Indonesian Labor History: SOBSI & SOKSI

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.

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