Joseph Hansen

One Year of Indonesia’s
Battle for Independence

(24 August 1946)

Source: The Militant, Vol. 10 No. 34, 24 August 1946, p. 3.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2021 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: Joseph Hansen Internet Archive 2021. This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists’ Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The text of the speech by Joseph Hansen, Socialist Workers Party candidate for the U.S. Senate from New York, at the rally celebrating the first anniversary of the Indonesian Republic, held under auspices of the Indonesian League of America at Labor Temple, New York, Aug. 16:


If we are able to celebrate the first anniversary of the Republic of Indonesia, it is certainly not because of anything done by the powers who proclaimed the “Four Freedoms” of the Atlantic Charter at the beginning of the Second World War. They have done everything they could to drown this new republic in blood.

During the war, the Dutch colonial despots specifically promised the Indonesians their freedom. But when the war ended, these same colonial rulers tore up these promises as so much war propaganda and set out to re-establish the hated, oppressive regime that had ground down the Indonesians for some 300 years.

The British capitalists backed the Dutch. British generals directed operations in Java and British forces began invading the island within a month after the Republic of Indonesia was born.

The war of these two powers against Indonesia has continued ever since. Within the past week alone, another 275 Indonesians were killed by these Allied victors who had promised to bring the world “Four Freedoms.”

Most people might have expected these two powers to go back on all their promises – they are old, case-hardened experts in the use of the lie and cold steel in maintaining colonial empires. But what about the United States? After all, America became a republic through a colonial rebellion, and the democratic principles of 1776 are still taught in the public schools.
 Wall Street’s Government

The United States has changed since that heroic time. Today Washington is concerned about the Indonesian investments of powerful companies like General Motors, Goodyear Rubber, and Standard Oil. These companies would be weakened if control over their investments in Indonesia passed out of the hands of the Dutch overlord.

Even more important, if the Indonesian people should succeed in gaining independence, their example would inspire the entire colonial world. Wall Street’s holdings in China, Africa, Arabia, and Latin America would become endangered.

The working class right here in the United States would become bolder and more aggressive in defending its rights and its standards of living.

The Negro people would feel immeasurably heartened and strengthened in their struggle against segregation and discrimination.

That is why Washington participated in the decision of the Dutch and the British rulers to put down the Indonesian Republic. When the British landed their troops last September, they raised the Stars and Stripes as well as the Union Jack and the Dutch Tricolor over the smoking ruins of the cities and villages they conquered.

Washington acted as the arsenal for the British and Dutch colonial despots. The tanks, rocketfiring planes, ammunition, and other frightful instruments of modern war were furnished by the Truman Administration. And that was not all. From 400 to 600 ships were deployed to carry these supplies to the invading imperialist armies.
 Shot Down Indonesian Peoples

The Indonesians were ill-equipped. Many of them fought with nothing but primitive spears. The invader was ruthless. The imperialists bombed defenseless villages; took reprisals on civilians in the fashion of the Nazis; shot down helpless men, women and children.

The head of the Indonesian government appealed to Truman for help.

In a few days the Indonesian people got an answer from Secretary of State Byrnes. This high and authoritative spokesman told the British and Dutch generals to remove the insignia of the USA from the equipment they were using in slaughtering the Indonesians. That made the role of the Truman Administration a little more hypocritical, but not less criminal.

This did not complete Truman’s reply to the Indonesian appeal for help. Very shortly the State Department issued an official statement supporting Dutch rule in Indonesia. And then the Export-Import Bank, apparently wishing to speed up the slaughter, granted the Dutch capitalists. a credit of $50,000,000.

On top of this, the Truman Administration sent thousands of Dutch marines, trained and equipped by the U.S. Armed Forces, to fight against the Indonesians.

Even these cruel blows against the heroic battlers for Indonesia’s freedom were not all. The Truman Administration put on a man-hunt against the Indonesians residing in this country. These Indonesians were not many – only a pitiful, few hundreds. But it was the principle of the thing. Some of these defenders of the new republic were seamen who refused to sail Dutch ships loaded with arms for use against Indonesia!

These men acted as men should act. They defied the brutal Dutch despot. They tried to protect their loved ones and their fellow countrymen from death at the hands of the foreign invader.

The Truman Administration went even further. It tracked down Indonesians who had resided as long as 16 years in this country; rounded them up; put them behind bars; and ordered them deported to Indonesia into the tender mercies of the Dutch butchers. Today these partisans of the new republic are held in prison at San Francisco. They may be sent to their deaths any day.

