Fwd (GLW): INDONESIA: Golkar and army preparing for comeback

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Mon Jan 15 06:32:52 MST 2001

The following article appears in the current issue of Green Left Weekly

INDONESIA: Golkar and army preparing for comeback

The process of overthrowing the Suharto dictatorship did not go
sufficiently deep enough to deliver a deathblow to the political ambitions
of the old regime, of Suharto's former ruling party, Golkar, and the armed
forces, the TNI. During 2000, they have steadily inched their way back into
position and are readying themselves for an attempt to take back their

Golkar retains the support of the armed forces, including the police. It
has the support of all the largest business conglomerates and thus retains
a major source of its financing. As almost all the print and electronic
media is owned by these conglomerates, Golkar receives the best press of
any party.

The party also retains control of provincial administrations in at least
40% of Java and 60% of the rest of the country. With more fiscal autonomy
now granted to the provinces, and therefore more opportunities for
corruption, this will further boost Golkar's coffers.

Suharto's former ruling party has even retained, reasonably intact, the
social base of support that it developed during the 33 years of the
dictator's rule, a social base made up of at least three elements.

The first, and least stable, is the professional classes. The second, and
more stable, is the more wealthy and prosperous middle peasants and
landowners, especially outside Java where lucrative export crops are grown.

The third element in Golkar's social base is the biggest and the most
stable, at least in a majority of provinces. This is the army of hundreds
of thousands of petty bureaucrats that inhabit the state apparatus. This is
a centralised bureaucracy that extends into every village and into every
aspect of life.

The Republic of Indonesia inherited the highly authoritarian and corrupt
Dutch colonial state apparatus after independence.

After Suharto came to power, backed by the force of the army, these petty
bureaucrats became the main instruments of rule for the dictatorship. They
were given uniforms and ranks. The permits and documents, rules and
regulations which citizens were subject to multiplied ever further. This
included the need for “a letter of clean circumstances” that certified that
individuals, as well as their extended family, were free of any connection
to the left before 1965.

Thirty years of extended opportunities for extortion with each letter or
permit issued created a substantial material base for this social layer as
well. In addition, since the Dutch period, the chief village bureaucrats
automatically received village rice land as their own on their appointment
to office.

It was not surprising, therefore, that for three months after the overthrow
of Suharto in 1998, there were mini-revolutions in hundreds of villages
throughout Indonesia, in which the village bureaucrats were also deposed.
Sometimes they were physically attacked, their houses burned downed or

Localised and without a broader political perspective, these actions
petered out quickly. Even so this layer of petty bureaucrats is conscious
that the radical reform demanded by the students in 1998 threatens their
very existence. They resent even partial reform, insofar as it has opened
up the political space to allow people to organise opposition to their
arbitrary rule and extortionate practices.

Elite opposition divided

The other factor that advantages Golkar (and behind it, the TNI) is the
political weakness, internal division and, ultimately, the conservatism of
Golkar's opponents from within the bourgeoisie. These forces are those
organised in political parties such as the Indonesian Democratic Party —
Struggle (PDI-P), led by Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri; the National
Mandate Party (PAN), led by Amien Rais; and the National Awakening Party
(PKB), supporting the President, Abdurrahman Wahid.

To start with, none of these parties are backed by any of the big
conglomerates, although they are all now wooing them. The social base of
these parties is made up of primarily provincial level capitalists and
landlords, including some who have just recently begun national operations.

The provincial character of these parties means that their popular support
base is localised to areas which have a specific religious, cultural or
ethnic composition — and the parties reflect that character. As a result,
there is a great deal of regional, religious and cultural rivalry between
these parties, preventing any real unity against Golkar.

Pressure from the army

Developments in Aceh and West Papua also intersect with the course of
development of the general political crisis. By December, the TNI, backed
by Golkar and some of the rightist Islamic forces, had established a
pro-war position on Aceh and West Papua. In November, the minister for
politics and security, General Bambang Susilo Yudotomo, raised the
possibility of ending any cease-fire with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and
embarking on a policy of military action to disarm GAM.

Since then senior military figures have repeatedly called on the Wahid
government to give the go-ahead for a full-scale military campaign against
GAM. Golkar and other parliamentarians who have called for the declaration
of a civil emergency in Aceh have backed this.

In regard to West Papua, the military have not yet explicitly called for an
all-out military campaign. But they have boosted their military forces in
the province, arrested the most prominent leaders of the West Papuan
movement, refused to accede to President Wahid's initial call for them to
be released, and made several statements that all calls for independence
would be treated as sedition and suppressed. Golkar and TNI elements have
called for a state of emergency in West Papua as well.

