Turning the Wheel of Fortune

Jellinek, Lea. (1991). The Wheel of Fortune: The History of a Poor Community in Jakarta. Sydney: Allen and Unwin. xxviii + 214 pp.

While it’s cliché to say that Jakarta has always been one of, if not the main reference points for urban problems, it is safe to say that in recent years Jakarta has garnered a lot of attention for its contentious issues, from the gubernatorial election all the way to the eviction of poor neighborhoods. All of this inevitably leads us to the question of lower-class agency in Jakarta: how do the urban poor navigate around the challenges of living in the city?

Lea Jellinek tries to tackle the said question in her book, The Wheel of Fortune. A classic on this topic, this work is an empirically rich account of the lives of the urban poor in Kebon Kacang, a kampung neighborhood in Central Jakarta. Drawing from her long relationship with the kampung residents, Jellinek details how the residents – construction workers, domestic helpers, ice cream makers, becak peddlers, food sellers, among others – tried to live their lives and survived the challenges to their livelihood posed by rapacious city development.

Jellinek’s account centers around Ibu Bud, a once successful cooked-food seller whose small business eventually went bankrupt, and her neighbors. She traces the early wave of rural-urban migration of the kampung dwellers, which dated back all the way from the late colonial period. It was a relatively stable period, until Japanese occupation and thereafter the early years of independence interrupted the tranquility of their lives. But it was during the New Order era that the dwellers experienced the most ups and downs in their lives. The economic growth spurred by the 1970s oil boom gave new opportunities for the lower-class to improve their livelihood – newly-arrived young village migrants gained employment as construction workers, Ibu Bud successfully expanded her food stall business, and her neighbors took up a variety of jobs, from peddling becak to sewing clothes. But it was also the force that threatened their very means of livelihood – as high rises and roads were built, transient jobs were disappearing, and eventually the dwellers had to be evicted, or, to use the New Order lexicon, “relocated.” In a nutshell, Jellinek is able to breeze through the major turning points of the lives of her local interlocutors without losing the details of their lives.

What is striking from this book is how it resonates with our contemporary urban experience especially in Jakarta’s context. The book’s main message – the resilience of the urban lower-classes in facing the intrusion of state and market forces in their lives – remains relevant for our time, especially with the rise of technocratic populism with classist bent in Indonesia’s urban centers. Embodied in the figures of so-called “reformist” local leaders such as Ahok, Ridwan Kamil, and Risma, this seemingly new trend of urban governance puts emphasis on what basically can be considered as developmentalist and high modernist buzzwords: transparency, efficiency, orderliness, cleanliness, and firmness, among others. The big, problematic question for this vision is who has to pay the price of this “progress.” Oftentimes, it is the urban poor, and not the gang of technocratic populists and their High Priests, who get sidelined in the name of “urban development.”

In light of this reading, we can see the parallels between Jakarta under the heydays of the New Order and its current situation. While it might be a bit anachronistic to compare the two eras, one could argue that there is a continuity of modernist-developmentalist vision of urban development. On a closer look, the precursor of the latest version of Jakarta’s “high modernism with steroid” is Ali Sadikin: hailed as the city’s modernizer, Sadikin was committed to the realization of both Sukarnoist and New Orderist vision of modern urban planning – at all costs (pp. 108-111). On one hand, he promoted the development of artistic and civil society initiatives, but on the other hand, he showed no hesitancy about bulldozing poor people’s houses for road construction. His rather draconian approach in ensuring the swift implementation of the Kampung Improvement Project in a way predated the current Jakarta administration’s technocratic-repressive method of evicting the urban poor in different places of the city.

The Wheel of Fortune provides a plethora of other parallels, but to discuss those examples more comprehensively we have to situate it into the larger literature and contemporary research on urban neighborhood in Indonesia. The one work that should be read in tandem with The Wheel of Fortune is Alison Murray’s (1991) No Money, No HoneyA Study of Street Traders and Prostitutes in Jakarta.[1] Murray’s focus is somewhat more specific: she looks at female street-sellers and prostitutes in Manggarai and Kebayoran Baru respectively from 1984-1989. Like Jellinek, Murray also provides a vivid description of the lives of the female urban poor and their strategies to survive in Jakarta. Though in many ways both works speak to and echo each other, Murray’s work decidedly focuses more on lower-class women’s agency and its limits. While her elaboration on prostitution in Kebayoran Baru is a bit scant, overall she manages to give a holistic and sympathetic account of how poor working women exert their agency despite the pressures from capitalist development and the New Order ideology of domesticity. This is a point which is slightly missing and could have been more elaborated in The Wheel of Fortune. 

