Who plotted the 1965 coup?
always said it was the communists. Yet from the start, says Colonel
Latief, Suharto himself was involved.
Indonesian President BJ Habibie has refused to release Colonel
Latief, whose arrest in 1965 for involvement in a military coup was
followed by Major-General Suharto's rise to the presidency.
Habibie has granted amnesty to 73 other political prisoners, even
to members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) accused of involvement
in the 1965 coup attempt. Refusing amnesty to Latief now shows how
Suharto overshadows Habibie.
Interviewed in Cipinang Prison, Jakarta,
three days after Suharto resigned, Latief told me that he expected never
to be released. Despite various kidney operations and the stroke he
suffered last year, Latief is still very alert. His explanation for his
involvement in 1965 directly implicates Suharto.
By late 1965, President Sukarno was ailing and without a
successor. Tension between the PKI and the armed forces was growing.
Conspiracies rumours were rife. Who would make the first move?
On the night of 30 September 1965, six hours before the military
coup, Latief confirmed with Suharto that the plan to kidnap seven army
generals would soon start. Latief was an officer attached to the Jakarta
military command. As head of the Army Strategic Reserve Command
(Kostrad), Suharto held the optimum position to crush the operation, so
his name should have been at the top of the list. When troops who
conducted the kidnappings asked why Suharto was not on the list, they
were told: 'Because he is one of us'.
There was a rumour the seven generals were intending to seize
power from Sukarno. Latief and two other army officers in the operation,
Lieutenant-Colonel Untung (in charge of some of the troops guarding
Sukarno's palace) and General Supardjo (a commander from Kalimantan), planned to kidnap the
generals and bring them before President Sukarno to explain themselves.
The 30th September Movement was thus a limited pre-emptive strike
by pro-Sukarno officers against anti-Sukarno officers. They kidnapped the
generals and occupied strategic centres in Jakarta's
main square, without touching Suharto's headquarters. The plan involved
no killing, but it went terribly wrong and six of the seven died.
Although Untung was assigned responsibility for collecting the
generals, this crucial task was then taken over by a certain Kamaruzzaman
alias Sjam, evidently a 'double agent' with contacts in the Jakarta
military command as well as the PKI. At his trial, Sjam admitted
responsibility for killing the generals but blamed the PKI under Aidit.
In 1965 when Suharto accused the PKI of responsibility for killing the
generals, the Sjam-Aidit link gave Suharto enough leverage to convince
Between Sjam and Suharto there was a twenty-year friendship going
back to the fight against the Dutch in Central Java in 1948-49. This
strengthened in the late 1950s when both attended the Bandung
Suharto was also on close terms with Untung, who served under him
during the campaign to reclaim Netherlands New Guinea in 1962 and who
became a family friend.
During his trial in 1978, not only did Latief explain that he met
Suharto on the night of the coup, but also that several days before he
met both Suharto and his wife in the privacy of Suharto's home to discuss
the overall plan. The court declared that this information was 'not
Suharto, more than anybody, described the events that night as
'communist inspired'. Suharto's claim that he saw the slain generals'
bodies had been sexually mutilated was shown to be deliberately false by
post-mortem documents, not revealed till decades later. This false claim
provoked months of killings against communists, particularly in Bali and
Central and East Java.
The PKI, numbering 20 million, were mostly rice farmers. Accused
en masse they became victims in one of the worst massacres this century.
In the opinion of the author, many writers underestimated the death toll,
which may be around one million persons. Another 700,000 were imprisoned
without trial. The most notorious general involved, Sarwo Edhie, claimed
not one but two million were killed. 'And we did a good job', he added.
Traumatised by violence, the nation became politically malleable.
Using Suharto's own categorisation of crimes related to 1965, his
prior knowledge of the alleged coup places him in 'Category A'
involvement - the same as those who faced execution or life imprisonment.
The release of Colonel Latief is a litmus test of Habibie's
willingness to promote genuine reform. Fewer than ten long term prisoners
remain. Latief has pleaded: 'Most of them are already 70 years old and
fragile. For the sake of humanity, please take notice of us.'
Dr Greg Poulgrain <email@example.com> is a research
fellow at the School
********************** 0 0 0 0 0
orchestrated Suharto's 1965-66 slaughter in Indonesia
evidence on how the October 1 coup was triggered
By Mike Head
19 July 1999
Damning new evidence has come to light pointing to the extent of
the involvement of the United States
government, closely supported by the Australian and British
administrations, in the military coup staged in Indonesia
by General Suharto on October 1, 1965 and the subsequent massacre of up
to one million workers, peasants, students and political activists.
Last week, the Sydney Morning Herald published a three-part
series that included interviews with former Indonesian political
prisoners and extracts from documents obtained from US and Australian
archives. The material shows that the Western powers urged the Indonesian
military commanders to seize upon false claims of a coup attempt
instigated by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), in order to carry out
one of the greatest civilian massacres of the 20th century and establish
a military dictatorship.
By most estimates, between 500,000 and a million PKI members and
supporters, as well as people of ethnic Chinese origin, were murdered,
and tens of thousands were detained in prisons and concentration camps,
without any visible resistance. The documents show that throughout late
1965 and early 1966 US and Australian officials approvingly reported to
their respective governments that army units and Muslim groups were
working hand-in-hand to shoot, hack or club to death at least 1,500
suspected PKI sympathisers per day, sometimes parading their heads on
This enthusiasm in the Western embassies for the bloodbath
reflected deep strategic and political interests. In the decade before
the coup, the major powers had come into increasing conflict with the
unstable nationalist regime of Indonesian President Sukarno. In late 1957
and again in 1964-65 he had barely contained mass movements of workers
and peasants, whose strikes and occupations threatened first Dutch and
then US and British banks, companies and plantations. By 1965 Sukarno was
precariously balancing between the military commanders, the Muslim
organisations and the PKI, which had some three million members and
supporters, making it the third largest Communist Party in the world,
and the Soviet Union.
had cut off foreign aid to Sukarno while building up relations with
sections of the military. From the mid-1950s it began training and
equipping Indonesian officers and troops, in preparation for a move to
topple or sideline Sukarno. The first coup attempt came in November 1956
when Indonesian army Deputy Chief of Staff Colonel Zulkifli Lubis sought
to take control of Jakarta
and overthrow the government. Regional military takeovers followed the
next month in Central and North
Sumatra. Throughout 1957 and 1958 the CIA
inspired a series of secessionist and right-wing revolts in the oil-rich
regions of Sumatra and Sulawesi, where Caltex and other US
oil firms had large investments. Then between 1959 and 1965, the US
supplied $64 million in military aid to the Indonesian generals.
A huge amount was at stake for the US
and its allies. Indonesia
had immense natural resources, including some of the largest oil and
rubber operations in the world, a teeming population and its 3,000 islands
sat astride the sea routes from Asia to Europe. The US and the other
capitalist powers regarded the archipelago as an absolutely crucial prize
in the war against the anti-imperialist struggles that erupted across Asia after World War II. The 1949 victory
of Mao Zedong's forces in China had been
followed by that of Ho Chi Minh's in northern Vietnam.
Insurgencies arose in Indochina, Malaya,
and the Philippines
from the late 1940s.
In the months prior to the Indonesian coup, the US administration
of Democratic Party President Lyndon Johnson had dramatically escalated
its intervention in Vietnam, sending in hundreds of thousands of troops
and beginning its saturation bombing of the north. And the British and
Australian governments were engaged in military conflict with Sukarno's
regime over Indonesia's
opposition to the British-backed formation of Malaysia, which
encompassed key portions of the large mainly Indonesian island
The September 30 affair
The first part of the Sydney Morning Herald's series is
substantially based on an interview with former Sergeant Major Bungkus
and earlier statements by former Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Latief. Both
were jailed in 1965 for their involvement in a supposed military putsch
instigated by the PKI on September 30, 1965. They were only released from
prison in March this year—apparently the only survivors of the
participants in the September 30 affair. Hundreds of others were tortured
Their testimony completely undermines the official version of Suharto's
coup—that he and his fellow generals were responding to a takeover bid
instigated by the PKI through its supporters in the military. By this
official account—presented in "documentary" form annually on
all Indonesian TV stations until last year—PKI-inspired officers rounded
up six of the country's highest-ranking generals on the night of
September 30 and brutally killed them, leaving their bodies horribly
mutilated. The plot was only thwarted, the authorised story insists, and
the nation saved from the "evil" of communism, when General
Suharto heroically intervened and took control of Jakarta
the next day.
According to the statements given by Bungkus and Latief, the
alleged "PKI coup" was an internal military power struggle,
engineered by Suharto as a pretext to destroy the PKI.
Bungkus, as a member of the Indonesian presidential guard, was
ordered on the night of September 30 to participate in one of seven teams
dispatched to kill or capture senior generals. At a briefing, Bungkus and
other NCOs were told by their commanding officer, Lieutenant Dul Arief, that
seven top generals had set up a “Dewan Jenderal” or Council of Generals,
and were planning to stage a coup against the then president, Sukarno.
By September 1965, the situation in Indonesia
was extremely tense. Rumours abounded that the army was going to once
more move against Sukarno and the PKI through the establishment of such a
Council of Generals.
Yet, the operation against the generals on September 30 had two
obvious flaws. In the first place, the squad sent to the home of the Indonesian
Defence Minister General A. H. Nasution—the officer with the closest
links to the US Embassy and the CIA—somehow failed its assignment,
allowing Nasution to escape. Secondly, no-one was sent to deal with
General Suharto, then the commander of the Army Strategic Reserve. On
October 1, Suharto, backed by Nasution, was able to quickly mobilise the
necessary units to take control of Jakarta
and then extend his rule across the country.
Bungkus was only a junior figure in the events but he insists that
the officers from whom he took his instructions were not linked to the
PKI. And he and other members of the presidential guard who took part in
the assassinations were simply following orders. In his view, Suharto
carefully orchestrated the September 30 affair as a means of moving
against the entire left-wing movement in Indonesia.
This is corroborated by Latief, who revealed a number of critical
facts upon his release from prison. He said that he had personally reported
the coup plan to Suharto before the killings. “Pak Harto [Suharto] knew
for sure that on September 30, the seven generals were to be brought to
Bung Karno [Sukarno],” Latief said.
Latief said he went to the military hospital where Suharto was with
his ill baby Tommy, to alert him to the intended move against the seven
generals, but Suharto took no action. “I think it is clear Pak Harto used
the opportunity of the arrest of the generals to blame the PKI and reach
Latief also referred to a document proving British and American
involvement in a plot by the seven generals to effectively seize power from
Sukarno. “The plan to arrest the generals was related to the existence of
a ‘Council of Generals' which was first revealed through the leaking of a
British Embassy document, which said the council was to supervise
Sukarno's policies. The document, a letter from the British Ambassador,
Sir Andrew Gilchrist, also revealed the British were working with the
Unanswered questions remain about the events of September
30-October 1. It is not certain whether Suharto merely allowed the murder
of the generals, or helped organise them. The involvement of the CIA and
the British in Suharto's actions requires further investigation.
Noticeably, none of the archives dealing with the lead up to the coup
have yet been opened. But the speed with which Suharto moved on October 1
supports the conclusion that, acting in concert with the US
agencies, he engineered the whole operation to eliminate his rivals and
provide a pretext for moving against Sukarno and the PKI.
Finally, it is highly unlikely that the PKI planned to overthrow
Sukarno's government, in which the party participated as coalition
partners with the military and Muslim leaders. In line with the Stalinist
doctrine of maintaining an alliance with Sukarno and the national
capitalist class, the PKI leaders had repeatedly helped quell the
struggles of workers and peasants. Under the “two-stage” theory, they had
insisted that socialism would only arise peacefully and gradually after a
prolonged capitalist stage of development in Indonesia.
Even as signs grew of preparations for a generals' coup, they had urged
their followers to have faith in the so-called pro-people's aspect of the
military apparatus. [See Lessons of the 1965 Indonesian Coup]
Moreover, there was no mobilisation of the vast membership of the
PKI and its associated trade unions, student organisations, women's
movements and peasant organisations. In the subsequent holocaust there
was no sign of PKI-led resistance. In fact, even as the death squads were
set loose, the surviving PKI leaders and their patrons in Moscow and Beijing
urged PKI followers to offer no opposition but to continue to subordinate
themselves to Sukarno, who collaborated with Suharto and was retained as
titular president until 1967.
The new evidence of direct US, British and Australian involvement
in triggering and exploiting the 1965-66 events provides a critical
lesson in the so-called democratic and humanitarian concerns of the major
capitalist powers. They stand ready to orchestrate and sanction mass
killings and repression to pursue their economic and strategic
requirements in Indonesia
called for military government
Documents from the US State Department and the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) indicate that, having seized power on October
1, 1965, Indonesia's
General Suharto and other army generals—acting on the urgings of US leaders—used
military and Muslim death squads to massacre of hundreds of thousands of
workers, students and peasants.
In its introduction to the documents, the Sydney Morning Herald
on July 10 said the secret records show “the US
knew what was happening—but continued to back the army in its bloody takeover”.
In fact, the archives show that the role of the US
administration and its junior partners in the Australian government was
far from passive.
To begin with, the material demonstrates that US officials had
longstanding and intimate ties with the military commanders; insisted
that Suharto's junta exterminate the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI);
and called for the establishment of a military dictatorship.
Many of the cables—sent from Jakarta
between October 1965 and February 1966—were written by the US
Ambassador Marshall Green and were addressed to Secretary of State Dean
Rusk and his aides. Green had arrived in Jakarta
just before the coup, selected for the post by the Democratic Party
administration of President Lyndon Johnson on the basis of definite
experience. During Green's earlier term as charge d'affaires in South Korea,
General Park Chung Hee had carried out a coup, initiating nearly three
decades of US-backed military rule. Green was later posted to Australia
in the lead-up to the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor government in
The involvement of Green and fellow senior US officials in the
1965-66 slaughter has already been partially documented. Indeed, in 1990
Green and other retired US
diplomats and CIA officers admitted that they had provided the Indonesian
generals with execution lists of the names of thousands of national,
regional and local leaders of the PKI. A report by States News Service,
published in the Washington Post of May 21, 1990, quoted Green confirming
his role, saying: “I know we had a lot more information [about the PKI]
than the Indonesians themselves... The US-supplied information was
superior to anything they had.”
The death lists had been drawn up after 1962 at the instigation of
the CIA's then Far East
division chief, William Colby, who later became CIA director. It was a
practice that was not confined to Indonesia.
Colby gave an interview in 1990 comparing the intelligence-gathering on
the PKI to the infamous Phoenix Program that he directed in Vietnam,
in which 20,000 members and supporters of the National Liberation Front
were targetted for assassination.
According to Marian Wilkinson, the author of the Sydney Morning
Herald report, the latest documents include former “Top Secret” and
records on the massacres, collected by a Washington
researcher, John Kelly, for a lapsed documentary project. These have been
added to recently declassified documents, as well as records on the US killing lists
obtained in 1990 by a US
lawyer, Kathy Kadane.
None of the new material covers the period of preparations for
Suharto's coup, but it shows that just four days after the coup, Green
was already expressing the wish that the military should exploit the
killing of six generals on September 30, 1965 to accuse the PKI of
plotting a takeover and to seize control of Indonesia.
Despite describing the involvement of the PKI leadership as “not certain,”
Green sent a message to Washington
on October 5, 1965 emphasising that the army had to move decisively: “Whatever
the background ... army in control, and it has important instruments of
power such as press, radio and TV. It also has a cause in murder of six
top leaders if army chooses to use it and it has already begun to do so
... Muslim groups and others (except communists and their stooges) are
lined up behind army...
