The Third International after Lenin

Monday, April 23, 2012

Indonesia's left opposition

....Tan Malaka, who was often branded as a Trotskyist by the Indonesia Stalinists, was never in contact with Trotsky and the Fourth International. However, it must be said that in many fundamental questions Tan Malaka reached the same conclusions as Leon Trotsky. It was this fact that earned him the Trotskyist brand.
In many of his writings, he never decisively took sides between Stalin and Trotsky. The only significant writing where he talked about Trotskyism was the "Thesis". There he was merely trying to prove that according to the Stalinist definition of Trotskyism his political line had nothing in common at all with Trotskyism.
"In the official book 'History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)', which was approved by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) in 1938, one of the most important characteristics of 'Trotskyism' was written in page 288-289: '… there were the downright capitulators, like Trotsky, Radek, Zinoviev, Sokolnikov, Kamenev, Shylapnikov, Bhukarin, Rykov, and others who did not believe that Socialist development of our country was possible, bowed before the 'omnipotence' of capitalism and in their endeavour to strengthen the position of capitalism in the Soviet country demanded far-reaching concessions to private capital, both home and foreign, and the surrender of a number of key positions of the Soviet power in the economic field to private capitalists, the latter to act either as concessionaries or as partners of the State in mixed joint stock companies. Both groups were alien to Marxism and Leninism.'
"On page 262 of that book: 'They (Trotsky and others) proposed that we should throw ourselves on the tender mercies of the foreign capitalists, surrender to them in the form of concessions branches of industry that of vital necessity to the Soviet State. They proposed that we pay the Tsarist government's debts annulled by the October Revolution. The Party stigmatized these capitulatory proposals as treachery.'
"It was clear that the two important things that differentiate Stalinism and Trotskyism, according to the book that we just obtained, were about the attitude of the Soviet Union and the CPSU in regards to: 1) the Tsarist government's debt, 2) Foreign capitalism in Russia. Those two things were rejected by Stalin, and were admitted by Trotsky.
"Wasn't point 6 and point 7 of the minimum programme [of PARI, Tan Malaka's party] the demand for the expropriation and rejection of foreign capitalism [Dutch assets in Indonesia]?
"About the Dutch Indies' debt, according to PARI this has to be paid by the Dutch themselves. The Republic of Indonesia has the right and the obligation to reject paying Dutch Indies' debt …
"… It is clear that PARI is in line with the 'official line' of the CPSU under Joseph Stalin. Those who accuse PARI or whoever as 'Trotskyist' ought to inspect the truth of those allegations according to the above note."6 [Emphasis added]
It was clear in this writing that Tan Malaka had never read a single work by Trotsky or the International Left Opposition. In fact, it seems that he was trying to make a point that there was an inconsistency on the Stalinists' part. Their definition of Trotskyism did not fit their accusation.
Furthermore, true to his Bolshevik attitude, Tan Malaka didn't take sides at all until he could study both sides, unlike many Stalinist PKI members who blindly adopt an anti-Trotsky attitude without reading anything by Trotsky. The words of D.N. Aidit's brother, Sobron, illustrated how many PKI members were taught to be against Trotsky without really understanding him:
"He [Asahan, another sibling of D.N. Aidit] just finished a text by Trotsky about the biography of Stalin. This 900-page book, according to him, was very interesting. I myself don't know and understand why in the past we were taught to be so anti-Trotsky… In fact I really didn't know and didn't understand the ideas and ideology of Trotskyism."7
As an "Old Bolshevik" in Indonesia, Tan Malaka knew very well the leading role that Trotsky played in the October Revolution. Trotsky was the co-leader of the October Revolution with Lenin. During the first period of the Indonesian Communist Party in the early 1920s, the names Lenin and Trotsky were synonymous for the Russian Revolution. At the Congress of the PKI in December 1921, above the stage were the pictures of Lenin and Trotsky, not Lenin and Stalin8. Tan Malaka also lived in the Soviet Union between 1922-23, when the Soviet regime was still fairly healthy and could see with his own eyes how Trotsky was highly revered amongst the workers. Although he never personally met Trotsky, he had seen him speak at demonstrations9. This definitely played a role in Tan Malaka's neutral stance toward the Stalin-Trotsky struggle. He couldn't just swallow the allegations that Trotsky – a well respected co-leader of the October Revolution – was a counter revolutionary who conspired with the fascists and the imperialists and was striving to bring capitalism back to Russia; not without reading Trotsky's writings, something that he never had a chance to.
The only group that formally joined the Fourth International was Ibnu Parna's Acoma (Angkatan Comunis Muda, Young Communist Force). Acoma was founded in 1946 from a group of communist youth. In the 1955 election, they gained enough votes to have Ibnu Parna elected as a member of parliament. In the early 1950s they began developing contacts with the International Secretariat of the Fourth International and in 1959 they affiliated with the Fourth International. There is very little record of Acoma's relationship with the Fourth International, or of what their political programme and activities were as a section of the Fourth International. The Fourth International lost contact with the Acoma after the 1965 anti-communist counter-revolution in which Ibnu Parna was killed....

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