders replace them. The emergence of PKS, the Democrats, and today NasDem and Gerindra, and also Jokowi and Ahok, are part of this process. The faster this shift means the more acute is the problem in the society. The toiling masses are looking for someone who is clean and they see what they want in Jokowi and Ahok. They are looking for a way out of the increasingly acute social and economic problems. They might not know exactly what they wanted, but they knew who they didn’t want: the incumbent governor (Foke) and the rotten politics he represents. The lack of their own political party means that their aspiration was channelled through Jokowi-Ahok, and many more such populist figures as long as the toiling masses do not have their own independent political party.

One thing for sure, Jokowi and Ahok, other than making some cosmetic changes, will not be able to bring about significant improvements for the livelihood of the working poor in Jakarta. As long as he is operating within the confines of capitalism, he will be dictated by the law of capitalism. His neutral position during the massive workers movement in Jakarta is already an indication of how far he would and could go. As long as the toiling masses do not have their own political vehicle, their political expression will be channelled through other means. There will more and more Jokowis in the future, and as the political pressure from the people grow – as it cannot find its own channel to express – some of these populist figure might be pushed to do what they never intended to do in the first place.

This makes the question of the formation of workers political party very important. More and more workers are waking up to this question as they understand the importance of political struggle. However the process toward this consciousness of forming their own political party doesn’t go in a straight line. Many factors are still weighing down this process, above all their own reformist leadership. Hence at this moment workers’ understanding of the need for political struggle is channelled toward supporting a popular candidate (Rieke Diah Pitaloka) from PDI-P, a bourgeois populist party in the West Java governor election. There is no doubt that the mass surge of the labour movement have had some effect on some politicians, especially those who are more removed from the centre of power, and thus corruption and dirty politics. Rieke is one of them, who has been vocal in supporting the workers struggle. She is popular amongst the workers, especially amongst FSPMI (Metal Workers Union) workers who are one of the vanguards of the struggle in Bekasi industrial area. Through Rieke the workers seek to exert its political muscle.

The increasing political and social weights of workers have prompted some bourgeois politicians to curry some favours to the workers. With the 2014 presidential and legislative election approaching, more and more politicians will try to garner the support of trade unions. Workers who in the recent period have scored significant victories – and thus have their confidence boosted – might see this as an opportunity to have their political voice heard in the parliament and score more victories, even if it is through a bourgeois political party. It is natural for them to be confident that they can control their representatives through a party not of their own, because recently the workers through their mass actions have bent the government and the bosses. However this confidence will be betrayed sooner or later, and through this hard lesson workers will learn to only trust their own organization, their own party.

It is also worth noticing that 14 years after the fall of Soeharto regime, we now have a whole new layer of youth, both students and workers, who did not grow up being fed with anti-communist propaganda or in an enviroment where communist taboo were present in all aspects of their life. This makes them more open to alternative ideas, especially ideas that seek to explain the dark chapter of Indonesian history: the 1965/66 massacre, a turning point in Indonesia’s modern history. In the past few months, youth across Indonesia have been actively organizing viewings – many of them underground viewings – of a new documentary on the 1965/66 massacre, “The Act of Killings”. The enthusiasm with which these youth – hundreds of them if not thousands by now – watched and responded to this documentary is a clear symptom of the changes in the minds of the youth, both students and workers. They are less burdened by the “New Order” propaganda and more symphatetic to communism. The anti-communist fear and taboo are breaking down rapidly.

Our Tasks in the Early Stage, or the “Plekhanov” stage

With this March 2013 conference in Gresik, Militan is entering its third year since our reorganization meeting in March 2011 at the same location. To a certain degree, we can say that our development is akin to human development. A two-year-old baby is at a stage where it starts solving new simple problems with “trial and error” method and practicing many new skills to master them. It also starts developing language skills, that prompt many “why”, “what” and “how” questions. In many ways, our organization is in this stage: many of us are still learning new ideas and methods, and it involves a lot of “trial and error” and practices. We are learning new language, the language of revolutionary Marxism, that prompts us to ask many questions: What is Marxism? Why are the workers the only revolutionary class that can overthrows capitalism? How are we going to overthrow this rotten system? How are we going to build a party that can do that?

In our previous document for Feb 2012 conference, “Climbing Higher”, we said that the key word in our development is patience. It is still true now. Just like a baby cannot skip over its infancy period before it becomes an adult – as much as sometimes a baby wishes that it could quickly matures, eat adult food and do adult activities – we too cannot skip over this early stage of our development. To put things into perspective, Russian Marxism was born in 1883. It began with Plekhanov’s Emancipation of Labour Group, that set the foundation for the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, from which the Bolshevik Party came out and led the victorious October Revolution in 1917. It took Russian Marxism 34 years from its birth to its conquest of power. In many ways, it is analogous to the development of human, who reaches his overall peak – physically and mentally – at the age of 30s. 

