“Indonesia is the best thing that's happened to Uncle Sam since World War 2".
- Anonymous World Bank official
There has been a revival of inquiry into Indonesia’s 1965-66 anti-communist massacres, from Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2012 film The Act of Killing to Vincent Bevins’s 2020 book The Jakarta Method. These massacres are one of the most blatant examples of American imperialist murder during the “Cold” War period. But focus on the piano wire and golok machete in the violence has ignored the more surreptitious methods of murder via liberalization, privatization, and extraction. These methods, promoted not by the foot soldier but by the academic, enabled the massacres to begin and for death to continue under the US-backed regime that emerged once the militias and the military had concluded their work. In this second edition of our ongoing “Imperial Pedagogy” series, we visit the Berkeley Mafia, Indonesia’s Chicago Boys, who justified and urged on the brutal massacres of communists and would serve the US-backed dictator Suharto in his project of restoring imperial control of Indonesia’s natural resources and people. We continue to assert that the Indonesian technocrats who trained with prestigious US institutions like Harvard, Cornell, MIT, and UC Berkeley were instructed in an “imperial pedagogy”, a method of learning that filled them with imperialist values and enabled them to serve as compradors in the destruction of Indonesia.
American training of the Indonesian elite began around the same time as the training of the Chilean elite. Indonesia had won its independence in 1949 from the Netherlands, but as with many newly independent nations in the Global South, was quickly incorporated into the American orbit. The Ford Foundation (which also played a central role in the case of the Chicago Boys, and at this stage were flush with CIA money) were embarking on a program of what David Ransom (in his excellent analysis entitled “Ford Country”) calls a program of “educational internationalism” to train, in Ford's words, a "modernizing elite." "You can't have a modernizing country without a modernizing elite," explained deputy vice president of Ford's international division, Frank Sutton, adding that “that's one of the reasons we've given a lot of attention to university education". This “modernization” and “educational internationalism” were desperately needed at the height of international anti-communism, as the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) had become the largest non-ruling communist party in the world, with two million members in the 1955 elections, and 16 percent of the national vote. A “modern elite”, or comprador class, would be needed to prevent the rise of a communist party that could tip the balance in the Cold War.
To prevent this from happening, the Ford Foundation would enable the creation of field projects from MIT and Cornell University in 1954. MIT’s Center for International Studies, what Ransom calls “the CIA-sponsored brainchild of Max Millikan and Walt W. Rostow”, sent a Ford-sponsored team to discover "the causes of economic stagnation in Indonesia." One of the members of the team, Guy Pauker, a Romanian-born Harvard graduate, would join the RAND Corporation, the American military’s think tank, in 1958. According to Ransom, “it is no secret that he briefs and is briefed by the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department. Highly-placed Washington sources say he is ‘directly involved in decision-making’”.
During his fieldwork with the MIT program, Pauker would come to know high-ranking officers of the Indonesian Army very well. He argued that he “was the first who got interested in the role of the military in economic development". But he would also come into closer contact with members of academia, particularly Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, an economist with a Ph.D. from Holland, who was also a CIA asset. Sumitro, also a member of the Western-aligned “socialist” Partai Sosialis Indonesia (PSI), had spent prior years arguing that the Marshall Plan depended on "the availability of the resources of Asia," and could be fostered by Indonesia’s "fruitful cooperation with the West." Sumitro argued at the Ford-funded Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington in early 1949 for America’s "free access" to Indonesian resources and "sufficient" incentives for foreign corporate investment. He was, as Ransom reveals, closely linked to Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), anti-communist labor leaders, and the Ford Foundation-funded Council on Foreign Relations. And in 1951, in his most consequential role, he would become Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, where Ransom argues he would “marshal the young men with whom he planned to implement his program for Indonesia”.
According to Ransom, Sumitro had also participated in the MIT team's briefings. His students had attended a CIA-funded annual seminar run each summer at Harvard by Henry Kissinger. After becoming closely affiliated, Pauker would start up a political study group among Sumitro’s students.
The next step in the process of American universities entering Indonesia would come via Cornell University. In 1954 the Ford Foundation would create the Cornell Modern Indonesia Project with $224,000. Ransom argued that “Cornell's elite-oriented studies are what the universities use to teach post-Independence politics and history”. Prominent Indonesians like Selo Selosoemardjan, a sociologist who would become the right-hand man of the Sultan of Jogjakarta, one of the leaders within the Suharto regime, would come speak at Cornell on Ford and Rockefeller Foundation grants. George Kahin, the leader of the researchers at Cornell whose name still adorns the Southeast Asia Program’s center, also worked closely with Sumitro's Faculty of Economics in Jakarta. Kahin would establish an Institute with Widjojo Nitisastro, Sumitro's leading protégé and one of the most prominent of the Berkeley Mafia.
