IT was in the morning of 29th December 1929, when a Dutch colonial inspector with half dozen of colonial recherché and around fifty policemen arrived in Soejoedi house in Yogyakarta.
They where looking for Sukarno, the chairman of Indonesian Nationalist Party who had visited the old city to deliver his speech in front of his party members. After one night arrested in Margangsan jail, the next day Sukarno was transferred to the Banceuy jail in Bandung where he prepared his pleidooi before delivered it in front of colonial court on 18th August 1930.
Note: This writing is based on Roger G Paget study on “Indonesia Accuses!”, published in 1975.
In 1965, Sukarno recalls how he prepared the pleidooi in his tiny and smelly cell in Banceuy. He had secured paper and ink from home, and dictionary from prison library. Writing his pleidooi was a backbreaking job; since he has no table to write, he used a two-feet-wide-by-two-feet-high water closet in his cell as a pad to write his speech, which later became a part of Indonesian political history, called Indonesia Menggugat or Indonesia Accuses. It is a thesis of colonialism, extracted from the ache by ache of Indonesian people’s suffering for three and half centuries of Dutch colonial.
On the day, he narrated his speech in blazed rhetoric-style, not merely addressed it to the judges and the court, but also to the Dutch colonial, the ones who charges him.
There are four main subjects in his speech, which are “Imperialism and Capitalism”; “Imperialism in Indonesia”; “Political Movement in Indonesia”; and “the Indonesian Nationalist Party”. He deeply explains the root and the dynamic of Indonesian nationalism by clarifies the socio-economic setting and background that then have transformed it into a political movement against the colonial power.
Sukarno defines capitalism as social system that emerges from a mode of production, which furthermore disconnects the working class, which are, colonized people in the colonized countries, from the means of production. The system by its nature promotes the accumulation, concentration and centralization of capital, and suggests armed power development to preserve and to keep the capital accretion process.
Imperialism he classifies as a lust and system which rules or directs economy and country of another people. The existence of ‘economic nationalism’ is the raison d’ etre for imperialism. He believes that imperialism is the key desire for people or country to defeat, subjugate, and control over another country and another people. He gives examples to show how imperialism drives human being to control over another human beings in order to accumulate the capital in the name of ‘economic nationalism’, and is practiced not only by the white-skinned people, but also by the yellow-skinned people, black-skinned people, and brown-skinned people.
We find it in the lust of the Roman Eagle flying every where, subjugating countries both around and away of the Mediterranean Sea. We see it in the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands to defeats the English, in the Oriental kingdom of Srivijaya’s desire to subjugate the Malacca Peninsula, the kingdom of Malaya, and to exercise influence over the neighboring state of Cambodia, or Champa. We can witness the lust of Majapahit in its subjugation and control of the whole Indonesian archipelago from Bali to Kalimantan, from Sumatera to the Moluccas, or the Japanese occupation on Korea, control over Manchuria, and rule over the Pacific islands.
While in his autobiography (1965) Sukarno says that the effect of imperialism was monstrous. Colonized men were taken from their home and “commandeered to slave in the far-off isles that lacked manpower.” At the same time, women were forced to work in indigo garden. Those who were giving birth were not permitted to stop their work hard.
In his speech, Sukarno distinguishes imperialism into two types, which are old imperialism and new imperialism. Each of it is a direct offspring of its own type capitalism. Yet there is no big difference between two types of imperialism. Each type of imperialism consists of “passion, desire, and ideal, a bias, a system of dominating and controlling the domestic affairs of other countries and others people.”
The old imperialism can be seen as dominations of trading organization supported by the state, like British East India Company and Netherlands East Indies Company (V.O.C.), or domination of Portuguese and Spanish from sixteenth century up to the early twentieth century. The next matter is, as the fact that the modern or new imperialism is a result of the old imperialism dynamic; new imperialism transforms itself into a race of colonies among the colonizers. They, the colonizer countries, are racing to collect as many colonized people and colonized lands as possible. Each of them wants to be the winner, and in doing so they make a people in the colonized lands as the living victims of their sluts and desires.
