Budi Utomo
Budi Utomo founded on May 20, 1908, was the first native political society
Political movement
A political movement is a social movement in the area of politics. A political movement may be organized around a single issue or set of issues, or around a set of shared concerns of a social group...

 in the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

. Today, the year 1908 is commemorated as the birth year of its "nationalist awakening
Indonesian National Awakening
The Indonesian National Awakening is a term for the period in the first half of the twentieth century, during which people from many parts of the archipelago first began to develop a national consciousness as "Indonesians"....

." In 2008, the Indonesian government marked a centennial celebration of the modern birth of nationalist aspirations.

The founder of Budi Utomo was a pensioned government doctor who felt that native intellectuals should improve the masses in education and culture. The society held its first congress in May 1908. The congress was a gathering of students in Batavia
Jakarta is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Officially known as the Special Capital Territory of Jakarta, it is located on the northwest coast of Java, has an area of , and a population of 9,580,000. Jakarta is the country's economic, cultural and political centre...

. The first leader was Dr. Wahidin Soedirohoesodo, but by the organization's first major gathering in Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta (city)
Yogyakarta is a city in the Yogyakarta Special Region, Indonesia. It is renowned as a centre of classical Javanese fine art and culture such as batik, ballet, drama, music, poetry, and puppet shows. Yogyakarta was the Indonesian capital during the Indonesian National Revolution from 1945 to...

 in October 1908, he stepped aside for younger organizers.

The membership was a very high class of natives, government officials and intellectuals, confined very largely in Java and the Javanese. The furtherance of popular education became the main activity. Few branches expanded the activity into native commerce and industry. Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo
Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo
Dr. Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo or Cipto Mangunkusumo was a prominent Indonesian independence leader and Sukarno's political mentor...

, who would later found the more radical Indische Party
Indische Party
The Indische Party or Indies Party was a short lived but influential political organisation founded in 1912 by the Indo-European journalist E.F.E. Douwes Dekker and the Javanese physicians Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo and Soewardi Soerjaningrat...

, expanded the scope of the society to include more working classes, and also the rest of the Indïes outside of Java. The organization enjoyed a rapid growth; in 1910 the society had 10,000 members enrolled in 40 branches. At the same time, it received official recognition form the colonial government.

Budi Utomo's primary aim was first not political. However, it gradually shifted toward political aims with representatives in the conservative Volksraad (the People's Council) and in the provincial councils in Java. Budi Utomo officially dissolved in 1935, but it has marked the first nationalist movement in the early twentieth century. After dissolution, some of the members joined the largest political party its time, the moderate Greater Indonesian Party (Parindra). In keeping with the outlook of Budi Utomo, former members—whether in the Volksraad
Volksraad (Dutch East Indies)
A People's Council for the Dutch East Indies was provided for by law in 1916. But was procrastinated until the actual installation of the Council in 1918. It was a hesitant and slow attempt at democratisation of the Dutch East Indies. The power of the Volksraad was limited as it only had advisory...

 or Parindra—insisted on the Indonesian language for all public statements.

The use of Budi Utomo to mark the inception of modern nationalism in Indonesia is not without controversy. Although many scholars agree that Budi Utomo was likely the first modern indigenous political organization, others question its value as an index of Indonesian nationality. For example, in his novels Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Pramoedya Ananta Toer was an Indonesian author of novels, short stories, essays, polemic and histories of his homeland and its people...

, pointed to the exclusively aristocratic and male composition of Budi Utomo. Ariel Heryanto questions the nationalism of Budi Utomo, given that its existence was permitted by the Dutch regime: "Because of [Budi Utomo's] remarkably conservative character, the Dutch colonial administration tolerated [it]." Heryanto points to a "more populist and egalitarian" Muslim association (Sarekat Dagang Islamiyah
Sarekat Islam
Sarekat Islam, formerly Sarekat Dagang Islam, was a Javanese batik traders's cooperative in Indonesia.Sarekat Dagang Islam was founded by Haji Samanhudi, a businessman in Surakarta, in 1905 or 1912. His business was trading in batik, the traditional cloth made in Java...

), born a few years prior, as a more genuinely nationalist organization: one which was banned by the Dutch. In enshining Budi Utomo as the first nationalist organization, the current government reiterates the colonial version of history.

External links

  • Peter Lowensteyn, "Indonesia Between 1908 and 1928: New Nationalism" http://www.lowensteyn.com/indonesia/nationalist.html
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