There are also parallels between Jakarta and Surabaya[2], another important urban center in Java. Kampung dwellers in Surabaya also experienced the same stages of urban development: political turbulence, new land-use pattern, the rise and fall of jobs for the poor in the informal sector, and resistance, both open and subtle, of the residents against market and state penetration in their neighborhood. Interestingly, these parallels can also be found between urban centers and their not-so-distant brethren: provincial towns. Industrial and service-based towns in the provinces, such as Serang, Cilegon, Cirebon, Kupang, and Pontianak, among others, seem to encounter the same challenge of capital and state penetration in the daily lives of the town residents.[3] The key difference here is that urban centers are at the receiving end of the rural-urban migration, which is not always the case with provincial towns. Given this, one could argue that what happened in Jakarta was a part of the larger design of urban development in Indonesia.

In light of Jellinek’s work, it is also important to see changes and continuities in the kind of agency, both economic and political, that Jakarta’s urban poor exert. Other than the more “traditional” types of occupations (petty traders, drivers, construction workers, and all sorts of service providers), nowadays the urban poor can pick newer kinds of employment, from cellphone voucher sellers and online marketing to go-jek drivers and hired protesters. Bear in mind, however, that the emergence of new niches of survival strategies is not the same as the expansion of opportunities. To couch this phenomenon in the language of “choice” – a rhetoric deployed by the technocratic corps of city administrators, businesses, and start-ups – overlooks the continuing socio-economic inequality and unequal power relations between the urban poor and the more affluent social forces.

On a less depressing note, a more significant change can be seen in the political realm. At the very least one could argue that now the urban poor have more avenues to channel their grievances and spaces for a more assertive political mobilization. Various issues of their concern – eviction, property seizures, repressive action by the state apparatuses, and most recently, land reclamation – have been taken up and advocated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements. At last, their voices can be heard. But this growing assertiveness does not necessarily translate into real policy changes since the kind of policy reforms promoted by the current Jakarta administration has been mainly catered to the needs of the middle class and big businesses. Therefore, the age-old question remains relevant for Jakarta’s context: whether urban planning in the era of political openness can pave the way for the expansion of choices for the poor and, eventually, social justice.

Ultimately, this is a question of the structural roots of urban poverty. What Jellinek does is to investigate and examine the response of the kampung dwellers to it. While her ethnographic description is first-rate, the theoretical abstraction that she made from her data is somewhat problematic. Her data, she argues, lend evidence to both culturalist and structuralist explanations of poverty (pp. 178-181). In doing this, Jellinek gives the impression that she wants to “strike a balance” between the two theories of urban poverty (p. 180). This theoretical stance however is untenable: many of the causes of rural-urban migration and continuing poverty in urban neighborhoods are part of the larger historical processes outside of the Kebon Kacang community, such as political conflicts and contradictions in capitalist development. While it is true that many livelihood strategies of the dwellers were unsustainable at best and short-term at worst, those are not inherent their inherent traits. Rather, it is a response to the predicaments in their lives caused by external forces beyond their control. In other words, the exercise of their agency, albeit real and to a degree emancipatory, is shaped and limited by structural forces. The so-called “poverty culture” is not given, but rather, made and habituated

What can we learn from the book, then? Are the descriptions and points that Jellinek raised still apt and relevant for our current conditions? While The Wheel of Fortune will remain as a classic reference point for future studies on urban neighborhood in Jakarta, some research agenda are due. First, there is a need to look again at the lives of the urban poor of Jakarta more closely, not only in Kebon Kacang, but also other communities in the city. The question that we should pose to them is how the living memory of the city has changed throughout their lives. To put it differently, we need to “update” Jellinek’s data by observing present-day kampung residents of Jakarta. Secondly, an analysis of “everyday politics” of Jakarta’s residents is more needed than ever. A more assertive exercise of political agency of the lower-class in Jakarta in recent years has shaped our perception regarding their political savviness.[4] What is important is to not conflate their open act of resistance and mobilization with the more subtle, everyday type of survival strategies. Without the latter, it would be difficult for the former to manifest. This is because more often that not the political action of the urban poor is often shaped by their prior experience and perceptions – of livelihood, space, land, residence, and social relations with their fellow community members, among others.[5] Using Jellinek’s work as a reference point, combined with a more updated study of the political views and actions of the urban poor, will give us a better and more thorough understanding about their political agency.

