The historical background
In October 1965 the international working class suffered one of its greatest
defeats and betrayals in the post-World War II period.
Up to one million workers and peasants were slaughtered in a CIA-organised
army coup led by General Suharto which swept aside the shaky bourgeois regime
of President Sukarno, crushed the rising movement of the Indonesian masses,
and established a brutal military dictatorship.
Retired US diplomats and CIA officers, including the former American
ambassador to Indonesia and Australia, Marshall Green, have admitted working
with Suharto's butchers to massacre hundreds of thousands of workers and
peasants suspected of supporting the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). They
personally provided the names of thousands of PKI members from the CIA's
files for the armed forces death lists.
According to Howard Federspeil, who was an Indonesian expert working
at the State Department at the time of the anti-communist program: "No
one cared, so long as they were communists that they were being butchered."
The coup was the culmination of a prolonged operation by the CIA, with
the help of agents of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, to build
up and train the Indonesian armed forces in preparation for a military dictatorship
to suppress the revolutionary strivings of the Indonesian masses.
At the time of the coup, the PKI was the largest Stalinist party in the
world, outside China and the Soviet Union. It had 3.5 million members; its
youth movement another 3 million. It controlled the trade union movement
SOBSI which claimed 3.5 million members and the 9 million-strong peasants'
movement BTI. Together with the women's movement, the writers' and artists'
organisation and the scholars' movement, the PKI had more than 20 million
members and active supporters.
During the independence struggle against the Dutch in the 1940s and throughout
the 1950s and 1960s hundreds of thousands of class conscious workers joined
the PKI, believing that it still represented the revolutionary socialist
traditions of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
Yet by the end of 1965, between 500,000 and a million PKI members and
supporters had been slaughtered, and tens of thousands were detained in
concentration camps, without any resistance being offered.
The killings were so widespread that the rivers were clogged with the
corpses of workers and peasants. While the CIA-backed military death squads
rounded up all known PKI members and sympathisers and carried out their
grisly work, Time magazine reported:
"The killings have been on such a scale that the disposal of corpses
has created a serious sanitation problem in northern Sumatra where the humid
air bears the reek of decaying flesh. Travellers from these areas tell us
small rivers and streams have been literally clogged with bodies. River
transportation has become seriously impeded."
How was this historic defeat able to be inflicted? The answer requires
an examination of the history of the struggle of the Indonesian masses,
the treachery of the national bourgeoisie led by Sukarno, the counter-revolutionary
role played by the PKI, and the crucial part played by the Pabloite opportunists
of the "United Secretariat" of Ernest Mandel and Joseph Hansen
in aiding the treachery of the Stalinists.
The 'Jewel of Asia'
The bloody coup in Indonesia was the outcome of the drive by US imperialism
to gain unchallenged control of the immense natural wealth and strategic
resources of the archipelago, often referred to as the "Jewel of Asia".
The importance that United States imperialism attached to Indonesia was
emphasised by US President Eisenhower in 1953, when he told a state governors'
conference that it was imperative for the US to finance the French colonial
war in Vietnam as the "cheapest way" to keep control of Indonesia.
Eisenhower detailed: "Now let us assume that we lose Indochina.
If Indochina goes, several things happen right away. The Malay peninsula,
the last little bit of land hanging on down there, would be scarcely defencible.
The tin and tungsten we so greatly value from that area would cease coming,
and all India would be outflanked.
"Burma would be in no position for defence. All of that position
around there is very ominous to the United States, because finally if we
lost all that, how would the free world hold the rich empire of Indonesia?
"So you see, somewhere along the line, this must be blocked and
it must be blocked now, and that is what we are trying to do.
"So when the US votes $400 million to help the war (in Indochina),
we are not voting a giveaway program. We are voting for the cheapest way
that we can prevent the occurrence of something that would be of a most
terrible significance to the United States of America, our security, our
power and ability to get certain things we need from the riches of the Indonesian
territory and from South East Asia.
Indonesia is estimated to be the fifth richest country in the world in
terms of natural resources. Besides being the fifth largest oil producer,
it has enormous reserves of tin, bauxite, coal, gold, silver, diamonds,
manganese, phosphates, nickel, copper, rubber, coffee, palm oil, tobacco,
sugar, coconuts, spices, timber and cinchona (for quinine).
By 1939 the then Dutch East Indies supplied more than half the total
US consumption of 15 key raw materials. Control over this vital region was
central to the conflict in the Pacific between the US and Japan during World
War II. In the post-war period the US ruling class was determined not to
have the country's riches torn from their grasp by the Indonesian masses.
Following the defeat of the French in Vietnam in 1954 the US feared that
the struggle of the Vietnamese masses would ignite revolutionary upheavals
throughout the South East Asian region, threatening its grip over Indonesia.
In 1965, just prior to the Indonesian coup, Richard Nixon, soon to become
US president, called for the saturation bombing of Vietnam to protect the
"immense mineral potential" of Indonesia. Two years later he declared
Indonesia to be the "greatest prize" of South East Asia.
After the coup, the value of Suharto's dictatorship to the interests
of US imperialism was underlined in a 1975 US State Department report to
Congress which referred to Indonesia as the "most strategically authoritative
geographic location on earth":
- "It has the largest population of any country in South East Asia.
- "It is the principal supplier of raw materials from the region.
- "Japan's continued economic prosperity depends heavily on oil
and other raw materials supplied by Indonesia.
- "Existing American investments in Indonesia are substantial, and
our trading relationship is growing rapidly.
- "Indonesia will probably become an increasingly important supplier
of US energy needs.
- "Indonesia is a member of OPEC, but assumed a moderate stance
in its deliberations, and did not participate in the oil embargo.
- "The Indonesian archipelago sits astride strategic waterways and
the government of Indonesia is playing a vital role in the law-of-the-sea
negotiations which are vital to our security and commercial interests."
Centuries of colonial plunder
The Dutch colonial powers mercilessly plundered Indonesia for 350 years,
looting the natural resources, establishing vast agricultural estates, and
ruthlessly exploiting its people.
In 1940 there was only one doctor per 60,000 people (compared to India,
where the ratio was 1:6,000) and just 2,400 Indonesian graduates from high
school. At the end of World war II, 93 percent of the population was illiterate.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the rising British bourgeoisie
increasingly challenged the Dutch for domination over the region. In 1800
the Dutch East India company collapsed and the British occupied the region
from 1811 to 1816. The Treaty of London of 1824 carved up the region between
the two colonial powers: the British took control of the Malayan peninsula
and the Dutch kept charge of the 13,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago.
By the turn of the 20th century, the emerging imperialist power, the
United States, began challenging the old European colonial power, particularly
after the American occupation of the Philippines in 1898.
The US was locked into a trade war with the Dutch over oil and rubber.
The Standard Oil Company began to contest the monopoly on the Indonesian
oil fields by the Royal Dutch company. In 1907, Royal Dutch and Shell merged
to combat the American competitor. Taking advantage of World War I, Standard
Oil commenced drilling in central Java in 1914, and in the same year US
corporations also moved into the rubber plantations. Goodyear Tyre and Rubber
opened estates and US Rubber brought the largest rubber estates in the world
under single ownership.
US strategy in the region during this period was summed up by Senator
"The Philippines are ours forever ... and beyond the Philippines
are China's illimitable markets. We will not retreat from either.
We will not repudiate our duty in the archipelago. We will not abandon our
duty in the Orient. We will not renounce our part in the mission of our
race, trustee under God, of the civilisation of the world ... We will
move forward to our work ... with gratitude ... and thanksgiving to Almighty
God that he has marked us as his chosen people, henceforth to lead
in the regeneration of the world ... Our largest trade henceforth must
be with Asia. The Pacific is our ocean ... and the Pacific is the
ocean of the commerce of the future. The power that rules the Pacific, therefore,
is the power that rules the world. And with the Philippines, that
power is and will forever be the American Republic." (Emphasis
in the original)
The rise of Japanese imperialism and its expansion into Korea, Manchuria
and China led to increasing conflict with US imperialism over control over
the region, culminating in World War II. The drive by the Japanese bourgeoisie
to contest US, British, French and Dutch hegemony brought into sharp focus
the value of Indonesia as the South East Asian gateway to the Indian Ocean
and as a source of natural resources.
In 1942 the Dutch colonialists surrendered control of Indonesia to the
Japanese rather than allow the Indonesian people to fight for their independence.
All the imperialist powers had good reason to fear the oppressed Indonesian
As early as 1914 the best representatives of the Indonesian toilers had
turned to Marxism when the Indies Social Democratic Association was founded
on the initiative of the Dutch communist Hendrik Sneevliet. In 1921 it had
transformed itself into the Indonesian Communist Party in response to the
Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.
The PKI had won great authority among the masses by taking the lead of
the struggle against Dutch colonialism, including the first major uprisings,
in Java and Sumatra in 1926 and 1927.
While the Chinese masses were rising up in the second Chinese Revolution
of 1926-27, the Indonesian workers and peasants also came forward in a rebellion,
led by the PKI. However, the Dutch colonial authorities succeeded in quelling
the revolts. They arrested 13,000 suspects, imprisoned 4,500 and interned
1,308 in a concentration camp in West Papua. The PKI was outlawed.
National liberation struggle betrayed
At the end of World War II the oppressed masses in Indonesia, India,
Sri Lanka, China, throughout South East Asia and internationally came forward
in revolutionary struggles to throw off the yoke of imperialism.
At the same time, the working class in Europe and the capitalist countries
engaged in convulsive struggles. These were only contained through the treachery
of the Soviet bureaucracy headed by Stalin and the Stalinist parties worldwide.
The betrayal of the French, Italian and Greek workers in particular and
the imposition of bureaucratically controlled regimes in Eastern Europe
allowed imperialism to stabilise itself.
By the 1930s, the emergence of a privileged caste in the Soviet Union,
which usurped political power from the Soviet proletariat, had destroyed
the Communist Parties. From revolutionary internationalist parties they
became transformed into counter-revolutionary organisations, suppressing
the independent struggles of the working class.
In the colonial countries the Stalinised parties, including the PKI,
systematically subordinated the masses to the national bourgeoisie led by
figures such as Gandhi in India and Sukarno in Indonesia who sought to reach
settlements with the colonial powers in order to maintain capitalist rule.
