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[AAS Annual Conference 2018] Beyond Borders: Global Perspectives on Early Communist Movements in the

Friday, March 23, 2018 | 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM, Location: Jackson, Mezzanine Level

Organizer | Rianne Subijanto | Baruch College, City University of New York Session

Penal Abstract:

This panel seeks out global perspectives on the history of the early communist movements in the Malay world, encompassing Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Following the 1917 Russian revolutions, this region witnessed the emergence of modern, popular, and radical anti-colonial movements under the influence of international communism. While these movements were global and international from the start, existing historiography has examined them within the confines of conventional borders—spatially within the borders of colonial states and temporally following traditional historical timelines. Employing new sources, this interdisciplinary and transnational panel discusses recent findings and new approaches to the history of these movements that will help us move beyond these borders.

To facilitate a discussion on the empirical and theoretical implications of global approaches to the study of communism in the region, co-panelists will engage with each other’s findings and frameworks. Subijanto’s paper discusses the role of seamen in the Indonesian communist movement, revealing mediating practices of global exchanges and connections before and after the 1926/7 revolts. Stutje explores the political activities of Indonesian students in Europe after the revolts and their influence on the European anti-imperialist movement. Belogurova explains the role of the Malayan Communist Youth League in Chinese schools in Singapore in the early 1930s in the context of the educational policy of the Guomindang, the Chinese Nationalist party. Taking the lens of identity politics, Xie unearths issues of convergence and conflicts between communists from Indonesia and China in influencing the organization of the communist party in British Malaya.


Rianne Subijanto Baruch College, City University of New York, New York Seamen and the Global Making of Indonesian Communism

Klaas Stutje International Institute of Social History, Noord-Holland, Netherlands The International Reception of the Indonesian 1926/7 Communist Revolts and the European Anti-Imperialist Movement

University of Goettingen, Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany Students and their teachers: The Malayan Communist Youth League in the 1930s

Kankan Xie University of California, Berkeley, California Estranged Comrades: Communism, Identity Politics and Interwoven Networks of the Late Colonial Malay World, 1927-1942

Discussant: Rudolf Mrazek University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan


Paper Abstract:

In spite of the early efforts of native Indonesian communists (PKI) in expanding their organization in British Malaya, it was their Chinese counterparts (CCP) who eventually established the South Seas Communist Party (SSCP) in 1925 under the tutelage of the Communist International (Comintern). My research project examines the convergence of—and the corresponding conflicts between—the native and Chinese communist movements in the Malay World (current Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore) in the last fifteen years of the colonial era. Among many contradictions surrounding the rise of communism in plural societies of the Malay World, the issue of race and ethnicity, most acutely illustrated by the paradoxical roles of the overseas Chinese community, was especially controversial. Although both the native and Chinese movements were allegedly upholding the non-ethnicity-based Marxist ideology, the two communist groups’ differing nationalist appeals further complicated the Comintern-recommended revolutionary path (i.e. through nationalist struggles), which ultimately impeded them from carrying out joint anti-imperialist movement. By juxtaposing the Dutch and British colonies at the same historical moments, this paper scrutinizes the intricacies of communist movements across the Malay Archipelago between 1927 and 1942. This research aims to provide a new lens to examine Asian anti-colonial struggles beyond the conventional framework, which has been largely confined within the boundaries of given colonial states.

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