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Issues in Southeast Asian Security


INSTITUTE OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN STUDIES Hong Mui Kong Terrace, Singapore 0511


Established an autonomous organisation by an Act of . Parliament Bt" the Republic of Singapore in May the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies is a regional research centre for scholars and other specialists concerned with modern Southeast Asia. The Institute's research interest is focused on the many-faceted problems of development and social change in Southeast Asia. The Institute is governed by a twenty-two member Board of Trustees comprising representatives from the National University of Singapore, appointees from the government, as well as representatives from a broad range of professional and civic anisations and groups. A ten-man Executive Committee &versees day-to-day operations, it is chaired by the Director, the Institute's chief academic and administrative officer.

Armed Communist Movements in Southeast J


Edited by LIM JOO-JOCK



Issued under the auspices of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies


© 1984 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore First published 1984 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, ansmitted in any form or by any stored in a retrieval system, means, electronic; mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Published by Gower Publishing Company Limited Gower House Croft Road Aldershot

Hampshire GUI 1 3HR England

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Armed Communist movements in Southeast Asia -(Issues in Southeast Asian Security) 2. Asia, Southeastern-Politics 1. Communism-Asia III. Series II. Vani, S. I. Lim, Joo-Jock 322.4'2'0959


ISBN 0 566 00698 7


Foreword Ker rial S. Sandhog


Introduction Lim Joo-Jock with Vani S.




Armed communism in Indonesia: Its history and future Dorodj stun Kuntjoro-Jakti


Phoenix supine: The Indonesian Communist Party and armed struggle Donald E. Weatherbee







Violence at the periphery: A brief survey of armed communism in Malaysia Zacharia Hajj Ahmad and Zacharia Hamid



66 V





Rectification process in the Philippine communist movement


Francisco Nemenzo Comments


102 107

The communist open united front in Singapore, 1954-66 Lee Ting Hui






The revolutionary strategy of the Communist Party of Thailand: Change and persistence Kanok Wongtrangan










The well-being of Southeast Asia is inextricably linked with the changmg forces and circumstances determining regional and international ' politics and security. The Great Power interests and the various 'checks and balances' that govern overall international security, as well as the factors that a f f e c t regional stability, are even at the best of times in a state of flux, if not actually ridden with uncertainty. Analysis of such developments has largely been either on a global basis, and undertaken primarily outside the region, or limited to localised, national, operational research carried out by government ministries and associated organisations. Yet at a time when security considerations -- not merely of a military nature - in the Southeast Asian region are becoming more pressing than ever, much of the expertise on security issues is located in the developed world. It was considered, therefore, that there was an urgent need (1) to supplement global concepts and methods of analysis with a closer understanding of the actual realities in the region; (2) to ensure that much of this is done in the region and with as much input as possible by Southeast Asians themselves, thereby leading to the creation of a body of expertise on security issues resident in the region, and (3) to ensure that, in terms of Southeast Asian participation, there would be greater involvement of the different strands of Southeast Asian opinion and expertise, including not only government and military personnel, ' , a c the academic community, mass media and, as " opportunity aarises, the business and commercial sectors. The eventual objective is to encourage, in the region, constant study and vii

monitoring of the various security issues and developments affecting the area, as well as to educate the general public about security issues through discussions/seminars and publications. Accordingly, a group of Southeast `Asians came together to design and establish a Regional Strategic Studies Programme (RSSP) to be based at the Institute under the overall charge of its Director, Professor K.S. Sandhu, with Dr Chai-Anan Samudavanija of Chulalongkorn University as the Programme Planner, Mr Lim Joo-Jock of ISEAS as Programme Co-ordinator, and Miss Vani Shanmugaratnarn as Programme Research Associate. It was generally agreed that the initial focus of the Programme should, though not exclusively, be the socioeconomic issues affecting regional security with particular reference to the internal sources of instability in the various Southeast Asian countries. The selection of the first group of core areas for investigation under the Programme included the changing strategies and tactics of armed Marxist-Leninist and other (for example, separatist) movements in Southeast Asia; religious militancy and fundamentalism in the region, the "coup" as a recurrent feature in Southeast Asia, and ethnic minority tensions and demands in the region. It was platted, J the cluster of issues relating to each core area should be covered in a series of specific projects and studied as distinct phases, or projects, of the Programme. These projects would be spread over a period of time and would cover the nature, bases, emergence and persistence of the various phenomena in each core area. The underlying assumption in all this research is that regional security cannot be attained until regional and national instability is eradicated. The first phase of the Programme concerned the nature and bases of revolutionary, radical resistance, separatist and Mar1dst~Leninist movements in Southeast Asia and their implications for regional security. The first project in this phase involved research into the problem of armed communism in non-communist Southeast Asia. It focused on the issues underlying Communist Party grievances, its political platforms, changes in strategies and tactics, change, if any, in ideological stance, attitudes towards foreign communist parties, and so forth. The drafts of the papers were completed in November and presented at a workshop in Singapore on 17-19 November 1982. The papers stimulated considerable interest and discussion among the participants, who included academics as well as professionals from relevant government and related organisations. It is these papers and the brief summaries of the main discussion centred around each of them, together with the concluding comments that form the basis of this volume, the inaugural number of the Programme's new annual series, Issues in Southeast Asian Security.


The second project focuses on the endemic problem of violent separatist movements in Southeast Asia, and now under preparation. While not neglecting the link with ideology, it will examine the following factors in some detail: ethnicity, language, religion, the economic basis for dissent, including all the implications of development, and external involvement, in particular the legacy of colonialism and the Japanese Occupation. For this purpose a series of papers by researchers from both within and outside the region will be discussed M workshop scheduled for December 1983. As in the case of the Workshop on Armed Communism in Southeast Asia, those presenting papers will be joined by academics and government officials in order that a more thorough discussion and interaction can take place. All the papers will be edited and published as the second number in the series, Issues in Southeast Asian Security . The regional Strategic Studies Programme has benefited immensely from the co-operation it has received from colleagues within and outside the region, and from the financial support provided by the

Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, in the form of two separate but linked grants of US$50,000 and USS30,000 respectively, for a period of eighteen months each. These grants are currently being reviewed both for a possible time extension and for a significant increase in the funding involved. The Institute in the meantime would like to record its appreciation of all the assistance and support received to date, and to express the wish that the various numbers of Issues in Southeast Asian Security will circulate widely amongst all concerned with problems of stability and security in the region. Responsibility for facts and opinions expressed in the work that follows rests exclusively with the individual authors, and their interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of .the Institute or its supporters.