The post-war settlements did not achieve genuine national liberation
from imperialism but imposed on the masses a new set of agents of imperialist
rule. This was clearly the case in Indonesia where the national bourgeoisie,
with Sukarno in the lead, entered into a series of reactionary deals with
Sukarno, the son of a Javanese school teacher of aristocratic family,
was a young architecture graduate, part of a very thin layer of educated
petty-bourgeois. He had been the founding chairman of the Indonesian Nationalist
Party (PNI) in 1927 and had suffered imprisonment and exile at the hands
of the Dutch for campaigning for national independence.
During World War II Sukarno and the national bourgeoisie worked with
the occupying Japanese forces in the hope of achieving a degree of national
self-government. In the dying days of the war Sukarno, with the reluctant
support of the Japanese, declared the independent Republic of Indonesia
on August 17, 1945.
The perspective of the national bourgeois leaders was not to lead a proletarian
uprising against imperialism but to establish an administration and strengthen
their hand for negotiations with the Dutch, who had no forces in the region.
But the response of the Dutch ruling class was to launch a brutal war
to suppress the new regime. They ordered that Indonesia be kept under Japanese
command until British troops could arrive. The British and the Dutch then
used Japanese troops to attack the ferocious resistance of the Indonesian
workers, youth and peasants. Thus all the imperialist powers united against
the Indonesian masses.
As armed opposition erupted throughout Indonesia against the Dutch forces,
Sukarno, backed by the PKI leadership, pursued a policy of compromise with
the Dutch and signed the Linggadjati Agreement in March 1947. The Dutch
nominally recognised Indonesian control over Java, Madura and Sumatra and
agreed to evacuate their troops. But in fact the Dutch used this as a breathing
space to build up their forces and prepare for a new attack of unsurpassed
brutality in July and August 1947.
Throughout this period, hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants
joined or supported the PKI because of their disillusionment with the bourgeois
leaders and because they viewed the PKI as a revolutionary party. They were
also greatly inspired by the advances of Mao Zedong's Chinese Communist
Party in its war against Chiang Kai Shek. In the war against the Dutch,
workers and peasants repeatedly seized property and mass unions were formed.
To head off this development, Sukarno's Republican government, led by
the then Prime Minister Amir Sjarifuddin (a secret member of the PKI), signed
the January 1948 Renville Agreement (so called because it was negotiated
aboard the USS Renville in the harbour). This pact gave the Dutch control
of half the sugar mills in Java, 75 percent of Indonesia's rubber, 65 percent
of coffee, 95 percent of tea and control of Sumatran oil. Moreover, this
US-imposed settlement provided for the withdrawal of guerrilla forces from
Dutch-occupied territory and created the conditions for the liquidation
of the PKI-led "people's armed units" in favour of the bourgeois
"Indonesian National Armed Forces" controlled by Sukarno and his
In 1948 a series of strikes erupted against the Republican government,
now headed by right-wing Vice-President Hatta as Prime Minister, demanding
a parliamentary government. These strikes were suppressed by Sukarno who
appealed for "national unity".
At the same time, the exiled PKI leader Musso returned from the Soviet
Union and a series of prominent leaders of the Indonesian Socialist and
Labor parties announced that they had been secret PKI members for many years.
The announcement revealed a far wider base of support for the PKI than previously
realised by the imperialist powers.
In July 1948 the bourgeois leaders, including Sukarno and Hatta, held
a secret meeting with US representatives at Sarangan where the US demanded,
in return for assistance to the government, the launching of a purge of
PKI members in the army and the public service. Hatta, who also held the
post of Defence Minister, was given $10 million to carry out a "red
Two months later, in an attempt to crush the PKI, the Maduin Affair was
launched in Java. A number of army officers, members of the PKI, were murdered
and others disappeared, after they opposed plans to demobilise the guerrilla
units of the army that had been at the forefront of the fight against the
The killings provoked an uprising at Maduin which was suppressed bloodily
by the Sukarno regime. Prime Minister Hatta proclaimed martial law. Thousands
of PKI members were killed, 36,000 were imprisoned and PKI leader Musso
and 11 other prominent leaders were executed.
The US Consul General Livergood cabled his superiors in the US that he
had informed Hatta that "the crisis gives the Republican government
the opportunity (to) show its determination (to) suppress communism".
Encouraged by the anti-communist pogrom, the Dutch launched a new military
attack in December 1948, arresting Sukarno. But widespread resistance forced
the Dutch to capitulate within six months.
Even then, the 1949 Round Table conference at the Hague imposed a new
betrayal on the Indonesian masses, involving still more concessions by the
The Sukarno regime agreed to take over the debts of the former colony,
and gave guarantees to protect Dutch investments. The Dutch were to keep
control of West Papua and the Indonesian Republic was to continue to cooperate
with the Dutch imperialists within the framework of a Netherlands-Indonesian
Union. The Sukarno government kept all the colonial laws intact. A new army
was formed by incorporating the former Dutch troops of Indonesian nationality
into the "National Armed Forces". In other words, the old colonial
state apparatus and laws were retained beneath the facade of parliamentary
government in the new Republic.
The PKI leadership supported the betrayal of the national liberation
struggle and determined to confine the working class and peasantry to "peaceful
democratic" forms of struggle. This was a continuation of the PKI's
position throughout World War II when the PKI leadership (as well as the
Communist Party of the Netherlands) had followed Stalin's line of cooperating
with the Dutch imperialist government against Japan, and called for an "independent
Indonesia within the Commonwealth of the Dutch Empire". This call remained
PKI policy even during the post-war fighting against the Dutch.
But for the Indonesian masses, the fraud of "national independence"
under the continued domination of Dutch, American and world imperialism
became ever more apparent. The natural resources, principal industries,
agricultural estates and financial power remained in the hands of the foreign
For example, 70 percent of the inter-islands sea traffic was still controlled
by the Dutch firm KPM and one of the big Dutch banks, the Nederlandche Handel
Maatschappij, controlled 70 percent of all Indonesian financial transactions.
According to the Indonesian government calculations, in the mid-1950s,
Dutch investments in the country were worth $US1.5 billion. The Sukarno
government declared that even if it wanted to nationalise the Dutch possessions
it did not have the money to indemnify the former colonial rulers. And to
nationalise without compensation would be labelled "communism".
The growing disillusionment of the masses was reflected in the 1955 elections
when the number of seats held by the PKI increased from 17 to 39.
Within two years the mass movement was to erupt in the seizure of Dutch,
American and British factories, plantations, banks, shops and ships.
Stalinists betray the mass movement
In December 1957 the whole fabric of imperialist domination over the Indonesian
economy was shaken by a massive eruption of the working class and peasantry.
Factories, plantations, banks and ships were seized and occupied.
Sukarno's bourgeois nationalist regime was only able to survive because
the Stalinist Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) leadership sabotaged the
mass movement, insisting that the masses hand over the property they had
seized to the US-backed army which was sent in by Sukarno to take control.
A dispatch in the New York Times of December 8, 1957 provided some idea
of the scope and intensity of the upsurge: "The movement of the workers
in Jakarta, to the extent we have been able to determine, took place without
the government's sanction, and in opposition to the declarations of Prime
Minister Djuanda, of the Army Chief-of-Staff, General Abdul Haris Nasution,
and of other high governmental functionaries, according to whom such measures
were inadmissible and rendered their participants liable to severe penalties...
"The three Dutch banks here, the Netherlands Trading Society, the
Escompto and the Netherlands Commercial Bank, were seized by the delegates.
They read a proclamation before their enthusiastic comrades and then before
the Dutch administrators, stating that the seizure was made in the name
of the Association of Indonesian Workers and that the banks would become
the property of the Indonesian Republic."
The Dutch newspaper Volksrant reported with alarm on December 11, 1957:
"In Jakarta the Communists continue to hoist red flags on the Dutch
enterprises ... Today the main office of Philips in Jakarta and that of
the Societe D'Assurances Nillmij have been 'expropriated' by the Indonesian
personnel under the leadership of 'Communist' trade union functionaries."
The movement was not confined to Java. According to the New York Herald-Tribune
of December 16: "Workers of SOBSI, central trade union organisation
dominated by the Communists, seized Dutch bakeries and stores in Java and
banks in Borneo." The New York Times of the same day reported that
in Palembang, capital of South Sumatra, "security forces arrested a
number of workers belonging to the central trade union organisation controlled
by the Communists for having taken 'arbitrary action' against three Dutch
proprietors. Thirty seven red flags hoisted by the workers before the houses
occupied by the Dutch employees were confiscated".
Other bourgeois papers spoke of "a situation of anarchy in Bali"
and a fleeing Dutch plantation owner was quoted as saying that in Atjeh
and Deli, on the east coast of Sumatra, the mass actions were directed not
only against the Dutch companies but also against the American and British.
Similar reports came from North Sumatra, the Celebes and other islands.
There were reports too that the uprisings inspired resistance in Australian-occupied
Papua New Guinea. At Karema 20 people were wounded when native people fought
soldiers after a native nurse reported that she had been insulted.
The rebellion throughout Indonesia erupted in response to a call by Sukarno
for a general strike against all Dutch enterprises. He had previously raised
the question of nationalisation of Dutch industry at a mass rally. Sukarno's
aim was to use the threat of nationalisation to pressure the Netherlands
to withdraw from West Papua, which it retained under the 1949 Round Table
Conference agreement, so that Indonesia could then take control.
Seeking to balance between the rapacious dictates of Dutch, US and British
imperialism, the seething discontent of the oppressed masses and the growing
strength of the US-backed military on which his regime relied, Sukarno sought
to use the pressure of the masses to force the hand of Dutch imperialism.
Workers themselves began to occupy the Dutch companies. Sukarno was totally
unprepared for such a response. He immediately authorised the military to
move in to take control of the enterprises which had been seized by the
The Political Bureau of the PKI rushed to Sukarno's assistance, issuing
a resolution that urgently appealed to the people "to quickly resolve
the differences of opinion on the methods of struggle against Dutch colonialism
by negotiations, so that in this way unity in the people and between the
people, the government and the army may be strengthened".
