US involvement in eliminating communism in indonesia was troublesome in a way that they were unable to correctly identify Sukarno ideologically and politically because they saw that Sukarno was leaning towards communism and PKI (Indonesia Communist Party) and the prospect of supporting the outer islanders militarily through CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) hesitantly or covertly came up. While on the other hand, the British’s stance to eliminate the MCP (Malayan Communist Party) was overt, brutal and was effective on the spot.
As noted, the American military support in Indonesia was based in two faces- first for the rebels with the help of CIA and second in the indonesian military itself. This policy risked the aspect of the indonesia government to take foreign aid from the Soviet Union in rooting out the disloyal outer islanders.
First, the US has aided the rebels because these people were in open opposition to the central Indonesian government headed by Sukarno who was seen as leaning towards Indonesia communisty party PKI. However, US was also conducting communication with the Indonesian military generals apart from Sukarno and after receiving communication from the army chief and the prime minister, the US considered shifting the policy again. They wanted to reluctantly halt the rebels movement and wanted to reward each successive act of anti-communist repression by the army. For this policy change, the US had wanted to initiate a peace deal with the rebels and the government, which was deemed as quite impossible after the blunt opposition which came from the outer islanders. When the deal was not successful, the rebels’ position was beefed up with more support.
Once again, when an American bomber pilot named Allen Pope and his rebel radio operator were shot down over government-held territory and captured alive, The American backed down the covert support to the rebels. (david, 2002) Therefore, the US involvement in Indonesia was clandestine and when this pilot capture case was revealed, the US totally backed down its involvement.
The Republic of China (Taiwan) still wanted to help the rebels in cooperation with the US. This stance was a bit risky because the Republic was not considered to be able to defend its own position and still wanted to reach out the hand and intervene in Indonesia’s ideological conflict. On the other hand, the US was trying to show Indonesia that Indonesia could go to the United States rather than the Soviets for weaponry and other assistance. If this resulted in a rightward shift in the government of Indonesia, the United States would then consider supplying significant weapons to Indonesia. In the conclusion about US involvement in Indonesia to eliminate the communists, it was risking allies and wanted to change sides from time to time.
In 1960 Sukarno dissolved the elected parliament and replaced it with appointees. The PKI described the act as “an event which seriously endangers democratic life in our country” and demanded new elections, which were never held. (david,2002) Also in this case, one can see that Sukarno was ideologically unstable. Eventhough he was leaning towards the communists, he was not openly supporting them. Sukarno was also worried about the military’s rise to power.
The PKI managed to survive for five more years, as Sukarno began to depend on it as a counter-weight to the growing power of the military. The end of the Sukarno regime came in the mid-1960s, largely as a result of the rising conflict between the two political forces which had gained most from guided democracy: the communists and the military. The PKI was the largest political party in the country, with about three million members.
By the mid-1960s, the conflict between the army and the PKI had become the dominant theme in Indonesian politics. There was a huge clash between them now. On September 30 1965, when squads of troops and members of PKI-affiliated youth and women’s organizations kidnapped six of the country’s most senior army officers and killed them, the demise of the PKI set forth. The mitiary moved very quickly and Sukarno was sidelined. PKI was banned on 12 March 1966.
Colin aruged that the conflict which brought Suharto’s New Order government to power involved not only the army but also the PKI. The army was supported in its fight against the communists by a loose coalition of at least two major civilian groups, and a host of minor ones. One group was indentified as the active Muslims from Masjumi party and another group which carried out the killings of Communist Party was the members of Ansor, the youth wing of the conservative and traditionalist Muslim Party NU.
Students and intellectuals supported Suharto, shouting the ‘Three demands of the People”: the lowering of prices, the banning of the PKI and the purging of PKI members and sympathisers from the Cabinet.
After looking at Indonesia’s issue and its attempt to elimate the Communists, we came to look at the similar patten happened in Malaysia in particular and Federation of Malaya in general.
There was only a brief description about Malayan Communist Party in the text of the course material by John Funston. It says that the Malayan Communist Party challenged for leadership of Malayan nationalism. It was, however, handicapped by its predominantly Chinese membership, and close ideological allegiance to its Chinese counterpart. It was gradually sidelined after Britain declared Embergency rule in 1948, though the Emergnecy did not end until 1960, and the party only abandoned its struggle in 1989.
