What happened in Indonesia
Louis N Proyect
lnp3 at columbia.edu
Wed Apr 3 11:20:27 MST 1996
The best way to understand the Indonesian tragedy is not in terms of
flawed tactics on the part of the PKI, but rather as a mistake in
fundamental political orientation.
In 1965, the Communist Party of Indonesia was the largest party in the
world that did not hold state power. It had 3 million members in a
country of 100 million people. It also had a youth group of 3 million
members. An additional 20 million peple belonged to trade unions
under its leadership.
In the Sino-Soviet split, the PKI took the side of Peking. This meant
adopting a policy within Indonesia that was in tune with Peking's
needs. Cultivating Sukarno's friendship was key to China, which was
facing extreme isolation in 1965. This translated into political support
for Sukarno on the grounds that he was "anti-imperialist". This was
exactly the kind of support that Stalin forced the Chinese CP to give
Chiang Kai-Shek in 1927.
When the dictator Sukarno began placing restrictions on civil liberties
in the decade before 1965, the PKI did not object. When Sukarno
dissolved the elected Constituent Assembly in 1959, the chairman of
the PKI, one D.N. Aidit, backed the move.
This statement of Aidit's in 1961 clearly describes his party's
"...in carrying out our national struggle we must hold firmly to the
basic principle: place the class interests and of the Party below the
national interest, that is, place the national interest above the interests
of class and of the Party."
This political orientation made it impossible to anticipate the military
coup in 1965. By the end of 1966 the death toll stood somewhere
between 500,000 and a million.
What was Peking's attitude toward Sukarno? The answer: it used to
publish his speeches in Peking Review as contributions to Marxist
In May of 1965, just before the coup, Mao Tse-tung offered his
approval of the PKI's orientation:
"The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Indonesia headed
by Comrade D. N. Aidit has skillfully and creatively applied Marxism-
Leninism in the light of the revolutionary practice of its own country;
it has Indonesianized Marxism-Leninism wiht outstanding success,
independently worked out its revolutionary line and policies which
conform to the basic interests of the Indonesian people, and led
Indonesia's revolutionary struggle from victory to victory. the
Communist Party of China is very proud to have such a close and
staunch comrade-in-arms as the Communist Party of Indonesia."
This is the same Mao that Olaechea, Burford and Ehrbar put on a
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