May 1983

Ker rial S. Sandhu Director Institute of Southeast Asian Studies



The purpose of these papers is to examine the theories that have been put forward to explain why communist or communist-inspired armed uprisings have taken place in Southeast Asia. Although so-ch uprisings, particularly during the colonial era, have been largely Maoist, that is, launched from rural areas, there are significant indications of an emergent ideological strand of Marxism-Leninism. This advocates a shift in focus to include urban activities and has a nationalist orientation that seriously questions the strategies upheld by the established Maoist leaders. Such a situation currently exists in Thailand, as can be seen from reports of factional calls to can'y the struggle to Bangkok with an emphasis on possible parliamentary or 'peaceful' means of

capturing the political initiative on a mass or 'national' scale. In the early 1970s in Malaysia there was also a similar attempt by a Marxist~ Leninist faction to carry out sabotage and assassinations in some of 3 major towns, contrary to the rural guerrilla policy of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). Most Communist Parties (CPs) in Southeast Asia are split over the crucial issue of the method of struggle by which party goals are to be achieved in the post-colonial context. At the centre of these debates are the realities of significant changes in, for example, the dominant class structures in Southeast Asian politics, the levels of foreign capital and control in national economies, and the nature and penetration of counter-insurgency operations. All of these have a direct bearing on the applicability of the theories of social conflict, and hence strategy, for revolutionary change promoted by the various CPs.


The debate on rural vs. urban strategies Although the normal pattern in Southeast Asia has been for insurrections to take place using the countryside as a base, the general lack of success in the application of Maoist principles in the post-colonial period has led to disillusion and intra-Party post-morterns of the relevance - even validity - of that model in advancing the revolutionary cause. The rural orientation of most Southeast Asian CPs was often necessitated by the intensification of colonial or national government operations in urban areas. It also resulted from the training in the 'jungle' experienced by most of the armed cadres and CP leaders who had participated in the national resistance to Japanese Occupation during the Second World War, and against colonial rule in the subsequent pre-independence era. To some extent the dramatic spread of urbanisation since then has given younger cadres a different experience more in tune with prevailing realities - though this in no way implies on their part a heightened consciousness of the nature of class conflict or dynamics in their respective societies. Is it then only a matter of time before the currently prevailing concentration in the countryside, and consequent separation from mainstream post-colonial political development, is replaced by an attempt to move back to the cities? Can this observable split in most of the movements - often expressed in ideal ogical terms, but in fact essentially an argument over analysis and consequent choice of tactics and 'methodology' - be related to the age or even ethnicity of the leaders concerned? For after all, the struggle launched from the countryside is only a means of strangling the city before taldng it over. Can this split also be related to the changed experiences or ethnic com~ position of the contempt orary cadres and resistance? Or, is the desire or need for changed tactics, with or without an ideological rationalisation, related to the scope and direction of government counterinsurgency programmes? More broadly, is it related to the current stage of socioeconomic development that characterises the now independent Southeast Asian nations? To answer these questions it is necessary to understand the Marxist analytical tools used in communist manifestos, for example, the concepts of capitalist class formation and dependent capitalism, as well as the theories of conflict which they suggest and, by implication, resolve in the implem entation of revolutionary programmes. Since the end of the second World War, the emphasis has been on armed struggle. The example of Aidit's PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia) attempt to enter into the open political arena, although supported by Beijing, clearly stands as an exception to the otherwise dominant subscription to Mao's thesis of an armed struggle launched _..



from the countryside. In Indonesia President Sukarno seemed at times to show favour to the PKI in a balancing act to keep the military in its place. Under what seemed to be uniquely favourable circumstances of limited patronage, the PKI paid little attention to the Maoist imperative for lengthy clandestine preparation for protracted war. Instead they concentrated on seizing power through manipulation of what was left of the parliamentary process and through infiltration of the army.

In Southeast Asia how valid is the Maoist assertion that an urban armed struggle is unlikely to succeed because of the superior strength of government power and intelligence concentrated in the cities? The early attempts by the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) in the Bangkok area during the 1940s, and by the CPM in its post-Second World War united front struggle in Singapore and the towns of Peninsular Malaysia, were squashed in the manner that Mao had predicted. In other CPs this experience was compounded by the difficulty of achieving a momentum beyond strikes and other disruptions on the part of urban workers, who constituted a minority in a largely rural Southeast Asia. Prior to the present levels of economic penetration of much of rural Southeast Asia, the jungle-based guerilla arms of the various CPs have, in comparison, boasted of relatively greater success. Thus, at least for the period before the 1970s, a pattern appears to have been set, namely, that of communist armed efforts on a Maoist guerilla war model. These have generally been sporadic and relegated to the countryside, often the remotest and practically uninhabited mountains and forest lands. On the other hand the towns and cities of Southeast Asia have been quiescent. However, this strategy of isolation in remote areas and rural armed struggle with no clearly identified political targets or 'enemies' is now openly admitted to be self-defeating in post-colonial Southeast Asia. Is the 'revolution' therefore in its death-throes with the guerilla

fish cut off from the water of the masses? Although the reasons for the continuing durability of various contemporary rural-based communist armed activities have perhaps not been thoroughly investigated or clarified, the peaks of the armed communist-led struggles in the region were during periods of generalised hostility towards an external enemy. For example, the dynamic growth of the PKI from the 1950s to the mid-1960s occurred when the Indonesian nation was in a state of permanent confrontation against the Dutch, then during the confrontation and the period against the old established forces. In Burma and Malaya, the peaks were during the anti-colonial period of resistance by patriotic movements, and in Thailand during and after World War II. CPT activities against US military and economic intrusions were also at a peak particularly prior to the post-Vietnam withdrawal of forces. In the Philippines the current mobilisation against the presence


of the US military bases and Japanese economic penetration is also a striking example of accelerated agitation embodying a patriotic or nationalist motivation. It explains the current failure of armed struggle as the main basis for motivating a civil war. The fact that this method is most successful at a certain stage of total political agitation when there is a strategic need for it has not been understood or digested in most Southeast Asian CP theory. The outstanding cur~ rent exception is the experience in the Philippines where the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is using armed struggle as part of a wider revolutionary programme that includes the anti-imperialist dimension but also specifically covers ground~level mobilisation around concerns that vary within the archipelago. The basis of their belief centres on the scope of the rural platform as a national one and the potential or necessity of participating in the national political process or institutions. In short, it involves an intimate understanding of the forces and tensions that preserve or weaken particular societal formations that are perceived or felt to be inherently and fundamentally contradictory or exploitative.

