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The Question of State Power

Even those parties which are in favor of armed revolution and have repudiated the idea of peaceful conquest of power in their programs do not necessarily succeed in taking power, even under the best of circumstances.

The Communist Party of Germany was programmatically in favor of armed revolution in 1933 and it could muster nearly six million votes in the early part of that year. But it went down to defeat at the hands of the fascists in the same year, suffering physical extermination of tens of thousands of cadres. Outside of heroic but sporadic pockets of resistance, the German CP did not and could not (because of previous errors and a previously determined course) mount a general uprising to check or overthrow the fascists.

Under the much better circumstances of the revolutionary situation in Russia of 1917 and the paralysis of the Russian bourgeoisie, there was a crisis in the Central Committee of Lenin's own Bolshevik Party over the question of whether to launch the November 7 insurrection. Lenin's line only prevailed in the committee because of theprevioustraining and preparation of the party, both in theoretical understanding and practical struggle. Even then, some of Lenin's closest collaborators opposed the "tactic" of insurrection.

The objective conditions in Indonesia resembled both the Russia of 1917 and the Germany of 1933 in some respects. And they were also different, because Indonesia is a colonial country where revolutionary nationalism against Dutch and U.S. imperialism has played a tremendous role in both the country's and the PKI's history.

The PKI was the biggest Communist Party in the world outside of the socialist countries -- just as the German CP was the biggest before Hitler's victory over it.

Unlike the case in either Germany or old Russia, the Indonesian Party had the ear of the head of state, and occupied key positions in the government apparatus. Furthermore, the head of state, although not a Communist, showed every sign of collaborating with the Communists to the end -- and in his fashion, apparently did so. He employed some opportunist slogans, but defied imperialism on some occasions even more than most leaders of the socialist world have done. He condemned and split from the imperialist-dominated UN; he called upon the masses to expropriate the holdings of imperialism in Indonesia; he was willing to go along with the PKI toward a more and more anti-imperialist Indonesia. The logic of his course suggested that he would have to adopt communism at some point whether he wanted to do so or not. The fascist generals must have believed this, too, since they made sure to take away all his power and only spared his life for fear of arousing the masses against themselves.

What went wrong? And why was this tremendously powerful movement composed of both the PKI and the left nationalists unable to prevent the terrible massacre of its forces and its friends?

The Indonesian Communists themselves, both inside and outside the country, have been discussing practically nothing else but the question of the PKI's strategy and tactics -- unless it be the question (for those still inside the country) of how to physically escape the executioner, and even this question is often subordinated to the need of developing a better instrument of revolution.


One of the grimmest and yet most poignant of the self-criticisms was made by Sudisman, one of the five top leaders of the PKI. He told his own hangman's court in 1967 (hoping his speech would be heard by his comrades -- as it finally was) that the PKI had made serious errors.

(Sudisman took over the top leadership personally after Aidit and Njoto were murdered, and he attempted to follow a more leftist course.)

Truly, the PKI is the product of its era, born with the era itself. The revival of the PKI will not depend on the five of us [i.e., himself, D.N. Aidit, M.H. Lukman, Njoto and Sakirman]; we have failed in our labors. In one form or another, still with many hardships, the PKI will find a way to come forth again, with even greater vigor than in our time.

And certainly, failure will act as our teacher. The laws of war have taught us that we must fight, fight, and fight again. And if we fail once, the struggle should be taken up again, until conclusive victory is won.

Victory will be to those who are not afraid to face difficulties and who have the courage to continue fighting. And, to obtain victory we must have the patience to wait a long time, a very long time.

The judge has spoken of the PKI as if it were an "invisible man," which I take to mean that the PKI is nowhere and at the same time, everywhere. And in reality, the Mahmillub in essence has re- cognized the fact that faith cannot be completely shackled.

And according to the law of the people, the people's faith will lead them to final victory. This confirms the popular refrain which says: the world keeps on spinning.

I am convinced that although the PKI is proscribed, history in the long run will free the PKI, and Marxism-Leninism will reign in the heart of every Communist. In his oral briefing, the judge called the PKI "poisonous." Yes, he was right. The PKI is poisonous when it comes to killing the bacteria of the bloodsuckers of the people, the oppressors and exploiters, but at the same time, it is also a powerful restorative, animating the people.

For me, everything has two or more sides. For example, the human body cannot grow without phosphorous. Phosphorous, after all is a poison that kills bacteria and promotes bone growth. I understand that failure in battle is brought about by the errors one commits. The errors of the PKI, accumulated over a long period of time, were the reasons for the failure of the 30th of September Movement.

