A WORLD TO WIN    #24   (1998)


Historical Reprint
Self-Criticism of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) - 1966

Starting in October 1965 and continuing into 1966, the pro-US Indonesian military regime presided over by Suharto unleashed a massacre of horrible proportions against the people. Several hundred thousand Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) members and sympathisers as well as many masses not involved in any political activity were murdered in cold blood. The number of people shot in the streets or arrested, tortured and killed in prison is still not known with any accuracy, but estimates range from several hundred thousand up to 2 million. The PKI itself was crushed, the previous nationalistic Sukarno regime was overthrown, and Suharto entrenched himself and his reactionary clique for decades.

The responsibility for this monstrous crime must be laid squarely at the doorsteps of the Indonesian reactionaries and their U.S. imperialist masters. At the same time, it is true that the PKI was extremely vulnerable to such an onslaught, and no effective, organised resistance to Suharto and the massacre was ever built. By the mid-1960s, the core of the PKI leadership had become rotten with years of revisionism. The PKI put forward a wrong view of the state and in practice participated in and glorified Sukarno and the coalition government, which decidedly was not under proletarian leadership. The PKI also went down the revisionist path on the question of the process of revolution, seconding the thesis of a “peaceful road to socialism” advocated by the Soviet revisionists who came to power in 1956.

Following Suharto’s bloody coup, these and other serious errors were summarised and criticised by forces who were attempting a revolutionary regroupment of the PKI, most particularly in two documents, one of which is excerpted here, entitled “Self-Criticism by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Indonesian Communist Party” (September 1966). The Chinese revolutionaries, led by Mao, supported this effort by their Indonesian comrades, and their introductory editorial in Red Flag is also reprinted here, along with their summation of the PKI document. The PKI document itself outlines important errors of the Party leadership during the Sukarno years and calls for a thoroughgoing rectification of the ideological and political line of the Party. A central point in this document is the refutation of the treacherous revisionist theory of the “peaceful road to socialism” then adhered to by the Party. The “Self-Criticism...” calls for raising and defending the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tsetung Thought (which RIM now calls Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) in order to rediscover its proletarian ideology and political line and hence its class character. Moreover, it calls for applying Mao Tse-tung’s strategy of protracted people’s war throughout the far-flung islands of Indonesia in order to seize state power for the people from the Suharto fascist regime.

Today, in the context of the present great upheaval, this call is ever more relevant. Indeed, the crying need of the hour in Indonesia is to turn the current rebellion into a revolutionary process. Revolutionaries around the world need to find ways to put the basic documents of RIM and the teachings of the great leaders of the proletarian class into the hands of Indonesian revolutionaries. There are undoubtedly many there who today are straining to find a way out of the hell of neocolonial society and to fight the imposition of yet another imperialist-backed dictator. Only by arming themselves with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism will the Indonesian revolutionaries be able to rebuild the party of the working class, the indispensable vanguard of the proletariat, so as to guide the long-suffering people of Indonesia to win their liberation, since this alone can arm them to grasp the present social relations based on exploitation, oppression, subordination, inequality and injustice. More than anything else, the absence over the past three decades of a proletarian vanguard armed with this liberating science points to the great void and powerlessnesss among the toiling people today. Only Marxism-Leninism-Maoism opens the door wide for the “wretched of the earth” in Indonesia to grasp revolution and begin to remake social relations on new foundations. - AWTW

From: People of Indonesia, Unite and Fight to Overthrow the Fascist ­Regime (Editorial of Hongqi [Red Flag], No.11, 1967)

After staging the counter-revolutionary 1965 coup d’etat, the Suharto-Nasution right-wing military clique, faithful lackey of U.S. imperialism and anti-communist ally of Soviet revisionism, established a fascist dictatorship of un­precedented ruthlessness in Indonesia. For the past year or more, it has followed an out-and-out traitorous, dictatorial, anti-communist, ­­
anti-China and anti-popular counter-revolutionary policy.

