Macdonald S on the DSP

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at
Mon Nov 22 20:52:21 MST 1999

Paul Benedek writes:

>Macdonald implies that Marxists should rigidly oppose every imperialist
>act >because they are imperialists.

Mac noted that the starting point for Marxists in approaching imperilaist
*intdervention* in other countries is as above.  This is Marxist ABC, which
the DSP would have itself agreed with five years ago.

What we see here is that recent DSP positions - in relation to Yugoslavia
and Timor - appear to have a logic of their own.  In order to defend these
bad positions, DSPers are having to throw cold water over core aspects of

At some point the DSP is going to have to change the positions it adopted
on these questions, and own up to making some serious mistakes, or else end
up undermining the party's own attachment to Marxism.  I hope the former is
what happens.

>Such dogmatism would support calls like:
>Abolish social security!, Down with Public Health!, Smash the World Health
>Wow indeed.

This is just plain silly.  The existence of social security is not
analogous to imperialist intervention in the Third World.

It is in the interests of workers in the imperialist countries that they
have access to funds for survival when sick, out of work, in need of
hospital operations etc.  it is not in the interests of workers in the
imperialist countries to go along with their ruling class in foreign
military adventures.

>Sound a little crazy? Perhaps a tad like the infantile disorder of

Paul, you should think hard about what you are saying here.
Anti-imperialism, which is what Mac is advocating, is now being denounced
by you as 'ultraleftism'.  This is a slippery slope.

>Yet it flows directly from the position that Macdonald implies - that is,
>that >Marxists don't analyse the specific conditions and the forces behind
>the >positions imperialists take (and indeed that some may be defensive
>measure, >concessions to the working class); REAL Marxists just condemn
>imperialism - >OUTRIGHT, right?

When imperialists invade another country, it is *not* a 'concession' to the
working class!

Finding progressive aspects to imperialist interventions in the Third World
is one of the characteristics of the Second International in the period
leading up to WW1.  You want to be very wary of getting into this line of

>Yet, luckily, we (and many others) didn't take Macdonald's view - we used
>the >situation, and the contradictions it exposed in the Australian
>Government and >the UN (ie nominally supporting East Timor
>self-determination, then refusing to >implement the results) to demand
>that the imperialist forces heed the calls of >the East Timorese, and go
>to their assistance. This has seen the removal of all >Indonesian troops,
>the formal Indonesian relinquishing of East Timor, and the >
>transition toward independence.

This is a bold claim to make.  I would think it is more accurate to say
that we are seeing the ttransition of East Timor from an Indonesian
province into a UN/imperialist neo-colony.  I don't call that progress.
This basically amounts to you arguing that domination by imperialism is
superior to domination by a Third World country.  This is pro-imperialist
prejudice, not Marxist politics.

>If every imperialist act is always bad, then the working class is
>powerless to >push imperialism for concessions. Thus Macdonald's ultraleft
>position show's its >real flipside - the conservative liberalism that
>denies the working class' power >in effecting, and at times turning back,
>the onslaught of imperialist >capitalism.

This is fantasy world stuff.  Imperialist intervention in the Third World,
including the Australian Army going into East Timor, is not a concession to
the working class of Australia.  It is the Australian ruling class
following its interests in SE ASia and the Pacific.  The Australian ruling
class *wants* to play a larger role in the area.  You and the DSP were/are
pushing at an open door.

And how supporting - indeed, demanding - imperialist intervention equates
with 'turning back the onslaught of imperialist capitalism' lord only knows.

The people who are trying to turn back the onslaught are people like Mac
and Gary McL (and me), who have consistently opposed this kind of
intervention and pointed to its real political significance.

It is certainly disappointing for us to see these DSP positions becoming
more entrenched in the party rather than more critically appraised.

When the dust settles in Kosovo and East Timor, and when the Australian
ruling class uses the public support it has built up over Timor for further
foreign interventions, I hope the DSP will re-reflect on these positions.

Philip Ferguson

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