Taplok Press, A New FLame

— Kurt Biddle and Rivani Noor

READING LEFT BOOKS has become somewhat of a trend in Indonesia. Although the struggle for democracy is far from won, overthrowing the dictator Suharto in 1998 has brought a lot of positive changes for people. One of the most important changes is the ability to openly explore political ideas and the access to information.

Several publishers have appeared on the scene recently to fill the demand. They are, in many cases, activists who see these books as important to the struggle in Indonesia. One of these publishers is Teplok Press, a small publisher with an interesting history.

In mid-1999 Teplok Press started publishing. The word “teplok” is taken from the traditional lamp of Indonesia, a small oil-burning lamp with a small flame that doesn't give off much light.

Publisher Agus Edi Santoso, who amongst activists is called “Agus Lenin,” coordinator for Teplok Press, explains the significance of the name. “During the Suharto regime, we were secretly reading, discussing and studying left books such as the Communist Manifesto, the writings of Tan Malaka, books that were considered dangerous.

“We conducted our discussions clandestinely at night, for example, in the garden or a hidden away house, lit by a small lamp, the teplok lamp.”

Small study groups discussing left-wing books began in the late 1980s, first appearing in Yogyakarta and Jakarta, then Bandung and Solo.

Today there is a lot of enthusiasm for these books. Teplok has published many left-wing titles, such as People's Revolution by Che Guevara, Tan Malaka's autobiography From Jail to Jail, A Guide to Marx's Capital by Anthony Brewer and End of German Philosophy by Marx & Engels.

Teplok's offices are in East Jakarta. Workers there are young people, mostly movement activists. They have several manuscripts they plan on publishing including more titles from Tan Malaka.

Teplok's books are distributed through two channels. One is commercially, through large bookstores, and the other is directly through activists. Together, these distribution channels cover most of Indonesia.

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