It has imposed a white terror in Indonesia on an un­precedented scale, slaughtered several hundred thousand Communists and revolutionary people and thrown into prison another several hundred thousand fine sons and daughters of the Indonesian people. All Indonesia has been turned into one vast hell. By engaging in bloody suppression, it attempts in vain to wipe out the Indonesian Communist Party and stamp out the Indonesian revolution.

This clique cherishes an inveterate hatred for socialist China, which resolutely supports the revolutionary struggle of the Indonesian people. It has repeatedly carried out serious provocations against the Chinese people, whipped up anti-China, anti-Chinese campaigns and practised inhuman racist persecution against overseas Chinese. It has vainly tried to sabotage the traditional friendship between the Chinese people and the overseas Chinese in Indonesia on the one hand and the Indonesian people on the other, and to pre­vent the Chinese people from supporting the Indonesian peo­ple’s revolution.

In the final analysis, the many kinds of persecution against the Indonesian Communist Party and the Indonesian people by the Suharto-Nasution right-wing military clique will only serve to hasten the arrival of the upsurge in the In­donesian revolution and speed its own doom. The heroic In­donesian Communists and people can neither be cowed, sup­pressed, nor wiped out. The determination of the Indonesian people to make revolution is unshakeable, so is the Chinese people’s determination to support their revolution. No reac­tionary force on earth can obstruct this.

At present, the Indonesian Communists and revolu­tionary people are regrouping their forces for a new battle. The 17 August 1966 Statement of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Indonesian Communist Party and the Self-Criticism it endorsed in September, which were published by the magazine Indonesian Tribune not long ago, are a call to the Indonesian Communists and the Indonesian working class, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals and all anti-imperialist, anti-feudal revolutionary forces to unite and engage in a new struggle.

The two documents of the Political Bureau of the Indone­sian Communist Party are a telling blow at U.S. imperialism and its flunkeys, the Suharto-Nasution fascist military dic­tatorial regime, and the revisionist leading clique of the Com­munist Party of the Soviet Union, and a tremendous en­couragement to the revolutionary people of Indonesia.

In these two documents, the Political Bureau of the In­donesian Communist Party sums up the experience and lessons of the Party in leading the Indonesian people’s revolutionary struggle, criticises the right opportunist errors committed by the leadership of the Party in the past, points out the road for the Indonesian revolution, and lays down the principles for future struggle.

From: Self-Criticism by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Indonesian Communist Party – September 1966

Indonesian Tribune published in its January issue (No.3) the self-criticism adopted by the Political Bureau of the Cen­tral Committee of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in September 1966. The self-criticism is entitled “Build the PKI Along the Marxist-Leninist Line to Lead the People’s Democratic Revolution in Indonesia”.

The self-criticism says that the disaster which has caused such serious losses to the PKI and the revolutionary move­ment of the Indonesian people after the outbreak and the defeat of the September 30th Movement1 has lifted up the curtain which for a long period has hidden the grave weaknesses of the PKI.

The Political Bureau is aware that it has the greatest responsibility with regard to the grave weaknesses and mistakes of the Party during the period under review. Therefore, the Political Bureau is giving serious attention to and highly appreciates all criticisms from cadres and members of the Party given in a Marxist-Leninist spirit, as well as honest criticism from Party sympathisers that have been expressed in different ways. The Political Bureau is resolved to make self-criticism in a Marxist-Leninist way, putting into practice the teaching of Lenin and the example of Comrade Musso in unfolding Marxist-Leninist criticism and self-criticism.

The self-criticism says that under the situation where the most vicious and cruel white terror is being unleashed by the military dictatorship of the right-wing army generals Nasu­tion and Suharto, it is not easy to make as complete criticism and self-criticism as possible. To meet the urgent necessity, it is necessary to point out the main issues in the ideological, political and organisational fields, in order to facilitate the study of the weaknesses and mistakes of the Party during the current rectification movement.

