Workers Movement News

Second Congress of the Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggles

Two hundred and fifty delegates and leaders from the Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggles (FNPBI) met July 24-26 for the organisation's second national congress.

The delegates represented 50,000 workers from ten provinces. They decided to escalate education and campaigning among Indonesian workers, explaining that their struggle is part of an international struggle and to escalate campaigns focusing directly on fighting the current neo-liberal offensive. They also resolved to continue the campaign for a 100% rise in wages for all workers.

The delegates further decided to begin a campaign to bring together representatives of organised workers in territorial "workers' assemblies" or "workers' councils". The congress recognised the large number of strikes and protests that were occurring outside any regional or national trade union framework and therefore concluded that a means should be established for representatives of organised workers to come together.

Resolutions passed on political issues included reaffirmation of solidarity with the East Timorese people's struggle for reconstruction and a demand that the Indonesian government accept responsibility for helping reconstruct East Timor.

The congress also voted that all affiliates of the FNPBI at the provincial, factory and local level adopt the name "Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggles". Previously, local affiliates had evolved with their own names. The congress decided to keep the name "Front" rather adopt "Union" to emphasise that it did not want to be trapped in a narrow trade unionism, but to campaign on a wide range of issues.

Delegates agreed that the FNPBI's monthly journal, Seruan Buruh, (Workers' Call) would become a weekly tabloid during the next twelve months, with a trial period of six months during which it is published fortnightly. The paper will be sold not just to members but also on the streets and outside factories.

The congress re-elected Dita Sari as chairperson and Ilhamsyah as secretary-general. Reflecting the increased international links of the FNPBI, two international officers were elected, Romawaty Sinaga and Luciana.

The congress received solidarity greetings from twenty-five international and local worker and human rights organisations.

New Marxist magazine

A new magazine, Kiri (Left), was launched in Indonesia in July. It is a bimonthly, concentrating on theoretical questions relevant to Marxist political activity and movement. The first issue carried an Indonesian translation of the Communist Manifesto and of other classical Marxist material. On contemporary developments, it carried an analysis of the current neo-liberal global offensive by Australian Marxist Doug Lorimer. The first issue was sold out within a week. Marxist literature is now increasingly available in Indonesia through an Indonesian web page:

People's Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference

The progressive Indonesian research and activist centre INCREASE (Indonesian Centre for Research and Self-Empowerment) has announced the date for the People's Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference, to be held in Indonesia, June 6-12, 2001, under the theme "Fighting Neo-Liberalism in the Asia Pacific".

The conference is being supported in Indonesia by the People's Democratic Party (PRD), the Indonesian National Front For Labour Struggles (FNPBI), the National Peasants' Union (STN), and the National Students' League for Democracy (LMND), among others.

People interested in attending the conference can write to Anom or Ismu at or INCREASE, d/a Jl Tebet Barat Dalam VIIIL/8 Jakarta Selatan 12810, Indonesia. Activists from Australia can contact to join the Australian solidarity delegation and from the Netherlands contact to join the Dutch solidarity delegation.

Popular Youth Movement

On June 24-25, fifty activists from eleven provinces met to establish a new Indonesian youth organisation. The congress adopted the name Gerakan Pemuda Kerakyatan (GPK Popular Youth Movement).

GPK aims to organise young workers, urban poor and other youth outside the university campuses. Its first activities will include nationally coordinated demonstrations in August in solidarity with workers' demands for a 100 per cent wage increase and protests against an increase in violence against workers and farmers.

GPK is planning to publish a fortnightly magazine called Api (Fire). The congress elected Ningsih as chairperson and Ricky Tamba as secretary-general.

Labour Party Pakistan congress

The first congress of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) was held in Lahore, April 15-18, attended by 138 delegates and twenty-eight observers. The atmosphere was charged with the knowledge that thousands of kilometres away in Washington, protesters were assailing a meeting of World Bank and IMF officials.

"In this age of unprecedented global capitalist plunder, a new, global people's response is growing", Farooq Tariq, general secretary of the LPP, said. "In the streets of Seattle and Washington we have heard the angry cries against the system of private profit, against IMF/World Bank/World Trade Organisation plunder of the Third World, against privatisation of public assets, the throwing of millions into unemployment and the denial of basic human rights for most of humanity. These cries for justice join the cries of the workers and peasants of Pakistan who have taken to the streets even under the current military rule."

There were delegates who recounted a heroic battle between railway workers and the army on the Peshawar Road in Rawalpindi. There were peasant leaders from Sindh, Baluchistan and Punjab who had stood up to the ruthless assault of big landlords. And there were valiant students who persevered on campuses still constrained by political restrictions from the days of the Zia ul-Haq military dictatorship and now also blighted by right-wing religious fundamentalists.

The thirteen foreign observers from left-wing parties in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Afghanistan, Brazil, France and Germany added to the internationalist tone of the congress by pledging solidarity and joint action against imperialism and for democratic rights. All congratulated the LPP for uniting socialists from different political traditions.

Many LPP delegates had been members of other political parties, including the Communist Party, National Workers Party, Watan Dust Peasant Party, Socialist Party, Sindh Peasant Committee and People's Progressive Party. They had found common cause in the LPP in rejecting the old orientation of most of the Pakistan left of looking to the "progressive" national capitalists for a "national democratic" alliance.

Delegates were agreed that the Pakistan capitalist class had demonstrated that it was against the great majority of the population and in league with big landlords and imperialism. The delegates differed about the exact political theory that explained this, but were totally united in opposing the approach of the old left.

There was a lively discussion on the national question. The country's borders contain several nations (or parts of them), including of the Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, Kashmir and Siraiki nations.

