Abdul and Lina.

A Short Story by Max Lane

He didn’t know what people would have thought if they could see him now. His mouth was wide open, his jaws aching from the stretching gape. It was if he was screaming. In fact he was, but there was no sound – except the horrific screech inside his mind. His hands gripped the metal frame under the bottom bunk that he was sitting on. He could feel the sharp steel edge cutting into his hand, but he couldn’t let go. The scream inside his head continued.

Was it his pain, he felt, or hers too Was it a pain they shared? She left crying, her cheeks wet from so many tears and her eyes red.

Or was it just his guilt He glanced down to his arm, just below the short sleeve. He could feel it, but only see it in his mind’s eye. He had told the Indian that he was going to break it off with her.

“It is impossible.” He had said, this time his eyes watering, the tears welling up. “It is impossible. She will be by herself with the child. I promised I would help. I shouldn’t have. I knew it was impossible.”

“It is not your child.”

“I know, but I promised.” He could feel too the fear of the pain he would soon inflict.

“Ok, you will feel guilty. You will have a guilt boil for a while.”

A guilt boil.

Now sitting on the bunk, alone in the cabin, he could see a festering, yellow, pussy boil, almost bubbling ooze on his arm.

His soundless scream continued.

The ship suddenly surged. A big swell. Then it settled but the movement startled him. He let go of the frame and looked at the red marks across his hands. He closed his eyes to try to resume control over his feelings. He stopped the silent pain-filled screech. He already missed her. It was his first ever love, even if only so brief.

But he knew. His task must come first. The ship was in Singapore harbour. His mind turned to how he would get ashore. He had no passport. It was 1967 and there was no way a former party activist could get a passport – except to a mass grave. He already knew what he would need to do tonight when it was dark. It scared him. It would not be easy. Continue reading

Article: Stopping the boats is about smashing social solidarity by Max Lane

(This article was first published in RED FLAG newspaper on June 18, 2015.)

It seems fairly certain now that Australian Customs and Navy personnel paid the captain and crew of an Indonesian ship carrying 65 asylum seekers, including children and a pregnant woman, to take the Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis and Burmese back to Indonesia.

Sixty-five desperate people, all from situations of misery and repression, who had no doubt spent much of their little cash on the boat ride to New Zealand, were put on two new boats and turned around. This is despite requests by the refugees to be taken on board the Customs and Navy ships.

The Australian state paid the crew to betray their desperate customers and take them back to a society with a per capita income of only US$4,000 per year and mass poverty. No offer was made to bring them to Australia, one of the richest countries in the world (whatever the unjust distribution of that wealth).

Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating introduced mandatory detention. Then Liberal PM John Howard escalated the propaganda about “border security”. His government told the disgusting lie in 2001 that children were “thrown overboard” by asylum seekers in order to force the Navy to rescue them. And it instituted the notorious “Pacific solution”.

Since then, “stop the boats” has become a central platform in the Australian ruling class’s ideological agitation, articulated by both the Liberals and the ALP. It was Rudd’s ALP that came up with the cruel policy that no refugee arriving by boat would ever be settled in Australia, but instead be sent to Papua New Guinea. Abbott added to this with the criminal and inhumane tow-back policy.

But why?

Neither party is opposed to receiving refugees in Australia. In 2012-13, 20,000 visas were issued under Australia’s humanitarian program, according to the Department of Immigration. This is nowhere near enough, but it indicates that the elites here have no in-principle objection to refugees settling in Australia. People arriving in Australia on tourist visas by plane who then seek asylum also face minimal obstacles to their settlement.

Neither are the numbers of arrivals by boat huge: in 2009-13, the average was around 10,000 per year. This is an easily absorbable number of people in a population of 24 million. And it is only a fraction of the total annual migration to Australia (around 200,000 people). So why is the hysterical agitation of “stop the boats” and “illegal arrivals” (they are not illegal) so central?

The idea that it is about “defending sovereign borders” is, of course, a joke. Most boats aim only to arrive at Christmas Island, which is a huge distance from the Australian continent and hardly within real borders. The same is true for Ashmore Reef.

