Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous nation. Yet, it’s a blank spot to even educated Americans. Because of this widespread ignorance, ideologically motivated historians and journalists can say anything and be believed. This writer has termed this “Johnson’s Law.” It states, “the more obscure a nation, the more lies can be safely told about it.” This concerns mainstream Anglo-American writers and “political analysts.” Johnson’s Law only has force when ideological considerations are at stake. Here, Indonesia is a completely unknown land that was a battleground of Communism versus Nationalism. Therefore, the Law implies, the lies will be huge ones.
General Suharto (occasionally rendered Muhammad Soeharto, 1921-2008) ruled this country successfully from 1967 to 1998. Like so many other military leaders, he was born to a poor family under foreign occupation. His military mettle was proved in the long war against the Dutch occupiers. The result was a deep connection between the army and the people.
Suharto like all anti-Communist leaders worldwide without exception, is accused of massacres and “human rights abuses.” This supposedly led to the deaths of 500,000 “innocent people” in an anti-Communist purge. Given that soldiers don’t kill their own people for no good reason, this long standing claim needs to be analyzed. Suharto inherited a country on the brink of disaster and needed to take very strong measures to save it. He was successful. He is Asia’s political savior.
In 1965, the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was the third largest in the world. Its military wing was directed personally by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and was receiving Chinese weapons freely under former President Sukarno (1901-1970). On September 30 1965, younger elements in the military, much of it loyal to the left, staged a coup in which six Army generals were shot.
The coup plotters stated that it was to fight a non-existent “council of generals” the CIA was forming to takeover Indonesia. The PKI issued a letter accepting this and standing in solidarity with it. Yet, leftists insist that Suharto himself staged this coup so he would have to squash it as a pretext for power. “Conspiracy theories” are apparently no problem in this case.
After independence from the Netherlands in 1945, the first president was Sukarno (Indonesians from Java only use one name). His successor was Gen. Suharto, meaning there were only two presidents from 1945 to 1998. Sukarno was trying to be all things to all men, but he clearly leaned towards the left given Chinese generosity to his country and military. This attempted coup sparked uprisings from Army bases all over Indonesia since it seemed the Chinese Communists were going to take over. The military was opposed to the PKI largely because of its union with China.
In the 1950s, the Chinese-trained Communists had largely taken over the civil service. In the 1960s, the Marines and Air Force were heavily infiltrated by supporters of Maoism (Mortimer, 1974). Indonesia was heading towards provincial status in a Maoist empire. This would have been a bloody future. The Communists were heavily armed and well organized, which strongly suggests Chinese influence, money and guns (Mortimer, 1974).
In the 1960s, the full knowledge of Mao’s Cultural Revolution was known to everyone but Americans journalists. While strangely avoided in mainstream treatments of the 1965 coup attempt, it is an essential fact. Millions of Chinese were killed by Red Guards since Gen. Chaing Kai-shek was defeated due to a shift in American support, as always, to the left. In addition, the mainstream histories also include the ritualistic descriptions of raping kids, slaughtering old people, etc. – all for no reason.
The “Great Leap Forward” in China began in 1958 and ended roughly in1962. Its results were well known globally by 1965. This was the true face of Mao. The point was to rapidly transform China from an agrarian country into a industrial one. This was China’s collectivization drive that killed about 20 million people, with the lowest estimate at 18 million. No one denies this. This author has failed to find the PKI’s condemnation of this policy.
Yu Xiguang and Tao Yang puts it at 50 million. The economy naturally collapsed. This is why the PKI was hunted and attacked. This is what they wanted to do in Indonesia and the authors, hacks and activists crying over the dead Communists are all aware of this.
In Indonesia, the violence against the Communists was popular, and was directed at the Chinese as well as the left in general. Being Islamic, militant Islam was an ally of the Army at this time. In fact, “the Army” or “Suharto” cannot be blamed for the excesses of the population in dealing with local leftist strongmen. However, precise details will never be known.
