Habibie's reforms fail to quell
the struggle of the masses

by Mark, Detroit
(from Communist Voice #20, Mach 28, 1999)



Habibie fuels the flames of struggle
November upsurge: masses demand real change, Habibie replies with bullets
Habibie's electoral reform
Workers' movement advances
Regional struggles flare up
East Timor
Habibie's new policy: will independence be granted?
The bourgeois opposition prefers Habibie to the masses
Tasks facing the workers


. In May 1998 a mighty upsurge of the Indonesian masses toppled the 32-year reign of terror of the U.S.-backed Suharto regime. The masses rose up because they could no longer tolerate being deprived of the most basic rights and because the crisis of the capitalist economy was driving tens of millions of the working people into destitution. The mass demonstrations, clashes and urban rebellions drove Suharto from power. But the May 1998 uprising did not uproot the repressive institutions of the Suharto tyranny. Suharto's protege, B.J. Habibie, came to power with the close backing of General Wiranto, a top general of the Suharto era.

. Suharto is gone, but the period of upheaval continues. Behind this lies the struggle of classes, each fighting to determine the outcome of the post-Suharto democratization process. The Habibie regime, which represents the capitalists most favored by Suharto and the system of semi-military rule, has tried to change as little as possible. Besides Habibie's ruling Golkar party, there are the parties of the bourgeoisie which weakly advocated some minor reforms under Suharto, led by figures like Megawati Sukarnoputri of the Indonesian Democratic Party, and Amien Rais, of the National Mandate Party, who has a power base in one of the largest Muslim organizations. They have their quibbles with Habibie, but, since Habibie is offering them more power, and since they too support class exploitation, they are generally satisfied with the pace and scope of reform under Habibie. But the oppressed masses are of a different mind. They want the machinery of the old dictatorship completely swept away and those responsible punished. They want the fullest freedom and are striving to use this period to intensify the struggle for their social demands and building organizations to fight on their behalf. Student activists have organized much of the anti-Habibie protests, but the major demonstrations have drawn in huge numbers of militant workers and urban poor.

. Ultimately, what is being fought over in the streets is to what extent the post-Suharto era will be shaped by a deal between the forces of the old tyranny and the bourgeois reformers, or by the exploited classes.

Habibie fuels the flames of struggle

. Under pressure of continuing protests, Habibie has been forced to back away from several of the most repressive features of Suharto's so-called New Order dictatorship. There is more press freedom and there is room for more political and trade union organizing. But heavy repression continues for groups the regime deems too radical. Habibie's regime continues brutal terror against the masses and is striving to avoid any sudden shift that would upset the wealthy elite that grew fat under Suharto. He has resisted dismantling of the "dual-function" system in which military officers had a hand in all levels of the government as well as in managing the state enterprises. Meanwhile, Habibie is paving the way for more of a role for the spineless bourgeois opposition parties who will provide a safe alternative for the rich and powerful. Now that the masses have deposed Suharto, the former leader of the ruling Golkar party, the Indonesian bourgeoisie (and the foreign capitalists) see the need for some new faces to make minor reforms which, they hope, will be able to make the workers and poor more easily swallow their austerity measures. In short, Habibie wants democratization limited to what is acceptable to the big bourgeoisie.

. Meanwhile, the economic crisis takes a ever-heavier toll on the working people. The much-touted capitalist miracle in Asia has gone belly-up. The Indonesian capitalist establishment predicts another major contraction of the economy this year after it shrank by nearly 15% last year. According to government figures, there are 130 million Indonesians now living below the official poverty line of a total population of 202 million, up from 80 million in the middle of last year and 20 million two years ago.

. But the Indonesian masses have had a taste of their power and are pressing their own demands. They want their rights now, not if and when it is convenient for the rulers. They want a thorough break with dictatorial methods and semi-military rule, not the cosmetic face-lift that Habibie offers. As well, the workers, urban poor, and impoverished farmers demand relief from abject poverty, while Habibie smashes their protests, rounds up organizers, and offers some inadequate crumbs. So the struggle continues.