These errors included subjectivism in ideology -- that is, our considering a thing from only one point of view and not in its totality, so that reality was viewed not as a whole, but as something glimpsed in fragments.

As a result the PKI was unprepared when the Party became larger; it was careless of the danger of imperialism, which, together with the country's reactionary forces, was just waiting for the opportunity to attack.

In such a situation it was necessary to have a certain knowledge of Marxism-Leninism in order to calculate, concretely and scientifically, the correlation of forces and the relative strengths of the PKI and its enemies. Moreover, in order to organize a campaign, revolutionary skills are needed, plus courage to determine, a priori, the correct line to follow and the right moment for its adoption.

The 30th of September Movement did not fulfill these requirements, and thus brought about its own failure.

Moreover, the campaign was totally isolated from the masses, although, in keeping with the announcements of the Revolutionary Junta, the objectives of the 30th of September Movement were correct.

In addition to subjectivism in the leadership, the PKI was also infested with modern revisionism. This resulted in the adoption of a bourgeois attitude after positions in state organizations were obtained.

These weaknesses led to a compromise with the bourgeoisie in the theoretical field.

In organization, the PKI did not apply adequate methods for solving the contradictions within the Party through criticism and self-criticism. Without criticism and self-criticism we became tolerant and criticism from the bottom was not developed. These errors committed by the PKI in the fields of ideology, in politics and organization have been mentioned in the self-critical report of the Central Committee of the PKI, now in the hands of the military regime.

The failure of the 30th of September Movement has led the PKI to criticize its own errors, to make a self-criticism.

I am certain that sooner or later, the new generation of PKI members will learn the good lesson of self-criticism. This new generation will make the PKI a true Communist Party on Marxist-Leninist lines and will choose a correct and revolutionary agrarian program, free from all types of economism and modern revisionism. Such a Party will be able to solve the basic problems of the Indonesian people....

If I die, it does not mean that the Indonesian Communist Party must also die. Far from it. Although the PKI has been dismembered and ripped to shreds, I am convinced that this is only temporary and that in the course of history, the PKI will return.

Quoted in Tri-Continental,
No. 7, 1968

Sudisman, facing a certain death sentence, showed by these admirable remarks (which were only a small part of his final speech to the court) that he was all too well aware that the PKI had erred. But he proudly refused to say that the September 30th Movement was itself in error. On the contrary, the error, he explained, was in itsfailure. He himself took full responsibility for it before his enemies as well as before his friends and the judgment of history.


But Sudisman does not give any specific recipe for taking power or any precise explanation of what the Party did wrong after September 30. He was speaking under the most difficult of circumstances, and it was not at all necessary for him to spell out his criticisms in detail in order to open the way for a thorough review of tactics by those who are serious about revolution. Furthermore, even if he were not speaking in the shadow of the hangman's noose, his comments as an Indonesian Communist leader have far more value for the Indonesian and world revolution than the theoretical lucubrations of many non-Indonesian radicals both revisionist and "revolutionary," whose real motive in criticism is purely factional and full of hatred.

In other parts of his speech Sudisman mentions that nearly all the members of the September 30th Movement were "individuals who happened to be members of the PKI," although he takes personal responsibility in the fascist court for the leadership of the event and challenges the court to punish him alone.

The importance of this almost quixotic gesture is that it does underline the fact that "all actions were executed by individuals who happened to be members of the PKI" -- something that was apparently common knowledge in Indonesia, or Sudisman would never have revealed it.

This fact must be kept firmly an mind throughout the following pages, because some of the documents can easily give the impression that Untung and the whole September 30th Movement were just militant nationalists and that the PKI completely ignored the fascist danger and repudiated the September 30th Movement in every way. Some of the documents of the PKI itself give the impression that the Party was completely blind to the danger of the fascist generals' coup.

This was not the case, really. But due to the whole policy of the PKI, including the period in which it worked closely with the Chinese CP leadership, it was unprepared to cope with the fascist coup. In this sense, it resembled the CP of Germany at the time of Hitler's 1933 victory. There were many Communists like Sudisman, including many in the leadership, who were deeply revolutionary and deeply determined to fight for the Communist victory. But the point at which to fight and the methods of preparing the fight are not easy to arrive at, even for the most experienced and devoted leadership.