At the same time the PKI appealed to the workers, "not only to set
going the occupied enterprises, but to make them function in a still more
disciplined and better way and to increase production.
"The government must appoint a capable and patriotic direction for
these enterprises and the workers must support this direction with all their
In addition, the PKI insisted that the takeovers must be confined to
the Dutch companies, seeking to reassure US and British imperialism that
their interests would not be harmed: "All the actions of the workers,
of the peasants and the organisations of youth are directed against the
Dutch capitalists. The other capitalist countries did not take a hostile
attitude in the conflict between Holland and Indonesia in West Irian. That
is why no action will be engaged against the enterprise of the capitalists
of other countries."
Recognising the efforts of the PKI to choke the movement of the masses,
Tillman Durdin wrote in the New York Times of December 16: "Members
of the National Consultative Council of Communist orientation are known
to have actually pronounced forcibly against the seizures by workers and
have called such movements undisciplined 'anarcho-syndicalism'. The Communists
defend a program of seizure directed by the government such as it is now
Sukarno himself was ready to flee the country for a "holiday"
in India, but the handing over of the Dutch enterprises to the military,
on the instructions of the PKI, rescued his bourgeois regime. The Stalinist
leadership of the PKI not only saved the day for the Sukarno government.
They created the conditions for the military generals and their US backers
to prepare for their bloody counter-revolution eight years later.
The perspective fought for by the PKI leadership was the Stalinist "two
stage" theory that the struggle for socialism in Indonesia had to first
pass through the stage of so-called "democratic" capitalism. The
revolutionary strivings of the masses for socialist measures had to be suppressed
and subordinated to a "united front" with the national bourgeoisie.
In line with this reactionary perspective, the Stalinist bureaucracies
in the Soviet Union and China hailed Sukarno and his regime throughout this
entire period. Krushchev, for example, visited Jakarta and said he would
give Sukarno every assistance in "all eventualities". In fact
most of the weapons that were to be used to massacre the Indonesian masses
in 1965 were supplied by the Kremlin.
Military preparations begin
In 1956 the US-backed army had begun preparations for military dictatorship
to crush the movement of the masses. In August the commander of the West
Java military region ordered the arrest of Foreign Minister Roeslan Abdulgani
on a charge of corruption. In November the army Deputy Chief of Staff, Colonel
Zulkifli Lubis, attempted unsuccessfully to seize control of Jakarta and
overthrow the Sukarno government. The next month there were regional military
takeovers in Central and North Sumatra.
In October 1956 Sukarno moved to strengthen his hand against the masses
and to appease the military by calling for political parties to disband
themselves. This call was later extended to an attempt to form a National
Council of all parties, including the PKI, to rule the country. When military
commanders in East Indonesia, Kalimantan, Atjeh, and South Sumatra rejected
the plan and took control of their provinces, Sukarno declared a state of
emergency. Finally a new "non-party" cabinet was formed which
included two PKI sympathisers.
In response to the mass upsurge of December 1957 the operations of United
States imperialism were immediately stepped up. The US Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) had been active since the 1940s, spending millions to subsidise
pro-US elements within the national bourgeoisie, particularly the Socialist
Party (PSI) of Sumiro, a colleague of Hatta, and its larger Moslem ally,
the Masjumi party of Sjafruddin Prawiranegara, with whom Hatta had also
retained close links.
Throughout 1957 and 1958 a series of CIA-inspired secessionist and right-wing
revolts were orchestrated in the oil-rich islands of Sumatra and Sulawesi,
where the PSI and Masjumi dominated politically.
The first was the Permesta military revolt which began in March 1957
and continued into 1958, ending in a CIA-backed attempted coup in February
The United States government provided substantial financial support,
military advisers, arms and a small airforce of B-26 bombers, piloted from
bases in Taiwan and the Philippines. US Secretary of State Dulles even publicly
expressed his support for the right-wing rebels.
An aircraft carrier of the US Seventh Fleet was sent to Singapore and
for some time it appeared that the US might directly intervene in Sumatra
under the guise of defending Caltex oil personnel and property.
The Indonesian military command finally decided that the rebellion, having
failed to win any popular support at all, had to be ended. The Sukarno leadership
But the role of the army had been enormously strengthened. Over the next
six years the US poured huge resources into it, laying the basis for General
Suharto to begin his climb to power after leading the military campaign
to seize control of West Papua in 1962.
Between 1959 and 1965 the US supplied $64 million in military grant-aid
to the Indonesian military generals. According to a report in Suara Pemuda
Indonesia: "Before the end of 1960, the US had equipped 43 battalions
of the army. Every year the US trained officers of the right-wing military
clique. Between 1956 and 1959 more than 200 high-ranking officers were trained
in the US, while low-ranking officers are trained by the hundreds every
year. Once the head of the Agency for International Development in America
said that US aid, of course, was not intended to support Sukarno and that
the US had trained a great number of officers and ordinary people who would
form a unit to make Indonesia a 'free country'."
At the same time, Sukarno instituted his system of "Guided Democracy".
In July 1959 the parliament was dissolved and Sukarno imposed a presidential
constitution by decree again with the full support of the PKI. He further
boosted the hand of the military, appointing army generals to leading positions.
The PKI warmly embraced Sukarno's "Guided Democracy" and his
supposed consensus or Konsepsi alliance between nationalism, Islam and communism
In pursuit of their "national united front" with Sukarno and
the national bourgeoisie, the PKI leaders promoted the most deadly illusions
in the armed forces.
Only five years before the bloody defeat inflicted upon the Indonesian
workers and peasants at the hands of the military, the PKI line was put
most crudely in a statement by the leadership of SOBSI, the PKI-led trade
union federation, on May Day 1960:
"The SOBSI maintains the viewpoint that the armed forces of the
Republic are still the true son of the popular revolution ... and therefore
from the officers down to the NCOs and soldiers ... they cannot be drawn
into actions which are treacherous to the Republic. Besides, president Sukarno,
who identifies himself with the people, possesses a strong influence over
members of the armed forces and he refuses to be a military dictator."
A new upsurge
In 1962, Indonesia's military annexation of
West Papua was fully backed by the PKI leadership, along with the suppression
of the resistance of the West Papuan people to the occupation.
In Indonesia itself, the underlying economic and class tensions, produced
by the continued exploitation of the Indonesian masses by the imperialist
corporations and their national bourgeois lackeys, re-emerged.
The period of "Guided Democracy," that is, of the collaboration
of the PKI leadership with the national bourgeoisie in suppressing the independent
struggles of the worker and peasant masses, failed to resolve any of the
pressing economic and political questions. Export income declined, foreign
reserves fell, inflation continued to spiral, and bureaucratic and military
corruption became endemic.
From 1963 onwards the PKI leadership increasingly sought to avoid the
growing clashes between the party's mass activists and the police and military.
PKI leaders stressed the "common interests" of the police and
"the people". PKI leader D.N. Aidit inspired the slogan "For
Civil Order Help the Police".
In April, 1964, in an interview with S.M. Ali of the Far Eastern Economic
Review Aidit set out for the international bourgeoisie the Stalinists'
perspective of a peaceful and gradual "two stage" transformation
to socialism in Indonesia.
"When we complete the first stage of our revolution which is now
in progress, we can enter into friendly consultation with other progressive
elements in our society, and without an armed struggle lead the country
towards socialist revolution."
He presented a scenario in which the masses would be confined to placing
pressure on the national bourgeoisie: "The chastening effect of the
present stage of the revolution will maintain a kind of revolutionary pressure
on Indonesia's national capitalists.
"There will be no armed struggle unless there is foreign armed intervention
on the capitalists' behalf. And when we successfully complete our present
national democratic revolution the chances of any foreign power interfering
with Indonesia's international affairs will become extremely remote."
In August, 1964, Aidit urged all PKI members to rid themselves of "sectarian
attitudes" toward the army, calling on all left-wing artists and writers
to make the "soldier masses" the subject of art and literary works.
In late 1964 and early 1965 hundreds of thousands of peasants took action
to seize the land of the big landowners. Fierce clashes developed with landlords
and police. To forestall the revolutionary confrontation which was rapidly
developing, the PKI called on its supporters to prevent violent conflict
with the landlords and to improve cooperation with other elements, including
the armed forces.
At a meeting of the PKI central committee Aidit urged the suppression
of peasants' actions and denounced party cadre who, "carried away by
their desire to spread the peasant actions, immediately became impatient,
indulged in individual heroism, were insufficiently concerned with developing
the consciousness of the peasants and wanting a definite event, were not
careful enough in differentiating and choosing their targets."
PKI leaders justified halting the land takeovers and handing back the
land to the landowners by referring to the "impending probable"
formation of a "NASAKOM cabinet".
In early 1965 workers in the oil and rubber industries owned by US corporations
began to seize control of them. The PKI leadership responded by formally
joining the government. At the same time, leading generals were brought
into the cabinet.
The PKI ministers not only sat beside the military butchers in Sukarno's
cabinet, but they continued to promote the deadly illusion that the armed
forces were part of the "peoples' democratic revolution".
Aidit delivered a lecture to army staff school trainees in which he referred
to the "feeling of mutuality and unity that daily grows strong between
all the armed forces of the Indonesian Republic and the various groups of
Indonesian people, including the communists".
In this way, the Stalinists completely disarmed the most class conscious
sections of the working class. The elementary Marxist understanding of the
state as the "body of armed men" employed by the ruling class
to maintain its rule was criminally denied.
Aidit rushed to assure the bourgeoisie and the military that the PKI
opposed the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses. "The important
thing in Indonesia now is not how to smash the state power as is the case
in many other states, but how to strengthen and consolidate the pro-people's
aspect ... and to eliminate the anti-people's aspect".
The Sukarno regime moved against the working class by banning all strikes
in industry. The PKI leadership raised no objections because industry was
considered to belong to the NASAKOM government.
Just before the coup, the PKI, well aware of preparations for military
rule, called for the establishment of a "fifth force" within the
armed forces, consisting of armed workers and peasants. Far from fighting
for the independent mobilisation of the masses against the military threat,
the PKI leadership sought to constrain the deepening mass movement within
the bounds of the capitalist state.