November upsurge: masses demand real change,
Habibie replies with bullets

. In November 1998, the Indonesian capital of Jakarta was rocked by powerful actions against the Habibie regime. Students were the initial impetus to the protests, but soon the workers and urban poor emptied into the streets and helped give the protests a militant character. Indonesian state radio reported that at the peak of the protests, some one million people took to the streets of Jakarta.

. The event that focused the anger of the masses was a meeting of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) that was to decide on new election laws. The MPR was nothing but a fig leaf for Suharto's dictatorial rule, and it remains a sham. The MPR has 1,000 members, half of which consist of the Indonesian parliament. 75 of the parliamentary seats are reserved for the military while the others are divided up between the only three legal parties under Suharto: the ruling Golkar party and two meek bourgeois opposition parties. The 500 non-parliamentary members are just unelected appointees loyal to the government. Clearly the masses could not trust such a body to act on their behalf.

. At the end of October 1998, a new coalition of student organizations formed to challenge the legitimacy of the MPR, immediately end the military's "dual function" system, and call for the creation of a new transitional government to organize free elections. There was also a demand for lowering the prices on basic necessities. After mobilizing for protests in 12 cities on October 28, the concentrated effort in Jakarta began. In the first week of November, a demonstration of 20,000 was held.

. The regime, fearful of a repeat of the May uprising where protesters occupied the parliament, armed itself to the teeth. Some 30,000 soldiers, along with thousands of paramilitary gangs organized by the government, were sent out to smash the protests. But the demonstrators were not deterred. The students planned their own "street parliament" in the center of Jakarta, but were blocked by the paramilitary gangs. The next day, 5,000 students returned, determined to occupy the location. They began to battle the pro-regime thugs who were armed with sharpened bamboo sticks. The tide turned when workers and impoverished residents of Jakarta suddenly poured out of their neighborhoods to fight side by side with the students. Armed with air rifles and other weapons, they soon routed the government goons and the masses controlled the central square.

. Next the students attempted to move on the parliament, where the MPR was housed. By November 12, hundreds of thousands of workers and poor had been mobilized. Protesters had departed from march routes across the city, winding their way through the workers' districts and shanty towns, gathering support along the way. On the night of November 12, some 15,000 protesters fiercely confronted walls of troops guarding the parliament building. At one point the activists broke through blockades and made it to the gates of the building, but eventually they were driven back despite repeated assaults.

. The next day the clashes continued. The regime responded with a blood bath. Soldier went on a rampage, firing at random into crowds of demonstrators. The working masses and students fought back with Molotov cocktails and stones. In the end, at least 15 protesters were killed and hundreds seriously injured. Thus, "democracy" under Habibie and the MPR was enshrined on the bodies of the democratic masses.

. The savage repression took its toll. Nonetheless, in Jakarta and other cities, a series of anti-government demonstrations continued in December. Protesters clashed with security forces near the presidential residence on December 10, with 17 students injured and 33 others detained by the police. The next day, a large demonstrations in Jakarta raised demands for bringing Suharto to trial, abolition of the "dual function" for the military and punishment for its role in the bloody repression of past protests. Activists also condemned the government's terror campaign in Aceh, Irian Jaya and East Timor, while a group of farmers raised the slogan "land for the people." These protests were relatively peaceful, but a week later militant clashes resumed as thousands of students did battle with the police and soldiers in an attempt to storm the parliament.

Habibie's electoral reform

. The distrust of the masses for the Habibie regime and its electoral reforms was proven correct by the eventual agreement reached in the MPR. The MPR, and not the parliament or the people as a whole, is supposed to select the next president at the end of 1999. But the new election law passed this January fails to abolish the military's heavy hand in the political process. The number of seats in the national parliament reserved for the military was merely cut in half to 38, a number very close to the 40 the military representatives in the MPR had been arguing for. On local and regional levels, the reserved military presence in government bodies was cut from 20% to 10%. The new law reduces the number of seats in the MPR overall and retains a sizable section of unelected appointees. The MPR will be reduced to 700 seats, with 200 remaining government-appointed seats. Although as many as 200 new political parties are now operating, only a few will actually be allowed to participate in the elections due to restrictions on parties that aren't established in an arbitrary number of districts throughout this far-flung nation of many islands. As well, parties considered communist by the regime are banned from running for office while the commission overseeing the elections has the right to exclude parties that don't meet it's ideological litmus test. Clearly, simple democratic rights have been sacrificed to placate the old power structure and make sure the new president is someone who won't threaten the establishment. In addition, Habibie has declared a ban on outdoor street rallies and demonstrations by political parties during the election campaign. As for the really militant actions of the masses, Habibie has given permission for troops to shoot on sight, which they have already been doing across the country and in occupied East Timor. While Habibie is generally providing more room for the bourgeois opposition to organize, they too can feel his wrath. For instance, he has already arrested two former generals associated with the bourgeois opposition on charges of treason because they allegedly helped inspire street demonstrations challenging the legitimacy of Habibie's regime.

. The election law is typical of how Habibie's reforms are tailored to accommodate the old order. He has changed some things, allowing more press freedoms and parties to exist. But he continues to gun down demonstrators. Meanwhile, Habibie has taken no serious measures to punish the hated Suharto. He continues to hang around with his vast multi-billion fortune and networks of cronies in the Indonesian establishment. It is reported that Suharto has been sending funds to 12 new political parties and has attempted to buy influence in the already established opposition parties. But the Habibie regime has confined itself to investigations which, not surprisingly, have so far been unable to find but a tiny speck of the Suharto family fortune. Kindness to the tyrants, death to the militant masses -- this is the democracy of Habibie.

Workers' movement advances

. Underneath the upheaval in Indonesia lies the growing strength of the Indonesian working class.Though Indonesia still has a huge rural population, there has been a big leap in the size of the industrial proletariat in the last couple of decades. Despite the banning of all independent unions by Suharto, and until 1990, all strikes, workers began forming unions and waging protests. Since the fall of Suharto, and the liberalization of restrictions on non-government trade unions, there has been an extension of organizing by unions that already existed outside government control.As well, in October 1998, there were reports of a new, 10,000-member union organizing among 100 companies in the Jakarta area. Meanwhile, the union federation created by Suharto, the FSPSI, shattered apart. Leaders of each industrial sector in the FSPSI abandoned the national executive board and regrouped themselves as a new formation.

. One of the trends among the independent unions with mass influence is the SBSI, under the leadership of Muchtar Pakphahan. This trend began organizing in 1992, and by 1994, Pakphahan was arrested by Suharto. One of Habibie's first acts was to release Pakphahan. Unfortunately, Pakphahan has rewarded Habibie by trying to kill the militancy in the workers' struggle. For example, in late June Pakphahan intentionally kept down the size and spirit of an anti-Habibie protest he organized. Indeed, Pakphahan proposed that if Habibie called for a national reconciliation meeting between the regime, the armed forces and the reformist leaders, he would give up calling for Habibie's resignation. By early July, he announced he was calling off all planned demonstrations due to appeals from "business" and "the public." Pakphahan demonstrated a similar class collaborationist approach during a June strike of Jakarta bus drivers.He told them to work with management to help make the company profitable. The SBSI leader has formed a new political party called the National Workers Party. But he wanted the pro-capitalist leader of the Democratic Party, Sukarnoputri to lead it. When Sukarnoputri declined, Pakphahan simply threw his support behind her electoral campaign.

. There is also a more radical trade union trend which developed in illegal conditions under Suharto and now has semi-legal status. These are the PPBI unions connected to the PRD (People's Democratic Party). This trend has a militant reformist policy which will be discussed later in this article.

. These developments in the trade union movement have taken place amidst a new outbreak of strikes in the post-Suharto era. Of particular note was the strike wave that hit Surabaya, the second largest city, in June. Early that month, 10,000 workers clashed with riot police during a mass march. In the middle of the month, dock workers struck. Near the end of June, workers at local shoe factories hit the bricks. On June 24, some 10,000 shoe workers marched on the local parliament.

