Where to now after the enactment of the Omnibus Law?

Arah Juang – October 12, 2020
Protest march against Omnibus Law in Yogyakarta – October 8, 2020 (Twitter)

Dipo Negoro and Leon Kastayudha – The Draft Omnibus Law on Job Creation was finally enacted into law by the House of Representatives (DPR) on October 5. The enactment went ahead in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and widespread opposition from the working class movement and ordinary people over the continued attacks by the bourgeois class against democracy and the ordinary people’s rights.

This situation reinforces the Marxist analysis that the state is a tool of oppression by the ruling class and maintains, pursues and defends the economic and political interests of the ruling class. Thus the Omnibus Law is no more than the formal expression of the wishes of the ruling class which are manifested in laws that apply to all. These wishes of the bourgeois class are determined by its interest in exploiting the working class for the sake of accumulating capital.

So it isn’t that the DPR does not have a conscience or common sense, does not care about or is insensitive to criticism, does not listen to the voices of the working class and ordinary people, let alone are the representatives of the working class and the people who they betrayed. It is a problem of conflicting class interests which gives rise to the class struggle.

It was as if the regime of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Vice President Ma’ruf Amin was possessed by the devil in its efforts to push the Omnibus Law through. Various formal legal obstacles where simply pushed aside, the police spent billions on purchasing equipment to control protests and monitor social media, people were assaulted and arrested during demonstrations against the law, and reactionary civilian militia were mobilised. Moreover right up until it was ratified on October 8, the final draft of the law had not even been finished.

In the midst of a still quite high level of public trust in Widodo – including trust in the other bourgeois factions – it is not surprising that they had the confidence to rush the enactment through.

The increasingly difficult economic situation in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic was also a factor in accelerating its enactment. Of course this was also because for the Widodo administration the logic of stimulating economic growth is the same as supporting the interests of investors. We also have to look at the factor of how the movements understood the enactment of the Omnibus Law. I will return to this later.

When the Democrat Party and the Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) opposed the law it did not mean that they supported the working class. Both the Democrats and the PKS were involved from the start in the law’s deliberations but only maneuvered to oppose the law during the plenary session to ratify it on October 5.

The Democrat Party and the PKS were part of the same pro-government coalition for 10 years supporting the administration of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono between 2004-2014. There was no significant advance in working condition during this time and in general the Yudhoyono administration was just a continuation of the previous administration which supported the interests of the bourgeois class. Many elements of the Omnibus Law were policies which governments have been trying to push through ever since the Yudhoyono era.

Certainly there were quite large wage increases during the Yudhoyono administration (2011-2013) but this was not in any way because of president Yudhoyono, the Democrat Party or the PKS. It was a result of a growing radicalisation of the labour movement between 2010 and 2013. Meanwhile the demands of the labour movement at the time to abolish contract labour and outsourcing systems were ignored. During the Yudhoyono administration the Democrats, the PKS and the other bourgeois political parties along with the trade union bureaucratic elite (Elit-elit Birokrasi Serikat Buruh, EBSB) played the role of weakening the labour movement. Reactionary civilian militia were also mobilised to attack workers.

The same is the case with the other bourgeois opposition groups such as the recently formed Save Indonesia Action Coalition (KAMI), which is led by former TNI (Indonesian military) commander retired General Gatot Nurmantyo. The KAMI declaration in August was attended by Islamic Ulama Council (MUI) Advisory Board Chairperson Din Syamsuddin, Nahdlatul Ulama Khittah Committee Chairperson Rochmad Wahab, Star Crescent Party (PBB) chairperson and former forestry minister MS Kaban, Siti “Titiek” Hediati Hariyadi, United Development Party (PPP) politician and Yudhoyono era minister Bahtiar Chamsyah, economist Ichsanuddin Noorsy, former PPP lawmaker Ahmad Yani, lecturer and prominent government critic Rocky Gerung, former Women’s Empowerment Minister Meutia Farida Hatta, constitutional law expert Refly Harun and former State-Owned Enterprises Ministry secretary Muhammad Said Didu, among others.

KAMI is a right-wing bourgeois opposition group. Nurmantyo has a track record of sowing bigotry and spreading anti-communist hoaxes in the interest of his political ambitions to garner support to seize power. Nurmantyo is not just a militarist but formally held the position of Artha Graha Bank commissioner while he was still active in the TNI.

Alongside Nurmantyo, there is Refly Harun who is best known for producing conspiracy theories on his YouTube channel, former president Suharto’s daughter Titiek and former National Mandate Party (PAN) chairperson Amien Rais – a bourgeois politician who highjacked the 1998 reformasi (reform) movement to ensure that the working class and oppressed people would not be revived after Suharto’s fall.