“Army now has opportunity to move against PKI if it acts quickly.
Momentum is now at peak with discovery of bodies of murdered army
leaders. In short, it's now or never”
Green indicated that Washington's
long-held hopes that the military would remove Indonesian President Sukarno
were finally coming to fruition: “Despite all its shortcomings, we
believe odds are that army will act to pin blame for recent events on PKI
and its allies. Much remains in doubt, but it seems almost certain that
agony of ridding Indonesia
of effects of Sukarno ... has begun.”
He advised Washington to: “Avoid overt involvement as power
struggle unfolds ... However, indicate clearly to key people in army such
as Nasution and Suharto our desire to be of assistance where we can ...
Maintain and if possible extend our contact with military ... Spread the
story of PKI's guilt, treachery and brutality (this priority effort is
perhaps most-needed immediate assistance we can give army if we can find way
to do it without identifying it as solely or largely US effort).”
Army urged to go further
Two days later, Green warned Washington
that he was worried that the military might not go far enough. “Extent army
determination to stand up to Sukarno still not (repeat) not clear,” he
wrote. However, he reported encouraging signs of military action specifically
targetted against the working class: “Army has begun extensive sweeps in Jakarta
lower-class suburbs to round up communist para-military elements active in
Sept 30 violence.”
The next day, October 8, Green was more optimistic. “Communists
are now on the run for the first time in many years in Indonesia,”
he cabled. He was most of all encouraged that: “PKI organisational
apparatus has been disrupted and party documents dispersed. This capped
today with burning of PKI headquarters in Jakarta.”
By October 13, Green was able to report that the purge was progressing:
“Anti-communists continue [to] make most of their present ascendancy.
Today's tally included closing of communist universities, banning of
leftist student organisations and still more attacks on PKI premises.
Youth groups sacked second PKI bookstore.”
Two days later, Green reported on discussions with military commanders
and Muslim political leaders: “Army and Muslim sources have discussed
with [embassy officers] strategy they hope army will follow. They hope
army will proceed in step-by-step campaign not only against PKI but
against whole communist/Sukarno clique.”
On the same day, he was eager to pass on confidential reports that
mass executions had begun. “Army has already executed 74 communists
seized in connection with coup attempt, despite efforts by Subandrio [Sukarno's
foreign minister] to stop executions.”
Green was determined to ensure that the anti-communist killings
intensified. He asked for a cable to be relayed to the US Information Agency,
stressing the need for more anti-PKI agitation. “In all media, by
implication as well as by repetition of bald facts, link this horror and
tragedy with Peking and its brand of
communism; associate diabolical murder and mutilation of the generals
with similar methods used against village headmen in Vietnam.”
On October 18, Green gave a graphic report of army-backed Muslim
youth groups carrying out anti-communist and anti-Chinese pogroms in Sumatra, where many industrial and oil
projects were located. “Muslims have begun attacking Chinese-communist
elements in Medan and other
North Sumatran cities. Merchandise burned, homes sacked and Chinese
beaten. [US] Consulate has noted many fires in Medan
and Belawan Chinese districts. Muslims apparently not distinguishing between
Chicom [Chinese communists] and Indonesian citizens.”
Two days later Green cabled with approval that: “Some thousands of
PKI cadres have reportedly been arrested in Jakarta
... several hundred of them have been executed.” But he insisted that the
military had to go further to fulfill what he described as “this crucial assignment”:
“Thus far, however, basic PKI organisational potential would appear to be
largely intact and capable of recovering quickly in a purely
organisational sense if its status were recognised by the government and
army attacks were stopped...
“Army has nevertheless been working hard at destroying PKI and I,
for one, have increasing respect for its determination and organisation in
carrying out this crucial assignment.”
In another cable on the same day, October 20, Green detailed the
activities of joint army-Muslim death squads in the working class
districts of Jakarta. In a
secret visit to the US Embassy, a Muslim youth leader told of: “... army
sweeps continuing in kampongs and other locations Jakarta area ... Muslim youth ‘assistants'
are accompanying troops. Source said ‘some' killings had resulted from
On October 23 Green again expressed concern that the army was
weakening its drive. But four days later he said he was encouraged by
what senior army officers had told the US
defence attaché, Colonel Willis Ethel, during a game of golf. “We are
soon likely to hear reports about executions, including executions of
public figures on whose behalf Sukarno is likely to make pleas for leniency.”
The Embassy's close links to the military were confirmed by a CIA
cable the same day with information from the commander of the East Java Military
reporting that “he will begin a mass suppression and round-up of the PKI
Washington proposes formation of military
Few of the documents appear to relate to instructions sent from Washington
to Green and his team—orders that may be even more revealing than the
telegraphic traffic the other way. On October 29, however, one cable from
the State Department—marked “Action”—made it clear that the Johnson
administration wanted a military dictatorship established, and was ready
to support it financially and militarily.
The message noted that Washington was developing its policy on Indonesia
and wanted a military-run government: “Sooner or later ... it will become
increasingly clear to army leaders that they are only force capable of
creating order in Indonesia, and that they must take initiative to form a
military or civilian-military provisional government, with or without
It urged the Embassy to make this known to the army: “The next few
days, weeks or months may offer unprecedented opportunities for us to
begin to influence people and events ... Small arms and equipment may be
needed to deal with the PKI ... As events develop, the army may find
itself in major military campaigns against PKI, and we must be ready for
that contingency ... We shall, of course, want to consult with the British,
Australians, and others as well.”
On the same day, Green dispatched a favourable report of military officers
and Muslim extremists taking matters into their own hands. “Muslim
fervour in Atjeh [province] has apparently put all but few PKI out of
action. Atjehese has decapaci-tated [sic] PKI and placed their heads on stakes
along the road.”
From another Sumatran province, Riau, a US Embassy official
highlighted army-Muslim terror directed against trade union members in the
vital Caltex oil operations: “Muslims with army consent have sacked
communist premises in city and closed their buildings in countryside.
Army has raided PKI leaders' houses and informed Caltex management it
plans on Oct 29 to arrest key leaders of communist oil workers' union Perbum,
which forms core of PKI structure that province.”
By November 4, after a month of bloodletting, Green expressed satisfaction
with the army's role. “Army is doing a first-class job here of moving
against communists, and by all current indications is the emerging
authority in Indonesia ... In the immediate offing there is the problem
of pacifying and establishing a firm control over com-munist redoubt
areas, particularly in Central Java, and of combating PKI sabotage and
terror. There is likely to be bloodshed involving Muslims and Christian
youth groups, as well as military and others. Need for medical and other
assistance likely to be very real and urgent.”
Eyewitness accounts indicate that in Java most of the killing was
carried out by Muslim groups, in particular, Ansor, the youth wing of the
Nahdlatul Ulama (Muslim Scholars League).
On November 12, Green reported confidential news from Jakarta's
police information chief that: “from 50 to 100 PKI members are being
killed every night in East and Central Java
by civilian anti-communist groups with blessing of army”. A similar
report came from Ted Heavner, the US
Consul in the port city of Surabaya,
who wrote of the army making use of its “Muslim manpower”.
Four days later the US
Consul in Medan
reported that Muslim leaders had informed his officers of planned massacres.
He described their killing as “indiscriminate” and their attitude as “bloodthirsty”.
“This terror is not (repeat) not discriminating very carefully between
PKI leaders and ordinary PKI members with no ideological bond to the
party. [Source] suggests that army itself is officially adopting extreme
measures against PKI with plans to put many thousands in concentration
By the new year, both the CIA and Green's staff were assembling casualty
estimates. The CIA reported: “The slaughter of PKI members and
sympathisers in North Sumatra, East and Central Java and Bali
is continuing.” Green's deputy noted intelligence from a friendly power that:
“As a result of ... calculations by his embassy as well as
[confidential], a total of about 400,000 killed as a result of the Sept 30
affair had been agreed.” Nevertheless, the cable said there could be many
Another year of killings and repression ensued, before the efforts
of the US and its allies in London and Canberra were fully rewarded when
Sukarno, in March 1967, formally relinquished the presidency to Suharto, paving
the way for the latter to declare a “New Order” regime.
3: New light on Australia's
Previously-secret documents at the Australian Archives in Canberra
indicate that the Australian government—then led by Liberal Party Prime Minister
Sir Robert Menzies—and the Australian military, intelligence and
diplomatic services were closely involved in the 1965-66 Indonesian coup
carried out by General Suharto.
In publishing some of the records on July 12, the Sydney Morning
Herald chose the headline, “The silent watchers”. Its introduction
said the documents showed that the federal government had “turned a blind
eye” to the “indiscriminate slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians”.
But the documents themselves confirm that the Australian role was
as active as that of the US
government, if only on a smaller scale. Its military had trained some of
the officers taking part in the massacre, and during 1965-66 the Menzies
government and its officials shared intelligence sources, reports and
assessments on the most intimate basis with their American, Canadian and
Moreover, the records demonstrate that the cables sent to and from
the Australian Embassy in Jakarta
mirrored, at times word for word, those from the US Embassy in their
insistence that the Indonesian generals led by Suharto had to act
ruthlessly to crush all support for the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI),
especially among industrial workers.
Nor was this an “indiscriminate slaughter”. The documents point to
a common view, shared by the American, British and Australian
governments, that the establishment of a military dictatorship in
Indonesia was an essential contribution toward the wider war against the
anti-imperialist struggles that had erupted in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia,
Thailand and Malaysia.
Earlier in 1965 the Menzies government had committed troops to
both Borneo and South
Vietnam. In January, it had agreed to
the deployment of a combat battalion and a 100-strong SAS unit to Borneo
to combat Indonesian forces mobilised by the Sukarno government as part
of its campaign against the British-sponsored formation of Malaysia,
which included the resource-rich former British colonies of Sabah and Sarawak.
In April, the Menzies cabinet had committed the first battalion of
infantry to the US
intervention in Vietnam
The documents published by the Sydney Morning Herald relate
to the period after Suharto's seizure of power on October 1, 1965. Thus,
they only indirectly shed light on the Australian involvement in the US
preparations for the coup. In addition, the present Howard government
continues to block access to hundreds of pages of material held in the
Archives on the 1965-66 events in Indonesia.
No doubt, the documents that have been released are the least
Yet they are damning enough. They show that on October 5, 1965—just
four days after Suharto's takeover—the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta,
K. C. O. “Mick” Shann used identical language to that of the US
Ambassador, Marshall Green, in welcoming Suharto's coup. It was “now or never”
for the Indonesian army to deal with the PKI, Shann advised Canberra.
On the same day, Green had told Washington
that: “Army now has opportunity to move against PKI if it acts quickly ...
In short, it's now or never.”
If anything, Shann was more vitriolic than his American colleague in
demanding decisive action by the Indonesian generals. “Change there will
be,” he said in a dispatch to Canberra
the next day. “We will never get back to the status quo ante. But if
Sukarno and his greasy civilian cohorts get back into the saddle it will be
a change for the worse.”
By October 12, External Affairs Department officials in Canberra
were encouraged by the developments. Arrests, murders and executions had
begun, and mobs had ransacked the houses of PKI members of Sukarno's
In a memo to External Affairs Minister Paul Hasluck, a first assistant
secretary in the department, Gordon Jockel, said: “Since our last note to
you the army has been more vigorous and independent. Despite the
president's call for unity, the army and the Muslim groups are taking strong
practical action to disarm the PKI and disrupt its organisation.” Jockel
described these trends as “favourable,” although there were “still great
Three days later, the Embassy informed Canberra
that: “Almost daily, offices, houses and bookshops have been ransacked or
burned and the momentum does not seem to be faltering.” On the same day,
Shann sent a report in which he noted that mass killings of PKI supporters
were underway. “At least a few ‘suspects' have been brutally murdered. We
will never know how many people have lost their lives. We think it is a
Shann indicated that the Western powers were still not fully
confident in the military's role. There was likely to be no great joy for
the West if the army came to power, he thought. It would remain “implacably
anti-imperialist and therefore ... anti-American, anti-British and, to the
extent that we bother them, anti-Australian.”
Two days later, on October 17, according to US documents, US and
Australian officials met in Washington
to discuss Indonesia
and the army's strategy. A US State Department memo indicates that the US
Assistant Secretary of State, McGeorge Bundy, met the head of Australia's
External Affairs Department, Sir James Plimsoll, and Australia's
Ambassador to the US,
Keith Waller and exchanged views on the army's intentions.
By October 22, Shann, like Marshall Green, was more optimistic.
The Embassy reported that Indonesia
was experiencing “a mounting wave of anti-communist demonstrations and
sentiment and a general army-condoned, or perhaps army-inspired, blackening
of the communist image.”
It referred to a “cleansing operation” that included “nocturnal army
operations” at all levels of society. Shann himself had witnessed about
250 prisoners being “whisked off” by military police. “It is impossible
to make any estimate of the number of people killed or detained,” the
Embassy said. “It cannot be small.”
The Embassy report concluded, enthusiastically: “He would be a
very cautious man who did not derive some encouragement from events in Indonesia
over the past week.”
American documents also show that when, at the end of October, the
Johnson administration determined that Suharto should establish a
military government, it consulted the Menzies government, together with
Workers and peasants massacred
The Australian authorities were aware that workers and villagers
were among the main targets of the military repression.
In the month of November, the Embassy noted that the wave of
terror had been extended down to the factory floor. According to its
report of November 17, it had apparently become the practice in factories
and other workplaces “for the army to assemble the labour force and ask
them whether they wish to continue work as usual. Those who decline are asked
again and, unless they change their mind, summarily shot.”
Two days later, the Embassy proudly reported on an “action”—a massacre—led
by an Australian-trained officer. Colonel Sarwo Edhie was a 1964 graduate
from an 18-month course at the Australian
College at Queenscliff, near Melbourne.
On November 10, 1965, just a year after graduating, he commanded 400
soldiers of the feared RPKAD (Special Forces, now known as Kopassus) on a
sweep through Central Java, hunting for
opponents of the military junta.
At 6.30 am the troops approached a village at the foot of Mount
Merapi, in the Boyolali district,
40 km north-east of Jogjakarta,
firing “test shots” into the air. Between 100 and 200 people, many of
them women and children, appeared at the side of the road. According to
the report sent to Canberra, the villagers advanced on the troops with cries
of “Nekolim,” meaning “neo-colonialists and imperialists” and were armed
with bamboo spears, knives and “one or two guns”. “Shots fired over their
heads by the patrol failed to deter them and the army was obliged to
shoot at them, killing seven and wounding 17.”
That report was derived from a first-hand account supplied by an
Indian journalist, B. K. Tiwari, who had spent 11 days in Central
Java as Sarwo Edhie's guest. Tiwari's account also confirmed
that the military was training Muslim militia groups. In an interview with
Tiwari, the Colonel had “spoken of the training he was giving Muslim groups
(as yet no arms had been issued)”. Muslim youth were acting “as the ears
and eyes of the army, guiding patrols and generally informing”.
Two days before Christmas 1965, the Australian Embassy estimated
that, on average, 1,500 people had been murdered every day since September
30. “Estimates of the number of people killed vary between 100,000 and
200,000, the latter being the figure accepted by the American and West
German embassies. The West Germans have heard that 70,000 people have
been killed in East Java alone. Without
having any firm basis for making an estimate we would if we had to name a
figure put it at between 100,000 and 150,000. This works out at about
1,500 assassinations per day since September 30th.”
