The bourgeois opposition in Indonesia

The people's movements in Indonesia, pioneered by students, are qualitatively increasing. The demands, strategy and tactics are developing as well as the method and targets of struggle. They do not only do demonstrations but more importantly build the mass movements as method of struggle. This is in contrary with those method of struggle of the bourgeoisie, namely the elitist struggle which is based on lobby, bargaining, concession and compromise in order to get profits for their own groups.

(This is a rough translation of an article received from Pembabasan, the PRD's paper in Indonesia)


The people's movements in Indonesia, pioneered by students, are qualitatively increasing. The demands, strategy and tactics are developing as well as the method and targets of struggle. They do not only do demonstrations but more importantly build the mass movements as method of struggle. This is in contrary with those method of struggle of the bourgeoisie, namely the elitist struggle which is based on lobby, bargaining, concession and compromise in order to get profits for their own groups.

In the contemporary development, the bourgeois oppositions who by the press are called as the "knights of reform" like Gus Dur (Leader of the traditional Moslem organisation Nahdatul Ulama-NU), Amin Rais (Leader of modernist Moslem organisation Muhammadiyah and Chairman of the PAN) and Megawati (Chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party-PDI) have already shown their fear toward such radicalism of the people's movement who demand genuine democracy rather than militarism. For them, people's radicalism will be the obstacle of their smooth way to become new power. Whereas the danger of militarism can be solved by compromises and concessions. In this sense, the struggle for a genuine democracy in Indonesia, is not merely the fight against Suharto-Habibie regime and the military. More than that, it indeed is the struggle against such tendencies advocated by the bourgeois oppositions.


The one significant thing we can harvest from the Semanggi Massacre (the clash between the students and people against the military and the paid-para-military at Semanggi Crossing, Jakarta where at least 16 demonstrators were killed) in November 1998 is that it had shown the real characters and positions of the bourgeois oppositions like Megawati, Amin Rais and Gus Dur. In responding the results of the Special Session of the People Consultative Assembly on November 10 1998, they had political resolutions they called as Ciganjur Declaration which are very moderate and in contradiction with the common demands of the people which are radical. In the military question, when the people demands the immediate abolishment of the Dual Function of the military, they say that it needs 6 years to do that. They also recognise Habibie administration as a legitimate and constitutional government although the people say the opposite.

This means actually that they do not have leadership authority in front of the masses. They are only those who pick the political benefits and profits and the bourgeois press exaggerate them as leaders of people's and students movements.

Now, it is not only the regime who are panic with the increasing degree of people's radicalism. But also the bourgeois oppositions. With the resign of Suharto and the concessions given later by Habibie, they have already had lots of benefits and space to move. As a consequences, in collaboration with Habibie regime they are against the people's radicalism which they call as "anarchism" and call for "constitutional way of struggle", which means not to do mass struggle. So panic in facing the radical demands, recently Gus Dur prefer to have reconciliation with former Presiden Suharto, President Habibie, General Wiranto and General Benny Murdani the other main actor of the massacre in East Timor and Tanjung Priok .

The political attitude of this bourgeois oppositions are getting clearer and clearer. As the demands of the people are increasing and more qualified, they try to blunt the contradiction and become reactionary. Gus Dur is trying to have reconciliation with Dictator Suharto and against the radicalism of students and people's movements. While the others intensively campaigning for the success of the "free and democratic" election under the Habibie government and the grips of the military. They oppose demonstrations which reject Habibie government as holder of the election and calling for the formation of a transitional government.

The process of crystalisation is going on. The direction of the Indonesian politics today is toward the formation of new alliances among the bourgeois parties aimed at the formation of the embryo of the new regime which will be no more democratic than the old one. The new bourgeois political parties which are the fruits of the political change of the radical movement will consolidate and form alliances with the other section of bourgeoisie including with the military. Even on the basis of the danger of revolution, they are willing to reconcile with the bloody-handed Suharto. Radicalism is really a scaring threat for the bourgeoisie rather than the military which has proven to be the killing machine.

The betrayal of this bourgeois oppositions have at least two negative impacts towards the democratisation in Indonesia. Firstly, they give the old repressive power of Suharto regime and the military which is already cornered to come up again on the political stage and do offence Secondly, they moderate and lower the increasing degree of the resistance of the people. In short, they blunt the main contradiction in the society.

Under such developments, it is no wonder if now the military rise their confidence. If in last November the military was the common enemy, now they do lots of provocation by shooting the cabs of demonstrators and drive their tanks to campuses. Under the name of securing the "free and democratic" election supported by the bourgeoisie, they now become more repressive and provocative including by training 40.000 para-military personnel as guards and securing forces for the coming General Election on June 7 1999 and the Assembly.

