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A Preliminary Analysis of the October 1, 1965 Coup in Indonesia

Paperback - 11 November 2009
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Although numerous accounts have been published of the genesis and character of the attempted October 1965 coup in Indonesia, many important aspects of that affair still remain very unclear. The fact that in most accounts so much of the picture has been painted in black and white, and in language of categorical certainty, has served only to paper over the enormous gaps in established knowledge of the event.

In his present introduction to the paper here published, Professor Anderson describes the circumstances surrounding its preparation and the reasons why it was not previously published. Indeed, because of the avowedly tentative and provisional character of this early effort, there would normally be no reason to publish it any more than there would have been to publish the scores of other preliminary drafts prepared over the years by scholars working in the Cornell Modern Indonesia Project. However, this draft has been given a unique prominence. For it has been singled out by a number of those who have subsequently written accounts of the attempted coup, among whom all too many have misrepresented the authors' ideas and cited words or phrases of theirs out of context. Thus there are special reasons now for publishing this draft in its entirety - in fairness both to the authors and to all those interested in the events of 1965 - so that readers can make their own assessments rather than having to rely upon doctored extracts and tendentious interpretations by writers hostile to the hypotheses advanced by its authors.

I have found myself in disagreement with some of the views presented in this paper; however, I believe that despite the limited materials available to the authors over the few months that they collected and analyzed their data, this draft, which they wrote at the end of 1965, contains a number of important insights and a considerable amount of significant data which other writers have not taken into account. Thus, those interested in understanding the attempted coup of 1965, particularly if they bear in mind the caveats of Professor Anderson's present introduction, should find this paper useful. - George McT. Kahin

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