They grovelled to the generals, seeking to assure them that the PKI's
proposal would lead to the strengthening of the state. Aidit announced in
a report to the PKI central committee that the "NASAKOMisation"
of the armed forces could be achieved and that the fifth force could be
established with the cooperation of the armed forces. Right up to the very
end, the PKI leadership suppressed the revolutionary aspirations of the
As late as May 1965, the PKI Politburo sowed the illusion that the military
and state apparatus was being modified to isolate the "anti-people's
aspect" of state power:
"The strength of the pro-people's aspect (of state power) is already
becoming steadily greater and holds the initiative and the offensive, while
the anti-people's aspect, although moderately strong, is relentlessly pressed
into a tight corner. The PKI is struggling so that the pro-people's aspect
will become more powerful and finally dominate, and the anti-people's aspect
will be driven out of the state power."
The Indonesian and international working class paid a bitter and bloody
price for this Stalinist perfidy when Suharto and the generals struck on
September 30, 1965.
1965 -- Stalinism's bloody legacy
The Indonesian military coup of October 1-2, 1965 was the outcome of a carefully-orchestrated
and long-planned operation by the CIA and the US-trained and backed commanders
of the Indonesian armed forces.
Throughout 1965 class tensions mounted. The year began with peasants
seizing the estates of large landowners and oil and rubber workers occupying
US-owned enterprises. President Sukarno had brought the army commanders,
led by General Nasution, and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) leadership
into his cabinet to suppress the movement.
The PKI leadership halted the takeovers but the mass movement was becoming
increasingly difficult to control. There was growing discontent over the
sentencing of 23 peasants to 15 to 20 years in prison for allegedly beating
an army officer to death in the course of resisting military action to suppress
land seizures in Sumatra.
On the evening of September 30, 1965, a CIA provocation was organised.
A group of middle-ranking military officers, at least one of whom had close
personal relations with General Suharto, arrested and executed the army
chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Ahmad Yani, and five other leading generals,
and announced the establishment of a Revolutionary Council.
The round up of the generals did not include two key figures. The first
was Suharto, then the commander of the Strategic Reserve Forces (Kostrad),
comprised of the military's crack troops. The mutineers led by Lieutenant-Colonel
Untung made no attempt to arrest Suharto nor cut off his headquarters in
Jakarta despite being in a position to do so. The Defence Minister, General
Nasution, also escaped. He was supposedly on the plotters' death list but
Untung's so-called coup bid was a charade. Within 24 hours Suharto routed
the rebels, virtually without a shot being fired, and took control of the
capital, backed by Nasution.
By the end of the week, Suharto's reconstituted army command eliminated
all pockets of resistance, and launched the greatest anti-communist pogrom
in history, orchestrated by the US embassy and the CIA. The White House,
Pentagon and CIA, already fighting an undeclared war in Vietnam, were determined
to drown the Indonesian revolution in blood.
US diplomats and CIA officers, led by the US ambassador to Indonesia,
Marshall Green, worked hand in glove with Suharto's death squads to exterminate
every known member and supporter of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
In preparation for the coup, US officials had spent at least two years
compiling death lists which were handed over to the military with a clear
instruction: exterminate them all. Suharto's men were ordered to report
back after each set of killings so the names could be checked off on the
Some of the American officers involved described what took place. "It
really was a big help to the army," said a former political officer
in the US embassy in Jakarta, Robert Martens. "They probably killed
a lot of people and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that's
not all bad.
"There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment."
Martens headed an embassy group of State Department and CIA officers
who, from 1962, compiled a detailed who's who of the leadership of the PKI.
They included, he said, names of provincial, city and other local PKI committee
members, and leaders of PKI-backed trade union, women's and youth groups.
The operation was masterminded by former CIA director William Colby,
who was then director of the CIA's Far East Division, and thus responsible
for directing US covert strategy in Asia. Colby said the work to identify
the PKI leadership was a forerunner to the CIA's Phoenix Program in Vietnam,
which attempted to exterminate supporters of the National Liberation Front
in the late 1960s.
Colby admitted that the work of checking off the death lists was regarded
as so important that it was supervised at the CIA's intelligence directorate
in Washington. "We came to the conclusion that with the sort of draconian
way it was carried out, it really set them (the PKI) back for years."
Deputy CIA station chief Joseph Lazarsky described with undisguised relish
how Suharto's Jakarta headquarters provided the US embassy with running
reports on the roundup and killing of PKI leaders. "We were getting
a good account in Jakarta of who was being picked up. The army had a 'shooting
list' of about 4,000 or 5,000 people.
"They didn't have enough goon squads to zap them all, and some individuals
were valuable for interrogation. The infrastructure was zapped almost immediately.
We knew what they were doing. We knew they would keep a few and save them
for the kangaroo courts, but Suharto and his advisers said, if you keep
them alive, you have to feed them."
All this was conducted with the approval of Green who was later appointed
US ambassador to Australia, where he played a leading role in the preparations
for the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975.
At least one million people were slaughtered in the six month holocaust
that followed the coup. This was the estimate of a team of University of
Indonesia graduates commissioned by the army itself to inquire into the
extent of the killings.
Instigated and aided by the army, gangs of youth from right-wing Muslim
organisations carried out mass killings, particularly in central and east
Java. There were reports that at certain points the Brantas River near Surabaya
was "choked with corpses". Another report from the east Javan
hill town of Batu said there were so many killed within the narrow confines
of a police courtyard that the bodies were simply covered over with layers
On the island of Bali, formerly considered to be a PKI stronghold, at
least 35,000 were killed by the beginning of 1966. There the Tamins, the
storm-troopers of Sukarno's PNI (Indonesian National Party) performed the
slaughter. A special correspondent of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
told of bodies lying along the roads, or heaped in pits, and of half-burned
villages in which peasants dared not leave the charred shells of their huts.
In other areas suspects were forced to kill their alleged comrades with
their own hands to prove their loyalty. In the major cities anti-Chinese
pogroms were conducted. Workers and public servants who went on strike in
protest at the counter-revolutionary wave of terror were sacked.
At least 250,000 workers and peasants were thrown into concentration
camps. An estimated 110,000 were still held as political prisoners at the
end of 1969. Executions continue to this day, including several dozen since
the early 1980s. Another four prisoners, Johannes Surono Hadiwiyono, Safar
Suryanto, Simon Petrus Sulaeman and Norbertus Rohayan, were executed nearly
25 years after the coup, a clear sign that the Suharto regime still fears
the resurgence of the Indonesian proletariat and poor peasantry.
Stalinist betrayal deepens
While hundreds of thousands of suspected PKI members and supporters were
being hunted down and slaughtered, the PKI leadership and their Stalinist
counterparts in the Kremlin, Beijing and the Communist Party of Australia
(CPA) urged PKI cadre and workers and peasants to offer no resistance, giving
a green light for the generals to proceed with their mass executions.
The Stalinists deepened their reactionary line of demanding that the
masses subordinate themselves to the national bourgeoisie and Sukarno, who
was maintained by Suharto as a puppet president, and to the armed forces
On October 1, 1965 both Sukarno and PKI secretary general Aidit responded
to the formation of the so-called rebel Revolutionary Council by moving
to the Halim Air Base in Jakarta to seek protection.
On October 6 Sukarno called for "national unity," that is,
"unity" between the military and its victims, and an end to violence.
The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the PKI immediately urged
all members and mass organisations to support the "leader of the Indonesian
revolution" and offer no resistance to the military. Its statement
was reprinted in the CPA's paper Tribune:
"Having studied the appeal by the supreme commander-in-chief of
the armed forces of the Indonesian Republic, by the leader of the Indonesian
revolution, president Sukarno, the political bureau of the central committee
of the Communist Party of Indonesia declares full support for the appeal
and appeals to all party committees and party members and sympathisers,
as well as revolutionary mass organisations led by the PKI members to facilitate
the carrying out of this appeal."
Meanwhile, Sukarno, the "leader of the Indonesian revolution,"
was collaborating with the military repression in the hope of saving his
own neck. He called for a thorough purge of those allegedly involved in
the "September 30 affair," (the alleged coup bid led by Colonel
Untung), and permitted PKI leaders to be arrested and murdered. On October
15 he appointed Suharto as army chief.
Five months later, on March 11, 1966, Sukarno handed Suharto unchallenged
decree-making power. He "ordered" Suharto to "take all steps"
to re-establish order and to safeguard Sukarno's "personal safety and
authority". Suharto's first exercise of his new powers was to formally
outlaw the PKI. In recognition of the value of his services, Sukarno was
retained as the titular president of the military dictatorship until March
The PKI leadership continued to demand that the masses bow to the authority
of the Sukarno-Suharto regime. Aidit, who had fled, was captured and executed
by the army on November 24, 1965 but his line was maintained by the PKI's
Second Secretary Njoto. In an interview given to a Japanese newspaper correspondent
"The PKI recognises only one head of state, one supreme commander,
one great leader of the revolution President Sukarno... It is President
Sukarno united with the forces of the people who will decide the destiny
and future of Indonesia."
All party members, Njoto continued, should "fully support the directives
of President Sukarno and pledge themselves to implement these without reserve...
Our party is making every effort in its power to prevent a civil war."
In other words, while the military butchers and their CIA mentors organised
the systematic liquidation of not only the PKI leadership but the most class
conscious sections of the Indonesian masses, the PKI ordered its cadre to
ensure that no-one fought back.
The utter bankruptcy and treachery of the Stalinist "two-stage"
theory of insisting that the masses tie their fate to Sukarno and the national
bourgeoisie could not have been spelt out more graphically.
The betrayal of the PKI was endorsed and reinforced by the Stalinist
bureaucracies in Moscow and Beijing. The Kremlin blamed "putschist"
and "adventuristic" elements in the PKI for the defeat and called
repeatedly for the "unity" of the Indonesian "revolution"
around Sukarno's NASAKOM (Nationalism, Islam and Communism).
On October 12, 1965 Soviet leaders Brezhnev, Mikoyan and Kosygin sent
a special message to Sukarno: "We and our colleagues learned with great
joy that your health has improved ... We have with interest heard about
your radio appeal to the Indonesian people to remain calm and prevent disorders
... This appeal will meet with profound understanding."
