The Politics of Instability

by Guy J. Pauker


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An assessment of the role of Indonesia's Communist Party (PKI) in events leading to the anticommunist purges of 1965-1966. Stable societies can absorb shock and transformation well; unstable systems are vulnerable to relatively small inputs of violence. In that context, the switch in PKI strategy from avoiding internal warfare with the army to that of a power play can be understood. The plot was probably close to success; had the Communists only kidnapped the generals and not aroused public indignation through their murder and mutilation, Sukarno might have been able to appoint procommunist army leadership and the army would not have immediately reacted with the purges. Somehow a well-planned political operation turned into a crude murder plot, altering the strategic balance in the Western Pacific and Indonesia's history.

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