No western journalists were present at the time and almost no one knew anything about Indonesia. No pictures seem to exist of this “mass slaughter.” Yet, with utter certainty, the professors say that “between 600,000 and a 25 million Indonesians were killed by the Army for no reason other than their lust for gain.” The truth is that Suharto fought a low level civil war to bring order to a fractured nation.
The Army estimates that about 78,000 were killed in fierce fighting between the Army and the Marines, joined by Communist cells both within and without the armed services. This makes far more sense, since soldiers rarely kill their own. The facts of the case bear this out. Indonesia would have been an incredible prize for Chinese Communists, so it was high on their list of priorities at the time. If Indonesia fell to the PKI, so would have Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia.
One more humorous source of information is the Communist “International People’s Tribunal,” hardly a reliable source, claimed that “millions and millions” were killed by Suharto. The reasons are not given other than “anti communism was a pretext for absolute power.” Their evidence is almost entirely anecdotal and the language used is highly emotional and polemical. Yet this group is often cited as authority for Suharto’s “genocide.”
The Dutch Marxists held their “People’s Tribunal” near the Hague in the Netherlands to allow them to say that “The Hague” has found “Indonesia” guilty of these crimes. It should be noted that this group has nothing to do with the International Court at the Hague, but they went out of their way to create this association in the public mind.
They sought to have an actual trial, but since very few of their witnesses were there at the time and there was no defense, their “findings” are absurd. They heard testimony from 20 witnesses that could not be cross examined, most of whom were not in Indonesia in 1965-1966. Further, these are “expert” witnesses, not eyewitnesses. Almost the entire “prosecution” was non-Indonesian.
There is nothing spoken by Suharto’s enemies that couldn’t be said about any civil war or period of unrest. What little of the witness testimony is reproduced in their report, what is reprinted is stylized leftist rhetoric, not a chronicle of events. The Army’s position was never heard, since the governments do not normally respond to private leftist groups demands to “debate.” The “Tribunal” is not associated with any government or the European Union. It’s a group of rich leftists demanding to be recognized as a “court.” This doesn’t keep dishonest journalists from saying “The Hague tribunal has found Indonesia guilty.” CNN’s headline for June 21 2016 is “Hague Tribunal Finds Indonesia Guilty of 1965 Genocide.” They treat this as if it is a government body.
This theater of the absurd did not question the massacres, but only asked themselves who was responsible. The “prosecution” was made up of mostly foreign leftists with no connection to Indonesia at all. Each and every one hated the Indonesian military long before they ever walked from the faculty lounge to the restaurant near the Hague at which this event was held.
Without the ability to cross examine, simple questions could not be put to witnesses like, “Why would soldiers, almost all of whom just fought the Dutch for independence, kill innocent people?” No normal soldier wants to kill even enemy soldiers, let alone their own innocent people. Even militant veterans shudder when they speak of killing armed, trained enemies. Yet, these men slaughtered for no reason? And their own people? Its absurd.
Even simple questions like “Why would the Army deliberately outrage the public? Do they enjoy being hated?” or “Is knowledge of the Chinese Cultural Revolution relevant here?” or “What of Chinese assistance to the Communists and the Communist takeover of the Marines?” are not asked or mentioned. Indonesia had just won its independence. Because of that, the link between the Army and the population was strong. Are we to believe that they wanted to destroy that bond for no reason?
Most of the “report” of this leftist group deals with human rights law and very little on the factual information from the era. Admitting their ignorance, the “Tribunal” often conflates those in prison with those dead. It is extremely sloppy and ideological. The “judges,” who are all private citizens, state “The judges have had particular regard to the fact that there is no credible material disputing the occurrence of these grave violations of human rights. . .” In other words, since there is no document that says “no massacres took place in 1965,” then it must have occurred.
