The Ghost that Never Fades Away

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaFrom year to year, the hoax of the revival of communism continues to be used as ammunition to attack political opponents. It is time for this nation to move on. 

    COMMUNISM WENommunism went bankrupt a long time ago, both as an ideology and a political movement. Nations that claim to be communist, such as China and Cuba, clearly now have market economies. Despite this, some members of the political elite in this nation still like to bring up the old song of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) threat and the danger of communism.

    Every year, in the run-up to the commemoration of Pancasila Sanctity Day on October 1, this shoddy rumor is resuscitated. This year the ghost of communism was revived when a number of people accused the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Arteria Dahlan of being the grandson of a PKI member. This mistaken accusation went viral on the Internet and triggered a boisterous debate.

    Recently, retired Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo also fanned the flames. He claimed that his removal as commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI) three years ago was a result of his order to soldiers to invite people to public screenings of the New Order propaganda movie about the 30 September Movement coup attempt. He said that a number of people wanted to downplay the involvement of the PKI in the 1965 incident that resulted in the deaths of a number of army officers.

    This polemic is worrying for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are a number of comprehensive historical studies of the September 1965 incident. Examination of archives of important documents from the era show there were a number of people involved in the tragic incident. Some of them were PKI members, while others were military personnel. What is clear is that the September 30, 1965 tragedy was then used as a pretext to justify mass killings of hundreds of thousands of PKI members and sympathizers throughout Indonesia.

    Secondly, we all understand that the issue of communism is nothing more than a political commodity. Conservative Islamist politicians often use it to put pressure on their opponents and garner the sympathy of constituents. The repeated rumors about communism during the presidency of Joko Widodo, for example, show that there is a chronic problem with the relationship between the nationalists, who are currently in power, and the Islamists.

    Ironically, a section of the public still believes in the PKI specter. A survey carried out by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting released last week shows that 14 percent of respondents still believe in this myth. This is a fairly high number and shows the success of politicians in fostering this obsolete rumor for more than half a century.

    In the middle of the tired old debate concerning the danger of communism, we often forget the real victims of this polemic. They are the children and grandchildren of the victims of the 1965 massacres and former political prisoners of the New Order regime. They are still fighting for the political, social and economic rights that they are due as citizens.

    Many of them are haunted by the trauma of their parents disappearing or being killed. Political prisoners who were held for years without trial also lost an important period in their lives. The stigma attached to former PKI members and their children and grandchildren still makes their lives difficult.

    The only way to finish off the communism zombie in this nation is to resolve the 1965 tragedy both politically and legally. The government once began an endeavor to strive for this, and President Joko Widodo even promised to solve all human rights cases from the past. Without this, we will continue to be trapped in the recycled rumor of communism and allow the old wounds of the victims to be reopened every year.

    Read the Complete Story in Tempo English Magazine