Future answer to Jose and Jim.

Roger Odisio rodisio at SPAMigc.org
Sun Oct 3 23:23:32 MDT 1999


Your analysis is clear and well reasoned.  But I want to suggest a
somewhat different take on a few of the details.  Ultimately I end up at
a similar place as you on the question of intervention.

But first, I want to thank you, Jose, for your tireless efforts to focus
the debate where it belongs:  a concrete analysis of the trajectory of
East Timor and its
interaction with both Indonesia and imperial capital.  A debate that
started with an assertion that a marxist "principle" prohibited any
interevention tainted with imperialist forces, and thus, of course, any
*possible* intervention on the side of the ET people, then drifted into
a cataloguing of the effects on Aus and NZ of sending troops to ET, as
if that was the main basis on which the intervention question should be
decided, was going nowhere.  Once the
no-intervention-tainted-with-imperialism crowd was dragged kicking and
screaming into a discussion of the actually existing conditions in ET,
it became clear how little consideration they had given to this most
fundamental point.  Indeed, for many of them there is little room in
their whole framework for consideration of ET and its independence
movement, once it is clear that imperial capital must play a part.  The
whole idea of labor using capital against itself seems beyond their

I would differ with you in the following way.  I think imperial
capital's plan of ET destruction was more comprehensive than you
suggest, and it has gone pretty much as planned, from its hatching about
a year ago down to the landing of the UN "peacekeepers", without any
major changes, save, perhaps, a few of the usual tactical maneuvers that
are always necessary to reflect things that come up.  I doubt that there
was a "policy change" in Jarkata, that imperial capital decided to cut
ET loose, as you suggest.  Instead, I think they decided the
opposite--to destroy it, and replace it with a more docile colony
(including actually switching ET and WT populations, which they have at
least partially accomplished, according to reports).

All relevant branches of imperial capital were in on the plan, and the
UN knew about the impending massacre weeks before the vote.  ET could
not get pre-vote protection from the UN for the most obvious of
reasons--imperial capital would not permit the plan to be interefered
with in such a way.  I don't think there was a strategic break between
the Indo forces on the ground and Jakarta and the US, as you suggest.
The Indo army planned the destruction with the support of those
factions.  The military plan was detailed, including lists of ET leaders
and their families to be killed, the targeting of Catholic priests and
nuns (because they were thought to be important to the social support
(system), and the destruction of ET infrastructure.  After all, these
were the same people who for years had conducted a campaign to
sterialize ET women.  Did you think they were going to walk away from
all of that?

For what?  You cite the destabilizing effects on Indonesia from the
struggle with ET. You know more about the situation in Indonesia than
I.  But that sounds more like a reason for imperial capital to bring
things to head once and for all, rather than a reason to walk away.  It
was a very unequal struggle, no?  Did they have much doubt about their
ability to destroy ET, and make it over in their image?

The UN "peacekeepers" were part of the plan, the final part.  Once the
UN sanctioned the vote and the first shots of the massacre were fired, a
UN "humanitarian" occupation force was inevitable.  The UN must always
look like it's on the side of the downtrodden and against the forces of
wanton slaughter.  So, interevntion was just a matter of timing.  (I get
a chuckle at both the Aus DSP and Gary for arguing about whether the DSP
had any important influence over whether there was an intervention.)
Imperial capital had to walk the line between allowing the destruction
to reach a stage of sufficiency, and capturing the humanitarian points
for "saving" ET from those dastardly, rogue Indo monsters.  Time will
tell how they did; how many ET comrades survived, what kind of help they
can get, the extent to which they can still be strangled by the
occupiers and imperial capital itself, etc.

My view of what happened makes me conclude, perhaps even more than you,
Jose, how important it was for the left, any left but particularly a
marxist left, to shriek as much as possible for help for ET as early as
possible.  Unfortunately, the only time help was likely to really have
been useful enough to prevent the destruction was before the vote.  That
was the point of crisis for all that unfolded. But we agree that ET
couldn't get the UN to agree to that.  It's doubtful even if there was
an organized, international left could they have gotten the UN to
agree.  So the choice for ET leaders was whether or not to hold the
vote.  I think, btw, that imperial capital *wanted* the vote--it was not
forced on them, or a mistake made in Jakarta, as some have argued--to
clarify the extent of the problem they faced, identify more leaders for
murder, to asses the extent of the trucking of people needed between ET
and WT (inependence supporters out, WTers in), etc.

I don't know if ET leaders made the right decision to go ahead with the
vote.  In one sense it is enough for me to know that after 25 years
years of fighting on their own, they went ahead with the vote and asked
for international help.  I am, however, left to marvel at those who
claim that no help should have been provided at any point, and then,
without missing a beat, proceed to debate the analytics of class
consciousness, as is happening on this list right now.  No connection
there; none at all.

> >>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 debate.<<
> Nestor,
>     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
> imperialism.
>     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
> against them.
>     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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