With all modesty and sincerity the Political Bureau presents this self-criticism. The Political Bureau expects all members to take an active part in the discussions of the weaknesses and mistakes of the Party leadership, critically analyse them, and do their utmost to improve this self- criticism of the Political Bureau by drawing lessons from their respective experiences, collectively or individually. The Political Bureau expects all members to take firm hold of the principle: “unity-criticism-unity” and “learning from past mistakes to avoid future ones, and curing the sickness to save the patient, in order to achieve the twofold objective of clarity in ideology and unity among comrades”.2 The Political Bureau is convinced that, by holding firmly to this correct principle, every Party member will take part in the movement to study and surmount these weaknesses and mistakes with the determination to rebuild the PKI along the Marxist-Leninist line, to strengthen communist unity and solidarity, to raise the ideological, political and organisa­tional vigilance, and to heighten the fighting spirit in order to win victory.

The Main Weaknesses in the Ideological Field

The serious weaknesses and mistakes of the Party in the period after 1951, the self-criticism says, certainly had as their source the weaknesses in ideological field, too, especial­ly among the Party leadership. Instead of integrating revolu­tionary theories with the concrete practice of the Indonesian revolution, the Party leadership adopted the road which was divorced from the guidance of the most advanced theories. This experience shows that the PKI had not succeeded as yet in establishing a core of leadership that was composed of proletarian elements, which really had the most correct understanding of Marxism-Leninism, systematic and not fragmentary, practical and not abstract understanding.

During the period after 1951, subjectivism continued to grow, gradually became greater and greater and gave rise to Right opportunism that merged with the influence of modern revisionism in the international communist move­ment. This was the black line of Right opportunism which became the main feature of the mistakes committed by the PKI in this period. The rise and the development of these weaknesses and errors were caused by the following factors:

First, the tradition of criticism and self-criticism in a Marxist-Leninist way was not developed in the Party, especially among the Party leadership.

The rectification and study movements which from time to time were organised in the Party were not carried out seriously and persistently, their results were not summed up in a good manner, and they were not followed by the ap­propriate measures in the organisational field. Study movements were aimed more at the rank and file, and never at unfolding criticism and self-criticisms among the leader­ship. Criticism from below, far from being carefully listened to, was even suppressed.

Second, the penetration of the bourgeois ideology along two channels, through contacts with the national bour­geoisie when the Party established a united front with them, and through the bourgeoisification of Party cadres, especial­ly the leadership, after the Party obtained certain positions in governmental and semi-governmental institutions. The in­creasing number of Party cadres who occupied certain posi­tions in governmental and semi-governmental institutions in the centre and in the regions, created “the rank of bourgeoisified workers” and this constituted “the real chan­nels for reformism”.3 Such a situation did not exist before the August Revolution of 1945.

Third, modern revisionism began to penetrate into our Party when the Fourth Plenary Session of the Central Com­mittee of the Fifth Congress uncritically approved a report which supported the lines of the 20th Congress of the CPSU, and adopted the line of “achieving socialism peacefully through parliamentary means” as the line of the PKI. This “peaceful road”, one of the characteristics of modern revisionism, was further reaffirmed in the Sixth Na­tional Congress of the PKI which approved the following passage in the Party Constitution: “There is a possibility that a people’s democratic system as a transitional stage to socialism in Indonesia can be achieved by peaceful means, in a parliamentary way. The PKI persistently strives to transform this possibility into a reality.” This revisionist line was further emphasised in the Seventh National Congress of the PKI and was never corrected, not even when our Party was already aware that since the 20th Congress of the CPSU, the leadership of the CPSU had been following the road of modern revisionism.

The self-criticism stresses that the experience of the PKI provides the lesson that by criticising the modern revi­sionism of the CPSU leadership alone, it does not mean that the PKI itself will automatically be free from errors of Right opportunism, the same as what the modern revision­ists are doing. The experience of the PKI provides the lesson that modern revisionism, the greatest danger in the international communist movement, is also the greatest danger for the PKI. For the PKI, modern revisionism is not “a latent but not an acute danger”, but a concrete danger that has brought great damage to the Party and serious losses for the revolutionary movement of the Indonesian people. Therefore, we must not in any way underestimate the danger of modern revisionism and must wage a resolute and ruth­less struggle against it. The firm stand against modern revi­sionism in all fields can be effectively maintained only when our Party abandons the line of “preserving friendship with the modern revisionists”.

It is a fact that the PKI, while criticising the modern revisionism of the CPSU leadership, also made revisionist mistakes itself, because it had revised Marxist-Leninist teachings on class struggle, state and revolution. Further­more, the PKI leadership not only did not wage a struggle in the theoretical field against other “revolutionary” political thoughts which could mislead the proletariat, as Lenin has taught us to do, but had voluntarily given conces­sions in the theoretical field. The PKI leadership main­tained that there was an identity between the three com­ponents of Marxism: materialist philosophy, political economy and scientific socialism, and the so-called “three components of Sukarno’s teachings”. They wanted to make Marxism, which is the ideology of the working class, the property of the whole nation which includes the exploiting classes hostile to the working class.

The Main Errors in the Political Field

The self-criticism says that the mistakes of Right oppor­tunism in the political field which are now under discussion include three problems: (1) the road to people’s democracy in Indonesia, (2) the question of state power, and (3) the im­plementation of the policy of the national united front.

One of the fundamental differences and problems of disputes between Marxism-Leninism and modern revision­ism lies precisely in the problem of choosing the road to so­cialism. Marxism-Leninism teaches that socialism can only be achieved through the road of proletarian revolution and that in the case of colonial or semi-colonial and semi-feudal countries like Indonesia, socialism can only be achieved by first completing the stage of the people’s democratic revolu­tion. On the contrary, revisionism dreams of achieving socialism through the “peaceful road”.

During the initial years of this period since 1951, our Party had achieved certain results in the political struggle as well as in the building of the Party. One important achievement of this period was the formulation of the main problems of the Indonesian revolution. It was formulated that the present stage of the Indonesian revolution was a new-type bourgeois democratic revolution, whose tasks were to liquidate im­perialism and the vestiges of feudalism and to establish a people’s democratic system as a transitional stage to socialism. The driving forces of the revolution were the working class, the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie; the leading force of the revolution was the working class and the principal mass strength of the revolution was the peasantry. It was also formulated that the national bourgeoisie was a wavering force of the revolution who might side with the revolution to certain limits and at certain periods but who, at other times, might betray the revolution. The Party further­more formulated that the working class in order to fulfil its obligation as the leader of the revolution, must forge a revolutionary united front with other revolutionary classes and groups based on worker-peasant alliance and under the leadership of the working class.

However, there was a very important shortcoming which in later days developed into Right opportunism or revisionism, namely, that the Party had not yet come to the clearest unity of minds on the principal means and the main form of struggle of the Indonesian revolution.

The Chinese revolution, the self-criticism says, has pro­vided the lesson concerning the main form of struggle of the revolution in colonial or semi-colonial and semi-feudal coun­tries, namely, the people’s armed struggle against the armed counter-revolution. In line with the essence of the revolution as an agrarian revolution, then the essence of the people’s armed struggle is the armed struggle of the peasants in an agrarian revolution under the leadership of the working class. The practice of the Chinese revolution is first and foremost the application of Marxism-Leninism to the con­crete conditions of China. At the same time, it has laid down the general law for the revolutions of the peoples in colonial or semi-colonial and semi-feudal countries.

To achieve its complete victory, it stresses, the Indone­sian revolution must also follow the road of the Chinese revolution. This means that the Indonesian revolution must inevitably adopt this main form of struggle, namely, the peo­ple’s armed struggle against the armed counter-revolution which, in essence, is the armed agrarian revolution of the peasants under the leadership of the proletariat.

All forms of legal and parliamentary work should serve the principal means and the main form of struggle, and must not in any way impede the process of the ripening of armed struggle.

The experience during the last fifteen years has taught us that starting from not explicitly denying the “peaceful road” and not firmly holding to the general law of revolution in co­lonial or semi-colonial and semi-feudal countries, the PKI gradually got bogged down in parliamentary and other forms of legal struggle. The Party leadership even considered this to be the main form of struggle to achieve the strategic aim of the Indonesian revolution. The legality of the Party was not considered as one method of struggle at a given time and under certain conditions, but was rather regarded as a princi­ple, while other forms of struggle should serve this principle. Even when counter-revolution not only has trampled under­foot the legality of the Party, but has violated the basic human rights of the Communists as well, the Party leader­ship still tried to defend this “legality” with all their might.

