International Imperialism and the Communist Party of Indonesia

Semaoen (1925)

Source: “International Imperialism and the Communist Party of Indonesia” Communist International” No.17, 1925, pp.75-82

Transcribed to HTML by Ted Sprague.

About 1900, when the differences between the interests of the big capitalist powers were just making their appearance in the East, the insignificant and weak imperialism of Holland introduced into Indonesia[1] the so-called "policy of the Open Door." As a result of this in 1916 there was barely about 60 per cent. of foreign capital (native capital does not exceed 5 per cent. of the total capital) belonging to Holland. Since then the percentage of capital other than Dutch is growing continuously.

According to statistical data published in the Amsterdam "Tribune," Indonesia exports to Holland amounted in 1913 to 28.1 per cent. of the total exports, and in 1923 only to 14.9 per cent. In the same year, imports from Holland de­creased from 33.3 per cent. to 20.9 per cent.

At the same time exports to Great Britain increased from 3.9 per cent, to 8.4 per cent., exports to Japan from 5.8 per cent. to 8 per cent., imports from the U.S.A. increased from 2.1 per cent. to 6.3 per cent, and imports from Japan from 1.6 per cent. to 8 per cent.

As time goes on the interests of international imperialism gain ascendancy over the interests of Holland herself.

In the first half of 1924 the revenue of the Government from Customs amounted to 44,230,423 frs.; for the same period in 1925 this revenue amounted to 54,236,608frs. This shows that in that year the economic progress of foreign capital continues. There is no other colonial or semi-colonial coun­try in the East which presents such an example of the rapid development of foreign capital.

The foreign trade of the chief Asiatic States in the East in 1913 and 1922 was as follows (in millions of francs):




Dutch Indies






















Increase in percent







During this period Indonesia does not only develop more rapidly than other countries, the relative growth of capitalism is also more considerable there.

China, with a population of 400,000,000 (eight times as large as Indonesia) had in 1922 imports two and a half times larger than those of Indonesia. India, with a population six times larger than the population of Indonesia, has a vol­ume of imports which is only three times larger than the imports of Indonesia. At the same time, in contradistinction to China, Indonesia has favourable trade balance. This  shows that Indonesia's capitalisation is making enormous strides forward.

The decisive this is the enormous natural wealth of Indonesia. Its geographical situation is extremely favourable (between India and China). Labour there is cheap and enables capitalism to derive enormous revenue. In 1924 most of the enterprises had a clear profit varying be­tween 20 per cent. and 50 per cent. In the first half of that year, the world sugar and coffee market, etc., was very favourable to the foreign capitalists in Indonesia. Rubber also rose in price. According to the compilations of the "American Geological Survey" about 15,000,000 barrels of oil were obtained in Indonesia in 1924: in India 7.5 million; in Borneo 4.5 million; in Egypt 1 million; in Japan and For­mosa 1.5 million; in Soviet Russia 44 million. It is not to be wondered at that with this magnificent "sugar revenue" Dutch capitalism can afford to bribe the cream of the workers' aristocracy in Holland.

Economic development, the geographical situation of Indonesia from the strategical viewpoint, its oil wealth, etc. - all this automatically predetermines the policy of the Dutch Government in the sense of submission to the interests of powerful world imperialism.


But the development of the interests of the bosses of the Dutch Government (British, American, Japanese, etc.), brings with it an ever-growing clash of interests. The mo­ment is bound to come when the Dutch servants will not be able to satisfy all their bosses at the same time. This will happen on the occasion of the first war in the East.

The geographical situation and wealth in Indonesia are too good a base for military-naval operations, not to be event­ually occupied by one of the big capitalist countries. The Dutch imperialists are fully aware of this and are endeav­ouring to make a profitable alliance with one of the big im­perialist robber States, in order to protect the Dutch "posses­sions" from a "predatory attack" in the event of war.

In 1923 there was much talk about the establishment of a military-naval base in Riov-Tand'yung-Iriok in Indonesia which could serve as a link in the British chain between India, Singapore and Australia. Java is an excellent inter­mediate station between Singapore and Australia.

Holland's orientation towards an alliance with British imperialism is so self-evident that the French imperialists are already on the watch. With respect to this possible alliance the following statement appeared in the British "Daily Telegraph":

"Considerable importance is attached in Dutch and Indo-China circles to the plan concerning the establishment of a strong naval base in Singapore. This plan is viewed favour­ably. It is not at all out of the question that in the near future we will witness an Anglo-Dutch naval alliance, not necessarily guaranteed by a special written agreement" - (Translated from the Russian.)

Holland's position as the servant of world imperialism makes it, by this very fact, most reactionary. The Dutch Government cannot as yet make up its mind to sign a trade agreement with Soviet Russia in spite of the fact that a cer­tain number of Dutch capitalists have trade relations with the U.S.S.R.

The Dutch capitalists are prepared to spend any amount of money to frustrate any kind of connection between the Communist Party of Indonesia and the Comintern. They do not spare either money or blood to crush the Labour move­ment. Dutch imperialism is lavish with its money when it comes to bribe the so-called "national" leaders of the Sarekat-Islam movement in Indonesia.

