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There are stories that are unrelated to the news, but can explain much better than many combat reports, why people like me are fighting against the Empire and imperialism, with such determination and vehemence. Not all stories are ‘big’ or ‘heroic’; not all include famous people or iconic struggles. Not all take place on battlefields.

But they ‘humanize’ the struggle.

Once in a while, I like to share such stories with my readers. As I will do right now.

Because without them, frankly, nothing really makes sense.


It was a hot, humid night in Jakarta; a megapolis with the worst pollution on earth, and with some of the most monstrous contrasts on our planet. A literally sinking city, constructed against the people; fragmented, serving only the few hundred thousand extremely rich (most of them accumulating wealth through corruption and theft), while condemning millions of struggling individuals to a slow death.

For the ruthless Indonesian elites and their Western handlers, the poor of Jakarta (the great majority of city dwellers) simply do not exist. They live in crammed slums, called kampungs – literally translated as villages. Kampungs fill huge spaces between the skyscrapers, malls, and mostly empty five-star hotels. Individuals living there consume very little, and therefore matter close to nothing. Even their number is underplayed in the official statistics.

One night, my small film crew and I were driving though the Klender neighborhood in East Jakarta; a poor, religious and monotonous part of the city.

Re-editing my big film about Indonesia after the US-sponsored military coup of 1965, an event which I often describe as an “Intellectual Hiroshima”, I had to again spend a few days in Jakarta, collecting latest footage, filming contrasts between the people and feudal elites.

We were all tired. Traffic jams have brought the city to an almost permanent gridlock. The pollution is unbearable. Life has come to a standstill. As planned by the regime, no one seemed to be thinking. Nothing seemed to be working.

We were driving past Klender train station a few minutes after midnight.

There were two young women standing by the side of the road. One of them caught my eye. She was clearly a prostitute, or a ‘sex-worker’, as they would call her in the West. But in reality, no, she was not a ‘worker’; not her. Just an abused, tired women.

I liked her face. Hers was an honest, good face. And after all that nonsense I heard during the day, after all that ‘feel good’ crap, I needed to hear something real, honest.

“Stop!” I shouted at my driver. He stepped on the brakes, then backed up a few meters.

“I want to talk to her,” I explained. Then to her: “I want to talk to you.”

She did not find my request strange. She nodded. After years of moving all around the world, while documenting the state of our humanity, I have developed certain instincts. I can tell from the faces of people, whether they have a story to tell; and whether they have the desire to speak. She did, both.

We emptied the front seat for her, next to the driver. She got in. Jakarta is a dangerous city, especially for women. But she did not seem to be frightened. She trusted me, as I trusted her.

“My name is Andre,” I said. “I am a filmmaker, and this is my team”.

“My name is Risna,” she answered and smiled.

“I want to hear your story,” I said.

“OK,” she said.

“Do you mind if I film?”

“Go ahead. I don’t mind.”

I put my GH5 over my knee, turned on the little light on the ceiling of the car, and pressed the “Record” button.

Just like that. No coaching, no preparation. And then it happened. She spoke. Clearly. Bitterly. Honestly.


“It was four of us,” she began, softly:

Four children. Little ones. Two boys and two girls. Our father, a pious religious man, used to use all of us. He had sex with us, with males and females. By then our mother was gone. He wanted to get married for the second time. To a young woman. But he had no money. And so, he began pimping all of us, for cash, so he could save enough, to start his new family. All four of us… you know; we all failed in life. At seven, I often slept on the streets. My siblings are all dysfunctional. I got married, had children, but my husband left me. I’m thirty years old now. I do this to support my children, and my brothers and sister.”

Trains kept passing-by. Loud express trains, rushing to far away cities: Yogyakarta, Solo, Surabaya.

I couldn’t’ talk to anybody. Here, it is always woman’s fault. No matter what happens, it is woman’s fault.”

I was frozen in my seat.

This is my story.”

“And now?” I could not think about anything else to ask.

Now I am speaking to you.”

I stopped the car in the middle of the night. I wanted to hear a story of a woman who was working by the side of the road. And that is precisely what I got: she described to me, briefly, her life.

She did it in a simple, touchingly naïve, pure way. There was nothing unnatural in her voice.

She spoke for herself, and for millions of Indonesian women like her, too.

I cared about her, but did not know how to express it, what to say.

We spoke for a bit, about the terrible fate of women in Indonesia. About the hypocrisy of this society. But it was well after midnight, and she had to earn her living. I had to let her go.

You will be in my film, together with your former President Gus Dur, and the greatest writer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer.”

She nodded, in a matter of fact way.

“What do you dream about?”

And that’s when her eyes filled with tears:

I want to raise my children as a good mother; from honest work.”

I looked at the monitor of my camera. 8 minutes and few seconds had passed since I began recording. One human life, in a summary. One complex, broken human life. I bowed to her. Shook her hand. Thanked her.

“Do you have hope?”

She looked at me, deep into my eyes. Then she nodded.



At night, I couldn’t sleep.


I knew all about what she was talking about. My friend who works for the UNDP once explained to me, that Indonesia has one of the highest child abandonment rates in the world. And also, one of the highest amounts of sexual child abuse cases, particularly inside families; committed by family members. All these topics are taboo, and no ‘official’ study can be produced, as most women are only willing to speak ‘off the record’.

In Indonesia, after 1965, everything collapsed; was destroyed. But this downfall, and almost nothing related to it, can be discussed openly. Here, the fear of truth is omnipresent, and I will soon address this shocking issue in one of my upcoming essays.


In 1979, when the pro-US Somoza’s regime collapsed and the Sandinistas took over the devastated Nicaragua, my friend, an American poet and translator, happened to be in Managua.

He was very young and confused.

He understood, theoretically, the greatness of the revolution. But he was still lacking examples.

Then, one afternoon, he saw a bus. A beat-up public bus, slowly moving towards the center of the city, while sun was setting down, behind the hills.

He told me the story, a long time ago, in New York, as I was ready to depart for Peru, to cover the so-called Dirty War:

“It was the end of the week. The bus was full of girls; young women from slums. Some were barefoot. But they were dressed in their best. They were travelling to the center of the capital, to dance!”

The voice of my friend broke. He was overwhelmed by his memories.

Do you understand? Before, they only went to the rich parts of the city in order to serve, to be humiliated, used; to labor for the rich. Now, they were going to those clubs that only a week ago were frequented exclusively by ‘gringos’ and local elites. They were going to dance. It was their country, suddenly. It was their city. They were free. The country belonged to them.”

“This is when I understood,” he concluded, “that the revolution was right. Not because I studied Marxism, not because of some theory. But because these girls from the poor neighborhoods of Managua had suddenly gained the right to dance. They gained their right to exist; to be alive!”


In Cuba, they say: “Everyone dances, or no one dances!”

Covering the world, documenting wars, conflicts, but also revolutions, I often encounter women like Risna.

Whenever countries collapse, whenever they are destroyed by savage capitalism, by religious extremism, or by subservience to imperialist powers, women suffer the most. It is almost the rule.

Most of them suffer in silence, as even their voices are being muted.

The more oppressive, regressive society gets, the more subjugated are its women.

Their humiliation, repression, suffering gets glorified as virtue. While rape, molestation, and submission are hushed up, never discussed. In countries such as Indonesia, if a woman protests and speaks about her fate, she gets ridiculed, discredited, or even thrown into prison, as has happened recently, on several well-publicized occasions.

Western hypocrisy is obvious: while everyone there is obsessed with ‘political correctness’, London, Washington and Paris are glorifying, supporting and even producing regimes which treat women worse than animals.


Risna deserves to be in one of those proverbial buses which are taking women to the once exclusive clubs, so they can dance. In a rough translation of the metaphor: ‘so they could become the owners of their own fate, of their cities, and their country’.

Women like her are the women we are fighting for.

Their stories are our stories. Be they in Managua, Jakarta, Kampala, or Mumbai.

They are as significant as those stories from the war zones near Syrian Idlib, or Afghanistan, or Libya.

Not to tell such stories would convert us, revolutionary writers, into liars.


[Originally published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook]

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Four of his latest books are China and Ecological Civilization with John B. Cobb, Jr., Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter. His Patreon

• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: Indonesia, Poverty 
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  1. anon[210] • Disclaimer says:

    In Indonesia, after 1965, everything collapsed

    They just killed a lot of commies, nothing wrong in principle with that. Worked out fine in civilized European countries like Spain, without any mass prostitution emerging afterwards
    The abuse of women in Indonesia has nothing to do with 1965, it’s just because Indonesians are inherently primitive and vicious.

