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Indonesia: Reject parliamentarism and opportunism

Sam King - February 2008

[The following article was submitted for publication in Green Left Weekly in February 2008 but rejected.]

Jakarta – On January 31 the Struggle Committee of the Poor (KPRM) wing of the People's Democratic Party (PRD) today made its public launch under the banner of "Reject Co-option and Co-operation with remnants of the New Order [military dictatorship of General Suharto], the military and the fake reformists; unite and stand up for an alternative politics of the poor."

The launch was organised to promote the KPRM-PRD's view that meaningful social change in Indonesia can only be achieved through political struggle by the mass of the Indonesia's 236 million, mostly poor people.

According to KPRM-PRD leader Danial Indrakusuma relating to the rising movement of localised, spontaneous struggles throughout Indonesia is the key to building such popular struggle.

Indrakusuma told Green Left Weekly "economic" struggle like workers strikes, peasant land claims or pricing disputes and struggles by urban poor communities such as against housing demolitions continue to rise and have done so since 1998. "That is the prize for having overthrown [the] Suharto" Military dictatorship in 1998.

The KPRM-PRD views rising economic struggle as a popular response to the policies imposed on Indonesia by international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation – however virtually none of the leaderships of these mostly local and sectoral movements view their struggles as either national, international or even political issues.

KPRM-PRD speakers repeated their political position that the organised left must orient primarily towards the local spontaneous movements in order to help bring these into national politics and help them unite at a national level. They argued that only an uncompromising political stance can provide the mass movements with the political arguments needed to fight-back against the root cause of all the economic grievances – the subjugation of Indonesia to the needs of foreign capitalists.

The meeting was attended by representatives of like minded leftist organisations including the Indonesian Student Union (SMI), Indonesian Federation of Transport Workers (FBTI), Poor People's Alliance (ARM), Left House (Rumah Kiri), Alliance for Workers Demands (ABM), People's Democratic Party – National Liberation Party of Struggle (PRD-PAPERNAS), National Student Front (FMN), Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI), and the Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI),

Spokesperson Zely Ariane presented the KPRM-PRD position paper entitled "responsibility of the KPRM-PRD to the People and the Democratic Movement." Ariane told Green Left the KPRM needed to open a public forum on their political views after as they were expelled from the Central Leadership Committee of the People's Democratic Party for their political views in July 2007.

The position paper is critical of what it describes as a tendency in the left movement towards "parliamentarism" (viewing parliamentary representation as the primary method of creating social change) and opportunism (hiding or abandoning political views in order to more easily advance ones position). An example given of this tendency in the movement was that the last five chairpersons of the PRD have all joined mainstream electoral parties.

According to the KPRM-PRD such "electoralism" marches arm in arm with its necessary counterpart – "opportunism". Ariane told Green Left "that is now the dominant trend among the PRD-PAPERNAS" lead by Dita Sari. PRD-PAPERNAS (also present at the forum) is currently seeking electoral coalition with the Democracy Renewal Party (PDP) and the Star Reform Party (PBR) neither of which have a historical connection to the left.

Laksamana Sukardi, the central leader and coordinator of the PDP Central Leadership Committee is currently being investigated on corruption charges stemming from his time as the Minister for State Enterprises in the cabinet of Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The PBR members of parliament voted for the new foreign investment laws in 2007 that promise equal treatment be given by the government towards domestic and foreign investors.

On behalf of the PRD-PAPERNAS Binbin Firmansyah told the forum "we are intervening in the election with the tactic of a coalition with a bourgeois party. While we already know that party is rotten and not revolutionary however we must continue to intervene in order to gain a bigger platform. At this moment the movement does not have a position on the platform of mainstream politics." Binbin explained "The movement is everywhere but they still look towards the bourgeois political stage [the election]. We can not just leave that stage [to the bourgeoisie and] to be embraced by the people."

Apart from clarifying its own perspectives and the split in the PRD, the KPRM-PRD argues the movement as a whole needs to understand the division between parliamentarism and opportunism on the one hand and "politics of the poor" on the other – arguing it is not only an internal issue of the PRD.

The first issue since June 2006 of the PRD's newspaper Pembebasan (Liberation) was launched at the same time.