Money, violence, intrigues, deception, diplomacy, bribery, democratic phraseology - everything is set into motion by the small but clever and unscrupulous Dutch imperialism. Small wonder that one of the most popular slogans of the Communist Party of Indonesia is: "Beware wherever you are of Dutch Imperialism and its influence."

The existence, however, of the Communist Party of Indonesia greatly depends on the economic and political development to which we have already referred. This fac­tor is leading to the rapid proletarianisation of large sections of the population. If we take into consideration that at pre­sent there are in operation in Indonesia approximately four milliards of foreign private capital, about one milliard of State capital and at the same time one milliard gulden of unregistered Chinese and Arabian capital, and if we add to this that the average wage and value of land are not more than 20 per cent. of the European value, we will have to ad­mit that the "proletarian territory" of the Indonesian im­perialism is such as it would be in Europe with a capital of 30,000,000 gulden (12,000,000 American dollars). There is every reason to consider as reliable the report of the govern­ment in 1918 (Muurling) which states that 45 per cent. of all the Indonesians are workers or part-time workers on railways, plantations, in works and factories, etc. Although younger than in Holland, the working class of Indo­nesia is more important.

If one takes into consideration that the working class is on a higher political level than the peasantry one will realise that the movement of the Indonesian people against exploitation is directly and indirectly a proletarian class struggle against capitalism and imperialism. There is evidence of this in the successes of the Communist Party of Indonesia and in the fact that every national movement with a non-proletarian programme and tactic was bound to meet with defeat (such as Sarekat-Islam).

The fact that the exploiters of Indonesia are inter­national imperialists is a determining factor in the attitude of the leading circles of the Indonesian people (45 per cent. workers and part-time workers and 45 per cent. small peas­ants) to the movement of the world proletariat. There are no more popular slogans in Indonesia than the slogans of the Russian October Revolution. The ardent desire of the best elements of the Indonesian working class is that a Soviet Indonesia might become part of the world federation of free Soviet Republics.

The Dutch capitalists and imperialists know this, and that is why they do their utmost to destroy our Communist Party. Ever since 1918 when the truly proletarian element within the Party became the driving force of the Communist movement, reaction made itself felt. But when in the middle of 1922 our Party brought into the field real proletarian leaders, reaction declared war quite openly against our Party.


Recent events are a proof of this. The repressive meas­ures introduced at various times are now used simultane­ously against our Party. But the terror (in January-Febru­ary of last year 30 people were killed, 130 were wounded, 300 were sent to prison, the victims being Communists and workers and peasants in sympathy with the Communist Party) could not crush the movement and prevent the growth of our Party and of its influence.

During May Day celebrations the police broke up many meetings (Batavia, Tana-Tinggi, Dyekdya, Ngand'ek, etc.). Many comrades were arrested and several were hurt but not seriously. Since then we read every day in our daily paper "Api" that one or other of our comrades has been arrested. Two hundred comrades, members of the Party, were arrested between May and August. Moreover tens and hun­dreds of our comrades are being dismissed from the factories. Between January and the end of May alone 41 people were dismissed for Communist propaganda.

The list given above was published by the Government and reproduced in the "Api" on June 18. But between June and September another hundred victims were added to the list. During that period over 200 workers were dismissed from private capitalist enterprises.

Another means of struggle against us is the formation of all kinds of strike-breaking and bandit organisations (Sarekat-Hindyu) whose members are in the pay of reaction. The aim pursued by the Sarekat-Hindyu organisation is the assassination of our leading comrades, destruction by incen­diarism or otherwise of houses where members of our Party live, etc. In April and May alone 50 houses were destroyed. Comrade Vakidin, in Ungaron was killed by Hindyuerom who was incited to this assassination by the lackeys of capital­ism. In March, comrade Alinin narrowly escaped assassina­tion. Many more comrades have been wounded. The "Api" in its issues of March 25 and 31 gave full accounts of this organisation. Nearly every day there were reports on the actions of this terrorist organisation of the government.

Just a few words concerning intrigue and bribery. Through Salim (Salim was a government spy, then a mem­ber of the Dutch Vreetsinigen Union, after that a member of the Central Committee of Sarekat-Islam and at the same time member of the Social-Democratic Party in Indonesia), editor of the government organ "Hindya-Baroo," and Tyekro, Sarekat-Islam orator, the capitalists can "dictate" to the Suryeprandto ("national" leaders) "a moderate programme." In July and August the capitalist press extolled these persons as the "best" leaders of the Indonesian masses, but the masses keep them out of their movement. By all sorts of intrigues attempts are made to cause "mischief" be­tween husbands and wives in working class and peasant circles, for wives are "dismissed" if their husbands remain Communists.

Thus mischief is also made between fathers, mothers and their sons or daughters.

At the end of August telegrams in all big Dutch news­papers referred to the proclamation of meetings in the Sema­rang province, of the expulsion of Alinin, member of our Central Committee, of the arrest of Darson, one of our most prominent leaders who had visited Moscow in 1921, etc, Reaction is doing its worst.

