Organizer and Chair: R. William Liddle, Ohio State University
Discussant: Rizal Mallarangeng, Ohio State University
In the last thirty years, Indonesian society has changed in profound ways. Economic development has produced a new pattern of class stratification, with rapidly expanding upper, middle, and working classes, especially in urban areas and in western Indonesia. Culturally, there has been a strong shift toward religious piety, most visibly among middle and upper class Muslims. The New Order, a military regime founded in 1966, has played a central role in producing these changes, but itself has changed very little. President Soeharto still rules primarily through his base in the army.
In the 1990s, actuarial reality is combining with social structural and cultural changes to produce significant new pressure on the regime. President Soeharto is 74 years old. New political organizations, based on class, religion, and region, are forming. New international circumstances and forces are also playing a role.
This panel will examine the political significance of Indonesia's changing social structure and culture. One paper will focus directly on changes taking place in the Indonesian army, which will almost certainly be the most powerful political organization in the immediate post-Soeharto period. Three other papers look at various combinations of state-society relations: the growth of an independent labor movement from below; the differential responses of the Soeharto government to demands from labor and Islamic groups; and the changing relationship between the central government and regional groups.
Armed Forces and Society in the 1990s
Salim Said, Jakarta Arts Council
This paper examines the current political position and characteristics of the Indonesian armed forces, in the context of their historical development and the coming challenge of the presidential succession.
Despite the appearance of military rule, Indonesia has been controlled by President Soeharto since 1966. Soeharto was the most senior army general who resisted the attempted communist coup in October 1965. He was then appointed armed forces commander, and used that power to destroy the communists and to depose President Soekarno. Following the demise of the communist party, the military was the strongest political organization in the country. In his early days as president, Soeharto reorganized and depoliticized the armed forces.
Today, Indonesia is approaching a crisis. At 74, Soeharto is near the end of his presidency, and a smooth transition seems doubtful. Within society, thirty years of development have produced polarization marked by a small number of rich families and a radicalized intelligentsia. The middle class is neither large nor well organized. Within the state, the military as an organization has become less and less politically sophisticated, and appears unprepared to take power.
How are officers and other concerned Indonesians responding to this situation? This paper will describe the ideas and activities of several groups within the armed forces that are attempting to avoid the possibility of political chaos in the post-Soeharto era.
Soeharto's Political Strategy in the 1990s: A Comparison of Labor and Religious
R. William Liddle, Ohio State University; Blair A. King, Ohio State University
Since the late 1980s two groups of Indonesians, devout modernist Muslims and industrial workers, have made increasing demands on government. President Soeharto has accepted many Muslim demands and permitted the formation of a new quasi-political organization, ICMI (Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals). Toward industrial workers, however, Soeharto has been more repressive. The leaders of a new independent labor union, SBSI (Indonesian Prosperous Labor Union), have been jailed and their organization denied legal registration.
What explains these diametrically opposed approaches toward two groups who, in government iconology, have long represented the extreme right and left poles of the political spectrum? Our paper will try to uncover the political logic behind Soeharto's differential treatment.
Our working hypothesis stresses "political positioning." Modernist Muslim activists successfully positioned themselves between previously co-opted Islamic politicians who lack legitimacy in the community and dissident Muslims who are implacable opponents of the government. Labor politics, on the other hand, has no center. It is polarized between the long co-opted leaders of the corporatist state union SPSI (All-Indonesian Workers' Union) and the independent leaders of SBSI who are supported by workers but are believed by the government to be plotting its overthrow. The paper will conclude that unless labor activists can position themselves nearer to the center, between the co-opted and the intransigent, the government's differential approach toward working class and Muslim political demands will continue.
The Rise of Indonesian Labor
Bama Athreya, University of Michigan
Why did the number of strikes and other forms of labor unrest in Indonesia increase so dramatically in the early 1990s? Examination of economic factors and top-down political changes, while accounting for increased employment in manufacturing and the overall political liberalization which facilitated rising labor activity, fail to address the question of why workers themselves choose to strike. This paper attempts to elucidate this question by providing an in-depth anthropological field study of strikes and protests at two factories in West Jakarta in 1991 and 1992.
Extended interviews with workers involved in the strikes reveal that, while "class consciousness" had existed for years, no thought of protest occurred. What pushes people from grumbling and foot-dragging to formal, organized activity? I argue that from the workers' point of view, the situation in the early 1990s was subtly and significantly altered by the symbolic wherewithal provided by the emergence of several new labor groups and NGOs, most relevantly, Setiakawan, or Serikat Buruh Merdeka. Although the groups' memberships were small and their direct influence limited, their existence, coupled with news of successful strikes elsewhere in Jakarta, served as the spark needed to ignite the already smouldering discontent in these two cases.
The paper will document workers' reports of rising awareness of their rights, their individual decisions to participate in or lead the activities, the events themselves and the subsequent shift in the workers' perception of their own power and relevance to the Indonesian polity.
The Impact of the New Order on Center-Region Relations: An Interregional
Michael Malley, University of Wisconsin
Until the early 1960s, Indonesia suffered regional rebellions from Aceh to Maluku. The issues at stake were ethnic, political, military, and economic, and generally coincided with a division between Java and all other regions. The rebellions were ended primarily by military force rather than political bargaining, and when the military-led New Order took power a few years later, it ensured that the trend begun under Sukarno toward greater centralization of political, military, and administrative control over the country's regions continued. Of all the regions that revolted during that period, only one (Aceh) has ever produced another rebellion. The lack of open conflict since then suggests that old issues that produced regional conflict have been reduced to insignificance and that new ones have not emerged.
This paper examines the impact on center-region relations of the political and economic restructuring effected under the New Order. On the basis of an interregional comparison, it finds that although regionally mobilized interests are not currently major forces in Indonesian politics, the issues that underlay regional demands in the past have not disappeared, though they may have been reshaped, and new ones have emerged. Regional leaders express dissatisfaction with economic policy that favors Java-based industry and with administrative centralization that allows regions little policymaking autonomy. This paper concludes that regional differences are unlikely to lead to renewed 1950s style conflict, but that under a more open political system they would become important influences in national politics.