Macdonald S on the DSP

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Mon Nov 22 22:38:12 MST 1999

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

This idea of walling off imperialist "intervention" abroad for special
handling won't do. War is the continuation of policy by other means. In each
and every case, it is necessary to examine just WHAT policy is being

This was Lenin's central accusation against the social chauvinists, who
opposed "their own" governments until the bullets started to fly and then
folded, with the argument that war is different. Or as Marx pointed out to
the general council of the International upon the outbreak of the
Franco-German war in 1870, the council could not take up "war in general"
but only the "specific case."

Imperialism being what it is, in  99.9% of the cases this is a no-brainer.
The case of East Timor, however, was the other 0.1%. In that case the policy
of the imperialist countries was to formally recognize the right of the
Timorese to control their OWN destiny; it was a policy of RETREAT from their
previous policy of direct subjugation of the people of East Timor through
their surrogates in Jakarta. Moreover, the replacement of the Indonesian
occupying force by a U.N. force was inherent in the very idea of a
referendum under U.N. auspices. Politically, the rubicon of accepting
imperialist intervention in UN drag was crossed with the acceptance of the
referendum. If calling on the UN to send troops to displace the Indonesian
butchers was an impermissible violation of principle, so was the acceptance
of the UN referendum. For what difference does it make whether the UN
intervenors on the ground at a particular moment carry weapons or not?
Behind the action of every state, and socalled multinational (in reality
imperialist alliance) organizations, stands the bourgeoisies'  "bodies of
armed men." An unarmed London cop of yore was no less an expression  of this
than an American police SWAT team operating from armored personnel carriers
with M-16s.



-----Original Message-----
From: Philip L Ferguson <PLF13 at>
To: marxism at <marxism at>
Date: Monday, November 22, 1999 11:01 PM
Subject: Re: Macdonald S on the DSP

>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
>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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