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Fourth International, Jan-Feb 1950, Volume 11 No. 1, Pages 7-9
Transcribed, Edited and Formatted by Ted Crawford and David Walters in 2008 for the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line.

Indonesia’s “Independence”

By T. Van Der Kolk

The House of Representatives of the Netherlands and the KNIP, (Indonesian Provisional Republican Parliament at Jogjakarta) have accepted the decisions of the Hague Conference. In the Netherlands, representatives of the right-wing organization and the Stalinists voted against ratifying the agreement. At Jogjakarta the Partai Murba (the Proletarian Party, founded by Tan Malakka ) and the Indonesian CP (Stalinist) as well as a certain number of other deputies who broke party discipline, voted against acceptance of the Hague agreement. The Socialists cast blank ballots.

In order to understand the meaning of the agreements it, is necessary to mention that the Minister of Justice of the Indonesian Republic declared to the KNIP that his government will prosecute all those implicated in the Communist uprising of September 1948. The criminal Stalinist adventure in the putsch of Madioen had already considerably weakened the workers’ movement. The Indonesian bourgeoisie is not exploiting this situation to the full against all proletarian militants. A comparison is in order here between the present agreement and the one concluded two years ago between the Indonesian bourgeoisie and Dutch imperialism at the end of the first colonial war. That agreement was immediately followed by a declaration of Prime Minister Sjarifuddun on the prosecution of Tan Malakka.

A Few Pages from History

The Hague agreement will most certainly be followed by suppression of the workers movement. But the Indonesian bourgeoisie, on which the Hatta-Soekarno regime rests, does not represent an important force by virtue of its position in that economy of the country. Prior to the Japanese invasion there was no native capital outside of commercial or usury capital and even that was mostly in Chinese or Arab hands. After the Japanese invasion the rising native bourgeoisie began to establish some enterprises; but under the conditions of war and revolution this could only be done on a relatively restricted scale. The economic position of the Indonesian bourgeoisie was absolutely inadequate as a base for a leading political role of the Hattas and Soekarnos. Clearly aware of the relationship of social forces, the Hattas and Soekarnos are really republicans in spite of themselves. Two characteristic incidents illustrate this fact.

On August 17, 1945 Soekarno and Hatta issued a very moderate and vague proclamation announcing the establishment of the Indonesian Republic. They summoned the masses to a meeting where the proclamation was to be announced. Leaflets calling the meeting were distributed by the Permudas (groups of young nationalists who had some military training under the Japanese). The Japanese authorities, who acting on an Allied Mandate to maintain order prohibited the meeting and deployed machine-gun detachments at the gathering place. Soekarno retreated at once. He had new leaflets printed announcing that the meeting would not be held because of the ban. The Permudas crossed out the phrase calling off the meeting: and despite the presence of detachments of Japanese machine-gunners, a great crowd gathered at the indicated place. Groups of Permudas went to the homes of Soekarno and Hatta and forced them to come and speak. Thus was the Indonesian Republic proclaimed.

In December 1948 Dutch parachutists occupied Jogjakarta, the Republican capital. While resistance was being organized which later inflicted military defeat upon Dutch imperialism—a defeat obscured by the intervention of the UN—Hatta and Soekarno allowed themselves to be arrested in their homes. They were deported and interned outside the territory of the Republic, on the island of Banka: The eyes of the entire world were fixed on them. Did they show by a hunger strike or even by passive resistance that they desired to support the struggle of the laboring masses ? Their only action was to note the good treatment and excellent food they were receiving from the imperialists while a bloody partisan struggle was raging on the islands of Java and Sumatra.

The Role of American Imperialism

The prosperity and independence of Dutch imperialism was based exclusively on the exploitation of colonial possessions sixty times the size of its metropolitan territory—that is, of an empire as vast as all of Europe west of the iron curtain. This empire was threatened with extinction when in June 1948 an enterprising American businessman, Matthew Fox, obtained from the Republican Government the exclusive right to sell all export products of the principal islands of Java and Sumatra. The Truman administration denounced the monopoly character of the Fox Agreement. Dutch imperialism on its side, viewing all export products as the property of the Dutch plantations imposed a rigid blockade over the whole territory of the Republic. But the Fox agreement remained in force and the promulgation of the famous “Point Four” of the Truman program (the development of backward regions by investment of American capital) was a direct threat to the dominant position of Dutch imperialism in the East Indies.

Thus the colonial war launched by the Dutch bourgeoisie in December 1948 was not directed only against the Indonesian revolution. It was also a revolt of Dutch colonial capital against the dollar. Due to the action of the UN and its commission for Indonesia, under the unchallenged leadership of the American, Merle Cochran, Soekarno and Hatta were brought back from their temporary exile to the capital. And at the same time the UN avoided the occupation of Jogjakarta by the partisans.

The Hague agreement thus clearly bears the trademark: Made in USA. For this very reason, Palar, the Indonesian delegate at Lake Success, refused to issue a joint declaration with the Dutch delegation on the satisfactory character of this agreement. Indonesia, he said, had not concluded any pact but that one had been imposed upon her. And he immediately clarified his statement by emphasizing that Indonesia did not need the. Amsterdam stock exchange to act as intermediary for trade agreements with the rest of the world, adding that he had invited American capital to make substantial investments in his country.

