Indonesia three years after the fall of Suharto

By Max Lane

On November 24, 2000, almost 100,000 factory workers blocked the streets of Indonesia’s second biggest city, Surabaya, demanding wage increases. A few days later, they occupied the government offices of a nearby town, Sidoarjo, virtually taking over the town for a day. At about the same time, 20,000 workers in the biggest cigarette company went on strike and demonstrated.

There is a non-stop run of strikes throughout the country. Since the new law allowing trade unions to register more easily was passed a few months ago, 38 new national unions have been registered and more than 20,000 enterprise unions, at least half of which were formed free of employer influence.

Among the tens of millions of semi-proletarian city dwellers, signs of restlessness are everywhere. Protests and demonstrations are a daily event. Ten per cent official inflation (about 25 per cent unofficially) during the last year, on top of 220 per cent inflation during the previous two years, is squeezing the mass of casual workers and causing immense pain.

In the villages too, restlessness is general. Intense conflicts between dominant cliques attached to the parliamentary parties combine with social discontent to produce a string of incidents: politicians’ houses are burned down; fights break out between parties or between cliques within parties; and people demonstrate against price rises.

In some areas, small rice farmers are abandoning their fields to seek work elsewhere as International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies make rice farming unprofitable. In the sugar industry, which employs nine million people, mills are closing and cane cutters, warehouse workers and others have also been striking.

Politically, everything is uncertain and restless. On Christmas Eve, bombs exploded simultaneously in sixteen towns, all near Christian churches. Seven people were killed. Bomb explosions have been frequent in recent months. Forces wishing to see a return of the old regime are maintaining their efforts to create an atmosphere of instability and uncertainty.

Other factors underline the political uncertainty. The whole of the state apparatus doesn’t seem to be able to find Suharto’s son, Tommy, who has been sentenced to jail for corruption. The case against Suharto himself has been dismissed. The impotence of the government to act against the elements of the old regime colours the whole political scene. A former parliamentary head of the Suharto machine Golkar, Marzuki Darusman, is attorney-general. Jokes about the missing Tommy feature regularly on the front pages of the mass dailies.

Meanwhile, the parliamentarians feud among themselves, unable to agree on anything except that Indonesia must implement the IMF’s restructuring policies. The only IMF policy engendering real opposition is the decision that no action be taken against crony companies trying to avoid paying their debts.

The factionalism in the parliament is reflected in even worse infighting—sometimes even armed confrontations—between the parliamentary parties at the base level. The national parliament is about to pass laws that will allow provincial governments to spend more money. The saliva is dripping from the pigs’ mouths at the prospect of new troughs.

Abdurrahman Wahid is president, but Golkar, Suharto’s ruling party since 1965, and the army (TNI) control much of the state apparatus. A constant see-saw of policy change reflects the ever-changing balance of forces between Wahid and the representatives of the old regime, which is evolving in favour of the old regime.

Independence sentiment growing

At the archipelago’s extremities, farthest from Jakarta, the turmoil is even greater. In Aceh an almost revolutionary situation exists. In November 2000, on the anniversary of the two-million-strong 1999 demonstration, hundreds of thousands of Acehnese rallied in the capital despite a military cordon around the city. The army even set up a naval blockade to stop people arriving in fishing boats. But still hundreds of thousands made it, at the cost of many injuries and even lives.

The strong popular sentiment for independence in West Papua is increasing, as are armed attacks by Papuans against transmigrants and the police. In West Timor the 100,000 East Timorese hostages have still not been able to return home, and their TNI-backed kidnappers, the militias, remain free.

The TNI is demanding the right to wage all-out war in Aceh and West Papua. So far Wahid is resisting this demand. Complicating the situation even further, reactionary elements in Aceh and West Papua currently have the upper hand in the nationalist movements.

Examples of the social restlessness, political uncertainty, economic decline and turmoil in the extremities are almost infinite. Indonesian society teeters on the brink of deep social, political and economic crisis. While it teeters, things still function one way or another. The government and public services more or less work. It is even possible to live in Jakarta, Surabaya or Medan and not be directly affected by demonstrations and actions.

But the ruling class also sees through the facade of stable functioning. In an end-of-year report, the State Intelligence Agency, Bakin, predicted “an extremely stormy domestic security picture for 2001”. The report stated that “the continued weakness of the economy, with sluggish growth, a volatile exchange rate and rising inflation, will fuel a rise in instability”. The agency also advised ministers that crime will worsen and problems associated with drug abuse will increase, possibly leading to what Bakin termed a “lost generation”. Referring to a change in consciousness among the people, Bakin stated:

In the era of reform the people perceive a far greater degree of transparency and are making a range of demands. This has occurred as a result of the injustice, abuses of human rights and a system of law that did not work, especially under the New Order government ... Strikes and demonstrations are continuing, and there has been a change in behaviour among the people, so that it has become common to see “street justice” meted out against perpetrators of crime.