While the bloodbath was taking place in Indonesia,
the Menzies government and the External Affairs Department sought to
control and censor the news broadcast to Indonesia
by Radio Australia.
On October 10, 1965 Ambassador Shann advised Canberra
that Radio Australia should “do nothing to engender sympathy for President
Two days later, the External Affairs Department's public
information officer, Richard Woolcott noted in a memo that he and a colleague
had told contacts at Radio Australia that it should “by careful selection
of its news items, not do anything which would be helpful to the PKI and
should highlight reports tending to discredit the PKI and show its
involvement in the losing cause of the September 30 movement.”
The Department's Gordon Jockel wrote to Shann on October 15, asking
to be advised “whether there are any problems with the ABC
representatives in Jakarta”.
In a memo to his Minister, Paul Hasluck, on October 18, David Hay, another
first assistant secretary, said: “Radio Australia
should be on guard against giving information to the Indonesian people
that would be withheld by the army-controlled internal media, e.g. disavowals
[of coup involvement] by the PKI ...”
On October 21, Woolcott reported that he had insisted that Radio Australia
refer to Suharto and other key generals as “non-communist” rather than “anti-communist”
and “rightist”. “I stressed again to [Radio Australia
news editor John] Hall that the danger of inaccurate reporting could have
an adverse effect on the army ...”
By November 5, the Indonesian army was so confident that the
Menzies government would do its bidding that it relayed a message to
Canberra, via Shann, that news items critical of Indonesian Foreign Minister
Subandrio “should be used” by Radio Australia.
It also said “reports should never imply that the army or its supporters”
were in any way “pro-Western or right wing”. At that stage in the coup,
given the strength of anti-colonial feeling among the Indonesian masses,
it was still unwise for the generals to openly identify themselves with
their Western patrons.
The events of 1965-66 reveal the essential outlook of the
Australian political and military establishment. For public consumption, government
leaders extol “democratic values,” but the actual record is one of
demanding and supporting, whenever it is deemed necessary, military
violence ... and media manipulation.
This participation in the Indonesian holocaust was not a passing
phase, nor an aberration. The figures who led the Australian involvement
in the 1965-66 coup were all well rewarded for many years to come. Paul
Hasluck, the Minister, was later knighted and became Governor-General of
Australia. David Hay, a key official, was also knighted and then
appointed Administrator of Papua New Guinea from 1967 to 1970. Gordon
Jockel, also from External Affairs, went on to serve as Ambassador in Indonesia
from 1969 to 1972. Richard Woolcott, another high-ranking official,
became Ambassador to Indonesia
too—from 1975 to 1978—then headed the Foreign Affairs Department. He
remains a prominent media commentator on events in Indonesia.
As for the Labor Party, while it was not in office in 1965-66, its
support for the Indonesian massacre was best summed up in the early 1990s
by the then prime minister, Paul Keating. He referred to Suharto's coup
as the most important and beneficial event in Australia's
post-war strategic history.
During Suharto's coup in 1965-66
US officials provided Indonesian
military with death lists
By the Editorial Board
20 May 1998
It is critical that students and workers engaged in the struggle
against the Suharto dictatorship not fall prey to any illusions in the
so-called democratic role of the US
government. The statements by President Clinton and the State Department
urging restraint on the part of the Indonesian military must be placed in
the context of the actual historical role of American imperialism in the
massacre of hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants that
accompanied the 1965-66 military coup which brought Suharto to power and
the more than three decades of US support for his dictatorship.
In 1990 retired US
diplomats and CIA officers, including former Ambassador to Indonesia
Marshall Green, admitted helping the Indonesian military organize its
mass killing. According to a report by States News Service, published in
the Washington Post May 21, 1990, State Department and CIA officials at
the US Embassy in Jakarta
personally provided the names of thousands of local, regional and
national leaders of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) to the armed
forces, which then killed or detained most of those named.
A former political officer in the US Embassy in Jakarta,
Robert Martens, was quoted as saying, "They probably killed a lot of
people and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that's not all
bad. There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment."
Martens said he supplied the names to an aide to Adam Malik, the
Indonesian foreign minister who played a prominent role in the planning
of the military coup. The aide, Tirta Kentjana Adhyatman, who was
interviewed in Jakarta,
confirmed that he received lists of thousands of names from Martens and
passed them on to Malik, who gave them in turn to Suharto's headquarters.
The lists provided a detailed read-out of the PKI leadership
structure, including the names of provincial, city and other local PKI
committee members, as well as the leaders of the PKI-controlled trade
unions, women's and youth groups.
At the time, former US Ambassador to Indonesia
Marshall Green confirmed the report, saying, "I know we had a lot
more information [about the PKI] than the Indonesians themselves."
"The US-supplied information was superior to anything they
had," he said.
After the lists were turned over, US Embassy officials and CIA
desk officers in Langley,
Virginia carefully followed
the progress of the extermination campaign by the Indonesian military.
Former deputy CIA station chief Joseph Lazarsky said, "We were
getting a good account in Jakarta
of who was being picked up. The army had a 'shooting list' of about 4,000
or 5,000 people."
As the leaders of the PKI--then the third largest Communist Party
in the world, after China
and the Soviet Union--were rounded up
or assassinated, US officials checked off the names against their own
copies of the list. Lazarsky recalled that by the end of January 1966
there were so many checked-off names that CIA headquarters concluded that
the PKI leadership had been destroyed.
The initiative in drawing up the lists of PKI members came from
William Colby, who would later become the director of the CIA. In 1962 he
was appointed chief of the agency's Far East
division. In an interview around the time of the Washington Post article,
Colby said in the early 1960s he had discovered that the CIA did not have
comprehensive lists of PKI leaders. This, he said, "could have been
criticized as a gap in the intelligence system."
The lists were prepared for "operational planning," he
said, and without them, "you're fighting blind." Colby compared
the intelligence-gathering on the PKI to the notorious Phoenix Program
which he directed in Vietnam,
in which 20,000 cadres and sympathizers of the National Liberation Front
were targeted for assassination.
The "stabilization" of Indonesia
in 1965 was regarded as vital by the administration of Democratic
President Lyndon Johnson, which was then engaged in sharply escalating
its military intervention in Vietnam.
1965 was the year of the influx of hundreds of thousands of US troops and
the beginning of saturation bombing of the liberated northern part of the
The former State Department and CIA officials interviewed by
States News Service in 1990 freely admitted that the purpose of the lists
of PKI leaders was to organize mass killings. "No one cared, so long
as they were communists, that they were being butchered," said
Howard Federspeil, who was an Indonesian expert working at the State
Department when Suharto orchestrated the anticommunist pogrom. "No
one was getting very worked up about it."
Millions were killed outright or imprisoned in concentration camps
where they died of torture, neglect and slave-labor. Even an internal CIA
report, leaked to the press in 1968, said that the Indonesian security
forces killed 250,000 people in "one of the greatest massacres of
the twentieth century."
To this day, thousands of suspected PKI supporters remain in
concentration camps in Indonesia
and several dozen have been shot by firing squads since the early 1980s.
Around the time of the Washington Post article, four prisoners, Johannes
Surono Hadiwiyono, Safar Suryanto, Simon Petrus Sulaeman and Norbertus
Rohayan, were executed, nearly 25 years after the coup. The continued
repression was a clear sign that the Suharto regime feared the resurgence
of the many-millioned Indonesian proletariat and poor peasantry which is
taking place today.
At the time, former Ambassador Green was quoted as saying that he
and two subordinates approved giving the CIA lists to the military. Green
was later appointed US
ambassador to Australia
where he played a leading role in the preparations for the dismissal of
the Whitlam Labor government in 1975, in the so-called Canberra Coup.
Source: World Socialist Web Site
Ambassador Marshall Green dead at 82
key participant in Indonesian massacre
By Mike Head
26 June 1998
A former US
Ambassador to Indonesia
Marshall Green, one of the key participants in the 1965-66 military coup which
brought General Suharto to power, died of a heart attack in Washington
on June 6. He was 82.
The New York Times published a respectful obituary,
describing Green as the personification of American foreign policy in Asia
from the 1950s to the 1970s. Likewise, The Australian presented a
tribute, penned by John Wheeldon, a minister in the 1972-75 Australian
Labor Party government of Gough Whitlam, in whose downfall Green was also
Green, a long-time operative of the US State Department, played a
direct and personal role in preparing and overseeing the massacre of up
to one million workers and peasants in the period of the Indonesian coup.
Under his command, State Department and CIA officials at the US Embassy
provided the Indonesian armed forces with "shooting lists"
bearing the names of thousands of local, regional and national leaders of
the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
In 1990 Green and other retired US
diplomats and CIA officers admitted helping the military organise the mass
killing. Green confirmed a report by States News Service, published in
the Washington Post on May 21, 1990, saying, "I know we had a
lot more information [about the PKI] than the Indonesians themselves...
The US-supplied information was superior to anything they had."
One of Green's former staff, Robert Martens, who served as a
political officer in the Jakarta Embassy, was quoted as saying,
"They probably killed a lot of people and I probably have a lot of
blood on my hands, but that's not all bad. There's a time when you have
to strike hard at a decisive moment."
Green arrived in Jakarta
in 1965, just before the coup. This bloody overthrow was the product of
years of intensive preparations by the CIA and the US
military. The American forces trained and equipped the Indonesian
military and then staged a provocation--a supposed coup by middle-ranking
officers--to justify the ouster of Indonesian President Sukarno and the
extermination of the PKI.
In early 1965 Sukarno had brought leaders of the PKI--then the
third largest Communist Party in the world, after China
and the Soviet Union--into his
government, alongside a number of generals. But the pro-Chinese Stalinist
PKI had failed to adequately suppress mounting unrest, including the
seizure of plantations and factories by impoverished workers and peasants.
This situation threatened the interests of US
oil and rubber companies, as well as the plans of Democratic Party
President Lyndon Johnson, then engaged in sharply escalating the US
military intervention in Vietnam.
The Johnson White House selected Green to oversee the Indonesian
bloodbath on the basis of proven experience. During Green's earlier term
as charge d'affaires in Seoul,
General Park Chung Hee had carried out a military coup, initiating nearly
three decades of US-backed military dictatorship.
Green's long career centred on Asia and the Pacific, apart from
five years in the US Embassy in Stockholm
(1950-55). He was posted to South Korea
twice, Japan twice,
Hong Kong and New Zealand,
as well as Indonesia
He rose to the upper echelons of the State Department, serving for two
years as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
He advised Henry Kissinger when Kissinger was secretary of state, and
travelled with president Nixon to meet Mao Zedong in 1972.
Green was an unusually high-level and very controversial
appointment when posted to Australia
just after the election of the Whitlam government in 1972, the first
Labor Party government in 23 years. There can be little doubt that during
his time in Canberra,
the White House, Pentagon and CIA had a hand in the destabilisation of
the Whitlam government prior to its dismissal by the Governor-General in
November 1975. During Green's tenure, for example, businessmen with various
intelligence connections embroiled the government in a scandal involving
overseas loans, and Washington cast
doubt over continuing collaboration in the US
spy satellite base at Pine Gap.
In his obituary of Green, Wheeldon defends the former ambassador
and the US
against allegations that they helped bring down Whitlam's government. As
if to underscore the Labor Party's loyalty to the US alliance and the
capitalist order as a whole, Wheeldon writes of Green: "It did not
take him long to recognise that, although we could be annoying, we were
really rather harmless."
Wheeldon's highly favourable account of Green's career, and the
praise offered by the New York Times are warnings that, far from
the massacres and interventions associated with Green belonging to a
by-gone era, new atrocities against the international working class are
In October 1965 the international working class suffered one of
its greatest defeats and betrayals in the post-World War II period.
Up to one million workers and peasants were slaughtered in a
CIA-organised army coup led by General Suharto which swept aside the
shaky bourgeois regime of President Sukarno, crushed the rising movement
of the Indonesian masses, and established a brutal military dictatorship.
Retired US diplomats and CIA officers, including the former
American ambassador to Indonesia
Marshall Green, have admitted working with Suharto's butchers to massacre
hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants suspected of supporting the
Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). They personally provided the names of
thousands of PKI members from the CIA's files for the armed forces death
According to Howard Federspeil, who was an Indonesian expert
working at the State Department at the time of the anti-communist
program: "No one cared, so long as they were communists that they
were being butchered."
The coup was the culmination of a prolonged operation by the CIA,
with the help of agents of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, to
build up and train the Indonesian armed forces in preparation for a
military dictatorship to suppress the revolutionary strivings of the
At the time of the coup, the PKI was the largest Stalinist party
in the world, outside China
and the Soviet Union. It had 3.5
million members; its youth movement another 3 million. It controlled the
trade union movement SOBSI which claimed 3.5 million members and the 9
million-strong peasants' movement BTI. Together with the women's
movement, the writers' and artists' organisation and the scholars'
movement, the PKI had more than 20 million members and active supporters.
During the independence struggle against the Dutch in the 1940s
and throughout the 1950s and 1960s hundreds of thousands of class
conscious workers joined the PKI, believing that it still represented the
revolutionary socialist traditions of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
Yet by the end of 1965, between 500,000 and a million PKI members
and supporters had been slaughtered, and tens of thousands were detained
in concentration camps, without any resistance being offered.
The killings were so widespread that the rivers were clogged with
the corpses of workers and peasants. While the CIA-backed military death
squads rounded up all known PKI members and sympathisers and carried out
their grisly work, Time magazine reported:
"The killings have been on such a scale that the disposal of
corpses has created a serious sanitation problem in northern Sumatra
where the humid air bears the reek of decaying flesh. Travellers from
these areas tell us small rivers and streams have been literally clogged
with bodies. River transportation has become seriously impeded."
How was this historic defeat able to be inflicted? The answer
requires an examination of the history of the struggle of the Indonesian
masses, the treachery of the national bourgeoisie led by Sukarno, the
counter-revolutionary role played by the PKI, and the crucial part played
by the Pabloite opportunists of the "United Secretariat" of
Ernest Mandel and Joseph Hansen in aiding the treachery of the Stalinists.
The 'Jewel of Asia'
The bloody coup in Indonesia
was the outcome of the drive by US
imperialism to gain unchallenged control of the immense natural wealth
and strategic resources of the archipelago, often referred to as the
"Jewel of Asia".
The importance that United States
imperialism attached to Indonesia
was emphasised by US President Eisenhower in 1953, when he told a state
governors' conference that it was imperative for the US
to finance the French colonial war in Vietnam
as the "cheapest way" to keep control of Indonesia.
Eisenhower detailed: "Now let us assume that we lose Indochina.
If Indochina goes, several things
happen right away. The Malay peninsula,
the last little bit of land hanging on down there, would be scarcely
defencible. The tin and tungsten we so greatly value from that area would
cease coming, and all India
would be outflanked.
would be in no position for defence. All of that position around there is
very ominous to the United States,
because finally if we lost all that, how would the free world hold the
rich empire of Indonesia?
"So you see, somewhere along the line, this must be blocked
and it must be blocked now, and that is what we are trying to do.
"So when the US
votes $400 million to help the war (in Indochina),
we are not voting a giveaway program. We are voting for the cheapest way
that we can prevent the occurrence of something that would be of a most
terrible significance to the United States
of America, our security, our power and ability to
get certain things we need from the riches of the Indonesian territory
and from South East Asia.