One has to wonder if this Malayan Communist Party had the same organizing and controlling role in Singpore. In DVD movie called “Success stories; Lee Kuan Yew.” one could find some valuable facts about Malayan Communist Party even tough the DVD was meant for parising Lee Kuan Yew. Fang Chuong Pi, Malayan Communist pary’s representative in Singapore was a formidable foe for Lee Kuan Yew. This means that even a faction of Malayan Communist Party posed a serious threat to the seemingly central part of the formarly Federation of Malaya. The communist wanted Singapore in a communist Malaya. At first Lee Kuan Yew cooperated with the communists in order to get rid of the British. But after the British had left, the communists were defeated in the power contest. Fang Chuong Pi was exiled to a small town in Thailand. After the War and when the British came back, the reward was given to Malayan Communist Party which fought against the Japanese. However, the organization was declared illegal before long. As a result, the party went underground. Before the war, Lee Kuan Yew joined the communists and again even after the war, he did not hesitate to join with them to oust the British masters. Even though the DVD movies justified his action by saying that he was in fact dead against communism, it is apparent that he needed to join hands with the communists to achieve his political goals. That’s why critics derided him as being opportunistic and lacking principles.
For the present-day Malaysian part, the British initiated ‘state of emergency’ which gives the police unconditional powers of arrest, and punishments of the commmunists, including the death penalty without an ordinary criminal trial. This is a severe blow to the Malayan Communist Party. This ‘state of emergency’ was dubbed as the civil war in the book called ‘a short history of Malaysia’ by Virginia Matheson Hooker. She also pointed out that Malayan Communist Party was the best prepared and best organized to exploit the socio-economic conditions for political purposes. While MCP was seen as a terrorist organization because in 1948, it murdered three European estate managers in Perak.
They are also supposedly said to be targeting British enterprises in the mining, platation and timbers sectors. The pretext was made to declare the above-mentioned ‘state of emergency’ to safeguard the British’s seemingly prosperous economic and strategic interests in the region. The extent to which this crackdown was carried out was not mentioned in the book but it seems that it must have been harsh and violent given the fact that the MCP was the strongest party and had the most potential to gain over the post-colonial government.
Virginia continued to describe the British’s strategy to isolate the Chinese majority communists from the chinese communities in the region. It was the relocation plan. The massive resettlement plan was initiated and was named “Briggs Plan” after the British director of operations at the time. She pointed out that the strategy to resettle the rural Chinese commnunities was a bold and risky one, probaly because of the huge amount of population. The plan was hardly imaginable given the fact that the villages were construted and fortified with barbed wire and spotlights. There was also an education plan aimed at the younger Chinese settlers.
In addition to this, the British developed a number of psychological warfare techniques using anti-communist propaganda and a special interrogation center.
Furthermore, the British brought in military support from the beginning of the Emergency and there were 23 infantry battalions stationed in Singapore and Malaya. I wonder how the British got the infantry units while they were exhausted from War World 2 and tired from the Indian independence movements. By 1953, the indians have got their independence and I have no idea how the British tried to receive military support to implement this.
Virginia argued that by 1951, the MCP Central Executive Committee decided to change its tactics. Although it had succeeded in causing dealth and disruption throughout Malaya and in Singapore, it had not always been able to capitalise on its successes and many of the young Chinese recruits lost morale under jungle conditions. I personally do not think that this fact is important because of the nature of warfare. Generally speaking, I would just like to comment on the MCP’s inability to capitalise on its successes, rather than talking about the young Chinese recruits’s morale loss under jungle conditions. And I do not understand why the CEC of MCP decided to move gradually from their main concentration in Pahang to the Malay-Thai border region and increase their propaganda strategies through educational movements in schools and youth organisations. The police role in the ‘state of emergency’ is really dramatic rather than the military. Therefore, finally we have to say that the British’s successful strategy culminated in the gradual loss of the MCP.
In conclusion, in both countries, eliminating the communists was quite early and was done relatively successfully, despite the bloodshed and civil unrest. The foreign countries were involved in both countries as well. But the handling of the cases by the US and the UK were different and US involvement could be seen as ineffective and opportunistic while on the other hand, the UK strategy was comparably effective.
BROWN, C., 2003. A short history of Indonesia; the unlikely nation? 1st ed. Australia: Allen & Unwin.
HOOKER, V.M., 2003. A short history of Malaysia; linking east and west. 1st ed. Australia: Allen & Unwin.