When, with the apparent encouragement of the PKI, a group of radical young army officers kidnapped and brutally executed six leading generals, claiming that they were plotting against the President. Failing to gain Soekarno’s backing, however, the rebel officer soon lost the initiative to General Soeharto, then head of the clite Army Strategic Reserve. In the space of a few hours, Soeharto moved to assume command of the army and to crush the attemted coup.
The nation was shocked by news of the general’s execution, and, although the exact extent to which PKI leaders were involved is still not clear, the communists were charged with attempting to overthrow the government. A state of anarchy ensued, in which moderate, Muslim and army element sought to settle the score. Thousands upon thousands were killed as long simmering frustations erupted into mobviolence first in northen Sumatera, then later in Java, Bali and Lombok. The bloodletting continued for months, and the period 1965-6 is remembered today as the darkest in the Republic’s history.
Meanwhile, in Jakarta, a political struggle broke out between the army, aupported by students, intllectuals, Muslims and other middle class groups on the one hand, and Soekarno, with his considerable populist/nationalist following on the other. Finally on March 11th, 1966, Soekarno was persuaded to General Soeharto.
Although Soeharto was not formally installed as Indonesia’s second president until 1968, immediate reforms were carried out under his direction. Matrial law was declared and order was restored. The communist party and all Marxist Leninist teachings were outlawed. The civil restaffed by military personnel. A major realignment in foreign policy restored relations with the United States and West, while severing ties with China and the Soviet Union.
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