History Australia | 2019

Heather Goodall on viewing the Indonesian Revolution from the ships and the streets



In this ground-breaking book, historian Heather Goodall discusses Indonesia’s struggle for independence from 1945 to 1949 and its connection with two countries, India and Australia. She focuses, in particular, on two important events, the Boycott of Dutch ships in Australia and the Battle of Surabaya in East Java. On 17 August 1945, taking into account the vacuum left by Japanese surrender, Indonesian nationalist leaders Sukarno and Hatta declared independence. But Indonesians were forced to fight a four-year-long war of independence against the Dutch. The Boycott began in 1945 when seamen and wharf workers refused to load and sail Dutch ships to Indonesia where supplies could be used for Dutch military operations against newly independent Indonesia. Goodall’s most important contribution to a reassessment of the Boycott is in resurfacing the now forgotten role of Indian seamen who crewed the Dutch ships in question. Without them, the Boycott would not have been effective. Hundreds of these men were involved in the boycotts, resulting in being blacklisted and losing the right to work on international shipping lines. The Boycott has been most commonly understood as a phenomenon crafted and led by Australian unionists; this is the cornerstone of narratives of trade union international solidarity. In the conventional narrative, Indonesians are portrayed as grateful recipients of solidarity and Indians as strike-breakers brought in by the Dutch. Goodall explodes these myths. Her account also encouraged this reviewer to rewatch the film Indonesia Calling! directed by radical Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens, after reading about the circumstances of the making of the film. The second event analysed, the Battle of Surabaya, broke out when the British-led South East Asia Command clashed with Indonesian Republican forces in the East Javanese city of Surabaya in October 1945 following British attempts to return control of the city to the Dutch. The British deployed Indian soldiers in its campaign to retake Surabaya, at a time when Indian nationalism was on the rise and soldiers questioned why they should put their lives on the line to prop up British and Dutch imperial interests in Asia. Goodall traces how both events were represented over time in Indian and Australian press reporting, in line with increased demands for independence in India and rising

Volume 16
Pages 768 - 770
DOI 10.1080/14490854.2019.1670077
Language English
Journal History Australia

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