Stalin and the Revival of the Communist Party of Indonesia

Larisa M Efimova. Cold War History. Volume 5, Issue 1. February 2005.

As Indonesia was becoming independent after the Second World War, the Communist Party of Indonesia (CPI, or PKI in its Indonesian initials) came to play far less of a role in the country’s politics than many Moscow leaders had expected. As a result of the participation by a number of PKI members in the anti-government rebellion of 1948, known as the Madiun Affair, the party was crushed, but not officially banned. The surviving leaders and members attempted to maintain what was left of the party organization. But the recently united PKI once again disintegrated into separate leftist parties and organizations that nevertheless operated under the direction of a Provisional PKI Central Committee.

Western specialists on Indonesian communism obtained information about this period of the movement mostly from non-documentary sources, and therefore their accounts are contradictory and fragmentary. Donald Hindley wrote that the acting secretary-general was at first Ngadiman Hardjosubroto, who was replaced in January 1950 by Djatun. Later the foremost leader in the Indonesian communist movement was Tan Ling Djie, who at the same time continued to head the Socialist Party of Indonesia. Veteran communist leaders Alimin and Wikana retained considerable prestige.

Another scholar, Justus van der Kroef, identified Alimin and Tan Ling Djie as the leading PKI figures. A third researcher, Arnold C. Brackman, stated that it was Alimin who assumed the direction of the Politburo in 1949, filling the vacuum left by the death of Musso. Brackman emphasized that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and local Chinese in Indonesia were playing an important role in PKI affairs. Not one of the scholars mentioned the existence of one additional group of Indonesian communist leaders living in Peking under the protection of the CCP. Western scholars noted that at the end of 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s, Indonesian communist leaders were trying not only to maintain and restore the PKI structure after the Madiun disaster, but also to work out a new programme of action in drastically changed conditions. In this respect, one of the most intriguing and important questions was whether Moscow participated in the organizational and ideological revival of the Communist Party in Indonesia. But not a single scholar could say anything definitive on the question because they lacked documentary or even oral information.

Some authors believed that Moscow showed an apparent lack of interest in the PKI for several years after the Madiun rebellion. Hindley wrote:

It is probable that after the fiasco of Madiun, Moscow wrote off the Indonesian Communists as a lost cause. That is, Moscow considered the distant PKI no longer worthy of attention. Only after 1954, when the success of the Aidit leadership’s form of the national united front had become amply apparent, did the interest of Moscow focus anew on PKI.

Hindley emphasized that Moscow’s previous interference in PKI affairs was disastrous for the party, and that the Indonesian communists defined the new party strategy and tactics independently from either Moscow or Peking. Later researchers also supported the theory of Moscow’s loss of interest in the Indonesian Communist Party. Van der Kroef wrote about the likelihood that the CCP provided material support to the PKI.

Other authors were eager to know the answer to this intriguing question: ‘did Moscow participate directly in the promulgation of the new line’.

Documents discovered in the recently opened archive of Joseph Stalin clearly and definitively answer this question in the affirmative. The documents completely refute the contentions of some scholars, cited above, that Moscow lost interest in the Indonesian communists. The documents testify that Moscow, and Stalin personally, never ceased to pay attention to the events in Indonesia and the destiny of Indonesian communism. Stalin personally took part in the process of discussing and polishing a new programme for the PKI, which was being formulated by Indonesian communists in cooperation with their Chinese comrades. Stalin read the documents thoroughly and reacted with a keen interest. He suggested his own formulations and amendments, explaining his views and approaches in detail without formally forcing them upon the opponents.

The archival documents also point to the existence of a group of Indonesian communists in Beijing under the patronage of the Chinese Communist Party. The existence of this group was never mentioned in Indonesian historiography. It was the Beijing group that first began work on a new strategy and tactics for the PKI. As is clear from the archival documents, Chinese communists considered Indonesian leader Tan Ling Djie to be the central figure among Indonesian communists. It was through him that they maintained contacts with the PKI. Tan Ling Djie became the main channel of Chinese ideological and political influence on the Communist Party of Indonesia. The strong impact of the Chinese model of revolutionary struggle is clearly seen in the first programme worked out for PKI in the early days of its revival.