The following account by Eric Norden gives one slant on this problem. Norden is a radical journalist who is very conversant with Indonesian affairs and believed that "Sukarno's course, in spite of his erratic personality, was essentially the best one for Indonesia." He gave the following blow-by-blow account of the events around September 30. He explained about the reactionary generals' meeting, which Sukarno and Subandrio secretly tape-recorded, and how the generals had planned at the meeting to overthrow Sukarno and replace him and then tell the masses that it was done on the grounds of Sukarno's ill health. Then Norden said (at the June 1966 public inquest):

Sukarno was deeply alarmed by the revelations in this tape recording, and he called in one of his most trusted aides, a man named Lt. Col. Untung. Untung was the commandant of the palace guard, whose duty it was to protect Sukarno. He was a non-political man, with no affiliations left or right, but intensely devoted to Sukarno, whom he viewed as the founder of the nation. Untung decided that action would have to be taken quickly, because the September 21st meeting of the reactionary generals revealed that the armed forces commanders intended to stage their coup d'etat against Sukarno on October 8, which was Armed Forces Day. At that time all the top military units would be in Djakarta for a massive military parade, and it was generally assumed that this would be their best time to move.

Untung went to a number of pro-Sukarno political leaders for aid, including Aidit [leader of ] the Communist Party. Aidit flatly refused to believe him. He couldn't conceive of the generals taking such a risky ploy as an open move against Sukarno, and refused to give any assistance. However, one military man who was loyal to Sukarno was Air Marshal Omar Dhani, who was the Commandant of the Indonesian Air Force. Untung and Dhani together, using small contingents of hand-picked men they knew were loyal to Sukarno, staged a preventive coup against the generals the night of September 10, 1965. Units loyal to Untung and Dhani took over the radio station and several other strategic points in Djakarta.

It was announced over the radio that a new revolutionary council had been formed, including cabinet ministers such as Subandrio, the purpose of which was to defend the President against what they called "a council of generals formulated by the CIA." It should be noted that the CIA's involvement with this Council of Generals was stressed repeatedly in the broadcast. Six of the top army generals involved in the conspiracy were murdered by units loyal to Dhani and Untung. However, one of the top generals, Abdul Haris Nasution, one of the leading movers in the anti-Sukarno movement, escaped with a flesh wound and managed to flee to the outskirts of Djakarta. There he was joined by General Suharto, one of his allies, who was in command of the crack Siliwangi Division. With this elite division in his hands, he was able to move into Djakarta. After a fierce fire fight, the pro-Sukarno troops were driven from the radio station and Suharto took over the city, reasserting effective control.

Sukarno, during all this, had gone to the Halim Air Force Base on the outside of the city to await word of the coup. When he found out that it had been a failure, he fled to the summer palace at Bogor.

Could it be true that the top leader of one of the world's biggest Communist parties was so naive as to disbelieve the possibility of a fascist coup by generals who were so well known to be "aided" by the United States and who fairly openly (in politically sophisticated circles) opposed Sukarno? Aidit couldn't have been suspicious of Untung to any great degree, although he may have feared a provocation. And recalling Sudisman's words, we must repeat that "individual members of the PKI" were the main participants in Untung's action. But according to Norden, Aidit "couldn't conceive of the generals taking such a risky ploy as an open move against Sukarno." Norden, of course, did not know what went on in Aidit's mind, but in one sense at least he might have been right in his estimate. That is, Aidit may have been lulled to overconfidence not because he failed to understand the intentions of the generals, but because he had far too much faith in his own previous policy.


In August 1917 in Russia, the extreme right-wing generals -- led by General Kornilov -- took the "risky ploy of an open move" against the still tremendously popular Kerensky. They were anxious to destroy the growing revolutionary movement and they were willing to destroy Kerensky to get to it. Kornilov led an armed counter-revolution. The Bolsheviks summoned the masses to "defend the revolution" against Kornilov. (And they overthrew Kerensky two months after they had "defended" him.)

Actually, it was a far less "risky ploy" for Suharto and the reactionary generals than Kornilov's move was. The Bolsheviks were, on the whole, armed. They had whole regiments which were openly Bolshevik, where the officers were paralyzed. The key workers on railroads and in telegraph stations, etc., were constantly alerted by the Bolsheviks against the reactionary generals. True, according to some authorities, the total membership of the Bolsheviks was only 40,000 in the month of July, just one month before Kornilov's attack (whereas the PKI had in the neighborhood of three million). But the Bolsheviks had made every possible use of the revolutionary situation and paid constant attention to the problem of how they were going to be able to seize power.