At a Tricontinental Conference in Havana in February, 1966, the Soviet
delegation tried in every way to block a public condemnation of the counter-revolutionary
terror raging against the Indonesian masses. Its stance won praise from
the Suharto regime. The Indonesian parliament passed a resolution on February
11 expressing "full appreciation" for the "efforts of the
delegations of Nepal, Mongolia, the Soviet Union and others at the Solidarity
Conference of the Peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America, who successfully
neutralised the efforts of the counter-revolutionists of the so-called September
30 movement, and their protectors and leaders, to intervene in the internal
affairs of Indonesia".
Thus, the betrayal of the Stalinists was so brazen that the parliamentary
lapdogs of the military junta were able to refer to the CIA's September
30 set-up as an attempted counter-revolution!
The Beijing Stalinists similarly wiped their hands of the fate of the
Indonesian masses. They even went ahead in Jakarta with a World Conference
Against Foreign Bases and stood by without protest as their Indonesian comrades
were arrested in the conference hall itself.
The legacy of the 'bloc of four classes'
The Stalinist betrayal in 1965 was the culmination of more than 20 years
of treachery in which the PKI, working on the basis of the Stalinist "two-stage"
theory and, in particular, the Maoist ideology of a "bloc of four classes,"
tied the working class and peasant masses to the bourgeois nationalist regime
Aidit spelt out the ideological framework of the bloody defeat of the
Indonesian revolution shortly after returning from 18 months in China in
July 1950 and wresting control of the PKI leadership:
"The working class, the peasants, the petty-bourgeoisie and the
national bourgeoisie must unite in one national front."
Aidit slavishly followed the line of the Maoist regime in China which
suppressed the independent struggle of the working class and attempted to
establish a "New Democracy", a bourgeois state, in alliance with
sections of the national bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie after the collapse
of Chiang Kai Shek's dictatorship.
Parroting Mao, he called for a "people's democracy" and a "united
front of all anti-imperialist and anti-feudal forces in the country. That
is to say, the working class, the peasantry, the petty-bourgeoisie and the
In keeping with the counter-revolutionary "two-stage" theory
of Stalinism, "The task of this alliance is to bring about not socialist
but democratic reforms".
Aidit demanded that the workers and peasant masses support not only the
national bourgeoisie but also "all other patriotic and anti-colonial
forces including the left (rather progressive) landlord group".
It was this line, which Aidit hammered out incessantly, which was used
to suppress workers' and peasants' struggles, tie the working class to the
Sukarno regime, and create the conditions for the US-backed military to
Time and again, PKI members and supporters were instructed to strangle
the class struggle and the revolutionary strivings of the oppressed masses
in order to preserve the "national united front":
"The basic principle we must adhere to in the conduct of the national
struggle is to subordinate the class struggle to the national struggle."
The "two stage" theory of Stalinism insists that in the colonial
and semi-colonial countries such as Indonesia, the oppressed masses must
not engage in struggles that threaten the national bourgeoisie nor raise
the program of socialist revolution. The class struggle has to be stifled
to prop up the national bourgeoisie and establish a national capitalist
The bloody counter-revolutionary consequences of this Stalinist line
were first demonstrated in China in 1926-27 when the butcher Chiang Kai
Shek inflicted a crushing defeat on the Chinese working class after the
Communist Party had been instructed by the Kremlin leadership to join his
bourgeois nationalist Koumintang.
The massacres carried out by Chiang confirmed Leon Trotsky's warnings
that the weak and belated bourgeoisies of the oppressed nations are organically
incapable of conducting any consistent struggle against imperialism and
feudalism. That is because, to do so requires the mobilisation of the masses
in revolutionary struggle and such a struggle immediately comes into conflict
with the class position of the national bourgeoisie as exploiters of their
"own" working class and peasantry.
As Trotsky explained in his writings on the betrayal of the Chinese Revolution:
"To really arouse the workers and peasants against imperialism is
possible only by connecting their basic and most profound life interest
with the cause of the country's liberation. A workers' strike small or large
an agrarian rebellion, an uprising of the oppressed sections in city and
country against the usurer, against the bureaucracy, against the local military
satraps, all that arouses the multitudes, that welds them together, that
educates, steels, is a real step forward on the road to the revolutionary
and social liberation of the Chinese people... But everything that brings
the oppressed and exploited masses of the toilers to their feet inevitably
pushes the national bourgeoisie into an open bloc with the imperialists.
The class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the masses of workers and
peasants is not weakened, but, on the contrary, is sharpened by imperialist
oppression, to the point of bloody civil war at every serious conflict."
(Trotsky, Problems of the Chinese Revolution, New Park 1969, p.5)
The criminal role played by the PKI in tying the Indonesian masses to
Sukarno's national bourgeois regime made Trotsky's analysis tragically prophetic.
The unresolved tasks of genuine national liberation, land redistribution,
democracy and economic development in Indonesia and all historically-oppressed
countries can be achieved only by the working class leading the peasant
masses in the socialist revolution. That is, national self-determination
can only arise as a by-product of the socialist revolution led by the proletariat.
The victory of this struggle is bound up with the development of the
world socialist revolution to overthrow imperialism on a world scale.
This is the kernel of the Marxist theory of Permanent Revolution developed
by Leon Trotsky and vindicated by the victory of the October 1917 Russian
In the months following the bloody CIA-organised military coup of October
1-2, 1965, every known member and supporter of the Indonesian Communist
Party (PKI) and all working class parties, and hundreds of thousands of
other Indonesian workers and peasants, were massacred or thrown into concentration
camps for torture and interrogation.
The systematic extermination and ruthless suppression of working class
opposition intensified after March 11, 1966 when Sukarno, the bourgeois
nationalist leader retained by the military as President, granted unfettered
decree-making power to the coup leader and army chief, General Suharto.
The betrayal of the tumultuous revolutionary movement of the Indonesian
masses by the Stalinist leadership of the PKI was a profound defeat with
enormous implications for the international working class.
The PKI blocked the repeated attempts of the workers and peasants to
seize the factories and plantations. It tied the masses to the bourgeois
nationalist regime of Sukarno and ultimately joined the US-backed military
leaders, the future butchers of the masses, in the Sukarno cabinet. After
the coup the Stalinists ordered their cadre to enforce Sukarno's appeal
for "unity" with the military and to prevent any resistance to
the holocaust that was being unleashed.
The blow struck to the Indonesian revolution reverberated throughout
Asia and around the world. In particular it encouraged and enabled the massive
escalation of the US invasion of Vietnam, it crushed the hopes and revolutionary
striving of the masses in Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, and it
strengthened the hand of the unstable bourgeois regimes in the Indian sub-continent.
Mandel and Hansen whitewash Stalinist treachery
But the response of the Pabloite revisionists of the "United Secretariat,"
led by Ernest Mandel and Joseph Hansen, was to minimise the magnitude of
the great Indonesian betrayal, to whitewash the counter-revolutionary role
of the Stalinists, and, above all, to cover up their own responsibility
for the bloodbath.
While the Indonesian masses were being slaughtered, Professor Mandel
attempted to paint the most reassuring picture of the future prospects of
the Indonesian revolution, in order to dull the consciousness of the international
"Naturally the struggle has not ended in Indonesia," he wrote
from the comfort of his Belgian university chair in an article published
in the Pabloite journal World Outlook on March 11, 1966.
"A part of the Communist cadres have been able to go underground,"
he went on. "The discontent of the hungry masses is increasing from
day to day; the empty stomachs of the workers and peasants are not filled
through massacres. The revolt will widen against the corrupt regime. Sukarno
understands this and will resume his eternal balancing act; he has just
eliminated the most ferocious of the generals from his cabinet. The people
will again have their turn."
This whitewash of the immense betrayal of the Indonesian masses demonstrates
the counter-revolutionary consequences of Pabloite opportunism, which emerged
in the Trotskyist movement from the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Led by Michel Pablo, elements such as Mandel adapted to the post-World
War II stabilisation of capitalism and the seeming strengthening of the
Stalinist bureaucracies which suppressed the revolutionary upsurge of the
international working class in the immediate post-war period. They abandoned
Trotsky's struggle for the construction of the Fourth International as the
world party of socialist revolution and claimed that the Moscow and Beijing-line
Stalinist bureaucracies and parties would be pressured by the masses into
playing a progressive role. On this basis, they set out to liquidate the
Fourth International into whatever Stalinist or social democratic formation
then dominated the labour movement in each country, declaring that the road
to socialism consisted of centuries of horribly deformed workers' states
of the type established in Eastern Europe and China.
In 1953 this liquidationism was combatted by the formation of the International
Committee of the Fourth International in response to an Open Letter issued
by American Socialist Workers Party leader James P. Cannon calling for the
defence of "orthodox Trotskyism". However, by the early 1960s
the SWP leaders themselves had increasingly adapted to the prolonged post-war
boom. They hailed the apparent successes of national bourgeoisie and petty
bourgeois elements, such as Castro in Cuba, as a substitute for the seizure
of power by the working class led by revolutionary Marxist parties, proclaiming
that socialism could be achieved through such "blunted instruments".
This was the perspective on which they reunified with the Pabloites in 1963
to form the United Secretariat.
Central to the Pabloite renunciation of proletarian revolution was the
reactionary objectivist method which presented the struggle for socialism
as a quasi-automatic "historical process" achieved through the
spontaneous movement of the masses led by whatever political tendencies
were at hand, regardless of their class composition and program.
Thus the Indonesian "people" would prevail regardless of the
terrible crisis of leadership produced by the perfidy of the mass Stalinist
party. Sukarno, by now the willing tool of General Suharto, was supposedly
muzzling the most ferocious generals. And, even after its unspeakable betrayal,
Mandel referred to the PKI as a "Communist" party.
Mandel's snow job was ratified by the "United Secretariat"
in a statement issued on March 20, 1966. Its conclusion was that the emergence
of General Suharto as the "strong man" of the counter-revolution
was of little consequence, because "It is extremely unlikely that the
counter-revolutionists now in power in Jakarta will be able to stabilise
the situation for any length of time."
Today, with Suharto's military junta still riding ruthlessly on the back
of Indonesia's oppressed millions, it is crucial to study how the Pabloite
opportunists provided the essential political cover for the PKI and the
Sukarno regime itself.
