Workers World EDITORIAL
Have they really forgotten?
Published Oct 6, 2005 9:51 PM

Except when it experiences a terrible disaster like last year’s tsunami, the nation of Indonesia is seldom in U.S. news reports, even though it is now the fourth most populous country in the world since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The indifference of the imperialist media notwithstanding, Indonesia is a very important country and is bound to rise to its rightful standing in the world.

It is in the news now because, on Oct. 1, three bombs are reported to have gone off in public places on the resort island of Bali, killing 22 people and wounding 90 more. The media and Indonesian authorities are linking these bombings to a series over the last three years that they attribute to Islamic groups. Little effort is made to enlighten the public on Indonesia’s history other than to blame “Islamic extremism,” the stock explanation given by the Bush administration and its allies for the unstable situation in much of the world today.

Most shocking about the current musings in the West on the situation in Indonesia is the total absence of memory about what happened on Oct. 1, 1965—exactly 40 years before the explosions in Bali.

None of the journalists and experts who come up with explanations for why things happen in the world seems to have noticed the significance of this date.

It was exactly 40 years earlier that the top command of Indonesia’s military, with the urging and support of the Pentagon and the CIA, seized power from the civilian government and began a purge of the leftist, progressive and nationalist mass organizations in Indonesia. Thus began the rule of the dreaded General Suharto. For months, small stories appeared in the more world-focused newspapers in the U.S. tallying up how many had been killed.

By the time the massacres were over, diplomats and journalists who visited that country estimated that over a million people had been killed. The army had systematically gone from village to village, across 3,000 separate islands, and exterminated or imprisoned anyone who might oppose the takeover of this independent country by those who had hired on to serve Western imperialism.

By the early 1970s, as the progressive government of Salvador Allende in Chile was meeting resistance to its social reforms from the oligarchy and U.S. corporations, fascists were spray painting a warning to Allende on the walls of Santi ago: “Remem ber Jakarta.” Eventually, CIA officials even bragged to a young U.S. journalist, Kathy Kadane, about how they had helped plan and organize the Indonesian coup, and she was able to get the story published in many U.S. newspapers.

So these same newspapers have no excuse for failing to note Indonesia’s terribly violent past as they talk about the situation today. The island of Bali was the epicenter of that horrible bloodbath. This beautiful area saw 10 percent of its population killed; its graceful palms today cover the sites of many mass graves. Buried deep in the hearts of the people is the understanding that they are at war; that peace is just an interlude between armed conflicts.

Once the military had secured a firm grip on the country, they began selling its precious resources to Western corporations that had lined up for the feast. One of its resources then was its unspoiled forests and coastlines. The destruction of much of Indonesia’s mighty rain forests to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the wealthy abroad for exotic hardwoods is one of the ecological disasters of the century.

Perhaps the current bombings have nothing to do with the memory of that fateful day in 1965 when the generals began their slaughter. It could be a coincidence. But one thing is clear: social tensions are rising in Indonesia today as the wealthy few, including those foreigners who come there to enjoy the luxury hotels, frolic on the beaches and sway to the nightlife, come up against the desperation of the many. Even those not so poor must suffer great psychological pain as they see their ancient culture degrad ed and even their people put up for sale as the dollar moves in and rules all.

The Indonesian Communist Party had been the largest CP outside the socialist bloc. It was decimated by the fascist coup, but the task it had accepted of expropriating the exploiters and elevating the masses of people to shape their own destiny remains on the historical agenda. The revival of such a revolutionary mass movement is the only thing that can defeat the violence of the oppressors and replace despair with hope that a new world is possible.

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