. In February 1999, workers in this city were still fighting. 3,000 furniture workers protested outside of the Labor Department offices; while at the Maspion food factory offices, 5,000 workers protested, stoning company offices. In the middle of the month, workers launched militant actions to win higher wages and more compensation for transportation and food. Eight days of protest was capped with a march on government offices by 25,000 workers. The police fired tear gas at the marchers, who replied by hurling stones at the cops.

. Another notable strike involved 7,000 workers in the city of Solo. When management threatened mass firings, a new workers' committee formed which called for nationalizing the factory. The committee also emphasized the need for workers to involve themselves in the political struggle against the regime and invited student leaders to speak to them.

. In early July, 10,000 workers from 14 companies in the Jakarta area went on strike, demanding an increase in the minimum wage. In early August, 5,000 gold and copper miners struck a subsidiary of a U.S. company in Irian Jaya. On September 5, police were sent to subdue 4,000 workers striking a polyester manufacturer in Purwakarta in West Java.

. The workers' strikes and their participation in the mass political protests have been a thorn in the side of the employers and the Habibie government. Each step forward in their organization is of utmost importance to the struggle in Indonesia for it is the workers whose interests lie not only in the most resolute fight against the leftovers of Suhartoism, but also the system of capitalist exploitation which lies behind it. For the workers to unleash their potential, however, will require a protracted fight against the class collaborationist influences and for the construction of revolutionary organization.

Regional struggles flare up

. The Habibie-Wiranto regime is also encountering stern resistance from particular regional struggles. Rebellion has been strong in Aceh, the northernmost province of Sumatra. This region is rich in oil/gas and other natural resources. But the wealth derived from the resources goes to the likes of the state oil company, not the poor masses of the area. This has helped fuel militant anti-government activity and given rise to an independence movement. In December, demonstrators occupied the governor's house and protested at the regional parliament in the regional capital, Lhokseumawe. In early January, the masses burned government offices and a police station in Lhokseumawe before troops opened fire and killed 11 people. The masses have sought revenge for government atrocities such as the recent torture deaths of five people held in custody by the army. They have formed their own people's militias. In one incident, 18 soldiers were removed from a bus, with six of their bodies later turning up. The cowardly troops have become so spooked at the mere sight of a group of ordinary masses that on January 18 they opened fire on a gathering which approached a police station just to report a traffic accident.

. The regime's savage tactics are also in evidence in western Papua. In one recent incident, troops fired on 700 people at a pro-independence rally, wounding 24. For all his brutality, Habibie has not been able to silence the regional movements. Thus, in addition to repression, he has begun to promise that more government revenues will flow into particularly poor regions.

East Timor

. Habibie's has also tried his "carrot and stick" approach in East Timor. East Timor won its liberation from Portuguese colonialism in 1975, but this victory was quickly followed by an invasion by Indonesia, which formally annexed it the following year. In subjugating East Timor, the Indonesian armed forces carried out genocide, slaughtering an estimated 200,000 people.(The total population today is about 800,000.) The masses have never given up their hope for self-determination however, and pro-independence guerrilla forces have fought for many years.

. In December 1998, massive pro-independence demonstrations rocked East Timor. In the midst of the protests, the special UN envoy involved in negotiations between Portugal and Indonesia to determine the fate of East Timor arrived in the capital of Dili. Upon his departure he was chased through the airport by hundreds of angry protesters. The demonstrators were outraged by the failure of the UN to satisfy their demands for self-determination and for insufficient consultation with representatives of the East Timorese people. (The UN still recognizes Portugal as the legitimate authority in East Timor. and while it maintains contact with East Timorese representatives, any agreement must be acceptable to both the former and present colonial power.)

. While Habibie had promised troop reductions, in fact he sent another 3,000 troops at the end of December and the beginning of January. By some estimates, total troop deployment recently reached 17,000, in addition to several thousand paramilitary gangs armed by the regime. There have been brutal massacres of Timorese villagers by the troops and gangs, and the capital city of Dili has seen the influx of peasant refugees forced to flee their homes.