The "United Secretariat" statement sowed the most deadly illusion
that even General Suharto's American-trained killers would be compelled
to act in the interests of the Indonesian masses against imperialism as
part of Sukarno's phoney "confrontation" with the newly-formed
state of Malaysia: "The army leaders themselves will not readily give
up their nationalist, anti-imperialist verbiage which reflects real conflicts
of interest with British imperialism and the ruling comprador bourgeoisie
and semi-feudal landowners of Malaysia."
While the Indonesian masses were left leaderless in the face of Suharto's
horrific slaughter, the Pabloites loftily declared their confidence that
somehow the masses would be victorious.
"The masses, though leaderless and deeply shaken, have not lost
all fighting potential, particularly in the countryside. It will prove impossible
to get the thousands of squatters to evacuate the imperialist-owned or 'nationalised'
plantations managed by corrupt army officers, or to compel the thousands
of plantation and oil workers to revert to the 'normal' working conditions
of colonial times."
Above all, the Pabloites continued to insist that the masses place their
trust in the Stalinist leaders of the PKI, arguing that they could be convinced
to play a revolutionary role, even after they had strangled every mass movement
against the Sukarno regime.
"If they succeed in regrouping and in regaining a mass following
in some regions of the countryside by calling on the peasants to immediately
take over the land held by the landlords, the plantations and army administration,
they could gain on a progressive scale due to the inability of the Indonesian
reaction to solve the country's basic economic plight and due to the divisions
in the ranks of the army which that inability will undoubtedly provoke."
In 1957, and again in 1964-65, the PKI had directed workers and peasants
to surrender the factories, banks, oil installations, plantations and other
enterprises they had occupied, saving the day for Sukarno and the Indonesian
bourgeoisie. Now, the Pabloites claimed, they could play a progressive role.
Mandel's article and the "United Secretariat" statement were
published, together with an article by a Pabloite member of the PKI, by
the US Socialist Workers Party in a pamphlet called "The Catastrophe
in Indonesia" dated December 1966. It was complete with an introduction
by Joseph Hansen, an SWP leader who had played a poisonous role in the 1963
reunification with the Pabloites. Hansen, subsequently exposed as a Stalinist
agent who became an FBI plant in the SWP, was a central instigator in the
SWP's 1963 break from the ICFI. Hansen sought to reassure the pamphlet's
readers that "one of the new features of world politics today"
was "the quickness with which the masses recover from defeats that
formerly would have left them prostrate for decades".
The stunning indifference of the Pabloites to the fate of the Indonesian
masses was not simply the product of the callousness and contempt for the
working class which characterises their fetid petty-bourgeois milieu but
was also a bid to cover-up the critical factor in the Indonesian betrayal
the role played by the Pabloites themselves and their Indonesian representatives.
It is a measure of the cynicism of the Pabloites and their subservience
to the Stalinists and the national bourgeoisie that none of the articles
and statements published in the 1966 pamphlet so much as mentioned the existence
of a section of the "United Secretariat" in Indonesia, let alone
explained the part it played in the events leading up to the coup.
There was just one brief appeal for the legalisation of and release of
all members of the PKI, the Partai Murbah (a social democratic formation)
and the Partai Acoma, even though the Acoma party had relations with the
Pabloites at least as early as 1953 and was admitted as a section of the
"United Secretariat" in 1960, just as the American SWP was intensifying
its unprincipled reunification manoeuvres with the Pabloites.
This fleeting reference to their own members was a guilty attempt by
the Pabloites to hide the part that they and their Indonesian proteges played
in providing the PKI Stalinists with much-needed credibility throughout
the 1950s and 1960s.
How Pabloism emerged in Indonesia
The Partai Acoma originated as a breakaway from the PKI in 1948. By falsely
claiming to be Trotskyist, it served to divert and trap working class and
peasant opposition to the support of the PKI for the national bourgeois
regime of Sukarno. Led by an MP, Ibnu Parna, its programmatic documents
presented the PKI as a "Marxist-Leninist party like us." As we
shall show, this was a fraud in relation to both the PKI and the Partai
The need for such a fake "Trotskyist" safety valve was demonstrated
by the explosive events of 1948.
The collaboration of the PKI leadership in the post-war administrations
headed by Sukarno and their acceptance of the Indonesian bourgeoisie's rotten
agreements with the Dutch colonialists aroused intense working class opposition.
From July 5, 1947 to January 23, 1948 President Sukarno's Republican
administration was headed by Amir Sjarifuddin who was both Prime Minister
and Defence Minister. Sjarifuddin was a secret member of the PKI, as was
the Deputy Prime Minister and a Minister of State. In addition, two Ministers
of State were open members of the PKI. This administration signed the Renville
Agreement with the Netherlands which maintained Dutch control of the lion's
share of the sugar, rubber, coffee, tea and oil industries, required the
withdrawal of guerrilla forces from Dutch-occupied territory and provided
for the liquidation of the PKI-led "people's armed units" into
the bourgeois "Indonesian National Armed Forces" controlled by
Sukarno and his generals.
Such was the popular opposition to the acceptance of the US-imposed pact
with the Dutch that the government was brought down and replaced by one
headed by right-wing Vice-President Hatta as Prime Minister.
Strikes then erupted, demanding a parliamentary government. The PKI leadership
supported the suppression of this movement by Sukarno who appealed for "national
unity". When this betrayal was opposed by a section of the PKI, the
PKI leadership responded savagely, executing the leaders of the opposition
Partai Acoma emerged from this dissenting group. While it opposed the
PKI leadership, the Acoma party maintained that the Indonesian revolution
had to be carried out by the PKI as a "Marxist-Leninist party".
Subsequently the Acoma leaders established contact with the "United
Secretariat" which encouraged their pro-Stalinist positions and illusions
It is apparent that the Partai Acoma diverted wide layers of workers
and peasants looking for an alternative to the class collaborationist program
of the PKI.
From 1953 to 1955, for example, the Acoma's strength in the 200,000-strong
Indonesian Peasants Association (SAKTI) delayed for two years plans by the
PKI leadership to merge SAKTI with two PKI-controlled peasants' organisations,
the RTI and the BTI.
Pabloites prepare betrayal
An article published in February 1958 in the Pabloite journal Quatrieme
International provides a graphic indictment of the role played by Pabloism
in opposing the fight for revolutionary Marxist leadership in the working
The article, "The Indonesian Revolution on the March," by Sal
Santen, a close associate of Pablo, was written at the height of the revolutionary
convulsions of December 1957, when workers and peasants seized control of
Dutch and other imperialist-owned plantations and enterprises.
The article provided a criminal cover for the counter-revolutionary role
of the PKI, which ordered the masses to hand over their conquests to the
military in order to shore up the Sukarno administration.
According to Santen: "It must be added that the Communist militants,
the basic and average cadres of the PKI and of the SOBSI, the big Indonesian
workers' union organisation, have nothing of the bureaucratic character
of Aidit (Communist Party leader) and Co. They are in front; they are the
ones who took over the initiative in occupying the factories, the plantations,
the banks and the ships. There is no doubt that the most conscious of them
are inflamed by the revolutionary audacity of Tan Malakka, by Leon Trotsky's
ideas of the permanent revolution."
Acting on this perspective, the Indonesian Pabloites politically disarmed
the tens of thousands of workers and peasants who came forward into struggle
only to find their way blocked by the PKI. Just at the point when the decisive
task was to educate the most class conscious elements in the necessity for
an uncompromising struggle against the Stalinist "two-stage" and
"bloc of four classes" line of the PKI, and the need for a thorough
arming with the program of Permanent Revolution, the Pabloites worked for
Opportunist to the core, they equated Trotsky with Tan Malakka, an early
PKI leader who opposed the plans for a revolt in 1926 and split from the
PKI to form his own organisation. They falsified the Marxist theory of Permanent
Revolution, transforming it from a conscious strategy to guide the struggles
for the dictatorship of the proletariat into a spontaneously generated perspective.
The central tenant of Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution is the
perfidy of the national bourgeoisie and their incapacity to lead a real
struggle against imperialism. Only the working class can free the masses
from national and class oppression, by carrying the socialist revolution
and uniting with their class brothers throughout the world in a common struggle
to overthrow imperialism internationally.
Such a struggle can only be undertaken consciously under the banner of
the Fourth International in an uncompromising struggle against the Stalinist
and petty-bourgeois forces, such as the Pabloites, who attempt to disarm
the working class and tie it to its own bourgeoisie.
In the hands of the Pabloites, the program of Permanent Revolution became
a justification for their own adaption to the national bourgeoisie and the
Stalinists. The working class did not need its own revolutionary party to
come to power because the PKI was the instrument through which the Permanent
Revolution was being realised, albeit unconsciously.
Thus, Santen, speaking on behalf of Pablo and Mandel, declared:
"In any case it is clear that the whole of Indonesia is moving.
The march of the masses has become irreversible although the process remains
contradictory and has already reached the stage of dual power in a good
part of Indonesia, and above all in Java. The occupation of enterprises,
of plantations, of the fleet, and the banks by the masses has only one meaning:
It is a question of the classical beginning of the proletarian revolution.
The Indonesian revolution is in the act of breaking the limits of the national
revolution under a bourgeois nationalist leadership. It develops according
to the laws of the permanent revolution." (Emphasis in the original)
The Pabloites held out the prospect of a peaceful transition to "worker
and peasant power":
"A speedy and almost 'peaceful' victory of the revolution up to
worker and peasant power (above all in Java) was possible, if the PKI, at
the first moment pushed by the spirit of the masses, had not done everything
to castrate the action of the masses by subordinating it to the control
of the government."
What the Pabloites meant by "worker and peasant power" was
completely opposed to the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The Pabloites lined up as cheer leaders for the counter-revolutionary Stalinist
"two-stage" perspective of demanding that the proletariat give
up the struggle for socialist revolution.
To sanctify their opposition to the independent mobilisation of the working
class and to the forging of a revolutionary proletarian, that is, Trotskyist,
party, the Pabloites insisted that the PKI, despite its betrayal of the
December 1957 occupations, would be pressured to the left by the masses:
"At the same time, at each aggravation of the situation, the masses
have the tendency to push the SOBSI and PKI further. A great deal will now
depend on the boldness, on the revolutionary Marxist understanding of the
militants, of the average Communist cadres. We feel completely solidarised
with them, inspired and enthused by their initiatives, by their boldness
which we passionately hope will not stop before the 'taboos' of the Aidits.
