U.S. Corporations Arrive for the Feast
After twenty-five years of fighting the Japanese, the Dutch and the U.S. colonialists, and after having begun a program of virtual expropriation of some of the foreign holdings of Indonesia's natural wealth, the country was again opened to outright colonial exploitation.
The 1965 coup and the subsequent slaughter of the anti-colonialists smoothed the way for many U.S. companies to come back during 1966. But it was not until January 1967 after the generals' clique was firmly consolidated, that the "foreign investments law" was passed. This law opened the door legally, as well as politically and militarily, to the foreign plunderers. It specifically guaranteed all U.S. investors against losses due to "war, revolution or insurrection."
This, of course, was what the coup was really all about. Stories about "natives running amok" and "religious Javanese" being "shocked by Communist atheism" were planted in the cynical U.S. and world imperialist press to cover up what was simply a drive by the U.S. master-butchers to get their plantations, oil wells, banks and mines back -- with interest.
The coup did give them the bonus of political control over a tremendous section of the South Pacific and another wedge into Southeast Asia, and this was fundamental for the long-range interest of U.S. imperialism as a whole. But U.S. big business, which so directly influences Washington, is also noted for its pragmatism -- for keeping its eye on the ball of immediate profit. And there was plenty of profit to be made in Indonesia, once the Sukarno government, the Communists and the revolutionary nationalists were defeated.
The familiar old robbers are now back at the feast. Unilever, the U.S. and British makers of Palmolive and Lux, have two soap and edible fat plants in the islands and drain off most of the palm oil to fatten their own profits. Uniroyal, another U.S. international giant (formerly United States Rubber), has a 54,000-acre rubber plantation and a latex plant in Java. Union Carbide, Singer Sewing Machine and National Cash Register have gotten their properties back.
But the U.S. penetration has redoubled since the coup and shows signs of being stepped up far higher in the light of the open door it has achieved by the coup. Now Eastern Airlines has got in to share the profits with Garuda (Indonesian) Airlines; Mobil Oil has secured oil exploration rights for 450,000 acres on Sumatra as well as purchase of the already existing Asamera Oil Company. Freeport Sulphur recently got a $75 million contract for exploiting West Irian copper. It paid a sum equal to about 70 cents for each Indonesian for the privilege.
Freeport explored West Irian for copper in 1968 and from its ore samples concluded there was about 4 per cent copper in the ore. This is almost 20 times as rich as ores now found in Arizona and Utah, where the copper companies have been making profits for years. The copper deposits in the West Irian area alone are estimated at over 33 million tons. At 20 cents a pound (refined copper has been selling from 50 to 70 cents a pound wholesale this year), the total value of this find would be equal to about $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Indonesia. (The Indonesian per capita income is $82 a year.)
But copper is only a small part of the tremendous natural wealth of the country. Indonesia is considered to be the fifth richest country in the world in natural resources. U.S. Steel expects to get 20,000 tons of nickel a year from West Irian and Wago Island, plus an unstated amount of valuable cobalt as a "by-product." International Nickel hopes to get an equal amount, and a Japanese company now expects to find 50 million tons of the stuff. (Japanese imperialism, which killed so many U.S. -- and Japanese -- youths in 1941-45 shares the feast with U.S. imperialism which has practically invited its former enemy to the table in order to keep it from challenging other U.S. interests.)
How do the Indonesian masses receive these companies when they enter or reenter the islands? Do the people welcome them as benevolent "developers" of their land?
Twenty years ago, the infamous Alfred Krupp, the most powerful financial backer of the Hitler regime, was convicted and condemned at Nuremberg for one of the most hated of all the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis -- the use of concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in the plants and mines belonging to the corporate backers of German fascism.
That was in 1947.
On February 19, 1967, at 6:30 p.m. an ominous replica of the grim World War II newsreels flashed briefly across the television screen during a nationwide broadcast by the National Broadcasting Company.
The narrator of the NBC Sunday documentary, referring to the picture on the screen, described a group of workers bent over in a field under the watchful eyes of armed soldiers. The time was just previous to the broadcast. The place was Indonesia. The workers were prisoners of the U.S.-backed Indonesian Army and the rubber plantation on which they were working was recently returned to the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
The narrator explained the scene:
Bad as things are in Indonesia, one positive fact is known. Indonesia has a fabulous potential wealth in natural resources and the New Order [the fascist regime headed by pro-U.S. General Suharto] wants it exploited. So they are returning the private properties expropriated by Sukarno's regime. Goodyear's Sumatran rubber empire is an example. It was seized [by the rubber workers] in retaliation for U.S. aggression in Vietnam in 1965. The rubber workers union was Communist-run, so after the coup many of them were killed or imprisoned. Some of the survivors, you see them here, still work the rubber -- but this time as prisoners, and at gunpoint.