This would seem a sufficient answer to the appeal of Indonesia for help from the America that boasts it Is the land of freedom. But it was not enough for the Truman Administration.
 Truman’s Infamous Record

On November 27 the Wall Street political agent who sits in the White House decorated the four British generals on the Combined Chief of Staffs in charge of over-all operations in the Far East, including putting down the Indonesian people. He pinned the Legion of Merit on the chests of Colyer, Macready and Somerville! He gave the Distinguished Service Medal to Sir Henry Maitland Wilson! Thus Truman put the finishing touch on his answer to a desperate plea for help!

The picture would look dark indeed for the Republic of Indonesia if its fate depended on the powers who proclaimed the lofty principles of the Atlantic Charter.

But it is not so easy to forge new chains on a nation of 72,000,000 people who have struck off their old shackles and lighted the torch of liberty. The imperialists of Holland, Great Britain and the United States will discover to their cost that the battle is barely begun.

Besides, the Indonesian people have friends who have taken up their cause.

In the Netherlands itself, the most advanced workers have raised the slogan: “Free Indonesia from Holland Now!” These workers, the followers of Leon Trotsky organized in the Revolutionary Communist Party, are doing their utmost to arouse the entire working class of the Netherlands to take up the cause of Indonesia and fight against the Dutch capitalists.
 Working-Class Demonstrations

In other lands, too, the workers have rallied to the side of the Indonesian people. The most powerful blow yet struck for the Republic of Indonesia was that delivered by the dockworkers of Australia. On September 28, some 30,000 went on strike. They refused to load any supplies for the Dutch rulers. They demanded, “Hands Off Java!”

The great ports of Sidney, Brisbane and Melbourne were closed to the Dutch oppressor.

This magnificent working class demonstration in defense of the Indonesian people inspired workers elsewhere. Similar militant demonstrations occurred in South Africa, in Singapore and Ceylon. The workers in Tokio, despite the Allied occupation authorities, likewise managed to show that their sympathies were with the Indonesian people.

To this day, the dockworkers of Australia have maintained their refusal to load supplies on the Dutch warships. When they said, “Hands Off Java!” they meant it.

They gave a mighty demonstration of the power of labor in defending a colonial rebellion. Australia was the military base of operations for the Dutch. They had accumulated huge stores in Australia. They intended to ferry these supplies to the beach heads taken by the British with the connivance of the Truman administration.
 Example of Australian Workers

But they have been forced to abandon these plans. The latest dispatches say that the Dutch have been compelled to give up their Australian military base.

Unable to get their supplies loaded on ships, they now have decided to try to salvage what they can by putting them up for sale.

By their militant action, the Australian dockworkers have compelled the Dutch capitalists to seek other territory as a base for their bloody operations.

Where do the Dutch intend to secure this new base? This has not yet been revealed. According to the press, they hope to get supplies from the United States, to replace the supplies the Australian dockworkers forced them to sell. The Dutch despots are convinced the Truman administration will force the American workers to load and deliver the bombs, the high-velocity shells, the rockets, the rifles and other supplies needed to crush the Republic of Indonesia.

What shame for America that these tyrants count on help from the country which boasts it is the land of freedom! What bitter feelings there must be in the hearts of the Indonesian seamen who were rounded up by the Truman Administration and herded on to Ellis Island – in the very shadow of the Statue of Liberty!
 “Hands Off Java!”

The Australian dockworkers did their duty. Now it is the turn of the American workers.

Let the American labor movement take up the cause of the 72,000,000 people fighting for the freedom of their land. It is a just cause. Let the longshoremen follow the splendid example of the Australian dockworkers. “Hands Off Java!”

Let the mighty American labor movement begin action in behalf of the sorely beleaguered Indonesians. Demand that the Indonesian residents be freed from prison and allowed to remain in America! Save them from the Dutch executioners!

Demand that the State Department recognize the Republic of Indonesia which has battled heroically for an entire year against terrible odds!

On the streetcars and buildings of Batavia in the first days of the Indonesia Republic a slogan appeared that must remind every worker of the struggle of America for freedom from colonial despotism: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the right of all nations!”

And alongside that slogan appeared another that reminds us of the militant spirit in which America gained its independence: “Rather to live in Hell than be colonized again!”

Let those slogans find an echoing ring in the hearts of the American workers.

“Hands Off the Indonesian Republic!”


Last updated on: 18 June 2021