Indonesia: Thousands of Workers, Students & Environmentalists demonstrate against New Ombnibus Labour Law

For an Indefinite General Strike to Overthrow the Joko Widodo Regime!


Article by Laurence Humphries, RCIT Britain, 21 October 2020,


On the 5th October parliament in Indonesia rushed through a new Omnibus Law, which attacks the basic working conditions of workers by extending contracts, eliminating severance pay, reducing wages and cutting annual leave for all workers. It is being put forward by Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia, in attempt to attract foreign capital to the country which has suffered economically through the great depression and crisis of imperialism. It is an attempt by the Bourgeois capitalist regime to arrest the slide into debt. The Omnibus bill also will lead to deforestation and rape of the countryside. Foreign speculators and capitalists are being invited to cause untold damage to the environment. Local poor farmers will lose their rights and the environmental damage caused by this bill will lead to the rape of Indonesia’s natural resources.


Indonesia, the biggest economy in South East Asia, has many natural resources of tin, silver coal, natural gas and petroleum. They will be open to these foreign speculators and capitalists to exploit.


Demonstrations and Protests against the New Omnibus Bill


The response from the working class, students and environmentalists has been immediate social unrest. A revolutionary upsurge of opposition to the regime has been widespread involving protests in Jakarta, Java, Sumatra and throughout all the autonomous regions. This shows that the masses and the urban poor represent a new revolutionary development who want to oppose and destroy this law. It is not only workers and students, but there is also a petit-bourgeois layer who wants to defend the environment against this destruction of basic land resources. In the best sense of the word, it is a popular movement.


Together, over 1 million workers have engaged in strikes and social unrest against this omnibus bill and this regime which under the crisis of imperialism is taking on dictatorial powers.


Indonesian workers have launched protests in several cities to oppose the passage of a controversial new jobs law that the government says is vital to attract investment but critics view as too pro-business. Parliament passed into law President Joko Widodo’s “omnibus” Job Creation bill late on Monday, revising more than 70 existing laws to speed up economic reform and improve the investment climate in Southeast Asia’s largest economy. The new law removes the three-year maximum duration of contracts and cuts severance benefits, provisions the government said were intended to promote formal hiring.” [1]


More than a thousand protesters took to the streets of Medan, in North Sumatra on Thursday as tensions rose across Indonesia following the passage of a controversial “omnibus law” earlier this week that demonstrators fear will destroy jobs rather than create them.


Demonstrators clashed with riot police It is a climax of protest due to anger and frustration because parliament and the government do not listen to the people, the workers, the students and the social movements in Indonesia,” Damai Pakpahan, the country representative of Protection International, an NGO that defends human rights activists, told Al several locations across the city, as the authorities deployed tear gas and water cannon in an attempt to quell the unrest. Clashes also flared on the streets of the capital, Jakarta, as thousands marched across the archipelago.”[2]


These demonstrations and protests by workers, students and the urban poor show the pent-up anger of the working class and oppressed against the state apparatus and state violence. In spite of the Covid19-pandemic, many workers are confronting the violence and combatting it with throwing of rocks and burning of buildings. The police are using water cannon and tear gas to quell the demonstrations. This shows the insurrectionary nature of the fight back by demonstrators.


Revolutionary Movement Emerging in Indonesia


Clashes between rock-throwing demonstrators and riot police broke out near Jakarta’s presidential palace as police tried to disperse the protesters, including workers and high school and university students. Police fired tear gas at the protesters from several high schools and universities as they tried to approach the palace compound, turning roads into a smoke-filled battleground. The protesters hurled rocks and bottles. Similar clashes occurred in large cities all over the country, including Yogyakarta, Medan, Makassar, Manado and Bandung.


Organizers have called for a three-day national strike starting Tuesday demanding that the government revoke the legislation.


