URGENT-Polisi dan Brimob Penjaga PT. Sintang Raya Intimidasi Warga

Sebagai bentuk solidaritas dengan kaum petani dan kawan-kawan pejuang agraria di tanah berkonflik di area perkebunan PT. Sintang Raya yang sedang mengalami intimidasi aparat negara dan korporasi, saya meneruskan press release dari kawan-kawan Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA) Kalimantan Barat. Segala bentuk kriminalisasi atas kaum tani, pejuang agraria, dan segenap rakyat pekerja di Indonesia dalam perjuangan demokratik atas hak-haknya haruslah dilawan!


Penempatan polisi, brimob dan TNI di perkebunan sawit sejak 22/7/16. Karena adanya rencana aksi warga di 5 desa menuntut penghentian proses pengambilan manfaat oleh PT. Sintang Raya di tanah yang yang berkonflik dan telah dibatalkan SK HGU nya oleh pengadilan, masih ada di dalam perkebunan hingga saat ini dan melakukan intimidasi.

Pasca aksi yang berujung kekerasan terhadap 11 orang dan 2 diantaranya ditangkap dan belum diketahui keberadaanya hingga siang ini pada 23/7/16. Hari ini intimidasi dialami oleh warga olak olak kubu bernama Jainal.

Kejadian berawal ketika Jainal bersama ibunya yang sedang mengantarkan barang sembako dengan menggunakan mobil pickup dari desa olak olak kubu, Kecamatan Kubu Kabupaten Kuburaya Kalimantan Barat menuju Camp buruh PT. Sintang Raya, tepatnya di devisi III sekitar pukul 12.30 wib.

Setelah selasai menurunkan barang dari mobil dan ketika ingin balik ke rumah, Jaenal bersama ibunya dalam Mobil dihampiri oleh polisi dan brimob. Sekitar 30 personil ada dilokasi, dan polisi bernama Saipul Bahri yang diketahui dari polres Mempawah meminta Jaenal untuk turun dari mobil, polisi beralasan mau memeriksa mobil untuk mencari senjata tajam. Jaenal di tarik turun dan diminta berdiri bergeser menjauh dari mobil, sedangkan Ibu Jaenal dibiarkan didalam mobil.

Setelah melakukan penggeledahan terhadap mobil Jaenal dan tidak ditemukan barang yang dikehendaki, Kemudian Saipul Bahri angota polisi menghardik jainal. Kalau kamu gak tau hukum jangan bicara hukum, ngerti undang undang atau tidak..kalau mau ngomong undang-undang harus kuliah dulu, begitu pengakuan Jainal ketika menirukan polisi yang memeriksa mobilnya. Jaenal mengaku terjadi juga intimidasi, sebab Samsul Bahri memepringatkan agar tidak ikut-ikut aksi lagi, polisi bisa memenjarakan Jaenal karena menghalangi tugas.

Menanggapi kejadian ini, Bara Pratama Sekjen AGRA Kalbar menyatakan bahwa Polda harus menarik pasukanya di lapangan, Polisi sebaiknya berkordinasi dengan pihak Pengadilan agar mengerti duduk perkaranya dan tidak dimanfaatkan oleh perusahaan. Polisi semestinya menegakan putusan pengadilan yang telah membatalkan HGU PT. Sintang Raya. Tama juga mendesak Komnas ham baik di daerah maupun pusat semestinya pro aktif dalam kasus ini, tidak perlu lagi meunggu laporan sebab kasus ini sudah masuk di komnas baik daerah maupun pusat. Warga juga pernah melakukan pengaduan ke propam mabes polri atas kriminalisai Bambang Kepala desa olak olak kubu. Namun Bambang tetap di vonis dan saat ini masih menjalani hukuman

Tiga Sama: Sebuah Refleksi Etnografis

Tiga Sama: Sebuah Refleksi Etnografis

APA tugas dan peranan kaum pekerja “non-tradisional” – aktivis, organizer, intelektual, peneliti, dan bermacam rupa kelas menengah yang bersolidaritas – dalam kehidupan dan upaya-upaya kolektif rakyat pekerja? Bisa dikatakan ini merupakan salah satu pertanyaan utama bagi gerakan progresif di seluruh dunia. Pertanyaan ini penting karena jawaban atasnya memiliki implikasi penting bagi dinamika internal dan trajektori dari gerakan progresif – terutama dalam hal hubungan antara rakyat pekerja, unsur-unsur pimpinan dalam gerakan, dan sekutunya – yang seringkali berlatar belakang bukan dari proletariat tradisional?

