Department of History and Politics - Faculty of Arts


This thesis presents an analysis of the course of political developments between 1960 and 2001 arguing that the determining factor at key conjunctures was class struggle, as manifested in the mass mobilisation of Indonesia’s popular classes: the proletariat, semi-proletariat and pauperized petty bourgeoisie, (the latter including the peasants). The thesis deploys classical Marxist concepts, in their connections to some of Indonesia’s political thinkers, especially Soekarno. It critiques some of the major in-depth (book length) struggles on political developments during this period as negating or downplaying the class factor, and in particular class struggle and mass mobilisation, in their studies.

The thesis argues that it has been the nature of two crisis caused by the escalation of mass mobilisation of the popular classes against a ruling class and its political elite, and the nature of the resolution of these two crisis, that best explains what happens at two key conjunctures in modern Indonesian history, 1965 and 1998. In 1965 the sharpening polarization between two visions of Indonesia was resolved with mass repression and the emergence of the New Order regime. The thesis examines how the political activity one side of this polarization was increasingly manifested in mass mobilisation and how the new regime was structured to permanently end all mass mobilisation activity. The thesis examines the nature of the crisis, namely an impending threat of the forces of the mass mobilisation winning power.

The thesis later examines the process whereby mass mobilisation politics in the period 1989-1998, re-asserted itself, through the agency of a small initiating political group, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, and through the increasing involvement of more and more elements from the popular classes. A part of the examination presents the analysis that the content of class struggle for this period, in the aftermath of the radical suppression of mass mobilisation, was the struggle of the popular classes to reassert a right to mobilize. The thesis then examines the nature of crisis caused by the escalating mass mobilisation of this period, especially as it climaxes between 1996 and 1998.

Through an examination of the reasons for the inability of the political movement based on mass mobilisation to win power and its inability to sustain further escalation between 1998 and 2001, the thesis attempts to locate political weaknesses of the mass mobilisation politics that emerged in the 1990s, identifying in particular its weak ideological activity and dependence on alliance with dissident elements from within the ruling class and its elite.

The conclusion sums up these arguments as well as looks at possible future trends and the research agendas that would be needed to pursue this kind of approach in regard to future developments.

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