By Max Lane
On 22 July, more than 300 people gathered in Jakarta to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Democratic Party (PRD).
Keynote speakers were Dita Sari and Yusuf Lakaseng, the current chairperson of the PRD's central leadership council.
Dita Sari reminded people: "One decade ago was the age of dictatorship by a military and crony capitalist elite that buried the people's political freedoms. This was the 'New Order', which came to power over the corpses of one million left-thinking human beings, as well as exile, torture and the suppression of left progressive ideas and movements. The revival of the movement under the dictatorship required real strength, courage, consistency and skill by those trying to defeat the dictatorship. So the student activists left their ivory towers, to study politics and how to struggle with the people, with the workers and farmers."
She described how 1994 was a time of class struggle by workers and peasants with large strikes and land occupations. The PRD and the broader democratic movement, grew. In 1996, another round of demonstrations and protests erupted.
In this red-hot atmosphere, riots broke out and the regime blamed the PRD. Several party leaders and activists were arrested and the party was in effect banned. It continued underground and throughout 1997 agitated around its main demands: "Overthrow Suharto! Repeal the five political laws! End the dual function [political role] of the military! A referendum for the East Timorese people!"
Lakaseng assessed the current situation, pointing to the bankruptcy of the choice offered in the current presidential election: "Neither of the candidates entering the second round are worthy of support. Retired four-star general Yudhoyono was the brains behind the military operations in Aceh and West Papua, resulting in the deaths of many civilians. Incumbent president Megawati Sukarnoputri has wasted money on buying military equipment, pushed forward militaristic legislation, has done nothing for the welfare of the people, and has been a servant of international capital."
Lakaseng warned: "There is no point in humouring ourselves and avoiding the reality that this is a heavy task, but in the end there is no other road forward than an open struggle for socialism."
* Abridged from Green Left Weekly 28 July. http://www.greenleft.org.au. Max Lane is chairperson of Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific.