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Activists in TransitionProgressive Politics in Democratic Indonesia$
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Thushara Dibley and Michele Ford

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501742477

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501742477.001.0001

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Student Movements and Indonesia’s Democratic Transition

Student Movements and Indonesia’s Democratic Transition

(p.23) Chapter One Student Movements and Indonesia’s Democratic Transition
Activists in Transition

Yatun Sastramidjaja

Cornell University Press

This chapter is an account of the student movement, which traces its fall from political vanguard to “orphans of democracy.” Heir to a long tradition of student struggle, student activists followed a similar path to student movements in other authoritarian societies, leveraging their privileged status to lead the campaign for democracy. From the late 1980s, they challenged the regime, fighting for land rights, organizing workers, and defying the government's bans on leftist political activity. Despite successive waves of repression, it was the students, too, who led the 1998 protests calling for Suharto's resignation and fundamental political reform. Suharto's resignation was, as this chapter argues, undoubtedly a victory for the so-called 1998 Generation. But, having failed to capitalize on the momentum they had generated, students quickly retreated from the political fray, with only the Islamic student movement making a place for itself in the new Indonesia. By 2004, what remained of the left of the student movement had been relegated to margins, while moderate reformists have moved into government or into other social movements, leaving just a few aging activists clinging to the more radical dreams of an earlier age.

Keywords:   student movements, student activists, students, political reform, Suharto, 1998 Generation

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