But as Ransom explains, if “MIT and Cornell made contacts, collected data, [and] built up expertise” then it “was left to Berkeley to train most of the key Indonesians who would seize government power to put their pro-American lessons into practice”. Thus, as Berkeley became the main university to facilitate the educational imperialism, “Sumitro's Faculty of Economics provided a perfect academic boot camp for these political shock troops”.
Berkeley would embark in 1955 to build “Dean Sumitro a brand new Ford-funded graduate program in economics”. Indonesian junior faculty were sent to Berkeley for advanced credentials. Pauker would become the head of the new Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies to greet them. Using his position as a simultaneous Professor at UC Berkeley and as a consultant at the RAND Corporation, Pauker would help provide the intellectual knowledge production to fuel the effort for regime change in Indonesia. In his article “North American Universities and the 1965 Indonesian Massacre”, Peter Dale Scott points out that at an August 1959 conference organized by RAND on “The Role of the Military in Underdeveloped Countries,” which produced a book with the same title, “Pauker urged his contacts in the Indonesian military to assume ‘full responsibility’ for their nation's leadership, ‘fulfill a mission,’ and hence ‘to strike, sweep their house clean’”. Scott points out forebodingly that “although Pauker may not have intended anything like the scale of bloodbath which eventually ensued, there is no escaping the fact that ‘mission’ and ‘sweep clean’ were buzz-words for counterinsurgency and massacre, and as such were used frequently before and during the coup. The first murder order, by military officers to Muslim students in early October, was the word sikat, meaning ‘sweep,’ ‘clean out,’ ‘wipe out,’ or ‘massacre’”. And he notes that “eleven months before the coup, Pauker signaled even more blatantly in a RAND publication to his Indonesian army friends , expressing disappointment for their not ‘carrying out a control function,’ and for lacking ‘the ruthlessness that made it possible for the Nazis to suppress the Communist Party’”.
Just as Pauker was impressing these ideas to the Indonesian faculty, in an exchange, Berkeley faculty would arrive in Jakarta. As Ransom notes, “while the Indonesian junior faculty learned American economics in Berkeley classrooms, the professors from Berkeley set to turning the Faculty in Jakarta into an American-style school of economics, statistics and business administration”. The pushback from Sukarno was revealing: he lamented in an annual lecture to the faculty in Jakarta that "all those men can say to me is 'Schumpeter and Keynes.' When I was young I read Marx." But the Ford Foundation had set in motion a process Sukarno could not undo: "when Sukarno threatened to put an end to Western economics," said John Howard, director of the Foundation’s International Training and Research Program, "Ford threatened to cut off all programs, and that changed Sukarno's direction."
The content the faculty learned was equally responsible for the coup as any other aspect of American imperialism. The ideas they would become inculcated in were gaining hegemony as they were exported to the Third World by America, alongside guns, foreign aid, and USAID rice. Peter Dale Scott alleges that “Academic Modernization Theory”, the capitalist development economics promoted by the American economists, “paved the way for the killings” that would begin in 1965. Scott argues that “just as North American modernization specialists were a shaping force in Indonesia, so also Indonesia was a principal concern, or target, of North American development economists. It is not too much to say that the two – Indonesia and post-war development economics – helped shape each other”. Scott argues that modernization theory was “a tool in the Cold War. And in many ways North American universities – not just those like McGill or MIT or Berkeley with close links to the CIA – were contributing to a mindset that was also part of the Cold War.”
The Faculty of Economics at the University of Indonesia became a battlefield of the Cold War by this logic, another domino that could not fall. Sumitro would assist the Berkeley staff in the effort to prevent the Faculty's curriculum being modified by Sukarno’s socialist leanings. Team member Bruce Glassburner recalled the Berkeley team had “got a lot of pressure through 1958-1959 for 'retooling' the curriculum... we did some dummying up, you know - we put 'socialism’ into as many course titles as we could - but really tried to preserve the academic integrity of the place”, academic integrity being a fidelity to modernization theory and the pro-capitalist education America needed from these future state managers. Howard explained that "Ford felt it was training the guys who would be leading the country when Sukarno got out."
