Nationalism, islam and marxism

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Like the son of Bima,1 who was born in an age of struggle, Young Indonesia2 now sees the light of day, at a time when the peoples of Asia are deeply dissatisfied with their lot—dissatisfied with their economic lot, dissatisfied with their political lot and dissatisfied with their lot in every other respect!

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Arsip sejarah, tulisan asli Bung Karno asli pada 1926 di Soeloeh Indonesia Muda : Nationalism, Islam dan Marxism setelah ditranslasikan Ruth McVey.



Like the son of Bima,1 who was born in an age of struggle, Young Indonesia2 now sees the light of day, at a time when the peoples of Asia are deeply dissatisfied with their lot—dissatisfied with their economic lot, dissatisfied with their political lot and dissatisfied with their lot in every other respect!

The age of being satisfied with conditions as they are has passed.  A new age, a youthful age has arrived, like the dawn of a dear morning. The conservative theory that “the little man must be satisfied with his lot, content to sit in the background of historical events and offer himself and his possessions in the service of those who stand out in front,” is no longer accepted by the people of Asia. Their faith that the men who rule them today are true “guardians” who will one day relinquish their” guardianship” is also wearing thin. Less and less do they believe that those who rule them today are really “elder brothers” who will voluntarily let them go free when they are “mature” and have “come of age.”

This disbelief is based on the knowledge, is based on the conviction that the primary cause of colonization is not the desire for fame nor the wish to see the world; nor is it the longing for freedom, nor population pressures faced by the colonizers in their own countries, as Gustav Klenun would have it3 The prime cause of colonization is the search for gain.

“Colonization is primarily the result of shortages of goods in the home country,” according to Dietrich Schafer.4 It was these shortages which caused the Europeans to seek their fortunes abroad, and explains why they colonized those countries which would yield them a profitable livelihood. And this is the reason, of course, why it is very difficult to believe in the emancipation of these colonies by their colonizers. A man does not readily give up his source of livelihood, since in doing so he signs his own death warrant.

So it is that year after year, decade after decade, the peoples of Europe have held dominion over the countries of Asia. For decades, profits from Asia have found their way back to Europe, especially to Western Europe, which has thereby amassed untold wealth. ‘The popular hero of the wayang shadow-play, Raden Gatutkatja. 2 The magazine in which this article originally appeared was called Suluh Indonesia Muda (The Torch of Young Indonesia).

Gustav Klemm (1802-1867) was a German historian whose ten-volume Culturgescflichte der Menschheit (Cultural history of mankind) had a considerable reputation in its time. Dietrich Schafer (1845-1929) was a German historian noted for his Weltgeschichte der Neuzeit (Modem world history).


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Such is the tragic history of the colonies! It is the realization of this tragedy which has awakened the colonized peoples. For, even though outwardly defeated and submissive, the Spirit of Asia is eternal. The Spirit of Asia is still alive, like an inextinguishable flame. It is the realization of this tragedy that has now become the inner spirit of the people’s movement in Indonesia, a movement with a single common goal, yet with three aspects—Nationalist, Islamic and Marxist-

It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to study these three aspects, to determine the relationship between them, to prove that in a colonial situation hostility between them is pointless, and to show that these three “waves”  can work together to form a single, gigantic and irresistible tidal wave. Whether or not we will succeed in carrying out this heavy and glorious responsibility is not for us to determine. Nevertheless, we must never abandon our efforts, we must never stop trying to fulfill our obligation to help unite these forces into a single movement. I am convinced that it is only this unity which will bring us to the realization of our dreams: a Free Indonesia. 

I do not know how this unity will be achieved or what form it will take- But of one thing I am certain: the ship that will take us to a Free Indonesia is the Ship of Unity! Perhaps we have as yet no Mahatma, a helmsman who can build and steer this Ship of Unity.5 Yet I am convinced that eventually the day will come when a Mahatma will appear in our midst. That is why I am proud to do my part in coaching for and smoothing the way toward this unity. That indeed is the purpose of this short article.


These are the principles embraced by the peoples’ movements all over Asia. These are the concepts which have become the spirit of the movements in Asia as well as of the movements here in Indonesia.