Ini adalah pertanyaan yang menghantui banyak middle-class allies dalam gerakan progresif, termasuk saya. Dalam tataran yang lebih praktis, pertanyaan tersebut dapat diparafrasekan seperti ini: bagaimana kaum pekerja non-tradisional dapat terlibat, bergumul, dan akhirnya mengerti realita sosialnya rakyat pekerja?

Pelan-pelan saya mencoba menjawab pertanyaan tersebut di sela-sela penelitian disertasi saya. Dari amatan dan keterlibatan saya dalam kehidupan rakyat desa selama berbulan-bulan di Banten dan Sulawesi Selatan, saya mencoba untuk memahami dinamika dan tantangan yang dihadapi oleh rakyat desa sehari-hari dan memikirkan ulang mengenai hubungan saya sebagai, katakanlah, peneliti kelas menengah yang simpatik dengan mereka. Saya menganggap, apa saya lakukan merupakan fardu kifayah – kewajiban bagi sebagian orang, terutama bagi yang berpengetahuan dan sadar atas pentingnya tugas tersebut.

Untungnya, saya tidak sendirian. Dalam antropologi, tradisi penelitian etnografis yang mengandalkan teknik pengamatan partisipatif (participant observation), yang mengharuskan seorang peneliti untuk tinggal di suatu komunitas dan going native merupakan fondasi dalam bidang keilmuan tersebut. Di gerakan Kiri, ada sejumlah teladan yang coba mengamalkan prinsip ini. Pertama tentu saja ada Frederick Engels, yang melakukan sebuah amatan antropologis dalam salah satu karya klasiknya, The Condition of the Working Class in England.Saya bayangkan Engels muda, yang pada waktu itu masih berusia 24 tahun dan bekerja di salah satu cabang perusahaan kapas milik ayahnya di Manchester, dengan ditemani Mary Burns berjalan-jalan di kampung-kampung kota yang kumuh di mana kaum buruh tinggal,mengobrol dan mencoba menjalin hubungan yang akrab dengan para buruh dan aktivis revolusioner di masanya. Saya bayangkan ada pertemuan antara letupan semangat masa muda, pemahaman yang mulai terbentuk mengenai sebuah dunia yang lebih baik, dan kemampuan untuk menerapkan prinsip dan metode ilmiah dalam melakukan suatu investigasi.

Dalam gerakan Kiri, prinsip ini kemudian dicoba diterapkan sebagai upaya untuk membangun tradisi ilmiah dan mempercepat pembangunan organisasi. Di Indonesia, PKI dan BTI mencoba melakukan riset-riset etnografis revolusioner untuk menjawab persoalan-persoalan agraria berdasarkan prinsip “tiga sama, empat jangan, empat harus” – sama kerja, sama makan, dan sama tidur; jangan tinggal di rumah elit desa, menggurui, merugikan, dan mencatat di hadapan kaum tani; dan harus sopan, siap membantu, menghormati adat istiadat setempat, dan belajar dari kaum tani. Ini dilakukan sebelum reflexive ethnography, participatory action research, dan segala jargon serta metode penelitian-penelitian yang menonjolkan aspek keterlibatan peneliti menjadi nge-tren – dan terkadang dipelintir untuk melancarkan pelaksanaan agenda-agenda developmentalis di pedesaan. Di Vietnam, prinsip ini juga dikenal dengan nama “tiga bersama” (three togethers), yang menjadi strategi inti dalam pembangunan partai, mobilisasi massa, dan kampanye reformasi pertanahan di sana.

