Professional Blindness And Missing The Mark ~ The Thirtieth September Movement As Seen By The Perpetrators. Between Registered Facts And Authoritative Opinions – Part Three

OmslagHoltzappelThe Finale – Aidit’s position at Halim and the role of General Supardjo
Air Force Major Sujono was the only witness in the trials against Njono and Untung that spoke about the presence of PKI leader Aidit at Halim airport on 1 October 1965. His testimony is packed with mistakes unmasked by Untung. The lies, twists and spoils he produced probably reflect his tension. Sujono’s statement that the meetings started on 6 September 1965 is fascinating, since Untung and all the other attendants said the meetings started in August, most likely on 14 August (Perkara Untung: 91). It is unclear why Sujono mentions a different date but it illustrates the way he rummaged with data and events in court.

Speaking about the events surrounding Aidit’s presence and role at Halim airport on 1 October 1965, this became obvious. Initially he told the court that on 30 September 1965 General Supardjo visited Central Command Penas on his own at 8 PM after his arrival from Kalimantan, which Untung corroborated. But later he said it happened at 1.30 [probably afternoon] (Perkara Untung: 95, 115, 118). Supardjo arrived in a small sedan and had informed Sujono that he was to pick up Aidit and General Pranoto and bring them to Sjam’s house where they were informed that Aidit was to be brought to Halim. The remaining part of Sujono’s testimony does not mention Pranoto, but focuses on Aidit’s transport. Neither Untung nor other witnesses refer to Pranoto accompanying Aidit to Halim, hence his presence is debatable. The car that brought Aidit to Halim was a small Toyota sedan from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was driven by Air Force 1st Sergeant Muljono. For the occasion the driver had been made Minister Subandrio’s personal representative (Perkara Untung: 95-6). The suggestion is raised whether Subandrio, who was in Sumatra at the time, knew about Aidit’s presence at Halim and changing the meeting place from the palace to Halim. However, Untung denied this when questioned by his lawyer about it. He simply stated that on 30 September he was at Penas, i.e. the command center in Jakarta, with Supardjo, Sjam and Pono whereas Sujono was at the base camp Lubang Buaja (Perkara Untung: 118).

Although he did not mention the time of the meeting, his answer concerned Sujono’s statement about Supardjo’s whereabouts on the evening of 30 September. Thus, the meeting between Sujono and Supardjo could not have taken place. The question is who ordered Aidit’s transport to Halim and who escorted him? In his own trial, Sjam gave one answer. He told the court he had ordered Sujono to bring Aidit to Halim (Roosa 2006, Appendix II: 258). Possibly Sujono hid his connection with Sjam, with whom he had worked together since July 1965. He did the same when he denied having attended the team meetings about the Revolutionary Council (Perkara Untung: 99). The question whether Subandrio was involved in the transport or not remains unanswered. Sujono’s suggestive but unfounded testimony about Subandrio’s connection to Aidit’s presence at Halim was not corroborated by others. The attention Sujono gave in his testimony to Supardjo’s role in the 30 September events in his testimony is intriguing. First there is Sujono’s witness statement that Supardjo told him on the evening of 30 September that the president would be expected at Halim the next morning between 7 and 8 AM (Perkara Untung: 116). The second and related fact is that Supardjo arrived at the palace port in Jakarta in the morning of 1 October at 8 AM, along with Lieutenant Colonel Heru Atmodjo, an observant from Air Force Marshall Omar Dani. They intended to meet with the president. However, they were refused entrance and it took some time before they were notified that the president was at Halim, and it took even longer to get there and meet the president. Hence, Sujono’s statement about Supardjo’s information regarding the president’s whereabouts the next morning was beside the point. Sujono once again mixed up his testimony when he said that on the morning of 1 October, he encountered four officers that were supposed to meet the president – General Supardjo, Major Bambang, Major Sukirno, and Lieutenant Colonel Heru Atmodjo. When Sujono asked them what they were up to, they replied they were on their way to the palace (Perkara Untung: 116). Apparently, the four men were not informed about the changed meeting point, which contradicts Sujono’s statement about Supardjo’s order. Supardjo’s evaluation of the G30S in Roosa’s book states that he met with the team on the evening of 30 September, which corroborates Untung’s statement, and discussed the actions of the next day (Roosa 2006: 228). If that meeting did indeed take place, it is difficult to understand why none of the team members informed him of the change in the meeting place and time, or discussed what to report to the president. After all, he was a key person in the reportage to the president. The information reveals chaos and sloppy preparations for the abduction of the generals in the days before 1 October and on the morning of that day. The court did not dive into this puzzle. They simply added the names and the context to their evidence list for subsequent trials. Read more