Indonesia is estimated to be the
fifth richest country in the world in terms of natural resources. Besides
being the fifth largest oil producer, it has enormous reserves of tin,
bauxite, coal, gold, silver, diamonds, manganese, phosphates, nickel,
copper, rubber, coffee, palm oil, tobacco, sugar, coconuts, spices,
timber and cinchona (for quinine).
By 1939 the then Dutch East Indies supplied more than half the
consumption of 15 key raw materials. Control over this vital region was
central to the conflict in the Pacific between the US
during World War II. In the post-war period the US
ruling class was determined not to have the country's riches torn from
their grasp by the Indonesian masses.
Following the defeat of the French in Vietnam
in 1954 the US feared
that the struggle of the Vietnamese masses would ignite revolutionary
upheavals throughout the South East Asian region, threatening its grip
In 1965, just prior to the Indonesian coup, Richard Nixon, soon to
become US president,
called for the saturation bombing of Vietnam
to protect the "immense mineral potential" of Indonesia.
Two years later he declared Indonesia
to be the "greatest prize" of South East
After the coup, the value of Suharto's dictatorship to the
interests of US imperialism
was underlined in a 1975 US State Department report to Congress which
referred to Indonesia
as the "most strategically authoritative geographic location on
· "It has the largest
population of any country in South East Asia.
· "It is the principal
supplier of raw materials from the region.
· "Japan's continued
economic prosperity depends heavily on oil and other raw materials
supplied by Indonesia.
· "Existing American
investments in Indonesia are substantial, and our trading relationship is
· "Indonesia will
probably become an increasingly important supplier of US energy needs.
· "Indonesia is a
member of OPEC, but assumed a moderate stance in its deliberations, and
did not participate in the oil embargo.
· "The Indonesian
archipelago sits astride strategic waterways and the government of
Indonesia is playing a vital role in the law-of-the-sea negotiations
which are vital to our security and commercial interests."
Centuries of colonial plunder
The Dutch colonial powers mercilessly plundered Indonesia
for 350 years, looting the natural resources, establishing vast
agricultural estates, and ruthlessly exploiting its people.
In 1940 there was only one doctor per 60,000 people (compared to India,
where the ratio was 1:6,000) and just 2,400 Indonesian graduates from
high school. At the end of World war II, 93 percent of the population was
At the beginning of the 19th century, the rising British
bourgeoisie increasingly challenged the Dutch for domination over the region.
In 1800 the Dutch East India
company collapsed and the British occupied the region from 1811 to 1816.
The Treaty of London of 1824 carved up the region between the two
colonial powers: the British took control of the Malayan peninsula and
the Dutch kept charge of the 13,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago.
By the turn of the 20th century, the emerging imperialist power,
the United States,
began challenging the old European colonial power, particularly after the
American occupation of the Philippines
was locked into a trade war with the Dutch over oil and rubber. The
Standard Oil Company began to contest the monopoly on the Indonesian oil
fields by the Royal Dutch company. In 1907, Royal Dutch and Shell merged to
combat the American competitor. Taking advantage of World War I, Standard
Oil commenced drilling in central Java in 1914, and in the same year US
corporations also moved into the rubber plantations. Goodyear Tyre and
Rubber opened estates and US Rubber brought the largest rubber estates in
the world under single ownership.
US strategy in the region during
this period was summed up by Senator William Beveridge:
are ours forever ... and beyond the Philippines
illimitable markets. We will not retreat from either. We will not
repudiate our duty in the archipelago. We will not abandon our duty in
the Orient. We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race,
trustee under God, of the civilisation of the world ...
We will move forward to our work ... with gratitude ... and
thanksgiving to Almighty God that he has marked us as his chosen
people, henceforth to lead in the regeneration of the world ... Our
largest trade henceforth must be with Asia.
The Pacific is our ocean ... and the Pacific is the ocean of the
commerce of the future. The power that rules the Pacific, therefore, is
the power that rules the world. And with the Philippines,
that power is and will forever be the American
(Emphasis in the original)
The rise of Japanese imperialism and its expansion into Korea,
Manchuria and China
led to increasing conflict with US
imperialism over control over the region, culminating in World War II.
The drive by the Japanese bourgeoisie to contest US, British, French and
Dutch hegemony brought into sharp focus the value of Indonesia
as the South East Asian gateway to the Indian Ocean
and as a source of natural resources.
In 1942 the Dutch colonialists surrendered control of Indonesia
to the Japanese rather than allow the Indonesian people to fight for
their independence. All the imperialist powers had good reason to fear
the oppressed Indonesian masses.
As early as 1914 the best representatives of the Indonesian
toilers had turned to Marxism when the Indies Social Democratic
Association was founded on the initiative of the Dutch communist Hendrik
Sneevliet. In 1921 it had transformed itself into the Indonesian
Communist Party in response to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.
The PKI had won great authority among the masses by taking the
lead of the struggle against Dutch colonialism, including the first major
uprisings, in Java and Sumatra in 1926
While the Chinese masses were rising up in the second Chinese
Revolution of 1926-27, the Indonesian workers and peasants also came
forward in a rebellion, led by the PKI. However, the Dutch colonial
authorities succeeded in quelling the revolts. They arrested 13,000
suspects, imprisoned 4,500 and interned 1,308 in a concentration camp in West
Papua. The PKI was outlawed.
National liberation struggle betrayed
At the end of World War II the oppressed masses in Indonesia,
India, Sri Lanka, China, throughout South East Asia and internationally
came forward in revolutionary struggles to throw off the yoke of
At the same time, the working class in Europe
and the capitalist countries engaged in convulsive struggles. These were
only contained through the treachery of the Soviet bureaucracy headed by
Stalin and the Stalinist parties worldwide. The betrayal of the French,
Italian and Greek workers in particular and the imposition of
bureaucratically controlled regimes in Eastern
Europe allowed imperialism to stabilise itself.
By the 1930s, the emergence of a privileged caste in the Soviet
Union, which usurped political power from the Soviet
proletariat, had destroyed the Communist Parties. From revolutionary
internationalist parties they became transformed into
counter-revolutionary organisations, suppressing the independent
struggles of the working class.
In the colonial countries the Stalinised parties, including the
PKI, systematically subordinated the masses to the national bourgeoisie
led by figures such as Gandhi in India and Sukarno in Indonesia who
sought to reach settlements with the colonial powers in order to maintain
The post-war settlements did not achieve genuine national
liberation from imperia-lism but imposed on the masses a new set of
agents of imperialist rule. This was clearly the case in Indonesia
where the national bourgeoisie, with Sukarno in the lead, entered into a
series of reactionary deals with the Dutch.
Sukarno, the son of a Javanese school teacher of aristocratic
family, was a young architecture graduate, part of a very thin layer of
educated petty-bourgeois. He had been the founding chairman of the
Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) in 1927 and had suffered imprisonment
and exile at the hands of the Dutch for campaigning for national
During World War II Sukarno and the national bourgeoisie worked
with the occupying Japanese forces in the hope of achieving a degree of
national self-government. In the dying days of the war Sukarno, with the
reluctant support of the Japanese, declared the independent Republic
of Indonesia on
August 17, 1945.
The perspective of the national bourgeois leaders was not to lead
a proletarian uprising against imperialism but to establish an
administration and strengthen their hand for negotiations with the Dutch,
who had no forces in the region.
But the response of the Dutch ruling class was to launch a brutal
war to suppress the new regime. They ordered that Indonesia
be kept under Japanese command until British troops could arrive. The
British and the Dutch then used Japanese troops to attack the ferocious
resistance of the Indonesian workers, youth and peasants. Thus all the
imperialist powers united against the Indonesian masses.
As armed opposition erupted throughout Indonesia
against the Dutch forces, Sukarno, backed by the PKI leadership, pursued
a policy of compromise with the Dutch and signed the Linggadjati
Agreement in March 1947. The Dutch nominally recognised Indonesian
control over Java, Madura and Sumatra
and agreed to evacuate their troops. But in fact the Dutch used this as a
breathing space to build up their forces and prepare for a new attack of
unsurpassed brutality in July and August 1947.
Throughout this period, hundreds of thousands of workers and
peasants joined or supported the PKI because of their disillusionment
with the bourgeois leaders and because they viewed the PKI as a
revolutionary party. They were also greatly inspired by the advances of
Mao Zedong's Chinese Communist Party in its war against Chiang Kai Shek.
In the war against the Dutch, workers and peasants repeatedly seized
property and mass unions were formed.
To head off this development, Sukarno's Republican government, led
by the then Prime Minister Amir Sjarifuddin (a secret member of the PKI),
signed the January 1948 Renville Agreement (so called because it was negotiated
aboard the USS Renville in the harbour). This pact gave the Dutch control
of half the sugar mills in Java, 75 percent of Indonesia's
rubber, 65 percent of coffee, 95 percent of tea and control of Sumatran
oil. Moreover, this US-imposed settlement provided for the withdrawal of
guerrilla forces from Dutch-occupied territory and created the conditions
for the liquidation of the PKI-led "people's armed units" in
favour of the bourgeois "Indonesian National Armed Forces"
controlled by Sukarno and his generals.
In 1948 a series of strikes erupted against the Republican
government, now headed by right-wing Vice-President Hatta as Prime
Minister, demanding a parliamentary government. These strikes were
suppressed by Sukarno who appealed for "national unity".
At the same time, the exiled PKI leader Musso returned from the Soviet
Union and a series of prominent leaders of the Indonesian
Socialist and Labor parties announced that they had been secret PKI
members for many years. The announcement revealed a far wider base of
support for the PKI than previously realised by the imperialist powers.
In July 1948 the bourgeois leaders, including Sukarno and Hatta,
held a secret meeting with US representatives at Sarangan where the US
demanded, in return for assistance to the government, the launching of a
purge of PKI members in the army and the public service. Hatta, who also
held the post of Defence Minister, was given $10 million to carry out a
Two months later, in an attempt to crush the PKI, the Maduin Affair
was launched in Java. A number of army officers, members of the PKI, were
murdered and others disappeared, after they opposed plans to demobilise
the guerrilla units of the army that had been at the forefront of the
fight against the Dutch.
The killings provoked an uprising at Maduin which was suppressed
bloodily by the Sukarno regime. Prime Minister Hatta proclaimed martial
law. Thousands of PKI members were killed, 36,000 were imprisoned and PKI
leader Musso and 11 other prominent leaders were executed.
The US Consul
General Livergood cabled his superiors in the US
that he had informed Hatta that "the crisis gives the Republican
government the opportunity (to) show its determination (to) suppress
Encouraged by the anti-communist pogrom, the Dutch launched a new
military attack in December 1948, arresting Sukarno. But widespread
resistance forced the Dutch to capitulate within six months.
Even then, the 1949 Round Table conference at the Hague imposed a
new betrayal on the Indonesian masses, involving still more concessions
by the Indonesian bourgeoisie.
The Sukarno regime agreed to take over the debts of the former
colony, and gave guarantees to protect Dutch investments. The Dutch were
to keep control of West Papua and the Indonesian
Republic was to
continue to cooperate with the Dutch imperialists within the framework of
a Netherlands-Indonesian Union. The Sukarno government kept all the
colonial laws intact. A new army was formed by incorporating the former
Dutch troops of Indonesian nationality into the "National Armed
Forces". In other words, the old colonial state apparatus and laws
were retained beneath the facade of parliamentary government in the new
The PKI leadership supported the betrayal of the national
liberation struggle and determined to confine the working class and
peasantry to "peaceful democratic" forms of struggle. This was
a continuation of the PKI's position throughout World War II when the PKI
leadership (as well as the Communist Party of the Netherlands)
had followed Stalin's line of cooperating with the Dutch imperialist
government against Japan,
and called for an "independent Indonesia
within the Commonwealth of the Dutch Empire". This call remained PKI
policy even during the post-war fighting against the Dutch.
But for the Indonesian masses, the fraud of "national
independence" under the continued domination of Dutch, American and
world imperialism became ever more apparent. The natural resources,
principal industries, agricultural estates and financial power remained
in the hands of the foreign corporations.
For example, 70 percent of the inter-islands sea traffic was still
controlled by the Dutch firm KPM and one of the big Dutch banks, the
Nederlandche Handel Maatschappij, controlled 70 percent of all Indonesian
According to the Indonesian government calculations, in the
mid-1950s, Dutch investments in the country were worth $US1.5 billion.
The Sukarno government declared that even if it wanted to nationalise the
Dutch possessions it did not have the money to indemnify the former
colonial rulers. And to nationalise without compensation would be
The growing disillusionment of the masses was reflected in the
1955 elections when the number of seats held by the PKI increased from 17
Within two years the mass movement was to erupt in the seizure of
Dutch, American and British factories, plantations, banks, shops and
betray the mass movement
In December 1957 the whole fabric of imperialist domination over
the Indonesian economy was shaken by a massive eruption of the working
class and peasantry. Factories, plantations, banks and ships were seized
Sukarno's bourgeois nationalist regime was only able to survive
because the Stalinist Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) leadership
sabotaged the mass movement, insisting that the masses hand over the
property they had seized to the US-backed army which was sent in by
Sukarno to take control.
A dispatch in the New York Times of December 8, 1957 provided some
idea of the scope and intensity of the upsurge: "The movement of the
workers in Jakarta, to the extent we have been able to determine, took
place without the government's sanction, and in opposition to the
declarations of Prime Minister Djuanda, of the Army Chief-of-Staff,
General Abdul Haris Nasution, and of other high governmental
functionaries, according to whom such measures were inadmissible and
rendered their participants liable to severe penalties...
"The three Dutch banks here, the Netherlands Trading Society,
the Escompto and the Netherlands Commercial Bank, were seized by the
delegates. They read a proclamation before their enthusiastic comrades
and then before the Dutch administrators, stating that the seizure was
made in the name of the Association of Indonesian Workers and that the
banks would become the property of the Indonesian Republic."
The Dutch newspaper Volksrant reported with alarm on December 11,
1957: "In Jakarta the Communists continue to hoist red flags on the
Dutch enterprises ... Today the main office of Philips in Jakarta and
that of the Societe D'Assurances Nillmij have been 'expropriated' by the
Indonesian personnel under the leadership of 'Communist' trade union
The movement was not confined to Java. According to the New York
Herald-Tribune of December 16: "Workers of SOBSI, central trade
union organisation dominated by the Communists, seized Dutch bakeries and
stores in Java and banks in Borneo."
The New York Times of the same day reported that in Palembang,
capital of South Sumatra,
"security forces arrested a number of workers belonging to the
central trade union organisation controlled by the Communists for having
taken 'arbitrary action' against three Dutch proprietors. Thirty seven
red flags hoisted by the workers before the houses occupied by the Dutch
employees were confiscated".
Other bourgeois papers spoke of "a situation of anarchy in
Bali" and a fleeing Dutch plantation owner was quoted as saying that
in Atjeh and Deli, on the east coast of Sumatra,
the mass actions were directed not only against the Dutch companies but
also against the American and British. Similar reports came from North
Sumatra, the Celebes and other islands.
There were reports too that the uprisings inspired resistance in
New Guinea. At Karema 20 people were
wounded when native people fought soldiers after a native nurse reported
that she had been insulted.
The rebellion throughout Indonesia
erupted in response to a call by Sukarno for a general strike against all
Dutch enterprises. He had previously raised the question of
nationalisation of Dutch industry at a mass rally. Sukarno's aim was to
use the threat of nationalisation to pressure the Netherlands
to withdraw from West Papua, which it retained under the 1949 Round Table
Conference agreement, so that Indonesia
could then take control.