At the same time the capitalist press has much to say about the increase of the 1926 budget for "national welfare." But what can one million gulden for the purchase of land from the landowners in Tangerang do? What are a few million granted for railway constructions to give "work" to the unemployed if previous to that the working class and the peasantry were robbed of about 600,000,000 gulden?

Finally, the capitalists have much to say about the forthcoming "democratic" electoral law for municipal elec­tions which does not enfranchise more than 20 per cent. of the urban population, since most of the members must be Dutch. There is also much talk about the so-called "Indo­nesia less dependent politically on Holland." But extension of franchise means only more freedom of action in this coun­try to trade capital, as a natural result of the tendencies of economic development described before. A noticeable fact is in the very near future Indonesia will have enough "free­dom" to meet of itself expenditure for the next war in addi­tion to the expenditure for its preparation.


Six weeks after the February terror our Party organised a review of its forces on the occasion of May Day. Big meet­ings were held in fifty provinces in Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Celebes, Timor, etc. Thousands of workers joined our demonstrations in such industrial centres as Semarang, Batavia and Surabaya. According to descriptions in "Api" and other Indonesian organs, these demonstrations were on a larger scale than our demonstrations in 1924.

In December, 1924, the Party Conference adopted, among others, a resolution "To work and agitate among the working class through the trade unions." Towards the end of August there were already over 35,000 R.I.L.U. members (including our nuclei in non-Communist unions) whilst previous to December there were only 25,000. At present 70 per cent. of all the young trade unions are under Communist influence. The organisation of the transport workers is entirely in the hands of Communists.

In the course of two months (according to data pub­lished in the "Api") from May 5th to July 3rd there were fifteen strikes. Although only 2,000 workers participated in these strikes they bore a decidedly aggressive character (the capitalist press persists in ascribing strikes to Communist influence). All through July small strikes took place, and in August a general dockers' strike broke out in Semarang (1,200 strikers who were subsequently joined by 400 more). A hundred policemen who had to guard the town went on strike at the same time and the same place. Thereupon the Government issued an order proclaiming all meetings, as a result of which 1,000 printers went on strike. All these strikes broke out in spite of the anti-strike law introduced in 1923.

In connection with events in China big meetings took place, all of them organised by our Party. Tens of thou­sands of workers and peasants participated in demonstrations to express their sympathy with China, to protest against war, etc. At one of these meetings, held in Surabaya, 1,000 francs were collected for the liberation struggle in China, although it had been strictly prohibited to collect money for the Chinese Revolution. The meeting in Toylyatyap which was held on the same day was attended by 2,500 workers, the workers of the town having declared a one-day strike. All the Chinese shops were closed on that day. A number of other demonstrations were suppressed by the police. Nevertheless all this shows what a revolutionising influence the Chinese movement had on Indonesia.

Apart from the demonstration on behalf of China our Party endeavoured to get into touch with the Chinese work­ing class in this period of its awakening. This is continually mentioned in the Indonesian press, a fact which is making the capitalists furious.

It is not to be wondered at that in August the govern­ment took measures against the revolutionary movement, as there was every appearance of a revolutionary outbreak in Indonesia in the near future. Yet this was only a demonstration on our part, the aim of which was to ascertain the balance of forces between us and capitalism.

Propaganda is also penetrating into the army. At that time over twenty soldiers were cashiered in the military centres and over twenty-five soldiers were subjected to vari­ous punishments. Reasons for this: Communist propa­ganda. The reaction has "discovered" Communists among the armed and the municipal police (in Dyekdya, Semarang, Solo, etc.).

The fact that all through July and August the Govern­ment continued to dismiss minor employees is a sign that the Communist Party is strong enough at present to exer­cise influence on the "lackeys" of the Government. This "turn of affairs" is so dangerous in the eyes of the govern­ment that it sends its secret official letters through Dutch couriers and not by post. At the same time the latter is under the obligation to censor all unreliable correspondence. The explanation for this is that our organ has frequently been able to publish the secret instructions of the government.

Finally, the Communist movement is growing rapidly among the youth.

The Indonesian press has something to say every day about the successful meetings of the Sarekat-Raya. Thus our influence is growing among the peasantry. Even in the "deportation island" Timor, there is a section of our Party and of the Sarekat-Raya. The "Java Bode" of July 11th speaks of the forthcoming punishment of 80 farmers in Gengkalen who went on strike at the penal public works.

The revolutionisation of the Indonesian intelligentsia is also progressing, although here too all sorts of obstacles are put in the way of our propagandists. At present Budi-­Utomo is no longer in the hands of the moderates - Dvidi­zevoyo, but has gone into the hands of the young revolu­tionary nationalists.

It is an interesting fact that whilst our Party and its influence have been rapidly growing, the Sarekat-Islam re­mains in a state of complete prostration. Our Party is work­ing for the formation of a national anti-imperialist bloc, and just now the Mokamad-Dia, the Sarekat-Ambon and other nationalist organisations are progressing, that is to say they are becoming revolutionised and their membership is grow­ing, although not as rapidly as our Party and the Sarekat-­Raya organisation which is under Communist influence.


[1] Dutch East Indies (Polynesia) are meant here.