The “peaceful road” was firmly established in the Party when the Fourth Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Fifth Congress in 1956 adopted a document which ap­proved the modern revisionist line of the 20th Congress of the CPSU. In such a situation, when the revisionist line was already firmly established in the Party, it was impossible to have a correct Marxist-Leninist line of strategy and tactics. The formulation of the main lines of strategy and tactics of the Party started from a vacillation between the “peaceful road” and the “road of armed revolution”, in the process of which the “peaceful road” finally became dominant.

Under such conditions, the General Line of the PKI was formulated by the Sixth National Congress 1959. It reads, “To continue the forging of the national united front, and to continue the building of the Party, so as to accomplish the demands of the August Revolution of 1945.” Based on the General Line of the Party, the slogan “Raise the Three Banners of the Party” was decided. These were: (1) the ban­ner of the national united front, (2) the banner of the building of the Party, and (3) the banner of the 1945 August Revolu­tion. The General Line was meant as the road to people’s democracy in Indonesia.

The Party leadership tried to explain that the Three Ban­ners of the Party were the three main weapons to win the people’s democratic revolution which, as Comrade Mao Tse­tung has said, were “a well-disciplined Party armed with the theory of Marxism-Leninism, using the method of self-criticism and linked with the masses of the people; an army under the leadership of such a Party; a united front of all revolutionary classes and all revolutionary groups under the leadership of such a Party”.4

Thus the second main weapon means that there must be a people’s armed struggle against armed counterrevolution under the leadership of the Party. The Party leadership tried to replace this with the slogan “Raise the banner of the 1945 August Revolution”.

In order to prove that the road followed was not the op­portunist “peaceful road”, the Party leadership always spoke of the two possibilities, the possibility of a “peaceful road” and the possibility of a non-peaceful road. They held that the better the Party prepared itself to face the possibility of a non-peaceful road, the greater would be the possibility of a “peaceful road”. By doing so the Party leadership cultivated in the minds of Party members, the working class and the masses of the working people the hope for a peaceful road which in reality did not exist.

In practice, the Party leadership did not prepare the whole ranks of the Party, the working class and the masses of the people to face the possibility of a non-peaceful road. The most striking proof of it was the grave tragedy which hap­pened after the outbreak and the failure of the September 30th Movement. Within a very short space of time, the counter-revolution succeeded in massacring and arresting hundreds of thousands of Communists and non-communist revolutionaries who found themselves in a passive position, paralysing the organisation of the PKI and the revolu­tionary mass organisations. Such a situation surely would never happen if the Party leadership did not deviate from the revolutionary road.

The Party leadership declared, says the self-criticism that “our Party must not copy the theory of armed struggle abroad, but must carry out the Method of Combining the Three Forms of Struggle: guerrilla warfare in the countryside (especially by farm labourers and poor peasants), revolu­tionary actions by the workers (especially transport workers) in the cities, and intensive work among the enemy’s armed forces”. The Party leadership criticised some comrades who, in studying the experience of the armed struggle of the Chinese people, were considered seeing only its similarities with the conditions in Indonesia. On the contrary, the Party leadership put forward several allegedly different conditions that must be taken into account, until they arrived at the con­clusion that the method typical to the Indonesian revolution was the “Method of Combining the Three Forms of Struggle”.

To fulfil its heavy but great and noble historical mission, to lead the people’s revolution against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism, the Indonesian Marxist-Leninists must firmly reject the revisionist “peaceful road”, reject the “theory of the Method of Com­bining the Three Forms of Struggle” and hold aloft the ban­ner of armed people’s revolution. Following the example of the glorious Chinese revolution, the Indonesian Marxist­-Leninists must establish revolutionary base areas: they must “turn the backward villages into advanced, consolidated base areas, into great military, political, economic and cultural bastions of the revolution”.

While working for the realisation of this most principal question we must also carry out other forms of struggle: arm­ed struggle will never advance without being coordinated with other forms of struggle.


