LABOUR EXPLOITATION, SYSTEMATIC OPPRESSION AND VIOLENCE IN PALM OIL PLANTATIONS IN NORTH SUMATRA, INDONESIA
Keywords:Trade Union, Palm Oil, Labor Exploitation, Systematic Violence
Although it has been almost two decades since the fall of the Suharto regime, political reform and democratization has not sufficiently challenged realities of systematic oppression, coercion and violence experienced by workers in palm oil plantations in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The research aims to expose the various ways in which the independent trade union is forced to manoeuvre within and against this system in its attempt to empower workers and built a strong political force. Although the tribune in Indonesia is built on legally binding pillars, these are proven too weak and corrupt for trade unionists to organize and emancipate plantation workers. This can partly be attributed to a history of ideological suppression and decades of authoritarian rule, and partly to the demands of modern capitalism and global production chains in need for what Laura Ann Stolers refers to as a cheap, socially malleable and politically inarticulate labor force. Based on several months of first-hand observation of, and participation in, trade union activity, the study reveals the deeply embedded power structures that sustain all the elements of the plantation system. Moreover, the analysis shows how the squeeze of labor and capital resembles a system of slavery that has dissolved centuries ago. As a conclusion, the paper argues the plantation is a system of violence that facilitates the ‘slavish submission’ of plantation workers and works in manipulative ways to tear down the pillars of the tribune from which trade unionists attempt to speak.
Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso.
Aspinall, E. (2013). Popular Agency and Interests in Indonesia’s Democratic Transition and Consolidation. Indonesia96, 101 – 102.
Attempts at Formal Reconciliation ‘Will Reopen Old Wounds’. (2016, June 3). Jakarta Post. Retrieved 3rd of May, 2016 fromhttp://www.thejakartapost.com
Azad, B. (2005). Marxism, Science and Class Struggle: The Scientific Basis of the Concept of the Vanguard Party of the Proletariat. Nature, Society and Thought 18 (4), 503 – 533.
Bernstein, A. (1907). Evolutionary Socialism.London: Independent Labour Party.
Bissonnette, J.F. (2012). Envisioning Agribusiness: Land, Labour and Value in a Time of Oil Palm Expansion in Indonesia (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca
Caraway, T.R. (2004). Protective Repression, International Pressure, and Institutional Design: Explaining Labor Reform in Indonesia. Studies in Comparative International Development 39 (3), 28 – 49.
Dahrendorf, R. (1959). Class and Class Conflict in an Industrial Society. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.
Fanon, F. (1961). The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press.
Farmer, P. (2004). An Anthropology of Structural Violence. Current Anthropology 45 (3), 305 – 325.
Farmer, P. (2010). Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader.Saussy, H (Eds), Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Ford, M. (2009). NGOs, Trade Unions, and the Indonesian Labour Movement. Singapore: NUS Press.
Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, Peace and Peace Research.Journal of Peace Research 6 (3), 167, 191.
Hadiz, V.R., & Robison, R. (2013). The Political Economy of Oligarchy and Reorganization of Power in Indonesia.Indonesia 93, 35 – 57.
Hadiz, V.R. (2003). Power and Politics in North Sumatra: The Uncompleted Reformasi. In E.Aspinall &G.Fealy(Eds) Power and Politics in Indonesia: Decentralization and Democratization. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Harvey, D. (2008). Reading Capital.[Audio podcast]. New York: Graduate Centre of the City of New York.
Hook, S. (1968). From Hegel to Marx: Studies in the Intellectual Development of Karl Marx, 3rd ed. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.
Koopman, R.B., & Laney, K. (2010).ASEAN: Regional Trends in Economic Integration, Export, Competitiveness, and Inbound Investment for Selected Industries. Washington D.C.: United States International Trade Commission.
Lenin, V.I. (1902). What Is To Be Done? Selected Works 1 (March), 119 – 271.
Lenin, V.I. (1972). Materialism and Empiro-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy. Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Lenin, V.I. (1975). Selected Works: In Triple Volumes. Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Lane, M.R. (2009). Mass Mobilisation in Indonesian Politics, 1960 – 2001: Towards a Class Analysis. University of Wollongong Thesis Collections. Wollongong: University of Wollongong.
Lane, M.R. (2010a). Catastrophe in Indonesia. Calcutta: Seagulls Books.
Lane, M.R. (2010b). Indonesia and the Fall of Suharto: Proletarian Politics in the “Planet of Slums” Era. Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society 13, 185 – 200.
Li, T.M. (2015). Social Impacts of Palm Oil in Indonesia: A Gendered Perspective from West Kalimantan. Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Li T.M. (2015, June). After the Land Grab: Infrastructural Violence and Indonesia’s Oil Palm Zone. Lecture Notes. Chiang Mai: Chiang Mai University.
Lukács, G. (1971). History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics.Translated by Rodney Livingstone. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Makhasin, L. (2006, June, 15). The State and Plantation Workers: Corporatism and Resistance. Lafadl Initiatives. Retrieved 15th of May, 2016 from https://lafadl.wordpress.com
Mann, M. (2008). Infrastructural Power Revisited. St. Comp. Int. Dev. 43, 355 – 365.
Marx, K. (1857). Grundrisse. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Marx, K. and Engels, F. (1968). The German Ideology.Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Marx, K. (1976). Capital, Volume II. Translated by Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin Books.
Marx, K. (1979). A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.Translated by S.W. Ryazanskaya. Moscow: Progress Publishers.
Misol, L. 2010. UnkeptPromise.Human Rights Watch. Jakarta: Human Rights Watch Asia Division.
Oppenheimer, J. 2014. The Act of Killing.Denmark: Final Cut for Real.
Poskota News. (2015, November 2015). PP Menilai Amandemen UUD 1945 Bikin Indonesia Terpuruk. Retrieved on 16th of July, 2016 from https://www.poskotanews.com
Ricardo, D. (1817). On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. London: John Murray.
Rodgers, D., and O’Neil, B. (2012). Infrastructural Violence: Introduction to the Special Issue. Ethnography, 13 (4), 401 – 412.
Scott. J.C. (1998). Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. London: Yale University Press.
Scott, J.C. (1987). Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Existence. London: Yale University Press.
Scott, J.C. (1976). The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia. London: Yale University Press.
Smith, A. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. New York: Random House.
Stoler, L.A. (1986). Capitalism and Confrontation in Sumatra’s Plantation Belt. 1870 – 1979. London: Yale University Press.
Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. (2014). Outline of Palm Oil Production.Waltham: Brandeis University. Retrieved on the 7th of June, 2016 from http://www.schusterinstituteinvestigations.org
Törnquist, O. (2004). Labour and Democracy?Reflections on the Indonesian Impasse.Journal of Contemporary Asia 34 (3), 1 – 23.
Vatvani, C. (2016, June 3). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved on 4th of June, 2016 from http://www.channelnewsasia.com
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2016 Authors
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.