East Timor and the DSP line

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sat Sep 11 21:50:01 MDT 1999

> From: Gary MacLennan
> A left response of a kind is developing.  Remarkably we have sprung back
> into existence.  Yesterday I spoke at a rally organized by the Green left
> Weekly, Resistance and the DSP.  It was followed by a march to a Federal
> Govt building and further speeches.

There was a big demo in Sydney yesterday, organised by Action in Solidarity
with Indonesia and East Timor, a group initiated and mostly led by the DSP.
 The numbers I heard were 20 thousand plus.  Maybe someone from Sydney can
give us more information?

> The link between the official and the nascent left camps is the DSP.  I
> admire their work in many ways.  Like it or not they *are* organized
> Marxism in Australia.  However as Comrade Proyect has pointed out their
> line is absolutely wrong on East Timor.  To call for Australian troops is
> to build illusions in Bourgeois states and institutions.  Now Comrade
> Proyect's criticisms have hit home.  I have been informed that they have
> been discussed at branch level.  I also suspect that Comrade Percy knows
> he has made a mistake.  But he is stuck with the wrong line and he will
> tough it out. That is what it means to be a leader of a Zinoviest
> organization. They will close ranks in public.

I think there are two aspects to the DSP line.  One, as I have said before,
is the influence of the Timorese resistance.  The Timorese have
historically had an anti-interventionist policy, but have reversed it in
the last few months in the context of the vote, and the recent events.  The
DSP is supporting them.

The other aspect is a case, IMHO, of the DSP outsmarting themselves.
Essentially, they seem to be trying to expose the nature of the Australian
state by demanding that it acts in the interests of the working class,
rather than in the interests of capital.  Unfortunately, the state
_appears_ to be willing to act in this manner, given that it is actually in
capital's interest at the moment to 'support', and hence control and
neutralise, independence for East Timor.  This situation, of course, is a
result of the strength and persistence of the Timorese struggle, plus the
democratic struggle in Indonesia - the Timorese have refused to give up,
through all the decades when the imperialists were supporting the efforts
of the Indonesian state to crush them.  The result is that the subtleties
of the demand are lost on the Australian workers, and perhaps, even on some
of the newer members of DSP/Resistance itself...

It is possible, too, that the Australian imperialists will use the current
crisis to justify an increase in military spending.  The reluctance of the
US to go 'all the way with JWH'(*) means that the Australian state may seek
to upgrade their offensive capability, so that they are better prepared to
serve capital's interests in South-East Asia.

There has been apparently been discussion in the Brisbane branch of the DSP
of my query of their line, and the response by Doug Lorimer.  In general,
the DSP aren't hermetically sealed away from the criticisms being made of
their position.  That's not the same as saying that they will reject it.

Personifying the DSP's national leadership as 'Comrade Percy' is incorrect.

> It is noticeable though at the rally the call for troops to go in is put
> by junior members of the DSP - Resistance comrades.  The leading cadre
> stay silent largely on this issue. Though I would not be surprised if
> when this post is digested some of them are ordered to carry the line in
> public.

I'm not sure that Gary's observation is correct, but it may be.  Where he
is wrong is in his conception of the DSP being the kind of body where the
leading cadre are 'ordered to carry the line in public'.

> There is another tension developing around the control of the left wing
> of the East Timor movement.  It was sparked off yesterday at the protest.
> The police were there in large numbers to protect the office of Garauda
> Airlines and we were all gathered outside. A comrade of mine Bob
> Carnegie, an ex-wharfie or rather Seaman and a great Marxist came
> prepared with eggs to throw.  The police warned him not to do it.  He
> went ahead and was arrested.  An ugly scuffle broke out and DSP went
> berserk trying to get control of the rally.

'The DSP' being the marshals of the rally.  The rally was at risk of
becoming a side-tracked into a fight with the cops, and changing from a
rally about East Timor to an ultra-left wankathon.

> They then issued a call for 'discipline'.  I hate that shit.  When that
> word is uttered I smell the sudden stink of Stalinism.  I supported Bob
> throwing the egg.  It showed everybody which side the Police were on.
> Hundreds are getting chopped to pieces and here in Brisbane you cannot
> throw an egg.

I'm not sure if the 'discipline' thing was DSP.  ISTR it coming from
someone else.  Then again, I was at the back of the crowd at the time, and
not really paying attention.

Bob was pulling an stunt, quite independently of the several hundred people
in the crowd.  I don't object to it, but he was just being a loose cannon.
It served no political purpose.

> It also highlights a gap between myself and the DSP which goes back over
> 20 years to when they were the SWP.  The absolute truth is that when a
> struggle breaks out they automatically move to the right of it.  Every
> time. Why that is I do not know.  I used to put it down to the malign
> influence of Barnesism.  Myself will always be on the Left.  Once in an
> internal SWP document I was described as an 'ultra left lunatic' and I
> suppose nothing much has changed.

I'm going to leave this one strictly alone.  :)

< big snip >

> So my reading of this situation is different from the DSP's.  I think we
> should use the space to explain the nature of imperialism to the people
> who will now listen.  The DSP however want to send in Imperialist troops.
> The point here is that we
> are being manipulated by the Australian bourgeoise, and to its shame the
> DSP with its call for Australian troops to go in is delivering the
> growing Left right into the arms of the bourgeoise.

Well, I disagree with the DSP's call for Australian troops to do in too.
However, there is a great deal more to the DSP's propaganda work than just

The other aspect of the DSP's role is that, as Gary noted, "Like it or not
they *are* organized Marxism in Australia".  That is, they are playing a
key role in organising "the growing Left", one that no one else can play,
and few would even attempt.

> However all is not lost.  This list has a role to play and the criticisms
> of Comrades Proyect and Ferguson have hit home.  It is in the same
> comradely spirit that this post is intended.

They are listening.  Whether or not they agree is up to them.

Alan Bradley
alanb at elf.brisnet.org.au

(*) John Winston Howard - the reference is to a famously fatuous comment by
an Australian PM in the 60s, who wanted Australia to go 'all the way with

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