It was a civil war in 1965. Indonesia was coming apart. The Army responded to a very numerous, armed and well organized Communist militia. In typical leftist fashion, the Tribunal’s report is an arrogant, pseudo-official statement of a few foreign leftists saying that the US, assisting the Indonesian military at the time with small arms and training, was complicit in these mass killings. The US supported the Army under Sukarno too, to the anger of the Dutch, who were NATO members. There was no large scale support of the Indonesian Army at all.
The motive of these leftists is clear. Had Suharto not taken control of the Army and thus the country, there is a very good chance the USSR and/or the Chinese would have taken Jakarta. With the world’s fourth largest country under their control, the rest of southeast Asia would fall, including the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. There would be pressure on Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. History would look quite different and the body count much higher.
On October 18 2017, the State Department declassified 39 documents from the US Embassy in Jakarta, the capital, in 1965-1966. Its no accident that Suharto’s son, Tommy, announced his candidacy for presidency just a few months earlier. The New York Times said breathlessly that they prove “500,000 were killed.” They are hoping no one bothers to read them. They say no such thing. Indonesians were reporting to the US that a civil war was going on, not mass murder. In fact, Document 18 states that Islamic imams were demanding that anyone who “consciously joined the PKI be killed.”
Almost every single document mentions PKI “defeats,” that is, losses in war. The PKI was armed, as Communist movements are. Document 24 makes mention of “purges in the Air Force.” It is then clear that the PKI had infiltrated the armed forces. Document 30 shows Chinese Communists working closely with the PKI, as could be expected.
Document 33 decries the “rumors” of “mass killings” that “missionaries” have been spreading. It states clearly that there is no evidence whatsoever for random, mass killings. The Army wanted calm. Document 34 speaks of an Army “clampdown” in different areas with substantial local support. Document 36 speaks of the threat of Islamic groups seeking a caliphate on certain islands. The final document, 39, shows Ambassador Green estimating Suharto’s popular support at maybe 45 percent, with Sukarno in the low 30s.
PKI chief Dipa Nusantara Aidit (1923-1965) was going back and forth to Peking in 1964 and 1965. Aidit said that his enemies, in the coming months, “will be cast into oblivion” (Mortimer, 1974). Soon afterwards, anti-Communist newspapers were banned.
It is an uninteresting fact that Aidit sought a peaceful growth to power. Sukarno was his patron, so this was possible. Communism often uses popular fronts but they are temporary. Marxists ideologically cannot share power. Aidit was not the Party. He was a skilled politician only. Once he was shot, his followers took to a purer Maoist line.
General Nasution was one of the more strict anti-Communist generals. His six year old daughter was killed by a PKI bomb in August. At her funeral, the generals swore their revenge. This incident steeled the will of the Army (Mortimer, 1974). The country, especially Java, was deeply divided as inflation reached 1000%. Violence, in one direction or another, was inevitable. Mortimer states,
It is generally agreed that, particularly in East Java and Bali where, in proportion to the population, the death toll appears to have been heaviest, communal tensions exacerbated by the land reform conflicts of 1964-65 and other political feuds go far to explain the scale of the slaughter. Until studies of the episode are made at the village and small town levels, however, the nature of what was involved will not be fully understood (Mortimer, 1974).
Mortimer, highly sympathetic to the PKI, is the authority of this movement under Sukarno. He states that they sought a peaceful road to power. This is easy when you have a patron like Sukarno. He says that he cannot see how they could “challenge the Army on their own ground,” though he’s admitted that the PKI had infiltrated the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force.
Document 30 states that the Army “is delivering PKI members to the Muslims for execution.” It doesn’t say if these men were tried or if they would be tried by Islamic courts. The Army, again, pleaded with the population to “stop the excesses,” but the numbers mentioned are low. Document 20 states that the “atrocity stories seem mostly designed to make continuing atrocities against rival political factions in Indonesia following the abortive September 30 coup seem less reprehensible. . . Army leaders seem inclined to work towards the eventual dismantlement of confrontation.”
So what do these documents actually say overall?
