Workers and Democracy: The Indonesian Labour Movement, 1949–1957

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John Ingleson

A study of worker activism and labour unions in the eight years between the recognition of Indonesian sovereignty by the Netherlands at the end of 1949 and the nationalisation of Dutch assets in 1957, Workers and Democracy contributes to the ongoing re-evaluation of the era of liberal parliamentary democracy in Indonesia. The focus is on the agency of workers and the structures, strategies and industrial campaigns of unions in the context of intense ideological conflict, competing union federations, the opposition of employers to collective action and the efforts by the Indonesian state to manage industrial conflict. The imposition of martial law in March 1957 was the deathblow to parliamentary democracy and to the freedom of workers and unions to engage in collective action.  It was not until Suharto’s ‘New Order’ regime collapsed in 1998 that Indonesian workers regained the freedom of association and the right to engage in collective action.

"Workers and Democracy adds to John Ingleson’s earlier works which exposed the late-colonial regime of exploitation and suppression. It is an excellently researched study of worker activism in the decade after independence and a fitting tribute to leaders, cadre and members of labour unions in their search for justice.”Jan Breman, University of Amsterdam

“Comprehensive and meticulously researched, this study of post-independence worker activism and labour unions sheds much-needed light on the vicissitudes and trajectory of Indonesian democracy.”Takashi Shiraishi, former President of GRIPS

John Ingleson is an emeritus professor of history at the University of New South Wales who has written widely on twentieth-century Indonesian history, focusing on the colonial nationalist movement and the colonial and post-colonial labour movements.

Publication Year: 2022
384 pages, 229 X 152mm
2 b/w images
ISBN: 978-981-325-160-1
Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) Southeast Asian Publications Series

Read Ingleson's article about worker activism and labor unions in Indonesia in the 1950s, published in the Asia-Pacific Journal.