Bagi para ‘sekutu kelas menengah’ rakyat pekerja, ini berarti kemauan untuk melakukan proses amatan-penelitian-keterlibatan yang menyeluruh dan terintegrasi dengan kehidupan sosial rakyat pekerja dan keharusan untuk memiliki kemampuan mencatat yang tekun dan rapih, yang prosesnya haruslah transparan dan sebisa mungkin melibatkan guru kita – rakyat pekerja – dalam pelaksanannya. Ini bisa dimulai dengan melakukan self-criticism yang cukup keras terhadap diri kita.

Saya misalnya, musti mengakui dengan jujur bahwa ada sejumlah bias dan keterbatasan saya sebagai seorang warga kelas menengah kota laki-laki dan heteroseksual yang beragama dan berlatarbelakang etnis mayoritas. Saya tidak bisa mencangkul dan melakukan kerja-kerja produksi di bidang pertanian misalnya. Atau memahami sejumlah kebingungan dan permasalahan yang dihadapi oleh ibu-ibu desa ketika mendadak anaknya demam setelah diberikan vaksinasi, mengurus administrasi dan biaya pengobatan di rumah sakit, atau menjelang kelahiran. Namun ini bukan berarti menjadi alasan bagi saya untuk kemudian tidak mencoba membangun hubungan profesional yang intens dan pertemanan yang tulus dengan rakyat desa.

Konsekuensinya, berarti adalah kewajiban bagi saya untuk sebisa mungkin terlibat, melakukan amatan yang dekat, dan menuliskan pengalaman dan narasi dari para warga desa. Konkretnya, ini berarti kemauan untuk menyapa dan berbincang-bincang dengan para tetangga, membantu tetangga memperbaiki pagarnya yang rusak, mencoba berkebun, menghadiri kawinan, pengajian, tahlilan, dan segala rupa hajatan, bertamu dan berbincang-bincang dengan penghulu, guru ngaji, petani, tukang jahit, dan sopir, nongkrong dengan pak RT dan pak RW dan memperhatikan apa saja persoalan-persoalan di lingkungan sekitar yang mendesak, mendengarkan cerita dan keluhan dari kawan-kawan buruh muda mengenai kondisi kerja di pabrik, dan lain sebagainya. Juga kemauan untuk memahami sense of humoryang luar biasa dari para warga desa dalam menertawakan himpitan hidup yang dialami mereka setiap harinya dan sinisme terhadap mereka yang berkuasa (termasuk misalnya gosip dan kritik-kritik halus ibu-ibu desa terhadap suami-suami mereka). Dan tentu saja, di daerah-daerah di mana konflik agraria terjadi, kemauan untuk mendengarkan dan mencatat cerita tentang perampasan, perlawanan, dan strategi-strategi yang dilakukan oleh rakyat desa menghadapi penindasan, mulai dari menceramahi polisi, demonstrasi, hingga upaya-upaya pendudukan lahan.

Sebisa mungkin, proses ini haruslah transparan, partisipatif, dan dialektis. Ini berarti seorangmiddle-class ally – katakanlah dalam hal ini seorang intelektual radikal – harus terbuka dan jujur dengan niat-niat dan tujuan-tujuan dari upaya penelitian yang dilakukannya. Ia juga harus memikirkan bagaimana baik di ranah teoretik maupun yang lebih berorientasi praxis hasil penelitiannya dapat berguna bagi pembangunan gerakan rakyat. Sebisa mungkin, seorang intelektual radikal harus mengkomunikasikan dan membagi hasil amatan dan analisanya kepada para narasumbernya – misalnya para aktivis lain dan rakyat pekerja yang berkomunikasi dengannya. Bahkan, jikalau diperlukan, seorang intelektual radikal bisa meminta bantuan narasumbernya untuk turut serta dalam proses penelitannya melalui hal-hal yang simpel seperti meminta narasumber untuk menuliskan pengalaman hidupnya secara singkat, mengecek catatan penelitian mengenai suatu kegiatan, atau meminta warga untuk mengambil foto dan video dan kemudian menceritakan mengapa dia mengambil satu momen atau peristiwa tertentu.