After the Madiun Affair, some Indonesian leaders went to China, and those who stayed in Indonesia apparently did not lose contact with the CCP. In cooperation with the CCP CC and some other Indonesian communists, a representative of a provisional Central Committee of PKI—Kando (alias Muriono), who was sent to China—had worked out proposals for the PKI CC dated 6 October 1950. This document was sent to Stalin by CCP CC Secretary Liu Shaoqi, who requested Stalin’s opinion. It signified that both the Chinese and Indonesian communists needed approval and support from the All Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks (AUCP(B)) CC—and most importantly from Stalin. The Chinese communists played the role of intermediary.

On 12 October 1950, the Soviet ambassador to China, Nikolai Roshchin sent a cipher telegram to Filippov (Stalin’s pseudonym). He informed Stalin that he had received the following message from CCP CC Secretary Liu Shaoqi:

Comrade Roshchin, I am passing you proposals from the PKI CC, worked out by Comrade Kando [alias Muriono] and other representatives of the provisional PKI CC sent to China, in cooperation with CCP CC. We ask you to pass this document to Comrade Filippov and AUCP(B) CC and request their opinion about it.

Attached was the document prepared by Muriono together with CCP CC and dated 6 October 1950. For the first time in Indonesian and Soviet/Russian historiography, this document is now available to scholars.

The document begins with these words: ‘After studying the experience of the victorious Chinese revolution, we propose the following for PKI CC.’ The document continues with a short history of the PKI’s successes and failures, from the uprising in 1926-27 to the Madiun Affair, which resulted in another crushing defeat for the party. The document stresses the complicated situation faced by the Communist Party in Indonesia, where power lay in the hands of a reactionary puppet government led by American and Dutch imperialists, and American imperialism supposedly intended to turn Indonesia into its own colony.

The document points out that inside the country feudal forces remained unchanged. During the war a group of feudal-compradore capitalists was assembled, headed by the Sukarno-Hatta clique, which achieved domination by leaning on feudal landlords and establishing contact with imperialists. The document considered the Republic of Indonesia’s independence to be only a facade, screening imperialist domination.

The basic contradictions that caused the rise of the national revolution in Indonesia not only remained unsolved but even became sharper and deeper. This creates the inevitability of a new revolutionary ascendance of the national revolution in Indonesia, and taking into consideration the international situation, especially … the victories of national-liberation movement in the East, this ascendance is not too far away.

The main tasks of the Communist party and all patriotic political parties and revolutionary organizations in Indonesia at the present time consist of incessantly unmasking, before all the peoples of Indonesia, the false and deceptive character of the Indonesian Republic’s ‘independence’; unmasking the factual domination by the Dutch over the Indonesian peoples and of their oppression by Dutch, American and British imperialists; revealing the Sukarno-Hatta clique and their government as servants and agents of imperialist domination and suppression of the Indonesian people; raising the self-consciousness of all layers of the population; consolidating all patriots against the imperialists and their agents; creating a broad, united national front; consistent struggle for the achievement of true independence for the Indonesian people and a genuine people’s democracy; and building a sovereign, free and united Indonesian Republic.

In order to fulfil these tasks, the document proposed strategy and tactics for the PKI as follows:

