National Sections of the L5I:

Indonesia: Which way forward for the PAPERNAS?

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Last year a new party was launched in Indonesia, the Party for national liberation and unity, or PAPERNAS. In this article Gunnar W makes a Marxist critique of the reformist limitations of its programme and outlines how Indonesian workers and youth need a revolutionary strategy.

The party was initiated by political activists in the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), and supported by its trade union (The Indonesian National Front for Workers Struggle), the car workers union, other unions and a number of organisations such as students organisations, peasant organisations and organisations of the urban poor.

The development of the PAPERNAS is of considerable importance. It is a response to the felt need to for the political unification of the Indonesian social movements on a national level - as a way forward to unite the many local struggles across the country, which too often have remained in isolation from one another.

The state sanctioned repression against the party, with repeated attacks from anti-communist and reactionary islamist right wing militias and the passive attitude to this from the police state forces, shows that the more reactionary elements of the ruling class view this development with fierce hatred and want to resist it in order to silence it before it grows bigger.

What then should revolutionaries say about the politics of the PAPERNAS?

The party’s platform is centred on what is referred to as “the three banners of unity". These include opposition to the payment of foreign debt. Needless to say this is a progressive demand. Last year, Indonesia paid some 27 percent of its total budget in “servicing its debt” to the big sharks in the Western imperialist countries. Of this annual repayment as much as 11 percent were paid only in interest rates. The heavy debt burden means that there is not much room for social improvements (in a country where few have access to clean water and healthcare) nor for any government to have the opportunity to invest in expanding the country’s industrial base.

The second demand is about nationalising the energy sector turning it into state property. This is seen as a key for supporting the development of national industry and public services.

The third demand is about the creation of a job programme by the state, with decent wages and including social benefits, in order to fight unemployment and raise the living standard of the working class and poor.

All these demands are classic anti-neoliberal demands and taken in themselves every step in trying to realise them should be supported. However, the very limited character of the party platform should also alarm revolutionaries. This limitation, obviously seen as a way to create unity between very disparate forces, means a great potential threat to the social movements of the country. Why do we say this?

Frankly because PAPERNAS puts forward no concrete strategy for achieving these demands beyond getting into parliament, at the same time as organising and initiating social struggles outside parliament. In this sense the party is reformist in its strategy, avoiding a clash with the state at all costs. This is very dangerous in itself. Firstly, the social movements of Indonesia today are already facing repression and the threat from the military, who still hold strong positions as the country’s main gendarme. Organising self-defence in the form of a workers militia to resist attacks now and in the future should be viewed as an urgent need. But, remaining loyal to the Indonesian state apparatus, the party has so far only made appeals for the police to intervene. This is a dangerous strategy as it will risk disarming the party and the social movements when facing future, and possible more powerful, attacks.

This is a part of a bigger problem. The vagueness about characterising the state, the party’s commitment to parliamentary politics and the reformist political project as expressed in its limited platform fails to address the question of class rule. Today, the capitalists and their stooges in the armed forces, rule Indonesia. Adding to this, imperialism has a devastating economic grip over the country politically and economically. How then to fight for the real independence of the country from imperialism, and for a regime that can actually meet the needs of the masses (of which the three demands forming the “banner of unity” are only a few of the central ones that should be realised)?

The answer is obvious to us: Only the social movements, headed by the urban working class using its collective strength, united in a party which struggles for social revolution and prepares itself for the resistance from the capitalists and their armed forces, can be successful in achieving this. To stand back from this as a starting-point for developing a political strategy, and to refuse to address the working class, the urban poor and the peasantry with revolutionary politics, will only give more time for our common enemy in organising to smash us.

What should a party of the workers and poor fight for, what kind of programme does it need? According to us, the central demands of a fighting party for the masses should take up the “three banners of unity", but also combine these calls with:

A call for all big corporations to be nationalised under democratic workers control. Workers control is also essential for control over the energy sector and the big banks.

Massive expansion of social services - run by the workers themselves. We need to fight for free education, access to free health care, decent housing etc.

Nationalisation of all agricultural multinationals. This land should be divided out to small farmers or nationalised under peasant/rural workers control. They in turn should be encouraged to collectivise in order to increase productivity and the standard of living for peasants/rural workers.

Encourage the development of democratic coordinations to assist the social movements growth and unity: workers councils based on workplace committees, neighbourhood committees of the urban poor, peasant councils, soldiers councils should be encouraged.

These coordinations should form a movement on national scale that could mobilise for action, debate strategy in the class struggle etc. They must also develop the organisation of self-defence to resist violence from anti-communist and conservative Islamist militias as well as the army and the police.

The army apparatus should be broken up and replaced with a democratic militia based on the workers, urban poor and peasants’ councils.

Demand equal rights and real economic and social equality for women as well as youth. Brake up the paternalist neighbourhood committees based on the power of the head of the family, operating in defence of the old order.

A party of the oppressed must break down barriers between the nationalities striving for revolutionary integration based on true liberation and equality. Freedom for the national minorities of Indonesia to decide democratically whether they want to remain a part of Indonesia is essential to put an end to national oppression. Troops out of Aceh.

A party which wants true independence from imperialism and social progress with any meaning must also decide what kind of government it would like to see. The entry into a capitalist government and a compromise with the capitalist political system would clearly be a betrayal of the oppressed masses. Instead, a party true to the cause of the masses should fight for the establishing of a revolutionary workers government, based on the support from the urban poor and the peasantry that could build a completely different system than the current one.

Such a government could of course only come about as a result of a revolution which smashes the old state apparatus of the capitalists and replaces it with a revolutionary workers state. Such a government, basing itself on democratic coordinations/councils of a mass movement could then bring socialism about and do so through the expropriation of foreign as well as Indonesian capital. Such a government must then be central in supporting the international spread of socialist revolution in the region.

Such a programme should then of course be debated, and if possible adopted after the fullest democratic debate possible drawing on the experience of the working class, the urban poor etc. Likewise a debate should be held about the party’s structure, what kind of party is needed to carry out the social revolution. We believe it should be a democratic centralist party with the fullest internal democracy but at the same time a party which demands from its membership to carry out agreed policy in unity. Without this kind of discipline we will not stand a chance in front of our very well organised enemy.

The current limitation of the political platform of the PAPERNAS to only three, however central and important, demands makes us question how this was decided from a democratic point of view. How come for example that there is nothing formally in the party’s platform about the land question - in a country where lots of peasants live in poverty? How come there is nothing about the rights of women - in the country having the worst numbers of maternal death in the whole of South East Asia (400 deaths out of every 100 000 birth), extremely low unionisation of women workers (women are only being organised in 5 or 6 out of the country’s 85 union) and with record high levels of women facing domestic violence (officially 11 percent of women are faced with this, which is probably a far to low figure)?

The commitment to fight for raising the consciousness of the masses and struggle amongst the workers, the urban poor, the peasants etc in a electoral campaign which will, according to one of the PRD-spokespersons of the PAPERNAS, combine parliamentary work with the organising of non-parliamentary social struggles, is however a progressive stance. This hopefully means at least that the workers and poor of Indonesia will be encouraged to get involved in activity and political discussion. REVOLUTION will participate in these discussions and raise our critique in a positive manner, stressing the need for a truly revolutionary party of the working class and poor, at the same time as involving ourselves in the class struggle.