[Fwd: [SR] Article on East Timor from Socialism Today]

Xxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxx at xxxxxx.xx
Fri Oct 1 12:13:31 MDT 1999




United Nations and East Timor (from Socialist Today, journal of the
Socialist Party -- Britain)


As United Nations troops entered East Timor a propaganda offensive began
to
try to restore the UN’s somewhat tarnished image. Pictures of East
Timorese
warmly welcoming UN forces were widely shown, as were images of a very
few
militia members being disarmed. So determined was this publicity drive
that
the aid agency Médicins Sans Frontiéres complained that, while 100
journalists had been immediately flown in, they were being told that
there
was no space for their medical staff on the first flights into the East
Timorese capital, Dili.

Simultaneously Clinton was making a speech to the UN General Assembly
mouthing cheap words and platitudes about supporting UN “intervention to

deal with violations of human rights”. While praising the UN force going

into East Timor, Clinton simply ignored his statement less than two
weeks
previously that East Timor was “still part of Indonesia”.

But all this “image making” and “spinning” cannot cover up the whole
story
of what happened to East Timor, not just in the past weeks, but since
Suharto’s 1975 invasion. And this is a story which clearly shows the
real
role of both the United Nations and the imperialist powers.

Working people everywhere watched in horror as the overwhelming majority
of
the Maubere (East Timorese) people, within days of voting by 78.5%, in a

98.6% turnout, in favour of independence, were threatened with being
ethnically cleansed from East Timor by the Indonesian military’s
scorched
earth campaign.

The self-congratulation of the United Nations, which supervised this
ballot,
almost instantly turned into helplessness as a few well meaning United
Nations workers displayed their inability to stop the brutal killings
and
destruction of homes and infrastructure.

Millions around the world were demanding that something must be done to
protect the Maubere, demanding action to stop the killings. They were
incensed by the UN’s initial complete inaction to defend the result of
the
referendum it had organised. Rapidly a wave of criticism rose in country

after country.

Above all in Australia, amid mass protests, trade unionists went into
action
putting boycotts on communications and trade with Indonesia. Dock
workers
around the country refused to load or unload Indonesian ships or cargo.
In
Melbourne and Sydney airports building and metal workers blockaded the
Indonesian airline Garuda’s check-in areas.

One of the reasons for this surge of action was the backing which
different
Australian governments, both Labor and Liberal, had given to Suharto’s
military regime in Indonesia. Australia was the one major imperialist
country which officially recognised Suharto’s 1976 annexation of East
Timor
and later, in 1989, signed the Timor Gap treaty with Suharto for the
joint
exploitation of oil and gas in the seas around the country. The year
before
the invasion, the then Australian Labor prime minister Whitlam, told
Suharto
that he considered East Timor an “unviable state” and a “potential
threat to
the stability of the area”. By “stability” Whitlam meant the interests
of
capitalism.

But this year’s magnificent action by Australian workers has been
diverted,
especially by the Australian Council of Trade Unions,  into calls for
United
Nations action. This was not accidental. Already for decades workers’
leaders in many countries, together with the former Stalinist states
when
they were in existence, had sought to replace the ideas of workers’
international action with putting their trust in the United Nations. The

workers’ movement’s original ideas of being part of an International
which
could organise action in support of working people and the oppressed had

been watered down and then suppressed over a long period of time. While
there was widespread international solidarity with the 1984/5 British
miners
strike, when there were calls for more politically based boycotts, like
those called against the old Apartheid regime in South Africa, leaders
often
linked them to the United Nations.

In this situation it was understandable why millions of ordinary working

people asked “What is the UN doing?” Only months ago the world was awash

with all the fine words of the NATO leaders as they bombed Yugoslavia
claiming to be trying to stop ethnic cleansing. Now the same leaders
stalled, refused to do anything, speaking instead of the need to get
agreement first with the Jakarta regime, the organisers of the killing.

There was a stunning contrast between the fine words of the United
Nations
and their almost total inaction. For many the hypocrisy was sickening.
The
UN was saying it could not intervene in East Timor unless Indonesia
allowed
it, despite the fact that the UN formally regarded Indonesia as an
illegal
occupying power. Many asked what was the difference between East Timor
and
Kosovo? NATO’s military campaign in Yugoslavia began without any
agreement
with the Belgrade government! In a formal sense “legally” there was no
difference between Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor and Iraq’s
1990
take-over of Kuwait. But despite very many more East Timorese dying, at
least 200,000 - a quarter of the population, nothing was actually done
for
decades.