In total, the Berkeley Program would continue for six years at a cost of $2.5 million. Berkeley phased out of Jakarta in 1961-62, as the first group of Indonesian economists returned from the United States to take over. Glassburner estimated that “with the Ford Foundation's money we trained them 40 or so economists."
Berkeley’s academic assistance would lead Ransom to conclude that “with the services it purchased from America's top universities, Ford managed to create a tough, sophisticated infrastructure that reached into every major power institution of Indonesian society. Students selected and molded by the Americans, trained in essential disciplines and skills, became in effect a paragovernment”.
Backing up the economists were the soldiers. At Indonesia’s Army Staff and Command School (SESKOAD), situated in Bandung, Ransom details how senior officers “were ‘upgraded’ with manuals and methods picked up at the U.S. command school back in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas”. Berkeley Mafia members like Widjojo began regular trips to Bandung to teach at SESKOAD starting in 1962. The Ford Foundation chief in Indonesia, Frank Miller, argued that staff were teaching “economic aspects of defense”. Whatever the euphemism, the Berkeley Mafia soon became the Indonesian Army’s closest civilian advisors. They were joined by senior faculty from the Bandung Institute of Technology, where the University of Kentucky had a partnership under USAID since 1957. At SESKOAD, one of the Berkeley boys, Mohammed Sadli, the first to study at Berkeley, would instruct none other than Suharto himself.
It is here that the economists would be “quickly caught up in the generals' anti-communist conspiracy”, as Ransom says. According to Colonel Willis G. Ethel, U.S. defense attaché in Jakarta, the professors "would run a course in this contingency planning”, another euphemism for coup organization and anti-communism. "They weren't about to let the Communists take over the country," Col. Ethel explained. The Army had already been integrated into this plan to a large extent through American education: high-ranking Indonesian officers had begun U.S. training programs in the mid-'50s, and by 1965 4,000 officers had been taught army command at Fort Leavenworth and counter-insurgency at Fort Bragg. By 1962, “hundreds of visiting officers at Harvard and Syracuse were provided with the skills for maintaining a huge economic, as well as military, establishment, with training in everything from business administration and personnel management to air photography and shipping”. USAID’s "Public Safety Program" in the Philippines and Malaysia trained the Indonesian police.
Ransom and others point out that the Army to a large extent already controlled the economy by 1965. The Army took directorships of former Dutch properties, seizing many of them out of the hands of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), which collectivized them “illegally”. Ransom demonstrates that “the generals controlled plantations, small industry, state-owned oil and tin, and the state-run export-import companies, which by 1965 monopolized government purchasing and had branched out into sugar milling, shipping and distribution”. Robert Shaplen of the New York Timesargued that "the Army and the civil police virtually controlled the whole state apparatus."
On October 1st, 1965, a small group of officers would assassinate 6 Indonesian army generals who had been working with the CIA in an attempt to pre-empt a coup against President Sukarno. In the end, unfortunately, their action and attempted uprising, which failed due to a lack of coordination with the PKI, would be used as a justification for a bloody reprisal by anti-communist forces.
General Suharto and the other US-backed anti-communist generals would immediately blame the assassinations on the PKI (there are a wide variety of theories as to whether the assassinations were staged to justify the removal of Sukarno, and if so, by whom). Nevertheless, the result was clear: Suharto urged his followers out into the streets to exact revenge against all communists. U.S. officials "actively supported" the efforts of the Indonesian Army.
Many of the perpetrators of the anti-communist massacres would be students. Ransom details the extent to which the youth of Indonesia were trained to join in the killing of communists. He notes that “embassy officials had long wined and dined the student apparatchiks who rose to lead the demonstrations that brought Sukarno down... The professors may have helped lay out the Army's ‘contingency’ plans, but no one was going to ask them to take to the streets and make the generals’ ‘revolution.’ Fortunately, they could leave that to their students”.
As the arrests and executions of anyone even perceived to have communist sympathies were beginning, in late October 1965 Brigadier General Sjarif Thajeb, the Minister of Higher Education who had been educated at Harvard, gathered student leaders in his living room to create the Indonesian Student Action Command (KAMI). As Ransom notes, “many of the KAMI leaders were the older student apparatchiks who had been courted by the U.S. embassy. Some had traveled to the U.S. as American Field Service exchange students, or on year-long jaunts in a ‘Foreign Student Leadership Project’ sponsored by the U.S. National Student Association”, a U.S. student network that received funding from the CIA.
