Archive article from The Socialist Issue 273
Indonesia: Terrorism And State Terrorism
THE BOMBING of a tourist area on the Indonesian island of Bali has been blamed by Western governments on the Jemaah Islamiah Islamic group with links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida terrorist network.
This group operates throughout south east Asia and aims to set up an Islamic state to include parts of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. In June an al-Qa'ida operative was arrested in Indonesia and placed in US custody.
Indonesia with its long-simmering national conflicts and ethnic divisions (fuelled by elements of the ruling class who have seen a decline in their power since the fall of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998 and are trying to provoke a new military takeover), has long been the target of pan-Asian Islamists.
In particular they have targeted the current weak capitalist government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri, the female head of the world's most populous Muslim country, and an ally of US imperialism. Megawati's increasing use of repression has failed to halt the growth of these groups.
Clearly, by targeting the holiday island of Bali one of their aims is to cripple the foreign exchange earnings of the debt-laden and recession-hit archipelago state. Only recently the US agreed to reschedule $500 million of Indonesia's debts, part of the growing tie-up between Indonesia's armed forces and the US military.
The Western media have referred to the Bali bombing as the 'worse terrorist event in Indonesia's history'. But as horrific as it was, it shouldn't obscure the fact that secessionist violence in the troubled energy region of Aceh (the oil and gas fields are largely owned by Exxon Mobil) has already claimed 800 lives so far this year and some 10,000 during the last 20 years.
Elements of the army are clearly involved in fomenting this violence; often training ethnic or religious based militias to wage communalist pogroms or secessionist struggles in order to pressure the central state to concede more power to the military to put down such movements.
Sometimes the local military some engage in banditry. Recently, several soldiers were cashiered out of the armed forces after their drug smuggling operation led to a gunfight with police.
Moreover, the 32 year dictatorship of the Suharto clique backed by the US, Britain and Australian governments was responsible for the brutal suppression of the Indonesian Communist Party, trade unionist and other opponents in the 1960s. Some estimates claim a death toll of over 1 million during this period.
In the recent past the world has also witnessed the slaughter of over 200,000 East Timorese (one-third of the population) by the Indonesian army and Indonesian backed militias. During these bloody days before independence in 1999 Tony Blair's government allowed the sale of Hawk jet fighters and machine guns to Indonesia, despite Labour's "ethical" foreign policy and despite these known atrocities.
Last year the Indonesian Parliament sacked their ailing and corrupt President Abdurrahman Wahid and replaced him with vice-president Megawatti. However, secessionist wars have continued and poverty is widespread and growing.
The struggles by workers and students in overthrowing the Suharto dictatorship have been betrayed by the capitalist ruling parties. Megawatti's neo-liberal policies have increased the exploitation of workers while attacking their limited democratic rights.
Shadowy armed forces linked to the state have attacked workers' organisations. Indonesia's 'democracy' has a limited shelf-life under capitalism.
However, a new united struggle by the working-class against these reactionary forces and the government could speed the development of a mass socialist alternative to all the pro-market parties and capitalism as a whole.