But the striking differences between the UN’s response to East Timor
compared to Kosovo or Kuwait, were not all accidental.

United Nations policy, and especially any action it undertakes, is
fundamentally determined by the main world powers, the big imperialist
nations and especially the US ruling class. Despite all the talk of
“moral
politics” etc. policy is decided by what is in the imperialist powers’
own
interests. Thus human rights outrages by their friends or current allies
are
supported, condoned or effectively overlooked.

This was the reason why the UN was completely inactive during Yeltsin’s
1994-6 war with Chechnya. Unlike Kosovo, Chechnya was declared an
“internal”
, “police” matter. This was because the western powers were desperate to

shore up the Yeltsin regime, a desperation which has now been seen to
have
allowed billions of US Dollars to have been “laundered” into the pockets
of
Yeltsin’s circle. In Kosovo the west finally acted because they feared
that
Milosevic’s policies would destabilise the entire Balkan area.

Earlier, in the 1980s,  the Western powers had ensured that no action
arose
from the various UN resolutions criticising Saddam Hussein’s use of
chemical
weapons against Iran in 1984-6 or against Iraqi Kurds in 1988. After all

that was a time when Hussein was a de facto ally of the west, at least
as
long as his regime was fighting Iran!

For years nothing was done about the occupation and brutal repression in

East Timor. Once again, this was because of the attitude of the big
imperialist powers. When, five days after the Indonesian military’s
December
1975 invasion of East Timor, the UN General Assembly first passed a
resolution of condemnation, the USA and most west European nations
abstained. But this was to be expected, after all Suharto’s Indonesian
regime was one of their main allies in the region and the fate of the
East
Timorese was merely small change in the imperialists’ calculations. For
years nothing was done despite the horrific reports of the killings and
starvation resulting from the TNI, the Indonesian military’s, actions.

It was only the start of the Indonesian revolution in May 1998 which
forced
a change of course. The limited liberalisation which was won in the
first
stages of the revolution allowed a resurgence of East Timorese demands
for
independence. In this situation the imperialist powers advised the
Jakarta
regime to retreat. But even then a key imperialist consideration was to
avoid undermining the Indonesian military and the break up of the rest
of
the country.

This was the reason why, despite all the public warnings about what the
Indonesian military were planning in East Timor, the UN did nothing. The

great powers running the UN did not want to clash with the Indonesian
regime
or give the impression to other nations struggling for independence that

they could expect international support. When finally the great powers
felt
forced to agreed to a UN intervention it was to be, as on previous
occasions, on their own terms. This meant trying to ensure that there
was to
be no revolutionary movement by the East Timorese or to provide a spur
to
the revolution in Indonesia itself.

A sign of this was the pledge of the Australian commander on his first
day
in Dili to be “even-handed” with “both factions”, “even handed” with the

military forces which the UN say are illegally occupying East Timor and
have
organised the scorched earth ethnic cleansing. This meant trying to keep
the
East Timorese under control. Furthermore the implementation of the UN
policy
of “disarming both sides” would mean leaving the East Timorese masses
defenceless. This policy also means putting severe limits on the
self-organisation of the East Timorese people.

This intervention aims to secure for world imperialism increased
stability
in the region and also to ensure that the East Timorese liberation
movement
fully abandons its previous radical policies, thereby confirming the
pro-capitalist character of an independent East Timorese government. It
is
not at all accidental that there were “free market” clauses in deals in
the
UN enforced “peace deals” in both Bosnia and Kosovo. The UN today stands

firmly on the basis of the capitalist system and in East Timor they will

carry out the same policy of putting the pro-capitalist elements in
power.

However, given the widespread international popular mood for
“democracy”,
the imperialist powers have to be careful in how they act. One of the
reasons for the UN finally intervening, albeit in a very limited way,
was an
attempt to respond to pressure of popular opinion. While this does not
change the fundamental character of the UN’s intervention, this does
again
show the difficulties which would face an attempt at an open imperialist

intervention in any country. It is in this regard that “spinning” is
important to the imperialist powers and a key part of the “spin” is to
dress
up the UN.