All in all, The Wheel of Fortune is an in-depth, lively, and sympathetic account of the lives of the urban poor in Kebon Kacang. It has been more than 20 years since it was published, but many of its findings remain relevant to understand contemporary Jakarta’s social landscape.

[1] A. J. Murray, No Money, No Honey: A Study of Street Traders and Prostitutes in Jakarta (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991).

[2] For a key reference on poor urban neighborhood in Surabaya, see R. Peters, Surabaya, 1945-2010: Neighbourhood, State and Economy in Indonesia’s City of Struggle (Singapore: NUS Press, 2013).

[3] For a key reference on provincial towns in contemporary Indonesia, see Gerry van Klinken and Ward Berenschot, eds., In Search of Middle Indonesia: Middle Classes in Provincial Towns. (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2014).

[4] See for instance Rita Padawangi, “People’s Places: Protests and the Making of Urban Public Spaces in Jakarta” (PhD dissertation, Loyola University Chicago, 2008).

[5] One of the classical works on this subject is F. Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail (New York: Vintage House, 1979).

*Iqra Anugrah is a PhD candidate in Political Science and Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University. Everyday politics is one of his many research interests.

Asian Roundtable on Social Protection Network 2016

The 5th Regional Conference of Asian Roundtable on Social Protection Network (AROSP) 2016 in Jakarta kicked off today.

AROSP is “a network of grassroots workers’ organisations, trade unions, NGOs, and scholars in Asia” that “aims to support and consolidate the regional struggle for social protection for the poor across various sectors in Asia.” This time, AROSP works with the Research Centre for Crisis and Alternative Development Strategy (Inkrispena) as its local partner to organize the roundtable in Jakarta. The conference participants are activists, unionists, community organizers, and researchers from various people’s organizations and grassroots NGOs in Asia.

I had the pleasure to moderate the very first panel on the theoretical debates surrounding social protection, exemplary practices of social protection “from below”, and the politics of social protection in Indonesian context, with my comrades Muhammad Ridha from Inkrispena and Anwar Sastro Ma’ruf from the Confederation of Indonesian People’s Movements (KPRI) as the speakers.

It was a rather short panel – we only had around 1 hour and 15 minutes for the whole package. But nonetheless we had a very enlightening and engaging discussion. Unfortunately I cannot attend the whole conference since I have other events to attend, but I’m sure the conference will be a great learning opportunity for all participants!

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.

Bernie Sanders dan Politik Gerakan Sosial di Amerika Serikat

Bernie Sanders dan Politik Gerakan Sosial di Amerika Serikat

“Socialist snow on the streets
Socialist talk in the Maverick
Socialist kids sucking socialist lollipops…”
(“Burlington Snow”, Allen Ginsberg)

MUSIM semi tahun 1981 menjadi sebuah kejutan tak terduga di Burlington, sebuah kota kecil di negara bagian yang tidak kalah kecil, Vermont. Seorang aktivis dengan gaya yang cukuphipster untuk standar kekinian – berambut kriwil ikal dan berkacamata besar – berhasil menang tipis, sekitar 10 suara, atas lawannya, sang petahana Gordon Paquette, dalam pemilihan walikota di Burlington. Sebelum jadi politisi independen dan walikota, Bernard “Bernie” Sanders, sang aktivis itu, bekerja serabutan – mulai dari guru, konselor, filmmaker,penulis, wartawan lepasan, hingga tukang kayu – tetapi, kiprahnya di dunia pergerakan begitu panjang. Di saat masih menjadi mahasiswa unyu-unyu di University of Chicago, Berniebergabung dan aktif dalam sejumlah organisasi mahasiswa dan gerakan sosial progresif, seperti Kongres Kesetaraan Rasial (Congress of Racial Equality, CORE) dan Komite Koordinasi Mahasiswa Nirkekerasan (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC), di tengah-tengah gelombang Gerakan Hak-hak Sipil di Amerika Serikat di decade 1960-an.

