From Giovanni Arrighi’s The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of our Times (1994):
On the other hand, the superiority of force and the capitalist accumulation of capital seemed to diverge geopolitically as never before. The decline of Soviet power was matched by the emergence of what Bruce Cumings (1993:25-6) has aptly called the ‘capitalist archipelago’ of East and Southeast Asia. This archipelago consists of several ‘islands’ of capitalism, which rise above the ‘sea’ of horizontal exchanges among local and world markets through the centralization within their domains of large-scale profits and high value-added activities. Below this sea lie the huge, low-cost, and highly industrious laboring masses of the entire East and Southeast Asian regions, into which the capitalist ‘islands’ thrust their roots but without providing them with the means needed to rise to or above ‘sea level.’ (p. 23)
An update on the situation at Freeport’s Grasberg mine in Papua, from Reuters:
Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc said on Saturday that rockfalls were hampering rescue efforts after a tunnel collapse four days ago at its giant Indonesian copper mine, with hopes fading of finding alive any of the 23 still missing.
Freeport closed the world’s second largest copper mine on Wednesday, a day after a tunnel fell in on 38 workers undergoing training. Five are known to have died. Several of the 10 rescued are still in hospital.
The Grasberg mine in West Papua is in one of the most remote regions of the Indonesian archipelago.
“We continue to carry out these (rescue) efforts non-stop, 24 hours a day as quickly as can be done safely to do everything possible to save lives, but as more time passes the possibility of there being any survivors becomes less likely,” Freeport Indonesia’s Mine General Manager, Nurhadi Sabirin, who heads the emergency response team, said in a statement.
And what has been labor’s response? The same Reuters article had this quote from union leader Virgo Solossa: “All operational activities, including production activities, have to be stopped during the investigation process…We think that the accident has been caused by the company’s carelessness. This has to be investigated.” Additionally, AP reports that workers continue to block a main road in an attempt to stop production at the mine:
Around 1,000 workers are still blocking a main road about two miles (three kilometers) from the accident site in solidarity with the victims, and also to seek a guarantee of safety in working underground.
Ronald Waromi, an action organizer, said they also wanted to make sure that mining activities would continue to be halted so the company would focus on rescue efforts.
From The Jakarta Post:
Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar admitted that poor monitoring played a significant role behind the so-called slave factory in Tangerang, Banten.
“There are so many factories with less than 100 workers and they are very difficult to monitor particularly when operations are covered-up and hidden in neighborhoods like the one in Tangerang,” Muhaimin said at the State Palace recently.
Here’s Al Jazeera’s report on the slavery case in Tangerang:
The Chief Editor of The Jakarta Post, Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, has an interesting op-ed on the role of the middle class in contemporary politics, titled “When the Middle Class Opts Out, The Poor Get Shut Out.” I would recommend the full article, but here is the conclusion, which captures the essence of the argument:
Indonesia’s middle class is the country’s most dynamic political and economic entity. But its members are increasingly indifferent to reform.
If this trend to “opt out” of basic services continues, reforms will stumble and Indonesia will experience even more disproportionate modernization and increased economic segregation.
The problem is that as the income of the nation’s middle class rises, its members become self assured, preferring to resolve societal and development problems alone through their increased purchasing power. While they have empathy for the poor, members of the middle class have a weaker sense of what it means to be a citizen, feeling no obligation to the state, which they see as inept or a hindrance.
The danger is that people in the middle class no longer see political activism and social reform as an ethical obligation, but as an intellectual hobby for the few.
If those who can propel change refuse to — and if the bureaucracy proves unwilling to — then what hope is there for the underclass, other than wallowing in decay as others grow wealthy?