65. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Dulles to President Eisenhower0


  • Sukarno

Sukarno, in speaking on 3 April to students in Djakarta, denied accusations that he is a Communist. He explained that these accusations result from a misunderstanding of his own efforts to combat colonialism and capitalism and to find working solutions for Indonesia’s numerous economic and political problems, as well as from a misinterpretation of Indonesia’s neutral foreign policy.

On 7 April in Demak, Central Java, in commemoration of a Moslem holiday, Sukarno made what might be termed a religio-political speech [Page 115]in which he explained himself as peculiarly endowed to screen and blend all trends and ideologies into a philosophy which would be right for Indonesia. He said that although he is a follower of Karl Marx, he is also a religious man and understands “the entire scope between Marxism and religion… .1 I know all trends and understand them.”

The contradiction between the two speeches is only an apparent one. Sukarno has repeatedly stated and appears to believe that basically he can be a Marxist, can establish a socialist state, and can use Communist techniques without threatening Indonesia with Communism. Sukarno told the American Ambassador on 19 March2 that he was no Communist but that he had seen in Communist China such tremendous economic advances that he believed Communist Chinese methods held lessons for Indonesia. Sukarno sees no contradiction in his own attitudes toward Marxism and Islam since he sees the former as promoting the same “social justice” which the latter seeks.

President Sukarno, now aged 57, plays three political roles which are variously emphasized in relation to his audience and surroundings. These are (1) a more or less constitutional president in a more or less parliamentary cabinet system of government; (2) a national revolutionary leader in a newly independent country which is involved in political, economic, and social changes; and (3) an Asian potentate in whom the Indonesians, but particularly the 50,000,000 Javanese—most of them poor, ignorant, superstitious, and starved for excitement and color—see the embodiment of a mystical, divinely endowed, and foreordained king.

Sukarno enjoys the second and third roles far more than the first and is far better qualified to fill them than he is the first. He has all the theatrical techniques of the consummate crowd-pleaser and is in fact a rabble-rouser when he wishes. He has a insatiable desire for public acclaim and wishes to hold all the reins of power and to be the originator of all major decisions. Yet he refuses to accept definite responsibility and is childishly jealous when anyone else appears to share the acclaim usually accorded him or to assume responsibility which might lead to the loss of any of his power. In one important particular, he has virtually no knowledge of economics and no appreciation of the complex economic problems which afflict the nation. He is vain and pleasure loving to a marked degree.

Paralleling these characteristics is an identification with Indonesia and with a dream of Indonesia as a strong, united nation—the home of a prosperous and confident people. In relation to Indonesians, Sukarno[Page 116]sees himself as father, leader and guide, one who must study, interpret, and blend the best and most appropriate of the modern world with the best of whatever he sees as genuinely Indonesian, to create a truly Indonesian nation. This is a superhuman order for one person, or even one generation, but Sukarno’s vanity and ego refuse to let him share the work substantially with anyone of real ability.

In addition, Sukarno has led a life of tension which has repeatedly included revolution, insurrection, imprisonment, exile, conspiracy, and attempted assassination. This undoubtedly tends to emphasize and exaggerate many of his personality traits.

Allen W. Dulles
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Staff Secretary Records. Secret; Noforn.
  2. Ellipsis in the source text.
  3. See Document 43.