Report from East Java

Mar 28th, 2011, in Featured, History, by

A particularly striking part of “Report from East Java”, which was written by a military intelligence officer in November 1965, where he details the progress of the “crushing actions” against the Communist Party:

In Kediri some of the killings were “joint action”s [E] with the military (sometimes in civiele [D: civilian dress], sometimes officially as military). Killings of this kind may have a boomerang effect, in that they can also be utilized by the PKI itself. The effect upon economic life will also be felt. Small traders are now afraid to sell their wares. Peasant farmers are afraid to go to the rice fields. And many do not want to work on the Plantations, for example on the
tea and sugar plantations, because corpses are spread everywhere.

By way of clarification, several events are explained below: In the Paree (Kediri) area there is a village in which the lurah [village headman] and Ansor together took the initiative to protect the [PKI] peasant farmers—who were only taggers-on—by giving them badges as members of Ansor or NU. They were gathered together, and coincidentally, there happened to be an operation by the military and Ansor going on. Seeing many people gathered together, the soldiers and Ansor asked the lurah who all these people were. The lurah, nervous and panicked, responded that they were PKI.

Before he had finished speaking, every one of the approximately 300 people was killed, and their families were not permitted to remove their bodies so that they were buried where they lay. This shocked the people, and within Ansor itself mutual mistrust arose.

Another event occurred in Wates, where approximately 10,000 members of the PKI and its Mass Organizations gathered together. They were going to make a “long-march” [E] to Madiun, destroying factories along the way.

This was discovered by the military, which initiated a “joint-action” [E] together with Ansor. When they were sommeer [sic] [D: called upon] to surrender they refused, and so they were crushed. The victims totaled 1,200.

In an incident in Ponggok, a soldier who was disseminating information was killed by the Pemuda Rakyat [People’s Youth]. In represaille [D: reprisal] the military attacked, killing about 300 people.

The wave of killings is still continuing, and many of those who are being killed are followers who did not know much. Many excesses have emerged, and it could happen that the PKI will join in so that they can attract “public opinion” [E] to their side.

The bolded bit I know off by heart now as it keeps coming into my head for some reason. The sting is in its tail, the last detail that they didn’t allow the families to recover the bodies, in the cultural-religious context it strikes as the most astonishing vicious spite; the dead people don’t know whether they get a proper burial or not, but it’s a kind of twisting of the knife in the people who are left.

No doubt many have seen it already, for those who haven’t the whole “Report”, which is fascinating, can be read here.


164 Comments on “Report from East Java”

  1. Berlian Biru says:

    You read wrong prince, there was certainly plenty of food being produced in other parts of Ireland. This grain and other foodstuffs were grown by Irish farmers who not unnaturally expected to be paid for their labour and who might have objected if instead of being allowed to sell their harvests for a price appropriate to their hard work the government had confiscated it and gave it to starving people in the west. This is an indication of human nature and not of the evils of capitalism.

    For instance I dare say that there might be a bit of spare room at your home and yet there are homeless people sleeping in the streets right now. Should the government force you to give up your spare room for one of these homeless people? If so why have you not already done so?

    It really takes the biscuit to hear of capitalism being blamed for famine when in fact the greatest, most catastrophic famines of the twentieth century (the Bengal famine excepted, there was the small matter of the Second World War going on at that time) were caused by communism and the rejection of capitalism.

    From the Ukraine to China to Ethiopia, Marxists have shown themselves to be first rate at starving their peoples. Interestingly however the biggest health concerns in capitalist system countries for poor people is obesity. Amazing, Marxism starves its people but capitalists overfeed them, yet capitalists get the blame for famine.

    Java actually does have an overpopulation problem, right now it is not causing too much concern because of the astonishing fertility of the place, contrasted with mid-19th century Connemara (even in post-Independence Ireland the population has never returned to the levels of a century and a half ago despite the population boom in other more fertile areas of Ireland). However even in 21st century Indonesia the government is worried about food sourcing and regularly monitors rice production and imports for fear of shortages.

  2. Odinius says:

    Steve said:

    I agree with you on most points Odinius, but I am troubled by the suggestion that communism might have been ok for Indonesia.

    “But there were many places where communism was much gentler, easier to navigate, more free and less, well, militant.”