Dalam konteks interaksi yang lebih akrab, tidak tertutup kemungkinan seorang intelektual radikal mengajak narasumber utamanya untuk bersama-sama menuliskan sejarah kehidupan narasumber tersebut.

Perlu diingat bahwa dalam keseluruhan proses ini bukan berarti kita lantas terjebak dalam suatu bentuk perspektivisme dan solipsisme ekstrim dan mengabaikan abstraksi untuk memahami kondisi keseluruhan, totalitas dari sepotong realitas sosial yang coba kita amati. Seorang intelektual radikal tidak boleh terjebak pada fetisisme ‘keterlibatan’ maupun bayangan empirisisme. Seorang intelektual radikal tidak boleh lupa mencatat dan tidak mencoba melakukan abstraksi dari realitas-realitas empiris yang berada di hadapannya. Adalah tugas utama dari seorang intelektual radikal untuk melakukan investigasi dan abstraksi yang sistematis, jujur, dan ilmiah dari realita yang coba dipahaminya. Karenanya, komunikasi yang terbuka dengan rekan penggerak dan rakyat pekerja yang menjadi narasumber, untuk mencoba bersama-sama melakukan abstraksi dari berbagai macam dinamika dan proses yang dialami oleh para narasumber selama ini, menjadi sangat penting.

Dari sinilah, kemudian kita semua bisa belajar untuk bersolidaritas satu sama lain. Hampir absennya suara-suara yang berlandaskan pada akal sehat dan solidaritas terhadap apa yang terjadi kepada kawan-kawan Papua misalnya, sedikit banyak disebabkan oleh kurangnya pemahaman dan pengetahuan mengenai apa yang sesungguhnya terjadi di sana – mengenai ekspropriasi sumber daya alam dan represi yang dimungkinkan oleh kebijakan pemerintah Indonesia yang semakin kolonialis dan apartheid. Tugas intelektual radikal dewasa ini adalah membangun basis pengetahuan yang valid untuk bersolidaritas. Karena hanya dengan itulah suatu visi politik emansipatoris – bahwa terlepas dari warna kulit, latar belakang etnisitas atawa kebangsaan, dan segala bentuk identifikasi sektarian dan primordialis lainnya – kita semua merupakan korban dari penindasan kelas.

Kuncinya satu: belajar, dan percaya kepada massa.

Percaya kepada massa.*** 

Penulis adalah kandidat doktor ilmu politik di Northern Illinois University, AS. Beredar di twitlan dengan id @libloc

Is Turkey’s Coup an Auto-Golpe?

We don’t have all the details yet, but several things are certainly suspicious, or at least worth-asking – things such as why the purge of suspected military officers and judges happened so swiftly, why the military didn’t manage to get their message across effectively, and all that.

Several sources to look at: here, here, and here.

Auto-golpe is a reference to Fujimori’s self-coup as a pretext to disband the parliament and amass excessive presidential power during the 1992 Peruvian constitutional crisis.

Turkey’s Attempted Coup

There was a coup attempt in Turkey just recently. The military declared that they took over power from the incumbent government. Erdogan, after a while, then showed up and declared the legitimacy of his government and condemned the coup. Opposition parties backed his administration. As expected, the military did not stay still. They blockaded the streets with tanks and soldiers. In response, government supporters came down to the streets. Inevitably, violence ensued – people died from shooting and officers got arrested. At the moment, we don’t have a clear sense of who is really in charge of the chaos.

Meanwhile, the fighting continues.

