My father used to tell me that he’d “fought the war” for the likes of me.
That war, the Second World War, is currently being commemorated because seventy years ago the parents and grandparents of those of us from the UK and its Empire (now Commonwealth), the USA, Canada, Poland, Holland and France, had recently launched an invasion of the German-held territory of Normandy, the northern coastal area of France facing England.
Two million – repeat, two million – soldiers, sailors and airmen were involved in that invasion, all of whom were prepared to sacrifice their lives in order to defeat Hitler’s National Socialist (aka Nazi) régime whose symbol was a reversed swastika. Many of the invading force, such as the French, Poles, Dutch and Belgians, were volunteers seeking to free their countries from the jackbooted tyranny of dictatorial fascism.
It was to take another year, with the Russians invading, from the east before the final collapse and suicide of Hitler and his cronies. And it was to be several more months before Japan, Hitler’s far east ally, was to surrender following the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Indonesians were set on their path to independence.
That potted history is engrained in the genetic memory of much of the world’s population, including the citizens of the losing countries German and Austria where the swastika is banned.
But not, it seems, in those Indonesians prepared to embrace fascism. To many of us, that seems very strange because when Japan occupied Indonesia, if not known by the epithet ‘fascist’, they certainly maltreated the population much as Hitler’s forces did in the countries they occupied.
fr. Wikipedia: The U.S. Library of Congress estimates that in Java, between 4 and 10 million romusha (Japanese: “manual laborer”), were forced to work by the Japanese military. About 270,000 of these Javanese laborers were sent to other Japanese-held areas in Southeast Asia. Only 52,000 were repatriated to Java, meaning that there was a death rate of 80%.
Then there is the issue of ‘comfort women‘ …
Seven years ago I posted “an almost rant” having seen Mein Kampf, Hitler’s justification for the genocide of Jews, Romanies, homosexuals, physically handicapped non-Aryan men women and children, on display at the Jakarta Book Fair. It generated a fierce debate in the comments section.
I followed up that post with another which offered a definition of fascism and a link to the article by Laurence W. Britt I took it from. At that time, the worry was that the retired Generals Wiranto and Sutiyoso were eyeing the presidency. But now it is Prabowo who is the retired General who has assumed the mantle, so I’m reiterating here much, and more, of what I posted then.
We are two-and-a-half generations removed from the horrors of Nazi Germany, although constant reminders jog the consciousness. German and Italian fascism form the historical models that define this twisted political worldview. Although they no longer exist, this worldview and the characteristics of these models have been imitated by protofascist régimes at various times in the twentieth century. Both the original German and Italian models and the later protofascist regimes show remarkably similar characteristics. Although many scholars question any direct connection among these regimes, few can dispute their visual similarities.
According to Laurence W. Britt, these are the ten characteristics of fascist dictators.
Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.
“The undertones of Prabowo’s Indonesia take on a distinctly nationalist flavor.”
Disdain for the importance of human rights.
From an interview with Allan Nairn : General Prabowo said, “You don’t massacre civilians in front of the world press. Maybe commanders do it in villages where no one will ever know, but not in the provincial capital!”
Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
Prabowo “never makes it explicit who he’s talking about. It’s left for the audience to decide who the bad guy is based on their own personal animosities: Jokowi, Americans, the Chinese, Jews, George Soros…”
The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
Although he was ‘honourably discharged’ from the military in 1998 Prabowo was actually fired for insubordination. It is not yet known whether he would reintroduce Suharto’s dwi fungsi (the army’s dual role in international and domestic affairs.)
Although Prabowo’s son is a fashion designer based in Paris and is assumed by some to be gay, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community believe that “the Jokowi-Kalla ticket [is] more committed to fighting for their rights.
A controlled mass media.
Hary Tanoesoedibjo, MNC group owner (“Southeast Asia’s largest integrated media company“?) is one major backer. Another is Aburizal Bakrie, owner of PT Visi Media Asia and its two free-to-air nationwide television stations, ANTV and TVOne.
Obsession with national security.
Neither candidate seems obsessed with this topic.
Religion and ruling elite tied together.
Along with Jokowi, Prabowo is part of the ruling elite but his campaign is supported by the dominant Muslim parties .
Power of corporations protected.
Both Jokowi and Prabowo have met with top ‘industry titans‘
Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
Not labour, but folk in the immediate area of operations of PT Kiani Kertas, a timber company which was once owned by Prabowo. Two villages were resettled in order to build a paper pulp factory in East Kalimantan. The company refused to pay inhabitants compensation for the destruction of their houses and their resettlement costs. People who resisted the resettlement were terrorized and intimidated by troops.
Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.
Although his son is a fashion designer, brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo is infamous for buying antiquities stolen from museums .
Obsession with crime and punishment.
The jury is out on this one.
Rampant cronyism and corruption.
See this article for just some of the allegations against Prabowo.
And this article from 1998 about brother Hashim.
Prabowo has been criticised for keeping Suryadharma Ali in his campaign team. He was recently forced to resign as Religious Affairs Minister after being named a suspect in the graft involving the ministry’s hajj fund.
There is also the case which has gone to international arbitration of Churchill Mining v East Kutai Coal Assets involving Nusantara Energy, which is affiliated to Prabowo.
Although illegal, vote buying was rampant in the recent parliamentary elections.
Still not convinced about Prabowo’s hitherto latent fascism?
The rock star Ahmad Dhani is infamous because his then 13 year old son drove ‘his’ Mitsubishi Lancer and caused a deadly pile-up which killed six. Dhani has now caused uproar by wearing a replica of the uniform worn by Nazi military commander Heinrich Himmel in a music video dedicated to presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and running mate Hatta Rajasa.
Time magazine says that This Indonesian Nazi Video Is One of the Worst Pieces of Political Campaigning Ever.
However, on his Facebook page Prabowo says he likes it.
And here’s a quote straight from Prabowo himself as recorded by Allen Nairn, who interviewed him in 2001: Prabowo asked: “Do I have the guts? Am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?”
It seems that the answer thirteen years later is “yes”.
BTW. A further pointer to Indonesia’s descent into fascism – an innate yearning for authoritarianism? – is the reopening this week of a nazi-themed cafe in Bandung …