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Labor Action, 4 November 1946


The Epic Struggle
for Indonesian Freedom


From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 44, 4 November 1946, p. 5.
Reprinted from British Socialist Appeal.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.



We publish the following article at the request of a British writer in Indonesia, and with the permission of the editors of The Voice of Free Indonesia, a left wing nationalist publication of the Indonesian people. We do so because the article gives a splendid pen picture of the miserable capitulation of the arrogant Dutch imperialists to the Japanese invaders. A cowardly capitulation which in colonial history is paralleled only by that of the British imperialists in Burma and Malaya.

The splendid feeling of hatred for the imperialist oppressors runs through the body of the article.

On the other hand the hatred for the “cowardice” of the Dutch exploiters is offset by illusions in the “courage” and fighting spirit of the Australians and Americans which mars the article and shows its emotional base and lack of scientific content. The Americans, British and Australians as also the Japanese are no different under the skin when faced up to a similar situation. The Dutch are no more “cowardly” and no less “brave” than the imperialists of other nations. This was especially shown by the miserable capitulation of a similar character to that of the Dutch in Burma, Singapore and Malaya as a whole.

The latter part of the article is addressed to the British troops who although they were conscripted to fight for "democracy,” were sent into Indonesia to put the Dutch back into power and to deny democracy to millions of Indonesian people. The British working class must give its answer.

The British troops are not in Indonesia for progressive purposes, they are there only for the purpose of putting the Dutch imperialist gangsters once again into the seat of power. It is time these troops were withdrawn.

On the other hand the Indonesian people must shed their illusion in the other, non-Dutch, imperialist gangsters. For they too will only be too ready to replace the Dutch as masters of Indonesia, and live as parasites on the wealth created by the Indonesian workers.

The hatred of the Dutch capitalist imperialist oppressors must be tempered by an appeal to the Dutch working class to help in the job of freeing the Indonesian people.


During this present struggle, we read about the determination of the Dutch to fight their way into Indonesia again, so let us cast our minds back to four years ago and have a look at their cowardly behavior then, when they were determined NOT to fight the Japanese.

I am among the Indonesian people who will never forget the month of March, 1942, a day when we witnessed to our horror the shameful and degrading conduct of the Dutch armed forces, an army in complete disorder fleeing for their lives, unprincipled cowardly officers running from an enemy they formerly professed to disdain.

Imagine the thoughts of the people when they saw the great white Dutch Tuans, the former conquerors of Indonesia, fleeing like chaff before the wind from the Japanese invaders who had not then fired a shot in Java or even made a landing. Imagine the Indonesian people's feelings of contempt when they saw the once swaggering Dutch officers and NCOs throwing away their uniforms in rice fields and ditches as they ran, saw them hiding in kampongs and dressing themselves in sarongs showing absolutely no more respect for their uniforms, the symbol of their country’s honor, than they would for a piece of rag. Truckload after truckload of Dutch uniforms were collected from the rice fields and stacked twenty feet high outside the former government buildings in Sourabaya, for the display and for the amusement of the Japanese.

Gone with the Wind

It is difficult for anybody to realize the feelings of utter helplessness that the Indonesian people felt, or realize the absolute loathing and contempt that they had for the Dutch when they heard them screaming over the radio, their willingness to surrender three or four days before the official capitulation, and to see Batavia, the seat and government stronghold of the Netherlands East Indies, fall to thirty Japanese on cycles without a Dutchman in sight.

Three days before the Japanese landed in Bali, the Dutch army had fled, and not a single shot was fired in the defense of Bali, even though the Dutch had spent thousands of guilders in building up air and coastal defenses, the only white men to be wounded being two American pilots, who were shot down by the Japanese.

Where were the Dutch airmen?

They had gone with the wind.

In Bali I saw Dutch military captains, who were doctors in private life, hiding in air-raid shelters in Den Pasar during a Japanese raid on the port, fifteen kilometers distant.

