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Pancasila: The State Ideology

In its preamble, the 1945 constitution sets forth the Pancasila as the embodiment of basic principles of an independent Indonesian state. These five principles were announced by Sukarno in a speech known as "The Birth of the Pancasila," which he gave to the Independence Preparatory Committee on June 1, 1945. In brief, and in the order given in the constitution, the Pancasila principles are: belief in one supreme God; humanitarianism; nationalism expressed in the unity of Indonesia; consultative democracy; and social justice. Sukarno's statement of the Pancasila, while simple in form, resulted from a complex and sophisticated appreciation of the ideological needs of the new nation. In contrast to Muslim nationalists who insisted on an Islamic identity for the new state, the framers of the Pancasila insisted on a culturally neutral identity, compatible with democratic or Marxist ideologies, and overarching the vast cultural differences of the heterogeneous population. Like the national language-- Bahasa Indonesia (see Glossary)--which Sukarno also promoted, the Pancasila did not come from any particular ethnic group and was intended to define the basic values for an "Indonesian" political culture.

While the Pancasila has its modern aspect, Sukarno presented it in terms of a traditional Indonesian society in which the nation parallels an idealized village in which society is egalitarian, the economy is organized on the basis of mutual self-help (gotong royong), and decision making is by consensus (musyawarah-mufakat). In Sukarno's version of the Pancasila, political and social dissidence constituted deviant behavior. Suharto modified this view, to the extent that one of the criticisms of his version of the Pancasila was that he tried to Javanize it by asserting that the fundamental building block of the Pancasila was the ilmu kasunyatan (highest wisdom) that comes from the practices of kebatinan.

One reason why both Sukarno and Suharto were successful in using the Pancasila to support their authority, despite their very different policy orientations, was the generalized nature of the principles of the Pancasila. The Pancasila was less successful as a unifying concept when leadership tried to give it policy content. For example, in 1959 Sukarno proclaimed a new unity in an important slogan called Nasakom--a state trinity of nationalism, communism, and religion--as the revolutionary basis for a "just and prosperous society." To oppose the PKI, under this model, was to be anti-Pancasila. However, the principal opponent to this kind of ideological correctness was ABRI, creating political problems for Sukarno within the military. Suharto, on the other hand, gained the support of the military because he did not require ideological conformity. ABRI, while not necessarily actively promoting the Pancasila, shared rather than contended for power. Suharto noted this cooperation in his National Day address of August 16, 1984, when he said that ABRI, with its dual function, was "a force which preserves and continuously refreshes Pancasila democracy."

Unlike Sukarno, whose use of ideological appeals often seemed to be a cynical and manipulative substitute for substantive achievements, even at times an excuse for policy failure, the Suharto government sought to engage in policies and practices that contributed to stability and development. The 1973 reorganization of political parties--from the nine (plus Golkar) that contested the 1971 elections to two (plus Golkar)--was justified as a step in the direction of Pancasila democracy. Beginning in 1978, a national indoctrination program was undertaken to inculcate Pancasila values in all citizens, especially school children and civil servants. From an abstract statement of national goals, the Pancasila was now used as an instrument of social and political control. To oppose the government was to oppose the Pancasila. To oppose the Pancasila was to oppose the foundation of the state. The effort to force conformity to the government's interpretation of Pancasila ideological correctness was not without controversy. Two issues in particular persistently tested the limits of the government's tolerance of alternative or even competitive systems of political thought. The first issue was the position of religion, especially Islam; the second issue was the role of legal opposition in Pancasila democracy.

From the very outset of independence, Islam and the Indonesian state had a tense political relationship (see Islamic Political Culture , this ch.). The Pancasila's promotion of monotheism is a religiously neutral and tolerant statement that equates Islam with the other religious systems: Christianity, Buddhism, and Hindu-Balinese beliefs. However, the Muslim political forces had felt betrayed since signing the 1949 Jakarta Charter, under which they accepted a pluralist republic in return for agreement that the state would be based upon belief in one God with Muslims obligated to follow the sharia. The government's failure to follow through constitutionally and legally on this commitment set the agenda for future Islamic politics. At the extreme was the Darul Islam rebellion of the 1950s, that sought to establish a Muslim theocracy.

The New Order's emphasis on the Pancasila was viewed by orthodox Muslim groups as an effort to subordinate Islam to a secular state ideology, even a "civil religion" manipulated by a regime inherently biased against the full expression of Muslim life. Indeed, in 1985 the government capped its effort to domesticate all elements in society to the Pancasila with legislation requiring all voluntary organizations to adopt the Pancasila as their sole ideological principle, and providing for government supervision, intervention, and, if necessary, dissolution of organizations to guarantee compliance. Proclaimed as a "perfection" of Pancasila democracy, the Mass Organizations Law's intent went to the heart of religiously based groups. This decision was forced on the Muslim-oriented PPP at its 1984 national congress, which was stage-managed by the government. For some Muslims it was the last straw. The government's assurance that Muslims were not threatened by the law seemed hollow because the new law restricted the practices of Islam to family, mosque, and prayer, rather than allowing Islam to enfold the fullness of human activity, including politics. An environment was exacerbated in which more radical Muslims, incited by fiery clerics, prepared for direct opposition, including political violence. The government's stern reaction to dissidence--swift arrest, trial for subversion, and long prison terms--soon inhibited any open public interest in confrontation.

On the other hand, by the 1980s, within the legal and politically acceptable boundaries of Muslim involvement, the state had become a major promoter of Islamic institutions. The government even subsidized numerous Muslim community activities. Within the overall value structure of the Pancasila, Islamic moral teaching and personal codes of conduct balanced the materialism inherent in secular economic development. Suharto himself went to great lengths to demonstrate that he was a good Muslim, including making the hajj to Mecca in May 1991. In August 1991, he pledged Rp3 billion (US$1.53 million; for value of the rupiah--see Glossary) to a new Islamic bank (Bank Muamalat Indonesia) and declared he would encourage other wealthy Muslims to contribute. By wooing Islamic leaders and teachers, the state won broad support for its developmental policies. There is no question but that Islam was a state-favored religion in Indonesia, but it was not a state religion. Nor, if the New Order prevails over the long term, will it be. That reality defined the most critical political issue for many orthodox Muslims. Moreover, the question remained how opposition--religious or secular--could legally be expressed in the workings of Pancasila democracy.

Data as of November 1992

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