The intellectual genocide of the left post-1965

Detik News – August 12, 2016
UGM historian Dr Abdul Wahid – Undated (Detik)
UGM historian Dr Abdul Wahid – Undated (Detik)

Melbourne – Gadjah Mada University (UGM) historian Dr Abdul Wahid has put forward a hypothesis that intellectual genocide occurred in Indonesian tertiary education institutions following the 1965 affair.

This was marked with the dismissal and exclusion of thousands of lecturers and students who were accused of being leftist.

This was raised by Dr Wahid during a public lecture at the University of Melbourne on the evening of Thursday August 11. The event was held in cooperation with the Herb Feith Foundation, the Faculty of Arts Indonesia Initiative and the Indonesia Forum under the theme “Was It an Intellectual Genocide? The Elimination of Leftist Elements in the Indonesian Tertiary Education, 1965-1980”.

It is said that one of the sectors that has still not been studied in much detail is campus life and the world of tertiary education. Dr Wahid’s studies, which are based on primary sources and interviews, attempts to analyse how the anti-communist campaign launched by Suharto’s New Order dictatorship became an intellectual genocide, which changed academic life and the management of universities in Indonesia.

Dr Wahid explained that since the beginning of the Guided Democracy period all elements of the nation were directed to support the revolution being campaigned for by Indonesia’s founding president Sukarno. “Universities also had to take part and become tools of the revolution”, he explained.

As it developed, Guided Democracy and the ideology of Nasakom (Nationalism, Religion, Communism) was seen as most benefiting the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). And it was during this era that a number of educational institutions affiliated or linked with the PKI were born such as the People’s University and the Aliarcham Academy of Social Sciences.

Leftist student and intellectual movements also became prominent such as the PKI affiliated Indonesian Student Movement Centre (CGMI), the Indonesian Association of Youths and Students (IPPI), the Association of Indonesian Academics (HIS) and the Education Employees Trade Union (SPP).

Nasakom also came onto the campuses and coloured university student affairs through various student organisations that competed with each other”, said Dr Wahid.

From 1959 on these leftist elements were very aggressive in influencing campus life, moreover there were even lecturers that were dismissed because they were deemed not to support Nasakom.

On the other hand, the development of tertiary education institutions was quite rapid, growing from eight to 39 state universities by 1963. In addition to this, the number of private universities grew from 112 to 228 by 1965.

“In total there were 355 universities and academies with 278,000 students”, explained Dr Wahid, who obtained his PhD from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

The other aspect of note was that prior to 1965 there was active cooperation between Indonesian and international tertiary education institutions both in the West as well as the Eastern Bloc. Western countries tended to assist with capacity building while the Eastern Bloc countries helped in the development of infrastructure.

“UGM for example received assistance to develop an atomic laboratory from the Soviet Union”, he said.

Following the 1965 affair however, the minister for tertiary education at the time immediately issued Decree Number 1/1965 that closed down 14 tertiary education institutions deemed to be linked to the PKI.

Under the Science and Tertiary Education Ministry Decree that followed, two PKI universities were also closed and the student organisation CGMI was banned.

“Following this a screening process took place in all tertiary education institutions, although the results of this remain confidential to this day. Only a handful of universities have reported the results of this screening”, explained the Leiden University masters graduate.

The screening process at tertiary education institutions also involved elements of the military in addition to the screening teams on the campuses themselves.

As a result, at the UGM for example it was recorded that 115 lecturers and staff were removed along with some 3,006 students, who then became political prisoners (tapol).

According to Dr Wahid’s data, 25 lecturers and staff along with 227 students were removed from the Padjadjaran University (Unpad) in Bandung, West Java, while 17 lecturers and 63 students were removed from the Bandung Teachers Training Institute (IKIP).

At the University of Diponegoro (Undip) 17 lecturers were removed and at the University of North Sumatra (USU) in Medan five lecturers and 10 students were removed.

Meanwhile at the Andalas University in Padang, West Sumatra, thirty-nine students were removed and at the Hasanuddin Makassar University in South Sulawesi 95 lecturers and staff were removed.

Dr Wahid’s data shows that the Sam Ratulangi Manadi University in Manado, North Sulawesi, removed 24 lecturers and 100 students who were labeled as being leftist meanwhile at the IKIP in Manado 19 students were removed.

Finally, at the Mulawarman University in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, 299 lecturers and staff along with 3,464 students were removed because they were deemed as not having a “clean environment” [a phrase to denote a person as “pure” from any possible communist influence – JB].

“The University of Indonesia [UI] doesn’t have any reports on the results of the screening although it is estimated that 1,000 students from GMNI ASU [Ali Surachman Indonesian National Students Movement] were removed,” he said. “This screening process, among other things, made lecturers into spies”, said Dr Wahid.

The screening process, said Dr Wahid, continued until 1987 and was included in the recruitment of lecturers. “Between 1987 and 1998, the [screening] teams were changed into special investigation teams (litsus)”, he explained.

The other impact of the 1965 affair was the seizure of the assets belonging to the PKI and its affiliates from educational institutions. “Although this was not comparable to the importance of the loss of thousands from a generation of cosmopolitan intellectuals in Indonesia”, he said.

Included among the victims who were removed was Dr Busono Wiwoho (UGM), Prof. Tjan Tjoe Som (UI), Dr Gunawan Wiradi (IPB, Bogor Institute of Agriculture).

In addition to this, leftist literary books were lost and banned along with the loss of critical theoretical traditions. “A culture of fear and self-censorship emerged within academic circles”, explained Dr Wahid.

Based on this explanation, Dr Wahid proposes a hypothesis that what occurred was a form of intellectual genocide that was marked by a clear intent to eliminate a group that became a target based on their ideology. (nwk/nwk)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was Genosida Intelektual Kiri Indonesia Pasca 1965.]