- That the US was neutral on the Army’s actions. They had no idea if Suharto would be pro-American;
- There were no mass killings of any kind;
- The killings mentioned mostly, though not always, were part of a low level civil war;
- The US was convinced that Mao was a major part of this war, and offers convincing documentation of this. Nothing could have been of greater interest to him than this huge country being a part of his empire;
- The population was doing the killing, while the Army was pleading for peace;
- That the Army had no interest in a massive civil war, though the Chinese did;
- The Army was delivering PKI members to Muslims to be killed. The numbers cited are 10-15, not “thousands;
- The US heard of “atrocity stories,” but no evidence surfaced about them;
- That Sukarno was “divorced” from the realities of social life. Given his failures, he had retreated into his little fantasy world while the economy collapsed around him (Document 27);
- There are no “kill lists” of any kind. This a fantasy. It is a bald-face lie.
So what was the PKI’s role in the September 30 coup? It was substantial. This is what the hack historians such as John Roosa of the University of British Columbia are trying to deny. He seriously states that the three million members of the Party didn’t seek a “worker’s revolution.” Joseph Daves is a career US Army veteran well versed in Indonesian affairs. He published a three volume analysis of the Indonesian Army that is largely ignored due to its refusal to bow to leftist orthodoxy. He writes:
Few Indonesian national leaders denied PKI involvement, even surviving Party officials. Observers have noted factionalism within the PKI Politburo. Pro-Moscow Politburo member Sudisman was still at large in September 1966 when he published a written commentary maintaining the PKI leadership had grown “soft and compromising under Sukarno” and criticizing Party “adventurism” for involving itself with the September 30th Movement, effectively admitting PKI complicity. Separate Chinese and Soviet Communist Party postmortems criticized the PKI for its participation in the “adventurist” conspiracy. Chinese leaders, including both Mao Zedong and Chou En-lai, publicly chastised the PKI for “assuming a position subordinate to the national bourgeoisie” and for launching an “urban putsch” rather than a grassroots proletariat revolution (Daves. 2004).
Benedict Anderson, a leftist academic who came to prominence for his awful Imagined Communities, a work attempting to debunk nationalism, has put forth the theory that the Communists played no part in the coup that provoked Suharto. Rather, it was a group of patriotic generals that thought those like Suharto was going to make Indonesia subservient to the USA. He gives no reason why these men, all veterans of the war against the Dutch, wanted to negate all their work and suffering. The theory is ludicrous. It also just so happens to be precisely the view of the PKI itself.
These authors don’t bother to note that the country was coming apart at the seams and the currency was worthless. Time was short. Furthermore, the PKI backed the coup because it was an attack on the army, their primary enemy.
Their arguments are prima facie absurd. The PKI was a huge organization with ties deep into the military apparatus. Promises of Chinese aid made revolution even more of an appealing option. Sukarno had little time left. The Chinese were promoting a coup to bring Peking closer to Jakarta. Yet, readers are told the PKI did nothing?
A fair and balanced approach to the issue is presented by Michael Vatikiotis:
To say that Suharto was a dictator is again simplistic. Suharto always defined himself as the servant of a state which endorsed him with a mandate six times since 1968. He has argued that the 11 March 1966 order transferring power to him from Sukarno was not a coup d’etat. Instead, after convening a special session of the the Consultative Assembly in 1966, Suharto spent almost two years working conspicuously through constitutional means to have himself appointed president. Apart from the fragile and tentative nature of his power in the months after October 1965, Suharto and those promoting him were also conscious of setting a dangerous precedent for the future by removing Sukarno by force (Vatikiotis, 1993).
Everyone agrees that he was not a dictator immediately after the coup, so even if these stories are true, they wouldn’t be his direct responsibility. He continues,
Oddly, there is little material evidence in the form of film or photographs of these atrocities. Some may have been exaggerated accounts given by zealous anti-Communists. Indeed, it says something about the intrinsic relationship between rulers and the ruled in Indonesia, that residual feelings about this period have not colored popular perceptions of Suharto’s rule (ibid).
