[Marxism] Joesoef Isak
peterb at greenleft.org.au
Thu Mar 17 22:31:16 MST 2005
Joesoef Isak (74), journalist, publisher, former political prisoner and
political activist since the 1940s, is one of the speakers at the 3rd
Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference in Sydney. I believe he
is the first person from that generation of political dissidents in
Indonesia to ever speak publicly in Australia. I am not sure if he has
visited the US or Western Europe since his detention.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s he held senior positions in Indonesian
Journalists Association. He was editor of the mass circulation daily,
Merdeka, until 1962 until its proprietor removed him for taking the
paper too far in a left wing direction. After 1962, he became
Secretary-General of the Asia Africa Journalists Association working to
build cooperation among anti-imperialists and journalists throughout the
Third World. In that capacity, he met Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
In 1965 General Suharto seized power, began the process of overthrowing
President Sukarno, and annihilating the Indonesian Left. More than 1
million people were murdered. Tens of thousands more were imprisoned.
Joesoef Isak was one of these. Between 1965 and 1977, was dragged in and
out of detention in various military safe houses.. finally, in 1967 he
was imprisoned in Salemba prison, Jakarta until 1977. He was never
charged or tried for any crime.
Soon after release from prison, in 1979, and in complete defiance of the
Suharto dictatorship, he joined with two other people who had been just
released from prison camp after they had been fourteen years detained
without charge or trial. These were Hasyim Rahman, who had been
publisher of the biggest selling left-wing daily before 1965, Bintang
Timur, and Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia’s leading fiction writer at
the time and a columnist in Bintang Timur. They had all been part of the
movement attempting to win socialism in Indonesia. These three formed a
publishing company, Hasta Mitra, which proceeded to defy a ban by the
dictatorship on former leftists working in the publishing arena. Between
1981 and the late 1980s they published novels written in prison camp by
Pramoedya Ananta Toer. The novels were quickly banned – but they still
were in the bookshops long enough to become best sellers. Joesoef was
arrested again when he was accused of helping organize for Pramoedya to
speak on University of Indonesia campus. Three more months were spent in
Hasta Mitra has remained the most important alternative and left
publisher in Indonesia for more than 20 years despite the bans and
harassment. Since the fall of Suharto, there have been many major
publications organized by Joesoef Isak through Hasta Mitra. Two of the
most important have also involved massive translation efforts. The first
was an 800 page volume of translations of US State Department and CIA
documents relating the overthrow of Sukarno, the installation of Suharto
and the mass murders of the socialist movement. This was published as
“The CIA Documents” in 2003. In 2005, Hasta Mitra published the first
ever Indonesian translation of the three volumes of Marx’s Capital.
Former president Abdurrahman Wahid launched the publication which was
attended by other leading left intellectuals.
Joeseof Isak will give special greetings to APISC on the occasion of the
50th anniversary of the Asia Africa Conference in Bandung, Indonesia.
This conference, held in 1955, began the non-aligned movement of the 50s
and 60s during its period as an international coalition against
See <www.apsc.net.au> for program.
More information about the Marxism