But what is the UN’s record? Can it really be an instrument for world
peace
and harmony?

Even a brief examination of its history since its 1945 foundation
reveals an
inability to implement its own decisions when they are opposed by the
big
powers. On a few occasions during the “cold war” the imperialist powers
were
able to use it as a cover during their struggle with Stalinism in the
1950-53 Korean war and to help prevent the development of a radical
regime
in the Congo.

Those who attempt to divert the idea of internationalism into safe UN
channels sometimes argue for a “democratisation” of the UN, especially
either removing the veto rights of the five Permanent Members of the
Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the US) or
increasing
the number of Permanent Members.

But the UN’s role is not just determined by Security Council Permanent
Members using, or threatening to use, their veto rights. A removal of
these
powers, or other proposals to democratise the UN, would not
fundamentally
change what it could and could not do.

The fact is that the major powers will not allow their fundamental
interests
to be challenged by the UN. The US’s cynicism towards the UN is shown by
the
fact that it currently owes $1.7 billion in unpaid dues. Of course one
or
more of the big powers may try and use the UN as a smokescreen in a
clash
with rivals, as was the case in the Korean war. But this would not be
the UN
acting in the interests of the peoples of the world.

The fundamental reason that the UN cannot be democratically transformed
is
that a state’s foreign policy is the continuation of its home policy,
capitalist policies at home inevitably mean capitalist foreign policies.
And
the armed forces of these countries not only carry out these policies
abroad, but also internally stand as the final guarantors of the ruling
class’s power. This is why any illusions in the “democratic” role of
capitalist armies, even if they are wearing blue helmets, are dangerous
for
the workers’ movement. Armed forces which have been developed and
trained to
defend the capitalist system cannot act in the interests of working
people.

Only the workers’ movement, working people acting in their own common
interests can challenge the wealth and power of the imperialist
governments
and giant corporations which dominate the world. The struggle for
working
people to have real power and plan the use of the globe’s resources in
their
interests comes down to the struggle against capitalism and landlordism.

But, it may be asked, was this realistic in the case of East Timor?
There it
was a question of acting immediately to stop the killings. Was there any

alternative to demanding the UN, or as some did, call on governments
like
that of Australia to intervene?

Actually the outlines of an alternative to relying upon the UN or
different
imperialist governments was being concretely shown in the rapid
development
of widespread solidarity as workers, especially in Australia and also
Canada, took action. The extension of a boycott of trade with Indonesia,

especially if coupled with the demand for the freezing of the overseas
assets of its ruling elite, would have had an immediate impact. At the
same
time this could been linked to the a call for the East Timorese to
organise
their own defence, for the Falintil fighters to join in this defence,
and to
appeal to the Indonesian working masses and youth to oppose the military

chief’s plans for counter-revolution in both East Timor and Indonesia
itself.

Despite some individuals and organisations mistakenly opposing boycotts
because, they claimed, it could be counter-productive, the actions
already
being taken were a powerful warning both to the Indonesian ruling class
and
its international backers.

The predictable response of the Indonesian ruling class to both the
boycott
and the entry of UN troops was to launch bogus “anti-imperialist”
propaganda, particularly denouncing the Australian government. This was,
of
course, completely hypocritical given the close relations over decades
between Australian governments and the Suharto regime.

But the Indonesian elite acted to utilise the deep rooted
anti-imperialist
feelings of the people also in order to  provide cover for attempting to
act
against the still unfinished revolution. It was no accident that, within
a
few days of the UN troops arriving in Dili, the Jakarta regime passed a
new
law giving the military greater internal powers.

This cynical use of “anti-imperialism” could have an effect because of
the
history of Indonesia’s own struggle for independence from Dutch rule.
Its
experience at the end of the Second World War left a deep feeling of
mistrust towards “democratic” western armies, as, along with many other
countries Indonesia has suffered at the hands of “liberating” foreign
troops.

