THE GHOSTS OF 1965
Politics and Memory in Indonesia
One might think twenty years would be time enough for an ‘emerging democracy’ to escape from its chrysalis. Indonesia was a laggard in the wave that saw procedural democracy restored across much of Latin America, the Soviet bloc and Sub-Saharan Africa by the mid-1990s, along with the toppling of dictators in the Philippines, Korea and Taiwan. But after thirty-three years in power, Suharto’s iron grip was loosened only by the social catastrophe of the 1997 Asian crisis, when pressure from the imf as much as turmoil from below forced his resignation in 1998. Since then, an electoral cycle has stabilized, and in 2014 an outsider presidential candidate, Joko Widodo, was swept into office. Jokowi, as he’s known, had even promised to investigate the mass killings of 1965–66 which inaugurated Suharto’s New Order—a subject recently gaining wide attention from Western viewers thanks to Joshua Oppenheimer’s film The Act of Killing (2012). While every Cold War dictatorship tried to wipe out its radical-left opponents, Suharto succeeded on a far greater scale—some 500,000 killed, on conservative estimates, compared to 3,000 in Chile or 20,000 in Argentina. The New Order not only annihilated the 3-million strong Communist Party of Indonesia (pki) as a political force but succeeded in demonizing its memory on a scale that surpassed comparable efforts in Franco’s Spain, let alone those of Pinochet or the Argentine Junta.
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- Benedict Anderson: Exit Suharto What explains the extraordinary longevity of Indonesia’s ‘New Order’, and what are the legacies of three decades of dictatorship? Benedict Anderson details Suharto’s career, from colonial army to crony capitalism, and explores the consequences of his rule—political, social, cultural—for a disorientated, amnesiac present.
- Benedict Anderson: Petrus Dadi Ratu What lay behind the greatest counter-revolutionary massacre of the 20th century, the extermination of the Indonesian Left in 1965? How did the Suharto dictatorship come to power? The extraordinary testimony of a survivor on the bloody mystery at the source of its tyranny.