Asia Society presents; 31
It. Was Friday present this is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your most on this transcribed series is the noted author on the ward winning broadcaster Lee Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. Most of us realize that the two large communist parties in the world ought to be found in the Soviet Union and in mainland China. What we might not know is that the third largest Communist Party in the world was to be found in Indonesia before it was overthrown. More than that driven out of the country. Whether it's been driven out altogether and come back we don't know but I guess certainly position to discuss it. Indonesia together with Japan and China
ranks as one of Asia's big three. It has a very large population of 110 million which is equal almost equal in size to that of the whole of Southeast Asia. It has great natural wealth exceeding that of any other Asian power and it certainly has potential for the future. How the communists got as far as they did and Indonesia how they were overthrown. What difference this makes to the United States and other parts of the world. Among the questions we'd like to discuss and our guest is certainly highly qualified to discuss them. He is on hold see Brackman Mr. Brachman is well known as a specialist in Asian affairs. He was a foreign correspondent is lived in Japan and Southeast Asia for a number of years I think more than 10 years and is the author of several books on that part of the world a book of his which has just been published called. The communist collapse in Indonesia.
Mr. Bragman why do you think Indonesia somehow is not as much in the news as it might have been considering the important events that have been taking place there in recent years. Well that's a very good question a good leading question. I suspect that since the Communist Party in the Sukarno government collapsed in 1965 and since the North would no longer consider it a threat or since we no longer have any fear of what may happen in the country. Were our interest has waned I think our interest in any country is always relative to how much insecurity we feel visiting the country. But we feel that Indonesia is in better shape politically in eco up economically at least from our point of view. Very much so because General Soeharto seems to have things under good control. Yes there's no question about that. Did you know Steve canell personally. Oh many many years of course. What was he not. Not that he thought that I mean he's there or not isn't he's under house arrest now and
yeah obviously he's what they would say he's in the dustbin of history. He was he was it is let's use the present tense. Certainly a very flamboyant person very spirited very warm hearted and very personable on a personal level really quite Whitefoot great fun to know and so forth. I knew him I first met him during the Indonesian revolution and I met him a Doctor Carter which was in their revolutionary capital. And this was more than 20 years ago I guess. And I've known him intimately since then. In political terms but having said all of this which I say is in the first person singular as a personal assessment. At the same time we also have to say that he systematically wrecked the country after he came into an authoritative position where he could control it. He called it got a democracy. And as a result of his policies he
drove in only to the point where. Aside from the possibility of the takeover by the Communist Party of Indonesia. And forgetting the politics for a minute. It was just a tremendous social and economic upheaval which they're still trying to straighten out. And perhaps the mark which will be put against him in the future although it's premature to say what history how history will be written in the future. But the one mark against him will be that the mass murders the massacres that did take place in Indonesia after the collapse of this plot involving himself in the Commons the mass murders at the end of 1965 or early 1966 stemmed directly from his policies of the previous years. So one would have to say that although he was a personable warm hearted and spirited fellow he also was dreadfully irresponsible. Are you saying that he is like almost any other dictator despot one can think of in that he began by putting his country first and he ended by putting himself
first. Well no I would not put him in that category because there have been men in history who have put their country first and kept it there. I can think for example of Jose Rizal in the Philippines or you could think of Jose Marti in Cuba. They were genuine patriots and so forth. I think in the case of Sukarno he put himself first from the very beginning and we've had cases of that sort before also. In fact in the Western context I should think that the one man that would be comparable to Sukarno not as a despot and not really ruthless in the in the dictator traditions I have an Adolf Hitler or something of that sort. But the man most comparable would be Mussolini. I think there's a great similarity between Mussolini is bombast and so forth in the vanity vanity The only can the exhibitionism the square filled with cheering people the balconies and all that sort of thing. That's where Chicago belongs in history. You said that your book the communist collapse in Indonesia it might have been better called the guest
