marxism-digest V1 #1539

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at
Wed Nov 24 18:19:03 MST 1999

Jose G. Perez writes:
>We OFTEN call on the bourgeoisie to take its cops and enforce laws that
>represent concessions to the proletariat, for example, enforce labor safety
>standards laws, arrest racist and right wing thugs, etc.
>Why then is it impermissible to ask the bourgeoisie's United Nations to take
>its cops to enforce "international laws" that represent concessions to the
>struggles of working people, such as the right of "non self governing
>territories"  to self-determination and independence?
>Well, because ... your insistence on this false principle has now put you in
>the camp of those who say oppressed nations do NOT have a right to
>independence, it is meaningless and so forth and so on.
>You do not see a retreat by imperialism here because you're not approaching
>this politically, but on the basis of formal categories.
>Indonesia=third world country
>Australia = imperialist country

You have missed a key part of my argument, Jose.  The 'formal categories'
are important, more important than you acknowledge, but by themselves they
are not enough for my position.  My inter-related point is that the
imperialists *wanted* to intervene.  This is what you and the DSP
persistently refuse to acknowledge.
Imperialism not only dominates/oppresses Indonesia, but the imperialists
are - and have been for a decade - reordering their relationships with
Third World countries, dispensing with old client dictatorships and
replacing them with 'democratic' regimes regimes that are even more
beholden to imperialism.  I have given plenty of examples of these in the
earlier round of debate on East Timor a couple of months ago.

Indonesia is one the last countries that the imperialists have gotten round
to sorting out.  But they are doing it now.  The DSP's position is,
unfortunately, a call for imperialism to move faster to sort out Jakarta.

Your position is at least better than theirs, because you opposed their
demand for their own ruling class to send its army in.

But, in reality, the 'UN force' in this case is Australian and NZ
imperialist troops, just like in other situatiuons the 'UN Force' is really
US imperialism.

>Which is worse, an Indonesian or an Australian military presence. You have
>no difficulty answering the question. Your answer has nothing to do with the
>actual situation in E Timor. In fact, it doesn't matter whether we're
>talking about East Timor or somewhere else, your answer is the same.

Actually, my position has everything to do with the actual situation - not
just in East Timor, but in Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand.  There is
much more at stake here than just East Timor.

So, let's look at the *actual* situation.  What is the *actual* situation
in East Timor?  It is the transition from an Indonesian province to a
direct imperialist neo-colony.  Is that *actually* better for the masses of
East Timor, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand?

Are Australian and NZ workers also *actually* stronger for having gone
along with the biggest military interventions abroad by our ruling classes
since Korea?

>>At a time when Australian and NZ military engagement abroad is at a level
>>never seen before in our histories - outside of World War - and when there
>*>is *no critical debate or investigation at all* of these activities, it is
>>*more important than ever* that Marxists should be demystifying them, and
>>the 'humanitarian' mystique around them, not caling for more intervention.
>Yeah, but don't forget all this huffing and puffing by the Australian
>military is brought to you courtesy of the U.S. Pentagon. Without the U.S.
>force-projection capacity, which Australia and NZ lack, --as well as a
>Marine Expeditionary Force sitting just off shore to hold the Aussie's
>hands-- there's no way this mission could have been mounted. So Australia
>and News Zealand get to be just as aggressive ... as Clinton wants them to

In which case, imperialist intervention in East Timor is even worse.  You
are saying that it will be the US who will be the winner.  Well, god save
the East Timorese masses.  Certainly the left which helped facilitate such
a situation will have a lot to answer.

>BTW I do believe the LAST time Australia and New Zealand were so
>significantly militarily engages wasn't the world war, but Korea and

NZ has a larger force in East Timor than it had in Vietnam.  This and the
fact that there were *no demos of any size* in NZ calling for Wellington to
dispatch troops tends to suggest the NZ government *wanted* to intervene.

I just written the above after posting a short response to Paul Benedek, in
which I concluded by making the point that we are back on the same carousel
of arguments that we used up a few months back on this issue.  So I suggest
we leave things until some time in the New Year when the shape of things in
East Timor will be more advanced, and we might be able to evaluate things
with a clearer picture.


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