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Evolution from Above: National Leadership and Local Development in Indonesia


Western evaluations of the prospects for economic development in Indonesia seem to have come full circle in the past twenty years. The initially positive appraisals of the immediate post-independence period, based on the extensiveness of untapped resources, the apparent commitment of Indonesian leaders to development within a framework of parliamentary institutions and “rational” planning, and the euphoric Zeitgeist produced by newly-won independence, were undermined first by the parliamentary instability of the mid-1950s and then by the continuing political instability and presumed economic irrationality of the Sukarno years. Deepening pessimism, having reached its nadir in 1963–65 when cracks in the Guided Democracy structure were most visible and the Indonesian Communist Party seemed to be moving inexorably toward full control of the polity, was gradually reversed after 1966, as the new army-backed regime of President Suharto began to consolidate itself and to declare its commitment to a Western-assisted process of economic development.

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1 The best accounts of the atmosphere at the time of the transfer of sovereignty, the subsequent problems of maintaining a constitutional democracy, and the period of Guided Democracy are respectively: Kahin George McT., Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1952); Feith Herbert, The Decline of Constitutional Democracy in Indonesia, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1962); and Feith Herbert, “The Dynamics of Guided Democracy,” in McVey Ruth, ed., Indonesia, (New Haven: Human Relations Area Files, 1963). An early positive appraisal of President Suharto's New Order is Guy Pauker, Indonesia: The Age of Reason?”, Asian Survey VIII, No. 2 (February, 1968). For a government statement, see Malik Adam, “Promise in Indonesia,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 46, No. 2 (January, 1968), 292303.

2The parallel between the colonial and New Order periods provides the main theme of a recent master's thesis by Kenneth Ward E., The 1971 General Elections in East Java (Department Politics, Monash University, 1972).

3 On the ideas and political activities of secular modernizing intellectuals in the 1967-69 period., see my “Modernizing Indonesian Politics,” in Liddle R. William, ed Political Participation in Modern Indonesia, (New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asian Studies, forthcoming 1973).

4 In the Jogjakarta area, where field research for this paper was conducted, the village and hamlet are called kalurahan and dukuh respectively. Kalurahan government, headed by a lurah, is staffed by five elected officials (secretary, religious affairs, welfare, social affairs, and security) and their assistants, while each dukuh is represented by a single elected official, the kepala dukuh or hamlet head, whose chief duty is to provide liaison between his hamlet and village government. Although units of local self-government below the subdistrict exist in all parts of the country, type of unit and terminology vary from region to region. The regency and provincial units, found throughout the country, are also called first- and second-level self-governing regions, and are distinguished from the subdistrict in that their government consists of both an executive and a legislature, while the subdistrict is purely an administrative unit.

5 I am indebted to Ken Ward for this point.

6 Organizations similar to KOKARMENDAGRI were established (or resuscitated) in other government departments as well, the main exception— up to the election—being the NU-dominated Ministry of Religion. The formal justification for these organizations was that the divided loyalties of civil servants obstruct bureaucratic efficiency, an argument that has been advanced by many foreign and domestic critics, including career civil servants, of the Indonesian bureaucracy since independence.

7 One hundred of Parliament's four hundred sixty members were to be appointed by President Suharto to represent the armed forces and nonparty groups. An additional one hundred thirty one elected members would thus constitute a pro-government majority. The modest quality of this initial objective reflects the cautiousness and in-crcmcntalism characteristic of President Suharto's major political moves since 1965. As a prominent general in the Ministry of Defense and Security put it in July 1970, “If we are too b\g, our means will be loo obvious.”

8 Two national-level accounts of the election arc Hindley Donald, “Pantjasifa Democracy and the 1971 Elections,” Asian Survey Vol. XII, No. 1 (January, 1971), pp. 5668; and Nishi-hara Masashi, Golkar and the Indonesian Elections of 1971, (Ithaca: Cornell University Modern Indonesia Project, 1972).

9 For a detailed discussion of Jogjakarta government and society through the 1950s, see Selosoemardjan , Social Changes in Jogjakarta, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1962).

