Movie Review: The Year of Living Dangerously

SUKARNO 1901-1970


First president of Indonesia. Sukarno proclaimed Indonesia’s independence on Aug. 17. 1945.

His synthesis of Marxism, nationalism and traditional Javanese concepts provided the basis for a national Indonesian ideology—Marhaenism. His magnetic personality, which he injected into his mass-attended speeches did much to spread this ideology and his political formulations throughout Indonesia. While sympathetic to much in the program of the PKI (Indonesian Communist Party and to the accomplishments of the Chinese Communists, Sukarno opposed proletarian dictatorship and Marxist class analysis. He was a political eclectic insisting upon an ideological system of his own, attuned to the particular realities existing in Indonesia.

The ineffectiveness of party government during 1950-56 increased Sukarno’s reservations concerning the appropriateness of parliamentary democracy in Indonesia. To replace it he advocated "a truly Indonesian" system—"Guided Democracy." This called for temporary representation in government of all major political parties into a monolithic national front, controlled by him and dedicated to greater national unity and economic progress. Though the National Front never assumed real importance, and it proved impossible for Sukarno to create "Guided Democracy" in accordance with his original concept he did assume, beginning in 1957, an increasingly active role in government. His growing ascendancy was challenged in 1958 by military commanders in Sumatra and Celebes and some influential Moslem political leaders, but following their defeat his position grew stronger. In 1960 he dissolved the elected parliament and replaced it with one appointed by him. He was still obliged to share power with the armed forces, but by 1962 he was still the dominant partner.

To help ensure his ascendancy he gave the Communist Party (PKI), which he regarded as a home-grown communist party neither subservient to Moscow or Bejing, enough room for growth to ensure that it would remain a political counterweight to the army. Increasingly, significant aspects of his policies paralleled those advocated by the Indonesian Communists.

Sukarno’s attitudes toward the U.S. and Britain were much affected by foreign policy issues. But the most important factor in determining his hostile attitude toward the U.S. was the covert CIA support that the U.S. gave to anti-Sukarno rebels in 1958. In the 1960’s he showed increasing interest in assuming a role as the principal world leader in a struggle against old and "neo-colonial" forces. In 1965 he took Indonesia out of the U.N., and with the support of Bejing, laid plans for the establishment of a rival world organization known as CONEFO (Conference of New Emerging Forces). In October of 1965, an attempted coup by army elements, largely drawn from central Java and supported by part of the Air Force and some members of the Communist Youth organization resulted in the killing of six top generals. As a consequence, the Communist Party was outlawed and in three weeks some 300,000 people were massacred, thereby eliminating the third largest communist party in the world literally overnight. With the elimination of the Communist party the balance of power was drastically altered in the army’s favor, and Sukarno’s position was furthered weakened when it was alleged that he and major communist leaders had played a major role in the attempted coup. On March 11, 1966 Sukarno was obliged to delegate power to the army commander General Suharto who reversed most of Sukarno’s domestic and foreign policies in exchange for western military and economic support. Because of the threat of civil war Sukarno was not brought to trial, but was placed under house arrest, banned from politics and died under house arrest in 1970.