The Job Creation Law approved by Parliament on Monday is expected to substantially change Indonesia’s labor system and natural resources management. It amended 79 previous laws The demonstrators say the law will hurt workers by reducing severance pay, removing restrictions on manual labor by foreign workers, increasing the use of outsourcing, and converting monthly salaries to hourly wages.”[3]


Hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested and detained by the police. The capitalist state is clearly worried about these developments and is using the Covid19 restrictions to prevent protests and take away fundamental democratic rights. Joko Widodo was forced previously to retract a criminal code which banned relations between LGBTQI consenting adults and sexual relations outside of marriage. The heavy use of water cannon and tear gas by the police shows the move towards dictatorial and bonapartist powers attacking people who fight for their rights and demonstrate.


Hundreds of protesters have been detained after heated demonstrations swept across Indonesia in response to a law that weakens environmental protections and workers’ rights.


Labour unions have vowed to continue their protests until the government cancels the law, despite police warning that the demonstrations violate measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.


Clashes between police and protesters began on Tuesday night and continued throughout Wednesday, with teargas and water cannon used to break up demonstrations. Six protesters were reportedly in a critical condition in hospital. One legal aid group said nine detained protesters including a 16-year-old were beaten by police and told to drink from the same water bottle, despite the risk of Covid transmission. Police did not respond to a request for comment.


In the Javanese city of Semarang, protesters tore down the fence of the local parliament complex. In Bandung, groups set fire to tyres and threw rocks and petrol bombs at police. Thousands attempted to reach the Bandung parliament building but roads had been blocked.


A spokesperson for the National Union Confederation (KSN) said: “We are going to die because of the coronavirus or die because of the system. We don’t know how we will die. But we still can change the system. So we are going to march until we win.”[4]


Further developments taking place amongst the opposition to the Omnibus Labour Law is the support given by Islamic groups who have decided to march and support the protests against the Widodo regime. This is of the greatest importance because it is the hardline conservative Mullahs and likeminded parties who back and support Widodo.


Wearing white Islamic garb and waving red and white Indonesian flags, more than 1,000 protesters from Islamic and student groups gathered in the world’s most populous Muslim nation on Tuesday to show discontent over a divisive new jobs law. Conservative Islamic groups are among the latest to join the volatile street demonstrations, during which police fired tear gas on Tuesday to try to break up crowds, as pressure mounts on the government to repeal a law they say undermines labour rights and environmental protections.


The country’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, is among its opponents and says it favours conglomerates while “trampling” on the rights of working-class Indonesians.


Hamdan, a 53-year-old teacher who goes by one name, said he would keep protesting until the law was repealed.” [5]


For a Workers Government


The RCIT fully supports the revolutionary upsurge by the working class and the urban poor. We put forward these transitional demands to rid Indonesia of the Joko Widodo government, a bourgeois capitalist regime and to fight for Socialism. Indonesia has a revolutionary tradition since it removed their Dutch colonial masters and resisted Japanese imperialism during the Second World War. The spark has been lit and we urge workers, students and the revolutionary elements in petty-bourgeois classes to study our programme and have discussions with us on the way forward to revolution!


* Full support for the demonstrations and protests by workers students and environmentalists against the new Omnibus Labour Bill and full support for the demand of the Bill to be repealed!


* For an Indefinite General strike to overthrow Joko Widodo and his regime of bourgeois capitalists!


* Nationalize the Banks and Corporations under Workers Control and without compensation! Expropriate the big capitalist Landlords so the Land can be returned to the Landless Peasants!


* For a Revolutionary Constituent assembly of workers, students and all poor people from the autonomous provinces affected and threatened by this new Labour Law! For a programme of distribution of wealth, to end hunger, poverty and social inequality!


* For Armed Self-Defense Guards to Defend Workers, the Urban Poor and Students against Police Violence especially Defending the Masses against Water Cannon and Tear Gas!


* Defend Democratic Rights! No to Police Violence and Bonapartist Rule!


* For a Workers Government!


* For the building of a Revolutionary, Socialist International - the Fifth International!