Dalam konteks inilah kita musti memahami fenomena Bernie Sanders alias #FeelTheBern.Kemunculan Bernie Sanders, seorang kandidat presiden kuda hitam dengan ikatan yang cukup erat dengan berbagai elemen gerakan sosial progresif dalam kancah politik arus-utama di Amerika, merupakan hal yang menarik terutama di tengah-tengah duopoli politik Partai Demokrat dan Partai Republikan dan dilema besar yang selalu dihadapi oleh gerakan-gerakan sosial (dan juga Kiri) di Negeri Paman Sam: antara termarginalisasi atau terkooptasi dalam narasi liberal-demokratik ala Amerika. Dengan kata lain, kita musti melihat fenomena Bernie Sanders dalam konteks perkembangan historis gerakan sosial di Amerika, hubungan Bernie dengan elemen-elemen gerakan, dan berbagai peluang serta batasan politik yang muncul dari naiknya popularitas Bernie Sanders dalam pertarungan untuk merebut kursi kepresidenan di Amerika Serikat.

Kita bisa mulai dengan membahas karir politik Bernie dari masa jabatannya sebagai Walikota Vermont hingga sekarang. Masa-masa awal kiprah Bernie di kancah politik praktis merupakan titik sejarah yang krusial karena di masa inilah, menurut Sarah Lyall (2015) dalam liputannya untuk Koran The New York Times, “bibit-bibit revolusioner” dalam diri Bernie muda mulai bersemai. Kemenangannya yang tak terduga dalam pemilihan Walikota Vermont, setelah belasan tahun bereksperimen dalam aktivisme gerakan sosial dan partai alternatif berhaluan Kiri, Liberty Union Party, memberikan kesempatan, sekaligus tantangan, baginya untuk menerapkan ide-ide progresif dalam pemerintahan dan arena politik praktis. Greg Guma (1989) mencatat rekam jejak Bernie sebagai Walikota Vermont selama empat periode (1981-1989) dan gerakan sosial yang menjadi tulang punggungnya dalam bukunya, The People’s Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution. Ada sejumlah prestasi Bernie dalam pemerintahan kota yang cukup menonjol, antara lain: penyehatan anggaran pemerintahan daerah, pembaharuan perkotaan, penghadangan atas gentrifikasi dengan cara menghadang upaya pembangunan properti mewah seperti kondominium serta kawasan perkantoran dan perhotelan, dan pembangunan berbagai fasilitas publik untuk warga kota seperti perumahan, taman-taman, dan ruang terbuka publik. Sepintas, sejumlah upaya ini terlihat sederhana, tetapi perlu diingat, bahwa upaya-upaya tersebut merupakan kebijakan yang berpihak pada elemen-elemen ‘warga biasa’ – warga kelas menengah dan bawah, pemilik UKM dan toko-toko tradisional, dan lain sebagainya – pendek kata, elemen-elemen rakyat pekerja. Dalam konteks Indonesia, kebijakan ini mungkin bisa diandaikan semacam upaya untuk meredam dan mengatur pertumbuhan pusat perbelanjaan dan minimarket seperti Indomaret dan Alfamart(maaf sebut merek) agar ruang publik dan upaya-upaya penghidupan rakyat banyak tidak serta merta tergerus oleh ekspansi kapital.

Tentu, di beberapa daerah perkotaan di Indonesia, wabil khusus Jakarta, di mana Gubernur teknokratis dengan tendensi tangan besi seperti Ahok dielu-elukan dan kelas menengahnya lebih ribut soal pelarangan gojek dan uber serta sentimen sektarian ketimbang implikasi politis dari penggusuran kaum miskin kota dan pentingnya solidaritas sosial, proyek politik seperti itu terdengar seperti imajinasi politik yang terlalu muluk-muluk – seakan-akan masalah fasilitas publik hanyalah persoalan teknis belaka, tanpa ada karakteristik politisnya.

Tetapi mari kita kembali ke Amerika. Selain urusan ‘domestik’ kota, Bernie juga aktif dalam perdebatan mengenai arah politik luar negeri selama menjadi walikota. Di tahun 1985 misalnya, Bernie mengundang intelektual Kiri Noam Chomsky untuk memberikan ceramah mengenai politik luar negeri Amerika yang kerap kali imperialis dan ekspansionis itu. Atas prestasinya, Bernie Sanders diberi penghargaan oleh majalah US News & World Reportsebagai salah satu walikota paling berprestasi se-Amerika. Warisan Bernie bagi Burlington masih terasa sampai dengan sekarang – hingga saat ini, Burlington merupakan salah satu kota yang paling layak untuk dihuni di Amerika Serikat dan para warga Burlington, dari berbagai spektrum dan aliran politik, memiliki kenangan yang begitu manis atas kontribusi dan dedikasi Bernie bagi kota mereka. Mungkin kesan inilah yang menginspirasi Allen Ginsberg untuk menulis puisi tentang Burlington. Di masa-masa ini juga, Bernie menyebut dan mendeklarasikan dirinya secara publik sebagai seorang sosialis.