. At the same time as the regime keeps its foot on East Timor's neck, it has offered some sort of autonomy for the area. The autonomy plan would involve keeping a certain amount of Indonesian troops around and leave Jakarta in charge of "defense." The Indonesian currency would remain. East Timor would be granted their own local police and its own legislature and judiciary with unspecified limited powers. The autonomous government would also oversee cultural and education matters. This autonomy plan did not satisfy the East Timorese masses who instead demanded a referendum which would allow them, not Jakarta, to decide what new terms to establish in their relationship to Indonesia or to choose to become an independent country. But the Indonesian government declared it would never allow independence or a referendum on the issue.

Habibie's new policy: will independence be granted?

. Recently, however, Habibie's East Timor policy has undergone a further shift. This was precipitated by the peoples' struggle and by certain moves by other capitalist countries. Australia had never accepted the UN stand against recognizing Indonesia's annexation of East Timor. But recently the conservative Howard government started hinting that independence might eventually have to be considered. The bourgeois opposition party in Australia, the Australian Labor Party, which had long backed Indonesia, went so far as to offer financial support to an autonomous or independent East Timor government. This shift by Australian capitalism was not due to a sudden attack of conscience. Rather it marked the recognition that Indonesia was facing a dire crisis they might not be able to control, and that they wanted to make sure that their oil and other interests in East Timor would be safeguarded if an independent regime came to power.(1)

. At first, the Habibie regime responded with anger at the Australian government. But soon it introduced a new twist in its policy. Indonesia would continue to refuse to allow a referendum on self-determination in East Timor. But Habibie pledged that should the people of East Timor reject his autonomy plan, he would recommend that after the next elections, the new parliament should consider allowing independence. According to the Habibie government, if East Timor was granted independence, there would be a quick withdrawal of Indonesian forces and Indonesia would turn things over to the UN authority, whose plan is to carry out a gradual decolonization process administered by Portugal. Under this plan, acceptance of autonomy under Indonesia would permanently rule out independence.

. Actually, the best solution would be to hold a referendum now that would allow the local population to decide their status, including immediate independence if they so choose. But what appears more likely to take place is a deal for autonomy between the Indonesian government and various of the liberation groups. If this is an autonomy that is acceptable to the local people, grants them a good deal of self-rule, and guarantees them the right to decide on independence in a time frame they find agreeable, it may resolve the issue reasonably well. But would any deal really be like this?

. What the present proposals will offer on such matters when everything is haggled out remains to be seen. But already there are clearly a number of possible pitfalls to present proposals. Indeed, the question that immediately arises is that if Habibie opposes a referendum, how is the will of the East Timor population to be determined? This question was up for grabs for several months. But in early March the Habibie regime finally agreed to a UN-sponsored vote in East Timor to determine its status that would take place this July. Thus, although the Habibie government insists this vote is not a referendum, it apparently has conceded to something similar to a referendum.(2) The mechanics of how this vote will take place are yet to be worked out, however. But even if such a vote takes place, there is the fact that Megawati Sukarnoputri, leader of the Democratic Party, the bourgeois opposition party that might well emerge as the strongest party in the next elections, has declared her horror at the Habibie government's new position and reiterated her support for the legality of the annexation. It's possible that other strong parties may join her in this. The general elections in Indonesia are scheduled for June while Habibie wants the vote in East Timor to be held in July. So the next Indonesian government might kill the present independence option.

. Despite the numerous obstacles that still exist, it appears possible that some agreement with be reached between the Indonesian government, the UN and the leaders of the main independence groups. The Habibie regime recently agreed to move the leader of the Fretilin independence organization, Xanana Gusmao, from jail to house arrest to facilitate negotiations. And Gusmao and the other main leaders of the independence forces are quite willing to reach a deal. Gusmao has expressed enthusiasm for Habibie's promise to allow a vote on independence. Moreover, some of the independence leaders prefer not to have the East Timorese people exercise their right to decide on independence immediately, and there are serious questions about what type of deal is being prepared. In the recent past they have expressed their preference for a UN proposal that is supposed to allow independence only after several years of autonomy under a UN authority. Indeed, Gusmao and other major independence leaders previously expressed a willingness to accept a lengthy autonomy under Indonesian rule provided there was a self-determination referendum at the end of the process. Habibie's present position of independence or perpetual autonomy under Indonesian rule removes this option for now, however.