Along with the KAMI, youth and student groups like the Indonesian Youth and Students' Action Front (KAPPI), and the Indonesian University Alumni Action Front (KASI) would perpetrate some of the worst killings. In Kediri in East Java, Nahdlatul Ulama youth wing (Ansor Youth Movement) members lined up Communists, cut their throats and disposed of the bodies in rivers.
Ransom also points out that manuals on student organizing fresh from the April Revolution in South Korea, written in both Korean and English, were supplied by the American embassy to KAMI's top leadership soon as the killings were beginning.
KAMI's most militant leadership came from the Bandung Institute of Technology, which sent 500 of their students to the U.S. for training. In addition, students every one of Indonesia's elite universities had been given paramilitary training by the Army in a program advised by an ROTC colonel on leave from UC Berkeley. Harsja Bachtiar, an Indonesian sociologist (alumnus of Cornell and Harvard), justified this training as having been "in anticipation of a Communist attempt to seize the government”.
With their training, students and youth served as the rank and file killers during the anti-communist genocide. Chief of the Indonesian Navy Eddy Martadinata issued the instruction to student leaders to "sweep”, bringing forth the ideas Pauker had laid out. Christian Science Monitor Asian correspondent John Hughes explained that the message was "that they could go out and clean up the Communists without any hindrance from the military... With relish they called out their followers, stuck their knives and pistols in their waistbands, swung their clubs over their shoulders, and embarked on the assignment for which they had long been hoping." In another, Col. Sarwo Edhy took elite paratroops (known as the "red berets") into the PKI's Central Java base to conduct “the extermination, by whatever means might be necessary, of the core of the Communist Party there." Edhy reported later that he had "decided to encourage the anti-communist civilians to help with the job... we gathered together the youth, the nationalist groups, the religious [Moslem] organizations. We gave them two or three days training, then sent them out to kill Communists."
Bandung engineering students, who had learned from the University of Kentucky team how to build and operate radio transmitters, were enlisted by Edhy to set up radios to facilitate further killings of communists. Spare parts for these radios were provided by the American embassy, as were local lists of PKI members to be eradicated. KAMI students led anti-Communist, anti-Sukarno protests throughout Jakarta, with Edhy providing them with trucks, loudspeakers and protection.
Ford Foundation educated scholars gave the students advice and money. Professors like economist Emil Salim, who had completed his Berkeley PhD, became members of KAMI leadership and maintained "close advisory relationships" with the students, later forming their own Indonesian Scholars Action Command (KASI).
These economists hosted a week-long Economic and Financial Seminar at the University of Indonesia in January 1966,what Bachtiar described as "a demonstration of solidarity among the members of KAMI, the anti-Communist intellectuals, and the leadership of the Army”. Papers would be presented by General Abdul Haris Nasution, who had escaped assassination on October 1st, and Adam Malik, who would become Suharto’s Vice President.
The anti-communist pogrom would seal the ascendancy of the Berkeley Mafia. When Suharto had himself named Acting President, the coup against Sukarno was finished. Soon, Suharto would invite Malik and the Sultan of Jogjakarta to join him in a triumvirate. Ransom asserts that Kahin's protegé, Soemardjan, helped the Berkeley Mafia catch the Sultan's and then Suharto's ears, persuading them that the Americans would demand a strong attack on inflation and a swift return to a "market economy." On April 12, 1966, the Sultan issued a major policy statement outlining the economic program of the new regime, what Ransom says was “in effect announcing Indonesia's return to the imperialist fold. It was written by Widjojo”.
This was only half the story. USAID brought in Harvard economist Dave Cole to provide Widjojo with a draft of the economic stabilization plan. An American official lamented that the Mafia "really didn't know how to write an investment law” and “had to have a lot of help from the embassy." Ransom slyly calls this “post-doctoral tutoring”.