This must be a typo. He’s clearly referring to the “atrocities” of Suharto in this context. He must have meant “zealous Communists,” otherwise the sentence makes no sense. Regardless, his point is that no one thought to snap a picture as these hundreds of thousands were slaughtered.
It should be noted that the founders of the PKI were not Indonesian. Henk Sneevliet was the Dutch founder of the movement. Of the first 101 leading members in 1920, all but three were foreign. The Party was a foreign unit entirely. Sneevliet came from an upper class background and was also involved in forming the Communist Party of China. Strangely enough, a member of his circle was Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (Poretsky, 1969). As always, the PKI was founded by one of the elites of European society.
As early as 1917, the PKI was heavily armed and organized. Roosa denies this without evidence. He also doesn’t mention that the PKI proclaimed a “Peoples Republic of Indonesia” as early as September of 1948. They must have given their guns back to the police once it failed. After 1950, the PKI cloaked itself in nationalist rhetoric to build support. Internationalism is a failure at the polls.
The elections of 1955, with government support, saw the PKI gaining about 10 percent of the vote. The unions were under PKI control. Yet by 1965 they had over three million members. Roosa denies the PKI were armed, but he notes that the PKI units were fighting the British in Malaysia just a few short years before. He doesn’t say with what.
In late 1964, the Murba Party, an offshoot of the Communists who quickly became their rival, warned the government that the PKI were planning a coup soon. True to form, the PKI demanded the Murba Party be banned, which was done (Mortimer, 1974). Given the size of the PKI at the time and the encouragement from China, this is a very reasonable suspicion.
The PKI called for an “arming of the people” which had the support of Sukarno as a result. “People” always means Party comrades, not random citizens. His authority is Seymour Topping, a non-specialist at the New York Times, who said “There is no substantial evidence that the Communists had large supplies of weapons or were planning a mass nationwide uprising to seize total power in the near future.” This statement is shocking. What were the three million members for? Were they Communists or not?
The whole purpose of the Communist Party is to be armed and to take power by force. With Indonesia increasingly dependent on the USSR and the PKI being deep into the Indonesian government, they were very well armed and posed a threat to the Army itself. That Roosa uses surviving members of the PKI as informants tells quite a bit about his deeply flawed research method. A. Vickers, among many others, strongly argues that Suharto was genuinely popular. The Communists, in their pure form, were not.
MJ Ricklefs, in his A History of Modern Indonesia makes far more sense in this regard. Why slaughter people who posed no threat? The PKI, a foreign organization at its core, was importing arms from China for the sake of a revolution. This is what a Communist Party does, especially one of three million. The Army didn’t kill for fun, they fought armed PKI militias.
In 1965, the PKI announced the creation of a highly armed militia as a “Fifth Armed Force” under Sukarno’s indirect leadership. Earlier, in 1958, the PKI fully supported the suppression of the pro-American Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia. Under Suharto, they just got a taste of their own medicine. The Socialist Party of Indonesia was also banned at the insistence of the PKI.
One of the most significant outcomes of the violence from 1958 onward was the creation of Sukarno as a Soviet client. After the US denied his request for arms to fight a pro-American movement, Sukarno went to the USSR and China. This is why the Army became so powerful so quickly. This also shows the Communist influence in the military. The Army was purged of rightists by Sukarno immediately afterwards, something Roosa and the rest refuse to mention (Conboy and Morrison, 1999).
Proving the deep inroads the PKI had made into the Indonesian state, in 1960 Sukarno created the movement “Nasakom,” or Nasionalisme (Nationalism), Agama (Religion) and Komunisme (Communism). The incoherence is deliberate, as he was trying to be all things to all men. The PKI was a partner within the state itself (Crouch, 1978). This made it able to grow rapidly and of course, arm itself to the teeth.
In other words, if the PKI were a threat, then what happened in 1965-1966 was a civil war. If they were not a threat, then why spend so much effort destroying them, especially in an Islamic country? The Army took the actions it did because it saw the PKI as a large, influential, armed group with deep foreign ties. They were right.
