"I do not admire the practices of Western democracies, but I do hope that the spirit of democracy will win in the end." Mohammad Hatta, leader of the Indonesian nationalists and first vice president of the independent republic of Indonesia, stated this in a letter commenting the outbreak of the Second World War (September 1939).
Mohammad Hatta (1902-1980) was both a devout Muslim and a modern western-educated politician and economist. He moved in traditionalist and modernist Islamic circles and took part in Dutch politics and culture. During a lengthy period of detainment in the thirties he wrote various theoretical essays on politics and economy, and at the same time he taught the children of his fellow inmates about Dutch children's literature.
At the same time he studied Marx' Das Kapital and read The New Statesman and Nation. According to his political friend and roommate Sutan Shahrir, Hatta's Dutch identity had much deeper roots than Hatta himself would admit. 'In spite of his critical remarks about Dutch colonial politics, Hatta nourished Dutch feelings. In his judgement of the Dutch colonial administration, Hatta was much like a Dutchman of leftist principles who criticized his own government.'
The letters which Hatta wrote to his old political friend Johannes Post corroborate this view. Their content and style of writing reveal how essentially Dutch Hatta was: his hypercorrect, tactful formulations are typical of the Indonesian student in the Dutch educational system who has learned to accommodate and do his best, for the sake of decency.
Read more about Hatta.