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The "Left" Critics after the Fact

While the slaughter of Communists, nationalists and progressives of all sorts has been going on in Indonesia, what has been the reaction of the anti-imperialist forces in the rest of the world? Has the response of fraternal parties and movements been by any standards commensurate with the enormity of the crime committed against the Indonesian people?

In the United States, where all the major tendencies in the international working class movement are represented, the only demonstrations and rallies organized to protest the massacres have been those carried out by Youth Against War & Fascism (YAWF). Our organization demonstrated at the Indonesian Consulate first to expose the mass killings and again to demand the release of the political prisoners. In both these acts of protest, the role of U.S. imperialism in the bloody affair was emphasized.

Again, YAWF was the only voice of protest -- if only from the visitors' gallery -- when Indonesia was readmitted to the United Nations without debate. What would have been a routine item on the agenda was turned into a moment of intense struggle as guards rushed to eject demonstrators with accusing banners: "U.S. Puppets Slaughter One Million Indonesians!" In all the Western countries where parties do exist reflecting the different tendencies in the communist movement, it has been impossible for this writer to learn of any similar actions taken in solidarity with the Indonesian Communists, who have now been under the gun for over four years.

There has however been some space devoted to the question of Indonesia in the journals of quite a few of the parties in question. The monthlyPolitical Affairs which is sympathetic to the positions taken by the U.S. Communist Party ran a series of articles entitled "Lessons from the Setback in Indonesia" in March-April-May of 1968. The series is introduced as a document issued by a tendency calling itself "The Marxist-Leninist Group of the Indonesian Communist Party."

The theses of this document and quite clearly those of the editors of Political Affairs as well, are that the September 30th Movement was "of a purely adventuristic nature," that it "failed to secure active support by the Party and working people and, therefore, stood aloof from progressive revolutionary doctrines" and that "a certain Party ... was responsible for turning the Indonesian Revolution into a gaming table for its political gambles."


While criticizing the PKI for being both adventuristic and conciliatory and asking "how it could have happened" that a small group of leaders "got themselves involved in the September 30th Movement" when the Party was not prepared for armed struggle, the document sums up the "path ahead" without calling for the introduction of armed struggle against the fascist regime. Rather, it identifies the "right path" as the program adopted by the Fifth Congress of the PKI, which as elaborated in another section of this same document predicted that "A people's democracy in Indonesia can be attained by peaceful means."

This point is hammered home throughout the document, and the question of the future political development of the PKI is tied to the "struggle for peace and peaceful coexistence." The authors foresee mobilizing "the broad popular masses to form a peaceful front against imperialism."

Given this general ideological outlook, it should not then be too puzzling to note that nowhere in this quite lengthy document is there mention of the role of U.S. imperialism in the massacres. In spite of the present state of terror and military dictatorship in Indonesia and the war being fought just across the South China Sea in Viet Nam, this tendency clings to a program of "peaceful coexistence" and finds more evidence of Chinese responsibility for the defeat than U.S.

Another article, with the same essential shortcomings, this one written by a Soviet theorist named V. Viktorov, appeared December 1968 inInternational Affairs, published in Moscow. Entitled "Indonesia's Hour of Trial," it contains many important facts and figures on Indonesia's political and economic transformation since the coup. While reviewing the return of Dutch , published in Moscow. Entitled "Indonesia's Hour of Trial," it contains many important facts and figures on Indonesia's political and economic transformation since the coup. While reviewing the return of Dutch corporations, Indonesia's reentry into the International Monetary Fund, and the rule of the "Tokyo Club" of creditors who rescheduled Indonesia's debts in return for more favorable investment conditions, the article only vaguely mentions other "imperialists" who have recaptured Indonesia's mineral resources. The U.S., the largest imperialist power to benefit economically from the coup, remains nameless.


The quarterlyWorld Revolution, which is published by the U.S. Progressive Labor Party, ran in its January-March 1969 issue two documents issued by the Central Committee of the PKI. Both expound a new program adopted late in 1967. They are a very definite departure from the program of the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Party Congresses, ratified in 1954 and then revised in 1959 and 1962. These two documents strongly criticize the earlier stands of the PKI and solidarize the new PKI Central Committee with the Chinese Communist Party and its international line.