The Budi Utomo, the “late” Nationaal Indische Partij—which is still “alive”—the Partai Sarekat Islam, the Perserikatan Minahasa, the Partai Komunis Indonesia, and many other parties each have their own spirit of Nationalism, Islam, or Marxism.6 Can these spirits work together in a colonial system to form one Great Spirit, the Spirit of Unity? A Spirit of Unity that will lead us to the arena of Greatness?  In colonial territories can the Nationalist movement be joined with the Islamic movement, which essentially denies the nation? Can it be allied with Marxism, which proclaims an international struggle?

Sukarno is clearly alluding to Mohandas Karamchand Candhi (1869-1948), and the central role that he played in the Indian nationalist movement of the time. The honorific title of Mahatma (Great Soul) was

given to Gandhi by his fellow nationalists because of his extraordinary personal qualities and his unifying leadership.

6 Budi Utomo, founded on May 20, 1906, is usually regarded as the first modem nationalist organization in Indonesian history. Javanese in orientation, it was cautious and cooperative in its attitude towards the colonial authorities. The national lndische Partij (National Indies Party) was the new name given in July 1919 to the older Indische Partij. The objective of the party was the independence of the Netherlands Indies, on the basis of cooperation between all raciaL groups residing there. It drew its main strength from the Eurasian community. Sukarno here alludes to the fact that most of its top leaders were exiled or imprisoned by the Dutch colonial government. The Partai Sarekat Islam (Islamic Association Party) was established in February 1923 by anti-Communist leaders of the Sarekat Islam, which was in the process of disintegrating due to the conflict between its Marxist and Islamic wings. The Perserikatan Minahasa (Minahassan Association) was founded on Java in August 1912, to represent the interests of migrant Menadonese from North Sulawesi. The Partai Kornunis Indonesia (Indonesian Communist Party) was formed on May 23, 1920.


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Under colonial systems can Islam, as a religion, cooperate with Nationalism, which stresses the nation, and with Marxism, which teaches materialism? Will we be successful in our efforts to bring together the Budi Utomo, which is so patient, gentle and moderate, with the PKI whose thrust is so forceful and whose struggle is so militant and radical? The Budi Utomo, which is so evolutionary by nature, and the PM, which, though very small, has been hounded and repressed by its enemies, who have apparently taken to heart Al. Carthill’s warning that “rebellions are usually the work of minorities, indeed of tiny minorities.”7


In 1882 Ernest Renan expressed his views on the concept of the nation.8 A nation, he said, has a soul, an intellectual foundation, which consists of two things: first of all, a people must have shared a common history; secondly, a people must possess the will and desire to live as one. Neither race, language, religion, common needs nor state boundaries make a nation. In recent years, aside from such writers as Karl Kautsky and Karl Radek, it has been Otto Bauer above all who has studied the concept of the nation9 “A nation is a unity of attitudes which derives from a unity of historical experience,” he says.

Nationalism is the conviction, the consciousness of a people, that they are united in one group, one nation. Whatever the explanations advanced by these master theorists, it is certain that nationalist feeling creates a sense of self-confidence, and this is something absolutely essential if we are to defend ourselves in the struggle to overcome conditions that would defeat us.

It was this self-confidence which made the Budi Utomo people steadfast and determined in their efforts to achieve a Greater Java; it is this self-confidence which endows the revolutionary nationalists with the will to seek a Greater Indies or a Free Indonesia. Can the feeling of nationalism—which, because of this very self-confidence so easily turns into national arrogance and no less easily takes the further step of becoming racial arrogance, even though the concept of race is utterly different from the concept of nation, since race is a biological, while nationalism is a sociological concept—in the struggle of the colonized peoples can Nationalism be coupled with Islam, which in its essence knows no nation and which in fact has been embraced by a variety of nations and races? Under colonial systems. can Nationalism ally itself with Marxism, which is international and inter-racial? With full conviction, I answer: “Yes!”

