For the past few months the Western imperialists and their lackeys have been presiding over a deep economic crisis in East Asia. From Thailand to South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia, the region’s comprador regimes have been imposing austerity programmes under the baton of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Suharto’s regime, like many others, had raised prices, cut back government services, and opened the country even more to foreign plunder. Currencies plummeted, unemployment spiralled and the effect on the masses was a brutal and extreme intensification of misery, while the ruling regimes and their Western masters struggled to ensure the steady flow of their own channels of wealth.
The masses of Indonesia rose in rebellion and stood up to one of the most vicious forces of repression in the world. Trained and armed by the US and its imperialist allies, the regimes’s armed forces first sought to do what they had always done, stamping down with the iron boot. But their efforts were in vain, as students were joined by shantytown youth and hundreds of thousands of others. The regime used its monopoly on the media to bluster and to try to divert the people’s anger towards Chinese shopkeepers and away from the real centres of reactionary power. But the advanced forces among the masses refused to back down, rallied new support, and targeted the Suharto clan in particular, as well as symbols of Western domination.
As waves of revolt rolled over the country, the imperialits did their best to distance themselves from Suharto, just as they did last year in the case of Zaire’s Mobutu. The Western media exposed Suharto’s crony style of capitalism, unveiled the intricate links of his family businesses, and decried the billions he had looted from the Indonesian people. And they should know, for they set him up and backed him as long as they could. Suharto was a monster but, like Mobutu, Haiti’s Duvalier and so many others, he was imperialism’s monster.
Suharto rose to power on the corpses of as many as half a million people. Many of them were communists and others who had dared to dream of an Indonesia independent of Western imperialism, and peasants who longed for land. Suharto ruthlessly suppressed them in some of the bloodiest months of slaughter since World War 2, and imprisoned hundreds of thousands more. But barely a word has been uttered in the reactionary press about this bloody crime. Indeed, the US hailed Suharto’s bloody rise to power, with the liberal Time magazine calling it "the best news for the West in Asia in years."
Suharto’s 1965 coup was part of an overall effort by the imperialists and reactionaries to stem the rising tide of national liberation and revolution in the 1960s. Vietnamese peasants were thrashing the supposedly invincible US military machine, and brushfires of revolt were being fanned throughout Asia and the Third World, supported by the revolutionary bastion of Mao’s China. The imperialists needed a servile lackey in Indonesia, an important source of oil and the fourth most populous country - and largest Muslim population - in the world. Suharto was chosen, trained and backed to the hilt by the U.S. and other imperialists to serve this role.
The Suharto coup took advantage of serious errors by the Indonesian revolutionaries. The leadership of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) had tried to steer a "middle course"in the great debate then raging in the international communist movement between Mao Tsetung’s revolutionary line and the revisionist line of capitulation and betrayal preached by the Soviets. The PKI negated the Leninist teaching that the state was a dictatorship of one class over another, and instead argued that, thanks to the then President Sukarno, there was a "people’s aspect" in the Indonesian government. While the blood of hundreds of thousands was shed by the imperialist puppet Suharto and his cronies, it was revisionism that paved the path to the slaughter.
Instead of taking the road of people’s war, the PKI leadership tied the hands of the people. What had seemed like a mighty party of hundreds of thousands collapsed and the workers, revolutionary peasants and revolutionary party members were unable to put up effective resistance. This bitter lesson illustrates once again the truth underlying Mao Tsetung’s forceful dictum that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun"and that "without a people’s army, the people have nothing."
With its hands still dripping with the blood of the Indonesian people, the Suharto regime launched another crime with its invasion and occupation of East Timor in 1975. Indonesia troops have killed 200,000 people there, one third of the Timorese population - per capita, the largest genocide since the Holocaust in WW2. Even today, 60,000 Indonesian troops, police and informers are stationed there - one for every 10 Timorese. Yet the people of East Timor fight on valiantly, and their struggle was an integral part of the rising that knocked down Suharto.