In 1945 the British  army arrived in Indonesia to ensure that the
defeated
Japanese occupiers were replaced by the previous Dutch colonial power.
In
November the killing of a general Mallaby, led to the “Battle of
Surabaya”
when a combined British air, land and sea attack on this city in Java
killed
15,000 Indonesians, an event still marked in Indonesia every 10 November
as
“Heroes Day”. The British intervention enabled the Dutch imperialist
ruling
class to make an attempt to hold onto their colony in a war which only
ended
in their defeat in mid-1949.

This history made it easier for the Indonesian ruling class’s attempt to

whip up “nationalist” sentiment, despite this being a very dangerous
weapon
which could backfire, damaging their, present day, own links with
imperialism.

But the only way in which this sentiment could be undercut would be by
the
workers movement making clear that the sanctions were not against the
Indonesian working masses, but against the ruling elite. In this way
workers
internationally could show their support for those struggling to
complete
the revolution begun last year and to overthrow the Indonesian ruling
elite.

The argument that the only realistic way to have stopped the TNI and
militia
scorched earth policy and killings was the entry of foreign troops,
totally
ignores the question of what polices these troops will actually carry
out.
As the Australian journalist John Pilger wrote in the London Guardian
“The
real agenda for the UN ‘peace keeping’ is to ensure that East Timor,
while
nominally independent in the future, remains under the sway of Jakarta
and
western business interests” (21 August 1999).

This imperialist agenda can only be cut across by a combination of the
East
Timorese working people striving to break with capitalism, while
appealing
for the continuation and deepening of international solidarity,
especially
with the Indonesian workers, students and rural poor.

The struggle for an independent Socialist East Timor is not aimed
against
the Indonesian masses. A successful completion of the Indonesian
revolution
would open up the possibility of a free and equal collaboration between
different peoples. But this can only be achieved on the basis of
overthrowing capitalism and landlordism, based upon independent action
by
workers and youth.

It is towards creating this independent action that socialists must
strive.
Looking towards bodies like the UN not only means creating illusions,
but it
also pretends that there is a substitute for action by the workers
movement.

The Committee for a Workers International, to which the Socialist Party
belongs, is working to help build both the political and practical
solidarity which those struggling for liberation in both East Timor and
Indonesia require. In this way we are helping to recreate on a wider
scale
the fighting traditions of workers internationalism which Australian
workers
have demonstrated in the past weeks and which is the basis upon which a
socialist world can be built.





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The following article is from Socialist Today, the monthly journal of the
Socialist Party in Britain. The Socialist Party is the sister party of
Socialist Resistance. We both belong to the Committee for a Workers'
International (CWI).

For more information on SR please refer to our website (see url address
above) or email us at socialist at canada.com


United Nations and East Timor

As United Nations troops entered East Timor a propaganda offensive began
to try to restore the UN’s somewhat tarnished image. Pictures of East
Timorese warmly welcoming UN forces were widely shown, as were images of a
very few militia members being disarmed. So determined was this publicity
drive that the aid agency Médicins Sans Frontiéres (Doctors Without
Borders) complained that, while 100 journalists had been immediately flown
in, they were being told that there was no space for their medical staff
on the first flights into the East Timorese capital, Dili.

Simultaneously Clinton was making a speech to the UN General Assembly
mouthing cheap words and platitudes about supporting UN “intervention to
deal with violations of human rights”. While praising the UN force going
into East Timor, Clinton simply ignored his statement less than two weeks
previously that East Timor was “still part of Indonesia”.

But all this “image making” and “spinning” cannot cover up the whole story
of what happened to East Timor, not just in the past weeks, but since
Suharto’s 1975 invasion. And this is a story which clearly shows the real
role of both the United Nations and the imperialist powers.

Working people everywhere watched in horror as the overwhelming majority
of the Maubere (East Timorese) people, within days of voting by 78.5%, in
a 98.6% turnout, in favour of independence, were threatened with being
ethnically cleansed from East Timor by the Indonesian military’s scorched
earth campaign.

The self-congratulation of the United Nations, which supervised this
ballot, almost instantly turned into helplessness as a few well meaning
United Nations workers displayed their inability to stop the brutal
killings and destruction of homes and infrastructure.

Millions around the world were demanding that something must be done to
protect the Maubere, demanding action to stop the killings. They were
incensed by the UN’s initial complete inaction to defend the result of the
referendum it had organised. Rapidly a wave of criticism rose in country
after country.