. If there was a favorable outcome on the question of self-determination, it would be an important victory. It would mean lifting the chauvinist tyranny of Indonesia over the masses. Moreover, the removal of the Indonesian jackboot would create better conditions for eventually establishing a stronger unity between the toilers of East Timor and Indonesia. At the same time even the most democratic solution to the status of East Timor will by no means solve all the problems facing the masses. Class exploitation will remain, and independence will mean the local bourgeoisie will tend to play a greater role in it. Nor will independence mean that the exploitation of the multinationals will come to an end. Indeed, the leaders of the umbrella group of the main independence groups, the CNRT, assured the Australian oil companies operating in East Timor that they could provide them "a more secure and predictable environment" since "their commercial interests will not be adversely affected by East Timorese self-determination." At the same time, however, the new conditions of struggle will assist the development of a distinct proletarian trend.

The bourgeois opposition prefers Habibie to the masses

. Habibie-style "democracy" is proceeding with the assistance of the timid, bourgeois opposition parties. When the mass demonstrations challenged the Habibie regime in November 1998, they preached faith in Habibie and urged an end to militant demonstrations. For example Amien Rais, leader of the National Mandate Party (PAN) and former leader of the huge Islamic organization, Muhammadiyah, told student leaders to stop their mobilizations to prevent "chaos" that would lead to the military seizing power. But it is not the demonstrations which brought down Suharto and are hitting Habibie that jeopardize a democratic transformation. but those who compromise with such forces. Indeed, when the mass rebellion in May 1998 threatened Suharto, Rais called off a mass demonstration because the military brass had banned it. Since then, he has advocated letting Habibie "show what he can do." This is essentially the stand of another top Muslim leader, Abdurraham Wahid of the Nahdatul Ulama (NU), who backs the National Awakening Party, as well as the Indonesian Democratic Party leader, Megawati Sukarnoputri. They are the parties which, together with Habibie and the military, hammered out the rotten new election law and are trying to sell it to the masses.

. Wahid has gone so far as to invite Suharto into a joint discussion on Indonesia's future and condemned continuing protests targeting Suharto and his family "for the sake of economic recovery." Clearly Wahid is more concerned with the profits of the bourgeoisie than the rights of the people. Meanwhile Sukarnoputri in an October 10 speech proclaimed her loyalty to the "open market system" of globalization, which delighted the Western imperialist press which was concerned that she might follow the nationalization policy of her father, Sukarno, the bourgeois-nationalist leader toppled by Suharto. For the bourgeois opposition, the profits of the exploiters are the supreme concern.

. On the question of East Timor, while Amien Rais has proclaimed that he will support self-determination, Wahid has echoed Sukarnoputri's defense of the annexation and announced he wants East Timor to remain part of Indonesia. At the same time he has met with independence leader Xanana Gusmao and says some kind of change is necessary. But the defense of the annexation by Sukarnoputri and Wahid shows one of the reasons behind their reluctance to stand up to Suhartoism is that they share with it the chauvinism of the Indonesian bourgeoisie. In fact, even Rais has a hard time hiding his chauvinism on the issue. He has complained that international pressure against the Indonesian government's position on East Timor is an attempt to "divide and rob" Indonesia.

. When Suharto ruled, the bourgeois parties were themselves subject to repression. Yet, even then, Suharto was able at times to co-opt them into his New Order. Despite the indignities they suffered, the bourgeois opposition parties were afraid to challenge the regime. Now that the masses have gotten rid of Suharto, the bourgeois opposition feels it will get more positions of power in Habibie's set up, and is willing to sacrifice the demands of the masses for this goal.Thus, while the masses were being slaughtered in the streets of Jakarta, the bourgeois opposition parties reached a rotten deal on the elections with the military and Habibie in the MPR.


. Clearly the bourgeois opposition parties will not fight on behalf of the oppressed classes. The workers and poor must wage continue to wage their own struggle. This raises the question of what orientation the mass movement should take. The main group advocating militant protests is the People's Democratic Party (PRD). It has influence among sections of the student activists. As well, this party has devoted much of its efforts to organizing among sections of the workers and urban poor. In 1995 it established its own trade union front, the PPBI, many of whose leaders were jailed under Suharto. Despite this persecution by Suharto, it was able to carry out important strikes, particularly among textile workers.