The environmental issue

In popular and some specialist writings, the reason most often given for the growth of communist uprisings in developing countries is the 'poverty' of both the country as a whole and economic deprivation of the rural popul ation in particular. More precisely identified as a basic cause of popular uprisings is the failure of economic growth

to meet the 'rising expectations' 01' even the basic needs of the population. Deprivation in China at the onset of the communist revolution, which has been widely documented along with other examples drawn from the Third World, are used to support this argument. Some other environmental conditions of relative deprivation generally cited include a severe shortage of opportunities for employment and upward mobility, a lack of transport, medical services and schools, economic and social discrimination exemplified in the lack of farm credit facilities and the subjection of farm workers and poor peasants to the excesses of landlordism, and a general inadequacy of institutional infrastructure that perpetuates ignorance and what can best be called degradation. The Marxist mainstream will say that all these are but mere symptoms of the exploitative structures which typically underpin Third World countries locked in the vicious cycles of dependent capitalist growth. Others would argue that the afflicted countries do not yet possess the cultural attributes necessary for the institutional infrastructure that is a precondition of industrialisation and higher development. Hence ...-


they are not sufficiently immunised against the peasant-type com-

rnunist-inspired armed opposition so persistently witnessed in Southeast Asia. According to such arguments, because of historical accidents the process and benefits of the 'inevitable' attainment of high material and industrial development have not as yet reached these temporarily vulnerable countries. Exponents of capitalist economics and free trade involving ostensible mutuality of exchange and complementary industrialisation tend to see such development as the answer for these countries, which would then enjoy the kind of industrialised economic take-off that the West and Japan have experienced . There is no doubt that poverty, ignorance and exploitation must be taken very seriously as they seem to surface so often in both successful and unsuccessful uprisings. But then, how do we explain the higher 'tolerance' for poverty among some societies than others? Is there any basis to the assertions that some cultures are more 'resistant' in coping with inherited and relative deprivations? What are those values in religion or institutions which might account for this" Although all these factors of poverty, exploitation, culture, and so

forth, are said to promote or retard subscription to armed communist or other movements, their existence has neither prompted nor prevented the gestation or growth of ideals and mobilisations that lead to Lenin's 'fires in the backyards of Imperialism'. In support of Marx's dictum about religion being .the 'opiate of the masses', it has been claimed that strong Muslim and Buddhist values have contributed to 'insurrection

in Indonesia, the relative lack of success Pf communist Malaysia and Thailand E t h e y did not do so in immediate postwar Burma, or Thailand in the 1970s or Malaysia today, as some reports suggest. In parts of Southeast Asia and elsewhere in the world MarxistChristian, Marxist-Islamic and ethnically motivated separatist movements have fuelled the momentum of regional communist movements.

Their emergence demonstrates that theories of deprivation and cultural explanation tend to be flouted without rigorous substantiation or, perhaps, where other explanations are not found. After all, in China before 1949, the entrenched traditions and values of the clan systems, feudal structures and hierarchies, filial piety, Confucianist beliefs, and so forth, could hardly be construed as conducive to 'infiltration' by communist ideals. The view that uncritically accepts poverty or other deprivations as direct causal factors encouraging communist movements has been further reinforced by the growing preoccupation with the moral conceptions or rights of the poor or the peasantry and, hence, by enquiry aimed at establishing the thresholds of deprivations that can or cannot be tolerated by society. Many scholarly and

policy studies urge attention to the problem of those falling below a specific threshold or poverty line. However, the actual instances


and patterns of armed rebel movements in much of Southeast Asia do not confirm these hypothetical generalisations. For example, the hotbed of the Huk movement in the Philippines, central Luzon, is probably the most prosperous area - that is, the most prosperous rather than impoverished peasants look to arms. Numerous writings advance the theory that the Huk debacle in the 1950s was precipitated by the then President Magsaysay's socioeconomic development programmes, which solved the supposed problem of poverty. And yet, studies of the actual impact of these programmes on the village communities revealed none at all. Similar assumptions in explaining the failures of a S55 . . m1 ents in various Southeast Asian countries are equally characterised by a lack of substantiating empirical studies or, ii many cases, by the existence of empirical data that indicate trends to the contrary. Theoretical hypotheses on the bases n political .-movements in Southeast Asia have, L'1111 II


for the most part, yet to be verified. Such mechanistic ideas of behavioural motivation are increasingly disproved by research suggesting that revolutionary or radical actions by peasants or other 'underdogs' are related to the acquisition of a consciousness of an alternative form of organisation or of their ability to improve their prevailing status. In other words, much more important than economic or other deprivations themselves are the way people perceive that poverty, why and how they conform to or deviate from those beliefs, and how they attempt to resolve the situation. The question to be asked of previous or current involvements in armed and niral communist movements in Southeast Asia is: What are the factors that break down the cultural superstructure that supposedly enabled peasants in the past to 'cope' with poverty, or to justify or accept their 'fate'? Additionally, from the Marxist perspective: What is the nature of the classes constituting the Southeast Asian nations? What are the dynamics of the conflicting interests within and between those classes? What are the conditions that promote a popular consciousness of these? In disputing or dismissing the ideological rationale of Marxist~inspired movements, answers to these crucial questions that explain the very existence, bases and development of exploitative orders in the class structures of Southeast Asia must be attempted. Were the historical realities of colonialism, and the successive world political and economic crises of the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War, in conjunction with international strategic conflict, crucial in encouraging the release of relatively localised tensions in Southeast Asia? If so, does external support - moral or material continue to be a necessary condition for bolstering indigenous communist movements? The break-up of the centrally controlled leading forces of the international communist fraternity, and the correspondingly significant levels of indigenisation in some of the region's armed xvi

communist movements, suggest that a more nationalist orientation has evolved as with the existing political institutions of the region since the winning of formal political independence. Are we then increasingly confronting armed movements that profess an ideological rationale but which are in the process of developing and responding to other radical reference points? .--