stopper affair but people would think you meant Gestapo and so to avoid that problem you didn't do it but the Gestapo who would get stopped. It is a kind of putting together. Obs to attempt a 30th incident in Indonesia the Indonesians have a habit of making acronyms out of almost every every political philosophy in the country or party much more so than we do in this country or anywhere else for that matter now. There are any number of these things but taking this one Gestapo which is probably exactly the same as Gestapo except there's a you with me and seven know the code name for the plot involving the destruction the Indonesian general staff in 1965 in which the cargo in the Commons party were hand and glove was called the September 30 movement and in the way that's supposed to take a pool. Now when you make an acronym out of that it comes out Gestapo. And if you go to Indonesia today
or people anywhere in Southeast Asia for that matter but not most of the Far East and you ask people what they think about the Gestapo who are their interpretation of events they'll know what you're talking about. If you come to the Western world and you say Gestapo who everybody thinks you're right and then launch into a dissertation about the German of the Third Reich of the Hitler regime or something of that guy. I guess they think you're just mist around saying exactly sheer confusion. Yes it made what took place that night. Well what happened very simply was that in Indonesia on the night of September 30 1965 the there were three great forces at work. One was a car no as a personality. The other was in an Asian communist party which as you pointed out earlier was a gram was then the largest Communist Party in the world in the non-coms world certainly. And there was also the Indonesian army in an army general staff. Now the Sukarno and the commies have been working and collaborating over a number of
years and they thought that many of their objectives were being that they were being who they say they wanted by the Indonesian general staff which was essentially not anti-TSA Karo because they looked at him as a leader but anti communism and even against the Indonesian Communist Party. Notice I don't say anti-communist because I think that's simplistic. Being on the General Staff had very close relations let's say with the Soviet Union in getting arms shipments and so forth. It wasn't that they were anti-communist in the international sense but that they were anti the Indonesian Communist Party specifically on specifics and they were thwarting the policies of Sukarno in the party and Sukarno in the party realized that it was a car at that time was rather ill. They realized that if they were ever to come to power if the Communists were succeeds a kind of an event he died they would have to get rid of the general staff first
preempt them. So on the night of September 30 October 1 1965 they organized a series of raids dawn raids on the homes of the generals of the general staff. They either slew them or took them prisoner and then slew them or whatever it may have been. And from that standpoint Unfortunately the plot failed because one of the principal generals that always reads like a Hollywood plot. One of the principal generals the joint general Joint Chiefs of Staff General lawsuit Leon escaped and Sukarno fearing for himself because of his vanity and so forth and only concerned about himself. Stopped in mid stream and tried to retrace his steps. And in doing so of course the whole thing just fell apart all around him and the Communists were left out on a limb. So Carter was left on a limb and the Indonesian army general struck what was left of it reorganized themselves and. Well as the months that followed we put
Secada aside as you know Nations say and then they physically destroyed a large part of the Indonesian Communist Party that's were brought in this period of last March against you not suggest though that the figures given of these murders. Even if one person is murdered that's bad enough in the world but you do suggest that the figures are perhaps exaggerated or very much not as many people were killed as we did on a very difficult subject to talk about the one chapter in this book which dealt with this question with probably the most difficult thing to write because the whole thing is so horrible really that one kind of I think we would all be tired in the middle of the 20th century with this current political development where we have mass murders that it's almost acceptable now. Yes it does lose its shock value. It had I was not allowable that it no longer shocks it's you know it doesn't shock anyone a lot. I don't I don't care whether it's be opera or whether it's in Peking or whether it's into better words in the Soviet Union or whether it was what did or what you find in some of the people take it
in an impersonal way as if it had nothing really to do with them unless it happened to be their brother or father. So I was not yet in the case of Indonesia. I take the view that only and I use that only with. It's a giveaway as to the kind of political climate in which we live only one hundred fifty thousand odd people were murdered within a period of about one hundred fifty days. Now I say only that means that 1000 people per day. Where I live beheaded or shot or was strangled or just torn apart or hanged or you name it 1000 predate the word for three days and yet everybody would tend to say and those are the Western specialists anyway that my figures are relatively low. So then who is really responsible for this after all isn't this the responsibility of the party came to power Genoese Ohio no party came into power after the collapse of Sukarno in the Congress party but who carried out these men. Well this is the one thing where if you would look for a mitigating circumstance and