Another phenomenon is the continued flowering of left-wing publishing. Wahid may have retreated on trying to repeal formally the ban on Marxism-Leninism, but it certainly is not functioning at the moment. Books on Marx, Engels, Mao Zedong, Che Guevara and Lenin, sometimes with an introduction by People’s Democratic Party (PRD) chairperson Budiman Sujatmiko, are in bookshops everywhere.

The magazine Kiri (Left), with an Indonesian translation of the Communist Manifesto, can also be found in bookshops. Left-wing book publishing has now overtaken religious book publishing.

The potential for a major political and economic crisis—indeed the potential for a revolutionary crisis—is growing daily. This is a factor that the revolutionaries of Indonesia, still found only in the PRD, must have in their thinking all the time: a full-blown revolutionary crisis can break out at any time. They work on that assumption. Maybe the struggle will proceed for several decades yet, but perhaps things will explode next week, or next month, or next year. They must operate as if they are in a race against time.

The economic, political and social processes unfolding now are moving the country closer and closer to another explosive political crisis that has the potential to dwarf the political crisis of the Suharto dictatorship between September 1997 and May 1998. The precise development of this new crisis—which will be a crisis of rule for the whole of the Indonesian capitalist class—depends on how separate economic and political crises unfold and intersect.

Between September 1997 and May 1998, a severe financial crisis of Indonesian capitalism intersected with an already developed crisis of legitimacy for the Suharto clique. What lies on the horizon is another similar intersection: a further crisis in the stability of Indonesian capitalism combined with a crisis in the legitimacy of the rule of the Indonesian political elite, in particular the non-Golkar political parties that are dominant in the current government.

Golkar comeback

The ground is being laid for a governmental crisis. It has become obvious that the process of overthrowing the Suharto dictatorship did not go sufficiently deep to deliver a death blow to the political ambitions of Golkar and the TNI. During 2000, they inched their way forward, seeking to position themselves for a full recovery of power. This development sharpens a contradiction between the post-Suharto parties in government—the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) headed by Megawati Sukarnoputri and especially Wahid’s National Awakening Party (PKB)—and Golkar, the TNI and its allies.

The ability of Golkar to begin to reassert itself is based upon a number of factors. First, it retains the support of the TNI and the police. No important Golkar official guilty of any offence has been apprehended by the military or police.

Second, Golkar has the support of all the largest business conglomerates and thus retains a major source of finance. Because almost all the print and electronic media are owned by these conglomerates, Golkar receives the best media of any party.

Third, Golkar retains control of the provincial administrations in at least sixty per cent of Java and forty per cent of the rest of the country. The devolution of more spending autonomy to the provinces, and therefore more opportunities for corruption, will boost Golkar’s coffers.

Fourth, and perhaps most important, Golkar has retained reasonably intact a social base that it developed during the thirty-three years of Suharto’s rule. This base is made up of at least three elements. The first and least stable is the professional classes. The second and more stable is the more prosperous middle peasants and landowners, especially outside Java where lucrative export crops are grown.

The third element in Golkar’s social base is the biggest and the most stable, at least in a majority of provinces. This is the army of hundreds of thousands of petty bureaucrats who inhabit the state apparatus. During the Suharto period, the military had a political role right down to the village level. A central aspect of this role was backing up the despotic rule of bureaucrats who acted as petty lords in the provinces, districts and villages. This centralised bureaucracy extends into every village and every aspect of life.

Its resilience as a social force stems from a number of factors. First, it has centuries of tradition behind it and at least 150 years of institutional continuity in many provinces. Before colonisation by the Dutch, most parts of the archipelago where there was some form of state were ruled by tribute-collecting despots, based on the social formation that Karl Marx described as the Asiatic mode of production. A supreme ruler farmed out the right to collect tribute to a hierarchy of mandarins who administered the territories under his or her control. Extorting tribute became the universal mode of enrichment by the state apparatus.

As the Dutch colonisers gradually spread their administration, they absorbed this hierarchy into their own state apparatus beneath a layer of Dutch bureaucrats, many of whom also adopted or adjusted to this tribute-extorting mentality. The Dutch multiplied many-fold the number of permits and documents needed by a subject of Dutch rule. In doing so, they multiplied opportunities for extortion as well as extending the reach of the local bureaucrat into more and more aspects of people’s daily lives, especially in the villages. In this way, a massive army of extortionists and despots was created.

