Imperialist intervention, the UN and socialists

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Tue Nov 23 13:21:43 MST 1999

Excellent post Norm.

    I think your Namibian example is especially on-point and useful in
pointing out to people that there ain't no such "principle" as not calling
on the imperialists to use force to enforce concessions they have promised.

    BTW, I've been curious for a while. Why do post as "Green Left
Parramatta"? I know Green Left is the DSP's paper, but what/who is
Parramatta & why that account name?

Best regards,


-----Original Message-----
From: Green Left Parramatta <glparramatta at>
To: marxism at <marxism at>
Cc: marxist-activist at <marxist-activist at>
Date: Tuesday, November 23, 1999 7:12 AM
Subject: Imperialist intervention, the UN and socialists

>Imperialism intervention and socialists
>Despite the undoubted dominance of the US, the UN continues
>to be an arena of struggle between contending international
>interests, principally Western imperialism on the one hand and
>the Third World on the other. This is especially so at the level
>of the General Assembly, but on a few occasions it is also
>reflected at the Security Council.
>At certain points, the pressure of mass struggle in the Third
>World combined with mass popular opinion in the West has forced
>US imperialism to retreat. Just as the UN is used by imperialism
>when it launches it offensives, that body has often been the
>mechanism Washington's uses to disguise its back-downs or to
>allow its Third World proxies to save face.
>A very similar situation to that of East Timor took place in
>Namibia a decade ago. Weakened by the successes of the
>anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and the decisive defeat
>of the South African army's invasion of neighbouring Angola by
>the combined forces of Cuban internationalist volunteers, the
>Angolan army and the guerillas of the South West African Peoples
>Organisation (SWAPO), the US-imperialist backed apartheid regime
>in South Africa was forced to agree to allow Namibia's
>independence. In the US and Europe, a mass anti-apartheid
>movement was at its peak.
>In July 1988, representatives of Angola, Cuba and SWAPO on one
>side and South Africa on the other agreed that South Africa would
>reduce its troops in Namibia to 1500 prior to an UN-monitored
>constituent assembly election in November 1989, leading to
>independent Namibian state in March 1990. In return,
>revolutionary Cuba agreed to withdraw its volunteers from Angola.
>In August 1988, the UN Security Council approved a resolution
>authorising an armed UN force of 4650 troops from Australia,
>Denmark, Finland, Malaysia and Britain to supervise elections for
>the constituent assembly which would draft independent Namibia's
>The UN Transitional Assistance Group (UNTAG), established under
>UN Security Council resolution 435, was originally to have been
>7500-strong. Washington argued that it be slashed to 3000.
>Following objections from the Non-Aligned movement, the African
>frontline states, SWAPO and others, the compromise strength of
>4650 was agreed on.
>The anti-apartheid movement and revolutionary socialists did not
>denounce the UN force as a ``betrayal'' nor did they declare that
>forcing imperialism to retreat and allow Namibia's formal
>independence was not an advance. Socialists did not call for the
>UN forces' withdrawal. Socialists did not argue that the
>deployment of a UN force in these circumstances ``sowed''
>illusions in imperialism's or the UN's ``humanitarianism''.
>Such a position would have played into the hands of apartheid
>South Africa and US imperialism. Imperialism's goal was for SWAPO
>to be as politically weak as possible in an independent Namibia.
>Socialists opposed US efforts to reduce the UN force and exposed
>every instance of UN inaction in the face of Pretoria's attempts
>to use violence and dirty tricks to sabotage SWAPO's attempts to
>win a two-thirds' majority in the constituent assembly.
>Socialists condemned Pretoria's manoeuvre of integrating 3000
>members of the dreaded *Koevoet,* a death-squad
>``counterinsurgency'' unit, into the police force, which was
>charged under resolution 435 with responsibility for maintaining
>law and order.
>Socialists condemned UNTAG's slowness in deploying troops and its
>failure to confront  --  i.e. they demanded that the UN use
>force against  --  South African troops and police who killed
>hundreds of SWAPO fighters and supporters in the first weeks of
>the transition process.
>International pressure by the anti-apartheid movement  --
>especially in the US where outrage at the slackness of UNTAG was
