Suharto, Indonesia’s former military dictator, finally kicked the bucket after a long illness. Unfortunately, he died in bed and not at the hands of the working class, to whom he brought so much suffering.
Suharto was the leader of the 1965 military coup that ousted the nationalist regime of Sukarno. “Throughout the country, members, supporters and suspected sympathisers of the Parti Kommunist Indonesia [PKI] were massacred; it was estimated that up to one million were killed, while many more were imprisoned or detained without trial.” (The London Independent, 1/28) It was one of the bloodiest massacres in recent history, and the CIA helped the death squads all the way, supplying them with the names of communists and sympathizers.
More than a decade later, the Suharto regime committed more mass murder, this time against 200,000 in East Timor, which was occupied by Indonesia after it had became independent from Portugal. The Indonesian army also massacred many thousands in West Papua and oil-rich Aceh (where Exxon-Mobil has huge investments).
Suharto served in the Dutch colonial army (Indonesia had been a Dutch colony). Then, during World War II, he won promotion in the puppet army controlled by the Japanese fascists. After the war, he joined the anti-Dutch struggle until Indonesia became independent in 1950.
His regime lasted from 1965 until May 1998, when, after a mass rebellion, Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State, suggested he step down to avoid more turmoil.
Corruption was rampant in his regime. It’s estimated that his family and cronies stole anywhere up to $35 billion, using their control of state power. But justice wasn’t served and Suharto was able to live out a quiet life within his fortified villa. The new rulers refused to try him or his crooked sons for corruption.
Indonesia’s communist movement was one of the world’s biggest. The PKI was a mass-based party, but it made a fatal error: it tried to unite with Sukarno who they saw as the “progressive bourgeoisie,” actually joining his government — only to be massacred when Suharto seized power in 1965, leaving Sukarno in a figurehead role. The PKI had no strategy for a real revolutionary struggle to smash capitalism and imperialism. Its ill-fated faith in “lesser-evil” capitalists was paid in blood.
The communist movement in Indonesia has not recovered from that mistake. This led to Suharto and his cronies never paying for their crimes against the working class. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen in the future.