International workers' movement news

PRD campaigning openly again

On March 21, the People’s Democratic Party (prd—Partai Rakyat Demokratik) held public meetings in Jakarta and several other Indonesian cities to declare that it had returned to open campaigning. The prd was forced underground in July 1996, when the Suharto dictatorship ordered the arrest of all prd members. Thirteen prd leaders were captured between July and September. Ten more were kidnapped in early 1998. Three of those are still missing and feared dead. A fourth’s corpse was found last year in the city of Madiun.

Following the forced resignation of Suharto in May 1998, prd members and supporters established the Committee for the Preparation for the Legalisation of the prd (kepal-prd). A few weeks later, a Jakarta administrative court overturned the formal ban on the prd that was issued in 1997.

Between January and February, the prd established open branches and sub-branches in the 14 provinces where it had been active during its underground period, thus meeting the requirements to register as a party to participate in the general elections scheduled for June 1999. The prd is one of 48 parties that met the qualifications, which primarily involved proving the existence of a minimum number of branches and sub-branches. The prd itself vigorously criticised this law as discriminating against new parties.

On March 21, the prd organised a public meeting in Jakarta and several other cities, including in Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi. In Jakarta more than 1000 people crammed a hall to hear a speech written by Budiman Sujatmiko and read out by a member of the prd Central Leadership Council, Ida Nashim. Budiman, who is still in prison, reaffirmed the prd’s commitment to mass struggle, mobilising the power of workers, the urban poor, peasants and students. He declared that change via popular mass action must remain the central focus of political activity.

He called on all democratic political forces to include in their political programs the abolition of any political role for the armed forces. He declared that the prd must become a “school of politics” for the masses and reaffirmed the prd’s commitment to popular social democracy, which he defined as “a form of democratic socialism, where political pluralism is defended and an economy is developed that prioritises public interest and is capable of improving the social and cultural functions of society”.

A symbolic swearing in as prd members of representatives of different sectors of society took place, including representatives of the workers’ movement, the student movement and the high school movement. Dr Dede Oetomo, a respected progressive university academic and national convener of Indonesia’s largest gay organisation, was also sworn in as a member.

At the Jakarta meeting, Indonesia’s greatest novelist and long-term revolutionary, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, 72, joined the prd in a public ceremony. Pramoedya was jailed in 1959–60 as a result of his defence of the Indonesian Chinese community and again in 1965–79 by the Suharto dictatorship. In his speech, Pramoedya said: “This is the most important event in my life, what I have dreamed of since I was young: to witness for myself the birth of a young generation not burdened by bombasticism, and which is rational, corrective, critical, and all of this bound by firmness of commitment…”

Solidarity greetings were announced at the public meeting, including from Socialist Party of East Timor, renetil (National Resistance of East Timorese Student), Free West Papua Movement, Democratic Socialist Party of Australia, Labour Party of Pakistan, Socialist Party of Labour from the Philippines, Renato Constantino Jr, founding convener of the Asia Pacific Coalition for East Timor, Malaysian People’s Party, New Zealand Alliance, Socialist Party of the Netherlands, Socialist Workers Party of the Netherlands, Party of Democratic Socialism of Germany, Socialist Democracy (Britain), Resistance Socialist Youth Organisation from Australia and Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (asiet).

On March 25, the Timorese Socialist Party held a joint press conference with prd General Election Commission representative Hendri Kuok, calling for there to be no elections in East Timor, for East Timorese to boycott the elections and for a UN-supervised referendum and full independence for East Timor.

‘Cancel the Debts’ meeting in Brussels

More than 40 movements and organisations were represented in Brussels on March 12 and 13 at an international meeting titled “Your Money or Your Life: Cancel the Debts”. The gathering, organised by the Committee for the Cancellation of the Third World Debt, drew participants from Argentina, Australia, Britain, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, India, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain (Catalonia, Euskadi and Madrid), Sri Lanka, Switzerland and Venezuela.

The meeting was organized in two parts. On Friday the 12th, there was a fertile exchange of information among the delegations. The participants worked towards drawing up a common platform. Reports of this important meeting appeared in the Belgian dailies Le Soir and Le Matin, each devoting the equivalent of a whole page to it. The French-speaking state-owned radio mentioned it several times, as did about 15 periodicals.

On Saturday the 13th, about 550 people took part in a dozen different workshops. Participants judged the workshops to be even more useful and interesting than at previous meetings.

The meeting revealed an active desire to bring off initiatives in support of Third World debt cancellation, such as those of attac–International, the European marches, the intercontinental caravan of Indian peasants, actions for the improvement of working conditions in the clothing industry, the campaign against financial speculation, the World Women’s March in 2000, support for the “sans papiers” (immigrants without official documents in France), etc.

The Togo delegates to the meeting were prevented from attending by French consular authorities, who refused to issue them with the requisite Schengen visa for entry into Belgium.

Joint left ticket in France

A joint ticket for the June 1999 elections to the European parliament, formed by two French far-left groups, is receiving as much as 8 per cent support in opinion polls. Five per cent is the threshold for winning seats in the parliament. The common list of the Revolutionary Communist League (lcr—Ligue Communiste Révolutionair) and Workers’ Struggle (lo—Lutte Ouvrière) was set up late last year. It includes equal numbers of candidates from the two organisations.

The ticket’s campaign has made the fight against unemployment a central focus, calling for a cut in the working week without cuts in salary or “flexibilisation” of jobs.

In an interview with the March issue of International Viewpoint, lcr leader Alain Krivine said, “We will also put forward the demands of the sans-papiers (undocumented immigrants), of women, the unemployed and the homeless. We know, too, that our society’s social deficit is also an ecological deficit. Who suffers most from the noise pollution of modern cities: the rich in the suburbs or those in the inner cities?”

In the 1995 presidential election in France, lo candidate Arlette Laguiller received 5.3 per cent of the vote, so the possibility of the joint ticket passing the 5 per cent barrier is a real one.

“A good vote will enable us to send deputies to the European parliament", Krivine said.“It is an institution without any power, but we can use the credibility of parliamentary status to gain information, and get media coverage when we denounce the secret structures of the Europe which is being planned for us.

“We will use our positions as a tribune for the social movements, and use the resources at our disposal to build those movements.”