Above all in Australia, amid mass protests, trade unionists went into
action putting boycotts on communications and trade with Indonesia. Dock
workers around the country refused to load or unload Indonesian ships or
cargo. In Melbourne and Sydney airports building and metal workers
blockaded the Indonesian airline Garuda’s check-in areas.

One of the reasons for this surge of action was the backing which
different Australian governments, both Labor and Liberal, had given to
Suharto’s military regime in Indonesia. Australia was the one major
imperialist country which officially recognised Suharto’s 1976 annexation
of East Timor and later, in 1989, signed the Timor Gap treaty with Suharto
for the joint exploitation of oil and gas in the seas around the country.
The year before the invasion, the then Australian Labor prime minister
Whitlam, told Suharto that he considered East Timor an “unviable state”
and a “potential threat to
the stability of the area”. By “stability” Whitlam meant the interests of
capitalism.

But this year’s magnificent action by Australian workers has been
diverted, especially by the Australian Council of Trade Unions,  into
calls for United Nations action. This was not accidental. Already for
decades workers’ leaders in many countries, together with the former
Stalinist states when they were in existence, had sought to replace the
ideas of workers’ international action with putting their trust in the
United Nations. The workers’ movement’s original ideas of being part of an
International which could organise action in support of working people and
the oppressed had been watered down and then suppressed over a long period
of time. While there was widespread international solidarity with the
1984/5 British miners strike, when there were calls for more politically
based boycotts, like those called against the old Apartheid regime in
South Africa, leaders often linked them to the United Nations.

In this situation it was understandable why millions of ordinary working
people asked “What is the UN doing?” Only months ago the world was awash
with all the fine words of the NATO leaders as they bombed Yugoslavia
claiming to be trying to stop ethnic cleansing. Now the same leaders
stalled, refused to do anything, speaking instead of the need to get
agreement first with the Jakarta regime, the organisers of the killing.

There was a stunning contrast between the fine words of the United Nations
and their almost total inaction. For many the hypocrisy was sickening. The
UN was saying it could not intervene in East Timor unless Indonesia
allowed it, despite the fact that the UN formally regarded Indonesia as an
illegal occupying power. Many asked what was the difference between East
Timor and Kosovo? NATO’s military campaign in Yugoslavia began without any
agreement with the Belgrade government! In a formal sense “legally” there
was no difference between Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor and
Iraq’s 1990 take-over of Kuwait. But despite very many more East Timorese
dying, at least 200,000 - a quarter of the population, nothing was
actually done for decades.

But the striking differences between the UN’s response to East Timor
compared to Kosovo or Kuwait, were not all accidental.

United Nations policy, and especially any action it undertakes, is
fundamentally determined by the main world powers, the big imperialist
nations and especially the US ruling class. Despite all the talk of “moral
politics” etc. policy is decided by what is in the imperialist powers’ own
interests. Thus human rights outrages by their friends or current allies
are supported, condoned or effectively overlooked.

This was the reason why the UN was completely inactive during Yeltsin’s
1994-6 war with Chechnya. Unlike Kosovo, Chechnya was declared an
“internal”, “police” matter. This was because the western powers were
desperate to shore up the Yeltsin regime, a desperation which has now been
seen to have allowed billions of US Dollars to have been “laundered” into
the pockets of Yeltsin’s circle. In Kosovo the west finally acted because
they feared that Milosevic’s policies would destabilise the entire Balkan
area.

Earlier, in the 1980s,  the Western powers had ensured that no action
arose from the various UN resolutions criticising Saddam Hussein’s use of
chemical weapons against Iran in 1984-6 or against Iraqi Kurds in 1988.
After all that was a time when Hussein was a de facto ally of the west, at
least as long as his regime was fighting Iran!

For years nothing was done about the occupation and brutal repression in
East Timor. Once again, this was because of the attitude of the big
imperialist powers. When, five days after the Indonesian military’s
December 1975 invasion of East Timor, the UN General Assembly first passed
a resolution of condemnation, the USA and most west European nations
abstained. But this was to be expected, after all Suharto’s Indonesian
regime was one of their main allies in the region and the fate of the East
Timorese was merely small change in the imperialists’ calculations. For
years nothing was done despite the horrific reports of the killings and
starvation resulting from the TNI, the Indonesian military’s, actions.

