Offering important new understandings of the Indonesian independence struggle, this fine-grained study explores the international activities in the capitals of interwar Europe of the Perhimpoenan Indonesia (PI), an Indonesian nationalist student organisation based in the Netherlands. Operating in a vibrant political environment, the PI interacted with powerful movements and organisations such as the Comintern and Indian National Congress as well as with small pressure groups such as the Algerian Étoile Nord-Africaine. The book demonstrates that the political awakening of Indonesian elites should be understood not just as an indigenous response to Dutch rule but also as part of global anticolonial movements and struggles.
Focusing on the period between 1917 and 1931, the book maps a growing awareness among the Indonesian students of anticolonial struggles waged elsewhere, and describes how these students attempted to establish personal relations with different anticolonial movements in cities across Europe. In so doing, the study offers new insights on Mohammad Hatta’s activities within the League against Imperialism, sheds light on the little-known Indonesian community in Paris, and gives a fuller picture of the international reaction to the communist revolt on Java and Sumatra in 1926-1927.
The book is structured around the aspirations and adventures of a few PI members. We follow their personal journeys to cities such as Zürich, Paris, Brussels and Berlin as they established contacts, joined associations and attended international conferences. Here, the complex reality of movement building is examined, going beyond superficial suggestions of contact and collaboration. Moreover, it explores the dynamics between different movements on the international stage. Notwithstanding propagandistic claims of harmony and solidarity, various anticolonial forces had diverging interests and strategies. Even though the Indonesians were determined to set their own course, their success was dependent on the availability of political opportunities and resources in the wider European anticolonial scene.
Finally, the study demonstrates that the activities of the PI reverberated in the Indonesian political landscape, where the new collaborations in Europe were followed with great interest. In this way, the book offers new findings for multiple audiences–Indonesianists and scholars of anticolonial resistance alike.