They were trembling with fear, had rubber stuck in their mouths, and cotton stuffed in their ears. Their duty was to be at the airport helping the wounded, not hiding in holes in the ground. But were there any Dutch airmen in those raids? No. Many Indonesians, however, went to their death.

Capitalists – Collaborators

Also, what about the conduct of the Dutch business men in Indonesia at the time of the capitulation to the Japanese? Was their conduct any better? No. It was a thousand times worse. Can you imagine what the Indonesians thought, when they saw the Dutch Tuans, who always treated them so condescendingly and as inferiors, now toady and bow to the Japanese? Well known Dutch business men running around the streets of Sourabaya and other towns in Indonesia with the Japanese flag wrapped in cellophane around their arms, to show they were willing to cooperate with the Japanese. Many were the Dutch business men who showed the Japs how to run their factories and offices, and sat playing cards, drinking with them, and displaying friendship in general.

After the Japanese Capitulation

The scene now moves on to the capitulation of the Japanese.

The Indonesians declared themselves a republic, and refused for all time to be again dominated or ruled by the Dutch. They had lost all respect for the Dutch as a nation, who after 50 years in Indonesia, draining the country dry of its wealth, could not protect the country from foreign invaders for even 350 hours. The Indonesians realized that the Dutch had deserted them in their first hour of need, not caring what happened to them or their country as long as they could Save their own miserable skins. The Indonesians accepted their fate then with grim bitterness, but knew that some day their time would come. At the capitulation of the Japanese, the Dutchmen came back, once again strutting around the streets as though they were conquering heroes with no thought of shame for their past conduct, and with no excuse.

The Dutch declared that the Indonesians were playing at “cowboys and Indians" and once again would have to be taught a lesson by their Dutch masters. The behavior of the Dutch was nauseating to see. They had all their former arrogance and conceit, the war had taught them nothing, and they still wished to remain the great white Tuans. It never occurred to them that they had no further claim on Indonesia, and that they had the Australians and the Americans to thank for their lives and freedom. They had lost all rights to Indonesia at the time they fled from the country, instead of staying and fighting.

Underestimating the Indonesians

The Dutch make one big mistake. They insist on underestimating the intelligence, the capabilities and the courage of the Indonesians. Let us compare the Indonesians and the Dutch of today.

Although the Indonesian Republic is only eight months old, it has not only been able to defend itself against the British, Indian, Dutch, and Japanese soldiers, but also against spies and lying propaganda. That in itself shows the Indonesians not only to be a more courageous people than the Dutch, but also more capable in defending their country’s interests. Against the Japanese, the Dutch could not defend Java for one week, even though they had tanks, planes, artillery, etc., yet the Indonesians are still going strong with practically nothing other than FAITH and COURAGE, a weapon that the Dutch KNOW NOTHING of.

In defense of their rights, the Indonesians will fight to the last, NOT run away like the Dutch did four years ago.

An Appeal

To the British in Batavia, Sourabaya and other Indonesian towns, I ask you this: Are you going to be instrumental in helping a lot of cowards, a decadent, unworthy lot of Dutchmen to once again enter Indonesia in order to dominate and suppress the Indonesian people and once again exploit them for their own selfish gains? Once the British withdraw from Indonesia, taking with them their Indian troops, you can rest assured that the Dutch will present no problem to the Indonesians. They will finally run, just as they did from the Japanese. The Dutch are only here because the Australians, the Americans and the British won the war in the Pacific. They can only stay in Indonesia as long as the British remain, hiding behind the backs of the British and fighting bravely to the last Briton.

In the interest of the many lives that may yet be lost, it is to be hoped that the Dutch will realize that their reign in Indonesia is finished forever. The Indonesians will never become a dominion of Holland. It is to be hoped that the Dutch will sink whatever is left of their national pride, and withdraw peacefully and gracefully. Instead of shouting their threats to the world that they intend to fight in Indonesia, they would be better advised to indulge in something a little more beneficial to their people, namely, the production of BIGGER and BETTER “CHEESE.”

There will always be a Republic of Indonesia. There will never again be a Dutch East Indies!!

Free – Once Free – Forever Free!!

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