IULP condemns Indonesia’s criminalization of Marxism

It is deeply concerning that the current government of Indonesia would reject rich heritage in favor of a dictatorship’s falsified version of history.

On 6 December 2022, the Indonesian parliament passed a new criminal code. There is much to debate about this code, including the violations of the rights to equality before the law and equal protection as well as the right to privacy and the right to freedom of speech and association.

One aspect of the law that has received little concern is the section of the law that specifically outlaws Marxism with a ten-year sentence for being associated with organizations with a Marxist tendency and a four-year sentence for spreading Marxism. It is unfortunate that Marxism-phobia, a legacy of the worst period of the Soeharto dictatorship (1965-1998), is upheld by a government that is the beneficiary of the people’s movement that overthrew that dictatorship.

Marxism has deep roots in Indonesia’s fight against colonialism, having inspired the leading figures in the freedom struggle. Dr. Mohammed Hatta, Indonesia’s first vice president, translated parts of Karl Marx’s Das Kaptial into Bahasa Indonesian. Soewardi – creator of Indonesia’s National Education – translated the lyrics of The Internationale, the anthem of the Paris Commune and of international communism. Can one imagine Indonesian freedom without the thought and work of Tan Malaka, an early communist, and can one imagine the early years of the Indonesian republic without the thinking of the first President Sukarno, whose philosophy melded Marxism, Nationalism, and Islam.

It is deeply concerning that the current government of Indonesia would reject this rich heritage in favor of the dictatorship’s falsified version of history. This new criminal code turns its back on Indonesia’s history in order to discipline the people of Indonesia today. It will be used to suffocate the civil society organisations and labor organisations, as well as independent publishers and scholars.

We, the International Union of Left Publishers, appeal to the Indonesian government to revise this code and uphold the fundamental rights enshrined in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (1976), of which Indonesia became a signatory in 2006.

13 December 2022.