Intellectuals and Nationalism in Indonesia: A Study of the Following Recruited by Sutan Sjahrir in Occupied Jakarta

Intellectuals and Nationalism in Indonesia: A Study of the Following Recruited by Sutan Sjahrir in Occupied Jakarta

Intellectuals and Nationalism in Indonesia: A Study of the Following Recruited by Sutan Sjahrir in Occupied Jakarta

Intellectuals and Nationalism in Indonesia: A Study of the Following Recruited by Sutan Sjahrir in Occupied Jakarta

Excerpt

The purpose of the following pages is to examine the character, ideas, and attitudes of one section of the youth of Jakarta during the Japanese Occupation and immediately after, to consider its place in the history of nationalist thought, and to reassess its contribution to the struggle for independence.

The group in question was composed of those who gathered about Sutan Sjahrir and who were later to form an important element within the party led by him, the Indonesian Socialist Party (Partai Sosialis Indonesia -- PSI). Radical changes have taken place over the years in the way students of the Indonesian Revolution have perceived Sjahrir and his followers. Thirty-five years ago the fashion was to see them as belonging to the mainstream of the independence struggle. A decade later the demise of the PSI had changed that perspective. The elections of 1955 showed that, for all its considerable influence in parliament and the bureaucracy, the party had no significant constituency in the country at large and in 1960, because of its alleged involvement in the rebellions of 1958, it was banned. Since then observers have tended to read back the later impotence of Sjahrir and his circle into the wartime and immediate postwar years, to play down their significance even then and to see them as not central, or at least as not of long-term importance, in the history of the Republic.

It is time to reconsider those judgments and a study of Sjahrir’s younger followers during the Occupation forms part of such a reassessment. They were not an accidental collection of people. Convinced from the beginning that the Japanese Occupation was a temporary phenomenon, Sjahrir actively sought out sympathetic individuals, mainly tertiary students and ex-students, with the intention of preparing them for a future struggle for . . .

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