>fuelled by press coverage of massacres  --  forced the US to
>apply pressure to the South African-appointed administrator of
>Namibia and in August 1989 Koevoet were confined to barracks for
>the duration of the election campaign.
>SWAPO won an overwhelming victory in Namibia's November 7-11,
>1989 constituent assembly elections. The remaining South African
>occupation forces withdrew a week later, and the UN troops left
>in April 1990. The creation of an independent Namibia, despite
>all the obstacles thrown in its path by the apartheid regime and
>Washington, was a massive defeat for Pretoria and an inspiration
>to the people in South Africa still struggling against apartheid.
>South Africa and Israel
>Similarly, it was the combination of the anti-apartheid struggle
>inside South Africa and the mass solidarity movement throughout
>the world in the 1980s, that forced the UN Security Council to
>impose a range of arms and economic sanctions against Pretoria.
>The impact of those sanctions speeded the demise of apartheid.
>Socialists did not respond by denouncing these concessions by
>imperialism. They campaigned for them to be *enforced* as major
>imperialist powers flouted them or turned a blind eye to
>widespread <169>sanctions busting<170> scams.
>As of 1998, Israel was defying as many as 69 resolutions passed
>by the UN Security Council resolutions. At least, 29 others had
>been vetoed by the US. The fact that 69 resolutions were allowed
>to pass by Washington was a concession to the anti-imperialist
>sentiment in the Arab world and public opinion in the West.
>Socialists did not simply ignore these resolutions' existence but
>highlighted the hypocrisy of the failure of the UN to *enforce*
>them, in stark contrast to its actions in relation to Iraq, Libya
>and Iran.
>While not a perfect analogy, revolutionary socialists' attitude
>toward the UN can be likened to that toward bourgeois
>parliaments. Like parliament, which is thoroughly bourgeois, the
>UN is thoroughly imperialist. Should socialists then boycott it,
>declare it ``politically obsolete''.
>This is not the position taken by revolutionary Cuba. Cuba
>participates actively in the General Assembly to propagandise in
>of socialism, to defend the Cuban revolution by mobilising
>opposition to the US blockade of the island, and to argue in
>favour of action that helps the oppressed and working majority of
>the world. Cuba does not call for the UN's abolition but for it
>to be transformed by the abolition of the veto power of the five
>permanent members and for its democratisation so that the Third
>World majority can rightfully control it.
>Cuba's participation  --  which inevitably requires it to call
>on the UN Security Council to *act* in the interests of oppressed
> --  exposes imperialism's hypocrisy and inaction. It also
>allows Cuba to exploit differences between it enemies and play
>them off against one another.
>On November 9, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed a
>resolution for the eighth successive year, and by a record 155-2
>majority (12 abstentions), calling for an end to the 40-year US
>economic blockade. Only Israel voted with the US.
>``Washington's friends and allies  --  as well as its usual
>adversaries  --  [such as Japan, Canada, Norway, Australia, and
>Finland on behalf of the 15-nation European Union] supported the
>resolution, mainly because they consider their own sovereignty is
>infringed by the `extra-territorial' effects of the embargo in
>punishing non-US companies that trade with Cuba'', reported
>In situations where imperialism is forced to *retreat* in the face
>of struggle, Cuba's participation help's maximise the gains won
>by the oppressed  --  as its role in Namibia's independence
>Cuba has no qualms about participating in the UN Security
>Council. At the time of the Gulf War, the only members of the
>Security Council to vote against the resolution that authorised
>the attack on Iraq were Cuba and Yemen.
>Such an approach gives Cuba another avenue to exploit differences
>between our enemies. The fact that the 1998 US-British bombing
>campaign against Iraq was not undertaken with the UN approval
>because of dissent among the leading Security Council members --
>notably France and Russia --  and that war against Yugoslavia was carried
>under the auspices of NATO, rather than the UN, indicates that
>even at the Security Council level, the US does not hold
>unbridled sway. The ability of Cuba to tactically influence
>decisions at that level can at least hamper imperialism's
>Norm Dixon


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