It was only the start of the Indonesian revolution in May 1998 which
forced a change of course. The limited liberalisation which was won in the
first stages of the revolution allowed a resurgence of East Timorese
demands for independence. In this situation the imperialist powers advised
the Jakarta regime to retreat. But even then a key imperialist
consideration was to avoid undermining the Indonesian military and the
break up of the rest of the country.

This was the reason why, despite all the public warnings about what the
Indonesian military were planning in East Timor, the UN did nothing. The
great powers running the UN did not want to clash with the Indonesian
regime
or give the impression to other nations struggling for independence that
they could expect international support. When finally the great powers felt
forced to agreed to a UN intervention it was to be, as on previous
occasions, on their own terms. This meant trying to ensure that there was
to
be no revolutionary movement by the East Timorese or to provide a spur to
the revolution in Indonesia itself.

A sign of this was the pledge of the Australian commander on his first day
in Dili to be “even-handed” with “both factions”, “even handed” with the
military forces which the UN say are illegally occupying East Timor and
have
organised the scorched earth ethnic cleansing. This meant trying to keep
the
East Timorese under control. Furthermore the implementation of the UN
policy
of “disarming both sides” would mean leaving the East Timorese masses
defenceless. This policy also means putting severe limits on the
self-organisation of the East Timorese people.

This intervention aims to secure for world imperialism increased stability
in the region and also to ensure that the East Timorese liberation
movement fully abandons its previous radical policies, thereby confirming
the pro-capitalist character of an independent East Timorese government.
It is not at all accidental that there were “free market” clauses in deals
in the UN enforced “peace deals” in both Bosnia and Kosovo. The UN today
stands firmly on the basis of the capitalist system and in East Timor they
will carry out the same policy of putting the pro-capitalist elements in
power.

However, given the widespread international popular mood for “democracy”,
the imperialist powers have to be careful in how they act. One of the
reasons for the UN finally intervening, albeit in a very limited way, was
an attempt to respond to pressure of popular opinion. While this does not
change the fundamental character of the UN’s intervention, this does again
show the difficulties which would face an attempt at an open imperialist
intervention in any country. It is in this regard that “spinning” is
important to the imperialist powers and a key part of the “spin” is to
dress up the UN.

But what is the UN’s record? Can it really be an instrument for world
peace and harmony?

Even a brief examination of its history since its 1945 foundation reveals
an inability to implement its own decisions when they are opposed by the
big powers. On a few occasions during the “cold war” the imperialist
powers were able to use it as a cover during their struggle with Stalinism
in the 1950-53 Korean war and to help prevent the development of a radical
regime in the Congo.

Those who attempt to divert the idea of internationalism into safe UN
channels sometimes argue for a “democratisation” of the UN, especially
either removing the veto rights of the five Permanent Members of the
Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the US) or increasing
the number of Permanent Members.

But the UN’s role is not just determined by Security Council Permanent
Members using, or threatening to use, their veto rights. A removal of
these powers, or other proposals to democratise the UN, would not
fundamentally change what it could and could not do.

The fact is that the major powers will not allow their fundamental
interests to be challenged by the UN. The US’s cynicism towards the UN is
shown by the fact that it currently owes $1.7 billion in unpaid dues. Of
course one or more of the big powers may try and use the UN as a
smokescreen in a clash with rivals, as was the case in the Korean war. But
this would not be the UN acting in the interests of the peoples of the
world.

The fundamental reason that the UN cannot be democratically transformed is
that a state’s foreign policy is the continuation of its home policy,
capitalist policies at home inevitably mean capitalist foreign policies.
And the armed forces of these countries not only carry out these policies
abroad, but also internally stand as the final guarantors of the ruling
class’s power. This is why any illusions in the “democratic” role of
capitalist armies, even if they are wearing blue helmets, are dangerous
for the workers’ movement. Armed forces which have been developed and
trained to defend the capitalist system cannot act in the interests of
working people.

Only the workers’ movement, working people acting in their own common
interests can challenge the wealth and power of the imperialist
governments and giant corporations which dominate the world. The struggle
for working people to have real power and plan the use of the globe’s
resources in their interests comes down to the struggle against capitalism
and landlordism.