Bookmark and Share

Professional Blindness And Missing The Mark ~ Sexual Slander And The 1965/66 Mass Killings In Indonesia: Political And Methodological Considerations

OmslagHoltzappelABSTRACT. Indonesia has been haunted by the ‘‘spectre of communism’’ since the putsch by military officers on 1 October 1965. That event saw the country’s top brass murdered and the military attributing this putsch to the Communist Party. The genocide that followed was triggered by a campaign of sexual slander. This led to the real coup and the replacement of President Sukarno by General Suharto. Today, accusations about communism continue to play a major role in public life and state control remains shored up by control over women’s bodies.

This article introduces the putsch and the socialist women’s organisation Gerwani, members of which were, at the time, accused of sexual debauchery. The focus is on the question of how Gerwani was portrayed in the aftermath of the putsch and how this affects the contemporary women’s movement.

It is found that women’s political agency has been restricted, being associated with sexual debauchery and social turmoil. State women’s organisations were set up and women’s organisations forced to help build a ‘‘stable’’ society, based on women’s subordination. The more independent women’s groups were afraid to be labelled ‘‘new Gerwani’’ as that would unleash strong state repression. This article assesses the implications of these events for the post-1998 period of Reformasi and reviews some recent analyses of 1965, state terrorism and violence and reveals blind spots in dealing with gender and sexual politics. It is argued that the slander against Gerwani is downplayed in these analyses. In fact, this slander was the spark without which the bloodbath would not have happened and would not have acquired its gruesome significance.

KEY WORDS: Sexual politics, communism, nationalism, Indonesia, women’s movement, gender

In March 2009 campaigning for the parliamentary elections was in full swing.
Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, a popular member of parliament and candidate for the Muslim party Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa (PKB or National Awakening Party), in addition to being a well-known human rights lawyer and feminist activist, was campaigning in the district of Banyuwangi, in East Java, unfamiliar territory for her.[1] Her adversaries mounted a gossip campaign, spreading the rumour that she defended the illegal Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI). The association this allegation was supposed to evoke was that she was an atheist, opposing the clerical elite of the region, fighting for women’s interests and, in general, looking for trouble.

These are serious issues, considering that the PKB is an offshoot of the Nahdlatul Ulema (NU), one of the two largest Muslim organisations in the country. Banyuwangi is considered one of NU’s strongholds, with many Muslim boarding schools (pesantren ) scattered across its vast area. The kyai , leaders of these pesantren , are the backbone of the NU. This was not the first time Nursyahbani Katjasungkana had been associated with the PKI or with one of its mass organisations. In December 1998, six months after the fall of General Suharto, the first national feminist conference since 1965 was held, in Yogyakarta. NKS, as she is popularly known, chaired the conference at which the Indonesian Women’s Congress (Kongres Perempuan Indonesia or KPI) was established. This was the first feminist mass organisation since the destruction of Gerwani . At the time, NKS was accused of being ‘‘Gerwani baru ’’ or a new Gerwani member. That term was reiterated by the then Minister of Women’s Affairs, Tuti Alifiah in a Cabinet meeting in 1999, where she discussed her worries about the establishment of the KPI (NKS, personal communication, April 2009).

