Michael Kidron

Indonesian Communists

(Autumn 1967)

From The Notebook, International Socialism (1st series), No.30, Autumn 1967, p.6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The terror organized from the Autumn of 1965 by the army and the petty village establishment of landowners and religious leaders against members of the Communist Party, their friends and whoever else seemed to be encroaching on the going system of privilege, destroyed half-a-million or so souls, mostly in East Java and Bali, The murder of the top party leadership took another few hundred. But it needs more than that to destroy a mass party like the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Before being driven underground, the PKI claimed three million members. Most observers on the spot ascribe one of these millions to the luxuriant, hallucinatory climate of the country, and 1¾ million perhaps to fair weather friendships. That left a quarter-million core members before the terror. Not all of these were victims: whole sections of the population were wiped out in the villages and not asked for their party cards. But 100,000 might have been members. That leaves 150,000 or so mainly urban members who still, despite their broken, illegal organisation, constitute the largest political factor in the country. For the moment the one clear thing about their likely direction is that the pro-Chinese phase is closed. It was based in its day on Russia’s refusal to back Sukarno’s ‘confrontation’ policy and, more important, on the effective protection racket run by the Chinese Embassy in conjunction with the PKI. This pumped funds from the Indonesian Chinese, the major business community, into the Party in exchange for a soft anti-capitalist line in its propaganda and activity. Now that ‘confrontation’ has ended and the army taken over the racket (without providing much protection), and after the debacle suffered under the pro-Chinese leadership, there is no going back.

That leaves one of two possibilities. Either the Party re-forms underground, recreating its links with workers’ and peasants’ organisations, opposing itself to the military regime, to foreign and domestic capital and refusing all ties with any section of the ruling class; or it will offer itself as the. organisational base for those sections of the Indonesian ruling class that find military rule irksome, or see themselves as an alternative to the army – in exchange for a form of legality. Given the PKI’s opportunistic past, the second seems the more likely.


Last updated on 19.10.2006