Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Labor Action, 21 March 1949


Robert Magnus

Pros and Cons: A Discussion Corner

Which Policy on Indonesia?


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 12, 21 March 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Workers Party has not yet taken a position on the perspective and strategical and tactical orientation presented by Comrade Jack Brad on the situation in Indonesia in his letter in the February 14 issue of Labor Action. Nevertheless Brad has seen fit, in his capacity as a writer for Labor Action, to apply this policy in practice. I wish to protest this type of decision-making from above and to posit an entirely different orientation for the party.

In a newsy interview entitled How Indonesian Republic Fights On, the express purpose of which is to whitewash the Republican leadership, Brad has, in fact, carried out his perspective of "loyalty" and unconditional support. His mild and innocuous criticism of the Republican policies and his breezy offhand remarks about Tanmalaka indicate only too clearly the position he is approaching. Here in America things are muddy and indistinct. Let us shift our view to Indonesia where the events are occurring and attempt to indicate a correct revolutionary perspective. If I am mistaken about the meaning of Brad’s remarks I shall be only too happy to admit it, but let us see.

Critical Support?

In India, Burma and Ceylon, independence has been attained under the leadership of the colonial bourgeoisie. Does this mean that revolutionaries should give uncritical or “unconditional” political support to the Republican forces of Indonesia or their “social democratic” wing? NO! A generalization about the weakness of British and French colonialism and the effect of World War II and the Japanese occupation cannot be substituted for a concrete analysis of the relationship of class and national forces in Indonesia. The weakness of present-day imperialism or colonialism does not thereby indicate an automatic change in the character or the strength of the colonial bourgeoisie, and furthermore the specific content of various colonial struggles differs sharply. This is especially true in Indonesia, where the history of the actual struggle has shown specifically and in detail that the Republican leadership is incapable of freeing this country from Dutch imperialism.

The Indonesian independence movement has suffered a severe defeat, and a discussion of future possibilities and concrete plans must begin with a recognition of the EXTENT of this defeat and its primary causes.

The defeat stems not from the difference in military strength of the Dutch and nationalist forces (although this is a contributory factor), but is primarily the result of the entire previous character of the Republican struggle – its aims, methods and social character. The Republic lost a political and social battle, not a military one. When the heat was on, the LEADERSHIP oozed defeatism and compromise and social conservatism, while Tanmalaka showed vision, uncompromising optimism, and a correct theoretical approach.

The information on Tanmalaka is spotty and incomplete, but every bit of data received indicates, more and more, that he has maintained throughout the years a completely correct and irreconcilably proletarian position. He has fought the Dutch consistently and effectively and is doing so today under his own banner, and yet he has maintained an unmoving POLITICAL opposition to the policies and aims of the Republican leadership, under whose “democratic” rule he spent two years in prison.

If this policy is what Brad means by "loyalty” to the struggle, let him say so in so many words, for I fear that the REAL purpose of Brad’s remarks is to prepare for the eventual abandonment of Tanmalaka and his policies.

The difference between my approach and Brad’s can be reduced to a single sentence: He is for unconditional support to the Republican leadership and I am for unconditional support to Tanmalaka. He is preparing to ask Tanmalaka and his party to submit themselves completely to the narrow, anti-working class policies of the Republican military leaders while I would urge him to remain independently fighting the Dutch in cooperation with the Republican leadership, but with his own program and policies.

As reported in Brad’s February 21 interview, Tanmalaka's program is as follows: 1 – Against the Lingajatti and Renville policies – and no compromise with the Dutch; 2 – No negotiations while the Dutch retain a single soldier on Indonesian soil; 3 – A radical social policy; 4 – For a worker-peasant alliance to achieve power in the Republic. This program is absolutely correct and I support it and urge the party to support it.

I shall attempt to concretize these views in an article which I will submit to the Workers Party Bulletin which should take care of the deficiencies of this extremely schematic letter, but, in short, my position is as follows: 1 – Defense of the Republic against Dutch imperialism; 2 – MATERIAL aid to all Indonesian armies; 3 – Uncompromising political opposition to the Republican leadership; and 4 – Unconditional support to Tanmalaka and his program.

Top of page

Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 4 August 2019