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Labor Action, 2 June 1947



U.S. and Britain Aid Dutch
to Suppress Indonesian Freedom


From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 22, 2 June 1947, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A SEVERE crisis, generally unknown to the public, is developing with regards to Indonesia.

The Dutch are eager to launch a full-scale punitive war against Indonesia despite the fact that only a few weeks back they signed the Cheribon Agreement which presumably guarantees a certain measure of autonomy to the Indonesians.

The only restraining factor at present is the pressure which England and America are bringing to bear on the Dutch to prevent such an all-out attack. Behind this restraint there is of course no suddenly developed sympathy for the Indonesians, but rather a belief on the part of the English and Americans that in the present tense international situation a full scale war of aggressive suppression of a colonial people would have an incalculable effect—and one which might endanger the positions of the major imperialist powers.

These disclosures have been made available to Labor Action by a usually reliable foreign source. They tend to confirm the analysis which appeared in the column World Politics of last week’s Labor Action, in which the present tension between the Du|ch and Indonesians was analyzed and the prediction made that an open struggle might break out.

Were it not for the pressure from London and Washington, the attack planned by the Dutch would have already been launched. Unobtrusively, they have transferred the Second Division of their army to Java in preparation for such an attack. The Indonesian leaders are aware of the Dutch schemes, but the false position into which they have put themselves by negotiating the watery Cheribon Agreement with the Dutch rather than fighting for full independence, makes it difficult for them at present to rally the necessary resistance among the Indonesian people.

Resist Dutch Economic Control

As was reported in last week’s World Politics, the Indonesian peasants are resisting the attempts of the former Dutch owners of the plantations in the interior to reestablish their control. This is after all the nub of the problem. So long as the Dutch retain economic domination of Indonesian life, the formal political rights which they grant to the Indonesians mean very little. Much the same thing holds, for instance, for the Philippines where U.S. imperialism has formally withdrawn but where it maintains tight control of the country by virtue of its predominant position in its economy.

The Dutch have been pressing their English and American senior partners very hard. Their arguments have, within the limits of their narrow imperialist interests, a certain plausibility. They say to the English and Americans: “there are three things we can do; we can get out of Indonesia completely, which of course you agree is out of the question; we can try to rule by means of sheer economic weight, something which only a larger and richer imperialist power like the U.S. can do; and we can try to smash the national resistance movement of Indonesia by force and reestablish our sovereignty.” To this argument of the Dutch imperialists, Washington and London counter with considerations of world strategy: the possible effects on the rest of the Asiatic world of such an attack on Indonesia. The Dutch, concerned, however, with their profits in Indonesia, do not seem to appreciate this point very much.

Role of British and Americans

It seems likely that the British and Americans, by virtue of their superior positions on the world economic-political scene, will succeed in holding in the Dutch. Yet they will not prevent them, or desire to prevent them, from gradually pushing the limits of their power in Indonesia.

This situation puts the bourgeois nationalist leaders of the Indonesians in a tough spot. They have refused io conduct an uncompromising struggle for independence from the Dutch. They have in fact jailed and suppressed those elements within the Indonesian nationalist movement which did want to conduct such a struggle. Now, a few weeks after the much-ballyhooed Cheribon Agreement, they are being sorely pressed by the Dutch.

No demonstration of the futility and ineptness of the compromise policy of the bourgeois nationalist leadership of colonial peoples could be more thorough.

These events reaffirm once more the point of view of the Marxist movement on the colonial question. Despite the new forms of imperialist rule, which may sometimes go so far as to grant formal “independence,” the substance of that rule remains – and it will not be surrendered to anything less than the revolutionary insistence of the colonial peoples themselves. The deals which the imperialist powers have worked out with the colonial bourgeoisies – Britain with the Congress Party leadership; America with Roxas; the Dutch with Sjahrir – merely allow them to get a tiny share of power in the exploitation of the colonial areas. But the basic imperialist rule remains.

All the talk in “liberal circles” about the self-liquidation of the empires is so much nonsense. What has taken place is a reorganization of the forms of the empires in order to maintain their actual control in difficult times. True national liberation for the colonial peoples can take place only under the leadership of their proletariats which do not compromise with the imperialists but expropriate both their political and economic rule. That idea is reaffirmed by each news dispatch from the east.

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