Although Nationalism by its very nature excludes all parties who do not share the “desire to live as one”; although Nationalism actually belittles all groups which do not feel that they are “one group, one nation” with the people; although Nationalism in principle rejects all attitudes which do not 3tem from a “unity of historical experience,”  we should not forget that the men who built the Islamic and Marxist movements here in Indonesia, as well as those who guide the Nationalist movement, all share the “desire to live as one,” and that, along with the___________ 




7  Carthill was the pseudonym of Bennet Christian Huntington Calcraft Kennedy (d. 1935), a writer and critic of conditions in India under British Imperial rule.

8 Ernest Rerian (IS23-1s92)—~the celebrated French historian and philosopher.

9 Karl Radelc (1885-1939)—-the well-known Bolshevik journalist and Comintern luminary. Karl Kaulsky (1854-1938)—the prominent revisionist theoretician of the German Social Democratic Party, and editor of the influential Ow Neue Zeit (New times). Otto Bauer (l88l-l938)—-a leading theoretician of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, whose book, Die Nat ionalitatenf rage und die dterreichische Soiai&mokratje (The nationalities question and Austrian social democracy), first published in 1906, was very influential in the European socialist movement of the time.


p. 26 Soekarno

Nationalists, these people feel they are members of “one group, one nation.”  We must also not forget that all elements in our movement, whcther they are Nationalist, Islamic, or Marxist, have shared for hundreds of years a “unity of historical experience.” For hundreds of years they have shared a common experience of bondage. We must also not overlook the fact that it is this “unity of historical experience,” this common lot, which creates the feeling of “belonging.” It is of course true that group feelings can give rise to quarrels and divisions; it is true that till now there have never been strong feelings of friendship between the different movements in

Indonesia. But it is not the purpose of this article to prove that quarrels cannot occur. If we want to quarrel, it is surely not difficult to find a pretext for doing so right away!

The purpose of this article is rather to prove that friendship can be attained. Let Nationalists who exclude and belittle all movements which are not confined to Nationalism be guided by the words of Karamchand Gandhi: “For me, my love of my country is part of my love for all mankind. I am a patriot because I am a human being, and act as a human being. I do not exclude anyone.” This was the secret which enabled Gandhi to unite Moslems with Hindus, Parsis, Jains, and Sikhs, all in all a population of more than three hundred millions, six times the population of Indonesia and almost one fifth of the human beings on this earth. There is nothing to prevent Nationalists from working together with Moslems and Marxists. Look at the abiding relationship between the Nationalist Gandhi and the Pan- Islamicists, Maulana Mohamed Au and Shaukat Au!10 When the non-cooperation movement in India was at its height, they were virtually inseparable. Look at the Chinese Nationalist (Kuomintang) Party’s readiness to accept the Marxist ideas of opposition to militarism, opposition to imperialism and opposition to capitalism!’1

I do not expect Nationalists to change their views and become Moslems or Marxists; nor is it my intention to order Marxists and Moslems to turn around and become Nationalists. Rather my dream is harmony, unity between these three groups Actually, provided we have the will, there is no lack of ways to achieve this unity.  Determination, confidence in each other’s sincerity and consciousness of the truth of the saying “Harmony brings security” (this is the best possible bridge to unity) are strong enough to overcome all the differences and misgivings between the various groups within our movement. I repeat: There is nothing to prevent Nationalists from working together with Moslems and Marxists.

A true Nationalist whose love for his country is based on a knowledge of the world economic system and of history and does not arise from sheer national arrogance, a Nationalist who is not a chauvinist, necessarily rejects all forms of narrow-minded exclusivism. A true Nationalist whose nationalism is not merely a copy of Western Nationalism, but stems rather from a feeling of love for humanity and his fellow-men, a nationalist who receives his feeling of nationalism as an inspiration’2 and who puts it into practice as a matter of duty and service, is immune to petty and narrow views. Per him, this feeling of love for his country is something Maulana Mohamed Ali (1878-1931) and Maulana Shaukat Ali (1873-?) were the two brothers who led the ill-fated Khalifat (Caliphate) Pan-Islamic movement in India in the early 1920s. Gandhi supported their movement until it collapsed with Kemal Ataturk’s abolition of the Caliphate. They in turn backed his Swaraj movement. On his release from prison in 1923, Maulana Mohamect Ali was elected President of the Indian National Congress with Gandhi’s support. By 1928, however, growing antagonism between their respective Islamic and Hindu constituencies created a breach between them which was never to be healed.___________ 




Sukarno was writing just before this breath became apparent. “ Once again, Sukarno was fortunate in the timing of his article, since the bloody break between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Commupist Party took place early the following year (April 1927).