Only a few months earlier, when General Suharto was still in power, such an accusation could land one in serious trouble. But even in December 1999, with reformasi proclaimed, mention of Gerwani caused considerable unrest. At the congress, Ibu Sulami, a former secretary of the national leadership of Gerwani, spoke about Gerwani , its history and destruction. This was the first time Ibu Sulami had addressed a public meeting, having been imprisoned for 17 years.[2] Many participants were shocked by what she said, having believed the absurd lies the Suharto regime had spread about Gerwani ’s alleged involvement in the murder of the generals who were killed in the early morning of 1 October 1965.[3] Because of the presence of Ibu Sulami, the delegates of Aisyah , the women’s organisation of the Muhammadiyah, the other large Indonesian Muslim mass organisation, withdrew in protest.
Few events have impacted Indonesian modern history more deeply than the mass murders of 1965/66 which eventually led to the establishment of the New Order under President Suharto. Yet what triggered these mass murders has mostly been hidden under deep layers of fear, guilt, horror and shame. Clearly the trauma of the ‘‘events of 1965,’’ as they are commonly referred to, is still playing an important role in the national imagination. Other than in countries like South Africa, Chile, Cambodia, Argentina and Rwanda, where processes of truth finding have led to some reconciliation, in Indonesia there still has not been a national process aimed at finding truth.[4]

Many issues remain unclear, such as the role Suharto himself played and the extent of the genocide unleashed by the military assisted by religious and, in some cases, conservative nationalist forces. At the local level, some careful efforts at reconciliation are being made by the members of Syarikat Islam (Muslim Association), set up in Yogyakarta in 2003. This process means that young people are being confronted with the mysterious pasts of their parents which have created insurmountable rifts between the families of the killers and of their victims. At the very emotional meeting when Syarikat Islam was launched, members of Ansor , the youth movement of the NU, confessed to having butchered PKI members in 1965. In tears they declared they thought they had been doing the right thing at the time, ‘‘cleansing’’ society from the perceived communist evil. In any case, they said, they had had little choice as they had acted under threat of the military. [5]

The hatred and fear of Gerwani are still so strong that the shooting of Lastri, a film based on a series of interviews with ex-Gerwani members, but with a more romantic fictional story line, was prohibited (Nadia, 2007). Early in 2009, after protests by members of the Surakarta branch of the Front Pembela Islam (FPI or Muslim Defender’s Front) a right-wing Muslim militia group, the mayor of that city forbade Eros Djarot, the director, to shoot the film on location. The arguments used by the FPI were that the film would violate the rights of the Muslim community. The film was seen to be part of a propaganda strategy to create sympathy for communism. A press statement published by the FPI declared further that this was a similar propaganda strategy as the Jews used to enhance sympathy for Israel by stressing the suffering of the many Holocaust victims. The FPI noted that films have a great potential to sway the minds of people, particularly when they contain a love story.
FPI strongly opposed the views of the director that the present beliefs of what happened at Lubang Buaya, the field where the army officers were killed, were just a fairy tale.[6] As will be explained, Gerwani members present when the generals were murdered were falsely accused of sexually torturing them. The film tried to debunk these fabrications. The inhabitants of Karanganyar, where the shooting of the film was to take place, joined the protests and demanded that permission for the filming be withdrawn.[7] Later, students of the Himpunan Mahasiswa Islam Bogor (HMI Bogor or Muslim Students Union) expressed their solidarity with the protesters. Read more

Bookmark and Share

Professional Blindness And Missing The Mark ~ The Anthropologist’s Blind Spots: Clifford Geertz On Class, Killings And Communists In Indonesia

OmslagHoltzappelWhen I first went to Indonesia for research in 1972, I was not well prepared at all. The decision to go to Indonesia had been made at short notice. Soon after I discovered that I would not be allowed to go to Burma, I met Clifford Geertz after he had given a lively seminar at Columbia University and he suggested that I shift my interests to Indonesia. Like many graduate students of this era I had been impressed by Geertz’s Agricultural Involution (1963a). Unlike PhD candidates from universities with strong traditions of teaching and research on Indonesia like Leiden, Wageningen, Amsterdam, Cornell, Berkeley or Yale I had taken no courses in Indonesian studies, knew only a few words of Indonesian language, and had read only a very few books on Indonesia. Among them was a curious and disturbing booklet called Indonesia 1965: The Second Greatest Crime of the Century (Griswold 1970). This booklet gave stark details of the orchestrated anti-Communist backlash after the crushing of a bungled leftist coup attempt in Jakarta (in which twelve persons in total had been killed) and the massacre of hundreds of thousands of alleged communists and communist sympathizers in Java and Bali in late 1965 – early 1966. It also gave a quite different version of the background and course of the massacres than what was to be found in the US Government Printing Office’s semi-official Area Handbook for Indonesia.

During my stay in Indonesia I found little to read, and few people willing to talk, about the killings or the events of 1965-66 more generally. In the village in Kulon Progo (Yogyakarta) where I lived during 1972-73 there had been no killings, although people were aware that there had been killings in other parts of the district. On two visits to Jakarta the confident young expatriate staff of the Ford Foundation – always a good source of gossip – seemed to hold to a version of the events of 1965-66 that was close to that of the Area Handbook and the Indonesian government.

When I returned to New York and had decided more or less to make myself into an Indonesia expert, I was of course curious to learn more. One of the first authors I turned to, not surprisingly, was Clifford Geertz. Besides numerous articles and chapters on Indonesian religion and rural society, Geertz had published five books on Indonesia during the years 1960-1968: The Religion of Agricultural Involution, Peddlers and Princes, The Social History of an Indonesian Town, and (after new fieldwork in Morocco in 1963) Islam Observed: Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia. He had also edited a sixth book, Old Societies and New States (Geertz, 1963c), on politics in the newly-independent countries of Asia and Africa, which included his much-quoted essay ‘The Integrative Revolution: Primordial Sentiments and Civil Politics in the New States’. He was, simply, the world’s best-known authority on post-colonial Indonesian society at the time, and it was hardly possible to discuss any aspect of Indonesian society, culture or politics without reference to Geertz’s work.
Geertz had undertaken long periods of field research in both Kediri (East Java, 1953-4) and Bali (1958), two regions in which the bulk of the killings had occurred and which had been marked by violent political conflicts both before and after his fieldwork.
While his long field visits both took place several years before 1965-66, a few years after the massacres Geertz had the opportunity to revisit both his Balinese and Javanese field research sites. In his Balinese field research village, he learned that the killings had taken place in a single night, when 30 families were burned alive in their houses; in Pare (Kediri) the killings had gone on for about a month (Geertz 1995: 8).

In 1971, while on a consulting mission for the Ford Foundation, Geertz had spent time in social science faculties on several Indonesian university campuses; in some of them as many as one-third of all staff had lost their jobs in the anti-communist purges of 1966-7. During this visit he had also spent time in Jakarta as guest of the Ford Foundation, an agency which, having close connections to the US embassy and the CIA as well as the Indonesian military and cabinet, was well in touch with the emerging facts about the involvement of the US government and the Indonesian army in orchestrating the anti-PKI campaigns of 1965-66.
For all these reasons, Geertz was, at that time, probably as well informed as any foreign scholar about the actors and processes of Indonesia’s massacres, both at national and at local level. Like many others, I expected that Geertz would sooner or later decide to put this knowledge to use in one of the typical, reflective essays for which he had become so famous, to help us understand this extraordinary and dreadful tragedy in Indonesia’s post-colonial experience. So far as I know, however, no such essay exists. In the twenty years that followed the killings Geertz alluded to them in only a few scattered references.

Geertz’s avoidance of any serious discussion of the Indonesian mass murders of 1965–66, and what they mean for our understanding of Indonesian politics, is both puzzling and revealing. This does seem to be a good example of what Wertheim in his later years called the “sociologists’ blind spots”, or the “sociology of ignorance” [Wertheim (1984) (1975)]. One dimension of this, about which Wertheim has written, is Geertz’ chronic blindness to class inequalities in Javanese society. Many young researchers of the 1970s, both Indonesian and foreign, had become convinced that the picture of harmonious, poverty-sharing village communities established in such writings as Agricultural Involution was not right. As Wertheim remarked, Geertz’s vision of rural Javanese society mirrored the blindness of colonial and post-colonial élites, whose idea of the harmonious and homogeneous village community was derived from, and promoted by, the village élite themselves (Wertheim 1975: 177-214; cf. Utrecht 1973: 280). There is certainly a striking lack of fit between Geertz’s accounts of Javanese homogeneous rural and small-town culture and the many violent political conflicts in the region both before and after his fieldwork.
But the few scattered comments on the killings which Geertz did make during these years (and which we will summarize below) suggest also the weaknesses of a reliance on cultural explanations of Indonesian collective political violence. This was the type of explanation prevailing at the time among Western media and semi-popular authors; an outbreak of mass communal frenzy, based on pent-up resentment at the leftists’ undermining of core (Balinese or Javanese) values of harmony and order. In most accounts, the killings burst suddenly on the scene, and then stopped just as suddenly; see for example the accounts of journalist John Hughes (1967), Rand Corporation and CIA author Guy Pauker (1968) or the later memoirs of Marshall Green, who had been US Ambassador in Jakarta at the time of the coup (Green 1990). Read more

