In October 1965 the international working class suffered one of its greatest defeats and betrayals in the post-World War II period.
Up to one million workers and peasants were slaughtered in a CIA-organised army coup led by General Suharto which swept aside the shaky bourgeois regime of President Sukarno, crushed the rising movement of the Indonesian masses, and established a brutal military dictatorship.
Retired US diplomats and CIA officers, including the former American ambassador to Indonesia and Australia, Marshall Green, have admitted working with Suharto's butchers to massacre hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants suspected of supporting the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). They personally provided the names of thousands of PKI members from the CIA's files for the armed forces death lists.
According to Howard Federspeil, who was an Indonesian expert working at the State Department at the time of the anti-communist program: "No one cared, so long as they were communists that they were being butchered."
The coup was the culmination of a prolonged operation by the CIA, with the help of agents of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, to build up and train the Indonesian armed forces in preparation for a military dictatorship to suppress the revolutionary strivings of the Indonesian masses.
At the time of the coup, the PKI was the largest Stalinist party in the world, outside China and the Soviet Union. It had 3.5 million members; its youth movement another 3 million. It controlled the trade union movement SOBSI which claimed 3.5 million members and the 9 million-strong peasants' movement BTI. Together with the women's movement, the writers' and artists' organisation and the scholars' movement, the PKI had more than 20 million members and active supporters.
During the independence struggle against the Dutch in the 1940s and throughout the 1950s and 1960s hundreds of thousands of class conscious workers joined the PKI, believing that it still represented the revolutionary socialist traditions of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
Yet by the end of 1965, between 500,000 and a million PKI members and supporters had been slaughtered, and tens of thousands were detained in concentration camps, without any resistance being offered.
The killings were so widespread that the rivers were clogged with the corpses of workers and peasants. While the CIA-backed military death squads rounded up all known PKI members and sympathisers and carried out their grisly work, Time magazine reported:
"The killings have been on such a scale that the disposal of corpses has created a serious sanitation problem in northern Sumatra where the humid air bears the reek of decaying flesh. Travellers from these areas tell us small rivers and streams have been literally clogged with bodies. River transportation has become seriously impeded."
How was this historic defeat able to be inflicted? The answer requires an examination of the history of the struggle of the Indonesian masses, the treachery of the national bourgeoisie led by Sukarno, the counter-revolutionary role played by the PKI, and the crucial part played by the Pabloite opportunists of the "United Secretariat" of Ernest Mandel and Joseph Hansen in aiding the treachery of the Stalinists.
The 'Jewel of Asia'
The bloody coup in Indonesia was the outcome of the drive by US imperialism to gain unchallenged control of the immense natural wealth and strategic resources of the archipelago, often referred to as the "Jewel of Asia".
The importance that United States imperialism attached to Indonesia was emphasised by US President Eisenhower in 1953, when he told a state governors' conference that it was imperative for the US to finance the French colonial war in Vietnam as the "cheapest way" to keep control of Indonesia.
Eisenhower detailed: "Now let us assume that we lose Indochina. If Indochina goes, several things happen right away. The Malay peninsula, the last little bit of land hanging on down there, would be scarcely defencible. The tin and tungsten we so greatly value from that area would cease coming, and all India would be outflanked.
"Burma would be in no position for defence. All of that position around there is very ominous to the United States, because finally if we lost all that, how would the free world hold the rich empire of Indonesia?
"So you see, somewhere along the line, this must be blocked and it must be blocked now, and that is what we are trying to do.
"So when the US votes $400 million to help the war (in Indochina), we are not voting a giveaway program. We are voting for the cheapest way that we can prevent the occurrence of something that would be of a most terrible significance to the United States of America, our security, our power and ability to get certain things we need from the riches of the Indonesian territory and from South East Asia.
Indonesia is estimated to be the fifth richest country in the world in terms of natural resources. Besides being the fifth largest oil producer, it has enormous reserves of tin, bauxite, coal, gold, silver, diamonds, manganese, phosphates, nickel, copper, rubber, coffee, palm oil, tobacco, sugar, coconuts, spices, timber and cinchona (for quinine).
By 1939 the then Dutch East Indies supplied more than half the total US consumption of 15 key raw materials. Control over this vital region was central to the conflict in the Pacific between the US and Japan during World War II. In the post-war period the US ruling class was determined not to have the country's riches torn from their grasp by the Indonesian masses.
Following the defeat of the French in Vietnam in 1954 the US feared that the struggle of the Vietnamese masses would ignite revolutionary upheavals throughout the South East Asian region, threatening its grip over Indonesia.[ki]