Organized Panel Session
In the face of the Army-led campaign of repression that began in early October 1965, the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) did not put up any organized resistance. It seems odd that the people being targeted for arrest, detention, and execution over a number of months did not find some way of fighting back. The thinking of PKI leaders and members at that time has not been well understood. A number of myths have thrived in the general climate of ignorance, such as the absurd idea, one beloved of the perpetrators, that the communists willingly submitted themselves for punishment. This paper, largely based on oral interviews with former PKI leaders, members, and supporters, considers the decision-making of the Politburo in Jakarta in October 1965 and the responses to the Army’s operations in Solo, Central Java, where the party had its strongest base of support. The paper argues that the element of surprise was crucial. The communists believed that they would be safe in custody and when they discovered that they were being disappeared from the places of detention, it was too late to organize an effective resistance. The appearance of passivity is an illusion created ex post facto by the failure of the survival strategies they adopted in response to the situation as they understood it at that time. It is also created by the covertness of some forms of their resistance, such as hiding to avoid arrest, escaping from prison, and bribing guards to be released.