Tuesday, December 9, 2014


By Dr Emery Barcs 1954-3-23

THE secretary of the Indonesian Communist Party assured Prime Minister Sasiroamidjojo last week that the party would support the Government as long as it carried out a "democratic" programme.

This Red reassurance has considerably increased Western misgivings and apprehensions about growing Communist strength and influence in Indonesia.

Recently the sober New York Times suggested that Indonesia was the next Red target in South-east Asia. And the equally un-hysterical Economist, of London, wrote that the shift towards the Left in Indonesian politics was "disturbing."

Australians are vitally interested in these reports. For Indonesia is not only our nearest neighbor. This sprawling republic of the "30,000 islands" which stretches from opposite Malaya to the vicinity of New Guinea, is also a mighty barrier between Australia and the mainland of South-east Asia.

Our direct air-routes to Britain, via the Middle East, pass over Indonesian territory. Darwin is only seven hours from the Indonesian capital of Djakarta, which, in turn, is two hours from Singapore. Indonesian islands flank our shipping lanes to Malaya.  If the Reds ever seized Indonesia, some of our most important communication lines would be cut.

A superficial glance at the political situation in Indonesia does not reveal alarming Communist strength. The party (PKI in brief) has only 16 members in the parliament of 212. With the five or six sympathisers who regularly support them, the Communists control only about 10 percent of parliamentary votes.

And there are no Communists in the Government of Dr. Sastroarnidjojo, a 50-year-old former Indonesian Ambassador to the United States, who has been in power since last August.

But if we look closer at the situation in Indonesia, the picture becomes much less reassuring. In September, 1948, when the Indonesian nationalists were still struggling with the Dutch on the issue of complete independence, the Communists made an attempt to grab power in Indonesia by force. The background of this abortive revolt is a revealing example of Communist plotting in Asia.

An Indonesian Communist. called Muso, who had spent 23 years in Moscow, returned to his country in 1947 and took immediate command of the Commirnist party machinery.

On the surface the PKI seemed to be weak and unimportant. It had only a few thousand members. No known Communist was among the leaders in the struggle for nationalist independence.

At that time the "Big Four" of Indonesian nationalism consisted of Soekarno (now President of the Republic); Sutan Shahrir, leader of the Socialists; Mohammed Hatta, a brilliant, Dutch-educated economist; and Amir Sharifuddin, a zealous Christian, and Prime Minister until the middle of 1948.

On the day Sharifuddin resigned he dropped a bomb-shell. He announced that he had been a member of the Communist Party since 1935.  Secretly he had worked for 13 years -- under the Dutch, under the Japanese, and in the Nationalist camp -- for the Communists.

After his resignation Sharifuddin openly made common cause with his party boss, Muso.  In September, 1948, the two Red leaders occupied with armed gangs the town of Madiun, and declared a Communist war on the Indonesian Republic.

Soekarno, and his associates sent all available men to fight the Reds.  Within a few days the "war" was over.  The Republicans captured both Muso and Sharifuddin.  They died in front of a firing squad.

In December, 1949, the sovereign United States of Indonesia was born.  The political parties agreed to appoint a parliament in which every party would be represented in proportion to its estimated following. The Communists were included in the list of 19 parties, and received 16 seats.

Even a strong and stable central government would have had a tremendous task to efficiently organising the 80,000,000 people of Indonesia, and in reviving the country's economy.

The people belong to dozens of national, racial and religious groups.  And World War II, the Japanese occupation and the struggle with the Dutch had ruined indonesia's economy.

But the five Indonesian governments which have tried to run the country in the last two and a half years have been weak and unstable.  They remained in power only as long as temporary alliances between some of the 19 parties secured them a working majority in Parliament.

These weak regimes have been unable to cope with the various scourges of the nation -- the separatist movements in Celebes and the Moluccas, the lunatics of the Darul Isiam, who want to establish a Moslem religious regime and whose cut-throat guerillas control large tracts of Java and Sumaira and truculent army bosses who do as they please with complete disregard for the wishes of Djakarta.

Besides, as the German financial wizard, Hjalmar Schacht (whom the Indonesian Government invited in 1951 to put the country's economy in order) warned: "Indonesians take the word freedom as a synonym for laziness."

Tea, coffee, quinine, tobacco, and sugar production has fallen seriously since 1939.  Instead of exporting rice, Indonesia now must import 600,000 tons a year.

The population of overcrowded Java is increasing by about 1,000,000 a year. There is plenty of room for settlements in the outer islands, but few volunteer to do the hard work of pioneering.  As President Soekarno said recently: "All round, we see lassitude. "It would appear almost as if we had no idealism left."

All this  -- terror, political dissension, and economic crisis --  has created the right atmosphere for the Communists to establish themselves in Indonesian politics.  They have gained control of the central organisation of the trade unions. And by associating themselves with the Nationalist Party, and by advocating a National Front Government (the type of regime which delivered the Eastern European satellites to the Russian yoke) the Communist have almost won the balance a power in Indonesia.

But they have not succeeded yet.  The largest party in the Indonesian Parliament, the Moslem Masjumi, and the Socialists of Sultan Shahrir (which are not represented in the present Leftist-coalition government) have declared war on the Communists.

Both parties, especially the Masjumi, are well organised and have large followings.  They demand general elections to replace the parliament-by-appointment) which have been postponed year after year since 1951. They hope that the people Will give them a clear majority to establish a stable government and to fight Communism.

Many of the 17 other parties, however, are afraid that general elections will put them out of business... Therefore they vote for postponing elections, which are now tentatively scheduled for 1955, The Communists are also against "premature elections."

No comments:

Post a Comment