10 On the concepts of santri and abangan see Geertz Clifford, The Religion of Java, (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1960), and also his The Social History of an Indonesian Town, (Cambridge: The M. I. T. Press, 1965). Social class has been treated by, among others,Wertheim W. F., in “Indonesia Before and After the Untung Coup,” Pacific Affairs, Vol. XXXIX, Nos. 1 and 2 (Spring-Summer 1966), 115127, and From Aliran Towards Class Struggle in the Countryside of Java,” Pacific Viewpoint, Vol. 10 (1969). See also Mortimer Rex, “Class, Social Cleavage and Indonesian Communism,” Indonesia, 8 (October, 1969), 120. A recent thoughtful essay on the relationships among santri, abangan, and prijaji is McVey Ruth, “Nationalism, Islam, and Marxism: The Management of Ideological Conflict in Indonesia,” in Soekarno, Nationalism, Islam, and Marxism, (Ithaca: Cornell University Modern Indonesia Project, 1969). There is some confusion in the literature with regard to the terms prijaji and abangan, which are sometimes used, following Geertz– The Religion of Java, to denote a cultural distinction between elite and folk forms of Javanese religion, and sometimes to denote a structural division or pattern of stratification between elite and mass. In this paper I shall attempt to follow the usage of Koen-tjaraningrat R. M., “The Javanese of South Central Java,” in Murdock G. P., ed.Social Structure in Southeast Asia, (Chicago: Quadrangle, 1960), using prijaji and wong tjilik for the structural division, abangan and santri for the cultural one.

11See Soekarno , Marhaen and Proletarian, (Ithaca: Cornell University Modern Indonesia Project, 1960).

12 For a moving account of the plight of the peasantry in sugar-growing regions of Jogjakarta such as Gatur, see Selosoemardjan , Social Changes if Jogjakarta, pp. 271284.

18 The PNI vote from 1955 to 1957 declined by 4.4%, pKI vote increased by 7.2%, and the Masjumi/NU combined vote remained stable. While it appears that the 2.8 of the incresed PKI vote explaiinable by PNI decline came from the small non-Islamic parties, this proposition is presently being tested with village-level electoral date.

4 When questions about PKI were posed to village officials and party leaders in Kulon Progo, the immediate response—regardless of party affiliation—was that PKI was the party of land reform. During the early 1960s PNI, NU, and Muham-madijah leaders cooperated closely to protect their ownership rights and the principle that a certain portion of village rice land should be set aside for the use of village officials, at the time under attack from PKI and its peasant affiliate BTI (Barisan Tani Indonesia), which led several anti-landlord demonstrations in Galur between 1963 and 1965. PNI opposition to PKI was also due to the erosion of abangan support caused by PKI land reform activities, while NU and Muham-madijah leaders claim—probably correctly—that few of their adherents were attracted to PKI. The dimensions of the land problem are indicated in the following table, prepared with data obtained from officials in the villages of Kranggan and Banaran, which illustrate two common characteristics of the land tenure situation in Java—extreme fractionalization of holdings (both villages) and the presence of a large landless population (Banaran). Communal land controlled by village officials (18% of total in Kranggan, 13― in Banaran) is not included in the table.

15 Founded in 1926 as a conservative Islamic social and educational organization to counter the modernist movement, Nahdatul Ulama joined with Muhammadijah and other Islamic organizations to create the post-war Masjumi. In 1952 NU established itself as a separate political party and began to expand beyond its East Java base. Its first contacts in Kulon Progo were kijaji and other santri who had studied either in NU schools in East Java or with NU-trained kijaji in Jogjakarta city.

16 cf. Selosoemardjan, Social Changes in fogia-karta, p. 97. While the tradition of dukuh solidarity remains strong in Galur and Kulon Progo today, and is in some areas supplemented by growing village level (kalurahan) loyalties, its political significance should not be overestimated since competing cultural groups exist within du\uh and the hamlet head's political influence is often limited to members of his own cultural group.

17 According to Selosoemardjan, “For ihe Jogja-ncse, each word of his Sultan is not just a word from a human being who happens to have the power of ihe state in his hands; it is also a word from the heavenly world, supported by the magical powers of the state pusakas [sacred articles]. The order of the Sultan is the law of the land; each wish of his is literally a command to his people.” Social Changes in Jogjakarta, p. 20. In my judgment the Sultan's political influence, as contrasted with the general respect and even veneration accorded him by the people of Kulon Progo, is considerably less than that of the local level officials and other notables who interact on a daily, face-to-face basis with the villagers, even among the abangan.

