Chomsky et al miss the point re: East Timor

Alan Bradley alanb at
Wed Sep 15 19:01:48 MDT 1999

João makes many good points, with which I totally agree.

From: João Paulo Monteiro
(Nestor:) > This (the indonesian PRD position) is an important point that
> you are making, and that
> may probably modify some very harsh comments I made.

Yes, it is an important point. Unfortunately, the PRD is very weak and
it seems to be very influenced by the australian DSP. It is still a very
young party (founded five years ago, I think) and I'm not sure if they
are prepared for high tides that seem to be approaching. The great
indonesian writer Pramodya Ananta Toer has adhered recently. Has anybody
have information on how they have made in the indonesian elections? Dita
Sari, a young labor activist from the PRD, was quoted on my newspaper
("Publico") today saying that their position on East-Timor
(pro-independence) is gaining acceptance on the indonesian masses. One
of the most bitter facts about Indonesia is that the slaughter of 1965
has paid off. The indonesian working class and their vibrant popular
movement have never recovered. They still need a spinal cord, without
which a rise in popular protest can easily turn into a bloody mess, with
bigotry and religious intolerance set loose.
Well, the DSP is far from the worst party to be influenced by.  Trust me on
this - the rest of the Australian left is shocking.  (Trust me on this?  I
can't believe I wrote that, but I'll let it stand.)  While a little
erratic, the DSP at least does not operate as a branch office of another
party, nor is it a sect.  It has encouraged the PRD to form its own
leadership, and develop its own political line, serving the interests of
the Indonesian masses, that is, in Nestor's terms, to not be sepoy
leftists.  Furthermore, the DSP has encouraged the PRD to be energetically
internationalist - it's no accident that this party is relatively well
known to the international left.

The PRD had about another ten years of pre-history, mostly in the student
milieu, before their open formation.  They are, apparently, growing
rapidly.  Are they prepared for the approaching tides?  On balance, I would
have to say no - they are simply not strong enough to lead a revolution!
Politically, they seem OK, but most of their members are relatively new,
and it would be fair to doubt the level of training they possess.  On the
other hand, they have emerged in a period of mass struggle, and have had
the opportunity to learn in an environment that is far more 'interesting'
than that many parties are operating in, so they are likely to get very
good very quickly.

I had some contact with them in their prehistory, having shared a house
with one of their then leaders (who has since dropped out, damn it!) while
he was studying politics in Sydney.  This was at the time of the fall of
the Soviet Union, and we were trying to work out how to operate in this new
context.  The key element we identified was socialist democracy, and the
resolute defence and extension of bourgeois democracy prior to the
revolution.  That is, that Marxists should reclaim 'democracy' from the
imperialists, and concretely remove the stigma of 'antidemocratic'
Stalinism, which is strongly associated with 'communism' in Indonesia, as
well as Australia.  This is the line at the heart of the way the PRD
projects itself as a radical democratic force.  (Although I don't want to
suggest that it was just us that came up with it - they were already moving
in this direction.)  The other side of that is that it bases itself on the
working class, the peasantry, and the urban poor, and unconditionally
champions the legitimate demands of oppressed nationalities, such as the
Timorese.  Of course, the 'democratic' line is also a result of the need to
struggle against the dictatorship!

The PRD does understand the nature of the Indonesian state, and the need
for the working class to seize state power.  They are advocating the
formation of popular bodies representing the workers, peasants and urban
poor, that are, in fact, soviets.  The response to this seems to be fairly
weak at the moment, but this could well change given the stormy times that
may lie ahead.  (I might add that the DSP understands the question of the
state too, but are boxed in by their support for the Timorese resistance,
and have tried to be a little too clever.)

Their vote in the elections was very low, a fraction of a percent.  This
should be seen in a context where the masses which they address still
largely adhere to Megawati Sukarnoputri.  Given that Megawati is very
openly flirting with the generals, it is possible that her support may
fade, or alternatively it will allow her to act as the key factor in
stabilising capital in Indonesia.

Alan Bradley
alanb at

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