Today the imperialists and the Indonesian ruling class are manoeuvring urgently to divert the people’s anger and protect the core of Indonesia’s reactionary ruling institutions, especially the armed forces. Only a few months ago, they thought Suharto could be salvaged for a while longer and continued to give him support. Indonesian troops, especially the hated KOPASSUS Red Berets, were trained by the US. Tony Blair and his New Labour government in Britain continued to sign weapons contracts and supply the regime with arms, and the Australian military even held joint exercises with Indonesian troops this spring. Nonetheless, as wave after wave of revolt poured over Indonesia, the reactionaries and their imperialist backers were forced to yield ground, until the tyrant himself had to go.
This was a great victory - Suharto was indeed a big exploiter and oppressor of the Indonesian people. But he was not the biggest. While his family pillaged billions, behind him the Western imperialists have raked off tens of billions. The Suharto set-up was simply the local agency of the vast tentacles of imperialism that envelop every sector of economic life in Indonesia, sucking the wealth and labour of its people. Suharto and his family were "Mr 10%" but in another sense, they were only "Mr 10%," local flunkeys who skim off a bit before the big boss gets the lion share. It is men with names like Bill Gates, the IMF’s Camdessus, Clinton, Blair, Chirac, Khol, etc, who are the overall masters of this system that has kept Indonesia backward and impoverished. While their so-called Asian tiger had brought some improvement for sections of the upper and middle classes in Indonesia, the Indonesian "miracle" never alleviated the grinding poverty of the basic masses of the country, and now millions of those who had earlier believed life was changing for the better have been dramatically impoverished, and the poor find their very survival threatened. To see that this is due to a world system, one need look no further than neighbouring Malaysia or Thailand, countries where millions of others are being subjected to the same austerity measures as in Indonesia. Their rulers, like Suharto, were petty corrupt tyrants, and, like him, they too are creatures of a bigger, world historic system, imperialism.
Truly changing the face of Indonesia means freeing it from imperialism and thoroughly uprooting the semi-feudal system. It requires breaking the imperialists’ hold on the economic arteries that are pumping the wealth and lifeblood of Indonesia out of the country and into the coffers of the West. This can only be done by overthrowing the imperialist-backed neocolonial regimes and its reactionariy armed forces - which means revolutionary war, a war based among and rallying the peasants as its main force, along the path of New Democratic Revolution as charteded by Mao Tsetung. Mao showed not only how a protracted people’s war could defeat the seemingly invincible armies of the reactionaries and imperialists but also how the masses in power could be led to build a self-reliant economy to stand with the people of the world as beacon of world revolution. This is what China did up until 1976, and the science of revolution summed up and raised to a new level by Mao, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, today lights the path forward for the oppressed around the world.
Unless the old regime is smashed through such a revolutionary war, the reactionary forces will use their grip on power to ride out the storm, to make temporary concessions to some while brutally suppressing others. Millions of people in Indonesian are yearning for revolution, hoping that today’s overthrow of Suharto will be only a prelude to a deeper, more thoroughgoing change. But for this aspiration to become a reality the people need leadership, the leadership that only a vanguard party based on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism can provide. Without this kind of uncompromising vanguard leadership the ruling class will reassert its authority over the oppressed masses and keep them shackled.
Only days after Suharto’s departure the reactionary clique now led by B.J. Habibie is revealing its colours by protecting Suharto’s cronies and keeping in prison those they consider most dangerous. They are refusing to free the many PKI members and sympathizers held for over 30 years, as well as Timorese fighters - while making endless promises that will come to nothing.
Over a century ago, as looming crisis faced Europe, Frederick Engels observed that crowns would soon be rolling on the pavement, the question was, who would pick them up? Today, the crown of the long-standing dictator Suharto of Indonesia has followed that of Zaire’s Mobutu to go tumbling onto the streets, and Engels’question is posed more urgently than ever. The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) salutes the Indonesian people whose fierceness and defiance in the face of the iron fist has given renewed heart to all those around the world fighting against imperialism and reaction. We call upon the most advanced revolutionary elements in Indonesia to make bold efforts to group themselves together on the basis of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and link up with RIM, and we call upon Maoist forces in other countries to assist this effort. The debts of the Indonesian reactionaries and their imperialist masters are too heavy and the hope of the masses too high to do anything less.
COMMITTEE OF THE REVOLUTIONARY INTERNATIONALIST MOVEMENT
18 June 1998
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