Rampart Vol. 9 No. 4. October 1970
The Berkeley Mafia and the Indonesian Massacre
By David Ransom
School for Soldiers
In 1959, Pauker set
out the lessons of the PSI's electoral isolation and Sumitro's abortive
Outer Islands Rebellion in a widely read paper entitled "Southeast
Asia as a Trouble Area in the Next Decade." Parties like the PSI
were "unfit for vigorous competition" with communism, he wrote,
"Communism is bound to win in Southeast Asia
countervailing power is found." The "best equipped" countervailing
forces, he wrote, were "members of national officers corps as individuals
and the national armies as organizational structures."
When the Berkeley team phased itself out in 1962, Sadli, Widjojo, and others from the Faculty began regular trips to Bandung to teach at SESKOAD. Ford's Frank Miller-who replaced Harris in Jakarta and who, like Harris, had worked under Ford President Hoffman in Germany-says that they "taught economic aspects of defense."
Pauker tells a different
story. Since the mid '50s, he had come to know the Army General Staff
rather well, first on the MIT team, then on trips for RAND. One good friend
was Colonel Suwarto (not to be confused with General Suharto), the deputy
commander of SESKOAD and a 1959 Fort Leavenworth graduate. In 1962, Pauker
brought him to RAND.
Besides learning "all
sorts of things about international affairs" while at RAND, Suwarto
also saw how RAND "organizes the academic resources of the country
was consultants," Pauker says. According to Pauker, Suwarto had "a
new idea" when he returned to Bandung. "The four of five top
economists became 'cleared' social scientists lecturing and studying the
future political problems of Indonesia in SESKOAD."
In effect, this group
became the Army's high-level civilian advisors. They were joined at SESKOAD
by other PSI and Masjumi alumni of the university programs-Miriam Budihardjo
from Pauker's MIT study group, and Selosoemardjan from Kahin's program
at Cornell, as well as senior faculty from the nearby Bandung Institute
of Technology, where the University of Kentucky had been "institution-building"
for AID since 1957.
These economists were
quickly caught up in the general's anti-communist conspiracy. Lieutenant
General Achmad Yani, Army commander-in-chief had drawn around him a "brain
trust" of generals. It was an "open secret," says Pauker,
that Yani and his brain trust were discussing "contingency plans"
which were to "prevent chaos should Sukarno die suddenly." The
contribution of Suwarto's mini-RAND, according to Colonel Willis G. Ethel,
US defense attache in Jakarta at the time, was that the professors "would
run a course in this contingency planning." Col. Ethel was a close
confidant of Commander-in-chief Yani and others of the Army high command.
He even introduced them to golf.
Of course, it wasn't
"chaos" of the Army planners were worry about, but the PKI.
"They weren't about to let the Communists take over the country,"
Col. Ethel says. Moreover, any but the most dense officer or advisor knew
that since there was immense popular support for Sukarno and the PKI,
a lot of blood would flow when the showdown came.
joined the Ford economists in preparing the military. High-ranking Indonesian
officers had begun US training programs in the mid '50s. By 1965 some
4000 officers had been taught big-scale army command at Fort Leavenworth
and counter-insurgency at Fort Bragg. Beginning in 1962, hundreds of visiting
officers at Harvard and Syracuse were provided with the skills for maintaining
a huge economic, as well as military, establishment, with training in
everything from business administration and personnel management to air
photography and shipping. AID's "Public Safety Program" in the
Philippines and Malaya trained and equipped the Mobile Brigade of Indonesian
military's fourth arm, the police.
The Army also moved
into the economy, first taking "supervisory control," then key
directorship of the Dutch properties that the PKI unionists had seized
"for the people" during the confrontation over West Irian in
late 1957. As a result, the generals controlled plantations, small industry,
state-owned oil and tin, and the state-run export-import companies, which
by 965 monopolized government purchasing and had branched out into sugar
milling, shipping and distribution.
officers not born into Indonesian aristocracy quickly married in, and
in the countryside they firmed up alliances-often through family ties-with
the santri Moslem landowners who were the backbone of the Masjumi Party.
"The Army and the civil police," wrote Robert Shaplen of the
New York Times, "virtually controlled the whole state apparatus."
American University's Willard Hanna called it "a new form of government-military-private
The economists "economic aspects of defense" thus became a wide-rangin subject. To make it even broader, the professors undertook preparing post-Sukarno economic policy at SESKOAD, too.
Deprived of their
victory at the polls and unwilling to break with Sukarno, the Communist
PKI tried to make a poor best of this "guided democracy," participating
with the Army in coalition cabinets. Pauker has described the PKI strategy
as "attempting to keep the parliamentary road open," while seeking
to come to power by "acclamation." That meant building up PKI
prestige as "the only solid, purposeful, disciplined, well-organized,
capable political force in the country," to which Indonesians would
turn "when all other possible have failed."
By 1963, three million
Indonesians, most of them in heavily populated Java, were members of PKI,
and an estimated 17 million were members of its associated organizations
in 1963-making it the world's largest Communist Party outside Russia and
China. At Independence the party had numbered only 8000.
