Indonesia #1: end of a project

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at
Thu Jul 24 20:16:28 MDT 2003

On Sunday I will send off the final edition of an Indonesian-language
e-mail publication called Suara Sosialis (Socialist Voice).  It will be the
67th issue.

This concludes a six-year project to produce Marxist material in that
language. I started sending it to 20 addresses initially, with mostly
English language material but one item in Indonesian each month. As my
language skills got better, I  moved to exclusively Indonesian language
content. The substantial articles went on a website, step by step. The site
promoted the newsletter – classic e-commerce principles at work!

I could never have done this without help from an Indonesian comrade, who
lives in Melbourne and who cleaned up the texts in the way only a native
speaker can do. 

The first articles were a popular “what is socialism” series. After that we
moved to more substantial material, most importantly John Molyneux’s “What
is the Real Marxist Tradition”. The plan was to work through all the key
theoretical issues  from an IS Tendency point of view (but trying not to be
hackish about it). By now there are all sorts of topics covered on the
site, from “Marxism and Religion” to “Discussion of Homosexuality”.

Subscribers multiplied, till the list reached about 250. We also
participated in putting the first Indonesian language versions of key
documents onto the web, including the Communist Manifesto and Lenin’s April

Each year, I went off to Indonesia with a new set of material, tightly laid
out and laser-printed so that activists there could photocopy the texts as
much as possible from the copies I handed out. Thinking the Suharto regime 
might take an undesired interest in me,  I used the pseudonym “Julian”. The
name stuck, and that Julian guy has a certain profile around the Indonesian
left. His less obscure real-life double has spoken at a number of public
forums and debates around Java.

In between visits, Julian became a fixture on the “Indo-Marxist” e-mail
discussion list. One furious debate with Ma’ruf, a leader of the People’s
Democratic Party (PRD), got wide attention. We canvassed the virtues and
sins of Ma’ruf’s organisation and mine without kid gloves. As it happened,
Ma’ruf soon left the PRD and I have now left the ISO, and we have had many
friendly discussions since that debate.

There are now perhaps 100,000 words of Indonesian-language Marxist
materials on the Suara Sosialis site, and much of it has been published in
that country, in the form of three books. How many pages of photocopied
material have got around, we can only speculate.

It’s sad to end the project, but it has clearly run its course. The
participants have new priorties and circumstances have changed. The reality
is that I buried myself in Indonesia work partly because I was dissatisfied
with my organisation. I figured they wouldn’t take much interest in the
details of what I did in a foreign country and a foreign language. But this
only worked so long. After Suharto fell, the British SWP leaders took an
interest and generated what I thought was a mistaken line on the
“Indonesian Revolution”  -- which however rapidly became orthodoxy in my
own group. I was discontented again. There was no escape! Except of course
to leave the ISO, which I’ve now done.

Anyway the key material we set out to produce is basically complete. If you
want to take a quick look at it, here’s the link:

I could plod along producing more stuff, but I think it’s better not to get
in a rut. I can still participate in Indonesian debates, in person and in
cyberspace, without the slog of producing a monthly publication.

So it’s “selamat jalan” (farewell) to the project. But the “perjuangan”
(struggle) continues.

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