In 1948, the FDR, or the Indonesian initials for the People’s Democratic Front, engaged in armed conflict with the fledgling Indonesian state. The FDR was a Communist inspired – but not wholly Marxist – militant group that was well armed. Their main base of strength was the Army. During the National Revolution, different rebel forces had arms caches throughout the country. This remained for the PKI to use later (Mortimer, 1974).
So in July of 1965 when about 2000 PKI members were training at Halim Air Force base, there was certainly precedent for it. This base was also the main military hub of the PKI. The Air Force and Navy were in league with the Communists. For someone like Suharto, it was either the Great Leap Forward, or strong, concerted action against the left. Unfortunately, the left included his own armed forces. Over time, the FDR was merged with the PKI, giving the final proof that the PKI was a heavily armed movement dedicated to violent revolution under foreign direction.
Sukarno had the PKI lecturing to Army officers throughout 1964. Marxism was becoming the official ideology of the state. It wouldn’t be long before the PKI no longer needed the crutch of Sukarno and could rule on their own. It is very possible the September 30 coup was just that. Mortimer writes:
One sign of the changed atmosphere in 1963 was that an invitation was extended to Aidit to take part in an indoctrination scheme for armed forces personnel sponsored by Sukarno, in order to explain to them the outlook and policies of the Marxist strain in the national revolution. In his lectures Aidit mainly concentrated on expounding PKI policies, in order to remove misapprehensions among his listeners and indicate to them the congruence between PKI doctrine and that of the state ideology. On several occasions, however, he also dealt specifically with the role of the armed forces in the revolution.
Strangely, neither Roosa nor the “People’s Tribunal” mention this critical fact. It is clear that the PKI was winning over younger officers, though largely from the generosity of the Soviet bloc. The military turned to the USSR and China because they were giving substantial support to it. The Fifth Congress of the PKI was to surrender “doctrinal rigidity” for the sake of gaining members. Most of their supporters backed them on nationalist grounds, not because they were reading Capital.
Therefore, the PKI had both Chinese and Soviet support, weapons and money. They had the support of the Air Force and Marines, to a great extent. They had penetrated into both the Army and state structure. They controlled the labor movement. They were armed and many were combat experienced. They had three million members in 1965 and had called for massive purges of the state structure consistently since independence.
Suharto did nothing wrong: he fought a civil war in 1966 and “slaughtered” nobody. The left is just angry a huge country didn’t become Marxist. Throwing their typical temper tantrum, Suharto became a “genocidal maniac.” It was either the “Great Leap Forward” of an Army coup. That the press, the American CIA and the academy all prefer the former shows just how much they care about “genocide.” That Suharto prevented the mass famine the Communists perpetrated in China should make him a hero, not the plastic villain the regime has created.
The Regime’s authors refuse to talk about the Indonesian economy. Under Sukarno, it was an utter disaster. In 1973, the GDP per capita was $1500. In 1990 it was over $2500. This is using the value of the 1990 dollar so it takes inflation into account.
After 1966, the second president, general Suharto, restored the inflow of western capital, brought back political stability with a strong role for the Army, and led Indonesia into a period of economic expansion under his authoritarian New Order (Orde Baru) regime which lasted until 1997. In this period industrial output quickly increased, including steel, aluminum, and cement but also products such as food, textiles and cigarettes. From the 1970s onward the increased oil price on the world market provided Indonesia with a massive income from oil and gas exports. Wood exports shifted from logs to plywood, pulp, and paper, at the price of large stretches of environmentally valuable rainforest. Suharto managed to apply part of these revenues to the development of technologically advanced manufacturing industry. Referring to this period of stable economic growth, the World Bank Report of 1993 speaks of an ‘East Asian Miracle’ emphasizing the macroeconomic stability and the investments in human capital (Touwen, 2008).
