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Darul Islam and communism

The strings between the Darul Islam and communism were, on paper, tied very tightly. The first connection between the groups was drawn in June 1948. Yet it would only be after the Madiun Affair of September 1948 that Islamic and communist militias were portrayed in Dutch military reports as two faces of a single enemy, ready to cooperate to bring down the Republic. These reports considered Cirebon and Indramayu’s Darul Islam troops to have the strongest communist character, with the PKI and the Darul Islam occasionally even sharing their headquarters.[1] But it is evident that this was a localized reality, as in the south TII and PKI militias were conducting a war of propaganda aimed at garnering broader support at each other’s expenses.

Dutch intelligence services noted the Darul Islam swelling in the aftermath of the Madiun Affair. After the Siliwangi Division had withdrawn from West Java in February-March 1948, these Republican soldiers were stationed just outside of Surakarta. By mid September the tensions between Republican forces and anti-government communist troops, whose stronghold was in Central Java, had escalated to a point of no return. PKI and the socialist Pesindo militias, estimated to number between 5,000 and 10,000 men, gathered in Madiun on 18 September, took control of the key points in the city and announced the formation of a new National Front (Front Nasional) government.

Musso - a prominent leader of the PKI in the 1920s, who had recently returned from Moscow after living more than twenty years overseas - was unable to counter Soekarno’s calls for unity and Nasu- tion’s military attacks. The rebels were pushed out of the city and dispersed into the countryside, sparking violence between communists and PNI-Masyumi sympathizers. Musso was killed on 31 October. Amir Sjarifuddin was arrested and later executed by the Dutch because of his involvement in the events. Meanwhile Aidit fled for China, only to return a few years later to become Secretary General of PKI.

In the aftermath of Madiun, Tan Malaka’s ‘national communism’ became the only politically viable form of communism in Indonesia, at least until the second Dutch military aggression. Tan Malaka was eventually captured and executed by the TNI in February 1949.[2] It would take another five years before communism could re-establish itself as a political force in Indonesia.

The first references to communist infiltrations in the Darul Islam ranks appeared in September 1948, when the Dutch uncovered both communist and Islamist literature and military badges in the same households in Ciawi. This discovery led the Dutch to argue that the communists, following their strategy of infiltration, had succeeded in taking over the Islamic movement. They drew further evidence from the Darul Islam’s effort to redistribute land among the peasants,[3] and the family connections between the Darul Islam and the left-wing Bamboe Roentjing militias. This much had already been suggested by the Indonesian press in April 1948.

The Dutch speculated that the Darul Islam had expanded into EastJava, establishing a second Darul Islam group in the Ponorogo- Besuki-Jember area; this area had been hijacked by communists in September 1949 and had a different agenda and leadership than Kartosuwiryo’s (actual) Darul Islam group in the Garut and Tasik- malaya districts.[4] The Indonesian press responded to this theory by claiming that it was not a hijacking of the movement, but rather the case that the ‘red’ guerrilla were using the Darul Islam label to garner popular support and to provoke a greater political impact.[5]

In the following months this argument gained strength from additional speculations on Kartosuwiryo’s past, advanced by the Indonesian army and Dutch information services: he was now portrayed as a ‘well-known communist and a prominent PKI leader in the Southeast Priangan since 1928’. This came as something of a surprise to the Dutch, as the report continued mentioning that ‘it is utterly incredible that someone who has been a communist in the very dangerous years between 1928 and 1942 would now be a convinced religious politician’.[6] The life of Kartosuwiryo was rewritten, and the origins of communism in Java were inextricably linked with the history of Sarekat Islam.

In this re-invented genealogy, the Sarekat Islam had initially been divided between Agoes Salim’s cooperating group and the SI hijau (‘green’ SI), which in 1926 gave life to the Sarekat Rakyat and Alimin’s PKI in Cirebon. But Salim’s group also split, with Abikoesno and Kartosuwiryo taking the path of non-cooperation. In the aftermath of the first Dutch invasion, Masyumi and the Soeffah (Kartosuwiryo’s educational institution) were transformed into the Majelis Islam in West Java to challenge the Dutch.[7] In the light of Masyumi’s mobilization of peasants and farmers, the party’s favourable disposition towards the left wing (sayap kiri) and Tan Malaka’s allegedly strong influence on several Masyumi leaders (including Wondoamiseno, Wahid Hasjim, Kartosuwiryo, Abikoesno, Wali Alfatah and Soetan Akbar),[8] the Dutch had irrevocably established the connection between the Darul Islam and Tan Malaka’s group.[9]

The Dutch connected the dots: Masyumi’s roots in Sarekat Islam’s Islamo-socialism, the individual backgrounds of party leaders, the overlapping of the military and political goals of the two factions, the labelling of Darul Islam actions as radical and anarchist, the Darul Islam and PKI’s common interest in socio-economic justice and land distribution, and the infiltration of communist militias into the (apparently) emerging Darul Islam in EastJava became solid foundation for their speculative argument.

