The Library of Southeast Asian Studies at the University Library Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt recently catalogued two Indonesian leftist journals both entitled “API – Api Pemuda Indonesia” (‘Flames of Indonesian Youth’) which were published in Tirana in Albania from the 1960s onwards. Actually, two different editions of API were issued, one in the Indonesian language, the other in English and/or French, both with differing contents and separate volume counting. Both magazines were closely related to the Indonesian Communist Party and its exiles in Albania.

The 30 September Movement in 1965 marked the end for the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and at the same time saw the tragic decline of Soekarno’s power and influence and the rise of Suharto as the president of Indonesia. The alleged coup and the allegation of PKI’s involvement in it became Suharto’s means of strengthening his position as the commander in chief by ordering the disbandment of PKI, which soon was followed by one of the biggest genocides in modern history[i].

Fig. 1 First issue of API (Indonesian edition) available in Frankfurt: Volume 10, Number 5, May 1976 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1398]
Fig. 2 First issue of API (English/French edition) available in Frankfurt: Volume 6, Number 1, 1973 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1106]

Various reports have stated that hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and most of them were PKI members or affiliated with PKI. The fact that its top officials were killed, sentenced or sent to concentration camps all over Indonesia really crippled the PKI, a once enormous power to become pariah in Indonesia for the next few decades even after its disbandment. However, not every member of the PKI would have met the same fate. Some of them were spared from Suharto’s rage, though at the expense of their citizenship. After 1965, there were many Indonesians who were stranded in various countries and unable to return to Indonesia for if they dared, they would have faced great danger and probably death.

One of the Indonesian exile clusters was in Albania (van der Kroef 1973). Little is known about this particular cluster, except some fragmentary notes in the Yearbook of International Communist Affairs and a short online entry in Wikipedia (Indonesian Communist Exiles 2021). However, during the 1970s they were quite active in publishing propaganda materials against Suharto. The Library of Southeast Asian Studies has in its collections 19 regular Indonesian editions and 24 bilingual (English and French) editions of the journal API – Api Pemuda Indonesia which were published by Indonesian exiles living in Tirana. So far no research about Api Pemuda Indonesia seemed to have been conducted. It is not clear whether nobody has written something about it or whether these Indonesian publications simply went unnoticed. Only a handful of libraries in the world listed API in their collections, namely University Library Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt, Cornell University Library, University of Michigan Library, University of Sydney Library, Monash University Library, Leiden University Library, and the Library of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. Besides the regular editions, the Library of Southeast Asian Studies also keeps some special editions which were published to commemorate some special occasions.

Fig. 3 API (Indonesian edition), Volume 10, Number 11, November 1976 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1398]
Perbandingan antara Bulap (Busung lapar) dengan Bulog dan Bulldog (“Comparison between Bulap with Bulog and Bulldog”).
BULAP: Busung lapar (Kwashiorkor/Hungry oedema); BULOG: Badan Urusan Logistik (Indonesian Bureau of Logistics, responsible for food distribution and price control). The figure with “Bulap” represents the many Indonesians who lived in poverty. The figure with “Bulog” looks like Suharto wearing the military uniform, but the US and $ signs mean that the Indonesian government was backed by the US government. The dog probably represents those who supported the Indonesian government. For giving their support to the Indonesian government they could get better resources, here represented by the milk can (susu) with a label symbolising the US flag.

According to journalist Martin Aleida who interviewed Chalik Hamid, an ex-Indonesian student in Tirana[ii], API was started by Anwar Dharma, an ex-correspondent of Harian Rakjat (People’s Daily) in Moscow who was kicked out by the Soviet government due to his critical views towards them (Dharma 1966)[iii]. Anwar Dharma then moved to China and was instructed by the Delegation of the Indonesian Communist Party in Beijing to go to Albania to start there a publication in Indonesian and in English[iv]. After his arrival in Tirana, Anwar Dharma also initiated an Indonesian programme for Radio Tirana.

API has a unique design for its cover: There is a header in red colour with the title of the tabloid written in white, on its right is a hand holding a gun, on its left is also a hand but holding a book. It is interesting that the journal has Marxisme – Leninisme – FMTT written on it. FMTT is believed to be an acronym of Fikiran Mao Tje Tung (The thoughts of Mao Tse Tung). Below the journal title there is an address of the publisher, which is given as “Kutia Postare 1, Tirana, Albania”;the reason why the publishers were using a P.O. Box rather than an actual address is unknown. The title pages have two varieties which can be observed: The first is a title page with table of contents (which is more common, see figures 1 and 2), the second is a front page with an illustration or cartoon (see figure 3) which usually highlighted an important issue that was going to be discussed in the content. When the title page consisted of an illustration, the table of content was moved to the last page of the journal. Both of the Indonesian and English/ French issues held in Frankfurt used the same design for the title page, except one special issue on the death of Mao Tse Tung in English/ French, which was printed in black along with a big portrait of Mao (see figure 4).

