Indonesian Marxism was both organizationally and ideologically part of a global movement of proletarian solidarity, but it was simultaneously a distinctly local intellectual tradition with distinctively Indonesian features. On one hand, it is very easy to situate Indonesian Marxism within the wider world, with its plethora of connections to the pan-Islamic movement, women’s rights activism, Anarchism, the Communist International, and even Turkish as well as Chinese nationalism. It produced original thinkers and traditions, and had a profound impact on discussions even at the highest echelons in Moscow and Beijing prior to its collapse in 1965. On the other, Indonesian Marxism was distinctly national, in the sense that it adapted itself to conditions specific to the Indies/Indonesia. It was also immensely adaptive and resilient; despite serious setbacks in 1926, 1948 and 1965 it continued to operate within or underneath structures of governance, and in cooperation with both Indonesian and foreign political parties and networks.
The papers in this panel are concerned with the dual nature of Indonesian Marxism, which managed to harbor both local and global within itself, not in abeyance but in a kind of productive tension. They show how Indonesian Marxist discourses both engaged with and influenced broader international discourses. Stutje shows the trans-regional connections between Indonesian Marxism and international Anarchism in the 1910s and 1920s. Lewis explores the Indonesian Socialist Party’s engagements with the wider world of Asian socialism and Afro-Asian solidarity in the late 1940s and 1950s through the Asian Socialist Conference, pre-dating the Bandung Conference. Jamkajornkeiat focuses on Indonesian Marxism’s relationship with Third World Internationalism during the 1950s and 1960s, highlighting its distinctly international outlook, even as the Indonesian communist party pursued an anomalous cooperationist path to political power. De Jong highlights the impact made by Indonesian Marxism, particularly via the Indonesian Communist Party and its leader, D.N. Aidit, on the Philippine left from 1963–1968. Collectively, they show how Indonesian Marxists were deeply integrated into international Marxist networks, whether organizationally or discursively.
Ultimately, this panel aims to show how Indonesian Marxism had varied developmental trajectories, drawing deeply on local cultures while retaining strong internationalist associations. Rather than one symptom of a larger “malaise” of communism spreading across post-war Asia, Indonesian Marxism was vibrant, dynamic, and diverse, with its own storied intellectual pedigree developed in communication with, but not subsidiary to, Moscow or Beijing