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International Socialist Review, Fall 1959


Report on Indonesia


From International Socialist Review, Vol.20 No.4, Fall 1959, p.101.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


On July 5, 1959, President Soekarno of Indonesia proclaimed a return to the 1945 constitution which makes him absolute ruler of Indonesia. At the same time he dissolved the democratically elected Constituent Assembly and proclaimed the formation of an appointed Consultative Congress.

At the last general elections held in 1955 Soekarno’s own party the PNI (Partai Nasional Indonesia), a bourgeois nationalist party, polled 8 million votes – about 25 percent of the total. The other three major parties were the PKI (Communist) 6 million; the NU (Nahadatul Ulama), a Moslem peasant party, 7 million; and the extremely reactionary Masjumi, a Moslem feudalist party, 7 million.

On February 21, 1957, Soekarno proclaimed his attachment to a system of “guided” democracy or government by a National Council composed of representatives of all parties plus persons appointed by the President. The Stalinist PKI leadership fell over itself with eagerness to accept the proposition. The opposition of the feudal reactionaries who did not want to be dominated by the bourgeoisie prevented complete adoption of the scheme.

Finally, in July 1957, Soekarno established a “Cabinet of Experts” to run the government and appointed a National Council with limited powers. As might be expected Soekarno “dumped” the PKI and did not include any representative of the PKI in the Cabinet. This fact did not prevent the PKI from continuing to support Soekarno.

To divert the attention of the masses from their economic problems all Indonesian parties have waged a fervent nationalist campaign for the incorporation of Dutch occupied Irian or West New Guinea in Indonesia. In the course of the campaign in December 1957, in a series of largely spontaneous actions led principally by rank and file PKI members, the workers of Indonesia occupied and took control of all Dutch enterprises in Indonesia. The PKI leadership quickly intervened to hand the factories and plantations over to the army as nationalized State property. At the same time they took steps to ensure that the movement did not spread to the expropriation of any other capitalist property.

In February 1958, a part of the Army, representing principally the feudal landlords, and with some United States backing, attempted to launch a coup d’état against the government. Under pressure from the PKI leadership, who threatened to withdraw support from the government, Soekarno ordered the small 300,000 strong army to crush the revolt. Lacking mass support, the revolt was easily crushed.

Local elections in 1958 showed an increase in the PKI vote to a total of 8½ millions. Principally this was due to the deteriorating economic situation – unemployment is estimated at figures ranging from 10 to 25 percent of the population.

In September 1958, Indonesian Premier Djuanda launched a five-year plan – which at date of writing (August 1959), has been a complete failure. The PKI leadership gave their support to the plan. D.N. Aidit, the general secretary of the PKI “would try still harder to enable the peasants to retain a minimum sixty percent and the landlords a maximum forty percent of the crops.”

Despite its meek policy the election successes of the PKI caused concern amongst large sections of the bourgeoisie. Speaking for these sections General Nasution, the army chief of staff, and other prominent army officers began to call in 1959 for a return to the 1945 constitution, which provided for Presidential rule by decree. Instead of organizing the mass following of the PKI against this threat to its own existence, the PKI leadership stated that they would accept the 1945 constitution provided they could participate in the government.

Of course Soekarno and Nasution have not included ths PKI in their Bonaparte-type government – the key positions now being filled by representatives of the army. The net result of the return to the 1945 constitution is that the workers and peasants of Indonesia have suffered an overwhelming defeat and the bourgeoisie in spite of their weakness, have gained absolute power.

It might be noted that Ibnu Parma, the leader of the small Trotskyist Partai Acoma, which was urging the PKI to struggle for power, was arrested in February 1959, despite his parliamentary immunity, for publishing a pamphlet denouncing the dictatorship of General Nasution.

In 1949 the Chinese Stalinists were forced to take power, against the express orders of Stalin, because the alternative to this action was their actual physical extermination. Many revolutionaries then thought that the 1926-27 betrayals in China, the 1932 betrayal in Germany and similar sell-outs in Spain in 1936 and in France and Italy in 1945-46 would never again be repeated. The recent experience of Indonesia shows how wrong such ideas are. The need of the day, in Indonesia as elsewhere, is to build a Marxist party which will give leadership to the workers in the struggle for the overthrow of capitalist governments.

Difficult days lie ahead for the workers and peasants of Indonesia. Fortunately Soekarno is not Hitler (although not for want of trying) and Indonesia is not Germany. Mass struggles will arise against the Bonapartist dictatorship and it is apparent that the American, British, Dutch and Australian imperialists will once more attempt to take advantage of any crisis.

Indonesian workers and peasants remember with gratitude the magnificent stand of working class internationalism taken by Australian workers when they banned Dutch ships in 1945-46. Thanks to the latest treachery of the Indonesian Stalinists this help may again be a vital necessity in the near future.

— Reprinted from the August 1959 issue of The Socialist, a monthly paper of Australian Marxists, under byline of “Indonesian Student.”

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