The Lessons of the September 30 Affair

coup and counter-coup in Indonesia, 1965,
Previous Next

The September 30 Affair


sound like American football, and are suspect on that account alone. Yet they seemed logical in geo-political terms, especially at a time when Washington sought justification for the American stance in South Vietnam, and the Indonesians sought propaganda ammunition against Peking and the PKI. In Djakarta, however, we were particularly struck by the uniquely indigenous character of the events which led to the purge attempt and by the minimal influence on its outcome that could be ascribed to non-Indonesian factors. The geo-political generalizations about the incident, which I summarized above, clashed in our minds with a point that we felt was its strongest feature-that it was, from start to finish, a peculiarly and exclusively Indonesian phenomenon.
Half a decade has passed since the September 30 Movement collapsed, bringing down with it Sukarno's bloated edifice of words. Personal and institutional memories are growing dimmer. The time may thus be appropriate for a new, "inside the wall" look at the three generalizations produced in the public mind by its dramatic and arcane circumstances, in order to raise serious doubts about their validity before they come to conceal the real value of the Indonesian experience-the lessons of the September 30 affair.
Communist China
. . damned clever, these Chinese." -                                  - Unknown
In her study The Coup that Backfired, Mrs. Helen Hunter went a long way toward dispelling the myth of Chinese Communist involvement in the purge attempt. She concluded that while Peking had probably learned of the Sukarno/PKI plan, as indeed it must have through agent penetration of the Palace and the PKI, the Chinese did not instigate the plot or participate in carrying it out. The same conclusion is implicit in an earlier article in Studies in Intelligence on the September 30 Movement by John T. Pizzicaro.
Like us, the Chinese knew something important was imminent. But I doubt whether they could truly have comprehended the nature of the plot and its implications. By mid-September, too many actors had become involved in the drama, each interpreting the script in light of his own self-interest. I doubt whether Sukarno, let alone the Chinese, knew the Generals were to be liquidated, or the Revolutionary Council named as the "source of all state power." Even Sudisman, fifth-ranking leader of the PKI, subsequently stated under interrogation that the latter statement "was not part of the plan." Sukarno was unaware of the involvement of Colonel Untung from his own Palace Guards'


Previous Next

Posted: May 08, 2007 08:29 AM
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2011 02:24 PM