By Lal Khan
October 11, 2015
This October marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most heinous genocides of human history,whichtook place in a reactionary counter-revolution in the Indonesian Archipelago in1965. The executioners of this massacre were the military,mullahs and US imperialism, an unholy alliance to crush a communist upsurge that could have led to a socialist revolution in this large Muslim country. It is an ironic tragedy that an International People’s Tribunal on the profoundly traumatic events that occurred 50 years ago in Indonesia will be convened next month in The Hague, the capital of Indonesia’s old colonial power, The Netherlands.
During the 1960s and 1970s Islamic parties and their fundamentalist student groups in Pakistan, particularly the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba(IJT) openly sloganeered “Pakistan will be turned into Indonesia” in their pogroms and vicious campaigns against left wing students in colleges and university campuses. Those were the days when ideologies had meaning and corporate and black capital was kept at arm’s length from student and mass politics; these reactionary student leaders were at least honest enough to admit that they had played the role ofpaid spies and cohorts of US imperialism in that Indonesian genocide of 1.5 million communists and their families.
However, the monstrosity of the bestiality that took place in Indonesiacan be envisaged fromdeclassified CIA records. The CIA itself has described the Suharto coup as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century”. The military was the chief executioner in these massacres but it had plenty of fundamentalist bigots who served as activelyhired accomplices to the imperialists and military generals, from Islamist organisations such as Nahdlatul Ulema, the sister organisation of Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). Colonel Sarwo Edhie, who is notorious for leadingspecial forces tasked with eliminating communists and their sympathisers, was the father-in-law of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who served as president until last year.
The military continues to wield overweening power in Indonesia, remaining assured of their impunity. Death threats are still not uncommon if anyone begins to get too close to the truth. The current president, Joko Widodo, who had indicated he would at least be willing to apologise on behalf of the state for the mass murder of 1965, has lately retracted from his stance.
The savagery of capitalists is well known to the toiling masses. The 1871 Paris Commune was the first proletarian revolution in human history when the exploited majority conquered power and sustained its rule over the capitalist tiny minority for 70 days. However, this proletarian revolution was mercilessly drowned in blood. As much as 4.4 per cent of Parisians or 80,000 people out of total population of 1.8 million were massacred. The Indonesian population in 1965-1966 was about 90 million. Although there are conflicting estimates of the total causalities, the highest — confessed by General Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, the army commander responsible for the 1965-1966 military operations- was close to almost three percent of Indonesia’s population.This monstrosity was enacted to crush the revolution of the working massesfor the sole aim of preservingthe capitalist exploitative system.
Revolution is a process; it is not a single act drama. The Indonesian revolution started on August 17,1945 with the expulsion of Dutch colonialists and, over the next 20 years, it went through many highs and troughs with no class gaining ascendancy during that period. The capitalist class was too weak to impose its will, while at the same time the proletariat did not have the leadership capable of taking power. This stalemate catapulted the populist Soekarno to the top with his revolutionarysocialist and nationalist rhetoric. He introducedmany radical measures but within the confines of capitalism and, more importantly, its bourgeois state.Soekarnodid not have any control over state institutions,particularly the army, anderroneously believed in capitalist parliament, and with this the illusion of actually controlling power.
Tragically, thepro-Peking leaders’Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), which was the traditional and considered to be revolutionary in eyes of the working masses, blundered into tail-ending Soekarno andsubscribed tohis piecemeal reformism. The PKI was of the opinion that a capitalist state could be transformed into a “people’s state” on a gradual basis through parliamentary democracy. This parliamentary cretinismwas not confined to the PKI but was evidently prevalent in all the communist parties across the globe at the time.
Lenin, in his State and Revolution, attacked without mercy this false idea in order to prepare the Bolshevik Party to take power, destroy the bourgeois state and constitute a new state. On the other hand, the PKI never prepared their members for this gigantic historical task. The PKI’s theory that the revolution would be bourgeois democratic, and that therefore its task was not to form a workers’ state but to set up a people’s state with gradual state personnel replacement. Class struggle had to be subordinated to the national struggle, was the conclusion of the PKI leaders led by its general secretary, Dr D N Aidit.
However, US imperialism, the reactionary generals and the capitalists fully understood the simmering conflict as class struggle erupted, moving to take power. In the early hours of October 1, 1965 a group of “radical army officers” kidnapped and murdered six army generals, apparently in preparation for a coup. At the time, they were alleged to have sympathy for the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). In reality, the September 30 Movement was a provocation orchestrated by the anti-communist General Suharto to justify a coup against President Sukarno, with the active support of the US and British secret services, with Islamic fundamentalists as collaborators. Suharto subsequently used the September 30 Movement’s alleged links with the PKI as the pretext for the brutal massacre of the PKI leadership, members and alleged communists. Generations suffered in its aftermath under the vicious Suharto military dictatorship. Twenty-eight years later in 1998, there was a new mass revolt that led to Suharto’s overthrow. But the revolutionary potential of the youth and the workers was stymied by‘democratic diversion’.
Seventeen years after that gigantic upsurge the masses in Indonesia are being pulverised by poverty, unemployment, misery and deprivation. Democracy of the moneyed classes is just another tool to preserve the rule of exploitative capitalism. The dictatorial and democratic mechanisms of rulership can change but the coercive system remains intact. New revolts will erupt in the period ahead. The crucial lesson for the masses in Indonesia written in the blood of their ancestors is that there is no respite for ordinary people possible under capitalism. Today, as in 1965, a socialist revolution is still the only road for the emancipation of the workers, peasants and youth of this large Muslim country.
The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and international secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org