it's hard to express words on this because they're being misunderstood it. In countries like let's say let's take the two principle the two countries who have agreed with the most organized mass murders have taken place in this century. You have to think of Germany that is in the Hitler period and you have to think of the Soviet Union in the Stone Age. There were mass murders these were organized murders they were efficient they were carried out with a certain reasoning to them and and so forth. In the case of Indonesia there was no organization as such there was no efficiency as such and it was kind of a catch catch can operation in some places there were murders in other places there weren't any murders in some places the army took part in some places the army did not take part in some places there may have been Moslems who took part in other areas it may have been in Bali for example but people tend to be Hindus and religious concepts. They took part and
all this was going on and in a kind of scramble. Well Mr. Brachman since this is tragic but in the past and one has to think of what has Indonesia done since then has it progressed. Are the people more satisfied in what's happened to that Communist Party that probably it went underground. But the question I would like to ask maybe specifically is what sort of man now would General Suharto Suharto with exactly 180 degrees for the character of Sukarno. He's. He has no charisma he has no popular appeal in that sense he's a moderate. He speaks very slowly. He reads his speeches. He's not playing boy and he lives a very quiet life used and that he's not ostentatious. He's just completely reversed character. He Doing a satisfactory job under the circumstances he's doing to seemingly well in fact far better than most people would have given him
credit in the very beginning. You say that there is much to be done. Well in every kind of like well there's much to be legacies of this a kind of period we have compounded the problems which Indonesia had originally which were the conditions one finds throughout most of Southeast Asia that is impoverished societies with a politically unsophisticated or illiterate population his basic way things are worse and so Cardo when were you last in any last year. Yeah what did you find. Could you sense out or we were just out is that a satisfaction among the people there no question about it. One aspect of it alone and that is that everybody was they also said themselves and you could feel it. One can feel the political climate in any given situation really that there was a new. Feeling of a liberty or individual liberty in the country you could feel it in the Capitol. People talk freely where they criticize so hard or they didn't criticize them or the newspapers were being published once again and the whole atmosphere was one of only relaxation.
There seems to be an tension drug. Yeah a RINO or liberating. It was a liberating include. Yes so that unlike many countries where the students and the intellectuals support the more radical party last this is very out of the noise just the opposite here. In this case the intellectual the student the academician or went into the streets in support of the army and as a point of Soeharto to turn against the Communist Party to turn against the so-called quote left wing unquote or so-called quote radicals unquote or whatever you want to call it. Whose policies had driven the country into a disastrous situation. Why do you think that happened since I think it's the exception isn't among student and intellectual groups throughout the world. Is it that the Communist Party went far enough to hang itself by its own mistakes of its students. Well it was good to see that I think we need more time than we have to go into this in great detail. I think this is a great misconception in the western world about this
question of communism which incidentally is a word that I miss may sound quite hard but I personally rather dislike using the word fact there are two words I never like to use. And if you and any other writers have ever done I always avoid them one word is democracy which I think is absolutely meaningless at this time. Another word is communism which I also think is absolutely meaningless at this time. But when you say meaning they say well are you implying that there are so many definitions that so my definition and as a general vague attitude or idea of what it is but nobody exactly says what it is and I have my own explicit definition for both which I always prefer to use instead of using the word democracy for example which as I say I personally think is meaningless. I would talk about a form of government which lets a representative government with civil liberties. And if you can find anywhere on this planet a representative form of government with civil liberties could be parliamentary. Could be a presidential system with any number of nuances to this. If you find representative government and civil liberties than your founders of a democracy now.