In September 1966, a series of “crash seminars” of the economic plans occurred at SESKOAD. Through these seminars, the Berkeley Mafia would gain unmatched influence over Suharto. According to Fortune, the Mafia recorded economics lessons on audiotapes for Suharto to listen to at home. "President Suharto did not merely listen”, but when he would attend the seminars, “he took notes," one member of the group recalled with pride. Another Berkeley grad described it this way: they had "presented to the Army leadership—the crucial element in the new order—a 'cookbook' of 'recipes' for dealing with Indonesia's serious economic problems. General Suharto as the top Army commander not only accepted the cookbook, but also wanted the authors of the recipes as his economic advisers." Thus, Suharto’s new “kitchen cabinet” for running the economy, the Team of Experts for Economic and Financial Affairs, would have its 5 leaders yanked from the University of Indonesia Faculty of Economics, becoming the newly christened "Berkeley Mafia". Whether Suharto appreciated the economics lessons that much or he was simply instructed to select them (as Frank Miller asserts), is another story.
By August 1967, the Stanford Research Institute, with deep ties to the American military and industry, brought 170 "senior executives" to Jakarta to inspect the result of the coup they had created, even if they hadn’t known it. "The Indonesians have cut out the cancer that was destroying their economy," an SRI executive hummed with praise. David Rockefeller, chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank, enjoyed the opportunity to get acquainted with "Indonesia's top economic team." He especially approved of their "high quality of education."
Ransom takes stock of Suharto’s 1968 "Development Cabinet, noting that it was essentially an “impromptu reunion for the class of Ford”:
- Minister of Trade and Commerce: Sumitro (PhD, Rotterdam, ‘43);
- Chairman of the National Planning Board: Widjojo (PhD, Berkeley, ‘61);
- Vice Chairman: Emil Salim (PhD. Berkeley, ‘64);
- Secretary General of Marketing and Trade Research: Subroto (Harvard, ‘64);
- Minister of Finance: Ali Wardhana (PhD, Berkeley, ‘62);
- Chairman of the Technical Team of Foreign Investment: Mohamed Sadli (MS, MIT, ‘56);
- Secretary General of Industry: Barli Halim (MBA, Berkeley, ‘59)
Commenting on his appointment, Sadli noted to a reporter from Fortune: “we consider that we were training ourselves for this... a historic opportunity to fix the course of events."
The Berkeley Mafia would soon be joined in running the neo-colonial economy by what Ransom calls “a post-graduation present”, Harvard’s Development Advisory Service (DAS), a Ford Foundation-funded elite corps of international modernizers. The Harvard-DAS Indonesia project began July 1, 1968. It would see recurring characters like Dave Cole return to work with Widjojo on the Ford/Harvard payroll. DAS Deputy Director Lester Gordon explained that the Harvard team was essentially a clandestine American group of advisors meant to ensure everything was running exactly as America wanted it. They were "foreign advisors who don't have to deal with all the paperwork and have time to come up with new ideas” working "as employees of the government would... but in such a way that it doesn't get out that the foreigners are doing it."
With the Berkeley Mafia pulling the strings of the economy behind Suharto, and they too having foreign puppet masters from Harvard and Ford pull them along, the Indonesian economy began to resemble a wayang puppet theater. Ransom notes that the late-20th Century American "development" plan that the Mafia implemented “sounds suspiciously like the mid-19th century Dutch colonial strategy”. USAID helped to alleviate any possible resistance to the “New Order”, supporting a project at Berkeley's Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies alongside Bachtiar (now the head of the Indonesian Faculty of Economics Ford-funded research institute) to train Indonesian sociologists to "modernize" relations between the peasantry and the Army's state power. An agricultural plan was implemented by agronomists trained by a University of Kentucky program at the Bogor Agricultural Institute. Ransom described how “agricultural agents [were] given a monopoly in the sale of seed and the buying of rice, which puts them in a natural alliance with the local military commanders - who often control the rice transport business”.
Harvard consultants brought in pushed an “Indonesian New Deal” that strengthened the control of local Army commanders. The funds supplied for public works would end up lining military pockets. DAS Director Gus Papanek admitted that the program was "civilian only in a very broad sense because many of the local administrators are military people”.
Ransom argued that in the end, however, it was the foreign investment clause of the New Order’s five-year plan that served as “the pay-off of Ford's 20-year-long strategy in Indonesia and the pot of gold that the Ford modernizers - both American and Indonesian - are paid to protect”. This strategy would allow America a free hand in Indonesia’s vast mineral resources, such as copper (given to Freeport Minerals Company), nickel (International Nickel), and bauxite (Alcoa). The huge tropical forests of Sumatra, West Irian and Borneo, today still being ransacked and chopped down at a rapid pace, were divvied up among Weyerhaeuser, International Paper, Boise Cascade, and Japanese, Korean, and Filipino lumber companies. The deforestation of the great Indonesian forests can be blamed squarely on the Berkeley Mafia’s machinations. A European-American consortium of mining giants headed by U.S. Steel, began to mine nickel; Anglo-American and Australian-American partnerships began to mine tin.
The population of Indonesia would be accumulated as well. “Indonesia today," boasted a California electronics manufacturer operating assembly lines in Jakarta, "has the world's largest untapped pool of capable assembly labor at a modest cost”, just ten cents a day.
Oil exploration became the “real prize” of the Berkeley Mafia’s triumph. In one week in 1969, 23 companies, 19 of them American, bid for the right to explore and bring to market the oil beneath the Java Sea and Indonesia's other coastal waters. Ransom notes that companies with contracts signed have watched their stocks soar in “speculative orgies”. Ford, acting as an “over-attentive mother”, helped facilitate the rape of Indonesia’s resources, sponsoring a project at the UC Berkeley law school to "develop human resources for the handling of negotiations with foreign investors in Indonesia."
But the horrors of the Berkeley Mafia were not done as the dust settled from their genocidal rise to power. As Naomi Klein notes in her book “The Shock Doctrine”, “the Indonesian experience attracted close attention from the individuals and institutions plotting the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Washington and Santiago”. Klein asserts that the rise of the Chicago Boys in Chile in 1973 was directly inspired by the Berkeley Mafia. One of our characters from Act 1, Arnold Harberger, would join Suharto and the Mafia as an advisor. The Berkeley Mafia had been instrumental in helping deliver Indonesia to America, what Richard Nixon described as "the greatest prize in the Southeast Asian area”.
By 1992, the Los Angeles Times would celebrate the Berkeley Mafia in a column written by staff writer Karl Schoenberger, who would serve as a Teaching Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, and as a Visiting Scholar at UC’s Human Rights Center. He is also the author of the book Levi’s Children: Coming to Terms with Human Rights in the Global Marketplace. His evident concern for “human rights” did not prevent him from lavishing praise on the Berkeley Mafia; he wrote in 1992 that “Indonesia is a success story in Third World development, having triumphed over a stagnant, Soviet-style command economy… how it got on track to capitalism is a little-known Cold War tale, one in which the ‘Berkeley Mafia’ played an inestimable role”. Schoenberger lauded Sumitro for having “prevailed over adversity to transmit the dismal science to a handful of bright young men at the University of Indonesia”. Schoenberger also complemented the Mafia for having “reshaped the thinking of a rigid military, inculcated with the tenets of socialism and anti-imperialism during the struggle for independence”. According to the LA Times, the Berkeley Mafia should be praised for having “reopened the door to foreign investment [and] giving back assets that had been seized and nationalized”. And Schoenberger criticizes Ransom for the “aspersions [that] were cast on the Berkeley Mafia—and on the Ford Foundation and the UC administration for creating them”, dismissing his allegations “that the scheme to train an eco-nomics faculty for the University of Indonesia was part of a Central Intelligence Agency plot to groom sleeper agents who would eventually promote pro-American, anti-communist Cold War interests”. Joining him in his dismissal was none other than Salim, who retorted "I don't buy this conspiracy theory—we weren't that naive to be used”.
5 years later, Indonesia’s economy collapsed due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. A pro-democracy movement forced Suharto out of power, and many Indonesians blamed the Berkeley Mafia for their suffering. Most of the Mafia lost significant political influence in the nation. But Widjojo would stay as an influential economic advisor to three post-Suharto presidents, and Salim served as the leader of the Presidential Advisory Council from 2004-14.
When it was all over, Suharto had embezzled $35 billion. Today, the four richest men in Indonesia have more wealth than the combined total of the poorest 100 million people.
None of this has stopped the Ford Foundation from gloating. In a 2003 dossier celebrating 50 years of “partnership” in Indonesia, they commented gleefully that “following an agreement between the Faculty of Economics at the University of Indonesia (FEUI) and UC Berkeley, American professors began to arrive. FEUI responded by sending its best and brightest to schools such as Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, New York University, and Cornell. So began Indonesia’s economic development.” If Ford and these institutions want to take the credit for Indonesia’s “development”, they can have it, and with it the complicity that goes with the mass murders of upwards of a million people and the devastation of Indonesia that has occurred at imperialist hands. It is no conspiracy theory; it is simply the result of imperial pedagogy.
By Joseph Mullen