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The rise of class struggle in Cikarang

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More workers are taking action in Indonesia as anger with the government's policies and economic problems grows, reports Leon Reiza

Hundreds of thousands of workers in the industrial area Cikarang, West Java, went on mass strike on 26 January. They blockaded the highway that connects Jakarta with other areas of the island, completely closing the main road for 8 hours. Even the smaller roads leading to Cikarang are blockaded by hundreds of thousands of workers who agreed not to work. Furthermore all access into the factory were closed down by the workers. Other factories in the region were also not operating due to strikes of workers demanding decent minimum wages. They protested about their minimal salaries because bosses who are members of APINDO (The Employers’ Association of Indonesia) proposed a salary to local government without discussion and agreement with the unions. The businessman's association filed a suit to the West Java High Court which won, making the workers on strike illegal.

The minimum wage for workers is 2 million Indonesian dollars but later struck a deal with the employers and the government so that their salary is divided into several groups, namely for a minimum wage of 1.491 million, 1.715 million of group 2, group 1 of 1,849,000 - clearly an unfair deal for the workers.

These protests revive the class struggle in Indonesia that since 1965 has been in a lull dull to Suharto’s crackdown. Militant action of the workers is a first step for class uprising against the bourgeoisie and capitalism. The labor movement has indirectly encouraged the social movements that in Indonesia were slowly weakening. This is due to the disintegration of the left, pro-democracy activists and left-nationalist as well as many figures as Budiman Sudjatmiko movement (former founder of the PRD) and Dita Sari who have entered into the core of the corrupt system. While Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government tends to favour a more neo-liberal doctrine of investment, free markets, and allowing free access for capitalists of all countries to enter the Indonesian market. Agreement on free trade with various countries and in world trade bodies, in the form of regional or bi-national agreements, with China, USA, Japan, South Korea, Europe, has made Indonesia a potential market for the production for the needs of global capitalism. This is done in collaboration with national capitalists who open factories paying only very low-wage wages.

But the economic crisis experienced by the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, Indonesia's largest export markets, has caused demand for goods made from these countries to dry up. Despite this the capitalists and government haven’t done badly as they are able to pass on much of the demand hit to the working class through keeping wages low and the contract labor system and inadequate pensions. The government of Indonesia clearly favours the interests of employers rather than the interests of workers themselves, and this stark reality provides a momentum for the working class to struggle. The conditions of workers in the industrial area Cikarang is similar to workers all over the semi-colonial world who during the current crisis must exert its power in order to survive. While the crisis experienced by the capitalists has been passed on to the worker it has increased inequality between the classes.

For Indonesia the Cikarang workers' struggle is not the only sign that the class struggle has begun, as the social movements are at the same time fighting a war against the regime of SBY. An insurgency started in Mesuji, Lampung when farmers had been killed in their conflict with the big companies who were taking over the land to grow palm oil. Another insurgency in Bima, Nusa Tenggara was caused by police gunning down demonstrators, killing three, at a rally of thousands of people in the province that had occupied the port of to ask for a mining company to close down. This is a sign that the class struggle against the government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has begun, because after the fall of Suharto the country has still not been able to drop the system he left behind, the conglomerates are still allowed to be supported Suharto, Suharto supporters of political parties are still allowed to exist, and Suharto’s anti-left legislation still exists. So until now desperately needed fundamental changes has not occurred, therefore we needs to strengthen the movement’s demands to fight increasingly to overthrow the existing system.

For that the social movement in Indonesia has to struggle together farmers, students, workers, women, national liberation movements with the main demand of the nationalisation of all investor-owned companies under the full control of the workers and to immediately consolidate operations under the control of the working class to prepare change agenda for the realization of socialism in Indonesia. Workers united cannot be defeated!