123. Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Cumming) to Secretary of State Dulles 0


  • Intelligence Note: Intelligence Analysis of Prospects for Effective Anti-Communist Action in Indonesia

Recent reports from Embassy Djakarta indicate that a number of Indonesian leaders are considering plans to halt the progress of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Among these leaders are the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Army, Major General Nasution, Prime Minister Djuanda, Foreign Minister Subandrio; national and regional leaders of the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) and the two major Muslim parties.

Proposed courses of action include a reshuffle of the present cabinet, a moratorium on political activity, a postponement of general elections for another five years, and a major economic development program to raise living standards and lessen the attraction of PKI promises. However, none of these leaders has prepared a well-defined anti-communist program. The extent to which they represent the Army, the cabinet, and major non-Communist political parties is not clear. While General Nasution probably speaks for his immediate circle in Army headquarters, recent reports indicate that a number of senior Army officers oppose his action in seeking American support against the Communists. Proposals for a cabinet reshuffle have not advanced beyond a nebulous stage. Various other suggested actions against the Communists apparently have not been cleared by the cabinet or by President Sukarno. It cannot yet be taken for granted that the major non-Communist political parties are able or willing to commit their membership to an effective anti-Communist program.

In considering what action might be taken by the Indonesian government with the support of some of the elements mentioned above, the following considerations are relevant:

Indonesia will probably not abandon the “independent and active” foreign policy characteristic of its external relations since independence.
No really major changes in overall domestic policy are in prospect, for virtually all political groups are in general agreement on the main lines of present political, economic, and social policy.
The personality and outlook of President Sukarno is a basically limiting factor on the formulation and execution of any anti-Communist program. While Sukarno’s understanding of democracy sometimes varies with the US interpretation, he appears attached to most of the forms and some of the substance of democracy. An anti-Communist program which would appear to be clearly anti-democratic in outlawing a political party would most likely encounter his heavy opposition.
The Army, cabinet, and political party leaders who have recently spoken of the need to halt the progress of the PKI generally regard Sukarno with respect and even reverence because of the historic role he played in the achievement of Indonesian independence. Sukarno is still the dominant figure in the central government, and it is doubtful that Army, cabinet, or party leaders would be able or even willing to carry out an anti-Communist program without Sukarno’s support or at least acquiescence.
The Indonesian Communists have made most of their progress by legal means. With every prospect of further expanding its electoral base m 1959, the PKI is likely to continue to emphasize legal means.

Embassy Djakarta has reported that non-Communist elements in the central government have already taken action against the PKI: prohibiting PKI action against US-owned property, limiting PKI exploitation of the celebration of May Day, prohibiting a mass rally against “foreign intervention” in the Indonesian rebellion, and statements by the PNI identifying the PKI as the servant of a foreign power. However, close analysis indicates these actions are of little substance in themselves. The prohibitions of PKI action against US property and of the mass rally may have been intended to prevent further deterioration in relations with the US. The regulations on the celebration of May Day were merely a repetition of similar regulations issued in 1957. The PNI statements were similar to statements issued by the PNI in 1951, 1954, and 1957. In any case, the power position of the PKI has not been disturbed by these actions.

No rumored central government action against the PKI holds out much hope of successfully blocking the Communists. While a cabinet reshuffle may take place their replacements will probably not impart a clearly anti-Communist flavor to the cabinet. Postponement of the 1959 general elections will be increasingly difficult, as preparations are already well-advanced, and this would be a clearly anti-democratic act which both Sukarno and the political leaders would probably find distasteful. A major economic development program to raise living standards would be a long-term project which Indonesia could hardly carry out with its limited resources. Domestic policies followed by the central government have effectively discouraged most private foreign investment, and Western government loans have been inhibited by the prospect of further Communist advances.

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None of the foregoing courses of action, singly, would solve the Communist problem, and the prospects of the government’s taking all of them together are remote. A possible solution was recently suggested to Ambassador Jones by a group of Moslem political leaders: the Communists could only be halted through satisfactory solution of the status of Western New Guinea and low living standards. They urged that the US contribute to a solution of these problems. From all indications successful resolution of the Western New Guinea question might be a sufficient price for Sukarno’s cooperation in a campaign against the Communists. Improvement of the very low standard of living in Indonesia would in the long run tell significantly against the Communists, much of whose electoral support probably represents a protest vote against poverty.

A similar memorandum has been addressed to The Under Secretary.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.001/6–2058. Secret.