  • Based on the revolutionary experience of all colonial and semi-colonial countries, which is at the same time the experience of the Indonesian Revolution, an ‘armed revolution’ against an ‘armed counterrevolution’ is necessary for the definitive liquidation of the domination of Dutch, American and British imperialists and their agents. This is the only way for the Indonesian people to achieve the goal of the revolution. It is necessary to take appropriate measures for the creation of an army that is strong and steadfast in the struggle for national liberation.
  • The Communist Party of Indonesia should create a united national front, based on the union of workers and peasants, led by the working class and including all nationalities, the petty bourgeoisie, national bourgeoisie, all patriotic parties and groupings and patriotic elements of the country on the platform of the following political demands:
  • The expulsion from Indonesia of all of Dutch, American and British imperialists’ forces and implementation of full independence for Indonesia.
  • The overthrow of the domination of the domestic reactionaries, who serve the imperialists, and their replacement with a democratic coalition government, which ensures national independence and freedom of the people.
  • The liquidation of feudal privileges and the carrying out of land reform.
  • The protection of national industry and trade and development of the people’s economy.
  • Improvement in the lives of workers, peasants and all toilers.
  • The granting to the people of freedom of speech, press, meetings, unions and beliefs.
  • Equal rights.
  • Equality of rights between men and women.
  • An alliance with the USSR, China and the states of people’s democracy; struggle against imperialists’ intervention in Asia’s affairs; opposition to turning Indonesia into the bridgehead for a war of imperialist aggression.
  • The organizations of the Communist Party of Indonesia need, at the present time, the ability to use the tactic of temporary withdrawal flexibly and to organize such a withdrawal.
  • This was followed by a proposal to unite again all party organizations and cadres and to complete the party build-up, as decided in August 1948, before the Madiun Affair. The document stressed the necessity of organizing a broad discussion of the strategic and tactical tasks proposed for the party ‘in the further revolutionary movement in Indonesia, to study simultaneously the lessons of defeat, to use the moment for carrying out a systematic educational activity in the party, raising the level of theoretical mastery of basic dogmas of Marxism-Leninism as well as the experience of the Chinese revolution’, in order to turn PKI ‘into a united proletarian party, which masters the weapon of Marxism-Leninism, well-knit by iron discipline’.
  • The revolution in Indonesia will be won only after a hard, prolonged and serious struggle. That is why PKI should master the highest principles of strategy, to lead the revolution to the end … To effectively revolutionize the people’s masses and gather revolutionary forces, it is especially important at the present moment to study seriously and to master methods of illegal or semi-legal organization of the masses and contacts with them … Under the present conditions, main party organizations must work in the gravest secrecy. Therefore, in order to conduct legal work in accordance with future possibilities, it is necessary to select and train a group of leading and high-ranking party members who are capable of open legal work. It is also necessary to use every legal possibility for carrying on open mass work and to participate in parliamentary activity in all instances.

The document laid down the task of drawing workers of culture and broad circles of intelligentsia into the party, as well as intensifying work in trade unions, among women and young people.

The sixth point addressed the necessity of ‘carrying on serious, well-planned and broad work among the peasantry with the aim of preparing bases and positions for the armed revolution’, and sending the best and most responsible workers ‘into reactionary army units, through possible loop-holes, for seizing weapons’.

At the present time, the party should move the center of gravity of the work, step by step, into the village. For the beginning of the armed struggle in the countryside it is important to chose a region where the enemy’s domination is the weakest, where, most importantly, the broad masses have already ripened politically and prepared organizationally; to create one or several guerilla units, which with the help of the masses and in defense of the masses’ interests would begin a guerilla war against taxes and requisitions, a struggle against the reactionary government.

The development of the armed struggle should be tightly connected with the interests of the people’s masses. As far as the military aspect is concerned, it is necessary to master the strategy and tactics of guerilla war. As far as the political aspect is concerned, it is necessary to master the policy of the united front, isolating the enemy as much as possible, gradually strengthening guerilla units and turning them into a regular people’s liberation army.

At that time, there were still clandestine or semi-clandestine militarized regions, so-called ‘small red regions’, where the dual revolutionary tactic was to be continued. This tactic consisted of trying to legally preserve weapons in the peasants’ hands, while at the same time strengthening party and political work among them to establish the idea of the armed revolution, so as ‘to foment guerilla struggle when the situation ripens’.

Further, the document envisaged drawing into the party Indonesian national minorities and Chinese immigrants while trying to influence them via the CCP. In conclusion, the authors of the programme asked PKI CC to evaluate the proposals and ‘if CC considered them executable or feasible on the whole with certain corrections, we ask CC to take measures for their proper realization’.

The contents and formulation of the document reflect the strong influence on its authors of both the Chinese revolutionary experience and the strategic and political thinking of CCP leaders. Many of the CCP’s typical dogmas are conspicuous: the orientation of the Communist Party of Indonesia towards new armed struggle against ‘the domination of Dutch and American imperialists’ and ‘their puppets in the person of the Sukarno-Hatta clique’; the primary focus in party work on the creation of guerilla units among peasants and ‘red’ liberated areas in the countryside; forming a national-liberation army in order to lead the revolution to the end, as well as the organization of ‘a broad united national front with the participation of petty and national bourgeoisie and intelligentsia’ for the struggle against both local reactionaries and American imperialism.

Stalin read the programme worked out for the Indonesian communists very thoroughly, underlined some sections and made many marginal notes. In Stalin’s reaction, we can clearly see his attitude to the Indonesian party and to the proposals of the Indonesian and Chinese leaders.