This state apparatus was inherited by the Republic of Indonesia after independence. It did come under attack during the revolutionary struggle against the Dutch between 1945 and 1949. In some areas where the mass struggle radicalised quickly, the local despots were deposed by popular uprisings and often executed. The right wing of the nationalist movement was able to seize the initiative after 1948, following the armed suppression and massacre of the left, with the result that the new independent republic took over and absorbed the colonial state apparatus (minus the Dutch) into its own.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the despotism of this apparatus was to some extent constrained by the growth of the popular left and the explosion of mass struggle. But the total defeat, including the physical extermination of the left in 1965 when Suharto seized power, meant that during the Suharto regime the army of bureaucrats, the little lords of the provinces, districts and villages, were free to rule as they pleased.

Backed by the army, they became the Suharto dictatorship’s main instrument of rule. The mandatory permits and documents, rules and regulations multiplied even further. This included the need for a “letter of clean circumstances” that certified an individual and the whole of his or her extended family as free of any connection to the left before 1965.

Thirty years of extended opportunities for extortion with each letter or permit issued created a substantial material base for this social layer. In addition, since the Dutch period the chief village bureaucrats automatically received village rice land as their own on appointment to office.

It was not surprising, therefore, that after the overthrow of Suharto in 1998, there were mini-revolutions in hundreds of villages, where village bureaucrats were also deposed. Sometimes they were physically attacked, their houses burned down or trashed.

Localised and without a broader political perspective, these actions petered out after three months. Even so, this layer is conscious that the full program of democratic reforms, known as reformasi total, demanded by students and other sectors, threatens their very existence. In fact, they resent even partial democratic reforms because they have opened the political space for people to organise opposition to the arbitrary rule and extortion that is this layer’s source of wealth.

A majority of this social layer has been absorbed into Golkar, giving it access right down to the village level. A minority, in specific places, has been absorbed into the PDI-P. The combination of support from the crony conglomerates, the TNI and the army of despots and extortionists means that Golkar remains a potent counter-revolutionary force.

Weakness of other bourgeois forces

The other factor that advantages Golkar (and behind it the TNI) is the political weakness, internal division and conservatism of Golkar’s bourgeois opponents. These are the forces organised in the PDI-P, the National Mandate Party (PAN) led by Amien Rais and the PKB.

None of these parties is backed by any of the big conglomerates, although the parties are all now wooing them. Their social base is primarily provincial-level capitalists and landlords, including some provincial capitalists who have recently begun national operations. The new or aspiring national capitalists retain a certain hostility to the crony conglomerates, which they see as blocking their development. On the other hand, the parties which these new or aspiring capitalists support need the cronies’ money to play politics the way it is played in Jakarta.

The ultimately provincial character of these parties restricts their popular base to local areas. This often means the parties concentrate their support in areas which have a specific religious, cultural or ethnic composition, and the parties tend to adopt that character as well. This phenomenon works against unity between the parties.

Their ambiguous attitude towards the conglomerates and the divisions among themselves make them a weak opponent of Golkar.

Their social and political conservatism also weakens them, although the nature of this conservatism differs from party to party. Representing a section of the urban and rural capitalist class, these parties share many of the fears of reformasi total with the social forces upon which Golkar stands.

Furthermore, the PDIP and PAN (and the other smaller rightist Muslim parties), compete with Golkar in their particular local bases for support from the same layer of bureaucrats. The combination of these factors is producing a drift towards an alliance with Golkar by the PDI-P, PAN and other Muslim parties. Although this situation has not totally clarified, in the PDI-P it has created outbreaks of dissent and anger in the mass base in some areas.

The PKB, the party with which Wahid is associated, is the only significant parliamentary party that attempts to support some liberal democratic ideas. This reflects the dominance—so far—of the Wahid wing of the party, which is based on intellectuals, youth and some religious scholars under his influence.

The contradictions of the PKB liberals are most clearly represented in the stance of Wahid himself. On some key issues relating to democratic rights, Wahid initially took clear and strong stands. He called for repeal of the ban on Marxism and Leninism, saying that such ideological suppression was unconstitutional. He supported a referendum for Aceh. He supported and even financed the West Papuan People’s Congress, held in Jayapura in June 2000. He called for the release of detained Papuan leaders. He ordered the disarming of the militias in West Timor and the arrest of the East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres. He agreed to a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) to allow UNTAET investigators to question in Indonesia suspects in human rights violation cases.