Seeking to balance between the rapacious dictates of Dutch, US and
British imperialism, the seething discontent of the oppressed masses and
the growing strength of the US-backed military on which his regime
relied, Sukarno sought to use the pressure of the masses to force the
hand of Dutch imperialism.
Workers themselves began to occupy the Dutch companies. Sukarno
was totally unprepared for such a response. He immediately authorised the
military to move in to take control of the enterprises which had been
seized by the masses.
The Political Bureau of the PKI rushed to Sukarno's assistance,
issuing a resolution that urgently appealed to the people "to
quickly resolve the differences of opinion on the methods of struggle
against Dutch colonialism by negotiations, so that in this way unity in
the people and between the people, the government and the army may be
At the same time the PKI appealed to the workers, "not only
to set going the occupied enterprises, but to make them function in a
still more disciplined and better way and to increase production.
"The government must appoint a capable and patriotic
direction for these enterprises and the workers must support this
direction with all their strength."
In addition, the PKI insisted that the takeovers must be confined
to the Dutch companies, seeking to reassure US and British imperialism
that their interests would not be harmed: "All the actions of the
workers, of the peasants and the organisations of youth are directed
against the Dutch capitalists. The other capitalist countries did not
take a hostile attitude in the conflict between Holland
and Indonesia in West
Irian. That is why no action will be engaged against the
enterprise of the capitalists of other countries."
Recognising the efforts of the PKI to choke the movement of the masses,
Tillman Durdin wrote in the New York Times of December 16: "Members
of the National Consultative Council of Communist orientation are known
to have actually pronoun-ced forcibly against the seizures by workers and
have called such movements undisciplined 'anarcho-syndicalism'. The
Communists defend a program of seizure directed by the government such as
it is now applied."
Sukarno himself was ready to flee the country for a
"holiday" in India,
but the handing over of the Dutch enterprises to the military, on the
instructions of the PKI, rescued his bourgeois regime. The Stalinist
leadership of the PKI not only saved the day for the Sukarno government.
They created the conditions for the military generals and their US
backers to prepare for their bloody counter-revolution eight years later.
The perspective fought for by the PKI leadership was the Stalinist
"two stage" theory that the struggle for socialism in Indonesia
had to first pass through the stage of so-called "democratic" capitalism.
The revolutionary strivings of the masses for socialist measures had to
be suppressed and subordinated to a "united front" with the
In line with this reactionary perspective, the Stalinist
bureaucracies in the Soviet Union and China
hailed Sukarno and his regime throughout this entire period. Krushchev,
for example, visited Jakarta
and said he would give Sukarno every assistance in "all
eventualities". In fact most of the weapons that were to be used to
massacre the Indonesian masses in 1965 were supplied by the Kremlin.
Military preparations begin
In 1956 the US-backed army had begun preparations for military
dictatorship to crush the movement of the masses. In August the commander
of the West Java military region
ordered the arrest of Foreign Minister Roeslan Abdulgani on a charge of
corruption. In November the army Deputy Chief of Staff, Colonel Zulkifli
Lubis, attempted unsuccessfully to seize control of Jakarta
and overthrow the Sukarno government. The next month there were regional
military takeovers in Central and North Sumatra.
In October 1956 Sukarno moved to strengthen his hand against the
masses and to appease the military by calling for political parties to
disband themselves. This call was later extended to an attempt to form a
National Council of all parties, including the PKI, to rule the country.
When military commanders in East Indonesia, Kaliman-tan, Atjeh, and South
Sumatra rejected the plan and took control of their
provinces, Sukarno declared a state of emergency. Finally a new
"non-party" cabinet was formed which included two PKI
In response to the mass upsurge of December 1957 the operations of
imperialism were immediately stepped up. The US Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) had been active since the 1940s, spending millions to
subsidise pro-US elements within the national bourgeoisie, particularly
the Socialist Party (PSI) of Sumiro, a colleague of Hatta, and its larger
Moslem ally, the Masjumi party of Sjafruddin Prawiranegara, with whom
Hatta had also retained close links.
Throughout 1957 and 1958 a series of CIA-inspired secessionist and
right-wing revolts were orchestrated in the oil-rich islands of Sumatra
and Sulawesi, where the PSI and Masjumi
The first was the Permesta military revolt which began in March
1957 and continued into 1958, ending in a CIA-backed attempted coup in
The United States
government provided substantial financial support, military advisers,
arms and a small airforce of B-26 bombers, piloted from bases in Taiwan
and the Philippines.
US Secretary of State Dulles even publicly expressed his support for the
An aircraft carrier of the US Seventh Fleet was sent to Singapore
and for some time it appeared that the US
might directly intervene in Sumatra
under the guise of defending Caltex oil personnel and property.
The Indonesian military command finally decided that the
rebellion, having failed to win any popular support at all, had to be
ended. The Sukarno leadership survived.
But the role of the army had been enormously strengthened. Over
the next six years the US
poured huge resources into it, laying the basis for General Suharto to
begin his climb to power after leading the military campaign to seize control
of West Papua in 1962.
Between 1959 and 1965 the US
supplied $64 million in military grant-aid to the Indonesian military
generals. According to a report in Suara Pemuda Indonesia:
"Before the end of 1960, the US
had equipped 43 battalions of the army. Every year the US
trained officers of the right-wing military clique. Between 1956 and 1959
more than 200 high-ranking officers were trained in the US,
while low-ranking officers are trained by the hundreds every year. Once
the head of the Agency for International Development in America said that
US aid, of course, was not intended to support Sukarno and that the US
had trained a great number of officers and ordinary people who would form
a unit to make Indonesia a 'free country'."
At the same time, Sukarno instituted his system of "Guided
Democracy". In July 1959 the parliament was dissolved and Sukarno
imposed a presidential constitution by decree again with the full support
of the PKI. He further boosted the hand of the military, appointing army
generals to leading positions.
The PKI warmly embraced Sukarno's "Guided Democracy" and
his supposed consensus or Konsepsi alliance between nationalism, Islam
and communism called "NASAKOM".
In pursuit of their "national united front" with Sukarno
and the national bourgeoisie, the PKI leaders promoted the most deadly
illusions in the armed forces.
Only five years before the bloody defeat inflicted upon the
Indonesian workers and peasants at the hands of the military, the PKI
line was put most crudely in a statement by the leadership of SOBSI, the
PKI-led trade union federation, on May Day 1960:
"The SOBSI maintains the viewpoint that the armed forces of
the Republic are still the true son of the popular revolution ... and
therefore from the officers down to the NCOs and soldiers ... they cannot
be drawn into actions which are treacherous to the Republic. Besides,
president Sukarno, who identifies himself with the people, possesses a
strong influence over members of the armed forces and he refuses to be a
A new upsurge
In 1962, Indonesia's
military annexation of West Papua was
fully backed by the PKI leadership, along with the suppression of the
resistance of the West Papuan people to the occupation.
itself, the underlying economic and class tensions, produced by the
continued exploitation of the Indonesian masses by the imperialist
corporations and their national bourgeois lackeys, re-emerged.
The period of "Guided Democracy," that is, of the
collaboration of the PKI leadership with the national bourgeoisie in
suppressing the independent struggles of the worker and peasant masses,
failed to resolve any of the pressing economic and political questions.
Export income declined, foreign reserves fell, inflation continued to
spiral, and bureaucratic and military corruption became endemic.
From 1963 onwards the PKI leadership increasingly sought to avoid
the growing clashes between the party's mass activists and the police and
military. PKI leaders stressed the "common interests" of the
police and "the people". PKI leader D.N. Aidit inspired the
slogan "For Civil Order Help the Police".
In April, 1964, in an interview with S.M. Ali of the Far
Eastern Economic Review Aidit set out for the international
bourgeoisie the Stalinists' perspective of a peaceful and gradual
"two stage" transformation to socialism in Indonesia.
"When we complete the first stage of our revolution which is
now in progress, we can enter into friendly consultation with other
progressive elements in our society, and without an armed struggle lead
the country towards socialist revolution."
He presented a scenario in which the masses would be confined to
placing pressure on the national bourgeoisie: "The chastening effect
of the present stage of the revolution will maintain a kind of
revolutionary pressure on Indonesia's
"There will be no armed struggle unless there is foreign
armed intervention on the capitalists' behalf. And when we successfully complete
our present national democratic revolution the chances of any foreign
power interfering with Indonesia's
international affairs will become extremely remote."
In August, 1964, Aidit urged all PKI members to rid themselves of
"sectarian attitudes" toward the army, calling on all left-wing
artists and writers to make the "soldier masses" the subject of
art and literary works.
In late 1964 and early 1965 hundreds of thousands of peasants took
action to seize the land of the big landowners. Fierce clashes developed
with landlords and police. To forestall the revolutionary confrontation
which was rapidly developing, the PKI called on its supporters to prevent
violent conflict with the landlords and to improve cooperation with other
elements, including the armed forces.
At a meeting of the PKI central committee Aidit urged the
suppression of peasants' actions and denounced party cadre who,
"carried away by their desire to spread the peasant actions,
immediately became impatient, indulged in individual heroism, were
insufficiently concerned with developing the consciousness of the
peasants and wanting a definite event, were not careful enough in
differentiating and choosing their targets."
PKI leaders justified halting the land takeovers and handing back
the land to the landowners by referring to the "impending
probable" formation of a "NASAKOM cabinet".
In early 1965 workers in the oil and rubber industries owned by US
corporations began to seize control of them. The PKI leadership responded
by formally joining the government. At the same time, leading generals
were brought into the cabinet.
The PKI ministers not only sat beside the military butchers in
Sukarno's cabinet, but they continued to promote the deadly illusion that
the armed forces were part of the "peoples' democratic
Aidit delivered a lecture to army staff school trainees in which
he referred to the "feeling of mutuality and unity that daily grows
strong between all the armed forces of the Indonesian
Republic and the
various groups of Indonesian people, including the communists".
In this way, the Stalinists completely disarmed the most class
conscious sections of the working class. The elementary Marxist
understanding of the state as the "body of armed men" employed
by the ruling class to maintain its rule was criminally denied.
Aidit rushed to assure the bourgeoisie and the military that the
PKI opposed the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses. "The
important thing in Indonesia
now is not how to smash the state power as is the case in many other
states, but how to strengthen and consolidate the pro-people's aspect ...
and to eliminate the anti-people's aspect".
The Sukarno regime moved against the working class by banning all strikes
in industry. The PKI leadership raised no objections because industry was
considered to belong to the NASAKOM government.
Just before the coup, the PKI, well aware of preparations for
military rule, called for the establishment of a "fifth force"
within the armed forces, consisting of armed workers and peasants. Far
from fighting for the independent mobilisation of the masses against the
military threat, the PKI leadership sought to constrain the deepening
mass movement within the bounds of the capitalist state.
They grovelled to the generals, seeking to assure them that the
PKI's proposal would lead to the strengthening of the state. Aidit
announced in a report to the PKI central committee that the
"NASAKOMisation" of the armed forces could be achieved and that
the fifth force could be established with the cooperation of the armed
forces. Right up to the very end, the PKI leadership suppressed the
revolutionary aspirations of the working class.
As late as May 1965, the PKI Politburo sowed the illusion that the
military and state apparatus was being modified to isolate the
"anti-people's aspect" of state power:
"The strength of the pro-people's aspect (of state power) is
already becoming steadily greater and holds the initiative and the
offensive, while the anti-people's aspect, although moderately strong, is
relentlessly pressed into a tight corner. The PKI is struggling so that
the pro-people's aspect will become more powerful and finally dominate,
and the anti-people's aspect will be driven out of the state power."
The Indonesian and international working class paid a bitter and
bloody price for this Stalinist perfidy when Suharto and the generals
struck on September 30, 1965.
-- Stalinism's bloody legacy
The Indonesian military coup of October 1-2, 1965 was the outcome
of a carefully-orchestrated and long-planned operation by the CIA and the
and backed commanders of the Indonesian armed forces.
Throughout 1965 class tensions mounted. The year began with
peasants seizing the estates of large landowners and oil and rubber
workers occupying US-owned enterprises. President Sukarno had brought the
army commanders, led by General Nasution, and the Indonesian Communist
Party (PKI) leadership into his cabinet to suppress the movement.
The PKI leadership halted the takeovers but the mass movement was
becoming increasingly difficult to control. There was growing discontent
over the sentencing of 23 peasants to 15 to 20 years in prison for
allegedly beating an army officer to death in the course of resisting
military action to suppress land seizures in Sumatra.
On the evening of September 30, 1965, a CIA provocation was
organised. A group of middle-ranking military officers, at least one of
whom had close personal relations with General Suharto, arrested and
executed the army chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Ahmad Yani, and five
other leading generals, and announced the establishment of a
The round up of the generals did not include two key figures. The
first was Suharto, then the commander of the Strategic Reserve Forces
(Kostrad), comprised of the military's crack troops. The mutineers led by
Lieutenant-Colonel Untung made no attempt to arrest Suharto nor cut off
his headquarters in Jakarta
despite being in a position to do so. The Defence Minister, General
Nasution, also escaped. He was supposedly on the plotters' death list but
Untung's so-called coup bid was a charade. Within 24 hours Suharto
routed the rebels, virtually without a shot being fired, and took control
of the capital, backed by Nasution.
By the end of the week, Suharto's reconstituted army command
eliminated all pockets of resistance, and launched the greatest
anti-communist pogrom in history, orchestrated by the US
embassy and the CIA. The White House, Pentagon and CIA, already fighting
an undeclared war in Vietnam,
were determined to drown the Indonesian revolution in blood.
US diplomats and CIA officers, led by the US
ambassador to Indonesia,
Marshall Green, worked hand in glove with Suharto's death squads to
exterminate every known member and supporter of the Indonesian Communist
In preparation for the coup, US officials had spent at least two years
compiling death lists which were handed over to the military with a clear
instruction: exterminate them all. Suharto's men were ordered to report
back after each set of killings so the names could be checked off on the
Some of the American officers involved described what took place.
"It really was a big help to the army," said a former political
officer in the US
embassy in Jakarta,
Robert Martens. "They probably killed a lot of people and I probably
have a lot of blood on my hands, but that's not all bad.
"There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive
Martens headed an embassy group of State Department and CIA
officers who, from 1962, compiled a detailed who's who of the leadership
of the PKI. They included, he said, names of provincial, city and other
local PKI committee members, and leaders of PKI-backed trade union,
women's and youth groups.
The operation was masterminded by former CIA director William
Colby, who was then director of the CIA's Far East Division, and thus
responsible for directing US covert strategy in Asia. Colby said the work
to identify the PKI leadership was a forerunner to the CIA's Phoenix
Program in Vietnam,
which attempted to exterminate supporters of the National Liberation
Front in the late 1960s.
Colby admitted that the work of checking off the death lists was
regarded as so important that it was supervised at the CIA's intelligence
directorate in Washington.
"We came to the conclusion that with the sort of draconian way it
was carried out, it really set them (the PKI) back for years."
Deputy CIA station chief Joseph Lazarsky described with
undisguised relish how Suharto's Jakarta
headquarters provided the US
embassy with running reports on the roundup and killing of PKI leaders.
"We were getting a good account in Jakarta
of who was being picked up. The army had a 'shooting list' of about 4,000
or 5,000 people.
"They didn't have enough goon squads to zap them all, and
some individuals were valuable for interrogation. The infrastructure was
zapped almost immediately. We knew what they were doing. We knew they
would keep a few and save them for the kangaroo courts, but Suharto and
his advisers said, if you keep them alive, you have to feed them."