Stalin’s first remark concerned the passage in which the document first mentions the main tasks of PKI, focusing on the necessity to unmask the falsity of Indonesian independence. ‘And what about the agrarian question?’ wrote Stalin, as there was not a word about this question in the document. Further, Stalin marked the words about the necessity of ‘the armed revolution against the armed counterrevolution’, ‘creation of a strong and steadfast national-liberation army’ and commented: ‘From the wrong end.’ Next to the passage about the necessity of ‘banishing from Indonesia all forces of Dutch, American and British imperialists’, Stalin added: ‘Nationalization of their property!’ Concerning the proposal for ‘the overthrow of the domination of the inner reactionaries who are serving the imperialists’ and ‘their replacement with a democratic coalition government’, Stalin exclaimed: ‘Wrong!’ Stalin had the same reaction to the call for ‘the union with the USSR, China and the states of people’s democracy’.

Stalin was also against the proposal to begin a broad discussion on the programme, remarking: ‘Limitless discussion? No!’ Concerning the necessity ‘to study the lessons of defeat’, the Soviet leader exclaimed: ‘Exactly!’ He also underlined the words about ‘the systematic educational work in the party’. But the whole fragment concerning the mastery of Marxist-Leninist theory and the practice of the Chinese revolution was simply crossed out as useless and irrelevant in such a serious document. Stalin agreed that ‘the revolution in Indonesia will be won only after hard, prolonged and serious struggle’, remarking: ‘This is so.’ The PKI’s intentions remained unclear to him. Next to the words ‘to lead the revolution to the end’, he wrote a question: ‘What does it mean?’ He stressed the importance of mastering methods of illegal work, and especially approved of the call to legal ‘parliamentary activity at all instances’, exclaiming; ‘This is right!’

Stalin supported plans for the intensification of work in trade unions, pointing to the importance of this work not in official, but in independent trade unions. He gave advice to the Indonesian communists, who intended to send their agents into ‘the reactionary army’: ‘To penetrate the army.’ On the problem of the creation of liberated areas and guerrilla units Stalin remarked: ‘It should be done skillfully.’ He also stressed the words about the creation of a broad national front, about the attraction of CCP to the work among the Chinese population in Indonesia and other passages.

Stalin did not support the transfer of the Chinese revolutionary experience into Indonesia; he rejected the suggestions for a new wave of armed struggle by the Indonesian communists. He approved only workable, practical proposals for PKI activity among the masses, as well as in legal organizations, especially pointing out the importance of the agrarian question for Indonesian communists.

All of these remarks, one way or other, were reflected later in Stalin’s comments to the draft programme for the Indonesian communists that was presented to him. Nevertheless, Stalin decided that he could not express his opinion on the document outright, because he considered himself to be not acquainted profoundly enough with the current economic situation in Indonesia, without which knowledge it would be difficult to evaluate the draft programme properly.

Stalin requested from Liu Shaoqi informational materials on the following problems:

  • Which industry branches, including transport, are developed in Indonesia? How far are they developed? How many workers are occupied in them? What is the percentage of workers in comparison with the population as a whole?
  • How much cultivated and uncultivated land is owned by landlords, the state, foreigners and peasants? What is the percentage of the peasantry in the total population of the country?
  • How many small landholders and landless peasants are there in Indonesia? Who employs them? How many agricultural workers are there in the country?

Stalin indicated that he would be satisfied even with rough data.

A cipher telegram containing this request was sent to China on 26 October 1950. Lui Shaoqi’s response and materials concerning the economy and social structure of Indonesia were received in Moscow on 23 November of the same year. Only after studying all the materials (they contain a lot of Stalin’s marks and notes, especially on the agrarian question), did Stalin reply. In January 1951, writing in his own hand, Stalin replied with his comments on the draft programme for PKI CC dated 6 October 1950.

Stalin’s message was as follows:

We inform you of our comments on the draft program dated October 6, 1950.

Our general impression is such, that despite the purely agrarian nature of Indonesia, nevertheless the industry there is developed better than in some other colonial countries.

