Posts made in August, 2015

The Council of Generals

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Council of Generals

Sukarno distrusted his generals. He had made a devil’s pact with the Army that allowed them to become powerful and influential under Guided Democracy’s autocratic umbrella. By the early-1960s, he was skillfully employing the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) to counterbalance the Army, often seeming to take sadistic pleasure in publicly tormenting army leaders. Sukarno’s determined efforts to divide the Armed Forces contributed to bitter inter-service rivalries and mistrust. For years, the PKI had actively sought to infiltrate the military, an effort aided by high levels of politicization within the services and the police. Officers from the smaller branches were more receptive to PKI advances, driven in part by inter-service rivalries and a barely concealed resentment toward the much larger and dominant Army. Earlier in 1965, Navy Commander Eddy Martadinata had grumbled to Army Commander Ahmad Yani, “If needed, the Navy and Air Force are employed as armed forces. When not needed, we are treated like the Women’s Army Corps.” [1] The prima donna Air Force Commander Air Vice Marshal Omar Dani actively sought Sukarno’s favor, while Indonesian Marine Corps Commander Major General Hartono was had pledged uncompromising loyalty to the infallible Great Leader. Accordingly, the Air Force and Marines enthusiastically supported Sukarno’s Malaysia Confrontation policy, as did the PKI, whereas the Navy sat on the sidelines and Army support for the Malaysia campaign was lukewarm at best. Despite prodding from Sukarno, Army Commander Ahmad Yani (photo inset) was reluctant to expand involvement in the low-level conflict or dispatch his best units to the Kalimantan frontier. Top army leaders were predominantly anti-communist, less for ideological than practical and historic reasons. The communist treachery during the Revolution was still a bitter memory to many. At the same time, most officers held Sukarno in reverence due in large part to his mesmerizing oratorical skills and legendary role as the Republic’s father figure. Indeed, most military and police officers would have been considered Sukarno loyalists. There was a degree of sympathy for the PKI within the army ranks, especially among the majority Javanese troops. Leftist sentiments were stronger in the other services. Yet pro-communist elements in all the services were probably a minority. The real divider was the extent of loyalty to Sukarno. That ambiguous, almost irrational mixture of anti-communist and pro-Sukarno emotions created anxiety and confusion in the High Command and dangerous ideological tensions within the ranks. Relations between the President and the Army had soured as Sukarno leaned more toward the left. PKI leaders were Sukarno’s cheerleaders in the Confrontation campaign. With the President’s patronage, they became more assertive. Sukarno’s inclusion of leftist politicians in his cabinet, close association with communist leaders and steady reference to communist ideals in his speeches bolstered PKI self-confidence. In return, Sukarno’s close advisors fed the President’s growing paranoia that his enemies (both foreign and domestic) were out to get him. Most prominent among the President’s inner circle was the ambitious Deputy Prime Minister Soebandrio, who opportunistically aligned himself with Sukarno and the PKI. The Central Intelligence Agency-backed regional rebellions in the late-1950s, several failed assassination attempts and his own narcissism combined to make Sukarno especially...

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The Indonesian Communist Party: Revolutionary Gymnastics

Posted by on Aug 16, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Indonesian Communist Party: Revolutionary Gymnastics