All of these stands were strongly opposed by Golkar, the TNI, Amien Rais, the rightist Muslims and sometimes Megawati.

Wahid’s only real option to defend his positions is to call for shows of popular support. On most issues, the student movement and parties like the PRD would be willing to help organise joint mobilisations. However, Wahid has always been afraid of mass action—especially ongoing mass action. He instead resorts to more and more complicated manoeuvres, and manoeuvres within manoeuvres, sometimes confusing even his own supporters.

In the end, he has been forced to retreat on almost every stand: he has withdrawn support for a referendum on Aceh; he has withdrawn his call for the release of Papuan leaders in West Papua; he has not mentioned repealing the ban on Marxism for months. He has done nothing to counter the TNI’s refusal to submit any of its officers for questioning by UNTAET.

Wahid is always looking for new ways to advance his position. For example, in a December visit to Aceh, he explicitly and strongly rejected the TNI’s call for a war against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) stating that GAM should not be treated as an enemy.

However, these moves are always in the realm of manoeuvres and are never backed by any sustained campaign of popular action. Given the forces aligned against Wahid, unless he changes strategy, he will lose all the battles relating to a liberal agenda.

The weaknesses of the PKB, PDI-P and PAN should not be interpreted as a surrender in popular sentiment of the gains made by the anti-dictatorship movement. As the Bakin intelligence report confirms, mass sentiment is still strongly in favour of eradicating corruption, collusion, nepotism and bureaucratic despotism. There is still strong support for the right to demonstrate and to free speech, as is reflected in the continuing high number of protest actions.

This is the reason for the constant grumbling from sections of the PDI-P’s ranks against the apparent closeness between Megawati and the Golkar leadership. In some towns there have been splits within the youth organisations supporting Wahid between those, frustrated with the lack of a campaign against Golkar, who want action to support the liberal aspects of Wahid’s agenda and others who shy away from mass campaigns.

The frustration among the Muslim youth supporting Wahid has not taken the forms of splits but of independent initiatives. For example, in some towns the youth wing has publicly apologised to the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) for the role its organisations played in the 1965 massacres and has offered to help campaign for justice and compensation. In some cases there are discussions of joint actions between these groups and the PRD.

The non-aligned student groups, while less active than in 1999, have also shown that they can mobilise in force, especially around issues associated with Suharto and the New Order, such as Golkar’s immunity from prosecution. The most militant clashes between students and the state apparatus have been around Suharto being put on trial. Any sign of an imminent comeback by Golkar would provoke the mass student movement into action again.

A Golkar comeback will therefore face two major problems. First, there is no popular sentiment for such a comeback. Secondly, mass action, as is illustrated by constant demonstrations and strikes by all sectors, is still seen as a legitimate and powerful form of political activity. This contradiction between Golkar’s struggle for legitimacy and the prevailing popular sentiment, including militant students, sets the scene for a major political conflict.

This would also spill over into a crisis of legitimacy for the non-Golkar bourgeois parties, given that large sections of the population still have illusions in them as alternatives.

Turmoil in the extremities

In addition to Golkar’s comeback attempt, the Indonesian ruling class faces major problems at its extremities: in Aceh in the west and West Papua and Timor island in the east. Developments in these areas intersect with the general political crisis.

By December 2000 the TNI, backed by Golkar and some of the rightist Islamic forces, had established a pro-war position on Aceh and West Papua and were refusing to cooperate with UNTAET in East Timor.

In November 2000, politics and security minister General Bambang Susilo Yudotomo raised the possibility of ending the cease-fire with GAM and embarking on a policy of disarming it. Since then senior military figures have repeatedly called on the Wahid government to give the go-ahead for a full-scale military campaign against GAM. This has been backed by Golkar and other parliamentarians calling for the declaration of a civil emergency in Aceh.

Wahid is resisting this call. In December, he visited Aceh and made a clear public statement that GAM must not be treated as an enemy. He called for a negotiated solution, although ruling out a referendum which includes the option of independence.

The TNI has not yet explicitly called for an all-out military campaign in West Papua. But it has boosted its forces there, arresting the most prominent leaders and refusing to accede to Wahid’s call for their release. It has also made clear that all calls for independence will be treated as sedition and suppressed. Golkar and TNI elements have also called for a state of emergency in West Papua. Armed actions by both the TNI and various armed Papuan groups have risen slightly.

In Timor, the TNI and Golkar parliamentarians have rejected the memorandum of understanding between the Indonesian government and UNTAET as unconstitutional. The memorandum gives UNTAET investigators the right to question Indonesian suspects in human rights cases in East Timor. The East Timorese militias, with the backing of the TNI, remain in control of Atambua and other important border towns. The prospect of armed incursions into East Timor after UNTAET leaves cannot be ruled out if Golkar and the TNI make a comeback.

