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Keep your faith and your stance strong

A worker writes to Budiman

My heart missed a beat when unwrapping my take away lunch of rice I read on the newspaper wrapped around the meal: "the PRD is identical with the PKI". I could not sleep that night. And neither could I settle down at work the next day.

I was still thinking about this when I was shocked by the news that you and other friends had been arrested and were being threatened with subversion charges (the meaning of which I myself do not comprehend) which people say can carry the death sentence.

At that moment I could see in my mind's eye, all of us, with thousands and thousands of workers, suffering the heat, bathed in sweat, hunger gnawing at our stomachs, marching defiantly to demand our rights. I never imagined then that it would be the last time we would have the chance to link arms, raise our clench fists and challenge the arrogance of power together; that finally you would be thrown in prison just because those in power think that might is always right.

I never imagined then either that I was struggling side by side somebody who would be labelled by the government as a member of the Indonesian Communist Party.

Because in my mind, and in the minds of thousands, even millions, of my fellow workers, the thing called the PKI is evil, made up of murderers, sadists and only interested in getting their own way at any cost.

But Budiman who struggled alongside us was a polite and gentle person, but always firm, courageous, clever. And what moved us all most was that the Budiman who struggled alongside us was somebody who cared about what happened to us, the workers of Indonesia, a class who were forever oppressed.

These days I am ever more frustrated and angry that every time somebody defends us we are labelled PKI. Not just the PRD, but others who defended us earlier were also labelled PKI. Was that why they were eventually killed, as happened with our comrade Marsinah? So what was in reality the PKI? Is what the government says about the PKI true, namely, it was a party of sadists, who liked to kill people and create terror everywhere. Or is the truth that the PKI also defended us, the workers, the poor, which is also something the government says.

As a worker, I do not read books or even newspapers, nor have I been to school or watch TV. All that takes money, while my wages are enough only for food, clothes and soap. And I only have enough free time to sleep, and that is only short before I have to awaken again in the morning, ready to struggle with the machines again, chasing the production targets. So I have never had the opportunity to study about the PRD, the PKI and other such matters, except through practice in struggle, and there the PRD has truly proved itself.

Now, I and my fellow workers are in shock, weeping and can only pray as we hear that you and our other friends who shared ideas, jokes, laughter, sleeping mats, and food with us are now in prison. And other friends must flee and hide in fear of capture.

This is the risk that flows from what we believe in. But if this was a real democracy, I don't think that you and our other friends would ever had to suffer this.

What is clear is that I along with thousands of workers in Surabaya, or perhaps millions of workers in Indonesia truly feel a loss seeing how those who genuinely have struggled with the workers who are always also oppressed must end up in prison. Yet I still believe, along with so many other workers, that we will meet again. They are increasing their repression, now that you are in gaol.

A letter from Titik, a worker from Tandes, Surabaya, East Java to Budiman Sujatmiko, October 3, 1996

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