The Political Ideas of Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo and Noto Soeroto

Abstrak Thesis Oleh: Farabi Fakih, M.Phil (History Department, Leiden University)

The study focuses on the nationalist and political ideas of two Indonesian intellectuals of the early twentieth century, Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo and Noto Soeroto. Both were active within their respective movements and wrote during a period of heightened political awareness. Tjipto was an Indiër Nationalist and advocated an Indiër nation that was multiracial. Noto Soeroto was a Javanese Nationalist and advocated the concept of a Javanese nation. Both were Javanese and used and celebrated Javanese culture and history to express their respective political ideas. Both were tragic figures in a sense that their ideas of the coming nation-state were eventually rejected.

The study also shows the extent to which the concept of Java was the result of colonial encounter, as Western scientists began to collect the cultural and historical knowledge of the island and select and arrange an image of the Javanese that conformed to their own needs. New, Dutch-speaking educated Javanese of the twentieth century and their way of looking at themselves was a product of this colonial encounter. This colonial idea of Java resulted in a reification of a Hindu-Buddhist golden age and an unfavorable view of the Islamic present; it also resulted in a heightened awareness of India’s political conditions and possibilities. The issue of race and the Javanese past became a central theme of political discussion, as the long, dead Aryan-Indian became subject of debate and legitimacy.

Yet they were also agents who actively used the images of Java and selected a myriad of new ideas entering into the Indies during the period to create arguments for political autonomy and racial equality. The theosophical movement which had spread to South Asia also spread to Indonesia, as many Javanese leaders accepted its claims with alacrity. This spiritual/political movement would not have been as successful had it not been strengthened through the ‘connection’ of Java with India. This occultist movement which promoted the unity of a materialist west and a spiritualist east was eagerly grabbed at by Javanese nationalists to legitimize their political position vis-à-vis the colonial state and other indigenous movements, such as Islam and the left. Another important ideology that entered the colony in the early 1910s was socialism. Just like theosophy, Javanese socialists, like Tjipto, engaged in the debate over Java’s history and culture. In the case of Tjipto, images of the past were repositioned and subverted to conform to his leftist ideals. The study wants to show the extent to which Java’s past and culture was politicized during this period. This politicization would have ramifications long after independence, especially during Soeharto’s New Order period.

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