The question of political participation A simple military response to containing Maui has certainly proven ineffective and, at times, counter-productive. Furthermore, various CP statements imply that 'peaceful' participation in the parliamentary process is now a n . rent. In a country where the CP has organised programmes for armed agitation, united front and general civil welfare activities, does the introduction or strengthening of democratic institutions remove the motivation or rationale of the communist cause or does it create more channels for the extension of Marxist orientations in policy or popular aspirations? Many scholars and officials view a lack of democracy, or at any rate a significant degree of mass participation in determining national goals, as the factor promoting or sustaining communist sympathies. In Malaysia, where post-independence communist activities have thus far hardly assumed the dimensions of those witnessed at the height of the 'Emergency', the desires of nationalism and democracy are believed to have been met when Britain relinquished power to the Alliance Government. On the other hand, participation in no way 1.




implies or guarantees support for or the legitimacy of the 'national'

interests upheld by those institutions in question. They


tion of armed communist or other countervailing movements needs to be further studied, as do the correlated issues of governmental and institutional responses to armed communist organisation and the . nature, bases and resolution of the wider issue of patriotism 'national' interests. Thus the subject is very large. No single factor, or set of factors, 1

can describe the evolution of armed communist movements in the region as a whole. The various communist movements, viewed as a contemporary form of opposition or protest, seem to embody various methods of political action, broadly guided by Marxist theories of societal conflict. What needs to be examined then are the common threads in the observations and analyses of communist uprisings throughout South east Asia, in conjunction with the situation in each country, in order


to isolate and evaluate what may be relatively exotic features, each in their own strategic environment. To do this it is important to arrive at a consensus when distinguishing between fundamental or structural causes, contributory for situational causes and necessary conditions of armed revolution in Southeast Asia.

Lim Joe-Jock with Vani SEditors



Armed communism in Indonesia: Its history and futurebe DOFIODJATUN KUNTJORO-JAKTI UNIVERSITY OF INDONESIA

Global developments following the Second World War have demonstrated the growing ability of communist movements everywhere to adapt themselves to widely differing local situations, and to overthrow governments, relying almost exclusively on violent methods, perpetrated either from without or from within, from above or from below. The Soviet sweep through Eastern Europe, and the subsequent setting up of communist regimes there, became a classic example of the use of the "Revolution from without and from above". The cases of Yugoslavia, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Mozambique, Angola and recently Nicaragua, on the other hand, became examples of the use of the "Revolution from within and from below".

So pervasive is the communist experience in the use of violence, in particular with various forms of 'internal wa_r', that over the past decades a multitude of theoretical and practical materials has become available to students of revolution, to be used either as strategic blueprints or tactical manuals. It is thus not quite unexpected, as the history of recent decades itself has so firmly demonstrated, that the option of violence continues to be of major importance to communist strategy. So prominent is the importance of this option in their ideology that Cyril Black - an expert on communist armed movements stated almost two decades ago :


N.B. The views presented do not represent those of the Institute where the author currently works. They are the sole responsibility of the author.




If they now wish to turn to non-violent methods, whether from below or from above, they have no successful experience to draw on except for the rather ambiguous case of Cuba, and they will have to rely largely on theory and on experiments in countries in which they have had little operational experienced

This short review of the communist movement in Indonesia, that is, the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia) and its affiliates, will cover its use of violence in the period from the national revolution of 1945 -49 up to the New Order. During this period of almost four decades, the PKI has alternated erratically between the 'parliamentary way to socialism' within the fold of a united front strategy and the use of violence. The PKI resorted to violence for the first time in 1948, in the midst of the revolution, in the putsch of Madiun. Almost two decades later, in 1965, under the Guided Democracy of President Sukarno, it tried to launch a coup d 'ez'at --aajthe Gestapu coup attempt - in the capital city of Jakarta. Finally, in 1967, following the debacle of Gestapu and its bloody aftermath, the PKI tried to launch a 'people's war' a Za China and Vietnam in the poverty-ridden :Blitar Selatan area in East J eve. Contrary to the rather doctrinaire analysis of the PKI, which a~ bounds in its 'self-criticism' of the post-Gestapu period,2 or the typical observations presented by Western journalists and political analysts,3 in this article, I shall attempt to demonstrate that the failure of the use of violence by the PKI stemmed less from the failure of political strategy than from various objective factors peculiar to Indonesia, which do not easily lend themselves to the launching of such action. Based on this hypothesis, I shall then take a short, tentative step into the future, by discussing the prospect for the rise of another PKI armed movement in Indonesia.

From radium 1948 to Blitar Selatan 1967 In her typically strong and systematic fashion, Ruth McVey explained, almost two decades ago,4 the historical facts that led to communist rebellions all over Southeast Asia between 1948 and 1949, starting with the Hull Rebellion in the Philippines and ending with the PKI Madison rebellion in Indonesia. According to her analysis :

At various points between 1945 and early 1948, the Communists in Burma, Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines passed up what in retrospect appeared to be their best chances of claiming the initiative over the postwar situation.5 4