  • The main task for PKI in the near future is not ‘the creation of the broadest national front’ against the imperialists for ‘winning real independence’ for Indonesia, but the liquidation of feudal property of the land and the transformation of the land into the property of the peasants. The main thing in Indonesia is to stir up the peasants and to rouse them upright. But this can be done only through the liquidation of feudal property and the transfer of the land to the peasants. The front against feudal landlords should be built in such a way that all feudal landlords are isolated, while all peasants, excluding kulaks, participate in it. If the communist party, as a party of the working class, understands the great importance of this agrarian revolution and helps the peasants in this matter, then the union of the working class and the peasantry, as a basis of the people’s democratic revolution, would be insured.
  • The communist party’s second task consists of the organization of a united national front for the struggle for Indonesia’s full independence from Dutch imperialism. This front should be organized so that its spear is primarily directed not against all foreign imperialists, but only against Dutch imperialists. The aim of this front is the banishment of Dutch imperialists with their military forces, nationalization of their property, rupture with the Netherlands and the declaration of Indonesia’s full independence. If British and American imperialists intervene in the struggle and begin to support the Dutch imperialists and their Indonesian puppet with their military forces, in this case the national front will need to be broadened, aiming it against all imperialists in Indonesia and nationalizing their property. It is clear that the basis of this national front will be the union of the workers and peasants, and its firmness will fully depend on the successes of the agrarian revolution. As far as ‘the union with the USSR, with China and the states of people’s democracy’ is concerned, this thing should be thrown out of the document as irrelevant in this case.
  • The rest of the PKI’s tasks, as outlined in the document, did not arouse remarks.
  • Proceeding to tactical questions, the document suggests that the way of ‘the armed revolution’—that is, a guerilla war in the countryside—is the only way that can lead to victory. Certainly, the Chinese experience shows that the method of guerilla war, with the creation of liberated guerilla-controlled areas and the organization there of a national-liberation army, should be recognized as an expedient method for such a backward country as Indonesia. But the problem is that, in Indonesian conditions, the methods used in China can be applied only with substantial modification. First, the successful use of guerilla war methods supposes the existence of a large country with a large number of forests and mountainous areas far away from railways and cities. Indonesia possesses these conditions in limited measure.
  • Second, even if the communists captured a liberated guerilla area and established a national-liberation army there, nevertheless the area would represent only an island in the state. This island could easily be encircled by the enemy, because it has no solid rear. Of course, it is possible to leave a liberated guerilla area, to cut through the encirclement and to establish a new liberated area in some other place. But this does not protect it from a new encirclement, in which case the guerillas would have to move again to another area. This is what happened to the Chinese communists. Nevertheless, they at last found a solution when they moved to Manchuria and established a solid rear in the friendly Soviet state. After the Chinese comrades found a solid rear in Manchuria, leaning against the USSR as against their own rear, the enemy lost the ability to encircle them, and the Chinese communists seized the opportunity to wage a planned offensive against Chiang Kaishek’s army from north to south. Can we suppose that the Indonesian comrades, after winning a guerilla-liberated area, would have the opportunity, as the Chinese comrades did, to lean against frontiers as against their own rear and thus deprive the enemy of the opportunity to encircle them? No, we cannot, because Indonesia comprises a group of islands encircled by seas, and therefore the Indonesian comrades could not establish a secure rear area.
  • Third, the Chinese communists had an advantage due to the fact that, after their breach with the Kuomintang in 1927, they already had at their disposal an army of several tens of thousands of men, which they employed in the struggle against Chang Kaishek’s units. The Indonesian comrades have at present no army and they still have to build it.
  • Thus, the specific conditions of Indonesia limit their use of the guerilla war method, the method of ‘the armed revolution.’
  • Where is the way out? The way out is in completing the method of guerilla war with the method of revolutionary activity by the working class in cities and industrial centers, and with the method of all-out economic and political strikes, which would paralyze the reactionary government’s activity and be aimed at supporting the guerilla war in the countryside. The way out consists in the combination of these two methods.
  • Most important for Indonesia could be strikes by workers in maritime, railway and automobile transport industries, which could throw the country’s economic life into disorder, paralyze the activities of government organs and in this way greatly assist the guerilla war.
  • Because of that, it is absolutely impossible to underestimate the importance of political and organizational work among the working class. More than this, it is absolutely necessary in every possible way to win the majority of the working class, remembering that party activity among the workers is no less important than activity among the peasantry and guerillas.
  • The main sin of PKI leaders until now was that they were prisoners of ‘leftist phrase.’ Without a deep and thorough analysis of the situation, they tried in one stroke to solve all problems: to liquidate feudalism, to break with the Netherlands and crush all imperialists, and to eliminate the kulaks. In fact, they ended up uniting all actual and potential enemies against themselves, isolating themselves and weakening their own party to the last degree. Such is the usual though sad harvest of leftist declamations. It seems to me that the spirit of leftism continues to live among communists in Indonesia. In order to push this evil spirit out of the party, it is necessary to turn party activists sharply in the direction of practical molecular ‘dirty’ work on the question of the everyday needs of workers, peasants and working intelligentsia. Only there, in this work, can they rally the broad masses of toilers around the party. Certainly, this will be work without luster and chic, without alluring declamations. But now, under the present conditions in Indonesia, it is the most productive work.