Turkey’s coup poses an important question for political scientists: how do we explain the occurrence of coup in an electoral democracy (though increasingly authoritarian) with a pretty high level of per capita income? If we are to trust the World Bank data Turkey’s GDP per capita in 2014 was US$ 10,515.01. This is far above the US$ 6,000 threshold for regime durability established by Przeworski and Limongi (1997).  In Southeast Asia, Thailand, whose income per capita is something around US$ 4,000, also “joined rather select company” of few countries with records of democratic breakdown or interruption at a pretty high income level (albeit less than the 6,000 threshold). These two recent cases are few examples of regime interruption or retooling in democratic countries.

This is an important question that we all should address. For now, let’s say this out loud: we condemn the attempted military coup in Turkey!

 

 

Red scares and Indonesian politics

Red scares and Indonesian politics

FATHIMAH FILDZAH IZZATI & IQRA ANUGRAH – 23 JUN, 2016

Virulent anti-communism has made a glorious comeback in the last couple of months.

What happens when the anti-leftist discourse of the authoritarian yesteryear is embraced through and through by conservative elites and social forces? A red scare. In Indonesia, virulent anti-communism a la the New Order has made a glorious comeback in the last couple of months, showing the nation’s inability to deal with its tumultuous past despite democratic reforms.

To be completely fair, in recent years there has been more open discussion about the 1965 massacre. Artistic and civil society initiatives such as Joshua Oppenheimer’s award-winning films The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence, the International People’s Tribunal of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity (IPT 65), as well as the launching of a graphic history primer entitled “The History of Indonesian Leftist Movements for Beginners” have reframed the debate about the massacre. But we have begun to see backlashes.

First, in February, there was a protest against the Belok Kiri (Turn Left) Festival by a group of mass organisations which demanded the cancellation of the festival of leftist thinking. Then there wasanother raid against the screening of a documentary on Indonesia’s gulag for leftist political prisoners called Pulau Buru Tanah Air Beta (Buru Island: My Homeland) in March. To make matters worse, the notoriously conservative Minister of Defence, Ryamizard Ryacudu recently called for the confiscation of leftist books.

Even land grabbing by state, military, and corporate authorities has been justified under the grounds that the citizens who own the lands are “communists.” For instance, last year, in Cilacap, at least 8,000 hectares of land were taken away from local communities using that excuse.

In short, anti-communism has been effectively used as a pretext to stifle dissent and normalise dispossession.

Indonesia’s anti-communism did not emerge out of a historical vacuum. Anti-communist propaganda has been common since the 1965 mass killings of Communist Party members and alleged sympathisers.  Such propaganda has been used to legitimise and justify New Order authoritarianism. What is remarkable is that this rhetoric has regained popularity during the presidency of Joko ‘Jokowi; Widodo, the so-called civil society president.

Activists and observers have speculated that the reemergence of anti-communist rhetoric is indicative of the split between military reformers and hardliners in response to attempts to open up dialogue regarding the 1965 massacre and the military’s role in it. Jokowi himself seems to adopt a “wait-and-see” and “free-market” approach to the issue, waiting for whatever stance that will emerge from the generals’ quarrels. But whatever the truth is, we know that the return of New Order-style anti-communism has a huge impact on society.

Obviously this does not mean that there is a total absence of government initiative to deal with issues surrounding the 1965 massacre. In April the Indonesian government sponsored the National Symposium on the 1965 Tragedy with mixed results. While this step can be seen as a breakthrough from the state’s regular approach to the issue, there is no clear achievement from the symposium. What we know is since then the anti-communist campaign has got even louder.

The hysteria reached its peak in the “Securing Pancasila from the Threats of PKI and Other Ideologies” Symposium taking place in Jakarta and organised by a group of conservative retired generals and hardline Islamists on 1 June in commemoration of Pancasila Day. As expected, the symposium parroted New Order anti-communist propaganda and rejected any possibility of truth-seeking and reconciliation surrounding the 1965 massacre. Essentially, it merely served as a propaganda machine of reactionary elites and their supporters. Some of the symposium’s attendees even threatened a journalist who covered the event and labeled her as “pro-Communist.”

And we have not even counted individual remarks made by staunch anti-communist generals such as Kivlan Zein and Kiki Syahnakri who see rural welfare and human rights as proxies of a communist campaigns instead of basic citizenship demands. While activists may laugh at and dismiss the generals’ rhetoric as absurd, irrational propaganda, the fact is they continue to influence public imagination on “communist threats” in Indonesia.

At this stage, it is safe to say that the latest recent red scare in Indonesia represents an all-time high since the end of the New Order regime. What is worrying is that it has manifested in the most vulgar form – through acts including book banning, perverse historiography, and outright intimidation. Without a proper response from Indonesian social movements to counter these threats against civil, political, and socioeconomic rights, the chances are that authoritarian and illiberal practices under the guise of anti-communism will continue.

Given the current make-up of  elite power and interests surrounding Jokowi’s administration, it is most likely that the Indonesian state will turn a blind eye to such practices. This is a clear setback for democracy and attempts to promote impartial historiography, justice, reconciliation, and truth-seeking regarding the 1965 massacre in Indonesia.

Karl Marx once said “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” What has been going on in Indonesia seems to be the other way around: farcical moments of red scare have turned into a tragedy for Indonesian democracy.

Fathimah Fildzah Izzati is a researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). Iqra Anugrah is a PhD candidate in Political Science and Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University. Both of them are editors for IndoPROGRESS, an online journal connecting progressive scholars and activists in Indonesia.

Cementing dissent in Indonesia

Cementing dissent in Indonesia

May 2, 2016

Iqra Anugrah examines a dramatic demonstration in Jakarta that saw peasant women concrete their own feet for 36 hours to save their farms and local environment from a cement factory.

The accelerating rate of land and resource dispossession in post-authoritarian Indonesia has led to a number of confrontations between state and corporate authorities on one side and peasant communities on the other.

Many of these conflicts, though garnering much attention from sympathetic activists, remain localised. However, there are moments when peasants and their activist allies decide to scale up their direct action.

This can be seen in the recent protest of nine female peasants – famously known as the Kartinis – from Rembang regency in Central Java. After travelling over 500 kilometres to protest in front of the State Palace in Jakarta, they decided to cement their feet in opposition of the ongoing construction of a cement factory by the state-owned PT Semen Indonesia in their hometown.

The purpose was to halt the construction of the cement plant and have a dialogue with President Jokowi. It is a part of their longer-term strategy, stretching back to the early days of the plant’s construction in June, 2014. Approximately 680 days have passed since then.

According to Joko Prianto aka Prin, one of the protest coordinators, for almost two years protesting citizens have faced all sorts of threats and persecution from authorities, including being threatened by police and military officers as well as hired thugs. This time, they decided to voice their grievances directly in front of the State Palace because they felt that the government did not pay enough attention to their cause — in fact, the protest site is very near to the famous Kamisan human rights weekly demonstration held every Thursday.

The latest act was not their first demonstration in Jakarta. Last year, the citizens also staged a protest in front of the palace by making noise using alu and lesung – the traditional rice grinder and its mortar.

I had the privilege to observe and participate in the second day of this historic protest on Wednesday, 13 April. This session lasted until 5.50 pm, when the protesters decided to break the cement blocks off their feet.

Organisations whose representatives and activists were present included the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), the Alliance of Indigenous People of the Archipelago (AMAN), the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Migrant Care, the Indonesian Labour Union of Transportation-Struggle (SBTPI), the Confederation of All-Indonesia Workers’ Unions (KSPI), IndoPROGRESS, Perempuan Mahardhika, Jaringan Gusdurian, Politik Rakyat, and the National Student League for Democracy (LMND), among others.

Representatives from the National Human Rights Commissions (Komnas HAM) and the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) were also present. Despite their different emphases, these speakers essentially underlined similar points: the importance of peasant livelihoods, the rights of local communities as citizens, and environmental sustainability.

