What should be done by the left-wing of the Labour Party?

Arah Juang – October 25, 2023
Labour Party national working meeting in Jakarta – January 14, 2023 (Antara)

Dipo Negoro – At a press conference held at the Labour Party's executive committee (Exco) office in Jakarta on Wednesday September 13, Labour Party President Said Iqbal announced the names of the (new) choices for the Labour Party's presidential candidates (capres) in the 2024 elections.

"Based on the representative meeting, the Labour Party's [choice of] capres finally emerged, namely [former Central Java governor] Ganjar Pranowo, who is supported by 12 provinces, [Defense Minister] Prabowo Subianto who is also supported by 12 provinces, Said Iqbal eight provinces, [TV presenter] Najwa Shihab two provinces, [former Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister] Rizal Ramli who is supported by two provinces, and [academic and government critic] Rocky Gerung who is supported by two provinces", said Iqbal.

The announcement changed more or less the presidential candidate announced by the Labour Party previously at three-day national working meeting (Rakernas) on January 14-17, which was attended by 800 people from 38 provinces who were representatives of the national executive committee.

According to Iqbal, as quoted by koranperdjoeangan.com, the working meeting recommended four names. Two principle candidates, Ganjar Pranowo (supported by 15 provinces) and former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan (six provinces), and two alternative candidates, namely Iqbal (14 provinces) and Najwa Shihab (three provinces).

Iqbal said that preparations for a Labour Party convention to decide on a candidate have already started. He explained that of the two main presidential candidates, it has been confirmed that Pranowo would be present. He said that Pranowo had chosen to give a public lecture in front of the thousands of workers.

Iqbal also explained that the form of the convention would be different because they had not yet officially selected their presidential candidate. The format would be a public lecture, a nationalist speech or participating in giving a seminar. Iqbal said that the convention that would be attended by Ganjar would be held on October 16 at the Kartika Chandra Hotel in Jakarta.

Meanwhile, said Iqbal, Prabowo was still looking for time when he could attend the Labour Party convention. He added that he was sure that Prabowo would attend, although on a different date than Pranowo.

"It's likely, there's a good likelihood it will be before October 19, or at the latest it may be on October 28. We hope that it will be before October 25 due to the time limit on (the official registration) of presidential candidates", said Iqbal.

There are at least two important things about the changes in the Labour Party's choice of presidential candidates.

First, there is a possibility that the change in the candidates was not done democratically because the earlier national working meeting's choices were overturned by a representatives meeting. Second, the removal of Baswedan's name was related to an internal battle within the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI), leaving aside that Iqbal had earlier said that there had been interference by Baswedan's spokesperson Sudirman Said in the KSPI and the Indonesian Metal Trade Workers Federation (FSPMI).

Iqbal's push for the Labour Party to support Subianto seems to be growing stronger. Prabowo delivered a special pantun (old style poetry of four lines each) for the Labour Party during the 25th anniversary of the Crescent Star Party (PBB) which was attended by a number of party representatives, including from the Labour Party.

“This is a pantun for everyone. One two blue cempaka [a type of flower or gem], three four in the pot. Even if you can get a new friend, don't forget your old friends. It's clear where the (pantun) is addressed", said Prabowo at the Indonesian Convention Exhibition (ICE BSD) in Tangerang, Banten province, on Sunday July 30.

After reading out the pantun, Prabowo then looked in the direction of the Labour Party representatives that were present. He then asked them to pass on his greetings to Iqbal, who was previously the president of the KSPI.

A labour or people's political organisation should indeed prioritise democracy, including deliberating over or jointly discussing then deciding on a position to take on an issue or problem. This is because an organisation that pledged itself to be involved in the democratic struggle of the people, does of course not just take up the democratic demands of the people but also reflects and even upholds democracy in the course of its daily organisation.

But it needs to be remembered that democracy for labor and people's organisations is not just vote counting or the majority verses minority of votes. There are basic principles or elements that must always be prioritised ahead of the issue of polling or voting. Whether they be based on the principles and programs of the organisation or based on humanitarian values, nationality and the ordinary people in general.

