This is a poster for the elections for the Dutch parliament in 1948. Then, a bloody colonial war was raging. Indonesia had declared its independence on 17 August 1945 (now, the Indonesian national holiday). The Dutch government, mostly consisting of the social democratic PvdA party and the Roman Catholic KVP party, did not like to officially recognize that independence because of economic interests of Dutch multinational corporations. They tried to make Indonesia a Dutch colony, the Dutch East Indies, again, with military force.
The pro-capitalist VVD (the biggest party in the present Dutch coalition government, with the PvdA as junior partner) thought the 1948 PvdA-KVP government were not using enough force. Hence, this poster.
It says: “Engineer Sukarno [the first president of Indonesia]. The Republic of Indonesia. Do you have enough of it [in the sense of Are you sick of it] as well? Vote then for party #6 on the ballot paper, VVD, Mr. Oud. Socialism [meaning the PvdA ministers in the government] protects Communism in the Indies. This must change!” In this VVD propaganda, supporting independence for Indonesia supposedly automatically made one a communist. Even if, like President Sukarno, one was not a member of the Indonesian communist party, but of the nationalist PNI party. Or of some other of the many Indonesian parties supporting independence. Or not a member of any party. That is why the VVD depicted Sukarno with a communist hammer and sickle symbol on his hat.
Not only were supporters of Indonesian independence all communists according to VVD logic. Politicians like PvdA Prime Minister Willem Drees wanted to use some military violence to make Indonesia an obedient colony, but not as much violence as the VVD would like. Among the rank and file PvdA members and voters there was much opposition against the colonial war; Drees did not want his party to break apart by giving in 100% to the most extreme colonialist hardliners. That, according to the VVD poster, made Drees, though not officially a communist, a ‘protector of communism’.
One thing is noteworthy in this election poster. It mentions the Republic of Indonesia, proclaimed on 17 August 1945. The VVD mentioned it as something that people were supposedly sick of; as something which military violence should destroy. But they had to recognize it had not been destroyed yet; it existed. So, in a paradoxical way, a recognition of the Indonesian proclamation of independence. The Dutch government had already de facto recognized the Republic of Indonesia in the Linggajati agreement in 1946.
That is an important point, as later Dutch governments refused to recognize the 1945 Indonesian proclamation of independence. If they would do that, they would have to recognize they had waged a war of aggression against a sovereign state. A crime according to international law.
International law not only calls wars of aggression crimes. Eg, killing civilians without any trial is a war crime. In 1945-1949, Dutch forces in Indonesia repeatedly committed such crimes.
On 9 October, a delegation of pro-human rights Indonesians, arrived for the occasion from Indonesia or living in the Netherlands, went to the Dutch parliament building in The Hague. There, they met two MPs: Harry van Bommel of the Socialist Party, and Angelien Eijsink of the PvdA party.
As the spokesperson of the delegation, Batara Hutagalung, said: the aim of the delegation is not revenge. It is reconciliation between Indonesia and the Netherlands. However, that reconciliation should be based on dignity and truth about war crimes. Which, if covered up, would continue to damage the future.
In a later blog post, I will write about the discussion with the two members of parliament.
1946 Dutch strike against colonial war in Indonesia: here.
- Indonesian survivors of colonial killing sue Dutch government (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Dutch apologise for Indonesian executions (sbs.com.au)
- Sumatran rhino in Indonesian Borneo, video (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Dutch apology for Indonesia killings (bbc.co.uk)
- Dutch apologise for Indonesian executions (aljazeera.com)