Now Aidit was familiar with this history. Why didn't he see the imminent danger from the Indonesian generals' clique? Why was he so sure that the generals would not move? The more surely that Indonesia was moving in the Communist direction Aidit thought it was, the more surely the fascist generals would at some point move against the Communists. But Aidit was not prepared for the move. Much of Aidit's previous policy was based on utilizing Sukarno's tremendous popularity and helping to build up that popularity with both Communist and non-Communist masses. So much of his policy was based on the idea that Sukarno, although a left bourgeois nationalist, could move right on to communism leading the non-Communist masses with him.

While this concept is theoretically wrong, there is no eternal absolutely unbreakable law in social relations. And it did seem that Indonesian practice could make the theory wrong in this particular instance. Sukarno certainly showed many signs of wanting to do this and at the end never crossed over to the side of the fascist generals.

He might very well have played a valuable figurehead role for the Communist revolution in spite of and because of the fact that he had his origins in the bourgeois nationalist movement.


But Aidit and the PKI forgot or neglected one tremendous factor -- the state itself.

Whatever Sukarno's role, the state was still bourgeois -- still a capitalist state. The "armed bodies of men," the essence of the state, were under pro-capitalist commanders. There were PKI members in the government apparatus. But there was no rival state power in the form of a congress of soviets, a workers' army, mass worker defense guards, etc., or anything to seriously rival the capitalist-controlled army and seriously oppose it in a showdown. The three million-member PKI could be immobilized if it depended upon purely parliamentary means when the generals resorted to open force.

Aidit couldn't believe the generals would dare to oppose Sukarno, because he was thinking of Sukarno's matchless oratory; he was thinking in purely propagandistic terms, in terms of popularity, winning votes and so on -- rather than in terms of force and ruthless showdown, as the generals were thinking.

It is true, of course, that such a show of force may come only once in a generation and all the rest of the time it seems to be a question of maneuver, publicity, persuasion and so on. But the truth is that revolutionary parties are trained to be ready for the supreme moment not only by learning about such moments in history books, but also by constantly engaging in open struggle on lower levels with the bosses, with the police, with the reactionary detachments of the army, etc. They must be educated in struggle and in the spirit of distrust and hatred for the bourgeoisie. When a party becomes as powerful as the PKI was, it must also understand that capitalism -- andworld capitalism (in this case, the U.S.) -- is planning day and night to destroy it.

The fact that Aidit and most of the leadership seemed not to understand this does not necessarily mean that they were secretly revisionists who were influenced by Moscow rather than Peking. To the contrary, they had been working with the Chinese CP for several years.

In the summer of 1965, it is true, Chou En-lai, while on a trip to Indonesia, publicly called for the arming of the masses. Both Aidit and Sukarno by that time seem to have been in favor of it too. But the idea came too late, as it did in the case of Mossadegh in Iran, Nkrumah in Ghana, and Arbenz in Guatemala. (There is evidence that it was proposed as early as January or February of 1965, but little was really done about it.) The idea came late, and even then, the conviction was not strong enough to urge the masses daily and hourly to get their own arms -- by disarming the police, recruiting bands of soldiers, getting arms from friendly soldiers who steal them from the army supply depots, etc. This can be done whenever the situation is anywhere near as revolutionary as it was in Indonesia. But of course it requires not just courage, resolution, etc., which the Indonesian leadership of course had, but a certain approach to the state, a strong and unshakable conviction that only the Communists can really solve the question of social justice and must lead the masses to smash the old state and create a new one.

Actually, both Aidit, the PKI leadership and the left wing of the Nationalist Party had been urgingSukarnoto form a people's militia all during the spring of 1965. And on August 17 (Indonesia's Independence Day) Sukarno announced that a militia of several million was to be formed. He covered up -- and really softened -- its potentially revolutionary character by saying that it was to be used in the national fight against Malaysia. But the announcement must have alarmed the generals' clique, nevertheless. And coming as late as it did and promoted so awkwardly, it may have forced the generals to make their counter-revolution that much earlier. In defense of the PKI it should be added that Communists would certainly have been in the leadership of most of this militia if it ever had really gotten started. So they now assumed they were going to be in a position to protect their flanks --in case the generals tried to move against them. Why should it occur to them to start training bands of 20 or 30 militia men when they would soon command millions? And besides they felt that the Army would side with them against the generals.