Bookmark and Share

Professional Blindness And Missing The Mark – Postscript

OmslagHoltzappelIn this book we presented six short studies on political crises that occurred during the first two decades of the existence of the Republic of Indonesia. The articles are mainly based on source material that until recently had escaped the attention or had only been analyzed selectively. In all these cases ignorance played a role, resulting either from lack of knowledge or unwillingness to take note of relevant information. From a wider range of possible options, four of the most important causal factors are discussed in the present volume.

The first factor (I) is formed by the policy of governments (and other owners of information) of closing their more sensitive archives and other sources of information for political reasons for a given period. Normally, a way out is offered by the handling of fixed terms and legal facilities such as the US Freedom of Information Act. The researcher may be able to speed up the opening up of the archives he wishes to see by calling on those kinds of acts. Some leeway may be created this way, depending upon the democratic disposition of the authorities in charge, or the sensitivity of the material. When this does not work, we come upon a second and more serious category (II), that is to say the world of secrecy, where the powers that be try to hide their involvement in morally or politically reproachable affairs in the past, or present them in a form more amenable to their actual interests. This brings us to the third category (III), made up of academics and the like that for reasons of opportunity or fixed convictions tend to look away when confronted with evidence that does not fit in with earlier hard won and widely accepted theories. These are found in all walks of academic life. Linked to this, but defined here as a fourth category (IV), are the sentiments of participants in past events, who tend to reject analyses that do not fit their personal memories. Often, journalists can be found in in this same group.

We derived the Ignorance concept from Wertheim’s last Master Course from 1972/1973, when he warned his master students against the neoliberalism that was entering social sciences at the time, by taking the individual as the starting point for the comparative study of society. Although the term neoliberalism has different meanings in different fields of research, Wertheim focused on the neoliberal fixation on the trading individual and its rejection of structuralism in the study of history. He dived into the history of the sociology of knowledge and made students aware of the arguments behind these constructions. He argued that they had been helpful in analyzing the historical roots of social inequality and oppression, and illustrated this with examples from ignorance cases from the history of the Netherlands Indies. In these articles we follow the trail a bit further into the first decades of Indonesian independence.

The early stages of the Indonesian revolution created a multitude of ideologically driven political and military groups, under the umbrella of a president who desperately tried his best to keep the fragments together and provide them with a view of the country in order to unite them under the flag of independence. At the time, Indonesia failed to create a centralized and institutionalized state system. Policy making was a matter of networking, trading and sharing power with activists that claimed imagined institutional positions, as well as manipulating information and managing rumors to mobilize followers and supporters for their aims. After 1950, the political, military and cultural fragments that survived the war against the Dutch continued to wage their own battles. They did so up to 1965 and after. The Cold War context was the framework in which these battles took place. It provided the groups with plenty opportunities to try to get foreign support for domestic action, either threatening the president’s position or supporting it. All crises studied in this book were domestic affairs indeed. Any links of revolutionary movement members to the outside world were of an opportunistic nature, united only by a drive towards independence. They all strived after some form of independence, but it was always one of their own making. The leaders of the 1948 Affair and the initiators from the GK30S had a decidedly different state in mind than the various Papuan concepts of Independence. So there was ample room for disagreement and internal rivalry. President Sukarno in particular excelled at changing partners for the sake of keeping upright the values of Revolution and Independence as he saw fit during the first twenty years of Indonesia’s existence. Read more

Bookmark and Share

W. Bergmann – Cityness In Afrika ~ Über Mobilität, Offenheit, Unkontrollierbarkeit, Subjektivität ~Und Selbstorganisierung

Straßenszene in Kinshasa

Straßenszene in Kinshasa 2014. Juni. Verlassen wir dieses Europa, das nicht aufhört, vom Menschen zu reden, und ihn dabei niedermetzelt, wo es ihn trifft, an allen Ecken seiner eigenen Straßen, an allen Ecken der Welt. Ganze Jahrhunderte hat Europa nun schon den Fortschritt bei anderen Menschen aufgehalten und sie für seine Zwecke und seinen Ruhm unterjocht; ganze Jahrhunderte hat es im Namen seines angeblichen ‚geistigen Abenteuers‘ fast die ganze Menschheit erstickt…. Also, meine Kampfgefährten, zahlen wir Europa nicht Tribut, in dem wir Staaten, Institutionen und Gesellschaften gründen, die von ihm inspiriert sind. – Frantz Fanon, Die Verdammten dieser Erde.