This seems slightly better than the Chinese Communist “Cultural Revolution.” Touwen goes on to say that the period from 1972-1982 was one of unparalleled growth and prosperity. It was only when Suharto gave up power and the system was deregulated did mass corruption become a fact of life. On the other hand, he says concerning Sukarno,
The “Old Order” period, 1945-1965, was characterized by economic (and political) chaos although some economic growth undeniably did take place during these years. However, macroeconomic instability, lack of foreign investment and structural rigidity formed economic problems that were closely connected with the political power struggle. Sukarno, the first president of the Indonesian republic, had an outspoken dislike of colonialism. His efforts to eliminate foreign economic control were not always supportive of the struggling economy of the new sovereign state. The “Old Order” has for long been a “lost era” in Indonesian economic history, but the establishment of the unitary state and the settlement of major political issues, including some degree of territorial consolidation (as well as the consolidation of the role of the Army) were essential for the development of a national economy.
Indonesia is a country of 18,000 islands. Unification is essential. Political uncertainty and the influence of the Soviet bloc continued to complicate economic decisions. Nationalism certainly supports breaking ties of dependency, but certainly not at the price of having a functional economy. Once the economy is stable, a nationalism leader can slowly break ties, as Suharto did later, but only because he had an army and bureaucracy loyal to him. The army would be the only institution strong enough to reach over the heads of economic elites. Thus, its size and composition was a major concern for elites.
By the mid-1960s, politics and the economy of Indonesia had turned into disaster. After Independence in 1945 (and the cessation of hostilities with the Dutch in 1949), the young nation was plagued by hostile internal politics in which several political forces – consisting of the Army, nationalists, Muslims, and Communists – opposed each other. For over a decade, Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president, had reasonable success in keeping these forces in check by the force of his own personality. However, by the mid-1960s his failure became evident (II, 2015).
These are usually the reasons why militaries take over third world countries. Per capita income fell sharply between 1963 and 1965. Inflation in 1965 was almost 600%. A military coup and a radical unification of the state was the only way out for the struggling nation.
Bizarrely, none of the mainstream histories of Indonesia bother to mention this as they condemn Suharto. The potential of that huge country was and is immense. Had it fallen to Peking or Moscow, not only would millions have died, the economy would have become even worse than it was
Suharto’s main priority was to stabilize the dying economy and unify the nation. These are really one and the same project. Having few options, he needed to rejoin the IMF. He liberalized FDI laws as a temporary recovery measure, but it led to economic growth of ten percent for the next few years (ibid, 2015).
This enabled the public sector to play a greater role in the economy by undertaking substantial public investments in regional development, social development, infrastructure and through the establishment of large-scale (basic) industries, among which were the import-substitution industries. Capital goods and raw materials could be imported due to increased foreign exchange earnings, giving rise to a developing manufacturing sector (II, 2015a).
From 1967 to 1982, economic growth per year never fell under five percent. In the 1970s, Suharto’s priority was to focus state money on domestic development rather than the dependency FDI creates. He wisely engaged in strictly protectionist policies so the new Indonesian firms can develop. Thus, Suharto created the infrastructure for an independent, modern economy leading to great strides in health care and education. These are certainly the policies that any genocidal maniac would undertake.
Manufactured exports began to become the engine of the Indonesian economy. Between 1988 and 1991 Indonesia’s Gross Domestic Product grew by an average of nine percent per year, slowing down to an average of ‘just’ 7.3 percent during the period of 1991 to 1994 and rising again in the following two years (II, 2015a).
That a third world nation that only a few years before had an inflation rate of 600% could then begin exporting manufactured products is extraordinary. The identical policies were undertaken by Generals Park Chung-hee in South Korea and Chaing Kai-shek in Taiwan. It is no accident that these were military dictators and populists. This was necessary because the state needed to be more powerful than economic elites. The military was the only institution that had a chance against them.