The Punjabi capitalist class clearly dominates Pakistan politically and economically, so there is an issue of national oppression. The LPP resolved to support the struggles of all oppressed nationalities and minority religions.

The congress called for the military to return to barracks, for a democratic government based on worker and peasant representatives, and for free and fair elections in ninety days. It dismissed the military government's offer of non-party local elections as an attempt to cloak military rule in "democratic garb".

Just two weeks before the congress, the military and police raided the offices of the LPP and the homes of its leaders, who were forced into hiding for a week. The LPP was raided because it dared to hold a peaceful demonstration in Lahore against the visit of US President Bill Clinton.

The congress considered invitations to join a number of international left organisations, including the Fourth International, the Workers International League and Workers International Unity, but decided to remain unaffiliated for now.

The delegates elected a national committee of thirty-three full members and ten alternate members. Greetings were received from the Sindh Sartor Party, Siraiki National Party, Sindh Literary Sangat, Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), Salim Raza of the Pakistan National Trade Union Federation (Karachi), the Nava Sama Samaja Party of Sri Lanka, People's Democratic Party of Indonesia, Socialist Labour Party of the Philippines, Afghan Labour Revolutionary Organisation, John Reimen of the Carpentry Union USA, A.R. Saraba, Toni Usman and Ikhlaq Khan.

London Socialist Alliance success

The London Socialist Alliance has assessed its campaign in the May 4 election for the newly created Greater London Assembly as an "astounding success".

The LSA brought together several previously hostile socialist groups. Candidates included Paul Foot and television comedian Mark Steele (both Socialist Workers Party), London tube worker Greg Tucker (Socialist Outlook), Southwark councillor Ian Page (Socialist Party) and candidates from the Alliance for Workers Liberty, Workers Power and the Communist Party of Great Britain.

The assembly election coincided with the election for the new position of London mayor. The LSA called for a vote for Labour left Ken Livingstone, who successfully ran as an independent in defiance of the Labour Party hierarchy.

Many Labour voters were disgusted at Labour head office's gerrymandering of the Labour mayoral selection contest to defeat Livingstone as the official candidate and felt disillusioned by the experience of Labour in power.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's candidate, Frank Dobson, came in a poor third, with just over twelve per cent of the vote. Livingstone received three times Dobson's first preferences and won an easy victory after distribution of second preferences.

The combined left vote including the list votes for the Campaign Against Tube Privatisation (1 per cent), the Communist Party of Britain (0.4 per cent), the Socialist Labour Party (0.8 per cent), Peter Tatchell (1.4 per cent) and the LSA was more than 88,895 (5.2 per cent) and, if it had been united, would have elected a candidate to the assembly.

The LSA also scored well in the June 22 parliamentary by-election in the north London seat of Tottenham. LSA candidate Weyman Bennett won 885 votes, or 5.2 per cent.

A June 11 conference of the LSA, attended by 400 activists, discussed the outcome of the London-wide election and future activities, and elected a thirty-person steering committee. The conference made the LSA a membership organisation that individuals can join directly, rather than just through affiliated groups

Geneva counter-summit

Nearly 600 people from all over the world attended three days of intense discussion and exchange of experiences in Geneva, June 22-24. The common focus of the participants, who represented some 190 organisations in 62 countries, was the fight against neo-liberalism and in defence of the victims of globalisation.

The conference was timed to conclude immediately before the opening of the United Nations World Summit on Social Development, June 26-30. The UN meeting was supposed to evaluate progress on pledges to eliminate poverty made five years earlier at a summit meeting in Copenhagen.

Swiss social movements organised the alternative summit, assisted by three French movements: ATTAC (Action for a Tobin Tax to Assist the Citizen), CCCOMC (Coordination for Citizens' Control of the World Trade Organisation) and the Peasants' Federation.

Participants came from every inhabited continent. Of the many issues and campaigns in which conference participants were involved, probably the biggest component came from ATTAC and from various campaigns for the cancellation of Third World debt, especially the Jubilee 2000 movement.

One well-attended workshop was on unions and globalisation. Others included: farmers' struggles, genetically modified organisms and rural development; labour and environmental standards; women and globalisation; the World Trade Organisation; the IMF and the World Bank; capital taxation and tax havens; public services; investment treaties; globalisation and armed conflict; and alternatives to neo-liberalism.

A major theme throughout was the need to popularise an understanding of the inhuman regime being inflicted on the poorest countries by international organisations like the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organisation. There was considerable discussion of how debt is used to force Third World governments to adopt the policies demanded by imperialist corporations and their governments.

Coming international conferences:

November 5-10. Socialism-21: A Journey to Justice, Freedom and Peace Conference. Initiated by CPN (UML). Kathmandu, Nepal.

November 11-14. International Conference in Solidarity with Cuba. Havana, Cuba.

November 22-24. Seminar on 10 Years of the Sao Paulo Forum. Havana.

November 30 - December 2. Globalisation and Human Emancipation Conference, Paris. Espaces Marx et al.

December 11-17. Dakar 2000 COCAD Debt Conference. Senegal

January 25-30. World Social Forum on Globalisation. Porto Alegre, Brazil.

January 29 - February 2. Third Conference of International Economists, Globalisation & Development Problems. Havana, Cuba.

April 13-16. International Student Solidarity Conference. Sydney, Australia.

April 17-23. People's Summit of the Americas. Quebec, Canada.

April 20-22. Labor Notes Conference. Detroit, USA.

April 25-27. São Pãolo Forum. Antigua, Guatemala.

April 25-27. International Scholars Conference. Havana, Cuba.

June 6-12. People's Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference. Jakarta, Indonesia.

August 2001. World Youth Festival. Algiers.