The religious character of the Darul Islam was then described as a smokescreen, which at the beginning of the Cold War seemed a more logical assumption than rejecting entirely the possibility of a leftist infiltration, especially as ‘it could be assumed that the majority of the people in this country do not see the difference between communism or socialism and the social dimension of Islam’.[7]

In 1950 the Dutch intelligence agency declared that all depended on local leaders and alliances, and as much as West Java

(especially Cirebon) had a strong communist influence, the roots of this cooperation were an opportunity and not ideological.[11] In more recent times, the intellectual and writer Ahmad Tohari has suggested that the height of Darul Islam violence in the early 1960s, especially in Central Java, was connected with communist guerrillas readying themselves for the alleged coup of 1965.[12]

  • [1] ‘Daroel Islam’, 5 June 1948, APG no. 1002, NA; ‘Rapport van Bk. Bandoeng inzake Islami-tische stromingen in de residenties Priangan en Cheribon’, AIntel, no. 1705, NA.
  • [2] Ann Swift, The road to Madiun, (Ithaca: Cornell Modern Indonesia Project, 1989).
  • [3] KNIL report on ‘Dar-ul-Islam beweging’, 2 September 1948, AAS no. 2752, NA; ‘Verbindin-gen tussen de ‘Dar-ul-Islam’-beweging o.l.v. S.M. Kartosoewirjo en de Tan-Malaka-aanhang’,21 April 1949, AAS no. 2753, NA.
  • [4] ‘Ponorogo: Daroel Islam’, De Vrije Pers, 19 September 1949. The Dutch also attempted toargue that the Darul Islam had institutional presences in Panarukan, Jember and Mojokerto,but they also admitted that a plot to establish a Darul Islam group in Bondowoso had beenuncovered in time to be stopped: ‘And today here there is a communist government, and this isa strong one.’ Logbericht, Soerabaja, 17 october 1949.
  • [5] ‘Tak ada DI di Madiun Ponorogo?’, TrompetMasjarakat, 5 October 1949; ‘Lebih dikwatirkanprovokatief daripada DI’, Trompet Masjarakat, 12 December 1949.
  • [6] ‘Rapport betreffende MI, NII, TNII’, 17 October 1948, APG no. 997, NA.
  • [7] ‘Stukken betreffende verhoudingen tussen Communisme en Islam in Nederlands-Indie’,AIntel no. 1706, NA.
  • [8] ‘Verbindingen tussen de “Dar-ul-Islam”-beweging o.l.v. S.M. Kartosoewirjo en de Tan-Mal-aka-aanhang’, 21 April 1949, AAS no. 2753, NA.
  • [9] Harry Poeze has also pointed to the cooperation between the Darul Islam and the Gabun-gan Lasjkar Rakjat in West Java. See his Verguisd en vergeten: Tan Malaka, de linkse beweging en deIndonesische revolutie, 1945-1949 (Leiden: KITLV Uitgeverij, 2007), p. 1523. See also ‘Verbindingen tussen de “Dar-ul-Islam”-beweging o.l.v. S.M. Kartosoewirjo en de Tan-Malaka-aanhang’,21 April 1949, AAS no. 2753, NA.
  • [10] ‘Stukken betreffende verhoudingen tussen Communisme en Islam in Nederlands-Indie’,AIntel no. 1706, NA.
  • [11] On the issue of Darul Islam and communism as discussed above see also: ‘Communistischeinfiltratie in de Darul-Islam’, Regentschapskantoor Garut, 6 July 1949, AAS no. 2753, NA; CMIPublication No. 97, 18 November 1948, AAS no. 3977, NA; ‘Kort Overzicht van de houding vande Islam met betrekking tot de huidige politieke ontwikkelingen’, 29 April 1949, in AMK Geheim1901-1940: KVG no. F33, NA; ‘Aantekeningen bij CMI publicatie van 5 Mei 1949 nr. 4797. Exh 10Mei 1949, Kab Lett Z 42-2206, 1 June 1949, AAS no. 2754, NA; ‘Nota’, Batavia Police Commissar,31 July 1949, AAS no. 2753, NA; ‘Negara Islam Indonesia’, 1953, AABRI DI; ‘Nota betr. DarulIslam en Westerling, 2 February 1950, AMK Geheim 1901-1940: KVG no. T8, NA.
  • [12] Ahmad Tohari, Lingkar tanah, lingkar air (Yogyakarta: LKiS, 1999), and interview withauthor, 31 April 2008, Purwakarta.
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