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Sukarno and Marxism

Updated on April 5, 2013

You say you want a revolution

Well, you know we all want to change the worid

You tell me that it's evolution

Well, you know we all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction

Don’t you know that you can count me out

( "Revolution", The Beatles)


I will not write a lengthy article this time. I will only take excerpts of Sukarno's view on Marxism. I let the readers to make their own assessments. Unfortunely, Sukarno's views still rarely known by his own followers. His book Di Bawah Bendera Revolusi (Under the Banner of Revolution) is never published again, while the original book is rare and its price is not affordable by most Marhaen. Even if it is published again, most Marhaen cannot afford to buy it because it is very thick. The thicker the book, the price become more expensive. I expect it to reach Rp. 200 thousand ($20) or even more if the current prices rise again. It is out of reach of most Marhaen, especially in difficult economic conditions like now. The book is still a luxury for most of our people. The average Indonesian earn $75 a month, many earn only $20 a month, or $0.7 a day. (sigh…). No improvement from time to time. Neither revolutie nor reformatie could improve it, neither communism nor capitalism (long sigh…). They, Marhaen, would think twice or even ten times to buy such an expensive book, especially those who belong to real Marhaen (not bogus "Marhaen"), whose pocket are also really empty from day to day. Currently there are two types of Marhaen. The first type is the majority, who classify the book worth $20 as luxury goods. And if there are "Marhaen" who regard $20 as just a small change, they must be the second type of "Marhaen" whose garages are full of a variety luxury cars and every day drop in luxury restaurants just to throw away a few pieces of $20 "coins".

Enough discussing the book’s price, and now we discuss the contents of the book. There are at least two Sukarno’s writings in Di Bawah Bendera Revolusi which wrote about Karl Marx and Marxism. The first is an article entitled "In connection with a word of Mr. Baars' and the second is an article entitled "Commemorating 50-year of Karl Marx death ".

We will review the first article, published in the Suluh Indonesia Muda newspaper in 1928. In this article, Sukarno responded to Ir. A. Baars article. Who was this Mr. Baars? Let's see the following excerpts.

Pembatja sudah mengetahui semuanja: Ir. A. Baars jang kita semua mengenalnja sebagai salah seorang penjebar benih Marxism di Indonesia, jang berhubung dengan aksi revolusioner dalam tahun 1917 dikeluarkan dari djabatan Gupermen, jang, sudah enam tahun ini tidak boleh mengindjak Indonesia jang sesudah jatuhnja ia punja externering lantas masuk dalam dinasnja pemerintah Soviet,. . . Ir. A. Baars ini belum selang berapa lama telah menulis beberapa karangan dalam surat-surat-kabar "S.I.D. de Preangerbode" dan “Surabajaasch Handelsblad", dengan ini menundjukkan, bahwa ia kini, oleh pengalaman-pengalamannja dinegeri Rusia, sudah "bertobat" dari faham, jang bertahun-tahun menjerapi budi-akalnja: komunisme. Berkali-kali ia dalam tulisan itu memperingatkan kita, djanganlah kita mendekati komunisme itu; berkali-kali ia mengatakan, bahwa apa jang ia alami di Rusia itu hanjalah kekalutan dan kesengsaraan sahadja.

xxxxThe readers already knew it all: Ir. A. Baars which we all knew him as one of the sower of the seeds of Marxism in Indonesia, who in connection with the revolutionary action in 1917 was fired from the Gupermen office, for six years he should not enter Indonesia, after his expulsion he entered the Soviet government, . . . Ir. A. Baars not long ago has written several articles in the newspapers, "SID de Preangerbode" and "Surabajaasch Handelsblad", Now he shows that by his experiences in Russia, he "repent" from his old belief which has absorbed his mind for many years: communism. Many times in his writings he warns us that we should not approached communism; many times he says, that what he had experienced in Russia is only confusion and misery.

Now you must already know who Ir. A. Baars was. He was one of the pioneer of Marxism in Indonesia. He just returned from Russia after six years expelled from Indonesia because of his communistic activities. In Russia he had seen with his own eyes the suffering of the people under communists rule. The misery and confusion that caused him soon to repent. However, in his writing Sukarno regretted the conversion of Ir. A Baars. We can see Sukarno regret as follow:

Tidakkah pengiraan kita ini diperkuat, tidakkah kita pantas menaruh sjak-wasangka atas objectiviteitnja tulisan itu, kalau kita melihat, bahwa Ir. Baars hanja menjebutkan djeleknja dan bangkrutnja pemerintahan komunis sahadja, dan ia, tiada satu perindahan atau penghargaan sama sekali atas madjunja perguruan di Rusia, madjunja pendidikan badan, madjunja pendidikan nasib kaum Jahudi dan lain-lain sebagainja, jang djuga sudah diakui terang-terangan oleh lawan-lawannja faham komunisme itu?

