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World Politics

Struggle in Java Continues

(26 May 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 21, 26 May 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Two months ago the Cheribon Agreement was signed between the Dutch imperialists and the Indonesian Republic, according to which the conflict between the two was presumably settled. Recent reports from Java indicate that nothing of the kind is true.

A report to the New York Times of Sunday, May 18, 1947, indicates that not one of the issues in dispute has actually been settled. The basic issue – shall the Indonesian countries remain under the rule of Dutch imperialism? – continue to exist, agreement or not.

The Cheribon Agreement was really a patched-up compromise between the Dutch, who had been hard pressed in Indonesia since the end of the war, and the so-called “moderates” among the Indonesians. The “moderates” are the bourgeois elements, those ready to make a deal with the Dutch and betray the desires of the Indonesian people for national independence, expressed since the end of the war by unceasing struggle against the Dutch. The ascendency of the pro-Dutch “moderates” was accompanied by the partial suppression of the more intransigent nationalist elements among the Indonesians.

Yet the situation remains one of armed truce. A basic provision of the Cheribon Agreement was that the Dutch imperialists should get back their plantations. Though the agreement allowed for a formally free republic of Indonesia, it reestablished the economic domination of Dutch imperialism and thereby actually the sovereignty of the Dutch in every aspect of Indonesian life.

Now the Times reporter, Robert Trumbull, writes that “Lack of progress toward the promised return of the Java and Sumatra plantations to their pre-war operators has confirmed the opponents of the Cheribon pact in their skepticism ...” He continues:

Republican officials have informed the Dutch that non-Indonesian estate owners or lessors may return now to their prewar holdings pi the interior. At the same time, according to authoritative Dutch informants here, the Indonesian leaders are forced to acknowledge that they cannot guarantee the safety of the Dutch in the interior.”

Resist Return of Dutch Exploiters

Trumbull continues: “Apparently the Republican Cabinet is willing to transfer the plantations, in accordance with the Cheribon Treaty, but the acquiescence of the Indonesians now actually in possession of the estates is another matter. Thus the present impasse arises.”

These are highly interesting remarks. What seems to have happened is that the “moderate” Indonesian compromisers granted the Dutch their basic demand – the right to continue their economic overlordship – but that the peasants working on the plantations to which the Dutch were supposed to return refuse to acknowledge this point. The peasants understand only too well what a return of the Dutch owners means; they remember only too well the way in which the Dutch have stripped the country of its wealth during the years of their imperialist domination. And so, though the leader of the “moderate” republic. Sjharir, is ready to make “gentlemen’s agreements” with the Dutch, the Indonesian people are not. They want national independence and with it the economic substance of national’ independence: the expropriation of the Dutch imperialists! Their present resistance to the Cheribon Treaty is therefore a highly encouraging sign.

For their part the Dutch are trying in every way to regain the substance of their former imperialist power, regardless of what the formality may be. They are ready enough to allow Sjharir and his cohorts to call themselves “ministers” so long as they, the Dutch, have the actual power. Accordingly, Trumbull reports, they have “announced this week the imminent. arrival in Java of the Dutch Second Division, thus materially increasing Dutch strength in the Indies.”

And at the same time the Dutch continue their naval blockade of Indonesian ports, its purpose being, Trumbull reports: “to prevent export of rubber and other produce from non-Indonesian properties and the import of military materials.”

Dutch Try Device of Divide and Rule

Still another means by which the Dutch are trying to reestablish their imperialist controls over Indonesia is by fomenting internal dissension among the various peoples who live in Indonesia. They have created the so-called autonomous states of East Indonesia and West Borneo. This is a familiar imperialist device. The French use it in Indo-China where they attempt to divert the Indo-Chinese revolt by creating a movement for the autonomy of one province, Cochin-China. The British are the time-honored masters of this trick; they have set off Hindu against Moslem, India for centuries. Behind such moves there is always one central purpose: weaken the movement for national liberation of the oppressed people.

These events in Indonesia should be a matter for some study for all those who have blithely concluded that the era of imperialism is at an end, that the lion is cuddling up to the lamb, that the Western powers are voluntarily surrendering their positions in the colonial world. As we have said time and again, nothing of the kind is true. What has happened is that the Western imperialist powers have had to make certain political concessions, have had to come to terms with the more conservative bourgeois sections of the colonial populations in order more effectively to prevent genuine mass movements for total and unconditional independence. But they have clung with fierce determination to their economic control and have been ready to fight to the last for it.

Wherever the “moderate” bourgeois elements of the colonial nations, have made deals with the imperialist powers, genuine national liberation has not been achieved. On the contrary.

So we see that the fundamental Marxist conception on this matter, as summarized in Trotsky’s contention that genuine national liberation for the colonial peoples could be won only under the leadership of their uncompromising working classes, has in actuality been confirmed. New and severe conflicts between the Dutch and the Indonesian masses are certain to take place. Similar conflicts will take place in all other colonial areas. The surge of the colonial peoples toward freedom has resulted in the partial success of formal independence in a few colonial countries, but the task of actual liberation still remains. We may expect that in the coming period this conflict will sharpen in intensity, with the “moderate” compromisers thrust aside by the colonial peoples.

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