Api Dalam Sekam:
The New Order and the Ideology of Anti-Communism

Rob Goodfellow

Monash University 1995
A book review by Danny Yee © 1998 http://dannyreviews.com/
"Api dalam sekam", the fire hidden inside a mound of rice chaff, was one metaphor used by the Indonesian government to describe the communist threat, and Api Dalam Sekam is a study of anti-communist ideology in New Order Indonesia. In his introduction Goodfellow looks back at its roots in the Sukarno era and in the priyayi mentality; he also explains his focus on ideology rather than on economics or class structure. Chapter one describes the ideological campaign accompanying the physical destruction of the communist party (the PKI) in 1965/66 and its continuation over the following five years, when it played a key role in the foundation of Suharto's New Order. Anti-communism was used to consolidate the army's hold on power and to justify the "dwi fungsi" doctrine under which it plays a role in public life.

Deployed quite early on against non-communists, anti-communism evolved with time into a general tool for the suppression of dissent. Goodfellow provides a brief survey of the institutionalisation of anti-communism during the 70s and 80s, with its incorporation into government ritual, school texts, and so forth. He then presents three case studies from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Chapter two describes the bersih diri and bersih lingkungan campaigns, in which the cleansing of the public service from the taint of "communism" (which came to include distant family ties to known communists, as well as general "wrong-thinking") was used as a weapon in inter-elite disputes. Chapter three covers the crude use of anti-communist rhetoric to demonise student unrest in the Yogyakarta subversion trials. And chapter four describes how accusations of communism were levelled against protesting farmers during the building of the Kedung Ombo dam.

Quite apart from its historical legacy, the ideology of anti-communism is likely, despite recent changes, to have continuing influence in Indonesia. It will be a key factor within the army and will constrain the development of left-wing politics. Api Dalam Sekam therefore provides critical background for understanding contemporary Indonesian politics.

July 1998

Related reviews:
- Rob Goodfellow - The Green Iguana
- books about Indonesia + Indonesian history
- books about politics
%T Api Dalam Sekam
%S The New Order and the Ideology of Anti-Communism
%A Goodfellow, Rob
%I Monash University
%D 1995
%O stapled paper, bibliography
%G ISBN 0732606357
%P 87pp