Bahwasanja, . . . kita, kaum nasionalis, jang bukan kaum bolshevis, jang tidak memeluk faham komunisme, jang djuga mengetahui, bahwa faham pemerintahan Soviet itu dalam banjak hal sudah membuktikan tjelaka dan melesetnja, — akan tetapi jang untuk a d i l n j a perkara, djuga tidak mau membutakan akan beberapa hal-hal kemadjuan, jang pemerintahan Soviet itu sudah bisa mentjapainja dengan hasil jang baik.

xxxxWould it not strengthened our assumption, would it deserve our prejudice about the objectivity of his writings, if we see that Ir. Baars only mentions the banckrupcy and fouls of the communist government, and he do not appreciated at all the advancement of universities in Russia, advancement of education, improvement of Jewish condition and others, which have been openly acknowledged even by the opponent of communism.

Truly. . .we the nationalists, who are not the bolsheviks, who do not embrace communism, who also know that Soviet rule in many respects has proven unlucky and wrong, - but we must be just, and do not blind ourselves to progression there, that the Soviet government also able to achieve it with good results.

Although Sukarno stated that he was not a communist nor a Bolshevik, but he could not avoid the impression in his writing that he was very sympathetic to the communist movement in the Soviet Union. He vigorously opposed the writing Ir. A. Baars that he considered only to vilify the Soviet Union government. We can see Sukarno sympathy to Marxism more clearly in an article he wrote 5 years later, "Commemorating 50-year of Karl Marx death ", published in Fikiran Rakyat (People's Thoughts) newspaper in 1933. Sukarno started his writing as follow:

F.R. nomor jang sekarang ini adalah mendekati 14 Maret 1933. Pada hari itu, maka genap 50 tahun telah lalu, Karl Marx menutup matanya buat selama-lamanja.

Marx dan Marxisme!

Mendengar perkataan ini,—begitulah dulu pernah saja menulis—, mendengar perkataan ini, maka tampak sebagai suatu bajangan dipenglihatan kita gambarnja berdujun-dujun kaum jang mudlarat dari segala bangsa dan negeri, putjat-muka dan kurus badan, pakaian berkojak-kojak; tampak pada angan-angan kita dirinja pembela dan kampiun simudlarat tahadi, seorang ahli-fikir jang ketetapan hatinja dan keinsjafan akan kebiasaannya mengingatkan kita pada pahlawan dari dongeng-dongeng-kuno Germania jang sakti dan tiada terkalahkan itu, suatu manusia jang “geweldig", jang dengan sesungguh-sungguhnja bernama "datuk" pergerakan kaum buruh, jakni Heinrich Karl Marx.

Dari muda sampai wafatnja, manusia jang haibat ini tiada berhenti-hentinja membela dan memberi penerangan pada simiskin, bagaimana mereka itu sudah mendjadi sengsara, dan bagaimana djalannja mereka itu akan mendapat kemenangan.

xxxxF.R. current issue is approaching March 14, 1933. On that day, 50 years ago, Karl Marx closed his eyes forever.

Marx and Marxism!

Hearing these words, once I ever wrote -, hearing this word, appears a picture in our sight- the flocks of poor people from all nations and countries, pale-face and skinny body, worn clothing; appears at our imagination the defender and champion of the poor, a thinker whose tenacity and consciousness remind us to the heros from ancient Germany whose shakti was undefeated, a "geweldig" man, who was the real 'progenitor' of workers movement, he was Heinrich Karl Marx.

From his youth to his deathbed, this great man never stopped to defend and provide information to the poor, how they become miserable, and how they will get victory.

The sentence above followed by many more words to praise Karl Marx and his theories. Geweldig is a Dutch word means tremendous, wonderful or amazing. Sukarno's article is ended with the sentences:

Karena ini, Marhaen pun, pada hari 14 Maret 1933 itu, wajiblah berseru:

Bahagialah jang wafat 50 tahun berselang.

xxxxTherefore, on March 14, 1933, all Marhaen must exclaim:

Happy to he who died 50 years ago.

That’s Sukarno's view of Karl Marx and Marxism in his article "Commemorating 50-year of Karl Marx death". He was also happy to say hello to Karl Marx at the end of his writing.

And now, I will end this article. Very short indeed. I have said that I will not give a lot of comments. You can make your own assesment about the contents of these Sukarno writings. Whatever your opinion, I just tell you what I've read in articles wrote by Sukarno himself. Just sharing infos. For those who want to know the full contents of Sukarno articles, please read his book. For those who have money he can buy it and for those who have not he should look for a loan. The book I use is my father’s. There is the date of its purchasing, in Surabaya, 1964. It is still in a very good condition, not one of its pages is crumpled, missing, bent or torn. Therefore I do not sell it. If it's bad and torn, I would give it to you for free.

Malang-East Java

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