On all these issues, Golkar and the TNI are pursuing a hard line—in the case of Aceh and West Papua, a pro-war line—in defiance of the Wahid government’s official position. Wahid’s defence is restricted to manoeuvre, devoid of any real mass campaign.

To the extent that the Golkar and tni policy wins out—formally or in practice—any significant use of violent suppression, let alone the launching of a war, will complicate Indonesia’s relationships with the imperialist powers. All the imperialist powers still hope for an Indonesian government that can avoid the obvious use of violence because that complicates selling massive bailouts to prop up Jakarta to the working class in their own countries.

Economic attacks

These political crises are unfolding at a time when Indonesia’s economy is teetering on the brink of an abyss. The economic collapse started in 1997 with the so-called Asian financial crisis. The Indonesian economy was devastated: the collapse of the rupiah from around 2000 to the US dollar to the current 10,000 immediately bankrupted almost all of the country’s large, mainly crony, corporations as well as virtually the whole banking system, including the central bank. Investment, both foreign and domestic, collapsed. A small revival of foreign investment in 1999 collapsed in 2000. Domestic investment in 2000 was only forty-seven per cent of that in 1999.

The Suharto dictatorship, followed by President Habibie and now Wahid, backed by all the political parties, opted for the IMF bailout “solution”: austerity, privatisation, deregulation and their consequences. Inflation exploded, the cost of basic goods increasing 224.16 per cent between 1995 and 2000. In those five years, the value of the rupiah declined by 359.19 per cent; income per capita dropped from US$1004 to US$596; new debt as a source of government revenue rose from 11.96 per cent to 35.27 per cent; budget outlays on debt repayment rose from 27 per cent to 42.05 per cent; government foreign debt reached US$67.315 billion at the end of 2000, and private debt reached US$76.7 billion, bringing the total foreign debt to more than the total GNP.

Over the last five years, the cost of education increased by more than thirty per cent, and twelve million children dropped out of school. Only forty-nine per cent of children between the ages of ten and fourteen attend school.

By 1999, informal sector workers—people with only casual and tenuous employment—reached 64.4 per cent of the total work force. Some 37.4 million, or 39.43 per cent of the work force, are unemployed. By 1998, there were 15.3 million rural poor; in 1999, there were 31.5 million. Many medical costs have increased by more than 100 per cent.

All this has happened in a country where, in the past, the economy at least seemed stable, even if unjust. This is no longer the case. Agreements signed with the IMF at the end of 2000 abandon earlier commitments that key sectors of agriculture, namely sugar and rice, would be exempt from deregulation. The most recent agreements commit to absolute free trade in rice and sugar. These agreements also end all subsidised credit for farmers.

The first planting of rice under these new conditions, which will mean farmers making a “profit” of less than 20 per cent of the official minimum wage, is just beginning, so it is unclear how things will proceed. But there are early reports of farmers abandoning their fields in some villages, of late planting and of reduced fertiliser use in others. Maybe the country will muddle through this harvest with some bailouts or other emergency measures, but the seeds of disaster and chaos are being sown in the villages.

The so-called free market—the law of the jungle—is being unleashed among the 200 million impoverished Indonesian workers, semi-proletarians, peasants and petty traders at a time of collapsing investment, currency volatility and state-imposed austerity. The result is worsening poverty and increasing uncertainty in people’s lives.

The socio-economic plight of Indonesia’s tens of millions of people is not the result of an agriculturally barren, resource poor or even cashless country. Indonesia—especially parts of the huge island of Sumatra, and even more so Java and Bali—is a fertile country with extremely high yields from its soil.

Even excluding gas-rich Aceh and mineral-rich West Papua, Indonesia has gold, tin, nickel, coal and almost every other mineral, as well as oil and gas. There are hundreds of millions of dollars in mineral export royalties swishing around Jakarta. On top of this are billions more injected into the economy in the form of foreign loans. Of course, a lot of this money at some point flows out of Jakarta back to the US, Europe or Japan. In the end, more flows out than in, but at any given time, Jakarta is awash with dollars.

The plight of the masses therefore worsens in circumstances which sharpen the sense of injustice and frustration. In terms of agricultural produce, mineral wealth, consumer goods and even cash flow, there is not a sense that the country is so poor that nothing can be done about poverty. It is obvious that Indonesia is a poor, underdeveloped country, but there is no sense that it is a hopeless “basket case”.