As the commentator described the crime depicted on the screen, the tone of condemnation associated with Nuremberg was entirely missing. In its place was a definite sense of grim triumph! The narration continued:
The New Order wants Goodyear back. They, like dozens of other foreign capitalists, are anxious to return because the wealth is there -- not just rubber, but oil, tin, lumber, spices, almost everything.
The scene, as brief as it was ghastly, was sandwiched into a vicious, hour-long anti-Communist propaganda film worthy of Goebbels. NBC designed the film as an introduction for the U.S. population to the "New Order" in Indonesia -- the CIA-inspired military usurpers who have ruled the country by terror since the coup of October 1, 1965.
Although the film completely covered up the role of the U.S. in the Indonesian massacre of a million people, nevertheless the quick shot of slaves working on the Goodyear plantation at gunpoint was highly significant. At one and the same time, it revealed the thoroughly fascist character of the pro-U.S. regime in Djakarta, clearly implicated the prime mover behind the counter-revolution (the U.S. monopolies), and dramatized the fundamental objective of Washington's long standing policy in Indonesia (and all Asia) -- the enslavement of the oppressed for the benefit of U.S. big business.
In keeping with the general line of U.S. propaganda on Indonesian events, NBC tried to depict the bloody victory of the reactionary officer corps as an unlooked-for gift which dropped unexpectedly into the lap of Washington.
The narrator deliberately omitted the fact that the soldiers holding the guns on the Goodyear plantation slaves were under orders from All-Sumatran Defense Commander Lieutenant-General Achmad Junus Mokoginta who was graduated from the United States Army Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Nor was it mentioned that Mokoginta is under the discipline of the Indonesian High Command in Djakarta, which the U.S. spent $53 million to "train" from 1952 to 1965. (The $53 million is a public figure. CIA disbursements are classified.)
When it was baldly stated by U.S. news managers that the "New Order wants Goodyear back," this was very true. But what was concealed, for fear of uncovering Washington's primary role in the massacre of a million people, is that the Suharto regime is a hired creation of the U.S. government and "wants" only what it is paid to want.
POLITICAL PRISONERS "DYING LIKE FLIES"
Alex Campbell, managing editor of theNew Republic, got a glimpse of the New Order when he visited Indonesia in the spring of 1969. Conditions hadn't changed much since the NBC documentary.
The government plans to send some 60,000 (political prisoners) to forced labor on rubber plantations in Borneo. Perhaps 10,000 have already gone there. They are said to be dying like flies. Meanwhile those still in the camps may be slowly dying of starvation....
Many of those plantations are property of the U.S. Rubber Company and Goodyear.
All Indonesians have to carry identification cards that contain information about race, religion and occupation. The cards of the relatives of political detainees bear in addition a warning that they are suspected of having Communist sympathies. This usually means that they are refused jobs, or that they soon lose the jobs they have.... The punishment of the children is to be refused admission to schools.... Meanwhile, new suspects continue to be arrested and put in prison or otherwise disposed of....
Campbell also described the life style of one of the generals who became the head of Pertamina, the state oil and mining monopoly, after the coup.
The critics of General Sutowo say that a good deal of the oil money is already finding its way into his own treasury. His daughter's costly wedding was the talk of Djakarta in March. It continued for days, there were thousands of guests, and the general had closed-circuit television installed into his huge home, as the only way by which he could watch the entire proceedings. The father of the groom artlessly exclaimed, "I did not realize my son was marrying a princess!"
General Sutowo is living the life of a racketeer who has the "protection" of even more powerful bandits -- the U.S. Seventh Fleet. He earned his payoff by opening Indonesia up to U.S. oil companies. But his fabulous extravagance -- by Indonesian standards -- is peanuts compared with the fortunes being amassed by American oil speculators.
The Suharto regime has thrown open thousands of square miles of offshore oil fields to foreign exploitation. Atlantic Richfield, Phillips, Mobil Oil, Union Carbide, Tenneco and a Japanese and an Italian company all came in to work this bonanza.
A share of the Natomas Company, a U.S. company mining Indonesian oil, was listed on the New York Stock Exchange for $16 in 1968. By the summer of 1969, when stock prices generally were slumping to new lows, Natomas had soared to $114.
Alcoa, the great U.S. aluminum monopoly (Aluminum Corporation of America), the preserve of the fabulously wealthy Mellons of Pittsburgh, is ransacking the whole Indonesian archipelago for bauxite (aluminum ore) and intends to dig mines and build refineries as it has done in Africa, Australia and America. So lush are the prospects for this lushest of companies that it expects to spend no less than $100 million in exploration and initial installations of equipment. And the resulting "investment" will be simply the means for transferring Indonesia's aluminum wealth into the coffers of Pittsburgh and Wall Street banks. "The agreement (between Alcoa and the puppet generals) provides for one of the biggest single investments in Indonesia outside of long term oil operations," said the Associated Press in March, 1969.