  2. JamesD says:

    Marxism was crafted by a man who wrote poetry to the devil. Google it.

    Marxism is pure evil and killing commies is a good thing. Compare Chile, where the “gringos” killed commies to Venezuela.

    The big problem in the third world is statism. And there is a constant rivalry between statists. On one side is the fascist dictator, and on the other side are the commie utopians who want to spill rivers of blood to create their utopia. That’s the choice and is why the third world will never improve.

    • Replies: @animalogic
  3. Incest in the family is extremely common in muslim societies, rich or poor, that I am familiar with. I can’t say all muslim countries, as I haven’t been to all, but what goes on in Indonesia isn’t just due to poverty but the religion and culture. It is commendable that you publicise such matters at great risk to yourself, but I’d say that most readers here know that, even if they have no personal experience of such countries. I can’t see how exposing such issues is “fighting for them”. And even those Marxist or communist societies you advocate have far from solved those problems. Vietnamese prostitutes have now overtaken all others in Southeast Asia, China exports them too, as well as having them operate in their own country too, and it is also widespread in Cuba.

    I don’t follow your work, but it would be interesting if you covered the labour conditions in some of those countries you visit. It is not uncommon in Southeast Asia for the workers to be locked up in their dormitories in the factories they work and live in, and die during fires – I remember such cases in Thailand. And this is in factories run by locals and not some US or western corporations which at least try to improve the conditions and standards of their local workplace and workforce when they operate in those countries.

    Also environmental and human rights activists are routinely murdered in those democratic Third World countries. Capitalism and democracy, as run there by the locals, are far worse than the way they’re run in the West and it isn’t entirely the fault of western imperialism. And then you wish to import such people to the west. What for?

  4. peterAUS says:
    @Commentator Mike

    …you wish to import such people to the west. What for?

    He’s Russian.
    Only one rule: “what is good for Kremlin”.

    Hence….more of those imported to the West, weaker the West gets. Weaker the West, stronger Russia. Strong Russia can then try to do what USSR tried. With a vengeance, of course.
    This time better, the author types think.

    Good…old…days….of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. They think, feel and want.

    They just want to be on the top. All the rest is just blathering. Sounds good though. For naive.

  5. KeltCindy says:

    Not a single comment to the posting of Vltchek’s excellent article here—thus far—demonstrates a shred of understanding or a actual consideration, in my opinion.

    At least one of the comments (made by a courageous “anon”) seemed DELIBERATELY disrespectful, contrary and provacative.

    Vltchek is a hero in many respects—a real man who actually KNOWS how the world is in reality. Through arduous work and in-depth experience, he has earned enormous wisdom.

    Whether you agree with his worldview or not (and I do strongly agree with his views), you have to admire and respect the fact that he is ACTIVELY pursuing his vision of a world less barbaric.

    What an enormous chasm between Vltchek’s tone and style and the comments left here.

    Reflects the level of thought and humanity involved….

    • Agree: animalogic
  6. anonymous[143] • Disclaimer says:
    @Commentator Mike

    Incest in the family is extremely common in muslim societies, rich or poor, that I am familiar with.

    Extremely common? Lol! So says an Islamophobe, thus it must necessarily be true.

    I also understand from your kind that we muslims worship the moon-god too. Yikes! I suppose I need to make some spiritual-lifestyle changes here. Thank you for guiding us, O beneficent masters-of-truth!

    Btw, I too am familiar with something quite similar happening in many a Western society. After all, it is clearly reflected in the sexual degeneracy of said society’s “godmen,” who provide the laity with, ahem moral, guidance, right? Perhaps this is even stronger evidence than your specious claim?

    As for Andre’s anecdotal glimpse of Indonesian societal rot, I have no reason to doubt him. I am sure he is more reliable than the likes of you.

    Islam and its true monotheism is a clear message from the Almighty One. Contrary to what Islamophobes would have everyone believe, such sexual abomination (e.g. incest) is strictly forbidden. Any society which chooses to transgress the limits set by God, for all mankind, Islamic or otherwise, will be recompensed appropriately.

  7. You can LOL all you want but facts are facts. Most would agree that cousin marriage is far more common among muslims than among Europeans. Here’s a map of the Global prevalence of consanguine marriage, illustrating a higher prevalence across the Greater Middle East region and Malaysia.