All this was conducted with the approval of Green who was later
ambassador to Australia,
where he played a leading role in the preparations for the dismissal of
the Whitlam government in 1975.
At least one million people were slaughtered in the six month
holocaust that followed the coup. This was the estimate of a team of University
graduates commissioned by the army itself to inquire into the extent of
Instigated and aided by the army, gangs of youth from right-wing
Muslim organisa-tions carried out mass killings, particularly in central
and east Java. There were reports that at certain points the Brantas
River near Surabaya
was "choked with corpses". Another report from the east Javan
hill town of Batu
said there were so many killed within the narrow confines of a police
courtyard that the bodies were simply covered over with layers of cement.
On the island
of Bali, formerly
considered to be a PKI stronghold, at least 35,000 were killed by the
beginning of 1966. There the Tamins, the storm-troopers of Sukarno's PNI (Indonesian
National Party) performed the slaughter. A special correspondent of the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung told of bodies lying along the roads, or
heaped in pits, and of half-burned villages in which peasants dared not
leave the charred shells of their huts.
In other areas suspects were forced to kill their alleged comrades
with their own hands to prove their loyalty. In the major cities
anti-Chinese pogroms were conducted. Workers and public servants who went
on strike in protest at the counter-revolutionary wave of terror were
At least 250,000 workers and peasants were thrown into
concentration camps. An estimated 110,000 were still held as political
prisoners at the end of 1969. Executions continue to this day, including
several dozen since the early 1980s. Another four prisoners, Johannes
Surono Hadiwiyono, Safar Suryanto, Simon Petrus Sulaeman and Norbertus
Rohayan, were executed nearly 25 years after the coup, a clear sign that
the Suharto regime still fears the resurgence of the Indonesian
proletariat and poor peasantry.
Stalinist betrayal deepens
While hundreds of thousands of suspected PKI members and
supporters were being hunted down and slaughtered, the PKI leadership and
their Stalinist counterparts in the Kremlin, Beijing
and the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) urged PKI cadre and workers
and peasants to offer no resistance, giving a green light for the
generals to proceed with their mass executions.
The Stalinists deepened their reactionary line of demanding that
the masses subordinate themselves to the national bourgeoisie and
Sukarno, who was maintained by Suharto as a puppet president, and to the
armed forces themselves.
On October 1, 1965 both Sukarno and PKI secretary general Aidit
responded to the formation of the so-called rebel Revolutionary Council
by moving to the Halim Air Base in Jakarta
to seek protection.
On October 6 Sukarno called for "national unity," that
is, "unity" between the military and its victims, and an end to
violence. The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the PKI
immediately urged all members and mass organisations to support the
"leader of the Indonesian revolution" and offer no resistance
to the military. Its statement was reprinted in the CPA's paper Tribune:
"Having studied the appeal by the supreme commander-in-chief
of the armed forces of the Indonesian Republic, by the leader of the
Indonesian revolution, president Sukarno, the political bureau of the
central committee of the Communist Party of Indonesia declares full
support for the appeal and appeals to all party committees and party
members and sympathisers, as well as revolutionary mass organisations led
by the PKI members to facilitate the carrying out of this appeal."
Meanwhile, Sukarno, the "leader of the Indonesian
revolution," was collaborating with the military repression in the
hope of saving his own neck. He called for a thorough purge of those
allegedly involved in the "September 30 affair," (the alleged
coup bid led by Colonel Untung), and permitted PKI leaders to be arrested
and murdered. On October 15 he appointed Suharto as army chief.
Five months later, on March 11, 1966, Sukarno handed Suharto
unchallenged decree-making power. He "ordered" Suharto to
"take all steps" to re-establish order and to safeguard
Sukarno's "personal safety and authority". Suharto's first
exercise of his new powers was to formally outlaw the PKI. In recognition
of the value of his services, Sukarno was retained as the titular
president of the military dictatorship until March 1967.
The PKI leadership continued to demand that the masses bow to the
authority of the Sukarno-Suharto regime. Aidit, who had fled, was
captured and executed by the army on November 24, 1965 but his line was
maintained by the PKI's Second Secretary Njoto. In an interview given to
a Japanese newspaper correspondent he emphasised:
"The PKI recognises only one head of state, one supreme
commander, one great leader of the revolution President Sukarno... It is
President Sukarno united with the forces of the people who will decide the
destiny and future of Indonesia."
All party members, Njoto continued, should "fully support the
directives of President Sukarno and pledge themselves to implement these
without reserve... Our party is making every effort in its power to
prevent a civil war."
In other words, while the military butchers and their CIA mentors
organised the systematic liquidation of not only the PKI leadership but
the most class conscious sections of the Indonesian masses, the PKI ordered
its cadre to ensure that no-one fought back.
The utter bankruptcy and treachery of the Stalinist
"two-stage" theory of insisting that the masses tie their fate
to Sukarno and the national bourgeoisie could not have been spelt out
The betrayal of the PKI was endorsed and reinforced by the
Stalinist bureaucracies in Moscow and Beijing.
The Kremlin blamed "putschist" and "adventuristic"
elements in the PKI for the defeat and called repeatedly for the
"unity" of the Indonesian "revolution" around
Sukarno's NASAKOM (Nationalism, Islam and Communism).
On October 12, 1965 Soviet leaders Brezhnev, Mikoyan and Kosygin
sent a special message to Sukarno: "We and our colleagues learned
with great joy that your health has improved ... We have with interest
heard about your radio appeal to the Indonesian people to remain calm and
prevent disorders ... This appeal will meet with profound understanding."
At a Tricontinental Conference in Havana
in February, 1966, the Soviet delegation tried in every way to block a
public condemnation of the counter-revolutionary terror raging against
the Indonesian masses. Its stance won praise from the Suharto regime. The
Indonesian parliament passed a resolution on February 11 expressing
"full appreciation" for the "efforts of the delegations of
Nepal, Mongolia, the Soviet Union and others at the Solidarity Conference
of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America, who successfully
neutralised the efforts of the counter-revolutionists of the so-called
September 30 movement, and their protectors and leaders, to intervene in
the internal affairs of Indonesia".
Thus, the betrayal of the Stalinists was so brazen that the
parliamentary lapdogs of the military junta were able to refer to the
CIA's September 30 set-up as an attempted counter-revolution!
The Beijing Stalinists similarly wiped their hands of the fate of
the Indonesian masses. They even went ahead in Jakarta
with a World Conference Against Foreign Bases and stood by without
protest as their Indonesian comrades were arrested in the conference hall
The legacy of the 'bloc of four classes'
The Stalinist betrayal in 1965 was the culmination of more than 20
years of treachery in which the PKI, working on the basis of the
Stalinist "two-stage" theory and, in particular, the Maoist
ideology of a "bloc of four classes," tied the working class
and peasant masses to the bourgeois nationalist regime of Sukarno.
Aidit spelt out the ideological framework of the bloody defeat of
the Indonesian revolution shortly after returning from 18 months in China
in July 1950 and wresting control of the PKI leadership:
"The working class, the peasants, the petty-bourgeoisie and
the national bourgeoisie must unite in one national front."
Aidit slavishly followed the line of the Maoist regime in China
which suppressed the independent struggle of the working class and
attempted to establish a "New Democracy", a bourgeois state, in
alliance with sections of the national bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie
after the collapse of Chiang Kai Shek's dictatorship.
Parroting Mao, he called for a "people's democracy" and
a "united front of all anti-imperialist and anti-feudal forces in
the country. That is to say, the working class, the peasantry, the
petty-bourgeoisie and the national
In keeping with the counter-revolutionary "two-stage"
theory of Stalinism, "The task of this alliance is to bring about
not socialist but democratic reforms".
Aidit demanded that the workers and peasant masses support not
only the national bourgeoisie but also "all other patriotic and
anti-colonial forces including the left (rather progressive) landlord
It was this line, which Aidit hammered out incessantly, which was
used to suppress workers' and peasants' struggles, tie the working class
to the Sukarno regime, and create the conditions for the US-backed
military to strike.
Time and again, PKI members and supporters were instructed to
strangle the class struggle and the revolutionary strivings of the
oppressed masses in order to preserve the "national united
"The basic principle we must adhere to in the conduct of the
national struggle is to subordinate the class struggle to the national
The "two stage" theory of Stalinism insists that in the
colonial and semi-colonial countries such as Indonesia,
the oppressed masses must not engage in struggles that threaten the
national bourgeoisie nor raise the program of socialist revolution. The
class struggle has to be stifled to prop up the national bourgeoisie and
establish a national capitalist democracy.
The bloody counter-revolutionary consequences of this Stalinist
line were first demonstrated in China
in 1926-27 when the butcher Chiang Kai Shek inflicted a crushing defeat
on the Chinese working class after the Communist Party had been
instructed by the Kremlin leadership to join his bourgeois nationalist
The massacres carried out by Chiang confirmed Leon Trotsky's
warnings that the weak and belated bourgeoisies of the oppressed nations
are organically incapable of conducting any consistent struggle against
imperialism and feudalism. That is because, to do so requires the
mobilisation of the masses in revolutionary struggle and such a struggle
immediately comes into conflict with the class position of the national
bourgeoisie as exploiters of their "own" working class and
As Trotsky explained in his writings on the betrayal of the
"To really arouse the workers and peasants against
imperialism is possible only by connecting their basic and most profound
life interest with the cause of the country's liberation. A workers'
strike small or large an agrarian rebellion, an uprising of the oppressed
sections in city and country against the usurer, against the bureaucracy,
against the local military satraps, all that arouses the multitudes, that
welds them together, that educates, steels, is a real step forward on the
road to the revolutionary and social liberation of the Chinese people...
But everything that brings the oppressed and exploited masses of the
toilers to their feet inevitably pushes the national bourgeoisie into an
open bloc with the imperialists. The class struggle between the
bourgeoisie and the masses of workers and peasants is not weakened, but,
on the contrary, is sharpened by imperialist oppression, to the point of
bloody civil war at every serious conflict." (Trotsky, Problems
of the Chinese Revolution, New Park 1969, p.5)
The criminal role played by the PKI in tying the Indonesian masses
to Sukarno's national bourgeois regime made Trotsky's analysis tragically
The unresolved tasks of genuine national liberation, land
redistribution, democracy and economic development in Indonesia
and all historically-oppressed countries can be achieved only by the
working class leading the peasant masses in the socialist revolution.
That is, national self-determination can only arise as a by-product of
the socialist revolution led by the proletariat.
The victory of this struggle is bound up with the development of
the world socialist revolution to overthrow imperialism on a world scale.
This is the kernel of the Marxist theory of Permanent Revolution
developed by Leon Trotsky and vindicated by the victory of the October
1917 Russian Revolution.
accomplices of counter-revolution
In the months following the bloody CIA-organised military coup of
October 1-2, 1965, every known member and supporter of the Indonesian
Communist Party (PKI) and all working class parties, and hundreds of thousands
of other Indonesian workers and peasants, were massacred or thrown into
concentration camps for torture and interrogation.
The systematic extermination and ruthless suppression of working
class opposition intensified after March 11, 1966 when Sukarno, the
bourgeois nationalist leader retained by the military as President,
granted unfettered decree-making power to the coup leader and army chief,
The betrayal of the tumultuous revolutionary movement of the
Indonesian masses by the Stalinist leadership of the PKI was a profound
defeat with enormous implications for the international working class.
The PKI blocked the repeated attempts of the workers and peasants
to seize the factories and plantations. It tied the masses to the bourgeois
nationalist regime of Sukarno and ultimately joined the US-backed
military leaders, the future butchers of the masses, in the Sukarno
cabinet. After the coup the Stalinists ordered their cadre to enforce
Sukarno's appeal for "unity" with the military and to prevent
any resistance to the holocaust that was being unleashed.
The blow struck to the Indonesian revolution reverberated
throughout Asia and around the world.
In particular it encouraged and enabled the massive escalation of the US
invasion of Vietnam,
it crushed the hopes and revolutionary striving of the masses in Malaysia,
Thailand, and the Philippines,
and it strengthened the hand of the unstable bourgeois regimes in the
Mandel and Hansen whitewash Stalinist treachery
But the response of the Pabloite revisionists of the "United
Secretariat," led by Ernest Mandel and Joseph Hansen, was to
minimise the magnitude of the great Indonesian betrayal, to whitewash the
counter-revolutionary role of the Stalinists, and, above all, to cover up
their own responsibility for the bloodbath.
While the Indonesian masses were being slaughtered, Professor
Mandel attempted to paint the most reassuring picture of the future
prospects of the Indonesian revolution, in order to dull the consciousness
of the international working class.
"Naturally the struggle has not ended in Indonesia,"
he wrote from the comfort of his Belgian university chair in an article
published in the Pabloite journal World Outlook on March 11, 1966.
"A part of the Communist cadres have been able to go
underground," he went on. "The discontent of the hungry masses
is increasing from day to day; the empty stomachs of the workers and
peasants are not filled through massacres. The revolt will widen against
the corrupt regime. Sukarno understands this and will resume his eternal
balancing act; he has just eliminated the most ferocious of the generals
from his cabinet. The people will again have their turn."
This whitewash of the immense betrayal of the Indonesian masses
demonstrates the counter-revolutionary consequences of Pabloite
opportunism, which emerged in the Trotskyist movement from the late 1940s
and early 1950s.
Led by Michel Pablo, elements such as Mandel adapted to the
post-World War II stabilisation of capitalism and the seeming
strengthening of the Stalinist bureaucracies which suppressed the
revolutionary upsurge of the international working class in the immediate
post-war period. They abandoned Trotsky's struggle for the construction
of the Fourth International as the world party of socialist revolution
and claimed that the Moscow
and Beijing-line Stalinist bureaucracies and parties would be pressured
by the masses into playing a progressive role. On this basis, they set
out to liquidate the Fourth International into whatever Stalinist or
social democratic formation then dominated the labour movement in each
country, declaring that the road to socialism consisted of centuries of
horribly deformed workers' states of the type established in Eastern
Europe and China.
In 1953 this liquidationism was combatted by the formation of the
International Committee of the Fourth International in response to an
Open Letter issued by American Socialist Workers Party leader James P.
Cannon calling for the defence of "orthodox Trotskyism".
However, by the early 1960s the SWP leaders themselves had increasingly
adapted to the prolonged post-war boom. They hailed the apparent
successes of national bourgeoisie and petty bourgeois elements, such as
Castro in Cuba,
as a substitute for the seizure of power by the working class led by
revolutionary Marxist parties, proclaiming that socialism could be
achieved through such "blunted instruments". This was the
perspective on which they reunified with the Pabloites in 1963 to form
the United Secretariat.
Central to the Pabloite renunciation of proletarian revolution was
the reactionary objectivist method which presented the struggle for
socialism as a quasi-automatic "historical process" achieved
through the spontaneous movement of the masses led by whatever political
tendencies were at hand, regardless of their class composition and
Thus the Indonesian "people" would prevail regardless of
the terrible crisis of leadership produced by the perfidy of the mass
Stalinist party. Sukarno, by now the willing tool of General Suharto, was
supposedly muzzling the most ferocious generals. And, even after its
unspeakable betrayal, Mandel referred to the PKI as a
Mandel's snow job was ratified by the "United Secretariat"
in a statement issued on March 20, 1966. Its conclusion was that the
emergence of General Suharto as the "strong man" of the
counter-revolution was of little consequence, because "It is
extremely unlikely that the counter-revolutionists now in power in Jakarta
will be able to stabilise the situation for any length of time."