With Chase Manhattan being the generals' "friend" in Djakarta and with Holiday Inns taking over Sukarno's presidential palace, it is hardly surprising that imperialism's most suave and presently successful salesman, Richard M. Nixon himself, sat down to dinner with his butcher-assistant General Suharto in July of 1969 and applauded him amid the cheers and approval of the U.S. press.
"Indonesia is the great prize of American diplomacy in Asia," wrote New York Times reporter Max Frankel from Djakarta right after the Nixon-Suharto dinner. And he added that during the bash, Nixon was "cheerfully rattling off statistics of Indonesia's economic potential, soaking up the cheers of the crowd and offering tributes to independence and democracy."
While no Times man could possibly have written these words without smiling to himself or drowning his cynicism in liquor, he did nevertheless let slip one piece of real information when he used the word "prize" in relation to the 110 million-strong country. Since when is a "prize" -- a piece of booty -- independent? By his choice of words, the Times man betrayed his utter contempt for Nixon's puppet allies.
Yes. Indonesia is today a "democracy" where hundreds of thousands of political prisoners face slow death, where power was seized by a handful of corrupt military men who wiped out the mass organizations, executed or jailed every member of Sukarno's cabinet, discarded the constitution and keep the President under house arrest; it is an "independent" regime that is auctioning off its people and natural resources to the lords of international finance.
Nixon considers Indonesia a model country now, and points to its violent anti-communist turn as a redeeming effect of the U.S. war against Viet Nam. He is trying to console the banks and corporations that have "lost" Viet Nam with the prospect of Indonesia's untold wealth and 110 million people who will work for starvation wages.
Nixon talked about Indonesia's "strategic geographical significance and enormous if unrealized economic potential." At one point he turned to General Suharto, who usurped the Presidency, and said, "The people of the United States wish to share with you in this adventure in progress."
Actually, the Yankees have already begun arriving in Djakarta to nail down their "share" of the "prize." These just plain folks are the representatives of Sinclair Oil, Freeport Sulphur, U.S. Rubber, Eastern Airlines, Chase Manhattan Bank and scores of other U.S. corporations that thrive on the "independence and democracy" spawned by fascist butchery.
U.S. "aid" had of course been scaled down considerably during Sukarno's shift toward complete nationalization of U.S. companies. And as we pointed out, Washington restricted itself mostly to aiding the generals and the extreme right wing so as to get back into the country with its previous money-making machinery for Wall Street.
It can be said categorically that all U.S. aid to any country whatsoever is given with the aim of getting profits for U.S. big business in one way or another. Sometimes, it is more sophisticated and indirect, as in the case of Yugoslavia and Rumania, where the benefits to U.S. capital are more diffused, less defined and not of animmediate monetary character. Marshall Plan aid was of a dual character, that is, it helped keep Europe from communism by keeping it on a kind of dole, and it also gave enormous orders to U.S. industry to send goods to Europe.
By and large the "aid" is directly connected with the process of funneling back the wealth of the "aided" country to the treasuries of the United States capitalists. Thus a U.S.-built railroad to the middle of Africa becomes an instrument to bring the products of the interior to the seashore. And a modern U.S.-built mechanized dock at the shore becomes the means of transferring those products to the holds of U.S. ships.
Railroads and docks are not in and of themselves a bad thing. In fact they are essential to modern living. They make human labor far more productive. And every underdeveloped country wants to have its share of them and a lot of other machinery, too. But when some other country owns the plantations which send their goods to the docks on the railroads, when that same foreign country owns the mines which load their precious metals on the railroads, and the factories which pile their commodities on the railroads, then the whole population of the host country is only robbed that much more systematically and efficiently by the country which "aided" the colony with modern machinery.
When Sukarno said to the U.S. Ambassador sometime in 1965 -- before the coup -- "To hell with your aid!" he really meant: "To hell with your attempts to make us your colony!" The U.S. reactionaries who are always preaching against sending "aid" to foreign countries, at the time revealed the demagogic, lying character of their position when they failed to make very much noise about Sukarno's defiance or compliment him for being independent and self-reliant!
HOW U.S. "AID" WORKED
The former Ambassador of Indonesia to Cuba, A.M. Hanafi, wrote in a Letter to the American People, sent in care of YAWF and published in the Partisan, Vol. 3, No. 2, a short explanation of how this "aid" from imperialism worked in the case of Indonesia:
Some time ago, as a member of the International Monetary Fund, Indonesia was offered credit under the Marshall Plan. With that credit we had to buy, directly or indirectly, a lot of American products.
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