The NLF armed themselves from 1960 to 1964 by first practicing with wooden sticks, attacking their enemies with their bare hands, often sacrificing five guerrillas to capture one gun in Viet Nam. Of course, the atmosphere in Indonesia was such that the army seemed to be a pro-revolutionary army, and the real polarization did not occur until after September 30, and by then the time was very, very short. This is only another way of saying that every country has its own peculiarities of development. But the PKI leadership took the view that the Indonesian peculiarities made afundamental difference so far as the Communist strategy was concerned.

There was a strong tendency not to rock the boat, to continue on the previous course, which was to depend on Sukarno's ability to swing the whole army (with the help of the PKI of course) over to the defense of the new expropriations and the continued course to socialism. There was good ground for the PKI to have illusions on this score, because the Party was well aware that the rank and file of the army was made up so largely of either Communists, Communist sympathizers or revolutionary nationalists who would be at least neutral to Communism -- if the Communists took a clear hold on the helm of the state, and especially if they did this in company with the ever-popular Sukarno, who did not represent the national bourgeoisie in the eyes of the masses, but the revolution against imperialism.

The PKI's illusions about the nature of the army are most clearly -- and tragically -- expressed in a statement made immediatelyafterthe September 30th Movement. In an editorial appearing in the Oct. 2, 1965, edition of Harian Rakjat, the national newspaper of the PKI, there appeared the following statement, most probably written on Oct. 1, when it still appeared that the September 30th Movement was successful, although it was known that the reactionary politician-general Nasution and the extremely powerful General Suharto were still alive and actively working against the PKI, moving their troops furiously to counter the actions of the September 30th Movement.

The Harian Rakjat editorial follows:

It has happened that on the 30th of September measures were taken to safeguard President Sukarno and the Republic of Indonesia from a coup by a so-called Council of Generals. According to what has been announced by the September 30th Movement, which is headed by Lt. Col. Untung of a Tjakrabirawa (palace guard) battalion, action taken to preserve President Sukarno and the Republic of Indonesia from the coup by the Council of Generals is patriotic and revolutionary.

Whatever the justification that may have been used by the Council of Generals in its attempt, the staging of a coup is a condemnable and counterrevolutionary act.

We the People fully comprehend what Lt. Col. Untung has asserted in carrying out his patriotic movement.

But however the case may be,this is an internal Army affair. On the other hand, we the People, who are conscious of the policy and duties of the revolution, are convinced of the correctness of the action taken by the September 30th Movement to preserve the revolution and the People.

The sympathy and support of the People is surely on the side of the September 30th Movement. We call on the People to intensify their vigilance and be prepared to confront all eventualities. [Our emphasis.]

From the last sentence it is clear that the Party leaders were very uneasy about the situation. Eric Norden may be quite correct in saying that Aidit couldn't believe that Suharto and the generals really intended to try a coup. By October 1, the PKI leadership seems convinced. But it is moving far too slowly.

The Party correctly identified itself with the September 30th Movement, but having done so, it was time to summon the masses to arms. But the Party's call was only to "intensify their vigilance." At such a time, such a call might easily spread alarm or indecision rather than vigilance.

Even worse, by saying in the same statement in which it identified itself with the September 30th Movement, that the action was "an internal Army affair," the Party tended to half repudiate the action and close its eyes to the consequences.

But again, this mistake flowed from a previous false policy and a previous misunderstanding. The false policy was one of expecting Sukarno to be able to outweigh all the possible actions of the generals, and assuming that Sukarno himself would be loyal to his own program and be able to carry it out against the will of his generals. The misunderstanding was about the class character of the Indonesian state and the class character of the Army.


The class character of any army is determined in the long run by the class it serves, and in the short run by the class character of its high command and not at all by the class composition of its rank and file, which is always made up of the poor -- of workers, farmers, farm laborers, etc. And the generals of the Indonesian Army were for the most part reactionary servants of Indonesian and international (i.e., imperialist) capital. Untung, their main opponent within the Army, it must be noted, was only a lieutenant colonel, with direct command over less than a thousand men.

(In Untung's first statement to the country, announced over the national radio on the morning of October 1, is the following revolutionary statement: "The Army is not for generals, but it is the possession of all soldiers of the Army who are loyal to the ideals of the revolution of August, 1945." On the afternoon of the same day a decree was read which abolished the rank of general altogether.)

Many "left" critics have misused Mao's correct observation, claiming that the PKI did not understand that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." It would be more correct to say the PKI did understand this, but failed to understand the class character of the guns they thought were theirs (in the national army).

Sukarno was the Supreme Commander of the Army and "Great Leader of the Revolution" -- in name, of course. But merely because the Supreme Commander, alone among top officers, moves left, the army does not become a revolutionary proletarian army.