In this short period, following the liberation of Southeast Asia by the Allies from the grip of the Japanese military occupation, the communists of Southeast Asia came victoriously forward as an integral part and legal member of the united fronts which fought the Japanese. In all cases outside Vietnam, however, the nationalists were in a clear position of leadership, in an arrangement accepted and endorsed by the Cominform since the war broke out in Europe several years earlier. By the time the movements for national independence emerged in these Southeast Asian colonies, the communists were trapped in a difficult strategic dilemma, in view of their clear ambitions to set up the process leading not only to independence but, ideologically, also to socialism. As McVey aptly put it, the communists had then to decide whether to continue the fight within the nationalist-led united fronts as subordinates, or wrest the power from the nationalists and set up communist-led united fronts. The solution was not far in sight as, in September 1946, the Cominform came out with its famous 'Zdanov Doctrine', which clearly opted for the second alternative.6 It was following this decision and the outbreak of communist rebellions in Burma, Malaya and the Philippines - which marked the clear split of the communists from the united fronts - that the PKI came increasingly under pressure from its own rank and file to step up its political manoeuvres to wrest the independence movement from the nationalist leaders of the newly proclaimed Republic of Indonesia. In a move demonstrating its confidence and - to some extent - real strength, the PKI began to oust rightist elements from its organs, steered the left-wing coalition away from the control of the socialists, and offered stiff resistance to the plans of the new Republic to rationalise the military organisations. As a sign of their strong determination, members of the PKI central leadership called mass meetings, in which they openly attacked, and even challenged, the nationalist leaders of the Republic and their 'erratic' stance regarding the fight against the returning Dutch. With PKI influence and control in various Republican military units and para-rnilitary organisations, and the countering challenge from the 'Rasionalisasi' programme of the nationalists, the situation escalated into a heated confrontation. Skirmishes erupted in some instances between the PKI»influenced or controlled units and the Republican troops, which were then strengthened by the better armed Divisi Siliwangi units just withdrawn from the West Java front.7 It was in the midst of this growing chaos that the PKI local leaders in the city of Madison staged a putsch with the help of pro-PKI troops and its own para-military units. The situation erupted so quickly that the PKI central leadership had no choice but to take over the 'Soviet' government of Madiun and call for arms. With the surrounding areas still under the control of the Republic, 5

in particular the guerrilla warfare~seasoned troops of the Republic, and the popular support which remained strongly for the SukarnoHatta national leadership, Ethe rebellion was brutally ended. Much of the PKI leadership was decimated, and its apparatus destroyed. Sporadic efforts at guerrilla warfare were initiated, but with no preparation in advance they were easily dealt with by a combined sweep of troops and loyal village population. The Madison rebellion thus did not evolve into a protracted civil war, or 'class war', as the PKI leadership envisaged. As McVey succinctly stated in parts of her conclusion, the comrnunists in Southeast Asia were taught the following 'lessons' by the PKI rebellion in Madiun, together with the BCP (Burmese Communist Party) rebellion in Burma, the MPAJA (Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army) rebellion in Malaya and the Hukbalahup rebellion in the Philippines:

1. the task of transforming the insurrection of a group into a fullblown civil war [is] no simple one to accomplish, and certainly not when undertaken by movements whose position [is] on the wane, 2. revolutionary initiative, once lost, is not easily regained by violence, [and] rebellion will not necessarily create [or] revive a revolutionary situation, and 3. [violence as a way to seize power is difficult to be applied when ] the communists build the organisation and formulate the public policies [not] with a mind to their direct usefulness for the seizure of power.8

Another lesson of utmost importance which the PKI seemed to forget in the period preceding Gestapo in 1965 was the danger of involving non~PKI armed elements - be they of the military or para-military organisations and whatever their degree of political militancy it was clear that the PKI itself was not ready with its own capability to undertake the decisive step in a conflict involving the use of arms. The Madiun episode taught that, in a heated atmosphere, such elements are bound to lose patience and prematurely call the rebellion, exposing the Party and its affiliates to provocations from its opponents. For the PKI in particular of more critical importance perhaps than these 'lessons' is the fact that the Madison rebellion has given communism and the communists in Indonesia a permanently bad image. Not only has the Madison episode left the PKI with an aura of a bloody civil war, no matter how short a duration it was in reality, but it is also equated with 'national treachery' of the worst kind. The Madison rebellion took place in the midst of the war of independence. That it actually preceded only by weeks the second Dutch aggression to the 6

Republican territory -- this time directly to the capital city of Jogyakarta - made the Madison episode an immoral act of a stab in the back. Partly pressured by objective necessity, and partly by learning the lessons of the days of the revolution and in particular of Madiun, the new leadership of the PKI started the reconstruction of the party in 1950 by moving back to the idea of the united front, this time however of a limited and more strategic type. In a move to break the post-independence isolation of the PKI and create a legal political status for its activities, and in accordance with the emerging doctrine of 'national democracy', the PKI openly courted an alliance with the 'anti-West' element in Indonesia, in particular with the increasingly militant President Sukarno and the PNI (Partai Nasionalis Indonesia). The anti-Dutch campaign over the disrupted territory of Irian was used as a political staging point to create a radica1~nationalist movement,9 which could be increasingly imbued with the PKI's Marxist ideas. Circumstances of the period seemed to be moving in the right direction for the PKI, especially when the Soviet Union came aggressively forward with military aid to buttress Indonesia's strength visa-vis the Dutch in Iran and when Sukarno moved to nationalise all Dutch assets in Indonesia. In this period of growing militancy, the PKI succeeded in increasing its members from 10,000 in 1951 to about 1

million in 1961, and finally 3 million with 20 million supporters in a mass organisation by 1965. These groups included the trade union organisation SOBSI with about 3.5 million members, the Indonesian Peasant Front (BTI) with 9 million members, 1.5 million members in the youth organisation Pemuda Rakyat and an equal number in the women's organisation Gerwani.10 All this indicated a clear jump from the dismal picture of the PKI in the pre-Madiun days and was perhaps, in the minds of the PKI, a sign of the growing acceptance

of the PKI and the erosion of the Madison stigma. By insisting on numbers along a mass line, the PKI forced 'other classes to pay attention to us', which otherwise presumably would not have occur:red.l 1 By using nationalism over Marxism, and by organising for elections and not for violence, the PKI succeeded in strengthening its position in parliament. The PKI also quite willingly assisted the government by frequently breaking worker and peasant militancy. For doing all this the PKI believed that, in return, President Sukarno was going to defend the Party from attacks by rightist elements, in particular the army, while it continued to gain support for expansion.