Considering the fact that the students are those at the forefront of the demonstrations today, it is the main task of the party to propagate the correct strategy and tactics and ideological perspective for the students. It is true that militancy and radicalism is important, but without ideological perspective, the movement will have no direction and consequently it will not achieve the targets. Now that the students develop their militancy by using sticks, stones and even cocktail bombs during the demonstrations to fight against the well equipped military is not a mistake. But the most important thing is how to become a real alternative political force and how to have the correct alliance of struggle. The betrayal of the bourgeois oppositions is evidence enough to show that the correct alliance of struggle of students are the people; the workers, urban poor, and peasants. Furthermore, it is the people who protect students during the demonstrations when the military and para-military attack. It is also the poor people who give drinks and meals when students are having rally and march under the heat of the sun. We have also to remember that we will fail if we struggle alone. But we will not be succeeded if we have wrong alliance. Accordingly, unite with the people is of important thing than others. Like the slogan of thousands people on streets "Rakyat bersatu tak bisa dikalahkan!!!" (The united people will never be defeated)


The biggest danger of Islam in Indonesia is not fundamentalism, but the manipulation of Islam by the ultra-right. This manipulation of Islam has been done by the ultra-right and the military by raising the sentiment of racism, Christianity and communism against the democratic mass movements, in several parts of Indonesia. Like the white terror in Banyuwangi East Java, Ketapang Jakarta, Kupang and other regions and the formation of the para-military groups to attack the students and people's demonstrations.

Meanwhile the other Islamic forces are those which consistently oppose militarism. The Islamic groups in Aceh, Lampung, Tanjung Priok and others have held lots of demonstration to protest the massacre of their community by the military. Politically, they are also anti the Dual Function of the ABRI (Indonesian Armed Forces). So it is also important for the PRD to have tactical alliance with such Islamic forces to build an anti-militarism front.

In Indonesia itself, Islam is not a representative of a social class or political interest. It is divided into different political groups based on their social class. NU (Nahdatul Ulama) for instance, it represents Moslems whose social basis is peasant with the remnants of feudalism in political and cultural life. Muhammadiyah and ICMI (Association of Indonesian Moslem Intellectuals) represent the modern Moslem whose social basis are traders, intellectuals and professionals. Islam does not either represent a social class. Because it has bourgeoisie, petit bourgeoisie and workers.

In Indonesian history, the Islamic political parties like Masyumi and NU used to be a reactionary forces which had roles in slaughtering millions of members of the PKI. But the other period of Indonesian history also shows that Islamic forces like SI (Syarekat Islam) was a progressive force. We can not generalize whether Islamic forces is progressive or reactionary politically. And the fact is that nowadays there are Islamic forces which are anti-militarism and can be pushed toward the formation of the anti-militarism front. Indonesia is not facing fundamentalism as a real threat. But militarism and the civilian-military collaboration. This means that co-operation with Islamic forces which are anti-militarism as tactical alliances need to to be taken to fight against militarism and to anticipate the scenario of civilian-military collaboration. In short, the strategy at the moment is to build a broad tactical alliance with all radical oppositions against the Habibie regime and military and the tendency of the bourgeois opposition leadership.


General Election on June 7 1999 is one of the commitment of Habibie government. But as the people is concerned, there is no guarantee that the coming election will be a fair and democratic election like said by Habibie and the bourgeois oppositions. Because the coming election is still going to be held under the repressive regime of Habibie, undemocratic political laws and intervention of military under the concept of Dual Function of ABRI.

For the PRD, the real multiparty system is a democratic concession which must be pushed through in order to have more political liberty. But at the same time, the other democratic concessions must be achieved like the repeal the Five Repressive Political Laws 1985, abolishment of the Dual Function of ABRI and the release of all political prisoners. What is given by the Habibie regime at the moment by permitting (still with repressive regulations) the formation of new political parties is illusion that we have achieved genuine democracy.

Regarding the coming General Election, the position of the PRD is clear. The PRD reject the election under undemocratic and repressive conditions. The election must be held without the Dual Function of ABRI and the Five Repressive Political Laws 1985 by a transitional government which is controlled by the people through the formation of People Councils.

But, regarding the fact that majority of the Indonesian people still have illusion for a democratic election, and the formation of a transitional government can not be done in a short time, the PRD decided to take a part. At the same time, the PRD will maximise this legal momentum for making broad and widespread propaganda about the programs of the PRD and strategy and tactics of struggle. The PRD will also utilise this legal forum for telling the people about the nature and character of the regimes. This tactic is taken because to boycott the election means being isolated by the masses.

The PRD realise that the PRD will not get majority of votes. Because at this moment, it will only the bourgeois parties which get many votes as the principle of the bourgeois parliamentarian is no more one person one vote, but one dollar one vote.

The most important thing for the PRD is not to participate the election, but to push and make the people build committee of actions in factories, campuses, villages and urban namely the People's Councils. Nowadays, the PRD along with other democratic elements are propagating and pushing through the formation of this People's Councils. Until now, there have been many different People's Councils in different areas and sectors. In Lampung, Bandung, Sukoharjo and Manado there has been Peasant's Councils consists of different committee of actions and progressive organisations. In Jakarta, Surabaya, Lampung, Medan and Palu, the Committee of Workers were also established as well as Student's Councils which is functioned as a committee of action for struggling the rights of the people and as the future organs of power.