Posts made in October, 2014

Colonel Suwarto and the Indonesian Socialist Party

Posted by on Oct 4, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Colonel Suwarto and the Indonesian Socialist Party

Founded by Sutan Sjahrir and Amir Sjarifuddin, the Socialist Party (Partai Socialis) was small, but influential – and made an enduring mark on the Sukarno and Soeharto administrations. The original Socialist Party split in mid-1947, during the independence struggle, into a Right Wing (Sayap Kanan) led by Prime Minister Sjahrir and a Left Wing (Sayap Kiri) under then Defense Minister Amir Sjarifuddin. The Right Wing became the Indonesian Socialist Party (PSI) and was dominated by Sjahrir’s moderate brand of socialism and pragmatic tolerance for capitalism and free market economics. Sjarifuddin’s Left Wing joined the People’s Democratic Front (Front Demokratis Rakyat, FDR) coalition with the PKI – and was later destroyed during the army’s brutal response to the September 1948 Madiun rebellion. Despite its name, the PSI was nominally socialist; it comprised secular, urban and western-educated intellectuals and technocrats. The PSI and its “secular modernizing intellectuals” had close ties to senior officers, including T.B. Simatupang, Kemal Idris, H.R. Dharsono and Suwarto. Others, like Nasution, Alex Kawilarang and Sultan Hamengku Buwono IX sympathized with the progressive, pro-reform PSI ideology. In alliance with Masjumi, the PSI stridently opposed the Communist Party. The party’s involvement in the October 17, 1952 Affair was a serious blow to its popularity. Lacking a popular base, the PSI garnered just five seats in the 1955 parliamentary elections. Even so, party officials remained firmly entrenched in the bureaucracy. Its influence far exceeded the party’s size and popularity. Ordinary Indonesians tended to view PSI leaders as Dutch and English-speaking elitists, sometimes referred to as “salon socialists.” Over time, the PSI label came to refer to anyone, civilian or military, with a university education or western values. “PSI-leaning” officers played key roles in military developments throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including the October 17 Affair when pro-rationalization forces surrounded the Palace in a crude show of force; the 1956 Colonel Zulkifli Lubis mutiny; the regional rebellions in the late-1950s; the bloody 1965-1966 communist purge; the anti-communist student action fronts; and ultimately President Sukarno’s overthrow. Sukarno had banned the PSI in 1960, along with Masjumi, because party officials were involved in the regional rebellions. Nonetheless, the PSI intellectuals recovered to play a significant role in formulating Soeharto’s security and stability-based New Order development strategy. The PSI exercised an inordinate influence on New Order policies due in large measure to Army Staff College Deputy Colonel Suwarto’s efforts. Although not well known, Suwarto was an extraordinary figure who had a major impact on Soeharto’s thinking and the evolution of the modern Indonesian Army. He had been a classmate with Nasution at the Dutch-run Bandung Military Academy and served under him in Siliwangi Division during the Revolution. Suwarto was an intelligent, energetic officer and an intellectual, a rarity in the nascent people’s army. He was closely associated with the PSI and strongly influenced by the party’s conservative thinking. Major Suwarto was the Tasikmalaya-based Siliwangi Regiment 11 Commander in the heart of Darul Islam country during the early-1950s. He is credited with originating the Army’s civic action (karya bhakti) program to win the hearts and minds of the local population. Suwarto participated in both the...

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