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Nationalism as the dominant force behind the Indonesian independence movement is the leading theme presented in the video, Barrel of a gun. The turn of the twentieth century marked the beginning of nationalist stirrings in Indonesia against the ruling Dutch empire. Fuelled by dissent and second-class treatment, nationalistic ideals and propaganda began to spread throughout the native Indonesian population and ignite. However, the spread of nationalism would not have been so great without particular factors. Firstly, Sukarno, as the charismatic leader of the movement laid the foundations of a nationalist stronghold. Secondly, the Japanese invasion during World War 2 paved a pathway for Indonesian independence. Thirdly, international support for the Indonesian push against a dominant western power, finally tipped the rule of the Dutch colonialists. Nationalism in Indonesia culminated with independence being achieved in 1949. (Osborne, 1997; 154-161) ( Barrel of a Gun, Video)

The emergence of a pro-independence nationalistic movement stems from Dutch educated Indonesians in the early part of the twentieth century. The Russo-Japanese war of 1905 demonstrated for the first time, the ability for an Asian nation to defeat a major Western power. ( Heidhues, 2000; 122) This ignited fervent belief amongst Indonesian intellects to overcome the conquering Dutch. However, early attempts in the 1920 s at revolution backfired. Without the mass support of the Indonesian population, the early uprisings headed by the Indonesian Communist Party, were quelled, resulting in many Indonesians becoming prisoners and being exiled. ( Church, 1995; 45) It was during this period that the most influential and charismatic of leaders surfaced, Sukarno. Unlike the Vietnamese spread of nationalism whereby there was only one party striving for independence, Sukarno and his Communist party were the leading party out of numerous nationalist parties striving for freedom. ( Osborne, 1997; 162-163) His presence, his political ingenuity and his charisma separated him from other leaders and made him a national hero. He promoted the idea of One land, one people, one language; Indonesia. ( Heidhues, 2000; 127) However, there were two groups of nationalists, co-operating, who were part of Dutch programs for independence and non-co-operating, who ignored such pathways. Consequently, Sukarno was exiled in 1934 for his political stances against the Dutch empire. ( Church, 1995; 45) By the end of the 1930 s it seemed as though Indonesian nationalism was at a standstill. Mass support had dwindled and the memory of Sukarno was all that remained. The Japanese invasion of 1942 would see the return of Sukarno and the re-emergence of Indonesian nationalism.

The Japanese occupation of Indonesia during the Second World War saw the return of Sukarno and a new passageway to national independence. In 1942, Japanese forces took over from a retreating Dutch empire and re-opened the doors of nationalism and independence for the Indonesians. Sukarno returned from exile to the homeland and immediately became a leading political figurehead, intent on using the Japanese presence to the best of his nations advantage. ( Barrel of a Gun, Video) The Japanese were key to the overall implementation of Indonesian independence. ( Osborne, 1997; 154) ( Church, 1995; 46 )They provided positions of political importance to Sukarno and other leaders, they abolished the use of the Dutch language and promoted Indonesian language. Even when the end of the war was nearing, Japan helped the goal of independence to be achieved. The Japanese also for the first time gave extensive military training to the youth of Indonesia. ( Church, 1995; 46) Sukarno s leadership during this period was remarkable. Though his ideals and politics conflicted at times with the Japanese, he collaborated with them only for the overall benefit of Indonesia. At the same time, he was drumming up national support for the Japanese and their labour programs. ( Barrel of a Gun, Video.) Conversely, these programs were oppressive and economically destructive, but to Sukarno, they ignited anti-Dutch feeling and national unity, aspects key to the independence movement after the war. When it became clear that Japan was to lose the war, some argued against the benefit of attaining independence by Japanese means. (Church, 1995; 47) Sukarno reacted incisively and on the 17 August 1945, Indonesian independence was declared through a flag-raising ceremony in Jakarta. The return of the Dutch in 1946 dismissed the Indonesian Republic, triggering a new war against the fire of mass unity, nationalistic retaliation and political pressure which would eventually see official Indonesian independence in 1949.

Indonesian nationalism combined with the support of international powers, rid the resurgence of the Dutch empire post-war and re-instated independence. The returning Dutch saw the Indonesian independence declaration as illegitimate. ( Osborne, 1997; 155) Within months , the Dutch seized the wealth of the land including most cities and from here, a guerrilla war was waged. The Dutch had underestimated the spread of nationalism and Sukarno, yet they still wanted the ways of colonial Indonesia. The Dutch fought Indonesian Nationalists on two fronts. Firstly, through a bloody guerrilla war that would see the Dutch forces remain stagnant and secondly on a political front, with conflicting views on negotiations that would see no immediate resolve. ( Osborne, 1997; 156-158) Sukarno s strong development of national pride during the war was now being exemplified. The sense of being an Indonesian as well as being an inhabitant of a particular region, ( Osborne; 157 ) was now firmly established. National unity throughout, bogged down Dutch reprisals and with the Dutch beginning to use military force through various police actions, international interest in the Indonesian quest for independence was highlighted. It seemed the Dutch were fighting a war that could not be won. The Indonesian nationalists had grown in power since Dutch military action, and now the newly formed United Nations attacked the stance of the Netherlands in South-East Asia. International pressure on Holland, played the decisive part in making the Dutch abandon their efforts to postpone the emergence of an independent Indonesia. (Osborne; 158 ). The spread of nationalism and Indonesia s stubborn quest for independence finally ended negotiations, with Indonesia granted Independence from Holland in 1949.

Nationalism was the major driving force behind the Indonesian peoples quest for independence. However, multiple factors, on-side with the independence movement fuelled this force. Through the rise and rise of Sukarno and with him, the nationalistic values of a nation, coupled with the Japanese occupation during the war, the door to independence began to open. The quest for a militarily and economically poor nation seeking independence from a western power, also served to gain international support. The nationalism expressed throughout a nation pushed Indonesia to unity and independence, with Sukarno, the President of the republic.


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