12 Sukarno uses the Javanese term wahyu, which carries the connotation of divine inspiration.


p. 27

vast and all-encompassing—like the atmosphere, which has room for everything needed to sustain the life of each living thing. Alas, why is it that the love Indonesian nationalists bear theft country turns to hatred when they encounter Indonesians of Moslem persuasion? Why does their love turn into hostility when they meet Indonesian Marxists? Is there no place in their hearts for the nationalism of Copal Krishna Gokhale, Mahatma Gandhi or Chitta Ranjan Das?3 We must at all costs avoid embracing a jingoistic nationalism such as that of Arya-Sarnaj, which split and divided the Hindus and Moslems in India.” This type of jingoistic nationalism will “certainly end in its own destruction,” since “nationalism can only achieve its goals if it is based on higher principles.”

Indeed, it is only a true Eastern nationalism which should be embraced by true Eastern nationalists. European nationalism—which is an aggressive nationalism, a nationalism that only pursues its own selfish interests, a commercial nationalism obsessed with profit and loss —will surely end in defeat, will certainly end in its own destruction. Is there any valid objection to true Nationalists cooperating with Moslems on the grounds that Islam’s supra-national and supra-territorial character transcends particular nationalities and nations? Does the international nature of Islam constitute a hindrance to the development of nationalism?

Many of our nationalists forget that the Nationalist and Islamic movements in Indonesia—indeed in all of Asia—had the same origin, as I explained at the beginning of this Article. Both originated in a strong desire to resist the West, or, more precisely, Western capitalism and imperialism. So they are really not enemies, but allies. I-low much more noble is the nationalism of Prof. T. L. Vaswanñ, a non-Moslem,15 who writes: “If Islam is sick, the Spirit of Eastern Freedom will surely suffer too, since the more the Moslem countries lose theft freedom, the more European imperialism will stifle the Spirit of Asia. However, I have faith in the Asia of old; I believe that her Spirit will emerge victorious. Islam is international: and if Islam is free, then our nationalism will be strengthened by the entire force of this international faith.”

And that is not all. Many of our nationalists forget that a Moslem, wherever he may be in the Dar al-Islam,16 is obliged by his religion to work for the welfare of the people in whose country he resides. These nationalists also forget that a Moslem who truly practices Islam, hether he is an Arab, an Indian, an Egyptian or of any other nationality, is bound, so long as he lives in Indonesia, to work for Indonesia’s welfare! “Wherever a Moslem resides, however far from his country of birth, he remains in this new country a part of the Islamic people, a part of the union of Islam. Wherever a Moslem lives, he must love, and he must work for, the needs of that country and its people.”

This is Islamic Nationalism! The nationalist who is hostile to Islam of this kind is mean- spirited and narrow-minded. He is mean-spirited and narrow-minded because he is hostile to a principle which, although international and inter-racial, obliges all its adherents in Indonesia,


“Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866-1915) was a well-known Congress politician arid moderate nationalist of the older, pre-Gandhi generation. Chitta Ranjan Das (18701925) was a more radically inclined nationalist politician and journalist, who worked with Gandhi in the non-cooperation movement of the 1920’s.“ Arya-Samaj (Society of Aryans) was a fundamentalist reform sect of Hinduism established in 1875 by Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1824-1883) in Bombay. It stressed the Vedic tradition, opposed the caste system and the segregation of the untouchables, and was strongly opposed to Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. 




“I. L. Vaswami (1879-?) was a highly respected Hindu philosopher and religious teacher.