In December 1963,
PKI Chairman D.N. Aidit gave official sanction to "unilateral action"
which had been undertaken by the peasants to put into effect a land reform
and crop-sharing law already on the books. Though landlords' holdings
were not large, less than half of Indonesian farmers owned the land they
worked, and of these, the majority had less than an acre. As the peasants'
"unilateral action" gathered momentum, Sukarno, seeing his coalition
endangered, tried to check his force by establishing land reform courts
which included peasant representatives. But in the countryside, police
continued to clash with peasants and made mass arrests. In some areas,
santri youth groups began murderous attack on peasants.
The test of the strength
came in September 1965. On the night of the 30th, troops under the command
of dissident lower-level Army officers, in alliance with officers of the
small Indonesian Air Force, assassinated General Yani and five members
of his SESKOAD "brain trust." Led by Lt. Colonel Untung, the
rebels seized Jakarta radio station and next morning broadcast that their
September 30th Movement was directed against the "Council of Generals,"
which they declared was CIA-sponsored and had itself planned a coup d'etat
for Armed Forces Day, four days later.
coup quickly collapsed. Though he did not denounce it, Sukarno, hoping
to restore the pre-coup balance forces, gave it no support; on the other
hand, the PKI had prepared no street demonstration, no strikes, no coordinated
uprising in the countryside. For their part, their dissidents missed assassinating
General Nasution and apparently left General Suharto off their list; Suharto
rallied the elite paracommandos and units of the West Java division, the
Siliwangi, against Untung's colonels. Untung's trrops unsure of themselves,
their mission and their loyalties, made no stand as Suharto drove them
from their strong-points. It was all over in a day.
They Army high command
quickly blamed the Communist for the coup, a line the Western press had
followed ever since. Yet the utter lack of activity in the street and
the countryside makes PKI involvement unlikely, and many Indonesia specialists
believe, with Dutch scholar W. F. Wirtheim, that "the Untung coup
was what its leader
claimed it to be-an internal army affair reflecting
serious tensions between officers of the Central Java Diponegoro Division,
and the Supreme Commander of the Army in Jakarta
Leftists, on the other hand, assumed after the ensuing massacres and Sukarno's overthrow that the CIA had a heavy hand in the affair. Indeed, embassy officials had long wined and dined the student apparatchiks who rose to lead the demonstrations that brought Sukarno down. And old Indonesia hands casually mention the CIA's connections with the Army, especially with Intelligence Chief Achmed Sukendro, who retrained his agents after 1958 with U.S. help and studied at the University of Pittsburgh in the early '60s. But Sukendro and most other members of the Indonesian high command were equally close to the embassy's military attaches, who seem to have made Washington's chief contracts with the Army both before and after the attempted coup. And considering the make-up and history of the generals and their "modernist" allies and advisors, it is clear that at this point neither the CIA nor the Pentagon needed to play any more than a subordinate role.
The professors may
have helped lay out the Army's contingency plans, but no one was going
to ask them to take the streets and make the generals' "revolution".
Fortunately, they could leave that to their students. Lacking a mass organization,
the Army depended on the students to give authenticity and "popular"
leadership in the events that followed. It was the students who demanded-and
got-Sukarno's head; and it was the students-as propagandists-who carried
the cry of jihad (religious war) to the villages.
In late October, Brigadier
General Sjarif Thajeb-the Harvard-trained Minister of Higher Education-brought
student leaders together in his living room to create the Indonesian Student
Action Command (KAMI). Many of the KAMI leaders were the older student
apparatchiks who had been courted by the U.S. Embassy. Some had traveled
to the U.S. as American Field Service exchange students, or on year-long
jaunts in a "Foreign Student Leadership Project" sponsored by
the U.S. National Student Association in its CIA-fed salad years.
Only months before
the coup, U.S. Ambassador Marshall Green had arrived in Jakarta, bringing
with him the reputation of having masterminded the student overthrow over
Syngman Rhee in Korea and sparking rumors that his purpose in Jakarta
was to do the same there. Manuals on student organizing in Korean and
English were supplied by the embassy to KAMI's top leadership soon after
But KAMI's most militant
leadership came from Bandung, where the University of Kentucky had mounted
ten-year "institution-building" program at Bandung Institute
of Technology, sending nearly 500 hundred of their students to the U.S.
for training. Students in all Indonesia's elite universities had been
given paramilitary training by the Army in a program for a time advised
by an ROTC colonel on leave from Berkeley. Their training was "in
anticipation of a Communist attempt to seize the government,": writes
Harsja Bachtiar, an Indonesian sociologist (alumnus of Cornell and Harvard).
In Bandung, headquarters
of the aristocratic Siliwangin Division, student paramilitary training
was beefed up in the months preceding the coup, and santri student leaders
were boasting to the Kentucky friends that they were developing organization
contacts with extremist Moslem youth groups in villages. It was this group
that spearheaded the massacre of PKI followers and peasants.
