Nationalist Party of Indonesia

Nationalist Party of Indonesia
Nationalist Party of Indonesia

The Perserikatan Nasional Indonesia (PNI, Indonesian Nationalist Union), an important colonial-period party, was established on July 4, 1927, by Achmad Sukarno and Djipto Kusumey.

The members of the Indonesian Union, after coming home from the Netherlands, were not satisfied with political progress in their country. Political activity in Indonesia remained at a minimum after the failure of the communist movement that had been organized by the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI, Indonesian Communist Party).

The students involved in the movement were joined by Sukarno, who had graduated from the technical college at Bandung. Among these students, Sukarno came into contact with members of the Algemene Studies Club (General Study Club).


The PNI was formed with an agenda of noncooperation with the Dutch colonial government, mass mobilization, and complete freedom for Indonesia. The red and white flag, the national anthem Indonesia Raya (Greater Indonesia), and bahasa Indonesia (the Indonesian language) became the symbols of Indonesian nationalism. The organization changed its name from Perserikatan Nasional Indonesia to Partai Nasional Indonesia (Nationalist Party of Indonesia) in May 1928.

The PNI fought aggressively for Indonesian nationalism, and within two years its membership swelled to 10,000. Sukarno proved to be an excellent orator, and in his position as chairman of the PNI, he pushed a popular agenda that combined elements of nationalism, Marxism, and Islam.

As the symbol of the movement, he chose the marhaen, or farmer, who he believed bore the brunt of colonial oppression. He visualized a society free from the control of foreign capital with emphasis on gatong rajong (group spirit). The Dutch government realized the growing strength of the PNI, warning members in August 1929 to cease their activities.

Sukarno proved to be an excellent orator
Sukarno proved to be an excellent orator

Sukarno and other leaders were arrested in December 1929 and charged with jeopardizing public order; Sukarno was given a sentence of four years in prison. The party was also declared illegal. Sukarno's sentence was commuted after two years, and he was released, then rearrested on similar charges. The PNI was dissolved in April 1931.

After the demise of the PNI, small political organizations began to flourish throughtout Indonesia. These groups were met by the reactionary policy of Dutch governor general De Jonge (1931–36), who arrested and exiled Indonesian political leaders.

The Minangkabau Sutan Sjahrir (1909–66) and Muhammad Hatta (1902–80), who had come back after finishing his education in the Netherlands, joined a splinter group of the PNI named Pendidikan Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Education Club).

After his release Sukarno amalgamated the splinter groups into a mass organization known as Partindo (Indonesian Party). The purpose of this new group was to fight for complete independence for Indonesia. It, too, became leaderless after Sukarno's exile to Flores in 1933. Hatta and Sjahrir also were arrested and sent to Boven Digul.

After the independence of Indonesia, the PNI continued as a political party. It was one of the major parties in the 1955 elections aligning with the PKI. The PNI was merged into the Partai Demokrasi Indonesia (PDI, Indonesian Democratic Party) in 1973 under General Suharto (1967–98).