There is in the document an instruction to start a wide discussion in the party ‘from top to bottom.’ I advise the Indonesian comrades not to be carried away by a discussion. Unlimited discussion is ruining the Indian Communist Party. It will ruin the Communist Party of Indonesia completely. There is a simple and verified method for illegal parties: letting comrades work out, say, a party platform, carrying on a corresponding discussion in a narrow circle, without publishing in the press; after the adoption of the document by the majority of the leading comrades, the document is approved and put into realization, as the main law of the party, obligatory for all party members; all party members took on themselves the obligation to propagate and to defend the platform among workers, peasants, intelligentsia; later, after the platform was verified in practice, a party conference corrects, supplements and changes the platform. I think that the Indonesian communist party could at present limit itself to using this method.

Thus, from Stalin’s response we can see that he did not support the blind copying of the Chinese model by the Indonesian communists. He recommended coordinating actions with the concrete social and economic, as well as political and geographic, situation of the country. In fact, Stalin was against a new wave of armed struggle by the Indonesian communists, calling on them, first of all, to use such legal methods as strikes and peasant demands for land. For an agrarian country like Indonesia, he especially stressed the importance of intensifying the peasants’ movement for land, and advised making the agrarian programme most important in the party plans.

Stalin warned the PKI about the dangers of ‘the childhood ailment of leftism’. He recommended that the Indonesian communists should not try by one stroke to solve all problems. Instead, they should carry on the struggle step by step, gradually achieving the task of attracting the broad masses of the people to the party and its programme. Despite the intensification of the Cold War in the world arena and the aggravation of confrontation between the USSR and the USA, Stalin oriented the Indonesian communists first of all to the struggle against remnants of Dutch imperialism in Indonesia, with the goal of breaching all formal and informal chains tying Indonesia to its former governors. (This contradicted the intentions of Dutch communists, who had insisted that a paragraph on ‘special relations’ between the Indonesian Republic and the Netherlands be included in the programme worked out by Musso in cooperation with Dutch communist leader Paul De Groot in April 1948.)

Also striking is Stalin’s dislike of pompous, propagandistic phrases about ‘the alliance with the USSR, China and the countries of people’s democracy’ included in the programme with the obvious aim of emphasizing the PKI’s loyalty toward both AUCP(B) and CCP.

To summarize, Stalin called on the PKI to focus on practical work concerning the everyday needs and interests of workers, peasants and the working intelligentsia, including the education of the masses and the organization of the party. He recommended that the PKI should not include on the agenda for the near future such distant and difficult tasks as a seizure of power by military means.

The cipher telegram containing Stalin’s remarks was sent to the Soviet ambassador to Beijing on 3 February 1951. At 22.00 the same day, the ambassador personally handed the telegram to Liu Shaoqi. But after that, the Chinese side lapsed into a prolonged silence. Stalin was forced to inquire further to learn about the response to his message. On 3 April 1951, via the Soviet ambassador, Stalin addressed himself directly to Mao Zedong: ‘Comrade Mao Zedong, some months ago Comrade Liu Shaoqi, acting on behalf of CCP CC, requested Filippov’s opinion on the PKI platform. Filippov gave his comments. However, how all this ended is still unknown to us. Is it possible to inform us on the matter?’

