Sarekat Islam

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sarekat Islam


(Islamic Union), one of the first mass political organizations in Indonesia.

Sarekat Islam was formed in 1912 as a result of the reorganization of Sarekat Dagang Islam (Union of Islamic Merchants), an organization that reflected the interests of the nascent Indonesian commercial and industrial bourgeoisie in the struggle against foreign (mainly Dutch) capital. In colonial Indonesia, Sarekat Islam’s slogan calling for the unification of all Muslims, who constituted the overwhelming majority of the population, was perceived as a call for the unification of the entire Indonesian people in the struggle against imperialism. In 1913, in his article “The Awakening of Asia,” Lenin observed that the revolutionary-democratic movement had spread to Indonesia as well, especially to the masses of the native population, among whom a nationalist movement had arisen under the banner of Islam (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 23, p. 145).

During World War I and especially after the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, Sarekat Islam grew into a genuinely mass organization of revolutionary-democratic character. In 1919 it had 2.5 million members. In this period it inspired the struggle against Dutch rule, uniting the national bourgeoisie, the working class, the peasantry, and the urban petite bourgeoisie into a single anti-imperialist bloc.

Because of the right wing’s desire to ensure bourgeois control over the organization—as a counterweight to the growing influence of the Communists, who had also joined Sarekat Islam—the organization split in 1923. The Communist Party of Indonesia succeeded in winning over a number of sections of Sarekat Islam, those that stood for the interests of the land-poor peasants, the artisans, and the urban poor. These sections came to be known as Red Sarekat Islam, and from 1924, as Sarekat Rakjat (People’s Union). That part of Sarekat Islam still under the control of bourgeois and Islamic leaders established a bourgeois party, the Partai Sarekat Islam (Islamic Union Party), which from 1929 has been known as the Islamic Union of Indonesia. The latter party has little influence among the masses; in 1961 it had 200,000 members.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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