Today, with Suharto's military junta still riding ruthlessly on
the back of Indonesia's
oppressed millions, it is crucial to study how the Pabloite opportunists
provided the essential political cover for the PKI and the Sukarno regime
The "United Secretariat" statement sowed the most deadly
illusion that even General Suharto's American-trained killers would be
compelled to act in the interests of the Indonesian masses against
imperialism as part of Sukarno's phoney "confrontation" with
the newly-formed state of Malaysia: "The army leaders themselves
will not readily give up their nationalist, anti-imperialist verbiage
which reflects real conflicts of interest with British imperialism and
the ruling comprador bourgeoisie and semi-feudal landowners of Malaysia."
While the Indonesian masses were left leaderless in the face of
Suharto's horrific slaughter, the Pabloites loftily declared their
confidence that somehow the masses would be victorious.
"The masses, though leaderless and deeply shaken, have not
lost all fighting potential, particularly in the countryside. It will
prove impossible to get the thousands of squatters to evacuate the
imperialist-owned or 'nationalised' plantations managed by corrupt army
officers, or to compel the thousands of plantation and oil workers to
revert to the 'normal' working conditions of colonial times."
Above all, the Pabloites continued to insist that the masses place
their trust in the Stalinist leaders of the PKI, arguing that they could
be convinced to play a revolution-nary role, even after they had
strangled every mass movement against the Sukarno regime.
"If they succeed in regrouping and in regaining a mass
following in some regions of the countryside by calling on the peasants
to immediately take over the land held by the landlords, the plantations
and army administration, they could gain on a progressive scale due to
the inability of the Indonesian reaction to solve the country's basic economic
plight and due to the divisions in the ranks of the army which that
inability will undoubtedly provoke."
In 1957, and again in 1964-65, the PKI had directed workers and
peasants to surrender the factories, banks, oil installations,
plantations and other enterprises they had occupied, saving the day for
Sukarno and the Indonesian bourgeoisie. Now, the Pabloites claimed, they
could play a progressive role.
Mandel's article and the "United Secretariat" statement
were published, together with an article by a Pabloite member of the PKI,
by the US Socialist Workers Party in a pamphlet called "The
Catastrophe in Indonesia"
dated December 1966. It was complete with an introduction by Joseph
Hansen, an SWP leader who had played a poisonous role in the 1963 reunification
with the Pabloites. Hansen, subsequently exposed as a Stalinist agent who
became an FBI plant in the SWP, was a central instigator in the SWP's
1963 break from the ICFI. Hansen sought to reassure the pamphlet's
readers that "one of the new features of world politics today"
was "the quickness with which the masses recover from defeats that
formerly would have left them prostrate for decades".
The stunning indifference of the Pabloites to the fate of the
Indonesian masses was not simply the product of the callousness and
contempt for the working class which characterises their fetid
petty-bourgeois milieu but was also a bid to cover-up the critical factor
in the Indonesian betrayal the role played by the Pabloites themselves
and their Indonesian representatives.
It is a measure of the cynicism of the Pabloites and their
subservience to the Stalinists and the national bourgeoisie that none of
the articles and statements published in the 1966 pamphlet so much as
mentioned the existence of a section of the "United
Secretariat" in Indonesia, let alone explained the part it played in
the events leading up to the coup.
There was just one brief appeal for the legalisation of and
release of all members of the PKI, the Partai Murbah (a social democratic
formation) and the Partai Acoma, even though the Acoma party had
relations with the Pabloites at least as early as 1953 and was admitted
as a section of the "United Secretariat" in 1960, just as the
American SWP was intensifying its unprincipled reunification manoeuvres
with the Pabloites.
This fleeting reference to their own members was a guilty attempt
by the Pabloites to hide the part that they and their Indonesian proteges
played in providing the PKI Stalinists with much-needed credibility
throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
How Pabloism emerged in Indonesia
The Partai Acoma originated as a breakaway from the PKI in 1948.
By falsely claiming to be Trotskyist, it served to divert and trap
working class and peasant opposition to the support of the PKI for the national
bourgeois regime of Sukarno. Led by an MP, Ibnu Parna, its programmatic
documents presented the PKI as a "Marxist-Leninist party like
us." As we shall show, this was a fraud in relation to both the PKI
and the Partai Acoma.
The need for such a fake "Trotskyist" safety valve was
demonstrated by the explosive events of 1948.
The collaboration of the PKI leadership in the post-war
administrations headed by Sukarno and their acceptance of the Indonesian
bourgeoisie's rotten agreements with the Dutch colonialists aroused
intense working class opposition.
From July 5, 1947 to January 23, 1948 President Sukarno's
Republican administra-tion was headed by Amir Sjarifuddin who was both
Prime Minister and Defence Minister. Sjarifuddin was a secret member of
the PKI, as was the Deputy Prime Minister and a Minister of State. In
addition, two Ministers of State were open members of the PKI. This
administration signed the Renville Agreement with the Netherlands which
maintained Dutch control of the lion's share of the sugar, rubber,
coffee, tea and oil industries, required the withdrawal of guerrilla
forces from Dutch-occupied territory and provided for the liquidation of
the PKI-led "people's armed units" into the bourgeois
"Indonesian National Armed Forces" controlled by Sukarno and
Such was the popular opposition to the acceptance of the
US-imposed pact with the Dutch that the government was brought down and
replaced by one headed by right-wing Vice-President Hatta as Prime
Strikes then erupted, demanding a parliamentary government. The
PKI leadership supported the suppression of this movement by Sukarno who
appealed for "national unity". When this betrayal was opposed
by a section of the PKI, the PKI leadership responded savagely, executing
the leaders of the opposition faction.
Partai Acoma emerged from this dissenting group. While it opposed
the PKI leadership, the Acoma party
maintained that the Indonesian revolution had to be carried out by the
PKI as a "Marxist-Leninist party". Subsequently the Acoma
leaders established contact with the "United Secretariat" which
encouraged their pro-Stalinist positions and illusions in Maoism.
It is apparent that the Partai Acoma diverted wide layers of
workers and peasants looking for an alternative to the class
collaborationist program of the PKI.
From 1953 to 1955, for example, the Acoma's
strength in the 200,000-strong Indonesian Peasants Association (SAKTI)
delayed for two years plans by the PKI leadership to merge SAKTI with two
PKI-controlled peasants' organisations, the RTI and the BTI.
Pabloites prepare betrayal
An article published in February 1958 in the Pabloite journal Quatrieme
International provides a graphic indictment of the role played by
Pabloism in opposing the fight for revolutionary Marxist leadership in
the working class.
The article, "The Indonesian Revolution on the March,"
by Sal Santen, a close associate of Pablo, was written at the height of
the revolutionary convulsions of December 1957, when workers and peasants
seized control of Dutch and other imperialist-owned plantations and
The article provided a criminal cover for the
counter-revolutionary role of the PKI, which ordered the masses to hand
over their conquests to the military in order to shore up the Sukarno administration.
According to Santen: "It must be added that the Communist
militants, the basic and average cadres of the PKI and of the SOBSI, the
big Indonesian workers' union organisation, have nothing of the
bureaucratic character of Aidit (Communist Party leader) and Co.
They are in front; they are the ones who took over the initiative in
occupying the factories, the plantations, the banks and the ships. There
is no doubt that the most conscious of them are inflamed by the
revolutionary audacity of Tan Malakka, by Leon Trotsky's ideas of the
Acting on this perspective, the Indonesian Pabloites politically
disarmed the tens of thousands of workers and peasants who came forward
into struggle only to find their way blocked by the PKI. Just at the
point when the decisive task was to educate the most class conscious
elements in the necessity for an uncompromising struggle against the
Stalinist "two-stage" and "bloc of four classes" line
of the PKI, and the need for a thorough arming with the program of
Permanent Revolution, the Pabloites worked for the opposite.
Opportunist to the core, they equated Trotsky with Tan Malakka, an
early PKI leader who opposed the plans for a revolt in 1926 and split from
the PKI to form his own organisation. They falsified the Marxist theory
of Permanent Revolution, transforming it from a conscious strategy to
guide the struggles for the dictatorship of the proletariat into a
spontaneously generated perspective.
The central tenant of Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution is
the perfidy of the national bourgeoisie and their incapacity to lead a
real struggle against imperialism. Only the working class can free the
masses from national and class oppression, by carrying the socialist
revolution and uniting with their class brothers throughout the world in
a common struggle to overthrow imperialism internationally.
Such a struggle can only be undertaken consciously under the
banner of the Fourth International in an uncompromising struggle against
the Stalinist and petty-bourgeois forces, such as the Pabloites, who
attempt to disarm the working class and tie it to its own bourgeoisie.
In the hands of the Pabloites, the program of Permanent Revolution
became a justification for their own adaption to the national bourgeoisie
and the Stalinists. The working class did not need its own revolutionary
party to come to power because the PKI was the instrument through which
the Permanent Revolution was being realised, albeit unconsciously.
Thus, Santen, speaking on behalf of Pablo and Mandel, declared:
"In any case it is clear that the whole of Indonesia
is moving. The march of the masses has become irreversible although
the process remains contradictory and has already reached the stage of dual
power in a good part of Indonesia,
and above all in Java. The occupation of enterprises, of plantations,
of the fleet, and the banks by the masses has only one meaning: It is
a question of the classical beginning of the proletarian revolution. The
Indonesian revolution is in the act of breaking the limits of the
national revolution under a bourgeois nationalist leadership. It develops
according to the laws of the permanent revolution." (Emphasis in
The Pabloites held out the prospect of a peaceful transition to
"worker and peasant power":
"A speedy and almost 'peaceful' victory of the revolution up
to worker and peasant power (above all in Java) was possible, if the PKI,
at the first moment pushed by the spirit of the masses, had not done
everything to castrate the action of the masses by subordinating it to
the control of the government."
What the Pabloites meant by "worker and peasant power"
was completely opposed to the struggle for the dictatorship of the
proletariat. The Pabloites lined up as cheer leaders for the
counter-revolutionary Stalinist "two-stage" perspective of
demanding that the proletariat give up the struggle for socialist
To sanctify their opposition to the independent mobilisation of
the working class and to the forging of a revolutionary proletarian, that
is, Trotskyist, party, the Pabloites insisted that the PKI, despite its
betrayal of the December 1957 occupations, would be pressured to the left
by the masses:
"At the same time, at each aggravation of the situation, the
masses have the tendency to push the SOBSI and PKI further. A great deal
will now depend on the boldness, on the revolutionary Marxist
understanding of the militants, of the average Communist cadres. We feel
completely solidarised with them, inspired and enthused by their
initiatives, by their boldness which we passionately hope will not stop
before the 'taboos' of the Aidits. We salute the Indonesian Trotskyist
cadres who are integrated in the PKI with the correct revolutionary
perspective that the radicalisation of the masses will be realised above
all through the PKI and SOBSI."
This was the greatest crime of Pabloism the liquidation of
Trotskyist cadre, and those who were attracted to Trotskyism, into the
camp of Stalinism.
Santen added a footnote to emphasise that this treacherous line
was advanced in direct opposition to the struggle waged by the
International Committee of the Fourth International since its founding in
1953 to defend Trotskyism against Pabloite liquidationism. Santen
specifically denounced the ICFI's fight for the construction of sections
of the Fourth International to defeat counter-revolutionary Stalinism:
"In contradiction to some sectarian 'orthodox' people, the
International does not let itself be fascinated by the reactionary
Stalinist policy, but orients itself, above all, on the dynamism of the
situation itself, a dynamism that pushes the masses, and through the
masses the PKI itself into contradiction with the present order in Indonesia."
This passage should be burned into the consciousness of every
worker as the summation of Pabloism's pro-Stalinist dirty work.
In direct struggle against the ICFI, the Pabloites consciously
pushed fatal illusions in the PKI Stalinists, precisely at the point
where the burning question of the hour was to expose the criminal role of
the Stalinists and resolutely fight for a decisive break by the masses
from the PKI to construct a revolutionary Trotskyist leadership.
The protracted and implacable struggle waged against the Pabloite
opportunists by the ICFI, which appeared for many years to be a fight
taken up by small isolated forces in the Fourth International, was a life
and death question for millions of Indonesian workers and peasants.
Within weeks of Santen's lines being penned, the rotten fruits of
the PKI's betrayal of the December 1957 movement began to emerge. A
counter-revolutionary government was formed in Central
Sumatra in February 1958 by coup leader Colonel Achmed
Hussein and headed by Dr Sjafruddin Prawiranegara. This CIA-backed
operation, only possible because of the PKI's disarming of the December
1957 rebellion, was a test run for the bloody coup that was to take place
seven years later.
Fully conscious that this was a dress rehearsal for
counter-revolution, the response of the Pabloites was to intensify their
wretched boosting of the PKI. Quatrieme International's editor
added a footnote which climaxed with the following purple passage:
"Since the 'rebels' main aim is to do away with Sukarno's
'guided democracy' in which is included the PKI, then any compromise will
be at the expense of the PKI. In this case, the immediate perspective is
that the PKI, under mass pressure, will be obliged, willy nilly, to
execute a major policy about-face as was performed by the Chinese
Communist Party in a similar situation in 1949, and to go past the
bourgeois-nationalist stage of the revolution to the socialist stage of
workers' power. Thus, in fact, but again without acknowledgement,
operating on the basis of, and validifying the Trotskyist theory of
Thus the PKI, the hangman of the Indonesian revolution, was
depicted as the unwitting instrument of the Permanent Revolution!
Added to this was the lie that the Chinese Stalinists, the mentors
of Aidit and the other PKI leaders, had carried through the
"socialist stage of workers' power" in 1949. In fact, the
peasant armies of the Maoists brutally suppressed the proletarian uprising
in 1949, murdered the Trotskyist opposition, and established an extremely
deformed workers' state based on the Stalinist perspective of a
partnership with the national bourgeoisie, the urban petty bourgeoisie
and the peasantry. This was indeed the model upon which the PKI
leadership based itself.
Not content with glorifying the Stalinists, the editor's special
footnote then promoted the prospects of the national bourgeoisie
undertaking a progressive transformation as well. It suggested an
alternative scenario premised on the Sukarno government leading a
struggle against the CIA-organised "rebels":
"In the other event, that the Sukarno government takes a
stronger line of opposition and resistance to the 'rebels,' a further
polarisation of all the bourgeois and semi-feudal counter-revolutionary
forces will be seen; confronting a shadow bourgeois-nationalist
government and the masses. This confrontation of the masses against the
new 'slaveholders' rebellion,' against the new 'Kornilov putsch,' will
mean a new upsurge of the revolution, while the experience of this kind
of revolutionary action by the masses will leave little chance of a
relapse to the stability of a bourgeois nationalist regime."
The events of October 1965 were to prove the Sukarno regime to be
no less accommodating to General Suharto's killers than the Kerensky
government was to General Kornilov's coup bid in 1917. Sukarno displayed
the essence of bourgeois nationalism by ending his political career as a
puppet President for Suharto's military junta.
The conclusion of the editor's footnote should be inscribed on the
tombstone of Pabloism: "In either case our optimistic perspective is
justified. The Indonesian Revolution is on the march! Its victory as a
socialist revolution is now in generation. (Emphasis in original)
From 1957 to 1965 the Pabloites internationally perpetrated this
objectivist cover-up of the grave dangers confronting the Indonesian
The work of the Pabloite section in Indonesia
was central to the whole Pabloite world perspective. It was discussed
intensively at the so-called Fifth World Congress of the "United
Secretariat" in 1957.