As a huge island continent, Australia has always had porous borders. Until Howard’s Tampa agitation, it was considered only a minor problem to do with small numbers of smugglers. Furthermore, the refugees coming by boat are not trying to sneak into Australia – they report directly and as quickly as they can to Australian authorities.

So why?

There is only once conclusion: the issue fulfils a propaganda need for the Australian ruling class. It uses the issue to undermine any philosophy of collective solidarity. The policies legitimise cruelty and inhumanity towards others in the name of “defending sovereignty”, which has become a code word for an illusory “what we have”. This helps legitimise the idea that the world’s have-nots should “wait their turn” in a “queue” that is policed by the haves. This is the reason that “both sides” of bourgeois politics agitate around this issue.

In one sense, it is a good sign that the elite feel that they need such an issue, and that they have to make it so central to their politics. The need indicates that they fear the Australian public’s sense of solidarity with others would otherwise come to the fore. In a society where the trend is for wealth to be redistributed upwards, while cutting back on the level of social services and culture for the majority, an awakened sense of solidarity among people would be a disaster for the ruling class.

“Aspiration”, the cry, is legitimate – but the rich want aspirations fulfilled only for themselves and their close associates. “Defend our borders” is their code word for defending self-interest, even if it means cruelty to others.

This is an existential issue for late capitalism and its escalating upward redistribution. In a rich country like Australia, with a per capita income of $40,000 per year and already advanced infrastructure, which is in a situation of serious relative abundance, where can society be taken?

There are only two choices: more and more redistribution upwards as we head for some kind of technologically advanced barbarism of walled elites, or using that abundance to improve the quality of life for all human beings.

“Stop the boats”, and similar cruel, anti-human slogans, are one of the ruling class’s weapons to defend their choice. Systematising cruelty is laying the foundation for barbarism.

ARTICLE: Widodo, the death sentence and Indonesia’s political vacuum – by MAX LANE

I do not know what the prospects are that President Widodo will stop the current implementation of the death sentence for people convicted of drug related crimes. There is nothing in any of Widodo’s statements that indicates a change of mind on this issue. In a recent interview with Al Jazeera he reaffirmed his decision stating that it was necessary also to “remember the victims”. It was not clear whether this was being presented as a means to lessen the criminal activity as a disincentive or simply as punishment. On the other hand, the Indonesian government has now several times announced a delay in the process to await the outcome of legal processes. A positive outcome in one of the legal appeals is probably the best hope of commutation of sentences, although Indonesia is in an unpredictable state and perhaps anything can happen.

Within Indonesia itself there have been people both fighting the executions practically, such as the groups of lawyers, including well known legal figure, Todung Mulya Lubis, who have been assisting in various legal cases as well as speaking out. Human rights and civil liberties organisations have also spoken out. There have been public fora where academics from several different universities have spoken out against the death sentence. These include, among others, academics from the Jakarta State University, University of Indonesia and the Islamic oriented Paramadina University. The English language news media, especially the Jakarta Globe, has strongly editorialised against the death sentences. The Jakarta Globe’s editorial was entitled: “Okay, Mr. Tough Guy. We Get It. Now Stop.” Former foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda has also spoken out against the death sentences.

In an article on March 8 in the Jakarta Globe, the reporter was able to find street vox pop’s both in favour of the death penalty for drug crime convictees as well as those who thought the punishment was too harsh.

Despite these voices, it is probably true to say that they have been unable to make a major impact on the national political discourse. Widodo has announced, or hinted, that there may be an eventual moratorium on the death sentence. This was mentioned at a recent U.N. commission hearing in Geneva.  Such a hint probably reflects a combination of the considerable international criticism Widodo has received, as well as from the dissident domestic voices in society, and perhaps also in his cabinet. Even so, the dominant theme in the mainstream political conversation has not been around the rights and wrongs of the death sentence, but rather around the importance of resisting attacks on sovereignty on this issue, that is of resisting criticism and pressure from outside of Indonesia.

Continue reading

ARTICLE: Amsterdam students and staff demand self-organisation of universities by Max LAne

The occupation and campaigns are still going as of March 13. This article was first published in RED FLAG newspaper.


