The relevance of the Transitional Programme today – Introduction to the Indonesian edition –Part Two

Nowhere is the Transitional Programme more relevant than in Indonesia – a country that occupies a very important place in the perspectives for world revolution. Its working class has a rich revolutionary tradition, which still survives though it was drowned in blood in 1965.

The Indonesian Revolution

Suharto came to power on the basis of the mass murder of supporters of the Indonesian Communist Party. These atrocities were planned and carried out with the active participation of the imperialists. For thirty-two years, this bloody tyrant ruled Indonesia with a rod of iron, having come to power over the corpses of over a million people.

For three decades extreme violence was used against Indonesian farmers, workers and urban poor. For all this timethese so-called democrats were content to turn a blind eye to Suharto’s bloody dictatorship, because he gave them the necessary “stability” to rob and exploit the Indonesian people. To the very last minute, Washington tried to back up Suharto and the dictatorship.

Suharto was overthrown by the revolutionary movement of the masses. Once it began, the movement quickly acquired an all-Indonesian character. What was extraordinary is not only the sweep of the movement but also the lightening speed with which consciousness developed, passing rapidly from an elementary protest against worsening living standards to open political protests in the teeth of repression and police violence.

From the beginning the workers showed their unerring revolutionary instinct by supporting the students. Numerous reports bear witness to the fact that workers participated on the students’ demonstrations: Only the revolutionary movement of the Indonesian proletariat, uniting in struggle with the students, peasants and oppressed nationalities, can carry through the transformation of society.

This shows that the Indonesian working class is very strong and willing to fight. Once it is organised to fight under the banner of the socialist revolution, it would be an unstoppable force. But the absence of a genuine Bolshevik leadership derailed the magnificent movement that began in 1998. We said at the time that this is the beginning of the revolution, not only in Indonesia but in the whole of Asia, but warned that the false policies of the leaders could end in defeat. We wrote the following:

“The revolutionary potential is immense. But, in the absence of the subjective factor, so is the potential for defeat. Over a period of two, three or five years, the question of power will be posed before the working class one time after another. If there existed even a small revolutionary nucleus, the entire situation could be transformed. but in the absence of this, And with the disastrous policies being pursued by the CP leadership [PRD, the People’s Democratic Party], the magnificent revolution in Indonesia can again end in defeat.

“The revolution will pass through various stages, of which we are now merely witnessing the first act. The possibility of victory for the working class will depend on the quality of the leadership. The students and workers have already displayed great courage and initiative. Armed with a correct programme and perspective, victory would be assured. But if the necessary leadership is not built, then chaos can develop, and even elements of barbarism, as in Uganda and Somalia, leading to the break-up of Indonesia. Either the greatest of victories or the most terrible of defeats—these are the only two options before the Indonesian revolution.”

This remains true today. Temporarily the Indonesian Revolution has been side-tracked onto the road of so-called bourgeois democracy. This means that the same old oppressors remain in control. This is the dictatorship of Capital disguised as democracy.

The decisive factor that is missing is the subjective factor—a revolutionary party and leadership capable of providing the necessary organisation, programme and perspective to unite the movement and guide it to the seizure of power. If a genuine communist party had existed, it would have quickly moved towards taking power. Only the lack of the subjective factor prevented this from coming about in 1998.

The leaders of the movement – especially the PRD youth who were trained in the Menshevik/Stalinist two-stage theory – who in 1998 advocated the slogan demokrasi and postponed the struggle for socialism to a dim and distant futurewere misleading the masses. If democracy to mean anything, it must mean the transfer of power to the overwhelming majority of the people: the workers and poor peasants.

That is why the slogan demokrasi is being replaced on the streets by the call for revolusi. The demand for socialism will grow to the degree that the workers and peasants realize that their most elementary needs cannot be satisfied as long as the land, the banks and big industries remain in the hands of a tiny minority of wealthy parasites.

Only the democratic rule of the working class can cleanse Indonesian society of all the accumulated filth and corruption of the past and commence the movement in the direction of a socialist society.

The relevance of Trotskyism today

The sickness of the 21st century is well known to students of history. We can observe the same symptoms in every period of decline, when a given socio-economic system has exhausted its potential and become a brake on human development.

Capitalism has long ago reached its limits. It is no longer capable of developing the means of production as it once did. It is no longer capable of offering meaningful reforms. In fact, it is no longer able to tolerate the continuation of the reforms of the past that provided at least some of the elements of a semi-civilized existence in the advanced capitalist countries.

Now all the gains so painfully won by the working class in the past are under threat. But the workers and youth will not surrender their conquests without a fight. The stage is set for an unprecedented explosion of the class struggle.

On the threshold of the twenty-first century, the very existence of the human race is threatened by the ravishing of the planet in the name of profit; mass unemployment, which was confidently asserted to be a thing of the past, has reappeared in all the advanced countries of capitalism, not to speak of the nightmare of poverty, ignorance, wars and epidemics which constantly afflict two thirds of humanity in the so-called "Third World." There is war after war and terrorism is spreading like a dark stain all over the planet. On all sides there is pessimism and a deep sense of foreboding about the future, mingled with irrational and mystical tendencies.

The bourgeois economists, politicians, and journalists understand nothing of what is happening. Only dialectical materialism can help us to understand what is happening on a world scale. The bourgeois empirical method is incapable of understanding the processes that are at work at a deeper level. Dialectics teaches us things can and do and will suddenly change into their opposite.

The Arab revolution is a fundamental turning point in history. Events are moving at lightning speed. Since just the beginning of 2011, we have witnessed the Arab Revolution. This is a symptom that something fundamental has changed in the entire situation. The Arab Revolution appeared to the bourgeoisie as something inexplicable. It seemed to it happened suddenly, without warning. In reality it was an expression of the impasse of capitalism on a world scale.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union there has been an avalanche of books which claim to “expose” the October Revolution and its most important leaders, Lenin and Trotsky. There is nothing new in this. For the ruling class it is never sufficient to defeat a revolution. It is necessary to cover it with a mountain of lies and slanders, to eradicate its memory. The purpose of this is clear: to discredit the Bolshevik revolution in the eyes of the new generation.

But these attacks will not be able to halt the march of history. Today the ideas of Leon Trotsky are more relevant than ever before. They find an ever-growing echo in the ranks of the workers’ movement in all countries. Even in the ranks of the Communist Parties, where previously the ideas of Trotsky were reviled, the rank and file is looking to them with growing interest and sympathy as the only real Marxist explanation of the degeneration and collapse of the USSR.

All over the world a new generation is beginning to move into action. We see the same revolutionary ferment everywhere: from Tunisia to Egypt, from Spain to Greece. Even in the USA, we have seen the movement in Wisconsin and the mass anti-capitalist demonstrations in New York. With differing speeds and intensity, it is the same process that is unfolding on a world scale.

The new generation is looking for a banner, a programme and an idea and is increasingly revolutionary in outlook. To this new generation the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky offer a guide and compass that they will need in order to find their way to the road that leads to socialism – the revolutionary road. It is to this new generation of fighters that I dedicate the Indonesian translation of these important works of Marxism.