When we talk about a situation where national politics are controlled by bourgeois parties of various “colours”, this cannot be separated from history. The lack of a political force – political party or organisation – representing workers and the ordinary people is a result of the counter-revolution led by Suharto, the military and factions of the bourgeois in 1965.

One of the consequences of the 1965 disaster was the destruction of working class forces and the trade unions. The trade unions formed post 1965 were the accomplices of the bourgeois class. To this day they have survived and are relatively large because they were established by the Suharto military regime.

Widodo, his former arch-rival and now Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, Yudhoyono, the PKS, the Democrats, Prabowo’s Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and right-wing fundamentalist groups all gained positions and wealth out of the 1965 disaster. Several groups such as the military camp, KAMI and also the PKS are particularly industrious in using 1965 hoaxes such as the alleged revival of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Widodo, the PDI-P and other bourgeois parties are also unwilling to provide reconciliation or rehabilitation for the victims of the 1965 affair. Included in this is what we refer to (in the Arah Juang article Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Revolution) as restoring the identity, history, theory and practice of struggle by the working class and ordinary people.

The labour movement, which grew rapidly in 2010-2013, suffered a retreat because it was dominated by the trade union bureaucratic elite whose roots are in the trade unions established by the Suharto regime.

Likewise also with the “Reform Corrupted” movement that exploded last year, which also showed that the organisational strength of the working class and the ordinary people are still relatively small. Although they, like the trade unions, student and progressive political organisations, left as well socialist, were involved in the movement (see our analysis in the Arah Juang edition 69 July 2019 article titled Reform corrupted: Ruling class stifles democracy, impoverishes the people), the leap forward in broad non-organisational protesters is not yet able to be optimally organised or made permanent in the form of action committees on campus or more advanced than this by joining socialist youth organisations.

This time round we again saw how the EBSB tried to moderate the movement. There were no serious preparations for the strikes planned on October 6-8 in the lead up to the DPR’s plenary session to vote on the Omnibus Law. In statements or letters by trade unions, the meaning of the term “strike” was obscured under “protest actions”. On the ground, workers often took turns in holding actions in accordance with their work shifts. There were also half-hearted “strikes” which were then followed by workers doing additional overtime. In general, factories where real strikes were launched to stop the production process only happened on the initiative of workers at the factory level.

This is no different from the tactic of lobbying and the mass actions promoted by the EBSB. This problem is because the EBSB are the accomplices of the bourgeois class in the labour movement. They use their positions, use lobbying or actions, and even strikes, for their own interests and the interest of the bourgeois class.

In launching strikes the EBSB plays two roles: blurring national strikes by confusing them with protest actions and taking advantage of actions to improve their bargaining position in lobbying for their interests. Indonesian Worker Union Confederation (KSPI) President Said Iqbal contained the October 6-8 national strike by redirecting the struggle towards constitutional channels through a judicial review with the Constitutional Court. His statement must be seen as a tactic to win gains for himself. This tactic takes the form of gaining support from workers who have a low level of consciousness so that he can hold back workers who have a more advanced consciousness. This also makes it harder to unite trade unions to launch future national strikes. Although they might as well just say “launch a national strike or a joint action through constitutional efforts”.

We did however also see advances this time round with the “Defeat the Omnibus Law with a National Strike” movement. In several places the domination of liberal student groups who come from inter-campus organisations began to be eroded. The demands put forward were clearer and more political. One example of this was in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta. During the Reform Corrupted demonstrations last year, the protesters who were predominantly mobilised by the Gajah Mada University Student Executive Council Student Community (BEM KM UGM) continually tried to ensure there were no slogans, songs or demands which explicitly criticised President Widodo or his then presidential rival Prabowo Subianto. This is no longer the case. Likewise the militancy to fight the Widodo regime including the security forces has begun to erode the hegemony of “peaceful actions”.

Echoes of a “Motion of No Confidence” again reverberated during actions in many places as people still had illusions of “trust” in the bourgeois class. In Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Kudus (Central Java), Lampung (North Sumatra), Bandung and Tasikmalaya (West Java) and Makassar (South Sulawesi) regional leaders or Regional House of Representative (DPRD) members were given space to give speeches or it was hoped that they would give their signatures in support. Although this kind of position does not represent the entire movement at present, it is primarily supported by the moral student movement (particularly inter-campus groups like BEM and Cipayung) as well as the yellow trade unions.

But no matter how many signatures and statements they make, it does not change their class position. Confronted by a wave of resistance by the working class and ordinary people, the bourgeois (including the local bourgeois) try to find peaceful solutions which will bring them maximum benefits but minimum benefits for the working class and the people. It is more beneficial for them when the struggle is slower and less resolute and clear though reformist and constitutional methods rather than through mass radicalisation. And of course not on the initiative, spirit and revolutionary energy of the working class, university and high-school students (read Arah Juang edition 65, “The two tactics of social democrats in the democratic revolution”).