As a result, there is a strong feeling developing that somebody must be to blame. The Indonesian masses are more and more pointing their fingers at the elite politik, which refers to the super-wealthy conglomerates as well as the politicians, generals and bureaucrats.

With such a political and economic crisis developing, it is not surprising that the PRD feels it is engaged in a race against time. These factors open the real possibility—never the certainty, of course—of a fundamental crisis in the ability of the ruling class to rule. There is an increasing possibility of a revolutionary situation, and this fact is always in the minds of the PRD leadership.

People’s Democratic Party

The PRD, the only revolutionary organisation in Indonesia, is engaged in a race against time to strengthen itself organisationally and ideologically as well as to position itself as a part of the vanguard of any mass opposition that develops.

It is difficult to comprehend fully the PRD’s achievements since a small core of activists first launched it as an association in 1994 and then as a party in 1996, especially given that between July 1996 and May 1998 the party and its associated mass organisations were suppressed.

Based on observations and discussions during the last two months of 2000, the PRD has bases in at least 100 towns and cities—in all provinces except West Papua. The most developed bases are fully commissioned branches that can carry out all the party’s activities and sustain cadre working full time in trade unions, peasant unions and the student union.

The political framework of the PRD’s campaign work is reflected in its general slogan for the last period: “Smash the remnants of the New Order, leave behind the fake reformers”.

This has involved two spheres of political action. The first is actions, usually organised by ad hoc coalitions, either aimed directly against Golkar or in support of specific demands relating to putting Suharto on trial. Sometimes the coalitions have been with various non-party student groups, at other times with forces associated with the PKB, particularly the youth. The PRD has been able to maintain a dialogue with the PKB leadership and develop good links with local PKB youth bases in some towns.

The second sphere has been the actions, often initiated by the Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggles (FNPBI), against policies associated with the neo-liberal offensive being implemented by the Wahid government in association with the IMF. All the actions initiated by PRD-associated organisations around economic demands bring the movement into direct contradiction with the Wahid government and the other parties represented in the parliament, all of which support these policies.

In one respect, during 2000 the PRD worked under more difficult conditions than during 1996-1999. The end of the mass anti-dictatorship movement after the 1999 elections took away the main platform from which the PRD reached out to people on a national level. While figures like Budiman Sujatmiko and Dita Sari are still regularly quoted in Indonesian newspapers, the profile of the PRD in the mass media has dwindled considerably.

This is not helped by conglomerate capital owning and dominating the media. The PRD’s political interventions are now more localised or channelled through the mass organisations. At the same time, the PRD’s hard-won popularity and credibility as committed strugglers for democracy have not disappeared. For instance, Budiman and Dita are still regularly invited to be keynote speakers at public meetings and seminars. This is also reflected in the fact that the PKB leaders, at both national and local levels, maintain a dialogue with the PRD.

At the forefront of the PRD’s thinking now is how to build on the anti-Golkar and sectoral campaigns and to bring together the various political and social struggles. One aspect has been to reformulate the slogan “Smash the remnants of the New Order, leave behind the fake reformers”. In the PRD’s end-of-year report, this was reformulated as “Smash the remnants of the New Order for Total Reform! Not supporting the smashing of the remnants of the New Order = fake reformer = enemy of the people.” This formulation and its variants link the struggle against the Golkar-TNI comeback with the demands of the 1998 movement, such as abolition of the political role of the military, the trial of Suharto and the abolition of corruption. It also challenges the non-Golkar parties to join a serious campaign against a Golkar comeback.

To give substance to the slogan, the PRD is planning to bring together the various alliances it established during 2000 at the national but especially at the sectoral and local levels. The first successful step in this direction was made with the formation of the National Assembly Campaign (KRN). It groups 75 mass organisations, including supporters of Wahid and other elements of the liberal bourgeoisie, behind the call to smash the forces of the old order and its supporters.

The PRD aims to try to win all these groups—including local PKB or PDI-P youth or other trade union, peasant, cultural or student groups—to the idea of nationally coordinated mass meetings to discuss ways of fighting the Golkar comeback and finding a democratic solution to the social and economic crisis. Coordinated with these mass meetings would be actions outside Golkar offices, TNI headquarters and the parliaments, starting at town level and building up for the larger cities.

New phase

The political struggle by the political forces of the old dictatorship to regain full power entered a new phase this year. During January and early February, a Special Commission (PANSUS) of the House of Representatives (DPR), dominated by Golkar and parties from the Central Axis Muslim right, but also including members of PDI-P, issued a memorandum attempting to implicate President Wahid in two financial scandals involving his associates. The memorandum used a “guilt by association” approach, made all the easier by the wild and loose manner of the Wahid administration.