If the almost invincible Napoleon were to have sold out to the feudal kings of Europe at the height of the victories of the French revolutionary army, he could not have thereby turned the army into an instrument of feudalism.

Or more to the point, if General Eisenhower had decided to become a Communist in Europe in 1945 (as Senator Joseph McCarthy implied he did) this would not have altered the class character of the U.S. Army or materially changed the history of the post-World War II years. Eisenhower would simply have been assassinated by his brother officers or removed by arrest and punished by legal means, depending upon how stable the situation in the rest of the army was.

Sukarno was removed under cover of protecting him. And his influence was destroyed under cover of praising him. He did not even have the military clique ties to the army that a top general would have. He was far more isolated from the generals than a person like Eisenhower would have been in the example given.


The misunderstanding of the PKI about the nature of the Indonesian Army went so deep that the Second Deputy Chairman of the PKI was able to say, two months after the counter-revolution began, that it was a unique army and that no counter-force was really necessary against it.

During an interview with the Tokyo Evening News on December 2, 1965, Deputy Chairman Njoto made the following remarks:

Question: How can your party set up your own army? Lenin and Mao Tse-tung have maintained that the establishment of the army of the Communist Party is an indispensable condition of revolution.

Njoto: The PKI always regards the Indonesian Army as being not the same as armies in the imperialist countries or as in India now, seen both from the history of its formation as well as from the tasks of being against imperialism and feudalism, and also seen from the composition of its soldiers, who mostly come from the peasant and worker class. That there still exist in the national army anti-people elements is the same thing as in the republic as a whole....

Question: How about the relations between your own army and the present professional army?

Njoto: The PKI has never had its own army. This is why there is no connection in any way between this thing that never existed and the national army.

Actually there had been some success in creating the popular national militia during 1965 although it apparently did not get very far. Njoto repudiates the whole idea of a Communist-led militia. At best he is being elusive with a reporter at the wrong moment on the wrong question. At worst he is repudiating the whole idea of any armed opposition to the bourgeois-controlled army.

It is quite possible that Njoto was not wholly candid in the extremely difficult situation that had developed. Perhaps he felt he had to conceal whatever elements of armed opposition the PKI was able to summon up at the last minute. But his statements generally have the ring of conviction and fit in with the previous mistaken position of the PKI in this matter.

Tremendous events were now going on. Millions of people were listening in. They needed an immediate tactical program, no matter how euphemistically or carefully phrased it might be. They needed a clear explanation of who was friend and who was foe. Njoto was not obligated to give correct answers to the Japanese press. But he also failed to give them to the Indonesian masses. He himself was to pay with his own life for this failure.


In the middle of the crisis that began with September 30, there were more forthright elements than the top leadership in the PKI, elements who, although in theoretical agreement with Aidit and the Central Committee, felt in their bones that this was the time to fight and fight hard -- rather than merely be "vigilant" and relegate the whole struggle to "an internal matter of the Army."

This is indicated in the statement of the East Java Communist Youth Organization which was issued on October 1, 1965. It appears in Pemuda Rakjat, the youth organization's paper. The following is based on the Indonesian text given in Berita Yudha October 7, 1965 (the statement was also read on the local radio several times).

Statement supporting the "September 30th Movement"
-- No. 1 56/v/PBD/65

In connection with the occurrence of a September 30th Movement under the leadership of Lt. Col. Untung to safeguard the Indonesian Revolution and Bung Karno, and in relation to the revolutionary situation which has enraged the counterrevolutionaries into forming a so-called "Council of Generals" to carry out a coup d'etat (against) the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, in the name of the 750,000 members of the People's Youth for the whole of East Java, we declare our fullest support for, and stand behind the September 30th Movement in forming Indonesian Revolution Councils down to the regions.

We instruct all Organization Leadership Bodies as well as the entire membership of the East Java People's Youth to sharpen their vigilance, heighten their support for Youth Unity on the basis of the Nasakom axis and carry out the Five Charms of the Revolution, in order to continue to crush American imperialism. "Malaysia," village devils, city devils, modern revisionism and other internal counter-revolutionary elements.

Surabaja, October 1, 1965
Leadership of the Major Region
(East Java) People's Youth
(signed) Tjap S. Gijo

Regardless of its references to the nationalist, Sukarno-coined slogans, this was obviously an appeal to create soviets throughout the country. That is, it was an attempt to establish a "dual power" -- a rival political power to the government, which when armed, would be also a rival state. This was exactly what the situation called for and with a group of 750,000 (in East Java alone) calling for it, there it little doubt that it would be successful -- if the PKI leadership did not oppose it. (But they did!)

