In 2011 the Library of Southeast Asian Studies of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt acquired the library of the Stiftung Asienhaus (“Foundation Asia House”, then located in Essen, now in Cologne), an association of several German NGOs working on Asia. Among the many uncatalogued materials of this collection we recently found three volumes of a small Indonesian-language leftist journal named Marhaen: Analisa & Berita Bulanan.

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Marhaen volume 1, front cover

This journal was published in West Berlin and does not have any reference to a particular publisher, thus, it must have been published by the editorial staff themselves. As editors are listed Christin Litan, Sammy Litan, Mohamad Isa and Agus Darmadji. In Frankfurt, the volumes 1-3 of this monthly journal are available. As in volume 3 a fourth volume is announced, one can assume that several further issues have been published  (Waruno Mahdi, personal communication, 11.01.2019). However, there is only one further holding of this journal known to me: The German Berlin-based human rights group Watch Indonesia! keeps the first volumes of Marhaen in their collections (Alex Flor, personal communication, 21.01.2019; Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja, personal communication, 04.04.2019).

There is no publication date found in all existing volumes, but as its contents contain citations from contemporary political magazines (such as Far Eastern Economic Review or Indonesie: Feiten en Meningen) from early 1985 it seems fair to estimate the date of appearance from 1985 onwards.

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Marhaen volume 3, front cover

The last existing issue known to me is volume 6 from 1986, unfortunately not available in the Frankfurt collections (Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja, personal communication, 04.04.2019).

The text is completely written in Indonesian, the available issues consist of 10 pages (vols. 1-2) or 14 pages (vol. 3). Later issues became more voluminous, e.g volume 6 consists of 48 pages. They are among the last breaths of the pre-computer era, as they were type-written. The volumes contain some illustrations like photo-copied photographs or critical cartoons. As the volumes are small it is not surprising the articles and essays are usually very short and often bear the character of an annotation or footnote, in particular in the section “Berita & Ulasan” (“News & Commentaries”).

Not much is known about the editors except for the late Mohamad Isa (1922-2008). He became cultural attaché at the Indonesian Embassy in Prague in 1964 and was removed from this position in 1966. Mohamad Isa could not return to Indonesia after General Soeharto took over power in 1965. In 1967 he therefore moved to East Berlin to escape the harassments of the new representatives of the Indonesian so-called New Order-regime as there was no Indonesian embassy in the German Democratic Republic until 1976. He then worked until 1981 as lecturer of Indonesian at Humboldt University, until he was replaced by a former Indonesian student from Moscow and lost his work permit as well as his residence permit for the German Democratic Republic for political reasons. After his application for asylum was rejected in the Netherlands he and his family moved to West Berlin. Mohamad Isa’s daughter Reni became lecturer of Indonesian at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1989 (Keller 2014). The other editors are not known. For a good overview of Indonesian (student) activities in Berlin including their publications (but not Marhaen!) from the 1950s until today see Hasyim (2014). Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja thought that they might be of the same generation as Mohamad Isa (personal communication, 04.04.2019).

The title Marhaen indicates the closeness to the Sukarno-style form of socialism Marhaenisme, which the first President of Indonesia Sukarno labeled after a Sundanese peasant named Marhaen whom he had allegedly met in the 1920s (Sukarno 1970: 157, for deeper analysis of Sukarno’s form of socialism see Mintz (1965) and Mortimer (1974)). Thus, it is not very surprising that most of its contents and articles are highly critical towards the dictatorial regime of his successor Soeharto.

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Example of a type-written page from volume 3 of Marhaen

For example, there is an article on the Roman emperor Caligula, seemingly unfavourably indicating a comparison to the former Indonesian dictator. Another essay is entitled “Betina yang Paling Kaya di Dunia” (“The Richest Woman in the World”), but the Indonesian term betina for ‘femaleness’ is used for animals only and here refers to Soeharto’s wife Siti Hartinah (called ‘Ibu Tien’), widely known for her greediness (Schulze 2015: 164). Other articles discuss contemporary developments in Indonesia such as “1985: Jakarta Bebas dari Becak” (“1985: Jakarta is Trishaw-Free”) or “ABRI lawan ABRI” (“ABRI Fights ABRI”, ABRI is the Indonesian acronym for the Indonesian National Armed Forces). Further essays e.g. are entitled “Moral dan Anti-Moral” (“Moral and Anti-Moral”), “Rasisme terhadap Cina” (“Racism towards the Chinese”), “Suharto di atas Punggung Macan” (“Suharto on the Back of the Tigers”) or “Teori-teori Kaum Penindas” (“Theories of the Suppressors”).

The existing issues of the journal “Marhaen” in Frankfurt are available under the shelf mark “ZS 1082” and can be ordered to be viewed in the reading room at Universitätsbibliothek J.C. Senckenberg.

References:

Hasyim, Syafiq (2014): Challeging a Home Country: A Preliminary Account of Indonesian Student Activism in Berlin. In: ASEAS – Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies 7 (2), 183-198.

Keller, Anett (2014): Ziviler Ungehorsam als Lebensprinzip. In: Südostasien 30 (4), 34-36.

Mintz, Jeanne S. (1965): Mohammed, Marx and Marhaen: The Roots of Indonesian Socialism. London: Pall Mall Press.

Mortimer, Rex (1974): Indonesian Communism under Sukarno: Ideology and Politics 1959-1965. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Schulze, Fritz (2015): Kleine Geschichte Indonesiens: Von den Inselkönigreichen zum modernen Großstaat. München: C.H. Beck.

Sukarno (1970 [1957]): Marhaen, a Symbol of the Power of the Indonesian People. In: Indonesian Political Thinking 1945-1965 (Herbert Feith, Lance Castles, eds.), 154-160. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

 

by Holger Warnk

J.W.Goethe-Universität, Library of Southeast Asian Studies

(Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Alex Flor, Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja and Waruno Mahdi for their help and for providing much background information.)

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