Presentation on theme: "The Indonesian Politicide of 1965-66: How Could It Have Happened? Prof. John Roosa, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada Presented at: Maastricht."— Presentation transcript:
The Indonesian Politicide of 1965-66: How Could It Have Happened? Prof. John Roosa, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada Presented at: Maastricht University, Studium Generale September 29, 2015
Politicide in 1965-66 About 500,000 people killed. Victims were people affiliated to the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), other left-wing organizations, and trade unions Not a genocide by the terms of the 1948 Convention – a political group was targeted for complete destruction, not an ethnic, national, religious or racial group Politicide and political genocide are neologisms and not commonly used.
Superficial explanations The scholarship on the politicide is not extensive. There has been no truth commission, no detailed, comprehensive, authoritative account. Scholars and the general public often resort to simplistic explanations.
The ‘endemic violence’ explanation 1) Indonesia was new a country. The state was inchoate and underfunded. Politics were messy. All manner of conflicts existed over ethnicity, religion, relations between central government and provinces, etc. Violence was only to be expected, especially after having fought an armed struggle to attain independence 1945-49.
Two large armed revolts in 1950s Darul Islam revolt, 1949 to 1962. Based in West Java. Guerrilla warfare. Aimed to make Indonesia an Islamic state. Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia/Universal Struggle Charter, 1957- 59. Based in Sumatra and Sulawesi. Attempt to set up parallel government. Neither armed revolt led to a genocide. The central government amnestied nearly all the partisans.
The politicide was not the result of armed conflict The killing of 1965-66 was not a conflict: one side, with guns, massacred the other side, which was unarmed. It was different from all the kinds of conflict that existed in Indonesia from 1945 to 1965.
1955 elections for parliament and a Constitutional Assembly
Results of 1955 election The Big Four Political Parties PNI: 22% (secular nationalists) Masjumi: 21% (an Islamic party) NU: 18% (an Islamic party) PKI: 16% (the communist party)
The Cold War explanation 2) It was just another case of violence between communists and non-communists – a kind of violence many countries in the world experienced after 1917. It was at the time of the USA’s global anti-communist crusade and the Vietnam war.
Repression of PKI could have been achieved without large-scale killing How did the repression of the PKI, which could have been achieved through mass arrests, turn into a genocide? The PKI was the largest communist party outside of the USSR and China, with millions of supporters. How could it be destroyed with such genocidal violence? How could the violence be so one-sided?
Towards a more precise explanation Immediate context Who was responsible? How did they organize the politicide? Why did they organize it?
Context for the Politicide: Guided Democracy (1959-65) The politicide was partly determined by the peculiar character of Sukarno’s Guided Democracy, 1959-65. President Sukarno cancelled all further elections, reverted to the crude constitution of 1945, handpicked members of parliament from the existing parties, and made himself the symbol of Indonesia’s national unity.
The strange dynamics of Guided Democracy Both the PKI, with the masses, and the Army, with the guns, supported Sukarno’s one-man rule as a way to stymie the other. Sukarno didn’t control either side but was able to rule by playing them off against the other. The result was the growth of both institutions as antagonistic poles of Indonesian politics from 1959 to 1965.
Sukarno focused on unifying projects: Confrontation with Malaysia, 1963-66
Sukarno at rally of workers, Jakarta May 1, 1965
The crisis of Guided Democracy in 1965 The Army saw Sukarno as too close to the PKI and the People’s Republic of China by early 1965. The Army saw 1965 as the year of the “showdown” with the PKI. The Army high command developed plans for ousting Sukarno from office and attacking the PKI. The PKI thought that the Army would stage a coup against Sukarno.
The pretext for Army takeover was the September 30 th Movement
Who was responsible for the politicide?: the Army high command The politicide was contingent on a decision taken sometime in October 1965 by Suharto and his clique of army officers to slaughter members of the left-wing organizations. Suharto’s group worked hard to overwhelm resistance from civilian and military personnel who did not agree with mass executions policy.
PKI supporters were rounded up en masse and detained
Detainees massacred at night, buried in mass graves or dumped in rivers
Massacres meant to be non-events The massacres were open secrets – never reported in newspapers or photographed. The Army remained silent on the massacres; they are still not mentioned in history textbooks. There has been widespread ignorance and confusion about them in Indonesia. Genocide denial is mainstream historiography.
Why did Suharto’s army carry out the politicide? Suharto’s motivation was not just to destroy the PKI for the reasons internal to Indonesian national politics. It was also to ensure that the nascent army dictatorship would receive abundant aid from a grateful and impressed US government.
The US government’s favored leader: Maj. Gen. Suharto, 1966
Suharto with US ambassador Marshall Green, 1967
Signing of contract with Freeport for mine in West Papua, 1967