But, it may be asked, was this realistic in the case of East Timor? There
it was a question of acting immediately to stop the killings. Was there
any alternative to demanding the UN, or as some did, call on governments
like that of Australia to intervene?

Actually the outlines of an alternative to relying upon the UN or
different imperialist governments was being concretely shown in the rapid
development of widespread solidarity as workers, especially in Australia
and also Canada, took action. The extension of a boycott of trade with
Indonesia, especially if coupled with the demand for the freezing of the
overseas assets of its ruling elite, would have had an immediate impact.
At the same time this could been linked to the a call for the East
Timorese to organise their own defence, for the Falintil fighters to join
in this defence, and to appeal to the Indonesian working masses and youth
to oppose the military chief’s plans for counter-revolution in both East
Timor and Indonesia itself.

Despite some individuals and organisations mistakenly opposing boycotts
because, they claimed, it could be counter-productive, the actions already
being taken were a powerful warning both to the Indonesian ruling class
and its international backers.

The predictable response of the Indonesian ruling class to both the
boycott and the entry of UN troops was to launch bogus “anti-imperialist”
propaganda, particularly denouncing the Australian government. This was,
of course, completely hypocritical given the close relations over decades
between Australian governments and the Suharto regime.

But the Indonesian elite acted to utilise the deep rooted anti-imperialist
feelings of the people also in order to  provide cover for attempting to
act against the still unfinished revolution. It was no accident that,
within a few days of the UN troops arriving in Dili, the Jakarta regime
passed a new law giving the military greater internal powers.

This cynical use of “anti-imperialism” could have an effect because of the
history of Indonesia’s own struggle for independence from Dutch rule. Its
experience at the end of the Second World War left a deep feeling of
mistrust towards “democratic” western armies, as, along with many other
countries Indonesia has suffered at the hands of “liberating” foreign
troops.

In 1945 the British  army arrived in Indonesia to ensure that the defeated
Japanese occupiers were replaced by the previous Dutch colonial power. In
November the killing of a general Mallaby, led to the “Battle of Surabaya”
when a combined British air, land and sea attack on this city in Java
killed 15,000 Indonesians, an event still marked in Indonesia every 10
November as “Heroes Day”. The British intervention enabled the Dutch
imperialist ruling class to make an attempt to hold onto their colony in a
war which only ended
in their defeat in mid-1949.

This history made it easier for the Indonesian ruling class’s attempt to
whip up “nationalist” sentiment, despite this being a very dangerous
weapon which could backfire, damaging their, present day, own links with
imperialism.

But the only way in which this sentiment could be undercut would be by the
workers movement making clear that the sanctions were not against the
Indonesian working masses, but against the ruling elite. In this way
workers internationally could show their support for those struggling to
complete the revolution begun last year and to overthrow the Indonesian
ruling elite.

The argument that the only realistic way to have stopped the TNI and
militia scorched earth policy and killings was the entry of foreign
troops, totally ignores the question of what polices these troops will
actually carry out. As the Australian journalist John Pilger wrote in the
London Guardian “The real agenda for the UN ‘peace keeping’ is to ensure
that East Timor, while nominally independent in the future, remains under
the sway of Jakarta and western business interests” (21 August 1999).

This imperialist agenda can only be cut across by a combination of the
East Timorese working people striving to break with capitalism, while
appealing for the continuation and deepening of international solidarity,
especially with the Indonesian workers, students and rural poor.

The struggle for an independent Socialist East Timor is not aimed against
the Indonesian masses. A successful completion of the Indonesian
revolution would open up the possibility of a free and equal collaboration
between different peoples. But this can only be achieved on the basis of
overthrowing capitalism and landlordism, based upon independent action by
workers and youth.

It is towards creating this independent action that socialists must
strive. Looking towards bodies like the UN not only means creating
illusions, but it also pretends that there is a substitute for action by
the workers movement.

The Committee for a Workers International, to which the Socialist Party
belongs, is working to help build both the political and practical
solidarity which those struggling for liberation in both East Timor and
Indonesia require. In this way we are helping to recreate on a wider scale
the fighting traditions of workers internationalism which Australian
workers have demonstrated in the past weeks and which is the basis upon
which a socialist world can be built.


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