The PKI had three million members and influenced about 20 million more through trade unions, mass organizations, etc. This would correspond to 40 million in the United States (close to the highest vote ever received by a U.S. Presidential candidate). Had the PKI leadership fully supported its own "individual PKI members" in the September 30th Movement and its East Java Youth Movement, it would have opened the road to victory instead of defeat. It would have set the masses on the road toward political power.

It would not have even been necessary to make an open break with Sukarno to do this, although Sukarno himself might have repudiated the councils that were "defending" him, especially if Suharto forced him at pain of his life to do so. But the PKI leadership turned once again to depending upon its alliance with Sukarno to magically overcome the fascist drive of the generals. It was the prisoner of its own previous political course in this.


The Jogjakarta Regional Committee of the PKI was quoted in the Jogjakarta daily, Ariwarti Waspada, on October 5 as saying: "The September 30th, 1965 Affair is an internal Army problem, and therefore the Party has no part in it."

This was an outright repudiation of September 30th. It was a considerable step away from the position of October 1, and must have been taken because Suharto had now crushed the September 30th Movement in the army. (He had not yet moved against the PKI.) The statement could have been due to fear or panic, rather than policy. But it was a published statement, nevertheless, and had its inevitable effect on the masses.

On October 8 and 9 the statement of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the PKI (issued on October 5] was printed in the same paper, and it said:

The Indonesian Communist Party supports the Message of President Sukarno, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia, on settling the problem of the September 30th Movement. [Sukarno said in the Message that he had "reassumed" leadership of the state and of the Army and appointed Suharto as practical commander of the troops.]

Having carefully studied the Message of President Sukarno, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia and Great Leader of the Revolution, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Indonesian Communist Party states that it fully supports this Message, and calls on all Committees of the PKI, all members and sympathizers of the PKI and all revolutionary mass organizations led by the PKI cadres to help carry out the Message of President Sukarno, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia and Great Leader of the Revolution.

With regard to the September 30th Movement, the Central Committee of the PKI considers it to be an internal problem of the Army and the PKI does not involve itself in it.

With regard to the names of members of the PKI included in the list of the Indonesian Revolution Council, it can be stated, as a consequence of questions put to the members concerned, that these members were neither informed beforehand nor asked for their permission.

The Central Committee of the PKI calls on the whole People to continue to heighten their vigilance, to continue to strengthen the National United Front, the Nasakom axis, and the Nasakom Spirit in putting into practice the Five Charms of the Revolution, in carrying out Djwikora to crush the joint British-U.S. Project "Malaysia," and to continue the anti-Nekolom struggle in general.

Djakarta, October 5. 1965
Political Bureau,
Central Comittee of the PKI

This all too clear statement repudiated not only the September 30th armed actions, but also directed that the "revolutionary councils" (which were the beginnings of real soviets, political, if not military dual power, potential state power for the masses) be disbanded, by saying that no PKI member had "permission" to take part in them.

(General Suharto had by now gained full control of the Army.)


Now such a position, such a repudiation, might somehow be forced on a party in order to avoid an immediate repression. But the Indonesian Communist Party was still tremendously powerful. It was not a question of hiding itself. The Party had the very core of the masses behind it. The maneuver of going from semi-repudiation to full repudiation of the September 30th Movement, if a maneuver it was, could only have been designed to further the strategy of working with Sukarno to "capture" the state, so to speak, and shift it more or less peacefully onto the road of socialist construction.

It was the false premise of this strategy -- the premise that the state was "different" and the Indonesian Army "not the same" -- that played such a tragic role in the defeat of the PKI.

It was because of this false premise that the basic policy of the Indonesian Communist Party, when it should have been one of actively preparing revolution and insurrection, was one of delay, one of expecting the Army to be faithful to Sukarno and Sukarno to be faithful to the revolution -- and faithful in such a way that only a true communist possibly could be. In the actual event, the reactionary generals merely spoke in the name of Sukarno, ruled in the name of Sukarno and -- with a pistol at Sukarno's head -- took full power in the name of Sukarno. And then they murdered the revolution in their own name and brought their imperialist bosses back to exploit that part of the Indonesian people who remained alive.