The University of Amsterdam chancellery building, the Maagdenhuis, has been occupied since 24 February, when students broke down the door and took over the ground floor. Since then, there has been a constant stream of teach-in discussions and organising activity.

The occupation followed a demonstration of more than 1,000 students and some staff. They were protesting the arrest of 39 students who had been occupying the Bungehuis building in protest at its impending sale to private interests. The sale of university property has become symbolic of what is seen as the trend to subordinate education to commerce, abandoning a commitment to the university as a place for critical education.

Discontent over university policy has been brewing for at least two years. A group called Humanities Rally was formed by students after a university plan, Profiel 2016, projected deep cuts to the humanities.

Apart from the increasing use of contract staff, the preparation of the Profiel 2016 and other changes have taken place with only pretend consultation with university employees.

Democratisation of the university – wresting power away from a managerial caste carrying out a neoliberal agenda, and shifting decision-making to the university community – has become a key plank of both the student protests, which are organised as New University, and the academic movement ReThink UvA.

These protests differ significantly from student protests in other countries in that they are joint student-staff actions demanding a total restructuring of higher education. They are calling for the self-organisation of universities, with the aim of fulfilling educational, not financial, goals.

While there was a national day of action on 4 March, the primary focus of the two groups over the last several days has been the communication of their demands to the university’s board. A letter has gone to the university with two sets of demands.

The first set calls for an immediate moratorium on restructuring processes and sale of UvA property, the issuing of a detailed proposal on democratisation and an inquiry by an independent committee into the university’s finances. The students and academics are demanding agreement to these demands by 9 March; otherwise protest actions will escalate.

The second set of demands relates to further democratisation and a major shift away from quantitative output-oriented management of education toward policies based on genuine educational goals. There are also demands for more secure employment for staff.

So far, management has been stalling. It is essentially operating within the neoliberal policy framework supported by the government, which is an alliance of the right wing People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and the Labor Party.

Members of parliament from the left social democratic Socialist Party, the country’s largest opposition party, have spoken at the protests. So have members from the smaller, more middle class Groene Links and even from Young Labor. The minister of education overseeing the restructuring process is from the Labor Party.

While the focus has been on communications with university management, organising activity has continued. New University protest groups have now emerged at five other major Dutch campuses. Teach-in activities by staff and students are planned for the corridors of the Amsterdam campus starting this week. The aim is to expand student involvement beyond those who have come out of Humanities Rally and the immediate occupation actions.

The Netherlands Trade Union Federation (FNV) branches at the university and other campuses have voted to support the student occupations and the demands for reform. The Health Workers Union has also sent solidarity. Apart from further student mobilisations, staff have started discussing the necessity of strike or other industrial action. The FNV is still dominated by the Labor Party, but there are more and more Socialist Party members in the unions, including among organisers.

Continue reading

Ingatan Revolusi, Aksi Massa dan Sejarah Indonesia

Originally posted on MAX LANE ONLINE:

Sudah terbit dan beredar:

UNFINISHED NATION: Ingatan Revolusi, Aksi Massa dan Sejarah Indonesia

oleh Max Lane.

PEMESANAN langsung VIA SMS Diandra Distributor
HUB. 085712906056, 081229111727, Telp. 0274-485222,
email: diandramitra@gmail.com (hari kerja)/ diandra.online@yahoo.co.id


Terima kasih.

Kalau tidak ada minta toko buku kesayangan anda memesannya. Penerbitnya aalah Djaman Baroe dan distributor adalah Diandra Books. Komentar di buku:

Buku ini dengan sangat baik menggambarkan betapa penting peran kelompok pelopor mobilisasi massa dan aksi massa dalam menggerakkan sejarah Indonesia. Itu sebabnya buku ini hampir sepenuhnya berlawanan dengan pandangan peneliti tentang Indonesia selama ini, baik dari Indonesia sendiri maupun luar negeri, yang selalu menghilangkan peran massa, mobilisasi massa, aksi massa dan ingatan akan revolusi dalam melihat sejarah Indonesia paskakemerdekaan. Pradipto Niwandhono, Pengajar Sejarah Universitas Airlangga Unfinished Nation ditulis dari sudut pandang seorang aktivis…manfaat buku ini tidak terbatas hanya…

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