Indonesia: Stop complaining! – a sober look at the September 30th Movement

The September 30th anniversary commemorating the “failed” 1965 “G30S coup” has come round once again. It was a dark day that changed the fate of the Indonesian toiling masses. The Good Book says, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16). The same fate but in reverse befell the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) that was reduced from being the largest Communist party outside the Soviet Union and China to a handful surviving in the underground and in exile. It is no exaggeration to say that the collapse of the PKI transformed the world political order in Indonesia.

Every year we celebrate this day to remind us of the cruelty of the capitalist regime that didn’t hesitate at all to massacre its enemy. Scores of left-wing writers produce articles to condemn Soeharto, the New Order, and the US government for its role in the massacre. Demands to seek the truth and put those responsible for the massacre on trial are being published everywhere. Not missing are theories about who was actually behind the G30S event and what really happened on that day.

Of course we still need to investigate the truth. We still need to keep fighting against capitalist propaganda that obscures the historical truth of that event. However, there is a danger that all this is turning into a yearly ritual of grievance, just like the liberals and the social democrats who are only good at shouting about the cruelty of capitalism but impotent in offering a way out. Any analysis about the G30S is not complete if it is not accompanied with a revolutionary solution and an explanation that can bring us closer to the victory of socialism.

General Suharto at funeral  of five generals in 1965 Photo: Republic of IndonesiaWe should have the courage to ask: why was the PKI so easily destroyed? Attempting to answer this question by pointing our fingers at the ruling class is in fact not answering the question at all. The savagery of the capitalists is well-known to us. When the 1871 Paris Commune was repressed mercilessly, 80 thousand people were killed in a city of 1.8 million. In other words, 4.4 per cent of the Parisians were massacred. The Indonesian population in the 1965-66 was 90 million. If we take the estimate of 3 million – the highest – offered by General Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, the army commander responsible for the 1965-66 military operation, then the percentage of the population massacred in 1965-66 massacre would be 3.3 per cent. So, there is nothing surprising about this kind of butchery perpetrated by the ruling classes. Furthermore, every single day, do we not witness capitalist cruelty in factories where workers are being exploited?

To say that there are tricks, lies, slanders, and hypocrisy on the part of the ruling class is also not a satisfactory answer, because all this is also in the nature of capitalism. The cruelty and tricks of the capitalist class are a given thing, an objective condition. We as an active agent of change, as the subjective agent in the class struggle, have to seek in the PKI’s policies – that was also a subjective agent – for an explanation of the defeat.

Many people are of the opinion that the “undemocratic” action of Aidit who formed the Special Bureau [an underground group organised by PKI chairman, DN Aidit, whose task it was to exchange information with military personnel] was the reason why the PKI collapsed. Aidit and his Special Bureau, who acted outside the democratic channels of the party, committed a reckless action that was used by Soeharto as a pretext to smash the PKI. Hegel in his dialectics said: necessity expresses itself through accident. In this case, the accident was the kidnapping and the killing of seven right-wing generals by progressive officers, accompanied by “reckless” action committed by Aidit and his Special Bureau who were involved in this action, directly or indirectly.

The fact is that because of the PKI’s policies over decades, in reality the collapse of the party had become a “necessity” of history that only awaited the right spark, and that spark was the G30S event. Had there not been G30S, another event would have been used as an excuse for the reactionary generals to crush the PKI. John Rossa in his book “Pretext for Mass Murder” showed that the United States, the master of the reactionary generals, was waiting for the right moment to deliver a fatal blow to the PKI. They were simply waiting for the right pretext.

The fall of the PKI was not due to Aidit and his Special Bureau. The real cause for the defeat and downfall of the PKI is to be found in its policies in the class struggle. The class struggle is merciless. At in the end, only one class wins. A situation of acute class struggle cannot last forever without a final conclusion; one side must win and the other lose.