Of course, as a result of the growing need for military preparedness, the Indonesian military likewise grew in strength. Various political emergencies at the national and, in particular, regional levels boosted further the non-military role of the military, so much so that a triangle 7

of power - the so-called 'Sukarno-Army-PKI' triangle - began to emerge and be rapidly institutionalised in all comers of government and society 2 It was at the height of the power of this triad in 1964 when a factor of instability grew rapidly within it and created tensions between the army and the PKI. This factor was the growing uncertainty of President Sukarno's health. It was then that the PKI, according to the Marxist journal World Revolution 1 1. acted to convince Sukarno to neutralise the predominantly anti-communist army leadership , 2. tried to instil militancy in their own followers by organising the peasants to seize lands and the workers to seize foreignowned factories, and 3. tried to train and arm members of the youth organisation.1 3

This influential Marzdst journal reported : Sukarno was uncooperative, but younger officers in the armed forces (an estimated 30 per cent of the junior officers were PKI sympathisers) provided training programmes and some weapons. The army command organised itself against the PKI threat and reportedly established a 'Council of Generals', which planned an anti-communist coup for the second week in October 1965. Allegedly this coup plan was discovered by the head of the press dental bodyguard, Lt. Col. Untung, a PKI sympathiser. He organised a counter coup and planned to strike first. According to this account, he consulted with Aidit after developing his plan. Aidit supposedly advised him not to strike first, but to wait in readiness, prepared to mount a crushing counter-blow after the generals struck so that public opinion would be with him. Untung

reportedly rejected the advice and on l October, 1965 took over Djakarta r and announced a 'Revolutionary Council' was assuming power to forestall a soup. The six leading generals were arrested and immediately executed. The PKI wavered but

soon came down in support of the 'Revolutionary Counci.l'.1 4 What followed this hotly debated communist account of the Gestapu Affair was not so dissimilar to what followed the Madiun rebellion of 1948. The camouflaged PKI move fizzled under the blows of a rapid counter-attack by the army, led by the remaining central leadership, the most important of which were Generals Suharto (the present president) and Nasution. No PKI mass l a b o r strikes emerged, no peasant rebellion --.. not even in the PKI/BTI areas where land conflicts were at their worst - and the regional apparatus of the PKI was in


confusion and Mostly on the run. Again, as in Madison, the PKI was easily destroyed, despite the millions of members and sympathisers it claimed, which included parts of the armed forces and, this time, the Palace Guards. . With no help QQ* sihlft rom Fteéiaent Sukarno, and the continuing sweep by the army directed against the Party and its affiliates all over Indonesia, in 1967 the PKI tried to recover, and attempted to prepare a base for what it claimed would be a long protracted guerilla struggle 6? la China and Vietnam. Several of its surviving top leaders abandoned the cities and moved to the 'safe' rural areas of central and east Java urging Party members to do the same. It was then expected that the base at Blitar Selatan, in the isolated area of southeast Java, would be built into a formidable PKI fortress, while the Party instigated and directed strikes and mutinies in the cities and rural areas of Java, to subvert the rising 'Suharto~Nasution fascist government' .1 5 While hasty preparations were undertaken to convert the area into a base for the newly created People's Liberation Army (Tentara Pembebasan Rakyat or TPR), complete with its guerrilla structures, and while the training and arming of cadres and peasants had just begun, some units of the PKI acted too hastily and were caught in firefights with local armed village militia. The result was obvious: the armed forces quickly launched its 'Operasi Trisula' with the objective to destroy the Blither Selatan base. The operation was an easy success because again, as in the Madison Affair of 1948, the PKI did not obtain the expected support from the rural masses in this supposedly traditional PKI area, and the PKI cadres were caught mostly unprepared, organisationally as well as militarily. With the destruction in 1968 of the planned base and its infrastructures, including the decimation of many of the surviving PKI top leadership, another PKI attempt at armed struggle was crushed. Smaller-scale efforts emerged from time to time following Blitar Selatan, the famous one being the Purwodadi Affair of 1973,16 but most of them were easily detected by the military intelligence and thus immediately flushed out. The PKI's bitter experiences with attempts at launching an armed movement in the period of Gestapu 1965 up to Blitar Selatan 196768 basically confirmed the validity of what McVey had in 1964 already concluded as 'lessons' for the PKI. The failures of 1965-68, however, demonstrated either the PKI's unwillingness to heed those 'lessons', or perhaps its strong conviction of the correctness of its choice for the 'peaceful road to power' and of the strength of appeals to nationalism as a political tool in Indonesia and thus the need of the PKI to adjust accordingly. The growing militancy and belligerence towards the West of President Sukarno and his Guided Democracy had for quite a long enough time from 1957 to 1965 - also given -..


the PKI the necessary platform for rapid expansion as befitted a mass party of a radical nationalist or Marxist persuasion, transforming the PKI into one of the largest CPs in the world - definitely the largest outside Russia and China. What the PKI neglected (or rather misconstrued) in its political strategy was the higher risk involved in the buildup of such a huge mass party in such a short time, especially when appeals to nationalism were widely used in tandem with the support of the charismatic figure of President Sukarno. Long before Gestapu of 1965, McVey mentioned at least two such risks in her analysis of the early sixties of the PKI :

l . The fluid lines between the communists and the [nationalists] deceive not only the nationalists [as the communists would like to see] but also the communists. As McVey put it: 'This fluidity made the communists less aware of the need for an organisational base on which they could firmly rely, and they derived little idea of how much popular support they could muster in a contest with the non-communist national leaderships 7

2. The buildup of a mass party resulted in the absorption of less and ideologi cally motivated people, causing the Party to lose its militancy. The long parliamentary struggle to power, in the of a determined pressure and provocation from the Party's oppositions, can easily bring in more apathy than anger, and resignation than the cry for revolution.1 8 One certainly can add other factors as the causes that led to the quick demise of the PKI, as both the PKI itself and outside analysts are still doing. It is my contention, however, that such discussions on political strategy neglect other no less important factors, some of which are unique to Indonesia, which are discussed in the following analysis.