Wahid afraid of the masses

There is an additional major factor that weakens the position of the
non-Golkar elite parties, namely, their political conservatism.
Representing a section of the urban and rural capitalist class, these
parties share many of the same fears of radical reform as do the social
forces upon which Golkar stands. Furthermore, the PDI-P and PAN (as well as
the other smaller Muslim parties) are seeking support from among the same
layer of conservative bureaucrats as Golkar is.

The PKB, the party with which President Wahid is associated, is the only
one of the significant parliamentary parties which attempts to show some
support for a liberal democratic agenda. This reflects the dominance of the
Wahid wing of the party, based on intellectuals, youth and religious
scholars under his influence.

But the contradictions of the PKB liberals are most clearly represented in
the political weaknesses of Wahid himself. On some key issues relating to
democratic rights, Wahid initially took clear and strong stands. He called
for repeal of the ban on Marxism and Leninism, saying that such ideological
suppression was unconstitutional. He supported a referendum for Aceh. He
supported, and even financed, the West Papuan Peoples Congress. Recently,
he instructed the release of detained Papuan leaders.

He ordered the disarming of the militias in West Timor and the arrest of
the notorious militia leader Eurico Guterres. He agreed to a memorandum of
understanding with the United Nations whereby the Indonesian government
would ensure that UN investigators could question suspects in human rights
violation cases in Indonesia.

In the end, however, he has retreated on almost every stand he has taken.
He has withdrawn support for a referendum on Aceh. He has withdrawn his
call for the release of the jailed West Papuan leaders. He has not
mentioned the repeal on the ban on Marxism for months. Eurico Guterres was
released. The TNI has refused to submit any of its officers for questioning
by the UN.

Wahid backed down in the face of opposition from Golkar, the TNI, Amien
Rais and sometimes Megawati. Wahid's only real option for defending his
positions against his opponents is to call for shows of popular support. On
most of these issues, the student movement, and certainly radical parties
like the People's Democratic Party (PRD), would have been willing to help
organise joint mobilisations.

But Wahid has always been afraid of mass action, especially ongoing mass
action, as a means of political struggle. As a result, he instead resorts
to more and more complicated sets of manoeuvres, and manoeuvres within
manoeuvres, sometimes confusing even his own supporters.

Popular support for democratic reform

The weaknesses of the PKB, PDI-P and PAN should not be read as a sign that
there is a popular sentiment to surrender the gains made by the
anti-dictatorship movement. Popular sentiment is still strongly in favour
of the eradication of corruption, collusion and nepotism and of
bureaucratic despotism. The people still strongly favour maintaining the
rights to demonstrate and to free speech — as is reflected in the
continuing high number of strikes and protest actions occurring throughout
the country.

This still-radical popular sentiment is also why there is constant
grumbling from some sections of the ranks of the PDI-P against the apparent
closeness between Megawati and the Golkar leadership.

In recent weeks, there have even been splits in some towns within the youth
organisations supporting Wahid, between those who want action against
Golkar and those who shy away from any mass campaigns.

In other areas, these frustrations among the Muslim youth supporting Wahid
have taken the form of independent initiatives, including making public
apologies to the Indonesian Communist Party for their organisations' roles
in the 1965 massacres. In some cases, there are discussions of joint
actions between these groups and the PRD.

The non-party aligned student groups, while less active than in 1999, have
also still shown that they can mobilise in force. The most militant clashes
between students and the state apparatus have been around the issue of
putting Suharto on trial. Any sign of an imminent comeback by Golkar would
provoke the mass student movement into action again.

Response by the left

The PRD is attempting to bring together all the various alliances that it
has established during 2000. This includes alliances developed in campaigns
aimed against Golkar and the army, as well as alliances developed in
campaigns against Wahid government policies, such as increases in fuel and
transport costs and other neo-liberal economic policies.

The first successful step has been made in this direction with the
formation of the National Assembly Campaign (KRN). The KRN has brought
together 75 mass organisations, including supporters of Wahid and other
elements of the liberal bourgeoisie as well as student and trade union
groups, behind the general slogan of fighting Golkar, the TNI and their

The PRD is aiming to get all these groups to support its plan for national
coordinated mass meetings which would discuss and organise ways of fighting
the Golkar comeback and of reversing the social and economic crisis.

Coordinated with these mass meetings would be demonstrations marching on
Golkar offices, TNI headquarters and the parliaments. They would start at
town level and try to snowball to larger cities.

Discussions will soon begin regarding a minimum common platform of demands.
The PRD's proposed demands include calls for: putting Suharto on trial for
corruption and crimes against humanity; the formation of a commission to
expose the truth of the anti-left massacres in 1965/66; ending of the dual
(political and defence) functions of the military; nationalisation of crony
and TNI corporations; a 100% wage increase and subsidies to provide cheap
health, housing and education for the mass of the people.

More information about the Marxism mailing list