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(All analysis here are my personal views and are not the views of any university, institution or organisation with which I am affiliated.)

UPDATE NOTE: For a more recent analysis see the interview with Zely Ariane

In this article, I want to report and analyse on one of the most important developments on the Indonesian Left. These developments began in Indonesia in July 2007, seven months ago now. I apologise to all those readers who have been reading my English language articles as a means of following the Indonesian left. I have been unfortunately constrained over the last seven months, and even now

In July, 2007 a majority of the current leadership of the PRD voted on a leadership body that a small number of leaders, who disagreed with current political perspectives should exercise their “democratic rights” to “go their own way” to test out their own line. The general membership of the PRD were to be informed of this decision and all those who did not support the perspective of the current majority would be invited to join those “going their own way”. In other words, all those with differences were being de facto expelled. Formal expulsions of Jakarta based members and the freezing of branches whose membership’s rejected the current leadership’s perspectives took place later in the year.

The differences

In 2005, the PRD decided that it was a priority to intervene or respond to the 2009 general and presidential elections. After a failed but brief series of discussions with other groupings in the broad left activist milieu in order to organize a conference that might lead to a party of the united activist Left, the PRD initiated the formation on PAPERNAS (Party for National Liberation Unity). PAPERNAS evolved as a party comprising the PRD and an extensive section of the PRD’s periphery and past contacts. While some other non-PRD organizations joined the PAPERNAS at its foundation, by 2006 it was clearly the PRD plus its friends and supporters.

This was a result of a fantastic effort on the part of the PRD cadre and represented a real expansion of the number of activists that were being coordinated by the PRD, through PAPERNAS.

However by the end of 2006 it was also clear that PAPERNAS would not succeed in meeting the criteria to achieve official registration as a political party and an electoral participant. Laws passed by the Indonesian parliament, dominated by the major bourgeois parties, required proof of branches and memberships in two thirds of all provinces and two thirds of all districts within provinces. There would also need to be proof of membership of fixed percentages of the population, which would include provision of phot ID. Physical offices, and local government statements that such offices existed, in all these areas was also required.

Despite the impressive growth of the PRD-PAPERNAS organized network of activists, it was still a small force unable to smash through these undemocratic obstacles.

Coalition and merger for the sake of parliamentary seats

In late July, 2007, a position paper was circulated internally in the party which set out a proposition for a merger with another party which already members on the parliament and therefore might not need to go through the electoral registration process. This was the Star Reformation Party (PBR). PBR was a split from the Soeharto era, pro-Soeharto Islamic United Development Party (PPP). It was anti-communist, anti-secular and anti-pluralist. It was led by anti-Left activists from the late 1990s in combination with local elites, including Islamic fundamentalist elements.

While posited as a “coalition” in this paper, the proposal amounted to a merger proposal. PAPERNAS would take 5 seats on the PBR national leadership council; would campaign under the PBR name; would stand candidates and campaign only in electorates where the PBR was not strong; would change its name to drop any reference to it being a party; and would accept the watering down of some of its slogans. On the latter, for example, “nationalization of oil and gas” would be restated as “protecting national sovereignty in resources”.

At the same time, the paper insisted that PAPERNAS would retain its independence as a separate organization, although affiliated to PBR. The proposal was being supported by PRD chairperson, Dita Sari and PRD Secretary general Agus Jabo.

It was not clear at the time whether the PBR had actually agreed to this proposal or whether it was just the wishes of the PRD leadership.

A few days after this paper was circulated, these proposals were presented for a vote on the main leadership body. A small number of four leaders voted against it. Following this vote, another discussion and vote was taken resulting in the majority vote that those with differences “go their own way”.

The emergence of The Political Committee of the Poor-PRD

In the months since this decision was taken, the majority forced split has spread throughout the party and its affiliated mass organizations in almost the whole country. As members dismayed at and opposed to the course of merger with the PBR discussed among themselves why this had happened and what they must do, a consensus emerged that the leadership was taking the party on a parliamentarist and opportunist path.

On January 31, they declared publicly the existence of a new grouping The Political Committee of the Poor-PRD (KPRM-PRD). Even before this, also in January, the KPRM-PRD had carried out public protest actions, demanding the nationalisation of oil and gas industries and the lowering of prices, both in Surabaya, Jakarta and other cities.

The KPRM-PRD has also restarted the publication of the PRD’s old paper PEMBEBASAN (LIBERATION) which has not appeared in hard copy for almost two years, while the party devoted 100% of resources on trying to achieve electoral registration.

Supporters of KPRM-PRD included a central leader at the PRD’s founding, Danial Indrakusuma, as well as the former Political Secretary of PAPERNAS; the former secretary-general of the National League of Democratic Students (LMND), the secretary-general of the National Peasants Union, and a former Secretary-General of the PRD, Zely Ariane, and until recently the head of the PRD’s International Committee. The overwhelming majority of the membership of three branches: Jogjakarta, East Java and East Kalimantan is supporting KPRM-PRD.