We have already seen this when the Democrat Party and the PKS were in power during the 10-year Yudhoyono administration. Likewise, we also saw how the populist “disagreements” between Widodo and Prabowo during the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections ended in them working together in the same administration to oppress the working class and the people. This is also true for the military. Although on the ground in several places the military were “on friendly terms” with demonstrators, it did not change the fact that the military have never been held accountable for the humanitarian crimes they committed for almost half-a-century. Their interest is to stay in power and intervene in civilian affairs.

It is very important to reaffirm working class independence. So we cannot just state “support elements wherever who want to expend their energy to fight the enactment of the Omnibus Law on Job Creation” or “Open ourselves to cooperate with anyone for the sake of successful joint struggle and a national strike which will be celebrated in the future” as the Confederation of United Indonesian Workers (KPBI) did (read To all the people let us join in the final struggle against the Omnibus Law).

Our “motions of no confidence” should be a motion of no confidence in all the bourgeois camps: Widodo, Prabowo, Yudhoyono, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, Surabaya Mayor Tri “Risma” Rismaharini, Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, Gatot Nurmantyo, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto, the PDI-P, KAMI, Gerindra, the Democrats, the National Awakening Party (PKB), PAN, the National Democrats (Nasdem), the United Indonesia Party (Perindo), the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), the PKS, the Golkar Party, the PPP, the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), and of course the military.

A “motion of no confidence” should be advanced to mean no confidence in the entire capitalist social order. Capitalism only benefits the bourgeois class by exploiting the working class. Capitalism has also failed to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic.

So, what must be done? The bourgeois class will not be stopped by the actions on October 8. They will continue to launch attacks, through legislation like the Omnibus Law and other policies, through intimidation, terror and censorship.

This militant struggle by the working class, university and high-school students opens the way to what has been needed by the working class and the ordinary people since the 1965 disaster. An independently organised political force. Building an organised political force needs to be done by continuing to advance the struggle to defeat the Omnibus Law, through national strikes and civil disobedience.

Like our analysis one year ago in “Reform Corrupted”, the urgent task is to convince the working class, university and high-school students to organise. Organise to confront the police blockades and repression – victory requires organised resistance. This must be combined with the correct politics. The spirit, militancy and courage of young workers and students must be combined with a capacity for scientific analysis, namely scientific socialism.

Unlike the drivel of the Widodo regime’s buzzers, this does not mean reading every article in the Omnibus Law one by one (although it is currently unclear which of the four existing versions the final one is). It means understanding the structure of capitalist society and what is happening in the current situation. Determining what is the correct strategy and tactics of struggle and the strategy of resisting in the streets. Youth socialist organisations are the right place for young workers, university and high-school students to train and study the theory and practice of scientific socialism.

When struggles experiences growth, so does the consciousness of the working class and students. Their consciousness can leap forward to understanding that the working class has the power to destroy capitalism and build socialism. But workers and students will not reach this conclusion at the same time. In order that the movement can advance it must be led by those who already (and continually) study and are convinced of this conclusion. By those who see the revolutionary struggle as part of their entire life.

This organised force has the task of advancing the current “Defeat the Omnibus Law” movement. Communication and coordination must be built between groups around the country. Resistance in the form of civil disobedience, national strikes and actions, occupations and strikes at the factory, campus and village level must be begun in an organised fashion. Discussion and debate to strengthen unity and the struggle must be intensified. Demands and slogans must be taken up and clarified to the masses down every last village (read Arah Juang edition 70, “Organising the political struggle”).

The Omnibus Law will not be abolished by challenges in the Constitutional Court. The one effective weapon to halt the bourgeois classes’ attacks is a national strike. But what is a national strike and how do we prepare for it? Is it the same as the calls by the EBSB? No. First, a strike is different from a protest action or demonstration. The essence of a strike is halting the production process. Second, a strike must be organised by the working class at the grassroots – both by those who are already and those who are not yet in trade unions through strike committees (Baca Arah Juang edition 80, “On strikes”).

Similar initiatives must also be carried out outside of the labour sector to prepare for civil disobedience. Action committee and coordination posts must be established down to the lowest levels among the masses: on campus, in university faculties, villages and so forth. Both of these function to consolidate the grassroots forces and organise resistance. This also includes explaining the demands being fought for and launching actions on campus, factories and villages, and as part of this advancing the spontaneous character that initially exists in the movement to become more organised (see Reformasi corrupted).

Arah Juang (Direction of Struggle) is the official newspaper of the Socialist Union (Perserikatan Sosalis, PS). Dipo Negoro is a leading member of the Socialist Union and Leon Kastayudha is a leading member of the PS and a Socialist Youth member.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Kemana Setelah Omnibus Law Disahkan?”.]

Source: https://www.arahjuang.com/2020/10/12/kemana-setelah-omnibus-law-disahkan/