Imperialist intervention, the UN and socialists

Jose G. Perez jgperez at SPAMfreepcmail.com
Tue Nov 23 14:52:17 MST 1999



>>This is a very poor analogy. The proper analogy would be with Haiti, when
US troops "rescued" the Haitian people from pro-Duvalier gangsters. This
move was applauded by Black Congressional Democrats, but opposed vehemently
by the Haitian Marxist left. In retrospect, the Haitian left was correct
since US military and police presence in Haiti has only served to shore up
the economic underpinnings of Duvalierism, while giving it a democratic
facade.<<

Louis,

    Your Haiti analogy falls flat on its face. The key issue in Namibia as
in East Timor is the end of foreign occupation. The role of the UN force is
precisely to displace the foreign occupation force and serve as
international guarantors that they will not return.

    Moreover, to the best of my knowledge the East Timorese independence
movement was unanimous both in accepting the UN-sponsored referendum as a
concession from Jakarta and in calling for a UN force to replace the
Indonesian occupation forces. Another point where your Haiti analogy breaks
down.

    Your argument about the important thing being that the "economic
underpinnings" of Haiti's current situation remained intact, if applied to
East Timor, can only lead Marxists in the direction of saying that the
independence of East Timor is a fake and a fraud and should be exposed as
such by the revolutionary movement.

    And of course such a position can't be restricted to E. Timor. I think
your position on that issue is moving you in the direction of conditioning
support to independence struggles (and national struggles of semi colonial
countries) to these becoming explicitly socialist in character.

    As for your argument that the difference between Namibia and East Timor
is that in Namibia the revolutionary forces had won a series of military
victories that had changed the relationship of forces, the same fundamental
thing happened vis a vis Indonesia and East Timor.

    The crumbling of the old regime WEAKENED Indonesia. That political
crisis was due to no small extent to the inability of the regime to wipe out
the Timorese resistance and the concomitant cost of the war. The FORM of it
was not military victories in the traditional sense for the revolutionaries
on the ground. But the essence of it was the military defeat of the
Indonesian occupation, for the strategic goal of the military campaign was
to suppress the resistance, and this they were unable to do.

    There is nothing unusual in this situation, i.e., of losing the battles
but, by wearing down the enemy, winning a strategic victory. That's what
happened in Vietnam. Speaking in conventional military terms, you could say
that the U.S. won every major battle during the Vietnam War (and countless
minor ones). In terms of casualties, the seizing and holding of territory,
etc., the U.S. constantly won. Which did not prevent Washington from losing
the war, which it did clearly, unambiguously and resoundingly. The
Vietnamese won the war by breaking the U.S. regime's political will to keep
fighting, by making the cost of an ultimate American victory unacceptably
high.

    People like us, you and me, who actively worked to ensure that outcome
should not forget its lessons. Paramount above all is that war is the
continuation of politics, of policy by other means. It is essentially a
political struggle, and in that sense no different from any other struggle.
There are no special "rules" or "principles" that apply to what the
imperialists do in a military way that are different from those that apply
to other political struggles.

    The same thing happened in Nicaragua. The contras could not stand up to
the Sandinistas as a military force. But through them and other aggressions,
the U.S. succeeded in doing so much damage that the revolution could not
survive. The U.S. "lost" the contra war on the ground, but strategically and
politically, it won.

    The East Timorese  strategic military line had been for close to two
decades to wage a war of POLITICAL attrition. This strategy finally bore
fruit with the deep-going political crisis in Indonesian ruling circles. The
result was EXACTLY what you describe in Namibia.

>This convinced
>imperialism and its allies that a different tack was necessary.
>Accommodation to political change became the rule, while new efforts were
>instituted to preserve the economic status quo.

Exactly. However, in the sentences following this, you call into question
even whether the Namibian victory was meaningful:

>What the DSP analysis, of
>course, leaves out is the question of whether Namibia was truly liberated.
>As Lenin made clear, the only way forward for oppressed nationalities is
>socialist revolution.

You could say the same thing about the struggle of the workers at a factory
to form a union, or to win better wages. As not only Lenin but also Marx,
Engels Lenin, Trotsky, Che and Fidel "made clear, the only way forward for
the proletariat is socialist revolution." To which Marx would have replied,
Yes, but every step forward of the real movement is worth a hundred paper
programs.