The publication of the pansus memorandum signalled the start of a campaign against Wahid by Golkar, the Central Axis and the TNI. All these forces voted in the DPR to send the memorandum to Wahid, thus formally beginning a process that could possibly lead to his impeachment. This was the first time in the new parliament that the members representing the TNI had voted on a controversial issue, and they voted against Wahid.

While these manoeuvres continued inside parliament, the Golkar-Central Axis forces also began mobilising their supporters in the streets against Wahid. This base so far consists primarily of conservative Muslim youth and students, often mobilised on an anti-communist basis, or semi-proletarian urban poor, who are paid to demonstrate. Muslim youth and students are also mobilised against Wahid on religious grounds, conservative Muslim figures condemning Wahid as too liberal or secular. The banner of the mobilisations was against corruption, although these same forces never seriously mobilised against Suharto or the big corrupters associated with Golkar. Some of these right-wing mobilisations involved several thousand people.

Parallel with the parliamentary and street campaign against Wahid, Golkar and the Central Axis also mobilised their members and supporters among intellectual circles in the press to attack Wahid’s method of government and call for his resignation. Wahid was criticised by these forces for being unable to implement energetically all the agreements the government had made with the IMF and the World Bank. In fact, the Wahid government has always been fully supportive of the IMF-WB neo-liberal policies. It has been the constant war between the president and the Golkar-Central Axis-dominated parliament that has blocked key appointments and policy decisions, creating an economic and administrative policy vacuum.

The parliamentary, street and media campaign against Wahid began to create the illusion of a popular ground swell demanding that he resign or that the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) hold a special session to oust him. This prospect provoked two forms of opposition response.

First, the traditional base of Wahid, the members of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) began to mobilise. The NU, which has existed since the beginning of the 20th century, organises one of the two major wings of Indonesian Islam: Muslims who are the descendants of or under the influence of the thinking of essentially rural Javanese village landed elites who converted to Islam in a second wave of conversions in the 17th and 18th centuries. They retained many pre-Islamic indigenous beliefs and a general disposition to be more doctrinally flexible. A more fundamentalist and austere Islam developed a base among the modern capitalist enclaves of the port cities and plantation regions. This second kind of Islam was primarily represented by the Masyumi party until the 1960s, then by Muhammadiyah (headed until recently by Amien Rais), and now by the Central Axis coalition. The contest between the NU and the Central Axis is a contest between the landed village bourgeoisie and the middle urban bourgeoisie over who will replace Suharto’s cronies as the new big capitalists.

NU support is concentrated in East Java, whose capital is Surabaya. The NU-based political party, the PKB, achieved its biggest vote in the 1999 elections in East Java. The East Java NU machine moved into action during the first two weeks of February with several mobilisations, including one of almost a million people in Surabaya. Some pro-Wahid NU-based mobilisations have also taken place in other regions such as West Java, mainly mobilising people from the Banten area.

These mobilisations by NU Wahid supporters created enormous controversy, both outside and inside the NU. As the mobilisations spread throughout East Java, they revealed that sentiment among the NU masses was characterised not only by personal and communal loyalism to Wahid but also by anger against Golkar and anybody associated with Suharto’s New Order regime. In Surabaya, as well as in several smaller towns, Golkar offices were attacked, and sometimes burned down or trashed.

During March, several such smaller pro-Wahid demonstrations also took place, including in Jakarta. However, they have not yet developed into a generalised, politically conscious movement against the Golkar comeback. A key reason for this is Wahid’s, the NU’s and the PKB’s reluctance to lead it in that direction. In late February, Wahid and the Golkar chairperson, Akbar Tanjung, met and agreed that all sides should calm down their supporters. Only a minority of NU and PKB leaders spoke in favour of more street mobilisations. Trying to discredit the mobilisations, and especially the attacks on Golkar offices, Akbar Tanjung and then the Surabaya police chief accused the PRD of being behind the burning of Golkar offices. Reflecting his own lack of sympathy for street mobilisations, Wahid himself dropped hints that he also blamed the PRD.

Neither has Wahid, the NU or the PKB been willing to put forward a program of democratic reforms, such as abolition of the political role of the army, serious prosecution of Suharto-era human rights violators (including Suharto), nationalisation of corruptly obtained assets or referendums in Aceh or West Papua. They have no interest in an economic program in opposition to the IMF-WB neo-liberal economic policies to relieve the worsening plight of the 200 million peasants and workers of Indonesia. In these circumstances, the widespread mass hatred of Golkar finds no political focus. The mass demonstrations, therefore, find it hard to extend beyond the traditional East Javanese religious or cultural base of the NU.