Other factors contributing to the PKI failures Analysis of the strategy and tactics that the PKI followed in its bid for power, which as we have seen culminated 'erratically' into armed movements, is a valid exercise and must be given continuing attention by analysts of Southeast Asian, or even Third World, communism. It is my contention, however, that such discussions tend to neglect factors of environmental importance, which have in reality probably time and again hampered the PKI's bid for power, in particular when it chose to resort to violence. One such crucial environmental factor is the fact that the PKI, despite its modern origins and ideology, remained a 'Javanese' party.


The PKI drew most of its members and sympathisers from areas of central and east Java, where traditions of anti-West 'Messiahnism' have been the deepest and most pervasive among the strongly 'Hinduistic' and the Muslim majority. As such, the PKI shared the structural weaknesses of the other Java-based 'national' parties, such as the PNI or the NU (Islam Scholars) the two other leading parties of Sukarno's Guided Democracy. It faced tremendous difficulties in its efforts to cross the formidable ethnic, religious, or regional lines of loyalty, which traditionally separated J eve from the outer islands. Therefore, where the PKI was able to set up bases in the outer islands, it was always firstly among Javanese people who had settled there as labourers, plantation workers, lower-ranking officials or as part of government-sponsored transmigration projects. 'Organic isolation' also prevailed where the PKI was able to i17.ll1lt1°ate the military and the bureaucracy, that is, the infiltrated organisations tended to be dominated by Javanese, mostly of nominal Muslim origin (abangan).1 9 This was further compounded during the Guided Democracy by the frequent use of .T avanese symbols and mythologies by the charismatic President Sukarno, even when he appealed to his most modern and radical political ideas. The ability of the PKI to expand so rapidly during that period perhaps owed more to this 'Javanese' factor than to the realities of the declining economic conditions of that period or to other objective factors such as the growing 'proletariatisation' of the Javanese peasants and the widening urban-rural gap, This situation was a logical consequence of long historical standing, as the two lava provinces have the largest populations and the highest educational level in Indonesia, and both suffered the longest history of Dutch colonialism and its accompanying harsh exploitations. But these facts of objective value, which contributed greatly to the PKI's strength in Java, also represented its Achilles heel. Java is one of the oldest and strongest bases of Islam in Indonesia, and the Javanese Muslim safari communities can be found throughout this overpopulated -.-.

and small island, providing by accident a ready natural counterbalance

against the PKI-oriented abangan. These communities are also highly organised, centring around pesantren - Islam's counterpart to the Hindu-Buddhist ashram - with their traditional hierarchy of religious leaders, the kiyai. 2 0

From the accounts and analyses of the Madison rebellion, the aftermath of Gestapu, and in particular the Blitar Selatan rebellion, it is clear that the PKI eventually failed in launching armed movements exactly because of its isolated position in this pluralistic society. This isolation made it almost impossible for the PKI to use the rural areas for guerrilla warfare, since these could be easily cordoned off. Worse still, the best areas for such a protracted war tend to be populated


by staunch Muslim with their pesantren. Java is also a small island that can be easily blockaded from the sea. Furthermore, arms smuggling along the northern coastal areas is difficult as these coasts are dotted with thousands of predominantly Muslim fishing villages, while the southern areas are unsuitable due to the turbulent nature of the Indian Ocean. To compound these 'natural obstacles', the PKI in Java also had to confront the best of the Indonesian army divisions: the Brawijaya in east Java: the Diponegoro in central J eve: and the Siliwangi in west Java - the last being famous for its traditional anti-communist stance. Worse still for the PKI, these divisions had been involved in the war for independence as guerillas, roaming and organising the rural areas of Java against the Dutch in the revolution of 1945-49Java, thus, was an open book for them. Moreover, this tradition is handed down to the younger generation of officers and soldiers by intensive anti-guerrilla training using better arms technology and intelligence methods. __ ... All these factors eventually- posed formidable obstacles to the PKI, and proved fatal to its attempts at an armed movement. The PKI leaders of course recognised that guerrilla warfare was a slow process of cadre arming, training and combat involvement. The PKI leaders, however, seemed to underrate the fact that, in the light of these formidable obstacles, this slow process was risky as both the armed forces and the Muslim communities could mount an immediate counterattack of immense proportion, as was ewldent in the days following Madison, Gestapo, and also when the Blither Selatan base was detected earlier on by army intelligence. A slow process, in the face of such obstacles, can also be easily demoralising for the cadres. It is perhaps to overcome this grave objective situation that the PKI adopted the alternative strategy of infiltrating the military, then trying to use officers and/or military units 'sympathetic to the PKT to achieve its objectives, and to build up a heated political environment designed to provoke its opponents to take the first step. The PKI did that in the preparation of the Madison putsch of 1948, the Gestapu coup attempt of 1965, and then the Blitar Selatan rebellion of 1967. In all these attempts at an armed movement, however, the PKI was more successful in infiltrating and influencing what amounted to basically 'Javanese' units, frequently using a ploy that the Republic was in danger of being subverted by the Western imperialists and their domestic allies. In the Madison Affair the PKI relied on these types of units based in the city of Madison, as its main opponent 4the Divisi Siliwangi was at that time probably the most heterogeneous, and thus a truly 'national', military organisation of the Re-



- _ _ _ . .

public, even though its ranks were heavily filled by Sundanese from


West Java. In the 1965 Gestapu, the PKI managed only to gain support from units of the "Javanese" Divisi Diponegoro from Central Java and the Divisi Brawijaya from East Java, as well as from Lt. Col. Untung's units of the Palace Guard, this time with the ploy that President Sukarno was under the threat of a coup d'état by the army general staff. Under the clever tactics typical of the region, in particular using the tradition of Eapak (literally 'Father') and Anakbuah (literally 'Sons~ cum-Followers'), General Suharto, himself a former Cornniander of Divisi Diponegoro, succeeded in persuading some of these units to abandon the movement, drastically dismantling the coup force in a matter of hours. The Blitar Selatan rebellion was definitely the worst of these attempts, as the basically urban-based PKI had to recruit, arm, trajan and indoctrinate Javanese peasants from the deep hinterland of Java, this time with no institutional links to - and thus support from sympathetic military units of the Repubiie?1 In the light of these bitter experiences, it became clear that this alterative of a 'short cut' was no less risky than that of long, tiring and protracted guerrilla warfare in the rural areas of Java. The other no less formidable environmental obstacle to the PKI


