'It was not the weakness of the nationalists but the strengths of the colonial rulers that led to the failure of the nationalist movements in SEA before WWII.' How far is this true?

Essay by royallittleprincessA-, October 2009

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On the eve of World War II, despite much effort, the nationalist movements were unable to make any headway and failed. The failure of the nationalist movements can be attributed to various factors. Nationalist organizations were saddled by disunity and the failure to win mass support. On top of the weakness of the nationalists, external factors including the complex demographic makeup hindered the nationalist in achieving success. Most crucially, the colonial rulers proved to be a force too formidable to deal with- their employment of tools of repression and ability to co-opt sections of the native populations eventually caused the nationalist movements to fail.

The oppression of the colonial rulers prevented the nationalist movements from making any headway. To begin with, most of the colonial rulers did not have the intension of sharing powers with their nationalists. The French were being described as "offered no more than example; they offered no power-sharing, and they had no concept of a commonwealth...

The nationalist movement was formed very much in antagonism to them." The colonial powers were willing to crush any opposition as long as they deemed it to be a threat to their authority. The oppression limited the space for the nationalist to grow legally in terms of nationwide associations and movements. In Vietnam, through the series of uprisings planned by the VNQDD in 1930, mutinies at Yen Bay and elsewhere were suppressed. Forty- three bombs were dropped on a village named Co Am. Twenty- two death sentences were carried out and thirteen of the parties' leaders were later guillotined. Another such example of colonial oppression is evident in Indonesia whereby the Dutch clammed down on the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) during the Banten uprisings. The Dutch arrested 13 000 followers of PKI. An ambitious long- term plan of training a...