The Legacies of the Indonesian Counter-Revolution: New Insights and Remaining Issues

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The article reviews three recent, commendable and important books about the Indonesian counter-revolution and killings of the mid-1960s. Two case studies by Jess Melvin and Vannessa Hearman and a history by Geoffrey Robinson. Robinson has written the most comprehensive history available, Hearman details the combination of military and civilian repression and the fate of resistance in East Java and Melvin argues, on the basis of unique documents from Aceh, that the killings were a genocide. This article considers these findings with a view of the general scholarship on the counter-revolution. Three remaining issues are identified. First, what was the political economy and political agency that made possible the conspiracies in Jakarta in September–October 1965 and the subsequent suppression? Second, what enabled the combination of militarily-propelled violence and the participation of the militias and vigilantes? Third, what explains Indonesia’s exceptionalism in terms of absence of a new leftist dimension in its contemporary politics, even when compared to other countries having faced severe repression? It is argued that these questions demand an extension of the historical perspective to consider the undermining of emancipatory struggle against the legacies of indirect rule and for equal and democratic citizenship in the 1950s and 1960s.




Törnquist, O. (2020, August 7). The Legacies of the Indonesian Counter-Revolution: New Insights and Remaining Issues. Journal of Contemporary Asia. Routledge.

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