Incitement to Genocide against a Political Group: The Anti-Communist Killings in Indonesia

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Annie Elizabeth Pohlman


Genocide and mass atrocities can be seen as the culminative result of extreme social exclusion. Two of the critical steps on the path to genocidal persecution are the isolation and exclusion of a particular group and the mobilisation and incitement of perpetrators. This paper examines the case of the 1965-1966 massacres in Indonesia in light of these two incipient stages of genocide. First, I discuss the Indonesian killings of 1965-1966 by situating them within the conceptual and legal understandings of genocide and argue that those persecuted belonged predominantly to a defined political group, that is, members and associates of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). I argue that the exclusion of political groups from the legal definition of genocide given in the UN Convention on Genocide is unsupportable when examined both within the context that it was created and the greater conceptual understandings of genocide studies. To support this argument, I then outline the political situation in Indonesia prior to the 1 October 1965 coup and explain how the country went through a process of political pillarisation, effectively creating the conditions for the creation and then eradication of the Left in Indonesia. In the final part of the paper, I examine how these killings were incited. I argue that hate propaganda was used against the PKI and its supporters by the main perpetrators of the massacres, the Indonesian military, to incite a popular, genocidal campaign. As a result of this hate-propaganda campaign, Leftists in Indonesia experienced extreme forms of dehumanisation and social death which, in turn, facilitated their eradication.

Article Details

Stigma and Exclusion in Cross-Cultural Contexts Special Issue January 2014 (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Annie Elizabeth Pohlman, The University of Queensland

Annie Pohlman is Lecturer in Indonesian Studies at The University of Queensland. Her research interests include Indonesian studies, comparative genocide studies, gendered experiences of violence and torture.