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Microphone Republic: Propaganda and Indoctrination in Guided Democracy Indonesia

SAHUL HM is senior lecturer at the Department of History, Faculty of Human Sciences, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris.

Penerbit UPSI (First published, 2023)
xiv + 366 pages including Bibliography and Index


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Microphone Republic: Propaganda and Indoctrination in Guided Democracy Indonesia uncovers the truth behind Sukarno’s Guided Democracy in Indonesia, the cult of personality and the role of propaganda in maintaining his power. The years of Guided Democracy span the period from 1959 to 1965. Sukarno, the primary symbol of Guided Democracy, turned the course of Indonesian history from parliamentary democracy to a type of “authoritarian rule”, justified in terms of the traditional Indonesian values of gotong-royong and musyawarah. The proclamation of Guided Democracy led to a chain of events which included his fall in 1966. Hatred of communism led to the killings of hundreds of thousands of people associated with communism.

The transition to Guided Democracy has roots in the first general election in 1955. The election campaigns, further opened the divisions within Indonesian society and made securing a general consensus between parties more difficult. The PNI (Partai Nasionalis Indonesia), Masyumi (Majelis Syuro Muslimin), NU (Nahdlatul Ulama) and the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia), which fitted into the NASAKONM (Nationalists, Religious Groups and Communists) concept of Sukarno, performed well and emerged as the big-four. This election demonstrated the PKI’s stronghold in Java and increasing popularity amongst the peasants and workers. Sukarno’s growing partiality toward the PKI and his competition for political dominance with the army perhaps made Sukarno devise a mechanism to strengthen his own position and control the political balance around him. Thus, Guided Democracy emerged.

Guided Democracy was strongly flavoured by Sukarno’s knowledge and experiences of the Socialist countries, especially the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. His sensational speech of 28 October 1956, “Bury the Parties” was delivered eight days after his return from a trip to the USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and China. Sukarno, however, denied that he derived the idea of Guided Democracy from those countries, stating that it came from traditions practiced in villages across Indonesia. Sukarno, apparently, wanted to be seen as the originator of the idea of Guided Democracy, just as he claimed to “dig up” (menggali) the Pancasila in 1945. Although Sukarno tried to avoid having his idea associated with those “overseas inspirations”, his “Bury the Parties” speech clearly shows his reference to China’s one-party system. He linked China’s experience with Indonesia’s conditions and said, “We must transform the party system completely” in order to create “a guided democracy, something which is guided but still democracy…”.

Analysis of the approximately seven years of Guided Democracy demonstrates the role and significance of propaganda and indoctrination in Indonesia during Sukarno’s reign. The Guided Democracy years offered a solid foundation for his successors to emulate, and indeed to surpass his efforts and achievements. The use of propaganda and indoctrination contributed immensely to maintaining the authority of Sukarno’s Guided Democracy until its fall in 1965. It was integral to the balance of power between Sukarno, military and the communists and involved the religious groups within his NASAKOM conception, an element not discussed by Feith.


1. Propaganda and Indoctrination: Believing Without Thinking
2. Sukarno: The Cult, Supremacy and Domination
3. The Department of Information: Sukarno’s Mouthpiece
4. Operational Control: The Official Propaganda Bodies
5. Programming a “New Indonesian”: National Identity and Character Building
6. Symbiotic Relationships: Propaganda of the Communist Party and Mass Organisations (ORMAS)
7. Attacking the Attackers: The Military and Decolonisation


Weight0.572 kg
Dimensions22.8 × 15.2 × 2 cm




Year Published


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