    This is like saying genocide is not always so bad, as there are some survivors. E.g. Many Jewish folk were not caught up in events unleashed by the German Socialist workers party. Does this make mass murder and genocide, sometimes, ok?

    Sure Tito was not as bad as many others. But it is another thing entirely to suggest it was the best way of running the country. Interestingly it all fell to bits when Tito died and the people expressed their true desires.

    Overwhelmingly communism has resulted in poor outcomes.

    To say otherwise is just plain silly.

    No, it’s not like saying “genocide is not always that bad;” it’s like saying fasicsm was not all Nazism–and it wasn’t. Life in Salazar’s Portugal wasn’t exactly like life in Hitler’s Germany, was it? Salazar didn’t export war and mechanized mass murder, did he? As ET points out, acknowledging real-world diversity is not the same as being a sympathizer for the system. Portugal’s Eurodemocracy is clearly superior to Salazar’s fascism in every meaningful way. But it’s a logical fallacy, pure and simple, to say that “all fascists were Nazis,” or that “all communists were Stalinists.” Simply not true, and history is there is prove it.

    The inverse is also true: as Oigal points out, anti-communism is simply not always better. We have numerous examples of murderous, frightful anti-communist regimes. Looking past Indonesia, we have horrific episodes in Guatemala, El Salvador, etc.

    So this brings us to Indonesia, and the supposed implication that communism “was the best way to run the country.” Who said that, actually? Certainly not me, as I’m no fan of that form of government. But then again, I have to ask: did Indonesia get “the best way to run the country?” The New Order wasn’t all bad–a lot of people jumped out of poverty, for example, the state did clamp down on a lot of nasty stuff we see in spades today, and there were some freedoms denied people in other societies–but it was a lot of bad too. The rampant state violence, repression and general suffocating coerciveness of society–is this “the best way to run the country?” In 1998, most Indonesians said “no.”

    More importantly, though, who’s to even say the PKI ever could have gained power? In the last election, they had 18% of the vote. In the local elections that followed, they made gains in Java and Bali, and had the best party organization. But a major flaw of scholarship on this period has been to assume the PKI was “ready to win the next election.” How were they going to do that, exactly? Sure, absorb half of the PSI (now banned) and maybe siphon off the left wing of the PNI, but how were they ever going to win over the people who voted for Masyumi, NU or the right-wings of the PNI and PSI? Those four segments accounted for more that 50% of the electorate in 1955. The PKI might have ended up the biggest political party, but the “imminent move to power” that many, on left and right, have assumed is dubious. Hence the botched coup attempt.

  3. Stevo says:

    We possibly agree. Personally I would just like to think that Indonesia can aspire to something more than simply the pick of a bad bunch.

    By the way, how do I quote things others have written on the site, so it appears in grey with a line down the side?

    Thanks

  4. Odinius says:

    I’m on record here saying I think Indonesia is making progress now. Not enough progress, in many areas, but still more than a lot of other developing new democracies can claim. A lot of the lingering problems relate to state weakness, itself a result of disastrous state finances. This is a holdover from the implosion of the OB, but also something that hasn’t been addressed sufficiently by any of the post-OB administrations. Looking at the debt-ridden countries of Europe and North America, this is clearly something that’s easier said than done…

  5. Oigal says:

    Rusty, I have no intent of of diverting into a discussion about Vietnam or Cambodia at this time.

    The Pol Pot has been raised as evidence that the Indonesian Experience was not so bad in comparison. The point I was making is that “not so bad” is pretty subjective. If you were East Timorese for instance, with over 20% population going missing (a far worse result by % than Pol Pot) then you would find the inference that it could have been worse pretty hard to take. Not forgetting that over 60% of timorese were at one time or other made refugees in their own land as well. Perhaps some of the apologists for the Indonesian Experience could let us know just at what stage the East TImorese could have considered well “it is so bad” 30% , 40% perhaps. After all, it would appear its not about principles but merely a numbers game to some.

    Don’t take my word for it, google East Timor, there are a plethora of documents out there verfiying the numbers, from UN sites, Yale university, any number of NGO’s. There really is no excuse for continuing the fantasy that Indonesia got off lightly and was saved from a much worse fate.

    Nor does it do history justice to pretend the whole issue was holding back the communist hordes. You would think the debate had matured beyond McCarthyisk sloganeering.

    “Troubles is it just doesn’t make sense anymore than claiming a little mass murder is better than a big mass murder.”

