In the early morning hours of October 1, 1965, a group calling itself the September 30th Movement kidnapped and executed six generals of the Indonesian army, including its highest commander. The group claimed that it was attempting to preempt a coup, but it was quickly defeated as the senior surviving general, Haji Mohammad Suharto, drove the movement’s partisans out of Jakarta. Riding the crest of mass violence, Suharto blamed the Communist Party of Indonesia for masterminding the movement and used the emergency as a pretext for gradually eroding President Sukarno’s powers and installing himself as a ruler. Imprisoning and killing hundreds of thousands of alleged communists over the next year, Suharto remade the events of October 1, 1965 into the central event of modern Indonesian history and the cornerstone of his thirty-two-year dictatorship.
Despite its importance as a trigger for one of the twentieth century’s worst cases of mass violence, the September 30th Movement has remained shrouded in uncertainty. Who actually masterminded it? What did they hope to achieve? Why did they fail so miserably? And what was the movement’s connection to international Cold War politics? In Pretext for Mass Murder, John Roosa draws on a wealth of new primary source material to suggest a solution to the mystery behind the movement and the enabling myth of Suharto’s repressive regime. His book is a remarkable feat of historical investigation.
“[This] stimulating and thoroughly researched book provides solid evidence to support interpretations that had previously been based only on speculation. It is an important addition to Indonesiacoup literature.”—Harold Crouch, Review of Politics
“1 October 1965 was the turning point in post-independence Indonesian history. . . . John Roosa's astonishing triple achievement has been to bring to light new evidence forty years after the event, to overturn the accepted conclusions, and to do all this in a gripping whodunnit style.”—Gerry Van Klinken, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde
“Painstakingly detailed, yet laid out in a clear narrative. . . . Provides a rational explanation for much of the chaos the political upheaval engendered.”—Publishers Weekly
“Fascinating. . . . Roosa’s detailed examination of what happened led him to the conclusion that there never was an organized movement and that the propagation of the idea of such a thing was used to justify mass murder.”—Foreign Affairs
“Roosa’s engrossing book introduces new evidence in an attempt to provide a more definitive interpretation of an historical event that has remained murky for decades. . . . Makes for quite a riveting read.”—Vedi R. Hadiz, Pacific Affairs? ?
“The best study hitherto of who organized [the September 30th Movement], why it failed, and how it could lead to mass killings, followed by decades of repression.”—Olle Törnquist, International Review of Social History