As a closing remark for “Imperialism and Capitalism” subject Sukarno delivers his forecast on the Pacific War. The war in Pacific, he says, will be erupted as a result of the race for colonies among the British, United States of America and Japan to take control over “the very rich but largely undeveloped China.” He stresses, “the materialist will fight to the death over China, will struggle to death in a battle of the Pacific.”
In the next subject under subtitle of “Imperialism in Indonesia”, Sukarno illustrates how imperialism determined by capitalism spirit has been practiced in Indonesian context. It is obvious, he says, how V.O.C. in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries initiated a monopoly system in Indonesia as an action to compete with the British, Portuguese and Spanish. The harshness and cruelty used in determining and protecting the monopoly was clear; kingdoms smashed and people killed. It was the picture of how old imperialism acted in Indonesia under the Netherlands East Indies Company.
Modern capitalism under Dutch government, arrived in Indonesia following the bankruptcy of V.O.C. in 1800, introduced culture system, which was “far more cruel, far more enthralling and exhausting… Its evil has been acknowledged by nearly everyone who experienced it as well as by those who have studied its history.”
To clear his thought on this theme Sukarno defines four basic principles of modern capitalism and imperialism in Indonesia. Under modern capitalism and imperialism people and countries, he says, will be a permanent source of basic commodities; source of raw materials for European market; market for the product of various foreign industries; and an area for the exploitation of capital. While Indonesian people remain tormented.
Your Honors, there are so many Dutch who simply have no idea of the suffering of the Indonesian people. There are so many Dutch who think of the Indonesian people as living contentedly… The misery of the people isn’t ‘nonsense’ or the ‘work of agitator’. It is a reality, easily proved by the statistic.
He criticizes the Dutch colonial for not providing standard public facilities, hospital for instance; he also mentions that the law to protect labor is not exist, and at the same time the right to strike for labor which is common in others civilized countries has been completely eliminated. No freedom of the press, freedom of organization and freedom of assembly. “And nobody has given my people right which might have been used to combat the terror of imperialism sprawling over our society and livelihoods.”
In the next step, explaining the rising of political movement in Indonesian under Dutch colonialism, Sukarno says, even nobody has given any right to combat the colonial, indeed any individual, or community or people “will ultimately respond in a surge of energy when a provocation of a blood thirsty oppressor can no longer be borne.” World history, he argues, is a story of how people or a country trying to escape misfortune, and “this popular movement is also the product of national misery; our influence over the people is also the product of national misery.”
So, it is the misery of Indonesian people that moves Sukarno and his nationalist fellows establishing the Indonesian Nationalist Party (P.N.I.) in 1927 with Free Indonesia as a main goal. He says to the judges that the principles of the P.N.I are basically similar to the principles of labor movement in Europe and America; there is a positive correspondence where labor must gain power politically before socialism can be realized.
It has been sine qua non in the development of every society, every nation, and every people, in the East as well as in the West, for the colored people as well as the white. Without national independence no nation can attain to greatness, nor will any nation stand strong and upright unless its free.
With the principles of revolutionary movement, which is an opposite of ‘acquiescence’ and ‘moderation’ and not belongs to ‘slow and apathetic’ movement, Sukarno says, “P.N.I. arouses and activates in the masses an awareness of their ‘bounteous past’, ‘dark ages’ and the ‘promise of a brightly beckoning future’.
Imperialist system, Sukarno says, is the means and condition that have rationalized P.N.I. movement. The system initiates a policy of divided and rules; a policy of sowing discord, while at the same time keeps Indonesian people in state of backwardness. Furthermore, imperialist system implants sense of inferiority deep in the mind of the people, so the people believe that colored people is lower and inferior while white people is always higher and superior. The imperialist system, Sukarno says, simultaneously applies ‘a policy of association’ where colonizer implants in the mind and in the heart of colonized people that colonizer power and colonized people have the same interests. Moreover by using this policy colonizer and imperialist stop colonized people from any action to ask any right for independent.
At the last part of his presentation about Indonesian nationalism and political movement of Indonesian people, Sukarno stresses that for Indonesian people who are living under colonization since three and half centuries ago, the freedom of Indonesia and the movement to achieve it is a historical duty that “cannot be avoided, but is inevitable.”