Revolution is a process; it is not a one act drama. The Indonesian revolution started on 17 August 1945, and over the next twenty years this revolution went through many ups and downs. However, no grouping or class was able to be the final victor during that period. The capitalist class was too weak to impose its will on the toiling masses, while at the same time the proletariat did not have the leadership capable of taking power. Because of this stalemate situation, Soekarno was eventually pushed to the top. Despite his revolutionary rhetoric and his socialist sounding language, Soekarno, like so many skilful reformists, carried out many smart manoeuvres but without solving the most important problem in the march towards socialism: the smashing of the bourgeois state and its replacement with a new state, a workers’ state. Lenin’s thesis on the state was that in the final analysis it is made up of “special bodies of armed men”. In a decisive moment, Soekarno, as the supposed “supreme leader” of the state, did not have any control over that same institution state, over the armed bodies of men and women that made it up. Soekarno acted like any reformist operating within a capitalist parliament, with the illusion that he actually held the power.

Tragically, the PKI, as the fighting party of the working masses, was tail-ending Soekarno and implementing reformist policies. The PKI was of the opinion that a capitalist state could be transformed into a “people’s state” by gradually eliminating “anti-people” elements and introducing more “pro-people” elements into it. This is like all reformist leaders who have the illusion that if they can win more parliamentary seats and finally obtain a majority then the state will no longer be a bourgeois state and the workers will be in power. Lenin in his “State and Revolution” attacked without mercy this false idea in order to prepare the Bolshevik Party to take power, destroy the bourgeois state, and constitute a new state. On the other hand, the PKI never prepared their members for this task. The reason behind all this can be found in the PKI’s theory that the revolution would be bourgeois democratic, and that therefore the PKI’s task was not to form a workers’ state (dictatorship of the proletariat) but to set up a people’s state (the dictatorship of the people) with gradual state personnel replacement. Class struggle had to be subordinated to the national struggle, was the conclusion of the PKI leaders. However, the reactionary generals and the capitalists understood full well that the struggle they were facing was the class struggle. It is true that in general the capitalists are more class conscious than than the reformist or Stalinist leaders of the proletariat.

The formation of the Special Bureau was also the logical conclusion of the policy of “gradually eliminating anti-people elements and introducing more pro-people elements into the state.” Lenin and the Bolshevik Party won over the soldiers to their side not by such shallow manoeuvres. They did so by organising the working class, by teaching them that the state is made up special bodies of armed men in defence of private property and that state power has to be won through revolutionary means, that the bourgeois state has to be dismantled because the workers cannot use it as their own tool, and that the workers form their own new state.

This false idea, these false perspectives, did not fall from a clear blue sky into the laps of Aidit, Njoto, Lukman, and Sudisman. These reformist policies emanated directly from the Stalinists bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, and the PKI leaders were unfortunate to have been trained by these Stalinists. The victory of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, which was personified by Joseph Stalin, was a historical factor that decided the development of many communist parties around the world. That bureaucracy had one main character: they liked routine and therefore never felt comfortable with the sturm und drang of revolution. The perspective of building socialism in one country, which was Stalin’s main theory, was the manifestation of this characteristic of the bureaucracy. “Why bother waging world revolution that can risk our positions? Let’s take a safe road of building socialism within the borders of our country,” was the view of the Stalinist bureaucracy, who then formulated this thought as the “socialism in one country” theory, which is also known in China as “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Now the old Soviet bureaucracy has recycled itself as the new capitalists in Russia, and the bureaucracy of the Chinese Communist Party has shifted its policy to one of building capitalism. In 2001, capitalists in China were allowed to be members of the party, and this year the richest man in China, Wengen Liang, was nominated to be elected as a member of the Central Committee in 2012.

It is only with a revolutionary perspective that we can make and win a revolution. Lenin taught this to all of us, but unfortunately his so-called “loyal disciples” – in reality inheritors of the completely non-Leninist theories developed by Stalin – keep forgetting this important lesson.

Let us for a moment stop complaining about the G30Sand let us learn the real concrete lesson from this failure in order to ensure the victory of the next coming socialist revolution. It is only the working class that can lead this nation out of capitalist misery. We have to educate our class to be independent from the bourgeoisie, no matter how progressive they seem to be in their outside appearance. We must place no trust in the bourgeoisie and their paid liberals and social-democrats. The workers should trust only in their own power and their own ideology, Marxism.

The failure of this government to get to the truth of the G30S and prosecute those who were responsible for the massacre only proves one thing, that working class law is the only law that can bring genuine justice to millions of our comrades whose blood has been spilled.

(30 September 2011)

See also:

Revolution and counter-revolution in Indonesia (1965)