An anti-imperialist organisation would never vote on whether its members support Palestine or Israel, because it is already clear that one is the victim of colonialism and one is the coloniser. A foundation or human rights organisation would also never conduct a ballot on who should be given an award for their commitment to the struggle for human rights and then instead put human rights violators on its list of chosen candidates.

So likewise, a labour or people's organisations should also prioritise the principles, interests, even its program of struggle, then deliberate whether or not the list of registered presidential and vice presidential candidates is in line with this, and if there is who they are, or instead whether they are in fact against this or even on the side of the oppressors of workers and the ordinary people.

We, and I am sure also the leftist comrades in the Labour Party, would never agree to the Labour Party supporting Prabowo Subianto as their presidential candidate. Prabowo was part of the New Order military dictatorship of former president Suharto, a regime that took power by destroying the labour movement and championing the politics of cheap labour. He also played a role in the New Order's oppression as well as the abduction and disappearance of pro-democracy activists in 1997-98 who were fighting to abolish the Suharto dictatorship. His infamous actions were done to defend the military dictatorship.

Pranowo meanwhile has consistently sided with extractive capitalist camp which has destroyed the environment and forcibly displaced communities, while Baswedan never hesitated to use reactionary Islamic groups, racism and identity politics to win the Jakarta gubernatorial election 2017.

In general, workers and the ordinary people cannot support a presidential candidate from the political elite. We have already seen how they ruled during the 32 years of the New Order military regime and the 25 years of the regimes that have been in power post reformasi – the political reform process that began in 1998. Power and wealth circulate around the generals, bureaucrats and conglomerates while poverty and misery are suffered by workers and the ordinary people.

Comrades in the left wing of the Labour Party must act immediately! The less consolidated they are, the smaller they are, then it will not be the Labour Party that moves to the left, but instead the comrades themselves that will be drawn into the centre or even to the right.

Leftist comrades in the Labour Party seem to understand this well. Within the red trade unions that exist inside the Labour Party, the majority of their members actually support members of the political elite as presidential candidates, while a minority supports their own leaders.

In order to push the struggle forward, those who feel they are part of the left-wing in the Labour Party must, first, consolidate themselves around a new political manifesto that is clearer and better reflects the struggle of the working class.

Such a political manifesto should at least contain a program to fight for and promote the extension of democratic and human rights. Fight for the rights of trade unions and civil freedoms. The abolition of all legal instruments that are anti-democratic. Including also fighting those who obstruct democracy. Justice and rehabilitation for victims of rights abuses through human rights courts established to try and convict all of the generals, government officials and conglomerates that have committed humanitarian crimes.

This rehabilitation should include the ideas of Marxism, Leninism and communism, where were scapegoated by the New Order regime during the 1965 mass killings that heralded in the Suharto dictatorship. Secularisation that separates religion from the state and the government. As well as guarantees of freedom (or the choice not to) of religion, beliefs and worship for all Indonesians. Supporting the demands of farmers fighting against land grabs and genuine agrarian reform, namely the right to work the land.

Building a left-wing block with a more advanced political manifesto will become a basis for organisation, campaigning and consolidation, as well as having a far clearer position on rejecting the two main presidential candidates being considered by the Labour Party, namely Pranowo and Prabowo.

Such a political manifesto must also become the basis for mass radicalisation. This is a very important issue because only through mass radicalisation can mass consciousness be raised and can limit the influence of the trade union bureaucratic elite.

Comrades who are truly progressive, committed, not opportunist, pro-human rights and the ordinary people in the Labour Party, will not only damage their own credibility if they take part in choosing a candidate from remnants of the Suharto dictatorship, human rights violators, supporters of the anti-worker Omnibus Law on Job Creation and the elite oligarchy, but will also pursue a road that goes against the direction of struggle by workers and the ordinary people.

Hold firm to your convictions and beliefs in fighting with workers and the people, not with human rights violators and the elite oligarchy.

-- Dipo Negoro is a leading member of the Socialist Union (Perserikatan Sosialis, PS).

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Apa Yang Harus Dilakukan oleh Sayap Kiri Partai Buruh Saat Ini?".]

Source: https://www.arahjuang.com/2023/10/25/apa-yang-harus-dilakukan-oleh-sayap-kiri-partai-buruh-saat-ini/