News / Asia

New Book Examines Communist Rebellion in Indonesia, Aftermath

Members of the Youth Wing of the Indonesian Communist Party are guarded by soldiers as they are taken by an open truck to prison in Jakarta after they were rounded up by the army following a crackdown on communists after an attempted coup, Oct. 30, 1965.
Members of the Youth Wing of the Indonesian Communist Party are guarded by soldiers as they are taken by an open truck to prison in Jakarta after they were rounded up by the army following a crackdown on communists after an attempted coup, Oct. 30, 1965.
Many scenarios have been developed about the September 30, 1965 communist rebellion in Indonesia and its tragic aftermath, and the issue is still hotly debated among historians and other experts.  A new book, Indonesia and the World, 1965-66, attempts to look into the tragedy from an international context. 

The book is a compilation of various papers presented at a conference at the Goethe Institute in Jakarta in 2011.  Although what happened after September 30, 1965 has been recorded as an extremely tragic event, when perhaps millions of communists and suspected communists perished at the hands of the Indonesian military, the international community was totally silent.  One of the factors that contributed to this tragic outcome, according to Bernd Schaefer, one of the book’s principal editors, was the antagonism created by then-President Sukarno toward the West as well as toward the Soviet Union.

"From 1963 onward, Sukarno sided with China and its communist Asian allies to build a global movement of so-called newly emerging forces, Conefo, for the Third World, guided by Jakarta and Beijing," explained Schaefer.

This movement simultaneously challenged Western capitalist forces, the Soviet bloc, the non-bloc movement led by Yugoslavia, India and Egypt, as well as the United Nations. This ambitious foreign policy, conducted though partnership with China, was the greatest challenge to the U.S. and Soviet Union and made Indonesia the focus of the world at the height of the Cold War.

The international communist movement also played a role, according to Schaefer. In 1965, the communist world was divided between the Soviet Union and China.  As the third largest communist party in the world, the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was openly siding with Beijing, even to the extent that the PKI flouted the Soviet Union and its allies.  This situation explains why condemnation of the PKI massacre post-September 30 only came from China; the Soviet Union was silent on the matter.

"This international dimension clarifies why it was more important for the Soviet Union and its allies to renounce Chinese-inspired strategies rather than to engage in a sincere humanitarian appeal against the mass killings," said Schaefer.

Schaefer concluded that the Sino-Soviet schism made PKI powerless to face up to the Indonesian military campaign of 1965 and 1966. One could wonder about the possible effects of the PKI having been on friendlier terms with the Soviet Union and its allies; could a more aggressive Soviet Union intervention have prevented the Indonesian military from eradicating the PKI?

On the other hand, Western countries were concerned with Sukarno's anti-Western policies and wanted an Indonesia that was friendlier towards the West.  Thus, Schaefer says, the West not only stayed silent during the communist massacre in Indonesia but actively supported the Indonesian military in its efforts to find PKI members and their sympathizers.

"They also demonstrated how shockingly and eagerly leading western countries promoted and furthered the physical elimination of Communists … They are really sickening to a certain extent, to the extent that they are worried that not enough communists got purged and killed and eliminated, and actually joyed when it happened and at the opportunity now that the West has," said Schaefer.

With regard to the communist eradication in Indonesia and the absolute power that the military enjoyed for more than 32 years, Baskara Wardaya provided a grim picture of Indonesian history throughout that period.

"It was a change from a people-oriented government under Sukarno to an elite-oriented government under Suharto. Everything was centered in Jakarta; almost 80 percent of the money that circulated in Indonesia was in Jakarta.  What was also obvious, the change of the Indonesian government from being anti-foreign investment under President Sukarno, to a government that was promoting very much the presence of foreign investment in Indonesia with all its economic and development consequences," said Wardaya.

This book provides a fascinating historical overview of how Indonesia was the victim of global politics and the Cold War during its violent upheaval in 1965 and 1966.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Michael from: China
October 28, 2013 3:08 AM
Many people of Chinese descent were slaughted.More people were robbed and forced to leave the land .People stayed there were forbidden to learn their ancestor's language.Schools which teaching Chinese were closed.They treated our brothers and sisters worse than animals.Even today the discrimination towards the people of Chinese descent exists everywhere.Someday these crimes will be accounted .Be careful,Indonesian.
In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NY
October 28, 2013 10:16 AM
What the Indonesian govt did to ethnic Chinese in Indonesia is a terrible crime and there should be justice & reparations. But we should not forget the ongoing discrimination & human rights crimes by the CCP against Tibetans, Uighurs & Mongolians that has been going on to this day since the CCP forcibly took power in 1949. You can't complain about Indonesian discrimination against Chinese while ignoring Chinese discrimination against other ethnic groups.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs