Agus Rakasiwi – The 1998 reform movement finished the task of removing Suharto from the Indonesian presidency. But have Indonesia’s problems now ended?
Social activists, including students in Indonesia, have in fact long dreamed about “another world” aside from the capitalist system. After the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s and China was transformed into the new capitalist power in East Asia, a conceptual illustration that struggled for the poor was also lost to the world.
Actually, strategies to seek “another world” have already been tried throughout the world, including in Indonesia, in the form of various alternative models of reform against the enemy called neoliberalism. These have emerged because neoliberalism has given birth to a global community that shares the same things: the same suffering, poverty, backwardness and dependency that is a consequence of domination by the western capital powers.
Over this last decade, names such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez have already become icons in the Latin American region. Castro has long been a Latin American icon who has frequently rebelled against the power of the US.
Castro as the president of Cuba and Chavez as the holder of power in Venezuela are not just icons that were simply elected by their people. Social activists in Indonesia have also begun to look to the repercussions of the struggle and idealism demonstrated these leaders.
But what have these two names actually done, or are doing within the constellation of our world right now? “Many people don’t know because most of the mainstream mass media doesn’t write about their achievements in fighting America and other neoliberal forces”, said Zely Ariane, a student activist who once studied International Relations at the Padjadjaran University in Bandung.
The idea of campaigning around this then crystallized into the formation of an organisation. As it turned out, the groups that initiated this included among others the Institute for the Liberation of Media and Social Science (LPMIS), the Institute for Global Justice (IGJ), the National Student League for Democracy (LMND) and other individuals that have put together a blog about Latin America.
The blog http://amerikalatin.blogspot.com represents part of the campaign for “another world”. The blog is under the umbrella of a non-profit community called Indonesian Student Solidarity for an Alternative Latin America (Solidaritas Rakyat Indonesia untuk Alternatif Amerika Latin, Serial). Zely Ariane is the coordinator of the group.
Not long ago in Jakarta, Kampus had an opportunity to speak with Zely about Serial’s activities in Indonesia. Starting with a general question about what the importance is of studying the conditions in another country rather than one’s own country.
Kampus: How was Serial initially formed?
Zely: The idea of forming Serial emerged within a backdrop of the myth that an economic system outside the existing capitalism system a the moment cannot possibly happen. Serial has been active since 2006. Initially it was through discussions with various foundations and individuals about alternative reforms.
Prior to this, I also had an opportunity to visit Venezuela to attend the Youth Festival (2004) and an invitation from the Venezuelan parliament (2005). I brought back the discourse developing in Venezuela to forums and meetings here.
After Serial was formed, our target was to conduct campaigns about the social developments that are taking place in Latin America society. One of these are students because they are the group that has had the time to undertake studies and discussion about the issue. But, we are not just a data provider.
Initially, it was indeed difficult to conduct this campaign because much of the material was still in Spanish and some also in English. In order that the campaign would succeed, a lot of material was translated into Indonesian. One important thing was that we wanted to have an interactive communication with students, academics and other intellectuals. Additional and valid information could assist this campaign.
Serial doesn’t just present materials in the form of text. But also in form of films, such as The Revolution Will Not be Televised and Los Pobres Del la Tierra (Together With the World’s Poor).
There is a blockade of information and lack of objectivity about the discourse, thinking and alternative paradigms in Latin America – particularly about Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia – by the mass media that dominates the international news, which seriously inhibits the spread of alternative discourse in this country.
Kampus: Venezuela is seen as a rebel in the Latin American region, and along with Cuba many lay people know that these two countries are also poorer than Indonesia. So what is there to campaign about?
Zely: When I traveled through Venezuela, poor people did indeed still exist. There were several developments that were underway. But when you get into the education, housing and healthcare program, only then can you see the meaning of their struggle.
In Venezuela, an average of no less than 2 billion dollars US per year (in 2006 this even reached 4.5 billion dollars, around 40.5 trillion rupiah) is allocated by the government (from oil profits as well as National Development Funds or FUNDEN) for social programs (such as education, healthcare, housing, credit and job training). Housing is free in the country, an not built from cheap materials.
The state has also designated a new program called the Ciencia Mission (science) with other programs that are currently running, which include among others the provision of free software and a basic level of computerisation in all primary schools.
Other Latin American countries are also starting to look into what is being done in Venezuela. And, their concept is actually to besiege the United States. Uniquely, the inter-country cooperation is not being built to pursue profits, but to assist poor countries. For example, Venezuela is exporting oil at 12 dollars US per barrel to Cuba. Cuba however doesn’t need to pay any money but sends doctors to Venezuela instead.
Kampus: How then does this become an important issue for Indonesia? Do we not also still have unfinished homework, studying our own history and formulating reform based on our own country?
Zely: Serial is still studying the history of our own country. This campaign is like study materials for activists and those that are thinking about social change. Essentially, that resisting the global powers that be is possible and has been proven so in Latin America.
The campaign is also a part of fighting the views of our elite, who often draw careless conclusions. For example, Chavez is said to be a military figure who leads without democracy but with prosperity. Whereas what happened, is there they have taken up a democracy referred to as participatory democracy.
Referring to Chavez as undemocratic is something that is quite normal, because many in our military want to return to power. Because of this the presence of a community such as is important this to fight against issues that contradict what is actually taking place there.
We are using these ideas about reforms to push the government. At least wanting to build cooperation with Venezuela, although of course this would require having to fight the United States. And, Venezuela itself has actually not yet looked at the importance of Indonesia.
Kampus: Could these methods be applied directly in Indonesia?
Zely: Of course not. We have a different culture, a different history and a different political outlook. But we are similar to them in terms of poverty resulting from neoliberalism and the control of state assets by foreign capital.
[Zely Ariane is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) and the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas). She is also active with the women’s organisation Perempuan Mahardhika. Kampus (Campus) is a column published once a week by the Bandung based Pikiran Rakyat newspaper. Translated by James Balowski.]