At the funeral of General Nasution's daughter, mistakenly slain in the Untung coup, Navy chief Eddy Martadinata told santri students to "sweep." This message was "that they could go out and clean up the Communist without any hindrance from the military," wrote Christian Science Monitor Asian Correspondent John Hughes. "With relish they called out their followers, stuck their knives and pistols in their waistbands, swung their clubs over their shoulders, and embarked on the assignment for which they had long been hoping." For starters, they burnt the PKI headquarters. Thousands of PKI and Sukarno supporters were arrested and imprisoned in Jakarta; cabinet members and parliamentarians were permanently "suspended"; and a purge of the ministries was begun.
On October 17, Col.
Sarwo Edhy took his elite paratroops (known as the "red berets")
into the PKI's Central Java stronghold in Bojolali-Klaten-Solo triangle.
His assignment, Hushes says, was "the extermination by whatever means
might be necessary, of the core of the Communist Party there." He
found he had too few troops. "We decided to encourage the anti-communist
civilians to help with the job," he told Monitor correspondent Hughes.
"In Solo we gathered together the youth, the nationalist groups,
the religious (Moslem) organizations. We gave them two or three days training,
then sent them to kill Communists."
The Bandung engineering
students, who had learned from the Kentucky team how to build and operate
radio transmitter were tapped by Col. Edhy's elite corps to set up a multitude
of small broadcasting units throughout strongly-PKI East and Central Java,
some of which exhorted local fanatics to rise up against the Communist
in Jihad. Providing necessary spare parts for these radios was one of
the ways the U.S. Embassy found of helping the general's anti-communist
pogrom that followed.
Time magazine described
the slaughter in Java in mid September 1965: "Communists, Red sympathizers
and their families are being massacred by the thousands. Backlands army
units are reported to have executed thousands of Communists after interrogation
in remote rails
Armed with wide-blade knives called parangs, Moslem
bands crept at night into the home of Communists, killing the entire families
and burying the bodies in shallow graves
The murder campaign became
so brazen in pasts of rural East Java and Northern Sumatra, where the
humid air bears the reek of decaying flesh. Travelers from these areas
tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with
bodies; river transportation has at places been seriously impeded."
from Bandung and Jakarta were dragooned by the Army to research the number
dead. Their report, never made public, but leaked by correspondent Frank
Palmos-something of an insider-estimated a million victims. "In the
PKI 'triangle stronghold' of Bojolali, Klaten, and Solo," Palmos
said they reported, "nearly one third of the population is dead or
missing." Most observers thinks their estimate high, positing a death
toll of 3-500,000.
"The ideas that
Communism was public enemy number one, that Communist China was no longer
a close friend but a menace to the security of the state, and that there
was corruption and inefficiency in the upper level of the national government
were introduced on the streets of Jakarta," says Bachtiar, whose
scholarly output includes recording these activities.
In January, the economists
made Jakarta headlines with a week-long Economic and Financial Seminar
at the Faculty. "Principally
a demonstration of solidarity among
the members of KAMI, the anti-communist intellectuals, and the leadership
of the Army," Bachtiar says, the seminar heard papers from General
Nasution, Adam Malik, and others who "presented themselves as a counter-elite
challenging the competence and legitimacy of the elite led by Presiden
It was Jakarta's post-coup
introduction to Ford's economic policies.
In working out the
subsequent details of the Sultans' program, the economists got aid from
the expected source. When Widjojo got stuck in drawing up a stabilization
plan, AID brought in Harvard economist Dave Cole, fresh from writing South
Korea's banking regulations, to provide him with a draft. Sadli, too,
required some post-doctoral tutoring. According to an American official,
Sadli "really didn't know how to write an investment law. He had
to have a lot of help from the embassy." It was a team effort. "We
were all working together at the time-the 'economists', the American economists,
AID," remembers Calvin Cowles, the first AID man on the scene.
By early September
the economists had their plans drafted and the generals convinced of their
usefulness. After a series of crash seminars at SESKOAD, Suharto named
the Faculty's five top men (the "Berkeley Mafia") his team of
Experts for Economic and Financial Affairs, an idea Ford man Frank Miller
claims as his own.
Armed with Sadli's
January 10, 1967 investment law, the economists could put on their old
school ties and play host to the lords of the great American corporations.
In August the Stanford Research Institute-a spin-off of the university-military-industrial
complex-brought 170 "senior executives" to Jakarta for a three-day
parley and look-see. "The Indonesians have cut out the cancer that
were destroying their economy," an SRI executive later reported approvingly.
Then, urging that big business invest heavily in Suharto's future, he
warned that "military solutions are infinitely more costly."
In November, Malik,
Sadli, Salim, Selosoemardjan, and the Sultan met in Geneva with a select
list of American and European businessmen flown in by Time-Life. Surrounded
by his economic advisors, the Sultan ticked off the selling point of the
New Indonesia-"political stability
abundance of cheap labor
treasurehouse of resources." The universities,
he added, have produced a "large number of trained individuals who
will be happy to serve in new economic enterprises."
chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank, thanked Time-Life for the chance
to get acquainted with "Indonesia's top economic team." He was
impressed, he said, by their "high quality of education."