Regrouping the radical democratic forces

The gap between a generalised opposition to a comeback by New Order forces and a politically focused campaign for deep-going democratic reforms that would work to block such a comeback is reflected in the organisational arena. The more than seventy political and social organisations that formed the KRN to oppose Golkar and other New Order forces ranged from the PRD through to the PKB, and included figures such as Wahid’s presidential spokesperson, Wimar Witoelar and other figures from the liberal intelligentsia. The PRD, in particular, worked hard for the formation of this organisation.

However, it is still proving difficult to galvanise these forces into a focused campaign around specific political demands for real democratic reforms, such as an end to the institutionalised political privileges of the armed forces, or even for the trial of Suharto for economic and political crimes. This has proven the case even in the aftermath of the campaign against Wahid initiated by Golkar and the Central Axis.

There has been progress in the regroupment of the most advanced elements of the reformasi total movement that exploded in early 1998 and led to the occupation of the grounds of the parliament and the resignation of Suharto. The vanguard of that movement comprised the PRD and its associated forces and a number of cross-campus activist coalitions, particularly those from Jakarta. The mass of students who rallied behind the anti-Suharto demonstrations in early 1998 and then behind the anti-Habibie and anti-military demonstrations in November 1998 have been demobilised since then. This happened after key figures in the bourgeois opposition to Suharto and Habibie, namely, Wahid, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Amien Rais, met during the peak of the November 1998 student-urban poor uprising and declared their support for the “constitutional processes” being implemented by President Habibie and for a gradual approach to ending the military’s role in politics. The student masses, who had illusions that this trio might seize power in opposition to Golkar based upon a mandate from the parliament of the streets, were demoralised by this betrayal.

While the student masses returned to their studies, the organising core of the student movement remained active. The cross-campus activist collectives and ideologically aligned groups continued to organise street protests on a range of issues, especially demanding the trial of Suharto or opposing corruption. Between December 1998 and January 2001, these groups remained relatively dispersed and only occasionally engaged in combined actions. This began to change in late 2000 and took a qualitative leap forward after January 2001.

By March, there were three core coalitions of these forces established in Jakarta, North Sumatra and East Java. In Jakarta, the People’s Front Against the New Order (FRAROB) comprises thirteen organisations, including the PRD and groups linked to the rank-and-file militants of the PDI-P and anti-racist, radical human rights and labour groups. In North Sumatra, the coalition is called Total Reform Front (FRONTAL) and comprises similar forces and smaller Islamic and liberal democratic parties, elements from the PKB and non-government organisations. In East Java, the Democratic Alliance Against the New Order (ADA ORBA) comprises similar groups as well as Protestant and Catholic student radicals. Smaller coalitions are also emerging in other areas. In all these coalitions, the National Student League for Democracy (LMND) has played a leading role, and its office has sometimes been the main organising centre. It is not surprising, therefore, that LMND offices have been attacked by right-wing militia groups of up to 70 people armed with machetes and bamboo spears in Jakarta, Solo and Bandung.

Groups like FRAROB and FRONTAL in turn are part of broader ad hoc anti-Golkar coalitions, which include the cross-campus activists and young anti-New order Muslim students, influenced by Islamic liberation theology. The most recently active of these is the Disband Golkar Alliance (ABG).

This development is extremely important because it is reversing the dispersal of the student and radical vanguard that occurred after November 1998. Moreover, the movement is being regrouped behind a set of clear demands: abolish the dual function of the armed forces, try Suharto and other Golkar figures for economic and political crimes, bring Golkar before a people’s tribunal, disband parliament and hold new elections organised by a people’s council comprising the democratic forces untainted by involvement in Suharto’s New Order. While this regroupment proceeded a long way over the short period of January and February, before which most of these groups were still very dispersed, their mobilising capacity remains limited. The Muslim anti-Wahid right wing, with both large amounts of money and a string of right-wing-controlled mosques at its disposal, is able to mobilise more forces at the moment than the radical democrats.

The liberal wing of the bourgeoisie, represented by Wahid, the NU and the PKB, lacks a political and economic platform that can mobilise mass support and is reluctant even to try to mobilise mass support in its own defence or in defence of any kind of liberal political reforms. In this situation, the regroupment of the militants dispersed since November 1998 is crucial to the success of any campaign for real “total reform”. It is the perspective of the PRD to help form such regroupment fronts as the force that can initiate bigger and stronger campaigns.