Perlu diingat, Bernie Sanders berhasil bukan hanya karena gagasan dan kelihaian politiknya, tetapi juga karena dukungan dari berbagai gerakan sosial dan kerja-kerja kreatif dan mandiri para warga yang mendukungnya di tingkat akar rumput. Ini yang membedakan Sanders dengan kapitalis ngepet macam Donald Trump atau kapitalis liberal macam Hillary Clinton – yang di masa-masa awal karirnya memang sudah berada dalam stratum elit entah via warisan bokap atau nebeng pasangannya.

Setelah mengabdi di Burlington, Bernie kemudian menjajal peruntungan di kancah politik nasional. Di tahun 1990, dia terpilih untuk mewakili Vermont di House of Representativehingga tahun 2005. Kemudian, dia berhasil mendapatkan posisi di Senat di tahun 2005 dan mengabdi hingga sekarang. Reputasinya sebagai anggota kongres dengan kecenderungan liberal-progresif bisa dilihat dalam berbagai catatan rekam jejak dan rating posisi politik dan berbagai kebijakan dan undang-undang yang didukung atau disponsorinya (diantaranya ini,ini, dan ini). Ini terlihat dalam posisi politiknya atas berbagai isu-isu yang penting dan mendesak, seperti dukungan atas pembatasan dan pelarangan atas sejumlah jenis senjata api, penolakan atas invasi Iraq, kritik atas Alan Greenspan, Kepala Federal Reserve atau Bank Sentral Amerika, yang berhaluan libertarian dan kebijakan-kebijakan yang pro-bankir, dan lain sebagainya. Dalam hal popularitas, Bernie merupakan salah satu politisi kongres denganapproval rating atau tingkat kepuasan pemilih tertinggi – sekitar 83% pemilihnya di Vermont menyatakan dukungannya atas kinerja dan kiprah Bernie.

Dengan reputasi yang seperti ini, maka kemunculan Bernie dalam pertarungan pemilihan presiden Amerika Serikat di tahun ini memberikan warna politik yang berbeda – terutama di tengah-tengah narasi liberal arus utama ala Hillary Clinton dan populisme sayap-kanan Trump yang semakin menjadi-jadi. Dengan kata lain, ada ruang diskursif, dan lebih penting lagi, mobilisasi massa yang memungkinkan politisi pinggiran macam Bernie Sanders kemudian muncul di tengah-tengah duopoli oligarkis di Amerika Serikat.

Persis di titik inilah, kemudian kita perlu melakukan hitung-hitungan dan analisa yang lebih cermat mengenai peluang dan batasan politik yang dapat diberikan oleh fenomena#FeelTheBern

Pertama, perlu diakui bahwa kesempatan politik yang terbuka oleh kemunculan Bernie Sanders dalam politik arus utama Amerika Serikat merupakan sebuah peluang – tetapi peluang tersebut adalah peluang yang terbatas. Mengharapkan Amerika Serikat akan berubah menjadi People’s Republic of America apabila Bernie menang merupakan suatu mimpi di siang bolong – kita juga musti melihat perimbangan kekuatan antara presiden dan kongres, kubu Demokrat dan Republikan, dan musuh-musuh internal Bernie di dalam Partai Demokrat sendiri. Apalagi, Bernie mengambil jalan dengan menempuh jalur formal konvensi dalam Partai Demokrat, yang membuat posisi politiknya secara struktural baik ke dalam partai maupun ke luar partai berbeda dengan posisi sebelumnya sebagai politisi independen. Tetapi, dengan terpilihnya Bernie, ada sebuah peluang yang lebih besaar untuk menggegolkan agenda-agenda progresif (termasuk agenda-agendanya elemen-elemen gerakan Kiri di Amerika), bukan hanya dalam isu-isu sosial (hak-hak politik dan sipil) tetapi juga dalam isu-isu ekonomi – seperti regulasi yang lebih menyeluruh, jikalau tidak ketat, atas organ-organ oligarki di Amerika.