18 Finding a suitable veteran, i.e. one not tied to any political party and possessing some stature as a village leader, turned out to be a difficult task. In the end five veterans and two members of the subdistrict officers police arm were chosen, the latter at the insistence of the subdistrict officer, who wanted to increase his influence (and that of the Home Affairs Ministry) in the campaign. Two of the seven (both veterans) did in fact provide a measure of leadership, while in the other five villages the vice-chairmen were .totally unable to compete with the village heads for control over the GOLKAR campaign. On the whole, the vice-chairmen were more useful as the military commander's “eyes” in the village (which was one of their functions) than as campaign leaders.

19 National newspaper stories, particularly those dealing with the GOLKAR campaign in the Outer Islands, tended to stress the more overt activities of the military—hence the popularity of such euphemisms as “intimidasi” and “overacting.” In the Jogjakarta area such acts were relatively few.

20 Much of the membership of Pemuda Marhaenis (Marhaenist Youth), the principal PNI youth organization in Kulon Progo, is more interested in soccer and wajang orang or ketoprak. theatrical activities than in politics. Deprived during the campaign of funds (for sports and theatrics as well as politics), of party leadership in most sub-districts, and of official blessing for their activities, most local Pemuda Marhaenis leaders were distressed at being in the opposition and ignorant of how to organize a campaign on their own.

21 In Galur PNI won a majority in only one of the more than sixty polling places. This small victory was attributable to the local hamlet head, a young PNI leader respected both by the youth and the older generation (his father had been hamlet head before him), who refused to join KOKARMENDAGRI and instead actively campaigned for PNI. As a deviant case, this example serves as a useful indicator of the extent of the vote-getting influence of hamlet heads, at least in abangan areas.

22 There was also a general tendency for village heads informally to assign higher GOLKAR quotas to hamlet heads whose former party affiliation differed from their own, and similarly for hamlet heads to apply different degrees of pressure on different kinds of voters. Although in some areas this produced NU-PARMUSI confrontation, it was basically a contest of s“ntti vs. abangan.

23 NU youth in one Galur village explained to potential NU voters that people who drew government salaries or received village rice land (i.e. village officials) were obligated to vote for GOLKAR, while all others were free to vote for NU.

24 Jn Galur, about two-thirds of the teachers in the local Muhammadijah educational complex receive government salaries.

25 According to occupational data obtained from official biographies submitted to the regency election committee, wives of government officials and of military and police officers, pensioned civil servants, and veterans were the most prominent GOLKAR nominees.

26 This conflict is interesting in that it indicates the continuing relevance of the political parties as clients in a situation of competition between military/bureaucratic patrons. The Regional Head had previously worked closely with PNI and NU leaders and was dependent on a largely PNI staff; he also believed in a “consensus government” representing all the “social forces” of the region as against a “GOLKAR monopoly” which would cause disharmony and hard feelings. The military commander, on the other hand, had been instrumental in organizing GUPPI and was himself a santri, which led him to believe that he could work more closely with PARMUSI; his basic position, however, was anti-party since he had few connections with party leaders and was much more committed to GOLKAR as his means of obtaining power. In any case, since among them the parties have fewer than 30% of the seats in the new legislature and their bureaucratic influence is becoming increasingly difficult to exercise because of monoloyalitas, the benefits parties might receive from patron competition are not likely to be many.

27 The figures are; GOLKAR, 45 5%; PNI, 80%; PARMUSI, 83%; and NU, 83%. The percentages of candidates still living in the village of their birth are: GOLKAR, 32%; PNI, 60%; PARMUSI, 62.5%; and NU, 67%. Age distributions are also interesting. Percentages of candidates 39 years of age or younger were: GOLKAR, 36%; PNI, 56%; PARMUSI, 75% and NU, 75%.

28 Because it is often their last assignment before retirement, subdistrict military commanders are sometimes sent to a region near their home. This practice tends to make them more sensitive to local interests and also more difficult to control by their superior officers. Shortly after the election there was a general rotation of all subdistrict commanders in Kulon Progo.

29 The effort is likely lo continue, however, perhaps in the form of kesatuan karya (functional units), e.g. GOLKAR-sponsored teams of peasants engaged in developmental tasks, an idea suggested in 1971 by BAPILU politicians but which might well serve many different interests within GOLKAR besides those of the modernizers.

30 A reemergence of PKI must of course also be considered. While thoroughly cowed today, former PKI supporters still exist in a socio-economic environment unchanged in its fundamental charactcristics from the 1950s and 1960s. To predict a communist resurgence within, say, the next decade, is no doubt premature, but certainly the potential is there.

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The Journal of Asian Studies
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