"Our Fifth World Congress, in discussing the progress and the
road of the world colonial revolution, gave serious attention to the
developments in Indonesia.
Recognising the Indonesian situation as pre-revolutionary, it expected a
revolutionary explosion very soon," declared the article by Santen.
The entire Pabloite "United Secretariat" has blood on
its hands. They aided and abetted the Stalinist betrayal of the
Indonesian workers and peasants.
cover up Stalinist treachery
The crisis of working class leadership was never posed so sharply
as in Indonesia
between 1963 and 1965. The fate of the Indonesian workers and peasants
depended entirely on overcoming and defeating the counter-revolutionary
line of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) which bound the working
class hand and foot to the tottering bourgeois nationalist regime of
Sukarno while the US-backed military prepared for a bloody coup.
The PKI Stalinists, led by general secretary Aidit, repeatedly
demanded that workers and peasants hand back factories and plantations
which they had seized. They then joined the army generals in taking cabinet
posts in the Suharto government and backed the outlawing of workers'
The more it became obvious that the generals were preparing for a
bloody coup, the more the PKI leaders worked feverishly to assure the
bourgeoisie and the military that the PKI opposed the revolutionary
mobilisation of the masses.
Aidit repeatedly declared that the state power in Indonesia
did not have to be smashed but could be reformed from within to
"strengthen and consolidate the pro-people's aspect," which
included President Sukarno. The PKI leader gave lectures at army colleges
in which he heralded a "feeling of mutuality and unity that daily
grows strong between all the armed forces of the Indonesian
Republic and the
various groups of Indonesian people, including the communists".
The PKI leadership could only advance these positions because the
Indonesian Pabloites were working equally feverishly to prevent workers
from breaking with the Stalinists. They vehemently opposed the construction
of a new revolutionary leadership.
The responsibility for the bloody counter-revolutionary
consequences of this line can be traced directly to the 1963 Pabloite
Reunification Congress at which the American Socialist Workers Party
consummated an unprincipled break from the International Committee of the
Fourth International and joined the Pabloite "United
Secretariat" of Ernest Mandel.
After leading the struggle against Pabloite liquidationism in
1953, the SWP leaders had in the late 1950s increasingly adapted to the
pressure of the protracted post-war boom and the apparent quiescence of
the working class. They abandoned the struggle for proletarian revolution
led by a Bolshevik-type party and sought "regroupment" with
petty bourgeois radicals and disaffected Stalinists. In 1963 they joined
hands with the Pabloites in claiming that not only the Stalinist parties,
such as the PKI, but also the bourgeois nationalist and petty-bourgeois
nationalist forces in the backward countries, such as Castro in Cuba and
Sukarno in Indonesia, could become vehicles for the establishment of
The reunification resolution declared that there was no crisis of
revolutionary leadership in the oppressed countries: "In the
colonial and semi-colonial countries ... the very weakness of capitalism,
the whole peculiar socio-economic structure produced by imperialism, the
permanent misery of the big majority of the population in the absence of
a radical agrarian revolution, the stagnation and even reduction of
living standards while industrialisation nevertheless proceeds relatively
rapidly, creates situations in which the failure of one revolutionary
wave does not lead automatically to relative or even temporary social or
economic stabilisation. A seemingly inexhaustible succession of mass
struggles continues, such as Bolivia
has experienced for 10 years."
In other words, no matter how crushing were the defeats and
betrayals inflicted on the masses, they would rise again. There was no
need for a Trotskyist party. The criminal character of this opportunist
complacency was soon to be spelt out in the blood of the Indonesian
The 1963 conference was based on the rejection of the historical
necessity of building sections of the Trotskyist movement in the backward
countries. The Pabloite resolution declared: "The weakness of the
enemy in the backward countries has opened the possibility of coming to
power even with blunted instruments."
the "blunted instrument" was to be the PKI.
The great betrayal in Sri Lanka
The Pabloite treachery in Indonesia
was intimately bound up with the great betrayal in Sri
Lanka in 1964 when the Lanka Sama Samaja
Party (LSSP), the Pabloite organisation, joined the bourgeois coalition
government of Mrs Bandaranaike, together with the Stalinist Communist
Party of Sri Lanka, in order to behead the mass working class movement
against capitalist rule.
The LSSP had opposed the formation of the International Committee
in 1953 and subsequently played a central role in preparing the American
SWP's reunification with the Pabloites. Its opposition to the struggle
against opportunism in the Fourth International was rooted in its
increasingly nationalist orientation and abandonment of Trotskyist
program and principles in order to accommodate with the Stalinists and
Bandaranaike's capitalist party, the SLFP, in Ceylon.
The Pabloite Reunification Congress of 1963 covered up the LSSP's
national opportunism by claiming that "Our Ceylonese section has
progressively corrected the wrong orientation adopted in 1960 of
supporting the liberal-bourgeois government of the SLFP. Since the masses
began to go into action, it has not hesitated to place itself at their
head against its electoral allies of yesterday." Just one year later
the fake "Trotskyist" credentials supplied by the Pabloites
were used by the LSSP to join the capitalist government.
This betrayal by a party hailed by the Pabloites as the
"largest Trotskyist party in the world" had disastrous
implications internationally, first of all in Indonesia.
It strengthened the hand of the Stalinist and Maoist parties, such as the
PKI, whose capacity to suppress and disarm the working class would have
been shattered had the LSSP upheld the program of permanent revolution
and fought for the overthrow of bourgeois rule in Sri
Pabloites boost PKI
After the entry of their Sri Lankan section into the capitalist
government in Sri Lanka
alongside the Stalinists, the Pabloites continued to pursue a very
similar pro-Stalinist and pro-national bourgeois line in Indonesia.
The Pabloites' pamphlet, The Catastrophe in Indonesia, not
only covered up the part played by the Indonesian Pabloite section, the
Partai Acoma, as we exposed in the previous chapter.
Even after the bloody coup in Indonesia,
the pamphlet continued to promote the prospect of the national
bourgeoisie and the PKI playing a progressive role.
It included an article by T. Soedarso, described by US Socialist
Workers Party leader Joseph Hansen in the pamphlet's introduction as a
"young member of the Indonesian Communist party who succeeded in
making his way into exile". Hansen enthusiastically commended
Soedarso's article as "an indication of the determination of an
important sector of the Indonesian Communist Party to learn from what
happened and to utilise the lessons in such a way as to ensure victory
when the masses again surge forward, as they surely will".
Soedarso's article treated the counter-revolutionary program of
the PKI leadership as a series of "mistakes", including the
"errors" of "seeking to achieve socialism by peaceful
means," and of pursuing a "policy" of a two-stage
revolution and a united front with the national bourgeoisie.
Soedarso expressed no fundamental differences with the Stalinists,
agreeing, for example, that "The revolutionary movement could and
should support the progressive attitudes or actions of the national
bourgeoisie". If ever proof was needed that the semi-colonial
bourgeoisie, personified by Sukarno, was inherently incapable of a
"progressive" program and would line up behind the slaughter of
the working class, the Indonesian bloodbath provided it. For 18 months
Sukarno served General Suharto's dictatorship as a puppet president, and
even after that, from March 1967, he was retained as a token
"president without powers".
The Pabloites likewise belittled the significance of the PKI's
entry into the Sukarno NASAKOM coalition government with the military
butchers. Soedarso implored the PKI to reverse this "line," as
if it were a mere lapse.
Soedarso's virtual apology for this fundamental class treachery
was no accident. The cardinal premise of Pabloism was the reversal of
Trotsky's struggle against Stalinism. The evolution of Stalinism into a
counter-revolutionary bureaucracy was established irrevocably in 1933
when the Stalinist Comintern, approved, without a single dissenting
voice, the betrayal of the German Communist Party in handing over the
German working class to Hitler without a shot being fired. From that
point on Trotsky insisted that the Third International, following the
Second, had passed definitely into the camp of the bourgeoisie, and that
the Fourth International had to built as the world party of socialist
revolution to ensure the continuity of Marxism.
Soedarso's article was a conscious cover-up, organised by Mandel
and Hansen, for the reactionary role of Stalinism. The article
deliberately did not use the word Stalinism, but fraudulently referred to
the PKI as "Communist". And then to make his position crystal
clear, Soedarso concluded: "The above criticism is not intended to
undermine the role of the PKI nor to arouse distrust in Indonesian
Thus, a year after the military coup, by which time a million
workers and peasants had perished, the Pabloites were whitewashing the
lessons of 1965 and still urging the Indonesian workers and peasants to
maintain their faith in the PKI.
The Pabloite 'lessons' of Indonesia
Soedarso's article was not an isolated instance. In fact the line
advanced in the article provided the essential themes for the statement
issued on March 20, 1966 by the Pabloite "United Secretariat".
Entitled "The Lesson of Indonesia," it opposed any break
from the PKI and issued no call for the building of a section of the
Fourth International. On the contrary, it declared that the
"Indonesian Communists" could "overcome the results of the
present defeat" by assimilating certain lessons.
The first "lesson" was stated as follows: "While it
is correct and necessary to support all anti-imperialist mass movements,
and even to critically support all concrete anti-imperialist measures
taken by representatives of the colonial bourgeoisie like Sukarno, for
colonial revolution to be victorious it is absolutely essential to
maintain the proletarian organisations strictly independent politically
and organisationally from the 'national' bourgeoisie."
Not only did the Pabloites continue to sow the most dangerous
illusions in the "anti-imperialist" pretensions of the national
bourgeoisie, their talk of "independent" proletarian
organisations was an utter fraud. The political independence of the
working class could only be forged by building a Trotskyist party in
pitiless and audacious struggle against the Stalinists whom the Pabloites
were trying to resuscitate.
The second Pabloite "lesson" claimed that "While it
is correct and necessary during the first phases of the revolution in
backward countries to place the main stress on the problems of winning
national independence, unifying the country and solving the agrarian
question (i.e., the historical tasks of the bourgeois democratic
revolution which constitute the most burning tasks in the eyes of 80 to
90 percent of the population), it is indispensable to understand that the
solution of these tasks is only possible when the working class, in
alliance with the poor peasantry, has conquered leadership of the
revolution, establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor
peasantry and pushes the revolution through to its socialist phase."
With this opportunist line of "two phases," the Pabloites
were trying to breathe new life into the discredited "two
stage" theory of the Stalinists, which demanded that the
"socialist phase" of the revolution be delayed until the
completion of the democratic and national revolution. The Pabloite
position was the opposite of Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution
which was based on the international character of the socialist
revolution and the revolutionary role of the international proletariat.
Trotsky emphasised the essential lesson of the Russian revolution that,
in this epoch, the democratic and national tasks in the backward and
oppressed countries could be achieved only through the proletarian
revolution and its extension on the world scale.
The Pabloite call for the "dictatorship of the proletariat
and poor peasantry" sought to revive the "Old Bolshevik"
formula of the "democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and
peasantry" discarded by Lenin in 1917. Lenin adopted Trotsky's
unequivocal position that the proletariat is the only consistently revolutionary
class which can lead the peasants and carry through the democratic and
socialist tasks of the oppressed nations as part of the struggle of the
working class on a world scale.
The third "lesson" advanced by the Pabloites was:
"While it is necessary to win the broadest possible mass base in the
countryside, a revolutionary party capable of applying that policy must
be based upon a hardened proletarian cadre thoroughly trained in Marxist
theory and revolutionary practice."
The duplicitous character of this "lesson" can be seen
from the fact that it was oriented toward the Stalinists. The references
to a "hardened proletarian cadre" and "Marxist
theory" were a sham.
In fact, the "United Secretariat" advised the survivors
of the PKI leadership to take the road of rural guerrilla warfare.
Its statement expressed the hope that "what remains of that
leadership along with the surviving party cadres especially the best
educated, those steeled by the terrible experiences they went through in the
past six months will have taken the road of guerrilla war, if only out of
They urged the Stalinists to turn to a peasant-based guerrilla
war, aping the Maoists in China.
Maoism is a variant of Stalinism based on peasant hostility to the hegemony
of the working class. Arising out the defeat of the 1926-27 Chinese
revolution and the destruction of the Chinese Communist Party's working
class membership, Mao's turn to the peasantry led to the abortion of the
1949 Chinese revolution. It produced a highly deformed workers' state
based on Mao's "bloc of four classes" the national bourgeoisie,
the urban petty-bourgeoisie, the peasantry and the working class.
It was this very doctrine which guided the determination of the
Aidit leadership of the PKI to prevent a proletarian socialist revolution
In Aidit's words: "The working class, the peasants, the petty
bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie must unite in one national
The Pabloites' pamphlet was a cynical bid to divert class
conscious workers from the most essential lesson of the Indonesian
betrayal the necessity for a Trotskyist party to defeat the Stalinists
and their Pabloite accomplices who function as counter-revolutionary
petty-bourgeois agencies within the mass movement. There was and is only
one revolutionary party which can avenge the betrayal of 1965 by leading
the Indonesian workers to power an Indonesian section of the
International Committee of the Fourth International.
In 1951 the PKI leadership had set out clearly the path of
betrayal it was to pursue. "In the struggle to realise their
political convictions, the communists will not use force while the ruling
class still leaves the peaceful, the parliamentary way open. If there is
the use of force, the spilling of blood, a civil war, it will not be the
communists who start it but the ruling class itself."
This counter-revolutionary perspective was only able to be
inflicted on the Indonesian masses because the Pabloites tied the most
class conscious sections of the working class to the banner and program
of the PKI.
The Pabloite betrayals in Sri Lanka
demonstrated the counter-revolutionary character of Pabloism. As the
International Committee of the Fourth International stated in its 1988
perspectives resolution, The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of
the Fourth International,:
"In the assistance it rendered to Stalinism, social democracy
and bourgeois nationalism, the opportunism of the Pabloite centrists
played a vital role in enabling imperialism to survive the crucial years
between 1968 and 1975 when its world order was shaken by economic turmoil
and an international upsurge of the working class and the oppressed
masses in the backward countries. It verified Trotsky's assessment of centrism
as a secondary agency of imperialism. The petty-bourgeois defeatists who
pontificate on the doomed character of the proletariat while discovering
new vistas for the bourgeoisie never bother to concretely analyse how
decrepit capitalism survived into the 1980s. The Pabloites care least of
all to examine the results of their own policies. Inasmuch as the entire
petty-bourgeois fraternity of centrists, radicals and declassed
intellectuals dismiss a priori the revolutionary capacities of the
working class and accept its defeat as inevitable, they never even
consider what the consequences of a correct Marxist policy would have
been in Sri Lanka in 1964, in France in 1968, in Chile in 1973, and in
Greece and Portugal in 1974.
"The International Committee, on the other hand, derives from
the strategical experiences of the proletariat during the postwar period
the crucial lesson upon which it bases its preparation for the coming
revolutionary upheavals: that the building of the Fourth International
as the World Party of Socialist Revolution to ensure the victory of the
international working class requires an uncompromising and unrelenting
struggle against opportunism and centrism."
A new revolutionary leadership must be built to lead the
Indonesian masses to smash the Suharto dictatorship, overthrow the
bourgeoisie and throw off the yoke of imperialist exploitation in the
fight for the world socialist revolution. Against the Stalinists and
Pabloites who are preparing another bloody trap for the masses, an Indonesian
section of the ICFI must be forged to lead this struggle.
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