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?
The workers from PT Kizone have reached a settlement with Adidas after their factory closed over two years ago without providing workers with legally mandated severance pay. The details of the settlement are confidential, but United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) declared it a “victory.”
From the USAS website:
In hard-fought victory, students and workers have forced German sportswear giant Adidas to compensate 2,700 former Indonesian garment workers who produced collegiate apparel at PT Kizone, an Adidas supplier factory that closed down over two years ago. While the contents of the agreement remain confidential, the PT Kizone workers’ press release stated that “the former workers will receive a substantial sum from Adidas” and the settlement will resolve a powerful international campaign over Adidas’s prior refusal to pay $1.8 million in unpaid severance pay following the closure of PT Kizone.
Ths agreement builds on the historic precedent that USAS activists set with Nike in 2010 when the brand was forced to pay two million dollars in legally owed severance pay to 1,800 former Honduran garment workers.
“For years, workers in the global apparel industry have routinely been robbed of their legally mandated severance pay when factories close. With today’s announcement, students and workers have established a new norm in the global garment industry; the two largest sportswear brands in the world have both acknowledged that they can no longer walk away when their contractors deprive workers of money they have legally earned,” said Lingran Kong, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For previous posts on PT Kizone, go here.
From Benedict Anderson’s very recent piece, “Impunity and Reenactment: Reflections on the 1965 Massacre in Indonesia and its Legacy“:
The other crucial development came from the mess created by President Sukarno’s rash decision in December 1957 to nationalize all Dutch enterprises in retaliation for The Hague’s constant refusal to settle diplomatically the conflict over Western Papua, which was supposed to have been solved early in the 1950s. Takeovers were initiated by unions affiliated with the PKI’s secular rival, the PNI, but the communists quickly joined in. Not for long. The Army High Command used its emergency powers to take control of all the nationalized enterprises, claiming that they were vital assets for the nation. For the first time in its history the military obtained vast economic and financial resources, especially plantations, mines, trading companies, utilities, banks, and so forth. Needless to say, strikes were forbidden in all these sectors. Since these sectors, owned hitherto by foreigners, were those where leftist and nationalist unions had had the greatest freedom, the military had to develop an effective corporatist counterforce. In partial imitation of the PKI’s SOBSI, a nationwide federation of its affiliated unions, the army created SOKSI. Its name indicated the intentions of its creators. K stood for karyawan, a corporatist neologism for ‘functionary,’ aw its membership included everyone – management, office staff and white-collar workers, as well as labour. One could think of SOKSI as an agglomeration of ‘company’ unions. Thus the B in SOBSI, standing for Buruh (labour), was to be eliminated.
From United Students Against Sweatshops: Go here for more information on the PT Kizone campaign.