We salute the Indonesian Trotskyist cadres who are integrated in the PKI
with the correct revolutionary perspective that the radicalisation of the
masses will be realised above all through the PKI and SOBSI."
This was the greatest crime of Pabloism the liquidation of Trotskyist
cadre, and those who were attracted to Trotskyism, into the camp of Stalinism.
Santen added a footnote to emphasise that this treacherous line was advanced
in direct opposition to the struggle waged by the International Committee
of the Fourth International since its founding in 1953 to defend Trotskyism
against Pabloite liquidationism. Santen specifically denounced the ICFI's
fight for the construction of sections of the Fourth International to defeat
"In contradiction to some sectarian 'orthodox' people, the International
does not let itself be fascinated by the reactionary Stalinist policy, but
orients itself, above all, on the dynamism of the situation itself, a dynamism
that pushes the masses, and through the masses the PKI itself into contradiction
with the present order in Indonesia."
This passage should be burned into the consciousness of every worker
as the summation of Pabloism's pro-Stalinist dirty work.
In direct struggle against the ICFI, the Pabloites consciously pushed
fatal illusions in the PKI Stalinists, precisely at the point where the
burning question of the hour was to expose the criminal role of the Stalinists
and resolutely fight for a decisive break by the masses from the PKI to
construct a revolutionary Trotskyist leadership.
The protracted and implacable struggle waged against the Pabloite opportunists
by the ICFI, which appeared for many years to be a fight taken up by small
isolated forces in the Fourth International, was a life and death question
for millions of Indonesian workers and peasants.
Within weeks of Santen's lines being penned, the rotten fruits of the
PKI's betrayal of the December 1957 movement began to emerge. A counter-revolutionary
government was formed in Central Sumatra in February 1958 by coup leader
Colonel Achmed Hussein and headed by Dr Sjafruddin Prawiranegara. This CIA-backed
operation, only possible because of the PKI's disarming of the December
1957 rebellion, was a test run for the bloody coup that was to take place
seven years later.
Fully conscious that this was a dress rehearsal for counter-revolution,
the response of the Pabloites was to intensify their wretched boosting of
the PKI. Quatrieme International's editor added a footnote which
climaxed with the following purple passage:
"Since the 'rebels' main aim is to do away with Sukarno's 'guided
democracy' in which is included the PKI, then any compromise will be at
the expense of the PKI. In this case, the immediate perspective is that
the PKI, under mass pressure, will be obliged, willy nilly, to execute a
major policy about-face as was performed by the Chinese Communist Party
in a similar situation in 1949, and to go past the bourgeois-nationalist
stage of the revolution to the socialist stage of workers' power. Thus,
in fact, but again without acknowledgement, operating on the basis of, and
validifying the Trotskyist theory of permanent revolution."
Thus the PKI, the hangman of the Indonesian revolution, was depicted
as the unwitting instrument of the Permanent Revolution!
Added to this was the lie that the Chinese Stalinists, the mentors of
Aidit and the other PKI leaders, had carried through the "socialist
stage of workers' power" in 1949. In fact, the peasant armies of the
Maoists brutally suppressed the proletarian uprising in 1949, murdered the
Trotskyist opposition, and established an extremely deformed workers' state
based on the Stalinist perspective of a partnership with the national bourgeoisie,
the urban petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry. This was indeed the model
upon which the PKI leadership based itself.
Not content with glorifying the Stalinists, the editor's special footnote
then promoted the prospects of the national bourgeoisie undertaking a progressive
transformation as well. It suggested an alternative scenario premised on
the Sukarno government leading a struggle against the CIA-organised "rebels":
"In the other event, that the Sukarno government takes a stronger
line of opposition and resistance to the 'rebels,' a further polarisation
of all the bourgeois and semi-feudal counter-revolutionary forces will be
seen; confronting a shadow bourgeois-nationalist government and the masses.
This confrontation of the masses against the new 'slaveholders' rebellion,'
against the new 'Kornilov putsch,' will mean a new upsurge of the revolution,
while the experience of this kind of revolutionary action by the masses
will leave little chance of a relapse to the stability of a bourgeois nationalist
The events of October 1965 were to prove the Sukarno regime to be no
less accommodating to General Suharto's killers than the Kerensky government
was to General Kornilov's coup bid in 1917. Sukarno displayed the essence
of bourgeois nationalism by ending his political career as a puppet President
for Suharto's military junta.
The conclusion of the editor's footnote should be inscribed on the tombstone
of Pabloism: "In either case our optimistic perspective is justified.
The Indonesian Revolution is on the march! Its victory as a socialist
revolution is now in generation. (Emphasis in original)
From 1957 to 1965 the Pabloites internationally perpetrated this objectivist
cover-up of the grave dangers confronting the Indonesian revolution.
The work of the Pabloite section in Indonesia was central to the whole
Pabloite world perspective. It was discussed intensively at the so-called
Fifth World Congress of the "United Secretariat" in 1957.
"Our Fifth World Congress, in discussing the progress and the road
of the world colonial revolution, gave serious attention to the developments
in Indonesia. Recognising the Indonesian situation as pre-revolutionary,
it expected a revolutionary explosion very soon," declared the article
The entire Pabloite "United Secretariat" has blood on its hands.
They aided and abetted the Stalinist betrayal of the Indonesian workers
Pabloites cover up Stalinist treachery
The crisis of working class leadership was never
posed so sharply as in Indonesia between 1963 and 1965. The fate of the
Indonesian workers and peasants depended entirely on overcoming and defeating
the counter-revolutionary line of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) which
bound the working class hand and foot to the tottering bourgeois nationalist
regime of Sukarno while the US-backed military prepared for a bloody coup.
The PKI Stalinists, led by general secretary Aidit, repeatedly demanded
that workers and peasants hand back factories and plantations which they
had seized. They then joined the army generals in taking cabinet posts in
the Suharto government and backed the outlawing of workers' strikes.
The more it became obvious that the generals were preparing for a bloody
coup, the more the PKI leaders worked feverishly to assure the bourgeoisie
and the military that the PKI opposed the revolutionary mobilisation of
Aidit repeatedly declared that the state power in Indonesia did not have
to be smashed but could be reformed from within to "strengthen and
consolidate the pro-people's aspect," which included President Sukarno.
The PKI leader gave lectures at army colleges in which he heralded a "feeling
of mutuality and unity that daily grows strong between all the armed forces
of the Indonesian Republic and the various groups of Indonesian people,
including the communists".
The PKI leadership could only advance these positions because the Indonesian
Pabloites were working equally feverishly to prevent workers from breaking
with the Stalinists. They vehemently opposed the construction of a new revolutionary
The responsibility for the bloody counter-revolutionary consequences
of this line can be traced directly to the 1963 Pabloite Reunification Congress
at which the American Socialist Workers Party consummated an unprincipled
break from the International Committee of the Fourth International and joined
the Pabloite "United Secretariat" of Ernest Mandel.
After leading the struggle against Pabloite liquidationism in 1953, the
SWP leaders had in the late 1950s increasingly adapted to the pressure of
the protracted post-war boom and the apparent quiescence of the working
class. They abandoned the struggle for proletarian revolution led by a Bolshevik-type
party and sought "regroupment" with petty bourgeois radicals and
disaffected Stalinists. In 1963 they joined hands with the Pabloites in
claiming that not only the Stalinist parties, such as the PKI, but also
the bourgeois nationalist and petty-bourgeois nationalist forces in the
backward countries, such as Castro in Cuba and Sukarno in Indonesia, could
become vehicles for the establishment of socialism.
The reunification resolution declared that there was no crisis of revolutionary
leadership in the oppressed countries: "In the colonial and semi-colonial
countries ... the very weakness of capitalism, the whole peculiar socio-economic
structure produced by imperialism, the permanent misery of the big majority
of the population in the absence of a radical agrarian revolution, the stagnation
and even reduction of living standards while industrialisation nevertheless
proceeds relatively rapidly, creates situations in which the failure of
one revolutionary wave does not lead automatically to relative or even temporary
social or economic stabilisation. A seemingly inexhaustible succession of
mass struggles continues, such as Bolivia has experienced for 10 years."
In other words, no matter how crushing were the defeats and betrayals
inflicted on the masses, they would rise again. There was no need for a
Trotskyist party. The criminal character of this opportunist complacency
was soon to be spelt out in the blood of the Indonesian masses.
The 1963 conference was based on the rejection of the historical necessity
of building sections of the Trotskyist movement in the backward countries.
The Pabloite resolution declared: "The weakness of the enemy in the
backward countries has opened the possibility of coming to power even with
In Indonesia, the "blunted instrument" was to be the PKI.
The great betrayal in Sri Lanka
The Pabloite treachery in Indonesia was intimately
bound up with the great betrayal in Sri Lanka in 1964 when the Lanka Sama
Samaja Party (LSSP), the Pabloite organisation, joined the bourgeois coalition
government of Mrs Bandaranaike, together with the Stalinist Communist Party
of Sri Lanka, in order to behead the mass working class movement against
The LSSP had opposed the formation of the International Committee in
1953 and subsequently played a central role in preparing the American SWP's
reunification with the Pabloites. Its opposition to the struggle against
opportunism in the Fourth International was rooted in its increasingly nationalist
orientation and abandonment of Trotskyist program and principles in order
to accommodate with the Stalinists and Bandaranaike's capitalist party,
the SLFP, in Ceylon.
The Pabloite Reunification Congress of 1963 covered up the LSSP's national
opportunism by claiming that "Our Ceylonese section has progressively
corrected the wrong orientation adopted in 1960 of supporting the liberal-bourgeois
government of the SLFP. Since the masses began to go into action, it has
not hesitated to place itself at their head against its electoral allies
of yesterday." Just one year later the fake "Trotskyist"
credentials supplied by the Pabloites were used by the LSSP to join the
This betrayal by a party hailed by the Pabloites as the "largest
Trotskyist party in the world" had disastrous implications internationally,
first of all in Indonesia. It strengthened the hand of the Stalinist and
Maoist parties, such as the PKI, whose capacity to suppress and disarm the
working class would have been shattered had the LSSP upheld the program
of permanent revolution and fought for the overthrow of bourgeois rule in
Pabloites boost PKI
After the entry of their Sri Lankan section
into the capitalist government in Sri Lanka alongside the Stalinists, the
Pabloites continued to pursue a very similar pro-Stalinist and pro-national
bourgeois line in Indonesia.
