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Communist Symbolism, Debates Spring Up on Social Media and Streets in Indonesia

Jakarta Globe Thu May 12, 2016


JAKARTA, Indonesia: . More than 50 years after the 1965 anti-communist purge, Indonesia has seen a reemergence of communist symbolism and debate through social media, pushing authorities to take serious action in preventing the propagation of communist ideas in the country. 

The National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said law enforcers are aware of the growing phenomenon and reminded the public that anyone found propagating the forbidden ideology — communism, marxism and leninism — by law could face a maximum 12-years imprisonment sentence.

He called on Indonesian citizens not to forward any communist propagation materials to others.


Communism has not just become a hot topic in the local social media recently, which has triggered some serious debate among netizens, but has also led to some arrests of merchandisers found selling attributes like clothing and toys resembling communist symbols.

The banning and disbanding of events hosted by education and media institutions which discuss issues related to communism has left many on social media wondering if authorities are overreacting.

Student dialogues and even documentary film screening have been the victims of such worries by the authorities and even non-government organizations proclaiming themselves to be the guardian of Indonesia’s philosophical foundation of Pancasila.

On Wednesday, members of the radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) disbanded a “Sekolah Marx” or “School of Marx” event hosted by the Student Press Association of Daunjati Institut Seni Budaya Indonesia (ISBI) in Bandung, West Java.

The incident was triggered by a discussion with the theme “Understanding Arts Through Karl Marx’s Mind,” during which an FPI member involved in the debate shouted “the unitary state of the Indonesian republic is a dead price,” according to local media reports.

Last week, police raided a house party celebrating World Press Freedom Day at the Alliance of Independent Journalists, or AJI, office in Yogyakarta, as the party was to be followed by a screening of a documentary film on exiled communist writers.

Negotiations for proceeding with the party turned ugly with more threats coming after members of the so-called Children of Military and Police Veterans Forum (FKPPI) arrived at the AJI office and began shouting slogans and dispersing the crowd.

No arrests were made during either incident.

Last year, a group of civic organization members assaulted a motorist for wearing a communist pin and received death threats — while police officers stood by without intervening.

Wednesday’s Bandung incident caught the attention of Bandung mayor Ridwan Kamil who condemned FPI’s disruption in an educational discussion.

“That’s not allowed [disbandment]. It’s a campus. It’s not any different from other ideologies. I too learned about Marx, Manuel Castels and the like,” he said in his tweet.

Ulil Abshar Abdalla, the founder of the Liberal Islam Network, disputed the idea that communism is on the rise in Indonesia.

“It’s impossible for communist forces to rise in Indonesia. The hammer-and-sickle symbol is simply a fashion statement,” he tweeted.






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