On 5 April 1951, an answer from Liu Shaoqi arrived, addressed to Stalin. In this message, Liu Shaoqi pledged his full support for Stalin’s directions to the Indonesian communists and promised to do his best in ensuring they were passed on to the PKI leadership. He explained the delay in responding by noting that, according to information received by CPP CC, the PKI CC Politburo concluded a secret meeting on 6 January 1951. At this meeting, the Indonesian communist leadership was reorganized:

Of the five members of the standing bureau, four were removed, including former Secretary General Comrade Chen Lindjue (Tan Ling Djie). The reason for their removal is that the standing bureau headed by Chen Lindjue, by failing to carry out a Politburo decision to dissolve the Socialist Party of Indonesia, had made, they believed, a mistake. The Politburo elected a new standing bureau and adopted a new political resolution, ‘The situation in Indonesia and the tasks of the Communist Party of Indonesia.’ The position of the new PKI CC is still not quite clear to us, and they, on their part, still did not express a desire to receive political proposals from us. So it seems to me, the time has not yet come to make any official proposals to PKI. When in the future the situation becomes clearer and they ask us for proposals, then we shall render them active assistance and make proposals to them.

Liu Shaoqi promised to send Stalin all PKI CC decisions received by CCP.

The same position was repeated in the telegram from Mao Zedong to Stalin on 7 April 1951.

Taking into consideration the reorganization of the PKI Politburo in January of this year, as well as the fact that the new leadership has not yet expressed a desire to receive political assistance from us, an appropriate opportunity for passing your directions to PKI still has not presented itself. It is necessary to wait for some time in order to clear the situation, and when the leadership of the Indonesian communist party asks for political assistance, then we shall present your directions in an appropriate form.

At the same time Mao Zedong confessed that he himself was ‘not well-educated on the Indonesian question’. Further, he promised that all materials concerning the reorganization of the PKI leadership, as well as the political resolution of the new Politburo, would be sent to AUCP(B) CC. He also suggested that if Stalin had any new directions, he should again pass them along via the Chinese communists.

By mid-1951 the situation in the PKI leadership seemed to slip out of the control of CCP, which previously had been closely watching its activity through Indonesian communists of Chinese origin as well as through PKI representatives in Beijing. Obviously, for a period of time the CCP CC could not obtain true and full information on what was going on in the PKI leadership and therefore decided to wait for the situation to clear. The new Indonesian communist leadership, headed by young leader Dipa Nusantara Aidit, gradually established contacts with Chinese communists. Only after this could Chinese leaders pass Stalin’s recommendations to the new PKI CC Politburo. As a result, Stalin’s comments reached the Indonesian communists long after he made them.

The new Indonesian leaders did not immediately agree to the Soviet leadership’s recommendations. A long discussion between members of the PKI CC and Stalin ensued, both in written form and during a personal meeting between Stalin and Indonesian leaders. Eventually Stalin succeeded in persuading the leaders of the correctness of his remarks. The main ideas Stalin expressed during his discussions with the Indonesian communists were incorporated into a new PKI programme adopted in 1954, as well as in articles and speeches by PKI General Secretary Aidit. We shall return to these issues in a later article.

Stalin’s interest in formulating in detail the strategy and tactics for the PKI, which began to revive in the early 1950s, naturally poses the question of why Stalin spent so much time dealing with the weak and disorganized Indonesian party. The archival documents available to the researcher from the Stalin archive did not give a definite answer that could explain the role and place of Indonesia and the PKI in Stalin’s plans concerning Asia and world revolution. A number of Western scholars believe that after the victory of the Chinese revolution, the CCP was gradually becoming a rival of AUCP(B) in Asia. In this case, it seems possible that Stalin may have wanted to help the PKI become strong and influential, in order to turn it step by step into a sort of counterbalance to CCP in the Asian communist movement. But this point of view is inconsistent with the fact that Stalin regarded the PKI’s request to him via CCP as quite normal and fully consistent with his own view that it was China and the CCP which must play the leading role in the Asian communist movement. Stalin sincerely believed this pattern was best suited for his purposes. The USSR was only partly an Asian country, while China was situated completely in Asia and therefore should play the primary role in the region. Stalin later elaborated on this idea in his conversations with Zhou Enlai in August-September 1952.

In conclusion, it seems obvious from these materials that Stalin remained dedicated to the task of a world communist revolution, and eager to revive and strengthen as many communist parties as possible, not only in Europe but in Asia as well. He worked hard and took all possible measures for achieving this goal. His interest in and attentiveness toward the PKI as a potential leader of the national liberation movement in Indonesia was also reflected in the Soviet government’s policy as formulated by the Southeast Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This policy remained consistent with Stalin’s aims: assistance to the Indonesian people in their national liberation struggle, the prevention of Dutch influence, and, even more importantly, the prevention of American control of Indonesia as part of an expansionist US policy in Southeast Asia.