An introduction to these two documents was prepared by the editors of World Revolution. Their round-up on how the fascists were able to seize power criticizes the Aidit leadership, just about all of whom are now dead, for following a "Moscow line," stating that although the PKI began opposing Soviet revisionism in 1962, it still maintained "a domestic revisionist program." In the opinion of PLP, it was the policy currently advocated by the "Moscow-liners ... that was responsible for the murder of over 500,000 Indonesian communists and radicals by the Suharto-Nasution fascists." Reliance upon Sukarno, a "nationalist image," and wavering on whether or not to support the September 30th Movement led to the decisive defeat for the party and the masses. But the Soviet Union, according to this position, must be considered largely accountable because "Before, during and after the mass slaughter of communists by Nasution-Suharto the Soviets were the main source of supply for the fascist army. The Soviets even today provide this army withall(our emphasis) its equipment and spare parts, ammunition, fuel and instructors and advisors although this army has no one to fight but communist revolutionaries."

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this "round-up" of Indonesia's recent history is that it also nowhere mentions U.S. imperialism. In fact, in claiming that the Soviet Union completely sustains the fascist military machine, PL's analysis obliterates the role of U.S. military advisers, equipment and training in the coup itself -- something that even bourgeois sources acknowledge to have been the critical factor in the takeover.

The two Indonesian documents accompanying this introduction do not have the same failing. Rather, the new program of the PKI emphasizes many times the status of Indonesia today as a "new-type colony of U.S. imperialism." It traces the replacement of Dutch capital by U.S. firms and points out how Indonesia is strategically important to the U.S. for their general military objectives in Southeast Asia.


In both the positions of PL and the revisionist CP described here, the overriding emphasis on the culpability of political opponents for the dreadful defeat of the Indonesian Communists, to the point of almost totally ignoring the role of the major imperialist power, does relieve the urgency to act in this country in protest against the murders. Whether or not this is the underlying cause, the fact is that the parties in the West that lay claim to the closest fraternal ties to the PKI have done nothing to raise a storm of protest and outrage at what has been one of the most monstrous crimes of modern times. Whatever blame the Indonesian masses may finally attach to the policies of their leaders, these Western critics of the PKI leadership, by not offering true international solidarity through struggle, have done nothing to deserve respect for their positions, be they right or wrong theoretically.

While not a major tendency in the world movement, the position of the Socialist Workers Party should perhaps be mentioned here. It too has published a critique of the PKI, purportedly written by a former member of the Indonesian party. However, this criticism is nowhere supplemented by any attempt to rouse support for the struggles of the Indonesian people against the fascist butchers, nor by a condemnation of their own ruling class which through the CIA and other agencies played the decisive role in the coup. The colossal and immensely tragic defeat for 100 million people struggling against imperialist domination becomes reduced in the pages of The Militant to a factional issue -- an opportunity to say "I told you so" to opponent political tendencies.

Could those who offered all this criticism of the course of the PKI without lifting a finger in the PKI's defense and without once even reproaching the CIA or trying to arouse the U.S. public against the massacre, really have done any better than the PKI? It is almost ludicrous even to ask the question.

A more pressing and apropos question is this: Can such parties, no matter how well they phrase their theoretical positions or how many members or subscriptions they have, succeed in the United States where the PKI failed in Indonesia? Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary practice. But without ordinary class struggle practice, much less revolutionary practice, the most revolutionary theory is just a lot of words.

YAWF has not written any weighty critique of the Aidit leadership. We have organized demonstrations and rallies protesting the massacres and have published a number of documents and articles primarily focused, as is this pamphlet, on the U.S. role in these events. Does this mean we have no opinion on the policies followed by the PKI or on the position of Sukarno and other bourgeois nationalist leaders? Does it mean that we feel the Chinese and Soviet parties had no influence on the line of the Indonesian Communists?

No, this is not the case at all. Certainly, in a disaster the proportions of this one, only fatalists will ignore what role subjective factors played in the defeat. Imperialism is not all-powerful, as the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese is confirming each day, and if a strong and seemingly dynamic progressive movement can suddenly be almost wiped out, then the reasons for its weakness must be found.

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