The Pabloites' pamphlet, The Catastrophe in Indonesia, not only
covered up the part played by the Indonesian Pabloite section, the Partai
Acoma, as we exposed in the previous chapter.
Even after the bloody coup in Indonesia, the pamphlet continued to promote
the prospect of the national bourgeoisie and the PKI playing a progressive
It included an article by T. Soedarso, described by US Socialist Workers
Party leader Joseph Hansen in the pamphlet's introduction as a "young
member of the Indonesian Communist party who succeeded in making his way
into exile". Hansen enthusiastically commended Soedarso's article as
"an indication of the determination of an important sector of the Indonesian
Communist Party to learn from what happened and to utilise the lessons in
such a way as to ensure victory when the masses again surge forward, as
they surely will".
Soedarso's article treated the counter-revolutionary program of the PKI
leadership as a series of "mistakes", including the "errors"
of "seeking to achieve socialism by peaceful means," and of pursuing
a "policy" of a two-stage revolution and a united front with the
Soedarso expressed no fundamental differences with the Stalinists, agreeing,
for example, that "The revolutionary movement could and should support
the progressive attitudes or actions of the national bourgeoisie".
If ever proof was needed that the semi-colonial bourgeoisie, personified
by Sukarno, was inherently incapable of a "progressive" program
and would line up behind the slaughter of the working class, the Indonesian
bloodbath provided it. For 18 months Sukarno served General Suharto's dictatorship
as a puppet president, and even after that, from March 1967, he was retained
as a token "president without powers".
The Pabloites likewise belittled the significance of the PKI's entry
into the Sukarno NASAKOM coalition government with the military butchers.
Soedarso implored the PKI to reverse this "line," as if it were
a mere lapse.
Soedarso's virtual apology for this fundamental class treachery was no
accident. The cardinal premise of Pabloism was the reversal of Trotsky's
struggle against Stalinism. The evolution of Stalinism into a counter-revolutionary
bureaucracy was established irrevocably in 1933 when the Stalinist Comintern,
approved, without a single dissenting voice, the betrayal of the German
Communist Party in handing over the German working class to Hitler without
a shot being fired. From that point on Trotsky insisted that the Third International,
following the Second, had passed definitely into the camp of the bourgeoisie,
and that the Fourth International had to built as the world party of socialist
revolution to ensure the continuity of Marxism.
Soedarso's article was a conscious cover-up, organised by Mandel and
Hansen, for the reactionary role of Stalinism. The article deliberately
did not use the word Stalinism, but fraudulently referred to the PKI as
"Communist". And then to make his position crystal clear, Soedarso
concluded: "The above criticism is not intended to undermine the role
of the PKI nor to arouse distrust in Indonesian Communism."
Thus, a year after the military coup, by which time a million workers
and peasants had perished, the Pabloites were whitewashing the lessons of
1965 and still urging the Indonesian workers and peasants to maintain their
faith in the PKI.
The Pabloite 'lessons' of Indonesia
Soedarso's article was not an isolated instance.
In fact the line advanced in the article provided the essential themes for
the statement issued on March 20, 1966 by the Pabloite "United Secretariat".
Entitled "The Lesson of Indonesia," it opposed any break
from the PKI and issued no call for the building of a section of the Fourth
International. On the contrary, it declared that the "Indonesian Communists"
could "overcome the results of the present defeat" by assimilating
The first "lesson" was stated as follows: "While it is
correct and necessary to support all anti-imperialist mass movements, and
even to critically support all concrete anti-imperialist measures taken
by representatives of the colonial bourgeoisie like Sukarno, for colonial
revolution to be victorious it is absolutely essential to maintain the proletarian
organisations strictly independent politically and organisationally from
the 'national' bourgeoisie."
Not only did the Pabloites continue to sow the most dangerous illusions
in the "anti-imperialist" pretensions of the national bourgeoisie,
their talk of "independent" proletarian organisations was an utter
fraud. The political independence of the working class could only be forged
by building a Trotskyist party in pitiless and audacious struggle against
the Stalinists whom the Pabloites were trying to resuscitate.
The second Pabloite "lesson" claimed that "While it is
correct and necessary during the first phases of the revolution in backward
countries to place the main stress on the problems of winning national independence,
unifying the country and solving the agrarian question (i.e., the historical
tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution which constitute the most burning
tasks in the eyes of 80 to 90 percent of the population), it is indispensable
to understand that the solution of these tasks is only possible when the
working class, in alliance with the poor peasantry, has conquered leadership
of the revolution, establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat and the
poor peasantry and pushes the revolution through to its socialist phase."
With this opportunist line of "two phases," the Pabloites were
trying to breathe new life into the discredited "two stage" theory
of the Stalinists, which demanded that the "socialist phase" of
the revolution be delayed until the completion of the democratic and national
revolution. The Pabloite position was the opposite of Trotsky's theory of
Permanent Revolution which was based on the international character of the
socialist revolution and the revolutionary role of the international proletariat.
Trotsky emphasised the essential lesson of the Russian revolution that,
in this epoch, the democratic and national tasks in the backward and oppressed
countries could be achieved only through the proletarian revolution and
its extension on the world scale.
The Pabloite call for the "dictatorship of the proletariat and poor
peasantry" sought to revive the "Old Bolshevik" formula of
the "democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry"
discarded by Lenin in 1917. Lenin adopted Trotsky's unequivocal position
that the proletariat is the only consistently revolutionary class which
can lead the peasants and carry through the democratic and socialist tasks
of the oppressed nations as part of the struggle of the working class on
a world scale.
The third "lesson" advanced by the Pabloites was: "While
it is necessary to win the broadest possible mass base in the countryside,
a revolutionary party capable of applying that policy must be based upon
a hardened proletarian cadre thoroughly trained in Marxist theory and revolutionary
The duplicitous character of this "lesson" can be seen from
the fact that it was oriented toward the Stalinists. The references to a
"hardened proletarian cadre" and "Marxist theory" were
In fact, the "United Secretariat" advised the survivors of
the PKI leadership to take the road of rural guerrilla warfare.
Its statement expressed the hope that "what remains of that leadership
along with the surviving party cadres especially the best educated, those
steeled by the terrible experiences they went through in the past six months
will have taken the road of guerrilla war, if only out of self-defence.
They urged the Stalinists to turn to a peasant-based guerrilla war, aping
the Maoists in China. Maoism is a variant of Stalinism based on peasant
hostility to the hegemony of the working class. Arising out the defeat of
the 1926-27 Chinese revolution and the destruction of the Chinese Communist
Party's working class membership, Mao's turn to the peasantry led to the
abortion of the 1949 Chinese revolution. It produced a highly deformed workers'
state based on Mao's "bloc of four classes" the national bourgeoisie,
the urban petty-bourgeoisie, the peasantry and the working class.
It was this very doctrine which guided the determination of the Aidit
leadership of the PKI to prevent a proletarian socialist revolution in Indonesia.
In Aidit's words: "The working class, the peasants, the petty bourgeoisie
and the national bourgeoisie must unite in one national front."
The Pabloites' pamphlet was a cynical bid to divert class conscious workers
from the most essential lesson of the Indonesian betrayal the necessity
for a Trotskyist party to defeat the Stalinists and their Pabloite accomplices
who function as counter-revolutionary petty-bourgeois agencies within the
mass movement. There was and is only one revolutionary party which can avenge
the betrayal of 1965 by leading the Indonesian workers to power an Indonesian
section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
In 1951 the PKI leadership had set out clearly
the path of betrayal it was to pursue. "In the struggle to realise
their political convictions, the communists will not use force while the
ruling class still leaves the peaceful, the parliamentary way open. If there
is the use of force, the spilling of blood, a civil war, it will not be
the communists who start it but the ruling class itself."
This counter-revolutionary perspective was only able to be inflicted
on the Indonesian masses because the Pabloites tied the most class conscious
sections of the working class to the banner and program of the PKI.
The Pabloite betrayals in Sri Lanka and Indonesia demonstrated the counter-revolutionary
character of Pabloism. As the International Committee of the Fourth International
stated in its 1988 perspectives resolution, The World Capitalist Crisis
and the Tasks of the Fourth International,:
"In the assistance it rendered to Stalinism, social democracy and
bourgeois nationalism, the opportunism of the Pabloite centrists played
a vital role in enabling imperialism to survive the crucial years between
1968 and 1975 when its world order was shaken by economic turmoil and an
international upsurge of the working class and the oppressed masses in the
backward countries. It verified Trotsky's assessment of centrism as a secondary
agency of imperialism. The petty-bourgeois defeatists who pontificate on
the doomed character of the proletariat while discovering new vistas for
the bourgeoisie never bother to concretely analyse how decrepit capitalism
survived into the 1980s. The Pabloites care least of all to examine the
results of their own policies. Inasmuch as the entire petty-bourgeois fraternity
of centrists, radicals and declassed intellectuals dismiss a priori the
revolutionary capacities of the working class and accept its defeat as inevitable,
they never even consider what the consequences of a correct Marxist policy
would have been in Sri Lanka in 1964, in France in 1968, in Chile in 1973,
and in Greece and Portugal in 1974.
"The International Committee, on the other hand, derives from the
strategical experiences of the proletariat during the postwar period the
crucial lesson upon which it bases its preparation for the coming revolutionary
upheavals: that the building of the Fourth International as the World
Party of Socialist Revolution to ensure the victory of the international
working class requires an uncompromising and unrelenting struggle against
opportunism and centrism."
A new revolutionary leadership must be built to lead the Indonesian masses
to smash the Suharto dictatorship, overthrow the bourgeoisie and throw off
the yoke of imperialist exploitation in the fight for the world socialist
revolution. Against the Stalinists and Pabloites who are preparing another
bloody trap for the masses, an Indonesian section of the ICFI must be forged
to lead this struggle.
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