The KPRM-PRD has outlined a political perspective emphasising a mass action strategy and emphasising the necessity of prioritising efforts to unite the huge numbers of sections of the people currently engaged in protest mobilisations and campaigns. It argues that the pro-merger PRD-PAPERNAS has abandoned any orientation to the protest movement and broader Left for an orientation for bourgeois parties, which it has described as “the popular bourgeoisie”.

The KPRM-PRD points out that the PBR not only openly advocates campaigning against communism and secularism, but has also opposed increases in the budget for education. In the regions, its leaders are involved in campaigns to establish Islamic law as well as being engaged in mobilising thugs against farmer activists. At its main national assembly in 2007, it invited President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono as its keynote speaker.

More recently, through PAPERNAS documents, it has become clear that earlier warnings from critics of the pro-merger perspective that even the merger proposal itself was no more than a reflection of the opportunist dreaming of its supporters are being confirmed as accurate. While complaining that despite all the efforts of PAPERNAS, negotiations for merger with PBR have not proceeded far, Dita Sari and the PAPERNAS leadership have started discussion with officials of the Democratic Renewal Party (PDP), a clique split away from Megawati Soekarnoputri’s PDIP. The central leader of PDP is millionaire businessman, Laksamana Sukardi, currently under investigation for corruption during his period as a minister in the Megawati government before 2004. (Meanwhile the PBR itself has turned to talks with The Concern for the Nation Functional Party (PKPB) which stood Suharto’s daughter, the infamous Tutut Soeharto, at the last elections.)

United front possibilities on the Left

In contrast with the pro-merger PRD-PAPERNAS’s perspective of seeking anybody, no matter how rotten, that might help them stand candidates in the 2009 elections, the KPRM-PRD has quickly moved to begin discussions and collaborations with several of the key components of the activist Left that has steadily grown since the fall of Suharto in 1998. As reported in thew news item written for an Australian left newspaper (which declined to print it) (see below), those sending representatives to the KPRM-PRD’s January 31 declaration included The meeting was attended by representatives of like minded leftist organisations including the Indonesian Student Union (SMI), Indonesian National Federation of Transport Workers (FBTNI), Poor People’s Alliance (ARM), Left House (Rumah Kiri), Alliance for Workers Demands (ABM), National Student Front (FMN), Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI), and the Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI).

Discussions are underway among some of these organizations, including the KPRM-PRD, about possibilities of more consolidated campaign alliances. This is a very positive development, but the formation of such an alliance or alliances will probably require a long process of dialogue, debate and confidence building.

Struggle for the PRD tradition

The KPRM-PRD’s rejection of coalition and merger with small, right-wing and corrupt parties in order to be able to stand in elections as parliamentarism and opportunism is consistent with the long-term tradition of the PRD that was consolidated during the 1990s. Its emphasis on building campaigns at the grass roots around the pressing demands of the people is also consistent with that tradition. Its perspectives on how to approach intervening in the electoral processes are also consistent with this tradition.

The KPRM-PRD is arguing that a more unified approach from more of the activist formations, uniting the hundreds, probably thousands, of mobilisations now occurring in a very fragmented way, could quickly subvert the current domination of the public political arena of the narrow and deceitful agenda being promoted by all the bourgeois parties. (This would result in an even further deepening of the alienation of the mass of the population from the bourgeois parties which is represented in some poll results indicating that 70% of the population don’t like any of the parties in the current parliament.) The KPRM-PRD points out that the PRD made a major and extremely effective intervention in the 1997 general elections when it was still an underground party, through a campaign of mass leaflet distribution and mass mobilisation around key political demands.

As I write it appears that “Politics of the Poor” wings of most of the student, women’s and peasant organizations under the leadership of the PRD are also emerging publicly in many parts of the country. This is also happening in the worker sector and the Indonesian Front for Labor Struggles (FNPBI). In this area, the struggle is more bitter with the “majority” threatening members that their enterprise union’s registration with the Ministry of Labor will be withdrawn if they support the KPRM wing.

However, it appears that the KPRM-PRD is likely to be successful in saving the tradition of the PRD and ensuring that the radical and consistent politics of the party in the past will be continued.

(All analysis here are my personal views and are not the views of any university, institution or organisation with which I am affiliated.)

PEMBEBASAN (Liberation) (published by KPRM-PRD)
January, 2008
Our stance

An (alternative) politics of the poor has been the political position of the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) since it was established. This was a politics with the perspective that any changes and any victory to be won by the poor must be based on the people’s own strength, on the strength of the movement. This perspective has been abandoned by a section of the leadership of the PRD – those calling themselves the majority in the PRD – in accord with their interest in liquidating themselves (ideologically, politically, organizationally) into an electoral unity with a fake reformist party, an ally of the government, a government which is the agent of imperialism. All this in order have the opportunity to get into parliament.

Because of this, those of us who refuse to abandon this politics of the poor, and who reject the path of parliamentarist opportunism have taken the name the Political Committee of the Poor-PRD (KPRM-PRD). The formation of the KPRM-PRD began as a result of coercion when, using the position/authority of a majority, which then became the internal position of the PRD, forced a division/split of the party: either supporting parliamentarist opportunism or to build a peoples movement.

We now understand this undemocratic decision to split the party as the destructive consequence of their opportunist political perspective. For the KPRM-PRD the more important pressing need is to play a concrete role in the development of a politics of the poor together with other forces in the movement, building that kind of unity.

Yet, even so, this does not mean that the KPRM-PRD is washing its hands of the problem of the destruction of the politics of the poor perspective inside the PRD. While helping to build the peoples movement, we will continue the internal struggle to win back the PRD as an instrument of struggle for the politics of the poor.

In the current economic and political situation, the movement faces the challenge of evaluating the situation and taking responsibility [to lead]. The people day by day become clearer on the accumulating problems that they face. So the responsibility increases for the movement to show the links between these problems and the role of imperialist oppression. We must be able to go beyond and pierce through the thousands of illusions, that are always being strengthened, and which disguise the subservience of our rulers to imperialist interests.

Hopes for genuine change for the people will grow if the peoples own strength (with activists from the movement among them) are capable of creating a network of resistance among the people that is broad and united.

The concrete manifestation of the politics of the poor is the broadening and unifying of the peoples resistance, a unifying of the peoples mobilizations raising up demands and solutions to the socio-economic problems of the people. These mobilizations must grow and enter into every political arena of the poor, and the elections are just one of these. And indeed no matter whatever the political movement of the poor may expre3ss itself in, the primary thing that cannot be compromised is the refusal to suffer any interference, to suffer any subordination (so to remain free of the influence) and the refusal to fuse with the pro-imperialist government, the army, remnants of the New Order or fake reformists.

Yes, the politics of the poor is an alternative, a rival perspective based on the strength of the peoples own resistance, based non the principles of non-cooperation and non-cooptation with the enemies of the people. No matter how difficult, the building of the peoples own strength to resist must be carried out, the problems must be overcome; this task cannot be avoided. The method of three monthly mobilizations is just one method which we are putting forward, and can still be further developed, to extend the resistance of the people, to awaken political consciousness, while concretizing it in the struggle method of the people; to make their demands through mass mobilization.

In the name of an easy path to power (with the justification that revolution can be carried out from above). Including through parliamentarist opportunism, is truly an abandonment of the tru struggle of the people, is truly cutting oneself away from a politics in solidarity with the people.

Indonesia: Reject Parliamentarism and Opportunism

By Sam King

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 "xxx" “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 "xxxx" 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 5 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 "xxxx" “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.


Papernas's key 'electoral partner' now eyeing coalition with party of former President Suharto
Java Post - December 10, 2007

Jakarta -- The small political parties in the House of Representatives (DPR) who are unable to pass the electoral threshold of 3 percent are looking for the best way to participate in the 2009 general elections. They are left with only two choices, to form a new party or change their name, or to join with other smaller parties in the DPR in order to get enough seats to pass the threshold.

The latest series of manoeuvrings at Senayan (the DPR) involves three small parties: the Prosperous Peace Party (PDS) that has 13 seats, the Pioneer Party that has three seats and the Indonesian Democratic Vanguard Party PPDI that has only one seat. With a total of 17 seats they hope to be able to fulfil the 3 percent electoral threshold.

Prior to the emergence of the PDS-Pioneer Party-PPDI combination, there was a failed attempt at a Reform Star Party (PBR) and Vanguard Party formation under the name of the Reform Star Vanguard Party (PPBR).

As soon as this ran aground, the PBR that has 14 seats in the DPR veered sharply and approached the United Democratic Nationhood Party (PPDK), which has four seats in the parliament. According to PBR general chairperson Bursah Zarnubi, they have already prepared an alternative option if the PPDK maneuver fails.

The formation that is currently being worked on a PBR-PKPB-PNI Marhaen coalition. The PKPB or the Concern for the Nation Functional Party has 2 seats while the Marhaenisme Indonesian National Party only has one seat. "But this formation already fulfils the 3 percent electoral threshold right", explained Zarnubi. (pri/tom/mk)

The Concern for the Nation Functional Party (PKPB)is chaired by Raden Hartono, a former Suharto army commander and ex-official of Golkar, the party which backed his regime. He proudly calls himself a Suharto lackey. "With an extraordinary boldness I want to affirm that I am a Suharto lackey", Hartonotold party followers during a campaign rally in March 2004. On March 14 Hartono admitted toDetik.com that he missed the greatness of the New Order government under Suharto's leadership addingthat "The establishment of PKPB has also obtained Suharto's blessing". Suharto's eldest daughter Siti "Tutut" Hardiyanti Rukmana was chosen as the PKPB's presidential candidate in the last elections with Hartono pledging that he would bring the good old days back to the country if she were elected a aspresident.

[Slightly abridged Translation by Afanti]

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