Warum interessiere ich mich für das Leben in Kinshasa, obwohl ich kein Afrikanist, kein Urbanist und kein Entwicklungshelfer bin? Mit dem Voyeurismus der Slum-Touristen hat es etwas gemein, nämlich Neugier. Aber vor allem anderen geht es mir, wenn ich mich für die Neuzusammensetzung der Subjektivität in einer afrikanischen Metropole interessiere, um ein neues Terrain der Kämpfe im globalen Kapitalismus. Das Kapital des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts kolonisierte und vernichtete die Bauern und nationalisierte / normierte / rationalisierte gleichzeitig die metropolitanen Gesellschaften. Jetzt, im frühen 21. Jahrhundert, subsumiert das Kapital nicht nur die Gesellschaft, nicht nur die normierten Subjekte, sondern auch die Subjektivität der Einzelnen als Produktivkraft und eröffnet damit ein neues Terrain für den prozessierenden Widerspruch zwischen Wert und Nicht-Wert, zwischen der werthaltigen metropolitanen Subjektivität und den peripheren Störkräften, die eine Subjektivität des Nicht-Werts entfalten könnten. Dass dies eine Antwort auf die epochale Krise der industriellen Wertschöpfung und der Moderne ist, soll hier nicht weiter erörtert werden. Der neue Antagonismus hat seinen Ort in den Köpfen der Menschen hier wie dort, wie auch in der Ausbildung sozialer Gegenwelten auf den drei Kontinenten. Es geht also zugleich um neue Subjektivität und um neue Formen sozialer Bewegungen im globalen Kapitalismus. Ich halte an der Auffassung fest, dass das Kapital ein (globales) soziales Verhältnis ist, mit zahlreichen unterschiedlichen Facetten und Kriegsschauplätzen. Es gibt kein Außerhalb mehr. Einer dieser Kriegsschauplätze ist Kinshasa.

Weiter lesen:

Bookmark and Share

chaiwithlakshmi# – The Myth About Urban Indian Slums

While most of us may think that urban slums have electricity and toilets of some sort, they don’t. And there are nearly 35000 such slums in India. It may be hard to believe, but the population from these slums is an active contributor to the country’s economy and a highly effective participant in the urban work force! It is time that this population wasn’t turned a blind eye to.

Taking a step in the direction of inclusion and development is a small team from Australia – Pollinate Energy. They are creating affordable products for lighting and electricity. Soon, they hope to create products for sanitation and cooking too.
In this video, I catch up with Ben and Monique from Pollinate to understand their efforts, what’s it’s meant to work in Indian slums and their vision for the business.

This video was filmed at Sankalp Summit in Mumbai, India. Sankalp is an Intellecap initiative. Discover more at


Bookmark and Share

  • About

    Rozenberg Quarterly aims to be a platform for academics, scientists, journalists, authors and artists, in order to offer background information and scholarly reflections that contribute to mutual understanding and dialogue in a seemingly divided world. By offering this platform, the Quarterly wants to be part of the public debate because we believe mutual understanding and the acceptance of diversity are vital conditions for universal progress. Read more...
  • Support

    Rozenberg Quarterly does not receive subsidies or grants of any kind, which is why your financial support in maintaining, expanding and keeping the site running is always welcome. You may donate any amount you wish and all donations go toward maintaining and expanding this website.

    10 euro donation:

    20 euro donation:

    Or donate any amount you like:

    ABN AMRO Bank
    Rozenberg Publishers
    IBAN NL65 ABNA 0566 4783 23
    reference: Rozenberg Quarterly

    If you have any questions or would like more information, please see our About page or contact us:
  • Like us on Facebook

  • Archives