DSP, Timor, Namibia, Jose

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at SPAMstudent.canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Nov 23 19:54:41 MST 1999

Jose writes to 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.

This is wrong.  The role of the 'UN force', basically the troops of
imperialist Australia and imperialist New Zealand, is to speed the
transformation of East Timor into a directly imperialist neo-colony, rather
than an indirect neo-colony mediated by a Third World country (Indonesia).

>    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

Louis' analogy of Namibia and Haiti may not have been perfect, but it was a
great deal more analogous than Norm's South Africa/Indonesia analogy, where
one country was an imperialist power and the other was/is a Third World
country, so you are dealing with two different social formations.

>    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.

Again, Louis' position seemed to me to be spot on.  My own view is that the
transformation of East Timor from Indonesian province to imperialist
neo-colony certainly means that its independence is phoney.

>    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.

This is a false leap, Jose.  If the Republican Movement in Ireland could
drive British imperialism out of that country, and create an independent
Ireland, then even if that independent Ireland was capitalist, it would
still be progress and it would still mark an important defeat for
imperilaism, especially British imperialism.  Similarly, if the
Palestinians could defeat Israel and establish a democratic, secular state,
that owuld still be progress, even if capitlaist social relations
continued.  And if the East Timorese, the Indonesian working class and the
Western left and solidarity movement had forced Indonesia out, without
imperialist intervention and take-over, then an independent East Timor
would also have been progress.

So, I don't think anyone is saying that unless an independence struggle
leads, right this very instant, to socialism then it is all a fake and a

Jose again to Louis:
>    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 problem here is that you are leaving imperialism out of the equation.
The reality is that for the past ten years the Western ruling classes have
been 'democratising' the Third World.  So if the struggle in East Timor
coincides with the imperialists reordering their relationships with Third
Wiorld countries, and installing new regimes, then you have to place events
in East Timor within this context, not outside it.  Unfortunately the DSP
and yourself want to abstract events in East Timor, and the imperialist
troop intervention there, from the wider geopolitical context.

>    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.

This is all true, but once again you treat this outside of the broader
context of imperialist policy.  You can bet your boots that Jakarta would
not have been defeated if the imperialists had've been committed in
principle to Indonesia holding onto East Timor.  The principle for the
imperilaists was not that, however.  The principle for the imperialists was
whatever allowed imperialism to call the shots most effectively.  In 1975
that was through an Indonesian invasion; in 1999 it is through reordering
Indonesian politics and boundaries and transforming East Timor into a
neo-colony of the West in a more direct sense.

One of the key problems with the DSP is that it is turning
'self-determination' into a 'thing in itself', with no consideration
whatever of the context in which any of this is taking place - ie that
imperialism is reorganising global politics, including national boundaries
and the regimes of Third World countries.
The DSP approach to self-determination is thus increasingly different from

(And I won't even go into the minefield of the way that the DSP seems to
automatically support the claims to nationhood of people like the

>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.

You are, of course, right that war is the continuation of politics by other
means.  Now apply this to the imperialist troops getting Third World
Indonesia out of East Timor and join up the dots connecting imperialist war
to imperialist politico-economic interests on the Timor issue.

>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.

Jose, this is just mind-boggling.  East Timor is occupied by thousands of
imperialist troops from Australia and NZ, the main imperialist countries in
this part of the world, and is being transformed into a direct neo-colony
of imperialism, and you are saying there is a "weakening of imperialist
control" going on.  Having East Timor under the direct heel of the West -
and with the support of much of the population and left in the West - does
not open up better conditions for the workers in any of these countries to
continue struggling.

Australian and New Zealand workers are *more tied to imperialism* through
going along with this intervention.  East Timor is *more dominated by
imperialism* than when it was ruled from Jakarta.

Thanks to getting away with interventions like that in East Timor, and the
fact that the liberal left (and even the Marxist DSP) bays for these kinds
of interventions these days, the imperialist powers can now intervene
anywhere, anytime, they like.  Never before has there been so many
imperialist interventions globally and so little opposition.  That's the
outcome which recent events in East Timor is strengthening.


More information about the Marxism mailing list