Future answer to Jose and Jim.
Jose G. Perez
jgperez at SPAMfreepcmail.com
Sat Oct 2 19:42:30 MDT 1999
>>Jose, my feud is with Australian imperialism and
imperialism as a whole. Yours seems to be with Indonesian
imperialism. But Indonesian imperialism is _not_
imperialism. Indonesia is not an imperialist country. Nor
could it be. Unless we agree on this, we cannot go on with
This is the crux of the matter. You do not recognize, because you do not
give sufficient weight to the reality I've been describing as "the world
imperialist system," that the Indonesian occupation of East Timor was an
imperialist occupation, in the sense that it was done at the behest of and
with the support of the world imperialist system (with a few somewhat
doleful grimaces from the UN).
The decisive thing here is not any illusions Suharto & Co. may have had
about becoming imperialists themselves. That's not what I judge to have been
the real class forces behind the occupation. The real force here was world
The reason the imperialists went to such an extreme and, in reality,
costly option of having Indonesia invade is that they were scared shitless
at the thought of a popular revolution coming to power in East Timor.
Go back to the mid-70s. Over the previous 15 or so years, since the
Cuban revolution, the world relationship of forces had become increasingly
unfavorable. To all intents and purposes the Soviets had achieved nuclear
parity with the United States. The imperialist consensus on how to handle
revolutions in the third world, which had held together throughout the 1950s
and into the 60s, had broken down even within the U.S. ruling class itself.
The Vietnamese would soon or just had marched into Saigon; Richard Nixon,
the master ruling class strategist who saw the opportunity presented by the
sino-soviet rift and seized it, had been driven from office in disgrace, in
a massive scandal that shattered in the eyes of the American people the
image of agencies like the FBI and CIA. The revolution in Portugal
shattered the remnants of that empire and thus the United States desperately
sought any local or regional force that could forestall a revolutionary
government coming to power in the former colonies because its own troops had
been transformed into a demoralized rabble by the defeat in Vietnam.
Times have changed, and I believe the imperialists calculate that the
factors that justified paying a high price then no longer obtain. But what
forced the change in policy was that the time had come to pay the piper in
Indonesia itself. The war against E. Timor was contributing to destabilizing
that very strategic ally. The imperialists AND their Indonesian allies
decided to change course. There were all sorts of differences on details,
but not on the general line of abandoning the attempt to dominate East Timor
through direct military occupation and retreat to a position of granting
either sweeping autonomy or even complete, formal independence while trying
to create as docile a neo colonial regime as possible in East Timor. From
the point of view of imperialist strategists, there wasn't much of a
downside to the neocolonial option because even if an extremely radical
regime came to power in East Timor, there was nowhere for that regime to go,
since the imperialists believe socialism is now foreclosed as an option.
(One of these days they will learn better, of course.)
The independence movement recognized this maneuver by imperialism as a
concession, as a more favorable framework in which to continue the struggle.
I think they also may have had a much deeper appreciation than it was
possible to have
from the outside (until recent events) of the ultra-reactionary, genocidal
forces that Indonesia had created, nurtured and unleashed to wage the war
The problems started well before the referendum because the Indonesian
forces on the ground balked at making the policy turn that Jakarta had
decided on. This became a crisis immediately following the vote, when the
Indonesian military in East Timor broke with the (stated) national policy of
the Indonesian government. At first, it was clear that both Jakarta and
Washington were concerned, yes, but not so much that they couldn't see a
silver lining in this cloud, and decided to sit back and let the militias
give these uppity East Timorese a bloody nose. But soon it became clear that
the prestige and credibility of the United Nations, the instrument the
imperialists rely on in these kinds of situations, was taking a terrible
beating and the imperialists decided to act, ordering the Indonesian
government to invite a peacekeeping force.
For its part, the East Timorese independence movement demanded from the
outset, before the vote, that a UN force replace the Indonesian occupation.
They could not win this before the vote (because they were too weak on the
ground militarily and did not have sufficient international solidarity), but
renewed their demand afterwards, when the weight of world public opinion
shifted to their side as a result of their tremendous victory in the
referendum and the utterly reactionary, "fascist" (in the loose, popular
sense of the word), nature of the campaign against them.
Please note that to say that the imperialists acted in their own
interest to shore up the credibility and prestige of the UN, and to say the
imperialists gave way before the pressure of world public opinion, are
really two different ways of describing one and the same phenomenon, the
first, looking at it "from above," the second "from below."
I do not at all claim that Indonesia is an imperialist country; it is
not, it is a semi-colonial country. But the Indonesian government and army
are willing tools of imperialism -- precisely what you think WOULD happen to
an independent East Timor is IN FACT how the Indonesian regime has
functioned. I repeat: what forces were behind the policy of military
occupation and conquest of East Timor by Indonesia? Imperialism. The
reactionary, genocidal nature of the war did not change because the
Indonesian rulers and their imperialist masters decided in the last year or
so that it was unwinnable and counterproductive.
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