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New left activist alliance formed in Indonesia
Max Lane - May 14, 2008
Over the last few days good news has come in on the formation of a new Left united front formation, called the National Liberation Front (FPN). The FPN will be organizing its first street action on the 10th Anniversary of the downfall of Suharto, May 21 around the issue of the current government’s increases to fuel prices. This will be followed by another action on June 1. Small actions and leafleting have already begun.
The formation of the FPN flowed from an initiative of the Aliansi Buruh Mengugat (Workers Demands Alliance – ABM) an alliance of left and progressive trade unions that have come together over the last five or so years. Some of the unions were formed by left activist groups, but most have sprung up from the workplace and/or broken away from old structures that had been controlled by the state before the fall of the dictator Suharto. It is therefore a rather diverse mixture of initially enterprise based unions, which have then formed various more-or-less ad hoc federations which have then stabilized. They include manufacturing and service sector workers, in both state and privately owned firms.
While engaging in lobbying (of MPs for example), their primary emphasis is on mass struggle in the extra-parliamentary sphere. At the moment also no left party has been able to be registered to participate in elections. They take up immediate workplace issues, issues to with trade union rights and legislation impacting on those rights as well as general socio-economic issues. They are firmly against to neo-liberal capitalism. The majority have been won to one kind or another of left orientations.
ABM called the meeting, which led to the formation of FPN, initially to organize an action for May 21. This followed high levels of collaboration among most left and progressive groups in organizing mobilizations for May Day in Jakarta and other cities.
The initial members of FPN includes, of course, the ABM – mostly made up of militant and progressive unions based in Jakarta and several other major cities around the country. It includes KASBI (Congress of Indonesian Trade Union Alliances). KASBI leaders played an important role in this initiative. It also includes the Indonesian Front for Labour Struggle-Politics of the Poor (FNPBI-PRM, the left wing of the old PRD led union), which has also been an important actor in this process (initially the two sides of the FNPBI were active, but only the FNPBI-PRM is active at the moment).
The three main socialist left national political formations now operating in Indonesia are also members. These are:
(To date those specific peasant struggle oriented groups, influenced ideologically from other peasant oriented political tendencies, such as the Indonesian Students Front (FMN), are also not participating.)
While there no doubt is a lot of consolidation work to do, this is undoubtedly a major and very positive step forward in left and progressive regroupment in Indonesia. If it consolidates, it will lay the basis for breaking out of the encirclement by bourgeois and elite political forces that has been the legacy of 33 years of almost totalitarian dictatorship under Suharto (1965-98).
We will try to provide English language updates and analysis when there are more developments.
Other organisations listed as part of FPN are:
The roles of KPRM-PRD, the SMI-FPBJ current and the PRP will be very important in propelling this.
There is a lot to study. Many of these groups are only 4-5 years old, or where there are older links, they are very new combinations. They often don't know much about each other either. This especially is the case in the provincial cities, where such groups have started separate from any Jakarta-based initiative.
On this May Day the other wing of the PRD (referred to these days as PRD/Papernas) did not participate in May Day. I am not sure why. They did, through their FNPBI, however, organize a pre-May Day seminar. They invited as keynote speaker, the regime’s Minister of Labour The Below is a translation of the stated aims of the seminar:
Energy Resilience, National Industry Situation and the Trade Union Response
For more information and analysis on Indonesia visit Max Lane's blog at http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/maxlaneintlasia/