. Unlike the bourgeois opposition, it sees the Habibie regime as the enemy. But it does not put forward a clear picture of the different class stands that are taking shape in the post-Suharto era.In the movement against Suharto, they called, to no avail, on the bourgeois figures like Rais and Megawati to lead the struggle. Now the bourgeois liberals are collaborating with Habibie. But it appears that the PRD had hopes that the cowardly bourgeois parties would come out strongly against the Habibie regime. There were reports that certain student organizations as well as the PRD were trying to convince the bourgeois opposition to refuse to go along with Habibie's plans to hammer out a new election law in the MPR during the high tide of anti-Habibie protests.

. At the same time, the PRD rightly called the Habibie regime unfit to rule. It called for transitional governmental bodies to be formed both locally and nationally to replace Habibie and oversee a democratic transition. But how were these transitional bodies to come about? To accomplish this would require, among other things, that the masses had a realistic idea of what to expect from the bourgeois opposition, which would be one of the obstacles to this plan. But the PRD leadership apparently thought they could get the bourgeois opposition parties to form an alternative government to Habibie. The problem, of course, was that the bourgeois parties had no intention of setting up such a government. When the bourgeois opposition forces failed to carry out the reforms demanded by the masses, the PRD denounced them and continued to organize protests. But creating illusions in Sukarnoputri and Rais undercuts the ability of the masses to see what their tasks are in the coming period.

. The tendency of the PRD to look toward a section of the bourgeoisie flows from their overall political stand. While they talk about the evils of capitalism and imperialism, the PRD perspective does not go beyond replacing a dismantled Suhartoism with a reformed capitalism which mitigates some of the worst abuses of the toilers. They put forward the social-democratic myth of an above-class democracy where the relation between the capitalists and the workers becomes harmonious. They want to see the Suharto family business interests expropriated, which certainly should be done. But they couple their denunciation of Suharto's crony capitalism with support for the development of sections of capital not associated with Suharto. Given this overall vision, it is not surprising that the PRD tends to look to the parties of the reformist bourgeoisie.(3)

Tasks facing the workers

. The orientation the masses need is one of class independence. They must have no faith in the bourgeois opposition, but realize that its support of the Indonesian capitalists means they will always try to limit the rights of the masses. An independent class stand is necessary to thoroughly uproot the Suharto-era restrictions. It also means the workers must use the present situation to build up their own organizations to wage the class struggle. The bourgeoisie may carry out a slow liberalization, but even the most reform-minded of them have no intention of doing away with the extreme exploitation and poverty of the toilers. Today, the workers and other toilers are taking advantage of the end of the Suharto dictatorship to begin the arduous task of building up organization. The more the masses realize their enemy is not just Suhartoism, but Indonesian capitalism itself, the stronger will be their impetus toward organization and the more resolute will their organizations be.


(1) Needless to say, the U.S. Congress's decision in October 1998 to forbid the use of its arms shipments to Indonesia for use in East Timor was hardly motivated by humanitarianism either.The U.S., like most of world capitalism, opposed the annexation by Indonesia in words. But it supported and armed it in deeds, and only after Indonesia's failure to crush the independence movement in 24 years, does it take the token measure of proclaiming its opposition to using its weapons to continue the slaughter of the people of East Timor. Moreover, nothing is said about using U.S. weapons against the people outside East Timor. (Return to text)

(2) It is notable that one of the reasons behind the regime's .fear of conceding to a referendum was that Habibie and the bourgeois opposition parties believe that acknowledging a referendum implies that the annexation of East Timor was illegal. In other words, they don't want there to be any repercussions against the elite which carried out and supported the annexation, and for this they had been jeopardizing the freedom of East Timor. That's the sort of "democrats" they are!(Text)

(3) It should be noted that there are individuals in the PRD who make statements that imply a more radical position than the official PRD stand. (Text)

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