The 1997 economic crisis that hit the South East Asian countries, in the changed conditions of Indonesia led to revolution in 1998 and the ousting of the old regime. However, it failed to remove the bourgeoisie from power, who adopted “Reformasi” as a means of channelling the revolution down safe lines; while granting “democracy”, however, they pushed for a greater intensification of the exploitation of labour and for greater “liberalisation”. Important lessons have to learnt from this period by the activists of the left in Indonesia today.

The defeat of the PKI (Indonesian Communist Party) in the 1920s led to the handing over of the leadership of the national liberation struggle to the emerging national bourgeoisie which was tied hand and foot to imperialism. While the national bourgeoisie was inherently incapable of completing the task of national liberation, the Stalinist PKI in the 1950s adopted the incorrect two-stage theory, which was later to lead to the bloodiest counter-revolution in 1965.

We start today a four part article on the development of capitalism in Indonesia. In Part One we see how the original Dutch East Indies colony, that was later to become Indonesia, played an important role in capitalist accumulation for the nascent Dutch bourgeoisie, the first to actually carry out a bourgeois revolution in Europe.

More than ten years after the revolutionary “reformasi” movement in Indonesia, the thirst for Marxist ideas remains unquenchable. Those ideas continue to inspire left-wing student and workers activists and induce fear among the ruling classes. The fear of communism, instilled by the terror of the Suharto dictatorship, has not completely been removed but it has been eroded.

Having analysed past experience from the terrible bloodbath of 1965 through to the movement that overthrew Soeharto, in part two of their perspectives document the Indonesian Marxists look at the present situation facing the working class. Is there such a thing as a “progressive bourgeoisie” in Indonesia today? What is the impact of the crisis on the Indonesian economy and what are the prospects for the coming period? [part 1]

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Revolution 2018 - a three-day festival of Marxist ideas
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