    On the face of it you appear to suggest that one dead is just as bad a tens of millions. That’s taking all or nothing thinking to a whole new level

    Oh give me a break..

  6. David says:

    By the way, how do I quote things others have written on the site, so it appears in grey with a line down the side?

    If you’re logged in there are buttons, you click the ‘quote’ button and put the text inside the html blockquote tags, like

    blockquote

  7. Stevo says:

    Give you a break?

    Implicit in your statement is that the deaths of a few are just as bad as the deaths of many. If thats what you meant to say, I disagree and would like to hear how you support that sort of thinking. For example, would you have been against the killing of few key people to prevent the deaths of so many Indonesian in the 60’s?

    Truth is I doubt we fundamentally disagree with each other and I am probably just nit picking.

    So maybe you can instruct me on how to quote things others have written on the site, so it appears in grey with a line down the side?

  8. rustyprince says:

    Sad to see millions of starving ‘Micks’ doesn’t ameliorate your principals there Berlian. So how far will this philosophy extend, if Junior or Little Angel is singing along to Band Aid – “Feed the World, Fffeeedd the World!!!” Will you interrupt with the Ayn Randian paaen “Let them starve” and tell your precious to get with the program ‘Profit before People’.
    Lamentable and Dangerous!

    Oigal, just pointing out, with the benefit of year in Cambodia during the mid 90s, that the Kmhmer Rouge Nihilists can equally be claimed to represent Ollie North style ‘freedom lovin’ capitalists.

  9. Berlian Biru says:

    Ah sure yer just losing the run of yersel’ now prince, try to stick to specific debating points rather than meander all over the shop.

  10. Oigal says:

    Implicit in your statement is that the deaths of a few are just as bad as the deaths of many. If thats what you meant to say, I disagree and would like to hear how you support that sort of thinking. For example, would you have been against the killing of few key people to prevent the deaths of so many Indonesian in the 60?s?

    Nowhere is anyone talking about “few key people” no matter what side of the discussion we are on here, we are talking the deaths of tens not sorry make that hundreds of thousands of people. Just some believe it was justified in Indonesia for the greater good.

  11. Odinius says:

    Oigal said:

    The Pol Pot has been raised as evidence that the Indonesian Experience was not so bad in comparison. The point I was making is that “not so bad” is pretty subjective. If you were East Timorese for instance, with over 20% population going missing (a far worse result by % than Pol Pot) then you would find the inference that it could have been worse pretty hard to take.

    Another historical quip: exact death rates are not known for Cambodia. But there are pretty good estimates at this point. Ben Kiernan has made a very good, and well supported, estimation of the deaths in Cambodia under Pol Pot, and puts it at 1.675 million, or 21% of the population.

    Others, largely apologists, have suggested the number was much lower. The Cambodian government, unsurprisingly, puts the number much higher, at 3.3 million–a whopping 41% of the population. Craig Etcheson, based on extensive field research documenting the victims of period, suggests the real figure is somewhere near 2.2 million, or 28% of the population.

    So, in all likelihood, 21-28% of the Cambodian population died as a result of the Khmer Rouge and their policies.

    I don’t bring this up to minimize the point you’re making, but just because I’m pedantic by nature 🙂

  12. Oigal says:

    Ok, One was 20% (lower end) the other 20-28%. One is a horrific crime, the other a fair price to pay in the real world to save us all from the hordes. Sorry it must be me, I just have trouble with the selective maths application.

  13. Steve says:

    One of the most distressing things for me, is the way the victims of communist regimes have largely been the their own people. Mao’s 10 of millions of victims were the very people he claimed to be reforming for. Pol Pot’s agrarian paradise was far from it for many. As one little lady recounted to me “soldier come, kill, kill family” (Her Bourgeois father was a doctor and mother owned a business. So they shot them and most of her siblings.)

    Many of the military regimes we see around the world are essentially built on the same model of state oppression and control as communist regimes are. Its really the behavior I condemn here, rather than the ideology. This is why I see allot of common ground between the various posters on this topic. I think its agreed that this sort of murderous carry-on is not a good thing, regardless of motivation.

  14. Odinius says:

    Stevo said:

    Many of the military regimes we see around the world are essentially built on the same model of state oppression and control as communist regimes are. Its really the behavior I condemn here, rather than the ideology.

    Yeah, that’s the bottom line for me.

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