The line of Right opportunism followed by the Party leadership was also reflected in their attitude with regard to the state, in particular to the state of the Republic of In­donesia, the self-criticism says.

Based on this Marxist-Leninist teaching on state, the task of the PKI, after the August Revolution of 1945 failed, should have been the education of the Indonesian working class and the rest of the working people, so as to make them understand as clearly as possible the class nature of the state of the Republic of Indonesia as a bourgeois dictatorship. The PKI should have aroused the consciousness of the working class and the working people that their struggle for liberation would inevitably lead to the necessity of “superseding the bourgeois state” by the people’s state under the leadership of the working class, through a “violent revolution”. But the PKI leadership took the opportunist line that gave rise to the illusion among the people about bourgeois democracy.

The self-criticism says that the climax of the deviation from Marxist-Leninist teaching on state committed by the Party leadership was the formulation of the “theory of the two aspects in the state power of the Republic of Indonesia”.

The “two-aspect theory” viewed the state and the state power in the following way.

The state power of the Republic, viewed as con­tradiction, is a contradiction between two opposing aspects. This first aspect is the aspect which represents the interests of the people (manifested by the progressive stands and policies of President Sukarno that are supported by the PKI and other groups of the people). The second aspect is the aspect that represents the enemies of the people (manifested by the stands and policies of the Right-wing forces and die-hards). The people’s aspect has now become the main aspect and takes the leading role in the state power of the Republic.

The “two-aspect theory” obviously is an opportunist or revisionist deviation, because it denies the Marxist-Leninist teaching that “the state is an organ of the rule of a definite class which cannot be reconciled with its antipode (the class opposite to it)”.5 It is unthinkable that the Republic of In­donesia can be jointly ruled by the people and the enemies of the people.

The self-criticism says that the Party leadership who wallowed in the mire of opportunism claimed that the “peo­ple’s aspect” had become the main aspect and taken the hegemony in the state power of the Republic. It was as if the Indonesian people were nearing the birth of a people’s power. And since they considered that the forces of the na­tional bourgeoisie in the state power really constituted the “people’s aspect”, the Party leadership had done everything to defend and develop this “people’s aspect”. The Party leadership had altogether merged themselves in the interests of the national bourgeoisie.

By considering the national bourgeoisie the “people’s aspect” in the state power of the Republic, and President Sukarno the leader of this aspect, the Party leadership er­roneously recognised that the national bourgeoisie was able to lead the new-type democratic revolution. This is contrary to historical necessity and historical facts.

The Party leadership declared that the “two-aspect theory” was completely different from the “theory of struc­tural reform”6 of the leadership of the revisionist Italian Communist Party. However, the fact is, theoretically or on the basis of practical realities, there is no difference between the two “theories”. Both have for their starting point the “peaceful road” to socialism. Both dream of a gradual change in the internal balance of forces in the state power. Both reject the road of revolution and both are revisionist.

The anti-revolutionary “two-aspect theory” glaringly ex­posed itself in the statement that “the struggle of the PKI with regard to the state power is to promote the pro-people aspect so as to make it bigger and dominant, and the anti-people force can be driven out from the state power”.

The Party leadership even had a name for this anti-revolutionary road: they called it the road of “revolution from above and below”. By “revolution from above” they meant that the PKI “must encourage the state power to take revolutionary steps aimed at making the desired changes in the personnel and in the state organs”. While by “revolution from below” they meant that the PKI “must arouse, organise and mobilise the people to achieve the same changes”. It is indeed an extraordinary fantasy! The Party leadership did not learn from the fact that the concept of President Sukarno on the formation of a co-operation cabinet (the old-type government of national coalition), eight years after its announcement, had not been realised as yet. There was even no sign that it would ever be realised, despite the insistent demands. Let alone a change in the state power!

The self-criticism stresses that to clean itself from the mire of opportunism, our Party must discard this “theory of two-aspect in the state power” and re-establish the Marxist-Leninist teaching on state and revolution…..

(Italics and quotation marks are in the original – AWTW)