Brief for the Chief of the Defence Staff, ‘Possible political developments in Indonesia within the next few months’, JIC (65)7, 27 January 1965

“The evidence is by no means conclusive and it would be unwise to base any plans on his [Sukarno’s] supposed departure from the Indonesian scene in the immediate future. However, he is a sick man who may die at any time; without an operation he is unlikely to last more than a year and, if he undergoes a successful operation, he may last as long as two to three years. In any case, we would expect him to become increasingly irrational and eccentric… The JIC [Joint Intelligence Committee] believes that there is no one leader or party obviously likely [sic] to succeed and the most probable initial outcome is a compromise candidate who would postpone, rather than avert the ultimate struggle for power between the Army and the Indonesian Communist party. Finally, the paper discusses the possible effect of Sukarno’s death on the policy of confrontation. It concludes that there is no likelihood of early change in the general policy.”

National Archives: DEFE31/54


Maj-Gen. Kenneth Strong, Director General of Intelligence, MOD to Permanent Under Secretary, 3 November 1964

“You asked me about the likelihood of Indonesia going communist… We are…not as pessimistic as the United States appear to be. Sukarno has managed to balance the influences of the PKI (Communist party) and the Army and should be able to continue to do so. A communist takeover during Sukarno’s lifetime seems unlikely. When he goes (only death or a grave illness is likely to cause this) there would be a struggle for power between the Army and the PKI. We do not think the Communists would necessarily win but, in view of the strength of the Communists, we cannot discount this possibility”.

National Archives: DEFE 31/55


Defence Intelligence memorandum, “Sukarno and the Communists” undated [around September 1964]

“Since independence was achieved in 1949, he [Sukarno] has consistently shifted to the left. In the last two years, this movement has accelerated. Sukarno’s attitude towards the PKI springs not only from his own emotional bias toward Marxism but also from his need for a stronger mass organisation to ensure popular acceptance of his policies’. He has largely suppressed political opposition and the Army is the only organisation capable to “obstruct the Communists”. “Since 1951, the PKI has concentrated on peaceful infiltration and the formation of a united front. Its chief political demand is that it be given greater representation in the cabinet… The PKI sees a sympathetic peasantry as a strategic requirement for the success of its own struggle, whether by peaceful or forceful means… The PKI seems to recognise the possibility that – perhaps at Sukarno’s death – it may have to resort to force either to defend itself or to make a bid for power. The party apparently does not feel that it is now ready for confrontation with the army, and it probably hopes to avoid it entirely through government integration… Sukarno’s major foreign policy goal is to rid Southeast Asia of Western influence. His domestic predilection is toward leftist totalitarianism. He sees the communist party as the country’s only efficient and dynamic organisation which not only gives him his own support but can organise and deliver mass support as well”.

National Archives: DEFE 31/58


Leave a reply