However, we ought not to overstretch this parallel between party development and human development. It will be wrong to go as far as stating that any Marxist party will have to undergo a 30-year development before it can take power. History – just like human – knows all kind aberration. On one hand we have the advantage of belonging to an international Marxist organization that has kept the revolutionary Marxist tradition  all the way from Marx and Engels’ First International to Trotsky’s Fourth International. We don’t have to start from zero, as our international organization has maintained – against all odds – the collective memory and tradition of workers’ struggle around the world. On the other hand, Indonesian Marxist movement has suffered a historical defeat that has wiped it out physically and ideologically. And if there is any tradition left, unfortunately it is that of Stalinist tradition. Combines this with recent world political and economic situation: the collapse of Soviet Union and the subsequent bourgeois ideological offensive on one hand, and the biggest capitalist crisis in history in 2008 that has yet to subside on the other hand, then we have a combination of factors that interpenetrate each others.

Thus, it is absurd to say that we will copy word-by-word, stage-by-stage, the development of the Russian Bolshevik; but it is equally absurd to say there is no parallel and lessons we can learn. Lenin’s Bolshevik is still by far the most successful example of a revolutionary fighting party. One thing that cannot be said with enough certainty is that we are currently building the foundations for Indonesia Marxism almost from scratch. What we are building is a Bolshevik Party, which after the early period of PKI in the 1920s has never existed anymore in Indonesia. This is the historical task that we are committing ourselves to, an enormous task that requires all the determination and patience we could gather.

At this point of time, as we enter our third year, it is clear that we are at the stage of laying the foundation. We are in many sense doing the tasks of Plekhanov and his Emancipation of Labour Group. There should not be any illusion that we are attempting to build a mass party. We are still at the stage of cadre party, recruiting and training ones and twos, a process that will take years of hard and patient works. Anyone who has ever built a trade union knows that a strong trade union cannot be built in 1 or 2 years. It could take few years to just find the first core of workers, and another few years to have a properly running trade union. Let alone a revolutionary Marxist party, built with a grand purpose of overthrowing the whole system.

What is needed is a single-mindedness in purpose and patience. We need to have a clear idea of what we are building and how we are doing it, and a sense of proportion of our tasks and goals. Without all these, we will simply be running around, jumping from one activity to the other. Impatience is the main enemy of a revolutionary. We only need to remind ourselves that those impatient elements that have left us in the past have not gone farther than we are. In fact they have not gone anywhere.

One Year Ahead

Our tasks for the year ahead of us flow from two facts: the current political situation and the state of our organization at the moment. As outlined above and in our 2012 World Perspective, we are entering a new era where ideas of Marxism will no longer be a voice crying in the wilderness. Advanced layers of workers and youth will be looking for revolutionary ideas, not just simple slogans but detailed explanations of the whirlwind of events that surround them and a way out of the impasse of capitalism. We have to build an organization capable of providing such in-depth analysis and perspective, capable of forging an ideological weapon for the advanced layers of the working class, one that is sharp enough to cut through all kind of confusions from alien ideas and clear the way to socialism. In the mean time, our organization is still in its early stage. Most of us have been acquainted with Marxism not more than 3 years, and there are still more works to be done to even educate ourselves. Furthermore, we are building in a country whose Marxist tradition has been destroyed completely by a 30-year dictatorship. If there is any ‘Marxist’ tradition left, it is of Stalinist tradition. Ours is of genuine Marxist tradition, which has been kept alive by Trotsky.

These facts dictates our tasks ahead, which can be summed up as building a core Marxist cadres, that will serve as the backbone of our party for years to come. These core cadres have to have the utmost loyalty to the movement, to Marxism, and to the party: the three loyalties.

Closing Words

The time has never been better to be a Marxist. When everyone has given up on revolutionary Marxism, we are the few that hold to it steadfastly and events have started to turn into our favour. Indeed, genuine Marxism in most of its history has always been in the minority, exactly because it is a revolutionary idea. Now as capitalism enters into its deepest crisis, more and more people are turning to revolutionary ideas. Our work is to provide those revolutionary ideas. It is going to be a long journey for us to build an organization of Marxist cadres that can do just that, but we are now building it. 

Events are moving in a lighting speed, and we have to understand that our organization is still too small to have an effect on them. Events will still happen with or without us. But if we orientate ourselves correctly, we can gain from them, and, equally important, not lost and confused in the whirlwind of events.

Perspectives do not create miracles. However, hard patient work can create miracles down the road, just like the Russian Marxists who took power after decades of hard patient work. We have seen too many disappointments from those who seek shortcuts. There are only shortcuts to cliff, as our comrade Ted Grant once said. 

Comrades, let us move forward, not only with patience but also a greater sense of sacrifice.

Home » Asia » Indonesia