    Incest in Indonesia is probably less prevalent than in some other muslim countries as it is more sexually open and prostitution is widespread so males can relieve themselves outside the family, if they have the money to pay for prostitute services. In societies where sharia law is strictly applied, women are not allowed to go anywhere without close relations in tow so people hardly have a chance to meet someone of the opposite sex outside the family. I agree the west is decadent but the east isn’t virtuous, except hypocritically on the surface.

  8. @anonymous

    Sexual perversions do not discriminate due to race or religion.

  9. @peterAUS

    Yes, probably. But Putin has spoken against the mass importation of immigrants to the West, if I am not mistaken, and appears to be sympathetic to some of the populists and nationalist politicians. At least more than any other world leader. Other than the Dalai Lama who agrees with “Europe for Europeans” with his statements that the immigrants should go back.

    • Replies: @Oleaginous Outrager
  10. Anonymous[688] • Disclaimer says:

    We are not going to read statistics about false rape allegations and how in all the West there is a substantial agreement that they constitute no wrongdoing and are to have no legal repercussions (no wonder they top, and by large, the false allegation chart: it’s powerfully encouraged behaviour), differential handling of domestic abuse whether it is by the man or the woman, male college students suspended for 1 year when falsely accused of rape with the “board” motivating it with a “He flattered her”.

    We are not going to read about any of this on these columns; nor about the consistent spreading of false statistics on wages, which allege “pay discrimination” that can’t be found, soon as the statistics are considered with a modicum of good faith.

    No, no, no. All of that is OK.

  11. @Commentator Mike

    I don’t know about Putin, but ol’ Andre here thinks the Soviet Union was the bestest thing ever anywhere in all the universe, full of complete equality, Skittles-shitting unicorns and two hot girls for every boy. And he’d go back to it, like a shot.

  12. @Commentator Mike

    And then you wish to import such people to the west. What for?

    He didn’t mention anything about “importing” anyone to the west. That’s you reading things into the piece that simply aren’t there. In fact, he seems to be suggesting the opposite.

    Recall his story about his friend in Managua seeing the bus full of women and girls driving into the city. He follows it with this (emphasis added):

    Risna deserves to be in one of those proverbial buses which are taking women to the once exclusive clubs, so they can dance. In a rough translation of the metaphor: ‘so they could become the owners of their own fate, of their cities, and their country’.

    So yeah, it’s all in your head.

    • Replies: @Commentator Mike
  13. @anonymous

    Islam and its true monotheism

    Really? You’re serious? Then answer me this one question: is the Quran co-eternal with Allah and uncreated? Yes or no answers, please. It’s a simple question.

  14. Great job blocking me on Twitter, Andre Vltchek. Shows how mature you really can be in a debate. I don’t even know if you would even respond to this. But I’m just telling you, that one commenter I talked about before you blocked me was right, given your logic. Destroying the borders of the West will achieve nothing but more blood, inequality, cheap labor, exploitation, and neoliberalism. It will not make Western imperialism go away, either. And as I have explained before, why do you feel so emboldened to just aggressively guilt trip the exploited Western proletariat all because they’re Westerners? Defying Western degeneracy is one thing. But you’re playing by the same rules of their Victimhood Olympics (minus the self-hatred because you’re not a Westerner). Which to me again, is not solidarity but even more alienation, animosity and divide. Which completely defeats the entire purpose of your class struggle and solidarity regardless of race, ethnicity or creed. As the first commenter I’ve mentioned has said; you have to cut ties from imperialism, not claim it as your own. And as from another commenter has said; you cannot blame the people for enjoying the imperial loot. As they are lead astray by their own pro-imperialist leaders and their plight for class struggle also matters just about as much as anyone else’s around the non-Western world. They also have no collective. The idea of opening borders which only leads to the working class suffering even more is indeed a form of social/cultural terrorism, as one commenter has said. Your assumptions that all Europeans are like what you have mentioned are also very appalling and ignorant.

    Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Ireland never had colonies or empires of their own. In fact, some of them are even victims of colonialism and imperialism. So by your logic, you shouldn’t even have the right to tell them to destroy their borders. Nor should you say about it on any Western country, even the ones that have a colonial/imperial past. Because again, it won’t solve Western imperialism going on today. The first ones I’ve mentioned have no blood in their hands contrary to what you’ve said before, either. Neither are the frustrated workers of the other Western nations with former colonies. Neither are they “victimizers” as they are also exploited by their capitalist systems. Karl Marx was against mass immigration and open borders, he saw it as being very detrimental to the working class. The only people who are pro-mass immigration and pro-open borders in the West are the same Western elites perpetuating the imperialist war machine. And the Westerners have no say on any of this, at all. Let me explain.

    You said in one of your articles that they are “responsible” for all of Western imperialism’s actions, right now. Because of your idea of “collective responsibility”. But you’re missing the entire point here. Barely anyone in the West has a collectivist because almost everyone there is a hyper-individualist who won’t even trust their own neighbours. Meaning, while you are kind of right about them letting the imperialist elites into power, again they have no say on anything they do. Their votes don’t matter especially in the United States. Every politician there ever since the end of WWII has always been the same pro-war/imperialist candidate. Whether Democrat or Republican. Anyone who even remotely tries to denounce their actions are effectively stripped off of their human rights and free speech and unjustifiably sent to prison just for exposing their war crimes. Case in point with Julian Assange.

    Finally, how dense do you really have to be to always compare apples with oranges all the time in one of your arguments? You even have the arrogance to say that the plight of the Western workers through Yellow Vest protests “don’t matter much” because they’re not protesting about Western imperialism. Do they even need to? Their interests right now is with their own people being exploited by neoliberalism. They have absolutely nothing to do with the wars happening abroad. They’re not just protesting just “for the money”. They’re doing it for the betterment of their livelihood because they love their people. How is this in any way harmful to your anti-war stances? Never downplay their cause. They’re here because they want change. To say that they don’t matter is not of the spirit of class struggle but of the spirit of group identity politics and again, Oppression Olympics. Coupled with your virtue signaling. But since you do seem to love the idea progressivism, which is a Western idea by the way, instead of realizing it has absolutely nothing to do Marxism along with identity politics. I’m afraid you won’t even learn anything from this comment other than you smearing me as if I’m some Über Mecha Hitler for denouncing you or something.

  15. Andre, I hope that at least you paid her for the time you took up during her working night.

  16. @Squarebeard

    I based it on his justification for open borders in the west in other articles such as this one:

    • Replies: @ADayInTheLifeOfNero
  17. @Commentator Mike

    As I’ve said before in this comment section, he blocked me on Twitter for calling out his stupidity. He was even dumb enough to lump in Hungary and Poland with European nations that had former colonies all because both countries have a closed borders stance. Even one of his most die hard fans called him out for that article. Saying that it will only cause more inequality and exploitation of cheap labour via neoliberalism. Which is true. Not only that, it will also make the Western working class EVEN poorer than they ever were, before. If Andre is a Marxist all about class struggle, he should hear their pleas. It doesn’t even matter that they’re Westerners, at this point. But since he is a tankie, it seems he will never care about them. In fact, he would rather demonize them just for being born as Westerners. He was even shocked how different his views were on immigration compared to his Spanish friends. Can’t imagine why. This guy essentially projects his own mentality unto others without considering to look into their perspectives or rather saying their said perspectives are “wrong”, especially Westerners, as a pathetic attempt to smear and guilt trip them. Not because he’s asking for sympathy, but because he just wants to. It’s just blatant arrogance on his part. I’m not even a Westerner, or a follower of Western degeneracy and their sexual immorality. But this guy just doesn’t practice what he preaches. Which is solidarity through class struggle among all peoples regardless of race, ethnicity or creed. As I’ve said, before. And I thought the non-White Western leftist separatist who absolutely want no solidarity were crazy. Actually no, they’re just as bad as this Andre Vltchek guy.

  18. @peterAUS

    “Strong Russia can then try to do what USSR tried. With a vengeance, of course.”
    Absolutely. That’s why Russia has a dozen or so aircraft carriers, a navy set up for force projection & a 1000 or so bases around the world…. oh, hang on, I think that’s the….

  19. @JamesD

    “and on the other side are the commie utopians who want to spill rivers of blood” Given their actual numbers, perhaps “trickles” of blood might be more realistic. Of course, we can all dream about “commie plots” in 2019. I like nostalgia too.

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