Why was it possible for the reactionary pro-imperialists to use Sukarno's name as effectively as the Communists had done in a previous period and thus mollify the masses and confuse the Communists at the same time? It was not because Sukarno had sold out -- although it is significant that he did not defy the reaction and insist on continuing the previous anti-imperialist course. It was because Sukarno had straddled between classes, between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. He had defied the imperialists, it is true. He had defied them so thoroughly that they decided to get rid of him. But he was originally based in a radical bourgeois movement and he never broke with the Indonesian bourgeoisie. The Indonesian bourgeoisie correctly felt it could still utilize Sukarno as a cover for its own comeback -- finally even against his own will -- as long as he did not really become a Communist.


This should have been made clear by one of Sukarno's own slogans, a slogan that the PKI supported wholeheartedly: Nasakom, which means "nationalism, religion and communism." This was an opportunistic combination of terms that was supposed to describe the character of the Indonesian state. The PKI thought it would work. And if no pro-imperialists were operating under the cover of the "nationalist" wing of the state, perhaps it could have worked. That is only another way of saying that if the capitalists would not fight to keep their privileges, there could really be a peaceful road to socialism. To get rid of those pro-imperialists who shouted for "Nasakom," an armed showdown would have been necessary.

After the event many of the PKI's international friends told them that they (the PKI) had been totally wrong to rely on Sukarno, who was a bourgeois leader, and that supporting Sukarno was the same as supporting the bourgeoisie. This ice-in-the-wintertime advice came rather late, as did the advice to take up arms against Suharto and Co.

But none of these critics seems to have made this point very strongly in advance of the event. The reason, of course, was that the prospects were so glittering and until the last moment the strategy seemed so workable and Sukarno so agreeable.

A strong comradely criticism from powerful friends along the above line before September 30 might well have prepared the leadership politically to brace itself and choose open revolutionary tactics immediately after September 30, when they still might well have succeeded.

But bad as the defeat was the revolution itself was not defeated. The struggle goes on, large forces have taken up arms. Guerrilla detachments fight in Java, Sumatra and West Kalimantan. No sooner is one force reported to be crushed, than another force springs up.

At the heart of all the lessons and all the tactics on both sides in the tremendous conflict of 1965 was the question of state power and the class character of the state -- the problem of smashing the capitalist state, with or without Sukarno, and creating the workers' state.


The reborn PKI will answer these questions and solve this problem, as Sudisman bravely said in his speech to the judge-executioner.

We opened this chapter with Sudisman's self-criticism. Let us close it with his final words in defense of revolution, words which have no immediate relevance to the ever-pressing problem of what to do at the given moment -- but which catch the soul of the Indonesian proletariat and guarantee its future victory:

In keeping with this sense of responsibility, I must explain that it is somewhat difficult to answer the question put by the President of the Court: Does the prisoner repent of his actions?

The question in itself is quite simple: it is the reply that is difficult. Usually, the simpler the question, the more difficult the answer, since it cannot be answered by a simple Yes or No, without qualification.

After all this, out of respect for my communist beliefs, my communist responsibility, and solidarity with my dead comrades, Aidit, Lukman, Njoto and Sakirman, I have come to my decision.

Moreover, aware that other victims have fallen, I as a Communist cannot do less than they.

We live to fight and we fight to live. We do not live just for the sake of living. We live to defend life valiantly, to the death.

In the course of human history, from the first cry of the newborn babe to death, there has always been struggle -- at times hard struggle, in violent battle. A battle can be very violent, but not all violent battles are crowned with victory.

The objectives of life are: To have the courage to enter this violent struggle on the battlefield and at the same time to try to win the battle. This is the dream of all fighters, including communist fighters. And this has also been my life's dream.

Life would be sterile without imagination and ideals.

What a wonder of wonders is life itself! We live to fight and we fight to live. This is my communist goal. This goal cannot be attained without responsibility, and for me responsibility is like a pearl. To express this, I have written a small poem in prison which goes:

Facing one attack after another,
Suffering interrogation after interrogation,
Withstanding tortures and more tortures,
With my head and with my heart,
Ready to face death for the PKI,
This is the pearl of responsibility!

And now that I face the verdict, I say with the words of the writer, Andrew Carr: No tears for Sudisman! . . .

Since I am a Communist born in Java, I feel obliged to say something in keeping with Javanese tradition:

First, I want to thank all who have helped me in the struggle.

Second, to the mass of progressive revolutionaries, to those who believe that they have been hurt during the struggle through fault of mine: Forgive me.

Third, to my family, my wife and children, as I face the verdict I ask your blessing with all my heart.

Long live the Indonesian Communist Party!

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