Michael Vatikiotis states:
As foreign investment and lucrative oil revenues flowed in, much neglected services and infrastructure were installed. Widespread poverty, estimated to have afflicted 60 per cent of the population in 1967, began to recede. Per capita income began to rise above the $260 it was in 1970 and by 1980 was over $500. The infrastructure of basic health and education facilities began to fan out from the center, laying the basis for one of the highest primary school enrollment rates in the developing world (93 per cent in 1987). Perhaps the most crucial of these improvements was the beginning of an intensive food-production program, one that set Indonesia on a course to basic food self-sufficiency by the early 1980s. Indonesia under Suharto has been held up as something of a model of Third World development. A net show of growth, comparatively little social unrest, and the absence of tanks in the streets is enough to qualify for laurels in many regions of the world. In Indonesia’s case, state-managed economic development since the 1970s has, against considerable odds, steadily improved the welfare of the majority of Indonesian people (Vatikiotis, 1993).
Per capita income increased 15 percent in the first few years of his rule. He used protectionism to ensure Indonesia would not become a dependent economy. After the oil shock wore off, Suharto ordered a diversification of the economy. As a result, from 1977 to 1987, non-oil products as a percentage of exports went from 31 to 50. GDP per capita grew 545% from 1970 to 1980.
Gen. Suharto was a great man. His record speaks for itself. The accusations of “mass genocide” are leveled against every anti-Communist ruler that ever reigned both in Asia and Latin America. It is based on anecdotal evidence, ideological bias and anger. The western liberals show their true colors when they condemn any effort to keep nations from falling to Maoist destruction. Suharto kept all of southeast Asia from falling to the violence of the “Cultural Revolution,” including the Philippines and Malaysia.
The Communist Party was huge, armed and violent, as all Communist Parties are. It’s a part of their entire modus vivendi. The PKI was on the verge of starting a civil war that would have been bloodier than anything Suharto was accused of. Marxism is inherently violent. It is a revolutionary doctrine. To claim they were merely a “peaceful party” is laughable. Suharto knew the millions that were killed under Mao and millions more under Stalin. He knew the track record of Kim il-Sung in North Korea. In stopping the PKI, Suharto saved millions of lives and created a prosperous country.
Under Sukarno, Communists were part of the ruling order. Suharto was barely able to stop this from exploding into all-out war. Because of his rapid action, the civil war was smashed very early. He quickly disarmed and overran Communist positions and purged the Air Force and Navy. Importantly, he purged the civil service, bringing in technocrats and financial experts from all over the globe. These men would serve under him. Technocrats are the alternative to interest groups in “civil society.” In democratic systems, this invariable means concentrated capitalist interests.
The USA never “supported” right wing militaries. They fought them. It’s true the US backed Pinochet against a man who would take over the country with 34% of the vote, but sanctions were placed on Chile in 1976. The US murdered Park in Korea and abandoned Thieu in Vietnam as well as Chaing in Taiwan. The US murdered Diem in Vietnam, ensuring an unstable country. Hugo Banzer of Bolivia was cut off from US aid in 1978. All aid was stripped from Ecuador under Velasco. The CIA killed Rafael Trujillo in Dominica. Jimmy Carter rejected Somoza, sanctions were placed on Franco and Noriega was overthrown. The US condemned the Burmese military junta. In 1978, all aid was cut to Argentina.
With all this, the myth that the US “supported authoritarian regimes” during the “Cold War” needs to end. It never happened. The US worked hand in glove with the USSR, eliminating National-Populist and National Socialist leaders worldwide, permitting the left to take over the streets. The US backed the USSR over both militarist Japan and Germany and “made the world safe for Stalin.” At no point was the US “anti-communist” or “anti-Soviet.”
Gen. Suharto was no different. He was condemned from day one. To the Marxists, Sukarno was merely a “bourgeois nationalist” that needed to be cooperated with until their armed strength reached a point where civil war could be waged victoriously. Sukarno was merely a tool, the Indonesia Alexander Kerensky.
There needs to be more detailed research into the policies of the anti-Communist militaries in Asia and Latin America. As of now, slogans and moralistic condemnations from the far left are all that exists. This paper seeks to be a modest corrective to this dishonesty. Johnson’s Law is unbreakable.
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