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Title: Communism, religion and revolt in Banten in the early twentieth century
Author: Williams, Michael Charles
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 1984
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Twice in this century popular revolts against colonial rule have occurred in the Banten district of West Java. These revolts, conducted largely under an Islamic leadership, also proclaimed themselves Communist. They sought to overturn the status quo in the name of revolution, but also looked back to the pre-colonial era for inspiration. Bantenese society in the early twentieth century possessed strong local characteristics which distinguished it from the rest of Java. Although there had been some spread of cash crops, its economy was extremely vulnerable due to infertility of the soil and poor irrigation. Migration, both temporary and permanent, provided the region with a lifeline and an opportunity for economic advancement for some. Village society was dominated by three powerful groups: the religious leaders, local strongmen or bandits and nobles who were descendants of the former sultans. Great resentment was felt towards both the Dutch and the local Indonesian administration, many of whom were non-Bantenese. These two groups were the targets of local hostility. The primary division that ran through Bantenese society was therefore not between peasant and landlord but between peasant and agent of government. Advantage was taken of this division by the Sarekat Islam in the 1910s and by the Communist Party (PKI) in the 1920s. The Communist Party succeeded in mobilizing a large part of Bantenese society under its wings and this political mobilization culminated in the revolt of November 1926. Whilst the revolt was Communist in name, however, its leadership was in the hands of the traditional power holders of rural Bantenese society, especially the religious leaders. The revolt was followed by a period of sharp colonial repression and enforced political quiescence. The collapse of the wartime Japanese occupation administration in September 1945 was followed by a popular uprising in Banten led by the same groups who had spearheaded the 1926 revolt.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral