254. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State1

504. At my request President Sukarno gave me approximately one-hour interview Friday afternoon prior to his departure for two-week trip to East Java and Moluccas. Following is summary of principal points covered by him in attempt to explain background of his thinking on present situation as well as future form of government in Indonesia.

Attitude toward Communists.

President appears either frighteningly naive or completely insincere but there is probably also element of self-deception in his attitude. According to Sukarno, great majority of people who voted PKI [Page 422] .and are called Communists are in fact only rabid left-wing nationalists. They have deserted PNI and Masjumi because those parties are no longer ardent in their fight against colonialism and imperialism. People look toward Soviet Union as their champion rather than US because former has consistent record in UN and elsewhere as supporter of Indonesia’s claim to full independence and to West Irian. Here President repeated his favorite theme that if only US would support Indonesia on West Irian he could turn the mass of the people into pro-Americans overnight. Example of Hungary means but little here—it is far away; Sukarno and Indonesians have no direct experience of Soviet Colonialism—but West Irian is nearby; it should be theirs and by our nonsupport or neutrality we only prove that in fact we are still on side of colonialists. So runs Sukarno’s thinking. He is not interested in facts or hearing reasons for our attitude.

President then switched back to communism in Indonesia and illustrated his argument that Communists are really nationalists by pointing out that one of most important strongholds of PKI voters is in district in Surabaya surrounding famous mosque. People of district, according to President, are good Moslems, they go to mosque regularly, pay for its upkeep from their meager funds, and vote PKI.

Sukarno went on to say that we should study his record, read not only his most recent August 17 speech but go back to his Pantjasila speech of 1945 and his speech before the Dutch court that tried him for sedition in 1927 [1930]. “The Sukarno of 1957 is the same as the Sukarno of 1927,” he repeated several times. “I was not then a Communist. I am not now a Communist.” He then explained that his reason for wanting the PKI in the government was not because they were Communists but because he so strongly believed in the Indonesian principle of “gotong-rojong”. All elements of the community must be represented; there must be mutual cooperation; no group should be left out if it consists of a substantial part of the populace.

Sukarno admitted there were some ideological Communists in Indonesia who followed the Marx–Lenin line but he claims they are not more than one percent of those listed as Communists. He just cannot see them as a threat to Indonesian independence.

Guided democracy.

Sukarno’s idea of guided democracy is a democracy which has a definite aim; in his mind this is an undefined social justice, and in which there is positive leadership. It reaches decisions through following the principle of “gotong-rojong” plus leadership or, as Sukarno expressed it, like a family council: the sons get together and work out solutions to problems under the guidance of their father. Sukarno obviously looks upon himself as the father of the Indonesian people. He is frank to admit that he is not willing to play the role of a constitutional [Page 423] president who merely presides at meetings and calls for a vote after all points of view have been heard. As a leader he must actively try to put across his viewpoint. He said that when he presides over the National Council he presses on it his ideas and when he takes to the Cabinet the advice of the National Council he does not merely present it for acceptance or rejection but he explains it and actively tries to persuade Cabinet to accept it. “Mao Tse-tung is a leader, Nehru is a leader, Gandhi was a leader, Nasser is a leader. I too must be a leader.” If the sons should disagree with the father, “strong influence” must be exerted; but Sukarno shied away from saying what would happen if the sons persisted in their disagreement.

Future form of the state.

In response to a question as to what his hopes were as to ultimate form of Indonesian state to be recommended by Constituent Assembly he said it would not be too different from the present. There would be a president, a national council and a parliament led by a cabinet. The parliament would consist of political party representatives, but political parties are artificial—they are man-made. “I could make ten parties in one day.” Therefore a second body is needed, a national council made up of representatives of the regions and of functional bodies. “The laborers are not artificial, the peasants are not artificial, religious bodies are not artificial, they are real.” In response to a question Sukarno said the future national council, by whatever name, should be elected. The position of the president should be somewhere between that occupied by the American and the French presidents. Sukarno stated flatly that he would not be a figurehead and also that he did not wish to have the full executive responsibilities of the American President. He is obviously confused and still groping for the proper solution to the problem of what a president should do, but he believes he should be able to initiate policies and also to have a veto, at least over certain unspecified types of legislation. Going back to the political parties Sukarno said there should be in the new constitution some provision that no party could be represented which did not have at least five or ten percent of the voters. He believed this would bring the number of parties down to manageable size.

In speaking of the position of the president, Sukarno confessed his displeasure at certain unnamed prime ministers in the past who had merely presented him with cabinet decisions and told him to sign the implementing papers. He spoke highly of Djuanda because he always discussed with him problems before a final decision was reached and he could therefore exercise “leadership”.

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It is significant that in almost an hour’s talk about the problems of the nation the President never once mentioned the critical economic situation or evidenced any interest in how foreign aid might help solve some of the serious economic difficulties facing the country.

While stating at one point that he might not be the President after the Constituent Assembly had completed its work, it was nevertheless obvious that in fact Sukarno thinks of himself in no other role than permanent “father” of his people. While there is considerable evidence that a growing proportion of the people are more interested in solving the problems of food and shelter than fighting colonialism, with exception of West Irian issue, this is not seen by the President who has no taste or real interest in such mundane matters. To him, in spite of occasional lip service to virtues of hard work and necessity of industrialization, real interest is in leading a never-ending revolution against colonialism and imperialism.

To me the one hopeful note in this most revealing talk was Sukarno’s high regard for Djuanda and evidence that Djuanda apparently knows how to get his ideas adopted by the President as his own. While we know, not only from Djuanda’s statement to me (Embtel 4472) but from other evidence, that manner of setting up forthcoming national round-table conference was originated by Djuanda in effort to keep control of meeting in his hands, nevertheless publicly it has appeared to come from President and National Council. On other matters it may therefore be possible to influence the President through Djuanda who fundamentally is sympathetic to American point of view and who has much more realistic understanding of Communist menace. At least effort should be made for it is still a fact that, in spite of increasing opposition to him, Sukarno retains hold on masses greater than that of any other individual. If this effort should prove futile, serious consideration must be given to means by which Sukarno can be isolated from real power—but this can in the end be accomplished only by Indonesians.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.00/8–. Secret..
  2. Document 249.