Fig. 4 Special issue on the death of Mao Tse Tung, September 1977 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1106]

The table of contents of all available issues in Frankfurt followed more or less the same pattern. It always started with an editorial which often emphasised one topic which was going to be the theme of that particular issue. After this usually follows an official party statement on some topics. The editorial staff was also aware of the importance of good relationships with communist parties in other countries: this explains why in almost every issue there are one or two pages containing congratulatory statements of somebody’s achievements, or sometimes an obituary of a communist dignitary. Furthermore, there are articles about Indonesia whose contents usually criticised Suharto’s administration and compared it with the successes seen in communist countries. Another interesting part of the journal is a section called Komentar Radio Tirana (‘Commentaries of Radio Tirana’) which provided insights about some particular issues which were trending at that time. In March 1967 Radio Tirana started to broadcast in Indonesian twice a day, therefore it seems likely that this section was a highlight of the broadcasting materials of every month. API also had a dedicated humour section called Bukan Kebetulan (‘Not a Coincidence’) which usually contained satire about Indonesia.

Fig. 5 Special issue to commemorate 30 years of communist Albania, [November?] 1974 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1106]. Of all the issues available in Frankfurt this is the only one with colour printing.
Fig. 6 API (Indonesian edition), Volume 10, Number 12, December 1976 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1398]

The political ideology of API which was already stated on the title page Marxisme – Leninisme – FMTT is discussed in every issue of API. There is a section called Belajar Marxisme – Leninisme – Fikiran Mao Tje Tung (‘Learning about Marxism – Leninism – Thoughts of Mao’) which usually contains translated works of Marx, Lenin or Mao and sometimes also an analysis of their works. After that, another reappearing feature of every issue is a section which provided short summaries of current news. There are differences between the Indonesian and the English/ French editions though. The Indonesian edition has Berita Tanah Air and Berita Internasional, which consisted of selected news from Indonesia and the international world while the English/French edition only contains local Indonesian news. These current news reported always about negative matters and incidents that happened in Indonesia or non-communist (i.e. “capitalist”) countries, and positive things that occurred in communist states or news about successes in the communist struggles. The last part of the Indonesian language edition is the Kebudayaan (culture) section, where poems, short stories and sometimes essays were published under authors’ pseudonyms in order to guarantee the safety of their family members in Indonesia[v]. In the English/French edition, this culture section is not included and instead contained one or two supplementary articles in French. Another difference between the Indonesian and English/French editions is the mode of publishing: The Indonesian version is published monthly, but the English/French edition bi-monthly. However, their volume counting is not very consistent as there are also several editions from the Indonesian version which was published bi-monthly.

Fig. 7 Special issue to commemorate the communist uprisings in Indonesia in 1926 [November?] 1976 [shelf mark: 84/ZS 1398]

(Article by Prabono Hari Putranto, J.W.Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Library of Southeast Asian Studies. This text is an “offspring” of the author’s ongoing research for a master’s thesis in Southeast Asian Studies at J.W.Goethe-University Frankfurt.)

References:

Aleida, Martin (2017): Tanah Air yang Hilang. Jakarta: Penerbit Buku Kompas.

Dharma, Anwar (1966): Soviet Revisionists’ Shameless Collaboration with Indonesia’s Fascist Military Regime Condemned. Beijing Review No. 42, 14 October 1966, 30–32.

Indonesian Communist Exiles in Albania (2021) (accessed 22 February 2021).

Kroef, Justus M. van der (1973): Indonesia. Yearbook of International Communist Affairs 1973, 469–478.

Melvin, Jess (2018): The Army and the Indonesian Genocide: Mechanics of Mass Murder. New York: Routledge.

Yuliantri, Rhoma Dwi Aria (2007): Harian Rakjat: Di Bawah Pukulan dan Sabetan Palu Arit. Seabad Pers Kebangsaan 1907–2007, 699–702. Jakarta: I:Boekoe.


[i]               For a reasonable account of the events of 30 September 1965 and how Suharto and the military seized the opportunity to take control of the government see Melvin’s argument on the build-up events before the alleged coup in September 30 (Melvin 2018: 3–6).

[ii]              Chalik Hamid was a student in Tirana and one of Anwar Dharma’s first contact persons in Tirana, in fact it was him who taught Dharma to speak Albanian (Aleida 2017: 198).

[iii]             Harian Rakjat was the newspaper of the PKI and was founded in 1951 (Yuliantri 2007: 700).

[iv]             I had the opportunity to interview Chalik Hamid on his role in Albania. Hamid mentioned that it is not entirely correct to say that it was an official command from the PKI as the party was already disbanded. The PKI’s remnants in Beijing at that time, even in the publications of API never called themselves as PKI but as Delegasi CC PKI (‘The Delegation of CC PKI’) (Chalik Hamid, personal communication, 12 February 2021).

[v]              Hamid as the head of the Kebudayaan section mentioned that all of the authors and the members of the editorial staff uses monikers (some of the most frequently used names of contributors are ‘Teguh’ , ‘Kuat’ and ‘Parikesit’) in order to provide cover and to protect the safety of their families back in Indonesia (Chalik Hamid, personal communication, 12 March 2021).