The achievement of formal independence is a step forward both in East Timor
and Namibia. It represents a weakening of imperialist control over these
countries, and a weakening of imperialism in general. It creates better
conditions for the toilers of those countries to continue their struggles.

In addition, in this case, under the impact of the victory of the
independence movement in the referendum, the crisis of the Indonesian neo
colonial regime has deepened. The president was thrown into the dustbin of
history, and the new president has seen himself forced to offer a referendum
to another rebellious people. Moreover, the ruling class has been forced to
fill the vice-presidential slot with a figure identified with popular
aspirations and mobilizations for democracy and economic progress. Obviously
the naming of such a figure to that post was a sop thrown to the masses,
hoping to pacify them and draw them into the dead-end trap of bourgeois
politics. But the hopes the bourgeoisie pins on such maneuvers sometimes
prove quite unjustified. Just look at how the thing with Kerensky wound up,
which is why they so infrequently reach out to politicians identified with
popular mobilizations, no matter how reliable that person may be as an
individual.

Would it have been better if the Freitilin had been able to force the
withdrawal of the occupation army directly? Of course. But remember, in the
case of Vietnam, in order to achieve the U.S. withdrawal the NLF accepted
the continuing existence of a puppet regime armed to the teeth by the
Americans and in control of most of the territory including all major
population centers. What the Vietnamese achieved in Paris was simply better
conditions in which to continue the struggle. And within two and a half
years, final victory was theirs.

At the time, you might recall, the SWP was quite critical of the accords.
The Vietnamese presented them as a victory, we insisted on highlighting the
concessions and in criticizing the NLF for not taking the stance that Lenin
took on the peace of Brest-Litovsk. Other Trots were even more sectarian,
denouncing the NLF "betrayal." One of the nice things about politics if that
in the case of many disputes, you can look back and make a judgment about
who was right and who was wrong. I think history has settled definitively
the issue of whether the Paris accords represented a defeat for the NLF,
whether they were in fact another Brest Litovsk, and whether what the
Vietnamese Communist Party leadership was about was betraying the struggle
in the South for the sake of "peaceful coexistence" with imperialism. To
steal a phrase, history has absolved them.

The UN force in East Timor, or the UN force in Namibia, undoubtedly
represent not only a concession by the imperialists, but, in a sense, by the
independence movement. In principle this is no different than when workers
in the U.S. decide to accept a contract and return to work. Many workers
might think they got what they wanted, the fighting is over. We know it is
just a truce after a skirmish, the war continues, and the big battles --the
political ones-- have not yet been joined. But we also understand that it is
only in the course of such struggles that working people can come to
political and eventually revolutionary socialist conclusions. The SAME is
true in Namibia and East Timor. The battle for independence is not yet an
open battle for workers' power. But the ONLY road to the socialist
revolution is through these struggles.

Fraternally,

José


-----Original Message-----
From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
To: marxism at lists.panix.com <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Date: Tuesday, November 23, 1999 9:22 AM
Subject: Re: Imperialist intervention, the UN and socialists


>Norm Dixon:
>>Namibia
>>
>>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.
>
>This is a very poor analogy. The proper analogy would be with Haiti, when
>US troops "rescued" the Haitiian people from pro-Duvalier gangsters. This
>move was applauded by Black Congressional Democrats, but opposed vehemantly
>by the Haitian Marxist left. In retrospect, the Haitian left was correct
>since US military and police presence in Haiti has only served to shore up
>the economic underpinnings of Duvalierism, while giving it a democratic
>facade.
>
>In Africa there were a series of military victories that had changed the
>relationship of forces on the ground, especially the victory over Afrikaner
>and UNITA combined forces by Cubans and the Angolan army. This convinced
>imperialism and its allies that a different tack was necessary.
>Accomodation to political change became the rule, while new efforts were
>instituted to preserve the economic status quo. What the DSP analysis, of
>course, leaves out is the question of whether Namibia was truly liberated.
>As Lenin made clear, the only way forward for oppressed nationalities is
>socialist revolution. Much of the DSP's writings on Kosovo, East Timor and
>now Chechnya seem little concerned with how championing all these causes
>advances the project of socialist revolution. For that a class struggle
>anti-imperialist perspective is needed.
>
>Louis Proyect
>
>(The Marxism mailing list: http://www.panix.com/~lnp3/marxism.html)
>


---

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