On his side, Nether1and’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stikker, also a beer exporter, explained the nature of the pressure American imperialism had brought to bear on his government. It had been continually threatened with suspension of Marshall Plan aid to the Netherlands while Marshall aid to Indonesia had actually been suspended. A US boycott of Dutch shipping was averted only through the intervention of a secretary of the Dutch trade union movement who explained his government’s “motives” to American trade union leaders.

The president of the Dutch Labor Party, Vorrink, contributed his share in improving the international position of “his” country by flying to Oslo to explain to the Norwegian Social Democratic Government, a new member the Security Council, the legitimacy of its national colonialism.

Minister Stikker thus disclosed the special character of social democratic internationalism which will undoubtedly find expression in the new “free”. World Trade Union Federation, founded in London and electing a Dutch reformist, Vermeulen, as secretary.

The Terms of the Agreement

The results of the Hague Conference are as follows:

1. “The Netherlands transfer complete sovereignty to the “United States of Indonesia,” comprising the territory of the Republic and the separate vassal states set up by Dutch imperialism.

2. Between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United States of Indonesia there is established a “free and lasting Union” which is headed by Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands and her legitimate heirs. (“Free” and “lasting” are contradictory terms: If the Union is to be lasting 1ndonesia is not free to secede from it. ‘The agreement is full of such contradictions which indicate only that Indonesia has not at all been detached from the Netherlands.)

3. All properties belonging to Dutch or foreign persons will be returned to their “legal” owners. (With one very important exception to which we shall refer later.)

4. The directors of the Indonesian currency bank can be named only by agreement with the Netherlands. The Netherlands maintain their control over Indonesian finances. Indonesia recognises a debt of 4.5 billion florins to the Netherlands.

5. Collaboration in the establishment of relations with other states is stipulated. This collaboration is obligatory concerning relations with other European countries,

6. The naval base of Surabaya shall be placed at the disposal of the Dutch navy which will remain the only important navy in Indonesian waters. Dutch troops are to be withdrawn from Indonesian territory within six months to the degree that vessels are available for this evacuation. A Dutch military mission will assist in the establishment of an Indonesian army.

7. The Dutch part of the island of New Guinea will remain Dutch property for one year. During this time the Indonesian Commission of the UN will decide upon a statute for this island. Various distinct sections of Indonesia can enter into special relations with the Netherlands and Indonesia if it is so decided by plebiscite under the auspices of the UN Indonesian Commission.

8. Differences between the partners in the “Union” can be settled by an impartial foreign power named as arbiter by the UNIC.

It may be said that this agreement gives the Indonesian Republic a greater degree of independence than was obtained at Linggajati in December 1946. It may even be said that the rising Indonesian bourgeoisie today is more “independent” that it is “bourgeois.” This contradiction is explained by two facts: The masses who support the partisan movement in no case would have accepted even a temporary agreement on a less favorable basis than that concluded at the Hague; and behind the impotent republican leaders, Soekarno and Hatta, stands the protective shadow of the United States. Without American intervention this impotent bourgeoisie would have been crushed a long time ago between Dutch imperialism and the mass movement.

But the United States itself is powerless to arrest the development of social relationships in Indonesia. Its attempt to at least halt the revolution already implies the acceptance of certain gains made by the agrarian movement. The Hague agreement actually includes a clause which stipulates the plantations on which dwellings have been built on, which, since the Japanese occupation, products for native consumption have been cultivated, shall not be returned to their former owners “in order not to provoke disturbances. ” In such cases, former owners are to be compensated.

The application of this agreement will not be smooth, especially with regard to the return of the colonial businessmen to their former plantations. Coming to power effortlessly and not by its own strength, the Indonesian bourgeoisie cannot maintain power without constantly using violence against the workers and the poor peasants. This cannot be done without active aid from abroad and the Indonesian bourgeoisie will find it impossible to carry out its tasks. After the withdrawal of the Dutch troops, native troops will have to safeguard the existence of the vassal states, whose populations will strive to join the Republic. The very existence of these vassal states thereby becomes problematical. The working population of these states will only be able to join the Republic and transform the United States of Indonesia into a United Indonesian State by eliminating Soekarno and Hatta.

It is impossible to determine the actual strength of the intransigent parties, like the Partai Murba and the Partisans of Darrul Islam. It is even impossible to learn the names of the revolutionary or Stalinist leaders still alive. As long as the “lack of available vessels”—a very elastic phrase—keeps Dutch troops on Indonesian soil, the government wil1 feel strong enough to attempt the liquidation of various “extremist” forces. The question is: has it the necessary forces?

Violent social and political struggles are on the order of the day in Indonesia. The task of the workers’ movement of the whole world is to intervene actively in the struggle by demanding the break-up of the Dutch-Indonesian “Union,” the expropriation without compensation of all colonial property, the elimination of naval bases, etc. The Indonesian revolutionary movement, for its part, will surely make itself heard.

Amsterdam, Dec. 14, 1949 .

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Last updated on 11 November 2008