Starting in late-1963, Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) Chairman Dipa Nusantara Aidit (photo inset) called for a “rural offensive” and “unilateral action” (aksi sepihak) by tenant sharecroppers against Javanese landholders to enforce the November 1959 Sharecropping Law and the September 1960 Basic Agrarian Law, limiting the landlord’s share of harvests, restricting individual land holdings, and stipulating excess property be redistributed to landless peasants. In March 1964, ten months after martial law was lifted, the government expanded the provincial and local-level Catur Tunggal (Committee of Four executive boards – comprising the regional army commander, the governor, the police chief and the district attorney) to Panca Tunggal (Committee of Five) by adding a National Front member to the local executive boards, diluting local army authority. In many places, the National Front representative was a PKI member or otherwise leftist politician. Overpopulation had led to the progressive fragmentation of landholdings on much of Java and Bali. Sixty percent of Java’s forty-two million farmers were landless. The PKI had received 16.4 percent of the national vote in 1955; mostly from poor, displaced abangan peasants in Central and East Java. The party naturally sought to accommodate that constituency, calling for peasants to seize property from landowners, refuse to deliver sharecropping payments, and aggressively picket local officials who refused to implement the land reform policy. Labeled “revolutionary gymnastics” by President Sukarno, the land redistribution campaign polarized the rural population in Central and East Java, and parts of Bali, and led to violent clashes. Sukarno appeared unconcerned by the bloodshed, apparently considering it a cost of the continuing revolution. The PKI unilateral action campaign was mostly in Central and East Java, with smaller efforts in West Java, Bali and North Sumatra. The aggressive PKI actions in Central and East Java generated tremendous resentment among farmers and Muslim groups, like the large grassroots Nahdlatul Ulama Islamic organization. Mosques and Islamic schools through years of charitable contributions had accumulated substantial land holdings. Indeed, many wealthy Muslim land owners donated large tracts to mosques and pesantren to evade the land reform laws. The PKI targeted those lands and the estates of affluent Muslim land owners, often employing gangsters to seize property by force. The PKI unilateral action developed a life of its own as civil conflict escalated. Eager to seize property, local PKI leaders and their landless peasant minions employed violent tactics, prompting open clashes with rural landowners and orthodox Muslims in the cities and towns. Killings, kidnappings and mass clashes between rival gangs armed with machetes, knives and clubs were commonplace throughout 1964 and 1965. Muslim property owners were murdered almost daily as they resisted the seizure of their land. ‘Non-Communist opponents such as party leaders, clergymen, village elders, were cornered, insulted and defamed as enemies of the State and the People. Mosques and other places of worship were desecrated, land of estates and “landlords” forcefully occupied. The proclaimed mass-terror led to the murder of policemen, all forces of order were systematically bullied, and an atmosphere of civil war emerged.’ [1] D.N. Aidit and PKI leaders in Jakarta warned their cadres to avoid “reckless leftisms” but had difficulty controlling...

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Dipa Nusantara Aidit and the Indonesian Communist Party

Posted by on Aug 8, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Dipa Nusantara Aidit and the Indonesian Communist Party

Dipa Nusantara Aidit (photo inset) was born in Belitung Island in Sumatra to santri Muslim parents in 1939. His given name was Dja’far bin Nuh Aidit; he later adopted the more theatrical title Dipa Nusantara. He identified himself as an “Indonesian Communist.” Aidit was a brilliant political strategist who overhauled the Communist Party’s image based on a platform of nationalism, land reform and labor rights. He attracted landless peasants through promises of land redistribution. Implanting itself in the labor union movement, the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) took over the largest national labor union, the All Indonesia Labor Union Federation (Sobsi), and infiltrated rival parties, including the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) and Indonesian Socialist Party (PSI), in a deliberate tact to advance its left wing agenda. Aidit was a twenty-four-year old PKI cadre at the time of the September 1948 uprising in Madiun, East Java. Along with two other young PKI leaders, twenty-eight-year old Lukman and thirty-three-year old Wikana, he reportedly fled the country after the Madiun rebellion. Aidit returned in 1950 and became PKI Chairman the following year with Lukman as his deputy and Wikana as a Central Committee member. Rising from “virtual oblivion,” by the time of its March 1954 national congress the PKI claimed 150,000 members. Following a vigorous campaign, the PKI received six million votes (16 percent) in the 1955 election, making it the fourth most popular party nationwide and the dominant party in Central Java. During Java regional elections in June and August 1957, the PKI emerged as the strongest party, with 27.4 percent of the vote. Although Sukarno indefinitely postponed national elections under Guided Democracy, many thought the PKI would have earned a nearly 50 percent share if the 1959 elections had been held. [1] The PKI’s advances reflected public disillusionment with the central government. Kept outside the government largely due to army and Muslim objections, and therefore untainted by the other major parties’ record of corruption and incompetence, the PKI grew rapidly. The party adhered to the Moscow line during the Revolution and early-1950s, but under Aidit pursued a more independent policy. With generous political support and financial assistance from the Chinese Communist Party, Aidit and the PKI (along with Sukarno) gradually tilted toward Peking as the decade progressed. By the early-1960s, communist influence was felt in every sphere of Indonesian life. The PKI launched its own grass roots civic action program, organizing various mass organizations, including the two million strong Pemuda Rakyat (People’s Youth), the Barisan Tani Indonesia (Farmers’ Party) with several million members, Gerwani (Gerakan Wanita, Women’s Movement) with two million members, the huge Sobsi labor union with more than three million members, Sarbupri (Sarekat Buruh Perkebunan Republik Indonesia, Estate Workers’ Trade Union) and Lekra (Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat, People’s Culture Institute). Lekra sponsored cultural performances at universities and mass entertainment shows at village-level. Aidit and the PKI professed support from 20 percent of Indonesia’s 100 million citizens – three million party members and an additional seventeen million in affiliated organizations. The PKI leader also claimed substantial support in the Armed Forces, especially among Javanese service members. In his report to the...