Two national MPs, Irma Chaniago from NasDem and Siti Mukaromah from the moderate Islamic PKB, were also present at the protest site and expressed their support for the protesters. On the first day of the protest, two high-ranking state officials, the President’s Executive Office Chief of Staff Teten Masduki and the Minister of State Secretary Pratikno also paid a visit to the protesters. Activists took this gesture with a grain of salt. Some even greeted it with suspicion. Considering the government’s continuing lack of attention to agrarian issues, such a critical stance is understandable.

But nothing is more powerful than the message from the protesters themselves, who reminded the establishment about the destruction that the cement plant will bring to their livelihood and the environment.

It is important to note however that despite all the excitement, the protesting crowd remained relatively small. Many of the sympathetic activists and middle-class allies, who knew about the protest from word of mouth and social media, know each other. Perhaps this is indicative of the lack of public awareness of the severity of agrarian problems in contemporary Indonesia.

This lack of public awareness notwithstanding, the acuteness of agrarian conflicts in post-authoritarian Indonesia has increased in the last seven years.According to the Consortium for Agrarian Reform’s (KPA) 2014 year-end report, during the second term of the Yudhoyono Presidency (2009-2014) agrarian conflicts involving peasant communities and state and corporate authorities had increased more than five times, from 89 cases in 2009 to 472 cases in 2014. These conflicts spanned across an area of more than 2.8 million hectares in 2014.

KPA also reports that throughout 2015, the first year of Jokowi’s presidency, there were at least 250 cases of agrarian conflicts in an area of 400,000 hectares. A series of working papers from another agrarian studies think-tank, Sajogyo Institute, also records different forms of multi-layered dispossession in numerous rural communities throughout Indonesia. This does not mean that success stories of peasant struggle are entirely absent. However, success stories remain few in number, and small and local in scale.

Given this bleak situation, the only logical collective response from Indonesian agrarian and peasant movements seems to be to build lower-class social movements and multi-sectoral alliances with other marginalised social forces. With the fragmentation and patronage that characterises Indonesian civil society, efforts to build such a movement are a Herculean task. But it is not totally impossible.

The courageous and exemplary action of the female peasants of Kendeng Mountains – the Kartinis – are an important step to revitalise peasants’ struggle for livelihood. While their small act of protest does not necessarily change the current situation, it at least keeps the struggle alive.

Iqra Anugrah is a PhD candidate in Political Science and Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University. He writes his dissertation on the politics of elite-peasant relations in post-authoritarian Indonesia. He is also an editor for IndoPROGRESS, an online journal connecting progressive scholars and activists in Indonesia.

A challenge from below? Social movements against oligarchy

A challenge from below? Social movements against oligarchy

February 18, 2016

The idea that post-Soeharto Indonesia is an oligarchic democracy is now a well-established thesis. Scholars such as Jeffrey Winters(link is external), Richard Robison and Vedi Hadiz(link is external) argue that, despite the reforms of the past 18 years, super-wealthy elites and their cronies have maintained political and economic dominance, and Indonesian democracy has suffered as a result. Rising inequality, a new wave of land grabs, urban evictions, and repressive policies cracking down on protests are cited as just a few of many indications of the continuation of oligarchic rule in democratic Indonesia.

Other scholars have criticised or added nuance to this thesis(link is external), suggesting that this now dominant understanding of democratic change in Indonesia does not pay sufficient attention to popular agency. Ed Aspinall, for example, has detailed the ways in which the lower classes have had significant policy influence in post-Soeharto Indonesia(link is external).

Another emerging “attempt from below” to challenge the dominance of oligarchs is the Confederation of Indonesian People’s Movements (KPRI(link is external)), an alliance of social movements and unions across different sectors, representing workers, peasants, fishermen, indigenous peoples, and women. Several leading social movements have participated in the KPRI(link is external), including the Association of Indonesian Women’s Unions (Hapsari), the Federation of Indonesian Fishermen’s Unions (FSNN), the Indonesian Workers Union (KBI), the Union of Indonesian Peasants Movements (P3I), the Indigenous Peoples Movement (Gema) and the Federation of Indonesian Workers and Labourers Union (FSPBI).