attempt at an armed movement arises not from the socio-cultural or physical aspect, which we have already discussed, but from the ideological aspect of the environment. Indonesian nationalism is the oldest driving force behind the anti-colonialism movement, and later on behind the effort at nation-building. Contraiy to what the PKI leaders, time and again, seemed to believe, it is not something that can easily be belittled as a mere object of ideological manipulation. Nationalism in Indonesia does receive quite large dosages of Marxism at the second stage of its growth, but even then the Indonesian nationalists remained basically independent and drew on many sources, Marxist and non-Marxist alike, to develob their ideas regarding various aspects of strategy and tactics in the struggle for independence.22 This can be proven, for example, by the development of Sukarno's and the other nationalists' political thinking of that period. Furthermore, throughout its growth process under colonialism, and in particular under the harsh conditions of the Japanese military occupation, Indonesian nationalism had been able to create a dynamic multi-dimensional Weltanschauung. In its wake it left a modern Bahasa Indonesia


the national language - with its rapidly growing infra-

structure of intellectual activities in art and literature, in education and in the mass media, an ideology, which later on developed into the state ideology of Pancasila and the political document, the 1945 Constitution of the Republic, and a new 'Indonesian' style of life on top of the myriads of the traditions of the primordial groups. | Throughout this formative period the PKI tried to infuse Marxist radicalism into the rising nationalism, in particular by trying to intro-


duce a 'class consciousness' into the struggle for independence. Were this line accepted In goto by the nationalists earlier on, there is no doubt that the struggle for independence would have been directed not only against the Dutch, or the West as a whole, but also against Indonesians who, by design or by default, stood on the wrong side of the class line. In the then Indonesian context of rabid political pluralism this would also mean the probable inclusion of whole primordial groups, either as what the PKI called kava (allies) or Zawan (enemies or opponents), and thus at once transforming the national struggle neatly into a platform for the divide and rule games of the Dutch. Taldng their cue from this understanding of Indonesia's pluralism and the danger of a premature breakup 9.1; ,the ;jrati.o.nalist movement, the nationalists instead chose % compromise, settling on the traditional way of solving conflict, that is, gotong-royorzg (mutual self-help) and musyawarah-mufakat (mutual consultation for consensus), for the domestic side, while mobilising the movement for the struggle against the Dutch. This political alternative worked so well in this difficult period, especially during the fight against the Dutch in 1945 up to 1949, that eventually it was accepted as a national doctrine and much later was elevated by President Sukarno as part of a national ideology in the context of Guided Democracy and Guided Economy, and was introduced into all aspects of national politics 3 The PKI of the pre-Madiun and pre-Gestapu incidents thus found itself in an almost perpetual and awkward position of having to defend its aggressive posture of 'class war' as befitted a Marxist-Leninist party, while at the same time propagating itself as a national party fighting the imperialist powers of the West. By maintaining this position the PKI isolated itself further in Indonesian politics, this time ideologically, it thus compounded the problem of socio-cultural isolation it was already facing. On top of this, the PKI's claim to be the most progresif revolusfoner of the political groups in Indonesia, immediately put itself in frequent competition, if not conflict, vis-a-vis the nationalist and, worse still, the Islamic parties. Various factors that emerged before the Madiun Affair forced the PKI to dare its ideal ogical isolation and openly challenge the newly established Republic in a clear bid for leadership over the Revolution. As indicated earlier, with popular support and the military quickly consolidated behind them, Sukarno and Hatta - the Duumvirate of the Republic - ordered a counter~attack, which was then canned out to its end in a matter of weeks. By leaning from the bitter lessons of Madiun, and particularly in recognition of the fact of the dynamism of Indonesia's nationalism, the new leadership of the PKI tried a more sophisticated approach to break out of this ideological isolation." In this effort to 'Indonesianise


Marndsm-Leninism' Aidit tried basically to depict the PKI as the legitimate heir apparent of the Revolusi 1945, as it was only the PKI, accordina to the new leaders of this party, who were still loyal to the ideals of the Revolusi, that is, the total overhaul of the society.25 Looking back into the critical years of the decline of constitutional democracy and the rise of Sukarno's Guided Democracy of 1957-59, and then the period of Guided Democracy and Guided Economy of 1959-65, it is obvious that Aidit's political manoeuvre consisted basically of the following steps:2 6

1. accept the national leadership of President Sukarno; 2. capitalise on Sukarno's growing conviction that 'the Revolution is still unfinished' (Revolusi b l u m selesai), especially as the Dutch still controlled the economy and the territory of West Iran, and the Dutch continued to subvert the nation by fomenting secessionist movements and other troubles, 3. initiate political coalition with the anti~West elements in and out of the government, in particular the radical nationalists, and accelerate the movement to oust the Dutch from the country, if necessary by the use of force , 4. mobilise the Party and its infrastructure to win elections and to expand Party membership , 5. support President Sukarno's efforts to create a new ideology for the nation, while introducing Marxist-Leninist ideas into it and into a wider audience in and out of the government, including the armed forces and the bureaucracy, 6. continue efforts to isolate the kontra-Revolusf elements in and out of the government, while pressuring President Sukarno to execute steps towards the building of demo krasi nasional, and

at a later stage Sos falirrrt e Indonesia , 7. all during this effort, convince the Party rank and file to uphold

the strategy of the united front .

Events of the last years of the Guided Democracy indicated how close the PKI was to its target of overthrowing the Republic using the strategy of political infiltration, encirclement and domination. It was only the continuing opposition provided by the army and the other so-called kepala Batu (hard-headed) 'right' elements that hampered the PKI efforts to enter the government, based on its legal status and also victories in the elections. Therefore, confident that the PKI already controlled the nation's ideology with growing support from

President Sukarno, the PKI launched aksel sefhak in the rural areas of Java and Sumatra, to provoke the opposition into the open in what


looked like the beginning of a 'class war'. The Sul


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