Kedua, harus diakui bahwa kampanye Bernie Sanders juga memberi peluang dan energi bagi mobilisasi gerakan sosial dan inisiatif warga yang lebih jauh dan mendalam. Sepintas, mobilisasi ini bisa saja dianggap hanya merupakan mobilisasi elektoral semata, tetapi, saya pikir ada berbagai sisi yang lain dalam proses mobilisasi dan partisipasi gerakan sosial dan inisiatif-inisiatif independen dari warga dalam kampanye Bernie Sanders: selain dimensi elektoral, pengalaman mobilisasi dan partisipasi politik dari elemen-elemen ini akan memperkaya pengalaman politik mereka, yang dapat menjadi bekal yang berguna bagi upaya mobilisasi gerakan yang lebih masif, popular, dan militan kedepannya – syukur-syukur memiliki kesadaran politik untuk menghantam oligarki dan kesenjangan ekonomi yang dihasilkannya.

Ketiga, pesan-pesan kampanye Bernie Sanders juga beresonansi dengan kegundahan publik atas kondisi Amerika Serikat dewasa ini – di mana ekpansionisme dan sektarianisme semakin merebak pasca kejadian 9/11 dan kesenjangan sosial dan ekonomi makin mengemuka pasca Krisis Finansial Global 2008. Trump dengan cerdik merespon kegelisahan publik yang muncul dari kondisi struktural tersebut dengan memanfaatkan sentimen nativisme untuk mendulang suara bagi pencalonannya sebagai calon presiden dari Partai Republik. Di kubu liberal sendiri, terdapat ketegangan antara pihak liberal establishment dengan liberal “kekiri-kirian” yang lebih reseptif dengan gagasan-gagasan dan figur-figur alternatif. Peluang Bernie untuk memenangkan konvensi Partai Demokrat ditentukan oleh hasil pertarungan dari dua kelompok dari kubu liberal sendiri.

Kita tahu, bahwa meskipun Bernie Sanders mendaku sebagai seorang sosialis, dalam konteks sekarang dia lebih pas disebut sebagai seorang sosdem, atau dalam bahasa Noam Chomsky, seorang New Dealer, yang mendukung ide-ide liberalisme progresif Amerika ala Roosevelt. Seandainya terpilih, kebijakannya tidak akan serta merta mengubah struktur oligarki Amerika Serikat secara substansial – meskipun akan lebih ada peluang untuk melakukan pembatasan dan pengaturan yang lebih mendalam atas organ-organ oligarki itu. Tetapi, kita tidak bisa memungkiri bahwa ada antusisasme publik dan mobilisasi gerakan sosial yang begitu besar – yang berpotensi untuk dikembangkan lebih lanjut bahkan pasca pemilihan presiden ini. Ditambah lagi, ada ancaman dari Kanan oleh Trump, seorang kapitalis demagog yang tidak malu-malu dengan nativisme dan menggunakan sentimen sektarian untuk meraih dukungan dari publik yang teralienasi oleh proses politik arus utama di Amerika Serikat. Dalam hal ini, kaum Kiri-progresif perlu menyambut ‘angin segar’ yang dibawa oleh Bernie Sanders tetapi juga sadar atas batasan-batasan yang muncul dari peluang tersebut – satu hal yang secara sadar didiskusikan secara kritis misalnya oleh sejumlah elemen gerakan Kiri-radikal di Amerika Serikat. Menariknya, peluang tersebut, dalam hemat saya, memberikan kesempatan yang lebih besar bagi pengorganisiran gerakan sosial dan kekuatan politik Kiri-progresif yang lebih mendalam untuk kedepannya – adalah suatu hal yang menarik apabila diskursus yang dulunya haram jadah seperti ‘sosialisme’ bisa berseliweran dalam perbincangan politik dan liputan media di Amerika Serikat (meskipun publik Amerika masih mengasosiasikannya dengan tatanan sosdem ala Skandinavia alih-alih suatu tatanan politik, ekonomi, dan sosial yang betul-betul emansipatoris).

Terakhir, kita perlu menyadari bahwa yang bisa mengakhiri politik imperium global – suatu bentuk dan tatanan tertinggi dalam kapitalisme kalau kata Lenin – bukan hanya krisis ekonomi,tetapi juga mobilisasi politik yang militan ‘dari bawah’ dalam jantung imperium global itu sendiri – yang dalam epos sejarah kita adalah Amerika
Serikat. Menghadang demagog seperti Trump dan mengantarkan politisi independen yang simpatik dengan mobilisasi massa seperti Sanders mungkin merupakan suatu cara yang memungkinkan mobilisasi militan rakyat Amerika muncul di kemudian hari.*** 

Terima kasih kepada Windu Jusuf yang telah menunjukkan puisi Allen Ginsberg tentang Burlington di masa Bernie Sanders.


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