Australian and NZ imperialism

Alan Bradley alanb at
Tue Oct 5 20:10:58 MDT 1999

> From: Philip L Ferguson
> Australia and NZ are also doing things which they never did before.
> Australia never led a major imperialist initiative before and it isn't
> becasue there were never opportunities.  When the stooge government in
> Malaya was confronted with a 'communist insurgency' in the 1950s and
> early 1960s, it wasn't Australia, but Britain, which organised the
> intervention, for instance.

Malaya was still under British rule during the "Emergency".  Malaysian
independence came at the end of it, and was part of the settlement that
undermined the remaining support of the rebels.  The rebellion had been
weakened by its support being mostly confined to the Chinese minority of
the population - under the influence of the Chinese revolution, obviously -
with the Malay majority mostly indifferent or actively hostile.  The
independence that was given was neatly constrained by ceding power to the
conservative Malay (landowning?) elites that are still reflected in the
Mahathir government, despite, or rather, because of, the relative success
of capitalist development, which has transformed major sections of these
elites into a relatively genuine national bourgeoisie.

As an aside, Singapore's existence as a separate state is largely a
consequence of the early dominance of the Chinese in the (petty,
non-imperialist) capitalist section of the 'Malay' economy.  Singapore has
a Chinese majority, and has relied largely on this in response to the
Malaysian attempts to foster indigenous capitalists in opposition to the
Chinese capitalists.  This is why, incidentally, the majority of Malaysian
students in Australia are ethnic Chinese - ethnic Malay students have
preferential access to Malaysian universities, so wealthy Chinese send
their children overseas.  Australian universities may still be "superior" -
better funded, and more recognised - than their Malaysian counterparts too,
of course.

I may have made some errors in the above - I'm no expert on the topic.

> Today, NZ and Australia pursue policies which are increasingly their own.
> How you can be blind to this seems quite bizarre to me, especially when
> the NZ government told the US to fuck off over nuclear warships.  That
> was absolutely unimaginable 20 years ago.  It indicates that the NZ
> ruling class very definitely has its own specific agenda in the region.
> The whole NZ ruling class also opposed French testing in Muroroa in
> 1994-5, in fact a chunk of them even got on their yachts and sailed off
> to the testing zone, while Tory prime minister Bolger strutted the world
> stage challenging the French leader to debate the issue.  The NZ ruling
> class now favours independence for French Polynesia and New
> Caledonia/Kanaky.  All of these are major policy changes which are in
> line with the independent interests of the NZ ruling class.
> Before the end of the Cold War, as I noted before, NZ *opposed*
> independence in the French Pacific colonies.

Issues of this type had a big impact on how the Australian left faced the
movement against the French tests, too.  It was a movement with genuine
mass support, and some degree of tolerance, or even support from the
bourgeoisie.  Of course, the government, good Holy Alliance members that
they are, were embarassed by the hostility of the Australian working class
to the French imperialists.

They were even more embarrassed by the movement demanding that Australia
stop mining and exporting uranium, and stop supporting the existence of
paleo-colonialism in the Pacific.

There was a considerable struggle to combat the elements of pro-Australian
imperialist, anti-French imperialist national chauvinism.  To a great
degree this was dealt with by ensuring that as many demands as possible
were directed against the Australian state (as seen above), or in support
of the colonised peoples of the Pacific, particularly those of 'French'
Polynesia.  That is, to turn the spontaneous anger at the imperialist crime
into proletarian internationalism - solidarity with the oppressed masses of
other nations.  (Or the "White Man's Burden", if you prefer).  The movement
also deliberately set out to build links with the French working class, who
were also in struggle against their masters' crimes.

Of course, all of this happened through organisations that were involved
in, or formed by, the movement.  You guessed it, Resistance and the DSP
were heavily involved, and they worked quite successfully not merely with
the Polynesian independence movement, and French Trotskyist groups (the
LCR/JCR), but with the French Communist Party youth - not a traditional

Of course I've only scratched the surface of these events.

Alan Bradley
alanb at

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