Talking about communism which I think is kind of a red herring and you loosely used and misused and so forth I considered to be an author Tarion form of government with a single party dictatorship and its power essentially is derived not just from the party but from its own police apparatus. Now when you make that kind of a definition for a so-called communist state you can also then start to apply it to a lot of other countries whether it's to Cuba or Castro Cuba or whether it's with the Franco's Spain or you name it. There is this I in my own view is if you call it communism fact up or turning like yak ism is exactly this. As far as I I don't know the word fascism I then think that also misleads. Yes so it's a question of paternalism right. What other countries in Asia have what you have just described is democracy. That is the representative form of government yes. Well I think the most recent example we can think of was just a few weeks
ago where Philippine island president reelected in fact was the first time the present ever been re-elected in the history of the Philippines. So I think they would have a representative form of government with a certain sense of civil liberties. I think you also have this in Japan and oddly enough alone can be terribly critical. I think I tend to be rather critical myself but even when I say even which is a giveaway as to my own view but in South Korea you have a form of representative government not terribly strong and you have a certain sense of civil liberties too not very strong. But there is a trend at least in that direction it runs in that direction. I think the only thing that we should ever consider really in terms of foreign policy or in terms of making a judgement because I don't think any of us can afford to make a judgment. Certainly not when you think of all the ferment in the United States I think. We live in such a glass house that. We hardly throw stones but I do feel that the one distinction you can make about any country in the world is which way. What's the trend. Which way is the
is the flow of its history. Is it towards work or terrorism. Right left north south east west or is it a flow towards representative government civil liberties where the flow of representative government civil liberties then I think any question that should be our whole commitment and in a kind of spiritual sense or diplomatically politically add India to your list of representative government. Certainly yes. No question about any other country although many I think as what most Americans don't think I am thinking of these days or particularly you can think of Singapore to a degree you can think of. So we had Korea Japan Singapore Malaysia had a situation which was representative government and civil liberties and portfolio collapse this year. It's a fragile thing and there are many experiments going on at the present time that most Americans are unaware of in this field of representative government in such remote places as butan in Apollo not done is done and I know of America ambassador in Kabul and Afghanistan he just was
just about it. Few weeks ago or so he was asked how democracy in Afghanistan is progressing. It's a monarchy. They've been practicing democracy for representative government USA for about two or three years and he said well let's reserve judgment for about 100 years because even after 100 years you still have to have an embryo representative system rather than Mr. Brachman one of the most important chapters in your book I think is the one titled Vietnam the missing link. And you say that can be interpreted various ways if one is a so-called haha. Yes and that our presence the American presence in Vietnam at the time must have had some effect on the communist collapse in Indonesia. It had an effect and unfortunately it's not easy to explain and I think not to plug a book but it has to be read in some detail yes. Essentially what it really comes down to is that there was a negative influence on this development because what most Americans forget are in fact almost all Americans forget is of the time. At the
time of our intervention massively in Vietnam which was in February of nineteen sixty five in early 1965 the bombing started in February. At that same moment. Historically speaking the British and several of the commonwealth countries were lined up south of Vietnam trying to fend off Chicago and his communist party because they were there was a great Nutcracker operation with the Peking Hanoi in the north and Jakarta in the south. And together they were trying to squeeze the area. Now had we not intervened in Vietnam and one can discuss the pros and cons of this endlessly we're talking about the origin of intervention. If we had not intervened at that point the chances are that the British and the Commonwealth countries would not have been able to withstand the assault of the Sokoto Indonesia of that period there are many more ramifications to our many more Vietnam that and so many terms of origin. When I talk about the present situation we're talking the terms in terms of the origin of at the time of the US intervention.
Now a final question Mr. Backlund since you are implying your book that the collapse of the Communist Party the third largest in the world in the largest in Asia. You imply that that is the most significant event we have just a few seconds. Why watch. Yes because since these is a country of 100 million people have become a succeeded with a plot. We would have been confronted with the situation of communist power running from China ranging from China straight to Indonesia and I think the effect on countries like Japan and India would have been irreparable. So you feel that it really set communism back in Asia it certainly set it back no question. Those of us who are glad about that will be even more glad to hear your interpretation judgment that one can disagree with that. Well I think you're a known authority and we'll take your judgment hardly apart special especially when Mr. Bragman I thank you very much for being a part of this Asia Society cresent series I like to tell our audience that I guess Arnold S. Brackman is not an authority he said but a specialist in Asian and they is spent much time in the Far
East and whose book is a new book which is just published is called the communist collapse in Indonesia. Thank you and goodbye. That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham. This series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham at WNYC New York City 100 0 7 and make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of The Asia self-id presents.
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