~ Dar al-Islam, strictly speaking, means Abode of Islam, or House of Islam. More generally, it is used to refer to the international Moslem community.


p.28 Soekarno

regardless of their national origin, to love and to work for the needs of Indonesia and her people.  ls there any valid objection to true Nationalists working together with Marxists on the grounds that Marxism is international?

A Nationalist who is reluctant to stand alongside of and to cooperate with Marxists reveals his acute lack of knowledge of the dynamics of world politics and history. He forgets that the origin of the Marxist movement in Indonesia or in Asia is the same as the origin of his own movement. He forgets that the direction of his own movement often coincides with the course of the Marxist movement. He forgets that hostility towards his Marxist compatriots is equivalent to rejecting a traveling-companion and to increasing the number of his enemies. He forgets and fails to understand the meaning of the attitude of his brothers in other parts of Asia. For example, the late Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a very great Nationalist leader, was delighted to cooperate with the Marxists, although he was convinced that a Marxist order could not at that time be instituted in China, because conditions there were not yet ripe. Do I need to give further

proof that Nationalism—whether as a principle which arises from “the desire to live as one,”  or as the consciousness of a people that they belong to a single group, a single nationality, or as a unity of attitudes resulting from a common historical experience—do I need to give further proof that Nationalism can ally itself with Islam and Marxism, provided that its adherents are willing to do so? Do I need to cite further examples of the attitudes of champions of Nationalism in other countries, who walk hand in hand with Moslems and have close relationships with Marxists?

I think not! I believe that this article, although brief and far from perfect, is already clear enough for those of our Nationalists who really want unity. I believe that all young Nationalists stand beside me. I believe, too, that there are many old-fashioned Nationalists who also want unity; only their lack of faith in the durability of such unity discourages them from struggling to achieve it. It is particularly to them that this article is addressed; it is above all for them that it is intended.

I am not writing for Nationalists who do not want unity. I leave this type of Nationalist to the judgment of history.


Like the break of day after the darkness of night, like the close of the Dark Ages, two great figures lit up the Moslem world in the nineteenth century. These two figures, whose names will forever be inscribed in the history of Islam, were Sheikh Mohammed ‘Abduh, Rector of Al- Azhar University,’7 and al-Sayyid Jaman al-Din al-Afghani,’8 two champions of the Pan-Islamic ‘~ Sheikh Mohammed ‘Abduh (1849-1905), Rector of Al-Azhar University in Cairo and Grand Multi of Egypt, was the spiritual father of the movement to re-interpret Islam in the light of modern conditions. In his fatwa he consistently stressed the need to abandon blind obedience (faq/id) to mediaeval incrustations on Islamic doctrine and to apply individual rationality to the problems facing Islam in the modern world. 
A1-Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897), philosopher, journalist and politician, was probably the most remarkable Moslem figure of the nineteenth century. His youth was spent in Afghanistan, but his involvement in the Afghan civil wars forced him to flee to Constantinople in 1870. After lecturing at the university there for a while, he was accused of being a free-thinker an.— was deported to Cairo. There he led the movement of nationalist revival until his strongly anti-European views led the British to exile him to India. In 1883 he appeared in Paris, where together with the exiled ‘Abduh he published the famous icurnal al-’Urwat a/Wuthqa (The unbreakable bond), in which he attacked British policy towards the Moslem countries. In 1886 he was invited to Persia, where he rapidly built up a large following. His attacks on the Persian government for granting concessions to a British tobacco trust made him many enemies. In 1892 he accepted the invitation of the Ottoman Sultan to return to Constantinople, where he died in 1897, a year after one of his disciples had assassinated the Shah of Persia He was a strong proponent of liberalism and Pan-Islam, urging the unity of all Moslem countries under one Caliph.


soekarno p. 29

movement, who awakened and regenerated the Moslem peoples all over Asia from their state of darkness and decline. Although the views of these two heroes differed slightly—al-Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani was more radical than Sheikh Mohammed ‘Abduh—it was they who revived the political aspects of Islam, especially al-Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, who first inspired feelings of resistance to the danger of Western imperialism in the hearts of the Moslem peoples. It was these two men, again particularly al-Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, who first preached a solid Moslem front against the peril of Western imperialism.

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