KPRI started out as a nongovernmental organisation called Pergerakan (Movement), or the People-Centred Advocacy Organisation for Social Justice. At its third national congress in Bandung in 2011(link is external), Pergerakan made the decision to transform into KPRI, and it is now making preparations to participate in elections as a political party.

While gaining public office will be a herculean task, it is not impossible. One of the reasons that popular agency is often overlooked by oligarchy theorists is the fragmented nature of working-class movements(link is external). The experience of KPRI so far – despite its many challenges – is an example of effective movement building. KPRI has been able to establish and maintain a multi-sectoral, cross-class alliance of various social movements. This in itself is a tremendous achievement, considering that different social forces often have conflicting policy preferences, and that can inhibit the formation of a broad and inclusive movement. Urban workers, for example, might support cheap price policies for basic foods, while the rural peasants who produce these agricultural commodities might argue for the opposite (despite evidence suggesting that rural producers are often net consumers of basic commodities like rice(link is external)).

In order to overcome these common collective action problems, social movements must focus not just on building and maintaining their organisation but also on tackling the pressing political and economic problems of the day. Yes, fiery political speeches are needed, but concrete policy proposals are needed even more. KPRI leaders recognise this. The confederation has attempted to devise an alternative policy framework with a clear anti-neoliberal, leftist orientation on major policy issues.

I saw these efforts in action at three KPRI conferences over the past five months. At regional conferences in Banten and Jakarta, for example, discussions were held on a number of specific national and local political issues. These discussions aimed to help the confederation formulate a cohesive national strategy, as well as detailed local strategies tailored to local conditions and concerns.

At the fourth national congress in Jakarta(link is external) last month, these national policies were beginning to take shape. One of the topics discussed in considerable detail was the notion of transformative social protection.(link is external) KPRI believes that the government has transferred its responsibility for providing national health insurance to the market, in the form of the Social Security Agency (BPJS). Transformative social protection argues for the de-commodification of social protection policy to make it more inclusive, extending coverage to as many marginalised groups as possible, including workers in the informal sector, such as rural peasants, fishermen, indigenous peoples, and the urban poor. The government does, in fact, alreadysubsidise premiums for 86.4 million Indonesians(link is external), including people working in the informal sector, and plans to expand subsidies to cover 92.4 million Indonesians in 2016. But KPRI argues social protection does not go far enough, and must be extended to cover public transportation, cheap housing and reproductive health care.

Further articulating strategies such as these will be important as KPRI prepares to contest the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2017 and the national presidential and legislative elections in 2019. While KPRI has slim odds of actually securing office for any of its members, actively participating in these elections will expose the KPRI and its constituent organisations to a qualitatively different political experience. This, in turn, will better prepare them for the challenges and responsibilities that come with participating in politics long term.

Needless to say, the spectre of political failure still haunts(link is external). At least as far back as 2009 there were attempts by the left to enter politics, such as through the failed National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas). Other labour activists have joined or made political contracts with existing political parties. Failure to develop a broad base of support and the high financial costs of running for office have played a role in previous unsuccessful attempts. KPRI believes it has reason to be optimistic, however, because of its organic efforts to unify diverse social movements with solid bases. Further, it also maintains an inclusive leftist platform, aiming to avoid the sectarianism that pervades leftist organisations.

Early attempts by the left to move into politics were highly contentious among activists. It remains to be seen how the Indonesian activist landscape will respond to KPRI’s foray into politics. Another question that KPRI needs to address is its relationship with other movements and unions outside the confederation. While KPRI has so far been able to maintain internal solidity, the social forces represented in the confederation are actually quite fragmented in terms of their representation. There are multiple national confederations and federations of labour unions and peasant movements, for example. This will be a major challenge for KPRI as it seeks to form tactical alliances and mobilise its rank-and-file members in facing elections.

Collective action of the lower classes can pose a serious challenge to the continuing political and economic dominance of oligarchs in post-authoritarian Indonesia. Will KPRI constitute such a challenge? Its attempt to unify Indonesia’s fragmented social movements suggests it just might.