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The Indonesian Revolution: The Madiun Mutiny, September 1948, Part 3

Posted by on Aug 1, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Indonesian Revolution: The Madiun Mutiny, September 1948, Part 3

When the second Dutch offensive commenced on December 19, 1948, there seems to have been an unpublicized government directive that top Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) leaders be executed, rather than risk the negative political consequences in case they were captured. Central Java Military Governor Colonel Gatot Subroto – presumably acting on orders from Yogyakarta – supervised a hasty execution for eleven leaders in the Madiun rebellion the same day the Dutch attacked Yogyakarta. They included Amir Sjarifuddin (who had been Prime Minister just eight months earlier), five PKI Politburo members (Suripno, Sardjono, Maruto Darusman, Harjono and Ngadiman), and Colonels Djokosujono and Jadau. A firing squad executed the prisoners in Ngalihan village (about fifteen kilometers east of Surakarta). [1] Others executed on December 19 included Sumarsono (Madiun Pesindo Commander), Lieutenant Colonel Dachlan (Narottama 29th Brigade Commander), Lieutenant Colonel Sidik Arselan (Madiun Pesindo Regiment Commander), Lieutenant Colonel Munaji (Nganjuk marine battalion commander), Setiadjit (Indonesian Labor Party leader) and Oei Gee Hwat (editor of the National Front newspaper in Madiun). In Magelang, Colonel Bambang Sugeng’s men shot another forty-one communist prisoners, including Suprodjo, who had been Social Affairs Minister in the two Amir Sjarifuddin cabinets. Several other prominent PKI prisoners being held in Yogyakarta – Alimin Prawirodirdjo, Tan Ling Djie and Abdulmadjid – escaped in the confusion during the Dutch attack. [2] In effect, Republican leaders sanctioned liquidating the entire communist leadership. Many suspected Vice President Hatta ordered the killings, while Sukarno, who had saved Amir Sjarifuddin from the Japanese sword a few years earlier, was said to have been deeply troubled by the executions. [3] The Madiun Affair left a bitter legacy in loss of life, santri–abangan antagonism and intense military distrust of leftist politics, later manifested in the army-abetted communist massacre in Central and East Java during 1965-1966. The alleged atrocities against Muslims contributed to the Masjumi Party’s obsessive anti-communist stance throughout the 1950s and early-1960s. The significant casualties and atrocities at Madiun far exceeded anything Republican leaders had expected when they ordered military operations against the FDR-PKI rebels. According to military records, 159 Republican troops died while quelling the uprising. [4] There is no accurate count for “enemy” and civilian deaths; estimates range between 4,000 and 8,000. [5] The Indonesian Revolution shifted dramatically to the right after the Madiun Affair. The government launched a crackdown against the PKI and left wing groups, neutralizing most government opponents in one fell swoop. Security forces arrested communists and leftists on a massive scale. Some 35,000 were rounded up, continuing right up to the second Dutch offensive on December 19. The FDR organization in Sumatra prudently disassociated itself with the rebellion. “The Madiun coup produced, in government-controlled areas, a mad scramble by various organizations to oust the Communists from their midst and declare their loyalty to the government. … Most Indonesians, even those who were sympathetic to the PKI, agreed with the government that the Madiun revolt was a treacherous stab in the back at a time when the Republic was facing the possibility of renewed Dutch attacks.” [6] Despite objections from army leaders, the PKI was not formally banned. After the transfer...

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