Public participation in political movement

54
Tarli Nugroho

IO – Warta Sejarah (“Historic Report”) was a magazine published by Greater Indonesia Party (Partai Indonesia Raya – “Parindra”). This edition that I uploaded is edition No. 6/I, June 1936. According to the information on the cover, the magazine had a circulation of 3,500 copies. It is quite a large circulation, considering the fact that the citizenship of the Netherland Indies at the time was only 60 million people. Rooslan Wongsokoesoemo was the chief editor of the magazine.

Other than educational articles, such as the right to form unions, Indonesia’s position in international politics, and similar issues, the magazine contained a lot of news from Parindra’s branches throughout Indonesia. However, what interests me the most from this political party official magazine is a 2-page open financial report, which shows details on the amount of income gathered from the Party’s members and branches.

The Party received entry fee and subscription fees from its members. The total amount of money received from Parindra’s 54 branches throughout Indonesia from January to May 1936 was 442.78 guilder, and the amount of the Party’s funds received from independent members within the same period was 23.25 guilders.

I frequently found similar financial reports in a number of party media in the same period with the magazine, or even later. These reports show that the Party’s machinery operated with full participation of its members and sympathizers. Parties in general, not just Parindra, had active and participative members who supported the parties’ life and activities. Party members at the time did pay fees for funding the parties’ activities. Such member fees generally were divided into two components, i.e. registration fees and routine subscription fees, which were supplemented with voluntary contributions.

By funding their parties according to their individual abilities, we are made aware that politics at the time did not just mean providing political support during certain political events, but also continuously supporting the party as an institution. In this way, the bond between political parties and their members were concrete and permanent.

This is a stark contract with the bond between the public and political parties nowadays. Party membership is now reduced to data on paper, taken simply to satisfy the barest minimum administrative requirement for general elections. There is barely any emotional connection, let alone financial, between members and political parties. Parties are generally enlivened by their administrators, not by their general members. This is because the so-called “members” are only flotsam, wooed only to provide their data and ID cards to satisfy KPU’s administrative requirements. Parties nowadays actually have no true member other than their management.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why our democratic institutions are saddled with corruption and oligarchy nowadays. After all, such party institutions are not rooted in their members, and lack sound, independent financial basis. In the end, these parties are forced to fund themselves using monies from the mafia – or from corrupt funds.

So how do we get parties to grow roots, to get members who proudly participate in their support and survival?

That is a question that we all need to answer together. At the very least, all of us must be aware that participating in elections is far from being enough for us to be considered “politically active”. Any choice that we make once every 5 years is not enough to bring changes, if in the intervening 5-year period we only become flotsam that ignores political party institutions and administrations.

This is why we must warmly welcome the Galang Perjuangan (“Establish the Struggle“) movement started by the General Chairman of the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerakan Indonesia Raya – “Gerindra”) Party, Prabowo Subianto. If we want to sever the chains forged by generations of Mafioso and dragons within our political universe and break the political corruption cycle created by needlessly expensive elections systems, the public must participate in the financial support of the political parties that they vote for. That is the proper definition of “political activity” in this day and age. For the  civic generations to come, we must participate in the building of a better political tradition.