Episode 19: Indonesia- Living Through Dictatorship and Resistance. Part 1 of 3

This is an independent, three part episode, featuring a special guest who lived through the massacres, repression, assassinations, and government upheaval in Indonesia during the tumultuous political period following independence from the Dutch, about which many Americans have not heard. It is our intention that this episode can serve as an oral history source to document these events. This recording was made on April 28th 2017 with the interviewee, Kemal Taruc, and recorded with PhD students James Robinson, Bridget Keown, Jamie Parker, Matt Bowser, and Professor Heather Streets-Salter.

Indonesia, like many other places, was a site of anti-colonial struggle. These global anti-colonial struggles often took the form of nascent nationalism, that utilized a variety of different ideologies, including communism, socialism, religious, and military ideology. In Indonesia specifically, these struggles took three unique forms: there was the Communist Party, which was one of the largest in the world; the Islamic movement, Nagara, which was sizeable as Indonesia has the largest population of Muslims in the world; the third was the Indonesia Armed Forces, which played a significant role in the armed struggle against the Dutch and the Japanese. After World War Two, the Dutch tried to reclaim the country, and the various Indonesian factions fought back under a united banner. An intellectual named Sukarno, a long time symbol of anti colonialism, became recognized as a leader of the movement, and gradually rose to power by making promises to each faction. By 1957, he tired of political infighting among the factions, and instituted the idea of ‘guided democracy’, which was in reality a transition to an autocracy that lasted until his overthrow in 1965. Throughout his rule, he was still playing sides in order to retain power. Eventually however, the military began to grow suspicious of his leftist leanings, and his growing alliance with the Soviets. They instituted a coup, aided by the CIA, that overthrew Sukarno’s government, and instituted a conservative, right wing government that allied with Muslims and immediately began taking action against Communists and suspected Communists. This resulted in the death of an estimated 1 million people, and the torture and displacement of millions more. In the 1970s, the government was still trying to put down perceived dissidence, and this is where our subject’s story really begins. He was one of the leaders of the student movement which pushed back against the dictatorship. Because of the United States covert involvement in Sukarno’s overthrow, especially because of the list they supplied to the military about Communists and suspected Communists, very little personal history of this period has emerged, especially in western schools. We hope that this oral history will help students learn more about what life was like during this period in Indonesia, and about the activism that students engaged in during this time.

This is episode one. In this episode, we trace the history of the Indonesian struggle for independence, and the resulting political upheaval, through the actions of Kemal’s politically active family. He also discusses his experiences during the coup, and how he and his family survived the massacres that followed.

For a full transcription of this episode, go here: breakinghistorypodcast.com/kemal-taruc…ipt-part-1/

The Breaking History podcast is a production of the Northeastern University History Graduate Student Association.

Producers and Sound Editors: Matt Bowser and Dan Squizzero
Theme Music: Kieran Legg


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